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UBF’s special theory of relativity 
27th-Jul-2006 01:49 am
Since I just again heard the excuse "no church is perfect" by a UBF member, I am reposting something I wrote one year ago:

When I thought about UBF in the past, I often stumbled over one point that is still a mystery for me. This is UBF’s schizophrenic concept of “absoluteness” in their demands of mission life vs. their relativism when dealing with sins and failures of leaders and the organization.

I guess you all know what I mean with UBF’s heavy emphasis on “absoluteness.” I tend to believe that there is no other group in the world that puts so heavy emphasis on this word. They demand absolute obedience towards the “visible servants of God” in UBF and claim you have to have an absolute attitude in serving world mission.

Just google for “"absolute attitude" bible” and the first page of links will all be from UBF messages! Nobody else in the world seems to teach so much about “absolute attitude.”

And we all know what UBF associates with having an “absolute attitude”: You have to attend the UBF Sunday service, your 1:1 Bible study or the current MSU conference by all means. You should neglect your family, parents, children, job etc. in case of need. If you fail only one time, God might already condemn you. I remember how we had a sogam sharing session and one Korean missionary had to work overtime and missed the train, but she had so much fear to come too late that she took a very expensive taxi (though she was poor), and just arrived 5 minutes before the end. And UBFins feel very proud to have such an “absolute attitude.” They believe that is the difference between them and the other Christians who are not real Christians in their eyes. They also believe this “absolute attitude” is the thing that makes them favored by God.

I would have much to say about this stance which sounds Christian, but which is not Christian at all if you look more closely. At least in the way UBF understands it, it is wrong and has much to do with works-righteousness, with pride, with elitism, with an unspiritual kind of fear of God (fear of condemnation, fear of not being able to please him). We should admit we can never be “absolutely perfect” anyway, and there are no “absolute laws” of worship service etc. given by God. He wants us to grasp the essence of his laws, the principles, not to obey these laws like robots absolutely without fail.

But I don’t want to discuss too much about the problems of an overemphasis of having an “absolute attitude.” My point is the blatant deviation from the principles of “absolute attitude” when it comes to non-UBF issues, the sins of UBF leaders and failures of the organization, and the blatant discrepance you can find in this.

Here, we are confronted with an extreme relativism, indifference, casualness and situation ethics. Biblical commands and principles can be violated without problems. We saw UBF leaders justifying and using lying, deception, covering up, abortion, divorce, defraudation of the revenue etc. When it comes to the problems of UBF, they may say “No organization is perfect.” Or when it comes to the sins of the leaders, they may say “simply forgive and forget, and move on.” No “absolute attitude” visible here.

Again: I have never met any organization or church with such a heavy emphasis on “absolute attitude” on the one side, but on the other side such a blatant relativism when it comes to dealing with the own problems, biblical truth and biblical commands. It’s just mind-boggling. The tremendous gap between claim and reality in UBF is still perplexing me, actually it’s more of an abyss than a gap. For me, this extreme hypocrisy is more then disgusting.
27th-Jul-2006 05:16 am (UTC)
Nobody else in the world seems to teach so much about “absolute attitude.”

Actually, there is one in Japan: <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/yakuza#rituals>Yakuza</a>. This organization requires "absolute" loyalty and obedience to its oyabun. Samuel Lee was UBF oyabun. John Jun is oyabun now. I heard that one Korean UBF missionary had to have his toe nails removed at Samuel Lee's order because he was not obedient to Samuel Lee. This is very similar to cutting off fingers when a subordinate Yakuza is disobedient to his/her oyabun.

As you know Korean was under Japanese rule for about 40 years. Japan tried very hard to make Korean people live and think according to Japanese culture. There are a lot of Korean words with their root in Japanese words. A lot of Korean life style in work place, family, and school are greatly influenced by Japanese life style. Especially older generations like Samuel Lee and John Jun still practice Japanese culture and their thinking is greatly influenced by Japanese thinking, for example, Yakuza style thinking.

It seems to me that the older generation of Korean Christians are having hard time to clearly distinguish Yakuza style "absoluteness" from biblical "absoluteness". So when the UBF Koreans talk about "absoluteness", you should demand them to clearly explain to you whether they are talking about Yakuza style "absoluteness" or they are talking about biblical "absoluteness". I also suggest that Korean churches start a project to clearly separate Korean cultural virtues from biblical virtues. For example, "absolute attitude" is a virtue. But it must not be comingled with a virtue that is understood in the context of Korean or Yakuza virtue.

But as I have pointed out in other post, UBF is abusing/misuing definition of a word. When UBF Koreans talk about "absolute attitude", probably they mean "absolute attitude" that is Korean cultural virtue or Yakuza virtue. This is the problem that most cross-cultural organization ignores and faces. You must demand a clear definition from them. Otherwise it will lead to abuse of a term that looks otherwise so innocent.
27th-Jul-2006 10:13 am (UTC)
Japan tried very hard to make Korean people live and think according to Japanese culture. There are a lot of Korean words with their root in Japanese words. A lot of Korean life style in work place, family, and school are greatly influenced by Japanese life style.

Interesting remark. I also remember that Samuel Lee has been raised up in Japan and had a Japanese mother or stepmother or something.

Anyway, when I speak about "absolute attitude" in UBF, this also extends to attending the meetings, particularly the Sunday services, but also conferences, 1:1's and sogam sharing. They may never be missed, even if you have a good excuse.

As an example, I remember one Christmas time when my fellowship leader Reiner S. (Heidelberg's "Abraham of faith") tried to organize a Chrismas evening with our sheep before they went home to their parents. We first tried Saturday evening, then all other days, but could not find a day when all sheep could come, only Friday evening remained. So Reiner S. decided to have it on Friday, though we also had sogam sharing that night, assuming that Kaleb Hong would agree that "feeding sheep" is more important than sogam sharing in the group.

On the Sunday co-worker meeting when everybody had to report about recruiting efforts etc. he asked to pray for that Friday "Christmas event for sheep." When Kaleb Hong heard this, he got (or pretended to have) an outburst of fury, saying that the Friday sogam session had utmost importance and we were not allowed to plan any other kind of event at that day. Reiner was severly rebuked in front of all. I was completely bewildered. Isn't UBF all about feeding sheep? But later I understood why Kaleb acted like that:

1) He wanted to hammer into us UBF's rule of absoluteness, showing us how "holy" and absolute a UBF sogam sharing session is. Nobody is allowed to make an exception, no matter which excuse.

2) It was one of the very few situations where Reiner made a decision of his own. He was only trained to only follow instructions by Kaleb. But at that time he made a decision without asking Kaleb. Kaleb could not tolerate this. UBF does not want to raise mature shepherds who can make decisions on their own; they want to raise dependent and obedient underlings. Reiner had shown some signs of being a man, not a robot as he used to appear, and immediately he got pasted one by Kaleb.

Of course, Reiner sheepily accepted that rebuke and humiliation. In the next fellowship meeting he told us that we repented because he did not "respect the Friday meeting enough." He had learned his two lessons.

That's what I mean with spirit of "absoluteness." I could tell you dozens of similar stories which I experienced in UBF.

I also want to emphasize that it is not Biblical. The gospels are full of situations in which Jesus broke the "absolute" laws of the Pharisees. He taught so clearly how stupid it is to obey man-made, absolute Sabbath laws instead of doing what is important in the respective situation. But UBF is erecting this same Pharisaic spirit of absoluteness again.

But my point was not only to explain how outlandish and unbiblical UBF's stance of "absoluteness" is, but most of all how diametrically opposed it is to how UBF deals with sins of their leaders. Suddenly, all absoluteness disappears: "Every church has problems, so what?" It's a gigantic inner contradictions in the teachings and practices of UBF.
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