My 7th Book

IdentitySnatchers-BookCoverFrontThe recent Christianity Today book review of a UBF 2nd gen’s book “The Spirit Moves West” prompted me to get back to a book draft of my own. Rebecca Kim’s book is a fair perspective of some aspects of UBF, but she leaves out the dark side of UBF–the side that we’ve been discussing here in our 18,000+ comments. So today I want to share with our readers some of my thoughts on the CT book review and my new book.

Thoughts on Rob Moll’s Book Review

Here is the book review if you have not seen it: Korean Evangelicals on Steroids

Moll correctly points out the hidden nature of the group. He had no idea the Chicago headquarters even existed.

“A couple times a week, a Korean man would approach me with a broad smile and invite me to study the Bible. I had no idea that he was among hundreds of Korean missionaries spanned across college campuses trying to win the country for Christ. I didn’t know that the headquarters for University Bible Fellowship (UBF)—Korea’s second largest missionary sending agency—was just a few miles away.”

Moll, like most of the public, did however know that the group has been seen as a cult.

“I did know that UBF was seen as intense and cult-like.”

Moll is first learning about the group from Rebecca Kim’s book. So he will have a rather good impression of the group because Kim’s book does not mention the reform movements or the abuse that has been covered up. Her book is more of an apologetic work.

” In her new study, The Spirit Moves West: Korean Missionaries in America, Kim, a Pepperdine University sociologist, describes the initial wave of UBF missionaries. Because that wave included her parents, Kim had both unique access to the group and a deeper understanding of the challenges of doing missions in America.”

Moll and Kim correctly point out the surface viewpoint of what is going on at the group. From a superficial view, UBF is merely a high demand group.

“UBF maintains high demands for its missionaries. They hold full-time jobs rather than receive support, and missionaries use their off hours, holidays, and vacations to evangelize on college campuses. Their training is military-like, requiring a “soldier spirit.” Missionaries described training as “boot camp,” complete with jogging and pushups, but also intensive Bible study and evangelism. Early missionaries had to report in public meetings the number of students they invited to study the Bible, how many accepted, and how many students were currently studying the Bible with them. Missionaries who had the most “sheep” were raised to leadership positions.”

Moll also correctly points out the primary shortcoming of Kim’s book.

“Despite my high level of engagement with the subject matter of The Spirit Moves West, I found its repetitiveness taxing. Instead of stating and restating her theories, Kim could have answered some obvious questions: How does UBF operate and structure itself when its missionaries are all lay volunteers working full-time jobs? Are UBF campus chapters and Sunday congregations the same thing? What happens in a Bible study? Exactly how ineffective is its method of “cold calling” college students? Despite her years spent investigating, Kim merely hints that this method doesn’t work well. She quotes missionaries and UBF leaders, but without any longer profiles, the reader lacks a clear sense of who these Korean missionaries are.”

These kinds of questions are where my 7th book comes in. I fill in the gaps of what Rebecca Kim leaves out.

Table of Contents for My 7th Book

My new book is entitled: “The Identity Snatchers: Exposing a Bible Cult”. What thoughts do these things stir up? Please contact me if you would like to contribute to this book. I already have a group of former UBF members who will help me create this book. I am looking for chapter art, poems, stories, endorsements and other feedback you may have.

Introduction

Excessive Manipulation: A New You

            Controlling with Marriage

            Orienting with Ideology

            Confusing with Falsehood

            Isolating with Family

            Breaking with Pressure

            Rebuilding with Staging

Abusive Influence: A New Lifestyle

            Redefining your Mindset

            Rerouting your Finances

            Rebranding your Spirituality

            Repurposing your Body

            Redirecting your Emotions

Toxic Leadership: A New Parent

            Disregarding Society

            Making up New Rules

            Serving a Different Mission

            Promoting Corrupt Character

            Writing Their Own History

Healthy Recovery: A New Life

            How to Break Free

            How to Rebuild

            How to Stay Free

21 comments

  1. Thanks, Brian. Your new book outline sounds pretty comprehensive! I’m wondering if you might want to contact Moll and see if he might offer some feedback or response: rob.moll@gmail.com or https://twitter.com/mollrob

    • Ben, I won’t initiate something like that. I am tying these threads together using social media. If someone sees this article, they are free to comment or just read in silence :)

  2. Joe Schafer

    Moll gave the book 3 stars out of 5, which isn’t very good. Among the the books reviewed by CT, only 26% have ratings of 3 stars or less.

  3. Joe Schafer

    I read Rebecca Kim’s book. These are my thoughts.

    1. She did a very good job of presenting UBF missionaries on their own terms. She gave a voice to their own narrative about themselves.

    2. She did not give any real voice to those who have been hurt and damaged by UBF. Acknowledging that they exist somewhere out there is not the same thing as giving them a voice.

    3. Too often, she took what UBF says about itself at face value. For example, she repeated the claim that the rate of divorce in UBF is essentially zero. But without thinking too hard about it, I can list many couples married in UBF who divorced. They drop off the radar and no one talks about them anymore. Kim also took UBF’s own hagiography of how the ministry began as a statements of fact. The story of how UBF began could be told in a very different way from what is found on UBF websites. For example, one could present it as a separatist movement that broke away from the Presbyterian Church because Samuel Lee didn’t want to be accountable to anyone. Alternative angles were never explored.

    4. Her discussion of racism in UBF was puzzling. Yes, UBF missionaries prized white Americans as sheep. So in that sense, they believed in white superiority. But they constantly criticized America culture and encouraged white Americans to think, speak and act like Koreans.

    5. The book has essentially no theological reflection. I suppose the author would say that she was writing as a sociologist, and theological reflection would be inappropriate. But Christian readers may be disappointed by the lack of analysis of the spiritual implications of what UBF members believe and do. For example: Kim’s extensive description of the “soldier spirit” of missionaries and their “theology of sacrifice” should have led to some reflection about what UBF is really promoting. They would say they are merely preaching the gospel. But shouldn’t a gospel ministry focus more on the work of the Holy Spirit than the missionaries’ soldier spirit? Shouldn’t a gospel ministry focus more on the sacrifice of Jesus than on the missionaries’ own sacrifice? One could say with good reason that UBF leaders have idolized their own zeal and sacrifice. But Kim doesn’t discuss this at all.

  4. “UBF missionaries … constantly criticized American culture and encouraged white Americans to think, speak and act like Koreans.” – See more at: http://www.ubfriends.org/2015/07/01/my-7th-book/#comment-18733

    Joe, I agree with your statement, and find it a cross between amusing and annoying. But I would say that probably many of the missionaries have either little to no clue that they are doing so, or they give little thought that they are doing so (and likely would not welcome being told!), since some of them have virtually viewed themselves as the premier predominant privileged ones who have the right to dictate direction, procedure and policy.

  5. I will be posted updated links and info about this 7th book on my author page.

    http://www.unexpectedchristianity.org/identity-snatchers

  6. Charles Wilson
    Charles Wilson

    Thanks for doing this Brian. The title and outline are spot on. I’m willing to help in whatever way I can.

  7. MJ Peace

    After reading the Rob Moll critique, I agree with you BK that you need to write this 7th book. I applaud Kim for her efforts and investigations; she put a lot of work into it. However as Moll states, “Because that wave included her parents, Kim had both unique access to the group and a deeper understanding of the challenges of doing missions in America.” Kim’s view is unique, as a second gent. It is unique and it is limited. This topic needs to be investigated from different perspectives. I agreed with Joe’s comment about taking UBF words at face value. Whoever controls the narrative/language controls the reality. On a topic as complex as UBF there needs to be more multivocality.

    • The draft of my 7th book is over 200 pages already, and I haven’t finished the first section. This will be both clear and comprehensive. And it will bring multivocality since my book will also be a conglomeration of many voices. Contact me if you want to add anything–quotes, poems, endorsements, stories, etc.

  8. MJ Peace

    Will you also mention the good? Yesterday on the 4th I was at a bbq at Hyde Park sitting on a rock by the lake. I was sitting with 2 other second gent girls and we were talking about the Toh’s;) (crazy Dr. Ben) One of them serendipitously made the comment, “You know without the Toh’s none of us sitting on this here rock would be around.” (Ultimately, it is only by the grace of God, but her comment struck me.) One of the girls’ mother was “fished” at UIC and the other girl’s father was also fished. As for me, both my parents met through UBF. And I’m eternally grateful to God for this. Will you mention all of it? The good, bad and the ugly?

    • No. Only the bad and the ugly.

    • MJ Peace

      Ok fair enough BK.
      It’s your book.
      I’ll read it when it’s done.
      I still haven’t gotten your book, “New Wine,” but if Dr. B has it, I’ll get it.

    • Every “good” from UBF in my life is tainted with toxic leadership, abusive influence and excessive manipulation. That is the point of my book. That is the norm–anything good at UBF is tainted. It is always tainted with imposing the fake identity of a “shepherd”.

    • Thanks for this question, MJ: “Will you mention all of it? The good, bad and the ugly?”

      My terse answer was not called for. My 7th book will indeed show the good, the bad and the ugly. It is coming together nicely. This will be the most accurate, comprehensive and meaningful book about the group. So far I have 2 high profile endorsements. I might have difficulty making this less than 500 pages.

  9. MJ Peace

    Also, after reading this article about book writing it reminded me of a quote from an interview with Azar Nafisi.

    “I think the whole point of reading is not to read about things we are familiar with that make us feel safe and good. It is so boring to just read about ourselves. And once Western readers take freedoms for granted then they’re really in trouble. One of the things that has bothered me since I’ve come to the U.S. is this idea, in a lot of colleges and universities, or even in high schools, that everybody likes to read or talk only about themselves. So if you’re African American, you teach African American lit and you read African American lit and you write about African Americans. Now, I believe the whole point of writing and reading is to learn about things and people that you don’t know. As a writer, I start with a topic I think I know, and of course in part do know, but for me writing a book always becomes a journey of discovery. You are discovering that stranger within you, and for readers, then they open the book, there are two faculties, two miraculous faculties that the act of reading and writing depend on, which form the basis of our imaginations. The first one is curiosity… And the other great thing is that as soon as you enter this world that is both familiar and unfamiliar and you set out on this journey of discovery, the you discover Empathy.”

    • This is an excellent point, especially the leading sentence: “I think the whole point of reading is not to read about things we are familiar with that make us feel safe and good.”

      One of many things I appreciated about the Reformation Project leadership cohort was that the majority (as in about 80%) of our reading was about non-affirming theology and history. It was challenging to read such material that I almost completely disagree with. But it was really better that way. I learned much more and my own thoughts were challenged. And I even found some places where I agreed.

      I think that applies to the ubf situation too. While I was at ubf, I rarely read material that contradicted my KOPAHN worldview. If I did happen to read non-ubf material, it was only to find more support for my ideology.

      That all changed when I decided to read the late James Kim letter, and also the letter from his wife. Reading former member material that I completely disagreed with at the time was so helpful. In that case, I realized my own KOPAHN ideology was full of contradictions and very lacking in light of the Christian gospel.

  10. My 7th book is coming together rather well. I share the things Rebecca Kim leaves out of her book. If you want to know why ubf chapters keep falling apart, why morale is always stagnant or worse and how to redeem your ubf chapter, read my new book this fall…

  11. Hey everyone, look out for a FREE promotion coming next week for my books. In order to promote my 7th book “Identity Snatchers”, I will be giving away all my books on Kindle for for free.

    • More details:

      Rest Unleashed, Goodness Found and Unexpected Christianity are scheduled to be FREE on Kindle 9/1 to 9/5. This is my promotion preparation for my new book, Identity Snatchers.

      Amazon Kindle link

  12. One more day of FREE Kindle editions of my first 3 books!

    Paperback of my new book is available now! (Kindle edition coming soon)