Paying respect or Religious power?

Things like this have disturbed me for many years. I never said anything, but today I share my thoughts.

Paying respect to the dead is one thing. Taking group photos and creating a special service in a cemetery… that’s disturbing to me. It always has been, and probably always will be. As an American from the midwest, I just have not seen such behavior except for my prior religious organization.

The photos and reports are here:

What is so disturbing?

1. I’m disturbed by the yearly glorification of a man who died in 2002. If there was a public, realistic mention of that man’s life, I might not be so disturbed. As it is, every year in October, the man is glorified as if he had no shortcomings. Not only is there a memorial service, there is a religious holiday being developed around the event called “Founders Day”.

2. I’m disturbed by the “spiritual Godfather” power struggle. If you know the people in the photos at the gravesite and notice how they are sitting/standing, you will clearly see that there are quite a few top leaders in UBF who love power and authority. The photos are not random; each leader specifically is sitting or standing in the spot that portrays their own power and authority (except for the few Americans there who are probably unaware of such a power struggle)

I see these yearly events as not merely paying respect to a dead person. I see them as a display of religious power.

19 thoughts on “Paying respect or Religious power?

  1. I see no problem paying respects at a grave of person. It just so happens that a lot of people love and respect him and so they gather. Many are from other countries. People do this yearly at their parents and grandparents graves. On memorial day we see candles. What about in Mexico where they eat together once a year at their ancestor’s graves? As for Founder’s Day it was once a regular practice of almost all Protestant mainline churches to have Founder’s Day. The United/Congregationalist Church in DeKalb has Founder’s Day. They also have Rally Day. These are yearly events. It is best to stay away from comments concerning grave sites and peoples’ decisions on how they pay respect and understand the true purpose of Founder’s Day.

  2. As far as hierarchy displayed in the photo. Maybe there is a hierarchy practiced among the more senior missionaries, but they grew up in such a system. We need to cut them some slack for being born and raised in another culture. I practice hierarchy in my family. My kids or other kids do not get first dibs for the passenger seat in the car. My family waits for me until I get to the supper table. I get the last say on what is watched on TV. In group photos me and my wife stand in the middle. When I go through doors, I open the door and let my wife go through first. I praise God for other cultural practices. I like Canada’s adoption of promoting a cultural mosaic.

  3. One last comment. (Maybe) Also the fact that people want to visit his grave site and mention about his life’s work years and people are still hounding him and blogging about him 10 years after his death says something. As for me, outside of family, people will forget about me in less than one year despite my best efforts to immortalize myself. The same can be said for 99% of us.

  4. “cut them some slack”? I cut them slack for 24 years, looking the other way when they insulted people, thinking up defenses to justify their actions, spinning their harsh words into something we could accept and participating in illegal activity “by faith”.

    For 24 years I not only “cut them slack” but also treated them with double honor (1 Timothy 5:17). What do I get in return when I raise a few questions about my friends who are hurting and struggling? I get “it’s none of your business” and “maybe you are spiritually dead”.

    How much more slack do they need?

  5. ” the fact that people want to visit his grave site and mention about his life’s work years and people are still hounding him and blogging about him 10 years after his death says something.”

    Yes it does say something. As I look back on the past 24 years, I am starting to come to the conclusion that God works through UBF ministry primarily because of the “reform movements” and former members who speak out.

    It is really surprising that such an organization as UBF could survive for 5 decades. I used to give credit for this to all the work and sacrifice of UBF members. But we know that God’s work is not sustained by human effort.

    I am starting to believe the Spirit can work greater when we work less. Each time a reform movement happens, human effort is distracted, allowing the Spirit to begin new movements.

  6. I do agree that comments of blogs of disgruntled people have been used by God to get people in UBF to assess their ways and change faster than they wanted to change. This is good thing but a very very uncomfortable thing for everyone. This type of communication creates life long enemies and ends friendships. That is what hurts. If this conversation is about love, I am not feeling it. I am feeling more of a migraine and a tense feeling in my throat and a desire to get into the fray.

    But we need to continue to dialogue with respect. It must be born out of love and respect and a desire to honor Jesus, not out of any other negative feeling. The following is a quote from “Eyes That See, Ear That Hear. Perceiving Jesus in a post modern context” by James Danaher. c. 2006. p. 155

    “Personal concepts are broad and multifarious. They are therefore very distinct from the kind of narrow and precise mathematical concepts that were idealized by the science of modernity.With these caveats in mind, it is possible to know the personal concepts of another person, although the means to such knowledge will be very different….The primary means to know private concepts is dialogue. Questioning is essential to any dialogue. Through dialogue the interlocutor opens herself or himself to receive the personal concepts of another person. That is, the person to whom the concept is being communicated must also participate, and this participation essentially amounts to asking questions. In short, it is only by questioning that we remain open to receiving another person’s conceptual understanding.”

    If we are going to keep the dialogue going we must keep the right perspective. Our motivation must truly be love and a desire to honor Jesus and build up the kingdom of God.

    I think that we all need give each other “slack”. Do you want people to cut you some slack? It is called grace and forgiveness and mercy and though you perceive others as not deserving it…you as a Christian must practice it.

    Also if it is God’s will to eliminate UBF he will do it. You are all for trusting the Holy Spirit. Then trust that the Holy Spirit can swipe us away at any time. But he hasn’t. If this movement is not from God then it will come to not.

  7. Human communication, especially cross culturally and cross generationally is very difficult. Let’s say we want to communicate the concept of a “apple” it may take time and many dialogues to get past the people thinking you are talking about “oranges.” How hard it is for our state to balance its budget, or for congress to pass a bill. or for a healthcare bill to pass. It takes lots of dialogue and prayer over a long period of time.Some times the same things need to be discussed again and again and again. This is humanity. But people have to keep their heads and their focus. Respect is the key. If we want people to listen we must listen. If we want people to be humble we must be humble. If we want others to repent we need to repent. We must initiate these things and know that it may take a long time people to follow suit. That is the truth of the universe.

  8. “Do you want people to cut you some slack?”

    No, I’m not looking for slack. I am aware that some people hate me and are angered by my comments. I’m not so concerned about making everyone like me.

    I tried the politically correct approaches you mention the past 24 years. When I did that, I watched over 100 of my friends be mistreated in various ways.

    Now my goal is to expose, to explain and to examine the UBF system. I am aware that many in UBF, including yourself, are well-meaning and are true Christians. But when will we face the facts about our situation?

    Currently, there are two movements going on in UBF. One is the “independence movement”. This year many leaders left around the world before me. I left as a kind of “going on strike” to bring things into the light and begin public discussion of the situation (as some credible Christians have recommended UBF to do). I am now the “poster boy” for the independence movement. I’ve accepted God’s purpose for me to draw the anger and frustrations of UBF leaders toward me. I’ve “taken the fall” so-to-speak in order to bring things out in the open.

    The second movement is yet another reform movement. This is the fourth time a reform movement has occurred. The 2011 reform movement however, is different because it is led by native leaders and Korean leaders together. In the past, primarily the Korean leaders led the reform. The other difference is that the reform movement this time is hidden. It is not clearly defined so that the Spirit may work His way. And it is supported by some top leaders in UBF.

    My point is not that the reformers have caused the work of God. My point is that all three movements together have allowed UBF to be an instrument of God (traditional UBF, reform UBF and independence UBF). All three are necessary in my opinion for UBF to continue.

  9. I’m sure they come from all over the world to gather annually at the graves of these late mainline church leaders and take group photos. Actually, they don’t, do they? The fact that they do this in UBF indicates that the veneration of the late Sam Lee in UBF is still at an abnormal level. This goes along with the wall photos of him in most members’ houses and most chapters. It’s North Korea-esque. Not really healthy.

    I’ve been to Moody Bible Church for their Founder’s Week. Of course, they commemorate Dwight Moody, but that part of it is hardly the focus of their Founder’s Week. Their Founder is largely forgotten on Founder’s Week. Paradoxical. But that’s the way it should be. That’s healthy.

    If people are still “hounding” me and blogging about me (negatively) 10 years after my death, it probably means I’ve been an inexcusably abusive d-bag to a lot of people.

  10. rsqubf,

    I was thinking the same thing: The churches who have a founder’s day seem to look to the future realistically in expectation of what God will do and evaluate their present situation, perhaps briefly remembering the past. I’ve only attended one UBF founder’s day (my first and last) because it glorifies the past, promotes a false hope for the future and ignores the present situation.

  11. “People do this yearly at their parents and grandparents graves.”

    In America? I have plenty of relatives in the grave, and over 100 family members. Yet not once did we take a family photo at the cemetery. And I think my family would be horrified if we took such a photo with about 20 non-family member friends and circulated it on Facebook…

    At most, I’ve known friends and family to visit a grave site briefly to put flowers there. Maybe this kind of thing is normal in Eastern countries, but it is disturbing to me.

    So the question on my mind in all of this is: Should a missionary respect the culture in which they are living as missionaries? I know that there are examples of American missionaries have failed to do this. And I know that we should “all just get along”. But how should I react when Eastern traditions and Eastern religious thought becomes required (or at best highly recommended)?

  12. ” I’ve only attended one UBF founder’s day (my first and last) because it glorifies the past, promotes a false hope for the future and ignores the present situation.”
    That’s exactly why I do not now attend any UBF official activity.

  13. “If people are still “hounding” me and blogging about me (negatively) 10 years after my death, it probably means I’ve been an inexcusably abusive d-bag to a lot of people.”

    But I’m sure that after 10 years, even the most rabid of the “disgruntled” would largely forget my decades of inexcusably abusive d-baggery, if only my loyal followers would stop coming to my tomb to try to whitewash it (and also my legacy) year after year.

  14. Ok guys. You may get your intended reactions from people, but if you are making it hard to dialogue and if a life time of hard feelings with others is the cross you are called to bear , then may God grant you strength and wisdom.

  15. It should be noted that all of us here have tried many other ways before resorting to such blogging. I’ve tried many ways to remain part of UBF the past 8 years. Most of those ways were of the quiet, humble nature.

    Most of us former members feel we were pushed into such a place. In fact the only way I could get a response from UBF leaders was to threaten to leave UBF or use the “c” word. Dialogue just wasn’t possible any other way.

    So my choices ended up as: be quite and go away, stay and remain quiet about things I have differing opinions about, or “blog it out”. It’s clear what my choice was. It may not be the best choice for others, but my blogging has helped me tremendously. And I’ve made quite a few friends who think in a similar way.

  16. Kevin,

    Just one more interesting note. I’ve been on both sides of the UBF issue. As you may know, I once was the ultimate defender of UBF on the internet! I argued intensely against some of those commenting here, even. At that time, I felt the way you mention above (“This type of communication creates life long enemies and ends friendships. That is what hurts. If this conversation is about love, I am not feeling it. I am feeling more of a migraine and a tense feeling in my throat and a desire to get into the fray.”)

    Now however, I have a lot of peace and real hope. I am truly excited about my journey of faith this year, more so than the past 10 years. I haven’t felt this way since I went to Russia.

    When I defended UBF, I had to keep inventing answers. I had to work hard to understand what was going on. But now it is rather easy. As I dialogue with various people, I am calm and at peace. I am no longer trying to defend or dictate my ideas about what is right or wrong. I am simply speaking as prompted and thinking critically. I feel so much more alive and healthy now!

  17. I will continue to dialogue with you in the name of Jesus with his help and wisdom.

  18. Kevin,

    Amen. I truly don’t view you as an enemy. And I also appreciate your comments here. I’m glad to see someone who has courage and freedom to engage, even though you may need some aspirin from time to time :)