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Repairing "the house of the Lord" with stolen bricks... 
28th-Sep-2007 03:53 pm
I already knew that UBF is sometimes justifying things like lying and treating people in inhumane ways with the Bible. E.g. one missionary in my UBF chapter defended a clear lie of the chapter leader Kaleb Hong with the story of Rahab lying in Joshua 2. So, I am already familiar with justifying lying in UBF. But now I came across an example where UBF is even justifying stealing using the Bible. You may ask how this is possible, since lying and stealing are explicitly forbidden by the 10 commandments, and these are most fundamental ethical norms that even non-believers easily understand, but read on in the comments...
29th-Sep-2007 08:26 pm (UTC)
A Moscow UBF member found an interesting passage in a lecture delivered at the Moscow UBF conference in fall last year. It was written by Natasha from St. Petersburg about “the history of God in St. Petersburg”, led by “missionary” Kaleb Han. I will quote the original passage first:
«Этим летом мы решили провести небольшой ремонт в нашем центре. Поскольку строительные материалы стоят очень дорого, мы искали какой-нибудь способ удешевить ремонт. Сначала м. Халев и братья носили кирпичи, которые были в двух километрах от центра, и песок в ведрах. Но в один прекрасный день Бог послал во двор дома, в котором находится наш центр, рабочих, чтобы мостить тротуар. Они привезли много песка и кирпичей и высыпали их практически возле наших дверей. Рабочие приходили и уходили и работали очень медленно – с большими перерывами, но зато мы на долгое время были обеспечены песком и кирпичами. Сначала некоторые из нас, в том числе я, сомневались, можно ли брать кирпичи и песок, принадлежащие не нам, но миссионер Халев ободрял нас через слово Евангелия от Матфея, где говорится о том, как Иисус послал Своих учеников в селение, чтобы они привели ослицу и молодого осла: «И если кто скажет вам что-нибудь, отвечайте, что они надобны Господу; и тотчас пошлет их» (21:3). Поэтому мы с верой делали ремонт в доме Господа с помощью государства.»
Here is the translation of the passage:
“This summer we decided to make small repairs in our center. Since building materials are very expensive, we were looking for a way to somehow reduce the price of the repairs. In the beginning, M. Kaleb and the brothers brought bricks and sand in buckets from a place two kilometers away from the center. But one fine day God sent construction workers into the inner court yard of the building where our center is located, in order to pave the sidewalk. They brought a lot of sand and bricks and dumped them practically in front of our doors. The workers came and left and worked very slowly – with long breaks, but because of that we have been provided with sand and bricks for a long time. In the beginning, some of us, including me, had doubts whether it was allowed to take the bricks and sand that did not belong to us, but missionary Kaleb encouraged us through a word of the Gospel of Matthew, mentioning how Jesus sent His disciples to a village in order to bring a donkey and her colt: “If anyone says anything to you, tell him that the Lord needs them, and he will send them right away (21:3).” Therefore, we made the repairs in the house of the Lord by faith with the help of the state.”
Ironically, the “one word” slogan of that report was “the righteous shall live by faith!”
29th-Sep-2007 08:26 pm (UTC)

So here we have it – an official UBF lecture shared at an UBF conference, justifying the stealing of bricks and sand, in order to spare money, time and labor. Justified by a UBF missionary telling ordinary members not to listen to their conscience. And the worst thing, the missionary even used the Gospel to justify this stealing.

I guess this passage was somehow an “accident”. Usually UBF leaders avoid speaking out their true beliefs and practices so directly, and they know very well which things to put in written and which things to convey only orally or indirectly by other means. However, an obviously young and naïve member took what the leader said seriously and put it in written. I applaud her for doing so. I hate the sneaky ways of the Korean leaders where what they say and what they write and what they do is all different. In a way, that young member showed some integrity because she openly reflected and spoke about what they were doing, even if her solution was obviously wrong.

Of course, nobody is perfect. We probably all have sometimes done things which are ethically questionable, have driven faster than allowed etc. But this case is not a small thing. As was mentioned, the building materials were expensive, and they did this systematically over a longer period of time. It’s not that they just took one or to bricks or so. And intuitively the members felt that something was wrong. In the beginning, UBF members still possess a sensitive conscience. This is a good example how UBF slowly deadens such conscience.

29th-Sep-2007 08:27 pm (UTC)
Do I really need to argue how wrong and wacky this Bible abuse of the UBF missionary is? Anyway, I will mention some points:
  • As one Russian sarcastically mentioned, if they had followed Kaleb Han’s Bible interpretation consequently, they should have robbed a bank. Kaleb should have rebuked them for the little faith of only secretly stealing bricks and sand instead of gold bullions. Shouldn’t the house of the Lord be emblazed with gold? O unbelieving generation!
  • On a more serious note, in the passage in Mt 21, “some people standing there asked, ‘What are you doing, untying that colt?’ They answered as Jesus had told them to, and the people let them go.” So in the Bible passage, they asked for permission, and permission was given. In contrast to that, the UBF members did not ask for permission, they took the things secretly, without asking.
  • Some Bible commentaries speculate whether Jesus already prepared everything beforehand and knew the owners, or had spoken to them before. In fact, the owners probably were disciple of Jesus, too, or otherwise they would not have understood the answer that should be given to them.
  • Most Bible translations make it clear that the donkey was only borrowed. E.g. Mk 11:3 in NIV translation: “If anyone asks you, ‘Why are you doing this?’ tell him, ‘The Lord needs it and will send it back here shortly.’” But even if this is translated differently (“he, the owner, will send it here immediately”), it is pretty clear that the donkey was only borrowed and the owner agreed.
  • This whole passage is not intended to teach about stealing, but about Jesus. It is Bible abuse if somebody takes a passage speaking about issue A to teach a different issue B, when there is no lack of passages teaching clearly about issue A and these are not regarded.
  • The Bible is clear about stealing. UBF’s method is to focus on one Bible verse and ignore the immediate and overall context of the Bible. “You shall not steal” is even part of the 10 commandments, and the NT makes this also very clear: “... nor thieves nor the greedy nor drunkards nor slanderers nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God.” Of course, there may be extreme situations where lying and stealing can be justified. E.g. “Men do not despise a thief if he steals to satisfy his hunger when he is starving.” But in this case it was only about sparing money and time.
  • The problem is not only that they stole material, but that the spiritual leader even taught that this is right! Even the Pharisees were better here in that at least they did not teach that stealing is allowed: “... you, then, who teach others, do you not teach yourself? You who preach against stealing, do you steal?” What would the Apostle Paul have written to people who do not only steal but even preach in favor of stealing??
The problem with UBF is that they despise humanism, but their ethical norms are even lower than those of humanism. Christians should stand out because their ethical standards are higher than those of others, including humanists, not because their ethical standards are lower!
29th-Sep-2007 08:27 pm (UTC)
The more general teaching of UBF that is used here and in many other cases is “the end justifies the means”. In combination with their attitude of calling themselves “the servants of God”, their buildings “the house of God” and their mission “the work of God”, everything which is good for themselves, their buildings and their mission is immediately justified, since God Himself is the highest end. With this argument, even the 10 commandments and the whole Bible can easily be neglected or twisted as you need. As a UBF leader, everything is allowed for you.

This reminds me of a passage written by Jimmy Rhee about how Samuel Lee forced a missionary to have an abortion (see the complete posting here).
“It was the Monday leader's meeting right after 1986 Easter Geneva Conference. While Samuel Lee was making some lengthy closing statements, he suddenly shouted, ‘I can do everything for the glory of God!’, and I could hear many just responding, ‘Amen!’. At that moment, I felt something very horrible happening. As you know, ‘I can do everything for the glory of God!’ sounds pretty good, but how unbiblical and dangerous it is! How many horrible things have been done with the same motto throughout the church history! How can the Lord who is holy and righteous be glorified by any unsanctified act only with unsanctified zeal!”
The end (covering up a failed attempt of arranged marriage) justified the means for Samuel Lee. This ideology he has transferred to many other chapter leaders in UBF. They think they “can do everything for the glory of God” – including lying, stealing, manipulating, abusing, harassing and exploiting people, forcing abortions – in the name of God, but not for the glory of God; they are bringing only shame on Christianity.
30th-Sep-2007 12:48 am (UTC)
This verse from Matthew has been used UBF members to justify downloading illegal copies of software, pillows from hotels and hospital supplies. Of course, people outside of UBf do the same thing, but they don't use the Bible to justify it and somehow distinguish their acts from common everyday petty theft. I have also heard this verse used by ubf members who "burrow" stuff from other members without their consent. These petty acts are things they would do with or without using this verse- it is almost like they are trying to fool themselves when they use it.
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