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The power of a public commitment 
20th-Oct-2005 12:53 pm
Today I suddenly recognized the importance of a UBF method that has not been emphasized very much so far. I’m talking about the practice of reading your “life testimony” at large conferences. Maybe this is even more decisive than anything else and that’s why they put such an emphasis on conferences and the “life testimony sharing evening” which is usually the highlight and the heart of every conference though they try to give the appearance that the sermons are the main elements which is not true.

[read the rest attached as a comment] ...
20th-Oct-2005 10:55 am (UTC)
Letting people share life testimonies at conferences serves 2 purposes for UBF:

1) For the listeners: They are encouraged to follow the same pattern and make the same decision. The life testimony is deliberately kept very very easy and one dimensional:
Part 1: I was so bad before UBF,
Part 2: Through UBF I found God, became a holy man/woman, and got a calling for “world campus mission” which is now the meaning of my life.
This is of course very attractive for young students to hear. Everybody is struggling with sins and the meaning of his/her life and about the future. UBF has the perfect solution and the life testimonies seem to show that it works. After hearing a dozen of them in one evening you will be convinced that UBF has the solution for your life.

2) For the testimony sharers themselves: This is the crucial point.
It is known from Psychology and commonsense that normal people try to bring into accord what they say (what they shared in the testimony), what they believe and what they do. Only conscienceless politicians and power monger leaders have the ability to constantly say one thing, but believe something different, without feeling bad. But the ordinary member does not have that ability; at least in the beginning he or she will be candid and sincere, or with other words try to have integrity (long time members and leaders in UBF have no integrity).
So, since you shared your testimony before hundreds of people (witnesses), you start to believe these things (I was so bad and I am saved only through UBF) and start to live according to it. Most of all, the testimony usually cumulates in the “commitment statement” like “I want to be a shepherd for my university and never lead an easygoing life again.” Now you have to put this into practice. Not obeying your leader and every UBF practice would amount taking back your commitment statement and thus questioning your salvation and calling. It would also look like you had been a liar or coward or braggadocian when you shard your life testimony. So you have to prove to yourself and others that what you said was really serious, that you are a serious person.
21st-Oct-2005 08:33 am (UTC)
Psychology calls this phenomenon "cognitive dissonance", i.e. rearranging your reality according to your beliefs.
21st-Oct-2005 08:57 am (UTC)
Thanks, Mike. Cognitive dissonance or the tendency to avoid this dissonance and achieve "cognitive consistency" by kind of brainwashing yourself to make your beliefs fit with your actions is exactly what I was talking about.

From Wikipedia: "The Theory of Cognitive Consistency states that behavior which is at odds with an established attitude demands change. This change usually takes the form of altering the original attitude to conform with the actual behavior. So, when a person behaves differently, she/he will also change his/her attitude about him/herself."

This is probably also the reason why UBF demands you to dress differently etc. If they can manage to change what you say, do, and how you behave, they will also be able to change what you believe.

In UBF, there are only two ways to avoid "cognitive dissonance": Either you leave UBF or you fall for it hook, line and sinker - believing that UBF is the greatest thing in the world, God's ministry. You can only achieve the state of cognitive consistency by obeying and conforming.
21st-Oct-2005 12:54 pm (UTC) - Cognitive dissonance 2nd
Another issue about Cognitive dissonance is that it explains the effectiveness of peer pressure.
If everyone around you is reading a sogam in which they claim that their entire life before UBF was bad and UBF took them heaven-ward, then you feel "out of place". The way you resolve this conflict is by either deciding everyone except you is whacked (who does?) or by tagging along, i.e. admitting that your own life was also a misery before UBF... the "listener" part you mentioned.
20th-Oct-2005 10:56 am (UTC)

I was thinking about this method because I recently saw a documentation about a Palestinian suicide bomber in Israel which revealed similar psychological mechanisms. Why do these young Islamic people do such terrible things? We are too quickly simply calling them evil without trying to understand their motivation and most of all the manipulation going on before and behind. It is often said that their motivation is their (indoctrinated) belief that they will get a big reward in Paradise such as 70 virgins and the like. But is this really their only motivation? I don’t think so. I believe other factors, similar to those explained above, are more decisive. A suicide bomber usually starts as somebody who joins a fundamentalist Islamic group where they make “serious” “Koran study” just like they make Bible study in UBF. Then the young man will be asked “do you want to join the “Jihad”? Do you want to become a fighter for God?” Of course every young man will. Becoming a fighter and becoming part of a sworn in elite group of fighters is the dream of every boy and young man. And being a fighter for God, for THE good sake, not just for your country or something, is even more attractive. I remember that in UBF I was often reminded that I was a fighter and UBF is God’s army etc. So the young Muslim will say: “Yes, I want to join the jihad.” And I think that’s the crucial point of no return. From then on, he has to prove that he was serious, that he has courage, that he really wants to fight. He has to show that he is not a coward or liar. The next question will be “Do you want to become a Martyr?” Now, how can he back down? If he wants to join the Jihad, he has to be ready to become a martyr. Note that they never speak about killing or suicide. They speak in another language; they say “fighting” instead of “killing”, they say “martyrdom” instead of “suicide.” Everything is glorious and sanctioned and has the blessing of a fundamentalist Islamic leader (Imam) who seems to be much wiser and holier and closer to God and who seems to have divine power of authority. So how can they question that killing people is not Jihad and God’s will if these “wise” men say so? No, the young Muslim will say: “Yes, I’m ready to become a martyr!” Again, he has to prove that he was serious. Now, a few weeks later, he suddenly gets his instructions: “Are you ready?” Bombs are tied around him and he is send to some bus station or where they think they can hit many people. Before that, he is required to make a video where he shares his “life testimony”. The wording is more or less determined already. This will be shown in the Palestinian TV and encourage other young people to follow him. Now, after that video, and after his declarations, the young man cannot go back anymore. He would be a complete loser if he would do so, a nobody, a failure, a wimp. Nobody wants to be a wimp. Their only solution is to fulfill their task. Remember that in the Arab world, losing your face and honor is considered even worse than in the western world. So no, he cannot go back. His head is filled with Koran verses, with promises of 70 virgins, with battle slogans, with martial and heroic words. He cannot think of his suicide bombing in ordinary terms, see it as it is – the killing of other people and himself. The “power of language” does its share. Language influences thinking. You can only think in the framework of words and meanings that you have learned in your culture – or in your cult! If you think of these mechanisms, and how these people are exposed to this indoctrination all the time (even the official Palestinian TV is indoctrination and propaganda!) you start to understand how people can behave like they do. The usual answer from Israel are bombs and missiles. Imagine a young Palestinian boy whose father or uncle or cousin has been killed by such a missile. He will start to radicalize, join the fundamentalists and jihadists, and the whole circle will start anew.
20th-Oct-2005 10:56 am (UTC)
Also, I saw so many parallels with UBF. These “commitment statements” are so powerful. I remember that *immediately* (minutes!) after I shared my life testimony at a conference, I was asked by Kaleb Hong whether I want to join a UBF “common life” apartment. How could I say no after I just had solemnly declared I wanted to become a shepherd? I will not say that UBF leaders are as evil as Islam fundamentalist leaders, but anyway, they are using very similar mechanisms to manipulate people and make them do what they want them to do: Trying to let people make a solemn and public “commitment,” trying to get them by their honor and strive for integrity.

That’s also the reason why the ICoC emphasized their special “baptism” so much. It was the ICoC’s “point of commitment.” In UBF, the role of the baptism is taken over by the public life testimony sharing at large conferences.
20th-Oct-2005 01:44 pm (UTC)
Writing a life testimony itself could not have any spiritual meaning. What matters more than writing a life testimony is how one views and interprets his life during the process of writing the life testimony. If one writes the life testimony only through the help of the Holy Spirit and with biblical perspective, one can clearly find spiritual meaning in his life and put everything in biblical perspective. But in Ubf, you are forced to view everything in your life from UBF perspective. It is because you are forced to rewrite your life testimony again and again before it is considered to be acceptable by ubf leaders. Even after that, the life testimony is heavily edited before it is shared. Thus after the whole process of writing the life testimony, you have your life testimony interpreted purely from ubf perspective or by ubf leaders. And you are explicitly/implicitly forced to accept the life created by ubf leaders for you during the process. If you try to put in any different perspective in it, you will be called a "proud" or "humanistic" sinner or "a cultural Christian" and a ubf leader will announce a special prayer request for the "rebellious" person during a public service. Then another rewriting "training" follows until you accept the life testimony essentially written by ubf leaders but not by you. So the life testimony produced in this way cannot be called a life tesimony in biblical sense.
20th-Oct-2005 02:27 pm (UTC)
Yes, that's an important aspect. I remember how my first "sheep" had to deliver his testimony. On the day before sharing, Kaleb Hong called him to his room where he had to read his testimony before him. Then, Kaleb Hong told him to remove all passages that were not from the view of UBF. For instance, he had written how much he learned from the Christian nurses in a hospital. That passage had to be deleted.

What's making this even more dangerous is the fact that usually the leaders don't even have to make many "corrections" and changes, because the testimony sharers already tend to make the testimony fit to the UBF perspective from themselve. They try to write it just as they heared before and as they know is expected.

My sheep's testimony was already pretty much written from a UBF perspective and for a UBF audience. Kaleb Hong only had to polish it.

I just remember another case. There was a young man in our chapter who was somewhat independent. He was already a believer and considered himself an "evangelist" (he had learned from a street evangelist). He just wanted to cowork in UBF in order to not be alone. But he was never accepted by Kaleb Hong. After one conference he told me he was very angry because he was not allowed to deliver his testimony. He had to rewrite it 5 times and read it in front of Kaleb, and Kaleb always told him to rewrite because it did not fit his expectation. In the end, he was not allowed to share. He also was not called a "shepherd" like the others. In the end, he left. Of course, we were told this happened because he was "too proud." However, that man was an exception. The usual member is not so independent. He/she will try to simply copy from the others in the group in order to be accepted.

No matter how, by copying or by correction, people are brought to share a testimony where their salvation is coupled with UBF, that's the crucial point. The result is that they have to be eternally thankful to UBF and that they have to eternally cowork in UBF in order to not lose their salvation and in order to show their salvation was genuine.
29th-Oct-2005 04:55 am (UTC) - my experiences with testimonies
It wasn't just at large conferences where testimonies were so important. When I first joined the Columbus Ohio chapter in 1982, the Saturday "sogam" meetings were a mandatory event. Everyone was expected not just to attend, but also to be prepared to read a testimony each Saturday night. If someone came to the meeting without a testimony and Peter Chang found out, he subjected that person to a long and merciless rebuke in front of the whole group.

The ostensible purpose for writing testimonies was to reveal how God had worked in your life, but they actually were a way for Peter and the other leaders to learn all the sordid details of your past life. They were dissatisfied with testimonies which said, "I learned that Jesus loves me." A good testimony said something like "I saw Jesus' love for me because he rescued me from being a drug-dealing axe murderer."

In 1984 I shared my life testimony at the Lake Geneva Easter conference. To this day, I can't believe that I was able to stand in front of three or four hundred people and give a speech. I had always been extremely self-conscious, but I was able to overcome my fears that day.

To prepare for the Lake Geneva testimony, I was told to write my autobiography. I wrote 12 or 13 pages, but it wasn't enough. Teddy urged me to write everything, so I did. My autobiography ended up being about 125 handwritten, single-spaced pages. Moses spent the 2 weeks or so before the conference helping me write the version I was going to read at the conference. They said he was helping me edit it, but he was actually making sure it toed the UBF party line. I was happy with it because Moses and Peter and Teddy were.

I can't remember what my original title was, but Samuel C. Lee changed it not long before I was to go on stage. I still have no idea what his title means - "From Odds to Providence."

Nothing else came of all the effort I poured into that 125-page autobiography or all the pain writing it dredged up again. I was paraded in front of everyone at the conference as a good sheep, as a reformed troubled adolescent. After the conference was over, my life returned to normal.

Later, I will share more about how UBF made it their business to know all of my business, but never cared about the pain and sorrow telling them about my past put me through.
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