You eat-a no meat-a?!

s1“I see it all perfectly; there are two possible situations — one can either do this or that. My honest opinion and my friendly advice is this: do it or do not do it — you will regret both.”

― Søren KierkegaardEither/Or: A Fragment of Life

It’s not what you do but how you do it

I’m a vegan. I don’t eat meat or dairy 98% of the time. Sometimes, I eat a little bacon if I really crave it or have milk in my coffee every other blue moon. But for the most part I don’t. And a lot of people have given me flack about it. They ask:

“Where do you get your protein?

Isn’t that unhealthy?

Won’t you wither up and die?

God told Peter to kill and eat all the animals.”

It’s as if, once I share my dietary habits everyone gets defensive about theirs. But everyone has a right to choose how they eat. I’m not writing this to persuade everyone to become vegan, but to say that veganism is also a viable health option.

m1Let me preface this by saying there is a threshold of health. For example, don’t eat mayonnaise all day or smoke a pack all day. There are basic health practices that should be met, eat your veggies, fruit, exercise, sleep well, get sun, etc. But on the topic of specific daily nutrition there are various opinions from all carbs, to no carbs, to all fruit, to no fruit, to no meat to paleo (which recommends a lot of meat). I can find healthy people who are not vegan and I can find people who are vegan, but only eat potato chips, french fries and oreos (which are vegan.) So the deciding factor is not whether to eat meat or not. The question is not to eat nuts or not. A  panda eats bamboo all day and they’re fat; cows eat grass all day and they are huge. (The problem is they don’t exercise.) Basically I write this long intro about health to say: It’s not what you eat; it’s how you eat. And this is applicable to life. It’s not about what you do, but how you do it.

The importance of the subjective 

I love Kierkegaard’s advice at the top of the page “do it or do not do it; you will regret both.” Kierkegaard also says something along the lines of, “Decision and action are motivated by values, not by facts. No fact by itself can motivate and action. A fact can be the pretrext for action only in the context of values.”

This is something I often wonder about. There is a huge gap between knowledge and action. We all know Diabetes 2 is diet-controlled. We know that cookie or that ciagarette is bad for us, but we still do it. We know that guy is not good for us and that getting $40,000 in debt for school with a degree that does not guarantee a job is not good. We know what we should do. We should sleep earlier, eat less, go on fb less, read more, walk more, exercise more, etc. But we don’t do those things. We know about the starving children but knowing about them is not enough to get one off one’s lazy behind to do something (even though it only takes 2 clicks of a mouse to donate to very trustworthy institutions.) Because ultimately these facts about what we should do are only a pretext for action in the context of values. This is where values come along. One of my old Pastors use to always emphasize “a change in the value system.” As Kirkegaard says, “decision and action are motivated by values, not by facts.”

Value Conflicts and Assumptions

Early I wrote an article entitled Question Everything where I briefly shared about value conflicts and assumptions in gun control. Now I will talk about it using the analogy of veganism. There are many reasons to be vegan, it is cheaper, better for the environment, healthier (The China Study), ethically less chickens and piglets die, etc. But there are also reasons not to be vegan such as, awkward social encounters, discomfort of learning how to cook vegetables, it might be more expensive in the beginning as you get to learn how to cook vegan, etc. Basically the conflict is between well being of self/environment versus self-comfort. You have to change your life style to become vegan, which is always difficult. But if you value health and the environment more than your individual comfort you will make the choice to become vegan. (I’m making value assumptions here, if you see it you can critique me int he comment section.)

The Existential

Honestly every decision boils down to the subjective, not the what, but the how.  We each have our own existential (learned from experience) reasons. There are objective reasons, but those are not the same fore everybody. Actually I wanted to write an article about this because I felt there was an emphasis on the what on this forum i.e. you went to the Midwest Summer Bible Conference, that means you are brain washed and not thinking. It seems similar to the flip side of you don’t do daily bread or write testimonies or one-to one’s? Then you are not a good Christian. (When people hear I go to WL the first thing they ask is, “Do they do Bible Studies?” How is that even a question? What church does not read/study the Bible? That question is loaded; it implies that there is a certain way to do Bible Studies and other ways are not valid.)

Anyways, I blabber on to say that in the end it doesn’t matter what you do. Whether you go to MSBC or eat meat/drink milk or don’t do church activities or go vegan. One is not defined but one’s (in)actions. Someone once phrased the gospel this way: in the world your position is determined by your practice, i.e. you are only a writer if you are published. In the gospel your practice is determined by your position, i.e. you are a writer, so you write. Kierkegaard also writes about this and says, “in a significant sense, you are your values since your selfhood is the wellspring of your actions.” If you truly believe God is good, your actions will show. If you believe He is not good, your actions will show that too. So why do we focus so much on the outer actions and essentialize others i.e. she talks to boys, she’s a flirt, she reads ubfriends she hates ubf, she does yoga, she’s not a Christian, etc.

To conclude

As I said before I’m not trying to guilt trip everyone to eat a certain way, but I’m trying to bring attention to the importance of not what we do per se, but how we do things. Let’s not essentialize others based on their actions, where they go on Sunday (or where they don’t go). What church activities they interact with or don’t interact with. This doesn’t mean to be apathetic about everything; it means to be okay with people being different or you yourself being the different one. People always give me flack for trying to be vegan and million other things I do, but I have my reasons. They don’t always make sense to others though.

Do you agree that it’s not what you do but how you do it? Have you been essentialized for doing something? What value conflicts do you see in your life i.e. loyalty-honesty, freedom of speech-security, tradition-novelty, individual responsibility-collective responsibilty ?

Additional Resources

Value Conflicts and Assumptions for Critical Reading



  1. MJ, this article stirs up so much in me, but I don’t have the words to express myself yet. For now I want to share this song that shares my feelings. This is what living in Detroit taught me, and it is so very good:

  2. Thanks, MJ, for your insightful post. This is so interesting to me: (When people hear I go to WL the first thing they ask is, “Do they do Bible Studies?” How is that even a question? What church does not read/study the Bible? That question is loaded; it implies that there is a certain way to do Bible Studies and other ways are not valid.)

    A comment was made maybe about 10 years ago–just before WL started in 2008–that “Dr. Ben does not study the Bible, but only reads book.” This comment was made because I quoted from Rick Warren’s book, The Purpose Driven Church, instead of rehashing the UBF manuscript when I shared my testimony. Ever since then, this statement has taken on a vibrant life of its own, and seemingly continues to spread.

    So, sorry West Loopers that NONE of you “do Bible study,” or “study the Bible!”

  3. I very much appreciate the article. The ideas you’ve presented are thoughts that have been coming back to me for some time now, especially concerning how we view others based on actions. Conformity to a standardized, but often unspoken, set of doctrines has been bothering me lately.

    As a fairly new shepherd in a UBF chapter, I have already had a good deal of challenges working through the ministry. I cannot deny that all of the members are very dedicated, spirit-filled and God loving people who have a heart for “sheep”. I am only beginning to see, however, that at times we can lose sight of Jesus and pursue the comfort and assurance of dogma.

    What you said about church activities resonates with me strongly. Though I love the heart and the commitment of the fellowship, I see that attending activities (absolutely) is a sign of spirituality, whereas choosing another activity is a sign of human desire and weakness. I see the guilt and coercion many are placed under because of this. For one young woman, a new member and a single mother, she had feelings of conviction for spending too much time caring for her baby rather than serving God by coming to meetings and fishing. This stood out to me as strange–though the others were impressed by her faith–since scripture emphasizes the massive importance of providing for and protecting your family and raising children well.

    It has been the same for me. I study a rather long distance from where I was born. The UBF ministry emphasizes the singularity of our mission and our dedication to Christ can be measured by our commitment to remain in the “Promised Land”. In my case, returning to visit my family is a subject of subtle guilt and spiritual conviction. Making the decision to pursue my mission by faith has come with the promise that God would bless and protect my family if I entrust them to Him. On the other hand, I see how the increased strain I put on them by refusing to see them has caused great pain, especially to my mother, and perhaps spiritual damage as well. When I visit them, they are inspired at the work the Holy Spirit has done in my life and we share Bible studies, go to church regularly and talk about the Lord. God has worked greatly in their lives through this. I cannot deny the good work that He has done through my time with family. Yet, there is also the fear that by leaving my church fellowship and returning home I am compromising in God’s direction for my life.

    I do not hold to the idea that keeping Sunday worship service is an obligation of Sabbath observation. I do hold that it is a personal decision of faith that we can make to love and honor God. Still, when the idea of missing a worship service–or another meeting, for that matter–crosses my mind, the guilt returns. My shepherdess encourages me to look at the faith of others who never return home to visit family, who have given up jobs and internships to come to worship service–I do not see these things as futile, they are clearly great works of faith. Right? But at the same time, it leads me into a sense of guilt about what I see as my spiritual duty to care for my family as well as God’s mission. “Give up Ishmael…”, but what about “Honor you father and mother”?

    You are right that our position can be determined by our practice. What if I make a decision by faith to do something questionable in the eyes of UBF tradition? Have I dishonored God by disrespecting my ministry and refusing to hear the insights of my spiritual elders?

    I pray that God would teach me His ways. As for finding this blog, I am extremely grateful. I have not yet had the opportunity to teach many students on my campus long enough to call them into the UBF ministry, but now my top prayer topic is that God would temper my Bible studies so that I do not use tactics of guilt, coercion and shaming. May His Holy Spirit guide me.

    Thank you all, and God bless.

    • Hi Hertoa, and welcome to ubfriends! You’ve found the right place to explore your faith as it relates to the ubf ministry context. There are many of us here who share your thoughts and have “been there”. Some of us may sound a tad bit bitter, but please understand that your organization has shredded the lives of thousands of people, swept many cases of abuse under the rug and cast people like me and my wife aside when we became “demon possessed” (their words, not mine).

      I hope you will read some of our books:

      I Choose: Subtlety in Cults (former Canadian ubf shepherdess)

      Some of my books. I am the former Detroit ubf chapter director and a former Toledo ubf fellowship leader, having spent 24 years at ubf. If you contact me, I will send all of my books to you for free:

      Goodness Found: The Butterfly Narratives

      Identity Snatchers: Exposing a Korean Bible Cult (currently in editing mode, to be published this Fall)

  4. MJ Peace

    @BK- Great Song! I’ve never heard of Everlast before. I’m going to start listening to them.

    @Hertoa- Please continue to visit your family! One Pastor said when talking about ministry, “Rule number 1: Love God. Rule number 2: Love your family. And ministry will fall in place.” I’ve known too many Pastor and missionary kids put on the altar for their parents’ ministries. As if ministry and family were mutually exclusive.Keep asking questions. 1 Thess 5:21

    • MJ, I would also recommend this song:

      Fight song

      A former member recommended this to us and I agree it is healing and helpful.

      “Keep asking questions.”

      Yes! +1 million. Keep asking. Don’t settle for contradictory answers. Keep asking especially about the gospel of Jesus!

  5. Thank you for your counsel! “Keep asking especially about the gospel of Jesus” — this morning, the Spirit led me out of the blue to begin a personal study in Galatians. It is marvelous, and thinking about the truth of the gospel, as well as how urgently Paul stressed its importance, has been a delight. I feel like God is doing good work through this, and I pray that it would be for His purpose. I’ll post back as I wrestle with the true meaning inside these passages. Lately, I have been in a state of confusion, and hallelujah what a treasure: “… Evidently some people are throwing you into confusion and are trying to pervert the gospel of Christ.” Galatians 1:7. I have a lot to think about. Cheers, all!

    • Galatians is where the Spirit led me a while back, and Job as well. Grace and Peace Hertoa.

  6. I forgot to mention this other quote by Kierkegaard.

    “Only in subjectivity is there decision, to seek objectivity is to be in error.”

    And here’s comic book about Kierkegaard.

  7. Joe Schafer

    And here’s a great report that captures the essence of Kierkegaard.

    It funny to imagine what would happen if Kierkegaard showed up at UBF. Would he be recognized as a great Christian thinker? Or would he have been called a proud and useless intellectual who needed humbleness training to learn simple faith by putting away his books and focusing on inductive Bible study?

    Would Kierkegaard have been allowed to become Kierkegaard if he had remained in UBF? If the answer is no, then something here doesn’t add up.

    • “There had been much discussion in Denmark about the pseudonymous authors until the publication of Concluding Unscientific Postscript to Philosophical Fragments, 27 February 1846, where he openly admitted to be the author of the books because people began wondering if he was, in fact, a Christian or not.[110][111” (Wikipedia on kiekegaard, 110th footnote).

      I can’t say much about Kierkegarrd, all I know is what I read from that comic book. He was a pretty controversial guy, people didn’t know if he was Christian or not according to Wikipedia. But in an attempt to answer your question, he would be very different if he was under the UBF system. UBF doesn’t necessarily encourage writing or philosophy. Kierkegaard probably would have been too busy with campus ministry and conf prep. But he was so eccentric, he wouldn’t have stayed in UBF.

      Reading that article about the symposium on Kierkegaard is surreal. How did you find it? It s as if people can read anything and make it say what they want to say. That’s the danger of hermeneutics.

    • In Francis Schaeffer’s book The God Who is There, he singles out Kierkegaard as the guy who made existentialism a viable and thriving idea in the mind of modern man which subsequently ushered in relativism and post-modern thinking. Schaeffer sees Kierkegaard’s leap of faith as an illogicality which was based upon his poor interpretation of Genesis 22 where Abraham nearly sacrifices Isaac. I don’t necessarily agree with Schaeffer (who otherwise has nice things to say about Kierkegaard), but his line of thinking regarding the philosopher would probably resonate with conservative Christians who are weary of the effects of godless relativism and a po mo worldview. So most likely, Kierkegaard would not be welcome in most modern day evangelical circles. He would probably stand accused of ‘complicated/worldly human thinking’. A Rob Bell-ish or Brian McLaren type figure even. Obligatory John Piper meme: “you’ve played the wrong card, Kierkegaard.”

    • Joe Schafer

      I confess that I don’t know much about Kierkegaard, but I did know that his “leap of faith” was heavily criticized by Francis Schaeffer. I find some of Schaeffer’s work (especially his True Spirituality material) to be very helpful. But his analysis and critiques of philosophers, not so much. He was lionized by the Religious Right because he was the only conservative evangelical tackling philosophy at a time when evangelicalism was extremely anti-intellectual. But Schaeffer is not the heavy hitting Christian thinker that some have made him out to be.

      I’m sure there are contexts where encouraging the “leap of faith” can be very helpful. Faith is a commitment that goes beyond rational thought. But faith is not irrational. A healthy faith embraces clear thinking, it doesn’t replace it.

      As I read that report from Montreal UBF, I was stunned. Well, not really. That kind of populist, anti-intellectual, let’s-stay-ignorant-and-be-proud-of-it characterization of faith has been rampant in UBF for as long as I can remember.

      This is so ironic, and on so many levels. Think about it. A UBF chapter holds an event where shepherds are told to expand their minds by reading an actual philosopher. And their take-away message from Kierkegaard is, “All this thinkin’ and book learnin’ is nuthin’ but mumbo-jumbo. Let’s go back to our usual pure-uncomplicated–Bible-alone schtick and talk to university students at the level of middle schoolers, and when our peers ridicule us, let’s be proud that we have become fools for Christ and are getting persecuted for our faith!”

      Against my better judgment, I am posting this report from the Central Pennsylvania Summer Bible Conference. Enjoy!

    • Joe Schafer

      As I recall, in one of the chapters of True Spirituality, Francis Schaeffer launched a blistering attack against Christians who use the words of the Apostle Paul (those passages in 1 Corinthians) to discourage thinking and preach a populist anti-intellectual gospel. Good stuff.

    • What would happen if Kierkegaard visited ubf? Well he did, in a way, as you point out in Montreal. If you go over the Montreal ubf website, they tell us how he was received:

      “Søren Kierkegaard was known for his boyish good looks and his substantial contribution to existential philosophy. Yet it was his love and devotion to Jesus Christ that defined his existence so well. In fact he was the most despised philosopher of his generation, very willing to be a “fool for Christ”.” (source)

      The core problem of UBFism is that the ideology gives you a new identity. Look at what they just did to Soren! He was just a good looking boy who thought too much. You can just hear the UBFism life testimony title:


      Hello, My name is Soren. I was a ruddy young man with boyish good looks. I had many wild and crazy ideas about existentialism. But now I am a fool for Christ!

      One Word: From a good looking boy to a foolish shepherd!

    • Joe Schafer

      From a proud useless intellectual hedonist to a Father of Faith for Denmark!

    • One Word: A father of faith and the ancestor of faith and a good shepherd who gives his life and sacrificially lays down his life for 12 good looking boy disciples who can marry by faith with anyone, any time, any place, any how!

    • Joe Schafer

      Raising 12 disciples is good. But a father of faith for Denmark needs a big, national-level vision and prayer topic.

      “May the people of Denmark stop building Legoland and start building the kingdom of God through one-to-one Bible study!”

      And when he gives his LT, he’d better be wearing this, because this is how they dress in Denmark.

    • “Against my better judgment, I am posting this report from the Central Pennsylvania Summer Bible Conference. Enjoy!”

      Oh, man, I thought that was an actual, published article until the last page. The picture looked authentic as well. :)

  8. As a millennial I am existential and post modern in my thinking. I appreciate post modernity because things are not black and white. Gender roles are not set in stone. Everything is questioned because there are no longer norms, marriage is no longer between a man and woman, being Asian doesn’t mean you’re good at math, simplistic reductionist answers like, “This is just the way it’s always be done” do not suffice. Conventional career options are not favored. Getting a BA is not enough anymore. Authority roles are not accepted easily, respect must be earned. Age is just a number. Millennials can spot phonies from a mile away. They grow up with the internet at their finger tips. We don’t learn things because someone told us, we learn something because we tried it ourselves. And when knowledge is experienced it means more. I agree with you Joe “Faith is a commitment that goes beyond rational thought. But faith is not irrational. A healthy faith embraces clear thinking, it doesn’t replace it.” Faith is subjective it is very very personal. “The heart has reasons of which reason knows nothing”- Pascal. And yet at the same time Faith and Logic are not mutually exclusive. Faith is based on presuppositions that seem illogical, but are true logic. Logic must come from somewhere from some presupposition and for Christians it comes from God. And that system works reasonably. God is both transcendent and immanent. His fingerprints are seen everywhere. Learning more about Him has taught me not to turn my mind off, but to use it to know Him more and at the same time know how I really know nothing.

    • Very good thoughts, MJ. I think we need to be aware of our generational identities, which does shape our personal identities. For example, as I continue to reconnect with my identity that was stolen by ubf shepherds, I found it helpful to identify with my generation, which is the X Generation.

      This may help to understand why I am like I am. Of course many other factors are involved, but the time and place we are born does impact us. For example, knowing that many Korean missionaries were born in the war-ravaged generations helps me to understand their infatuation with soldiers and fighting spirit. And it helps me to reject their ideas of sacrifice because many of those ideas are not helpful or healthy in today’s world or must be applied differently to someone in X Generation or the Millennial generation.

      Here are some things I learned about Generation X that really apply to me, being born in 1969:

      “The age range from Generation X as of 2014 is 33 to 53 (my broadest definition). In 2011, the first Gen-Xer turned 50 years old and the youngest turned 30. We are currently the “sandwich generation” in America. We are caring for aging parents and raising more than 50 percent of the nation’s children under 18.”

      Like many X generation people I am: adrift, apathetic, cynical, entrepreneurial, educated, empathetic to ethnic diversity, am individualistic, have a casual disdain for everything especially authority, am technologically astute, flexible, seek out work-life balance, and had a rather unprotected childhood.

      Here is a song from a popular X Generation band, Night Ranger:

      X Generation

      So here again we see something about UBFism that is harmful. UBFism ignores the social generational discoveries and applies its own generation identities: 1st Gen Koreans, 2nd Gen Koreans and Natives.

  9. “…something about UBFism that is harmful. UBFism ignores the social generational discoveries and applies its own generation identities: 1st Gen Koreans, 2nd Gen Koreans and Natives.” – See more at:

    I would extend/expand this further by saying that 1st Gen Natives–such as yourself and countless others in countless nations–were and still are subject to 1st Gen Koreans, even when a 1st Gen Native is officially instated as the leader.

    Under such a paradigm and system, no Native leader will ever be regarded as a leader with their own independent autonomy.

    • Yes indeed Ben. The imposed generational identities in UBFism are used to create a community that is supposed to be stable and harmonious. Such a utopian idea would work, but the actual generational and personal identities keep changing as new people are born and as people live their lives. Human beings are not static creatures, and thus cannot live within a static ideological system.

      This speaks to why the great experiement called America has in fact succeeded for many generations. America is an idea that has a small circle of essentials, not meant to create harmony but to allow unity.

    • And yes one undocumented rule of UBFism is that 2nd Gen Koreans will inherit the ubf ministry, well what’s left of it.

  10. Thank you for this insightful article. This reminds me of a close friend of mine and his wife who escaped from the UBF cult when I was still a “sheep”.
    He described his breaking point when he and his wife decided to become vegetarians.
    They were shamed for an entire week by UBF cult leaders and forced to do ” Kogi Bible study ” YES “Kogi Bible study” (Kogi being the Korean word for meat).
    At the end of that Bible study he was told to offer an “apology testimony” repenting for not eating meat in front of the congregation.
    Shirtly after thid they moved far, far away we eventually lost contact and we did not hear from them for many years. Unfortunately they no longer believe in Jesus partly because of the traumatic UBF cult training and false beliefs.