A quick internet search quickly reveals that UBF has a public image problem. They have had such bad publicity for over 30 years, way before the internet existed.
The Public Image Problem
In the eyes of the public, UBF is a very small, fringe Korean-based religious group labelled as a cult by at least eight organizations around the world.
Hundreds of testimonies of former UBF members are posted all over the internet. My blog is highlighting events and ideas that reveal problem after problem. The ubfriends blog is raising question after question, providing a safe place UBF people from around the world to begin discussing issues and Christian doctrine openly. At best, UBF is labeled as a “mixed bag” or “highly-authoritarian” repeatedly in books and in online material.
Because of the UBF 50th Anniversary celebrations and the desire to pass on UBF heritage to their children, UBF has started to publish some of their own internal teaching material, which has allowed UBF members to see what UBF leaders really believe and teach.
UBF’s Public Image Strategy
1. Dismiss the cult label by mitigating the value of cult-watching groups
Many UBF leaders actually see the cult label as a “badge of honor”. They like to say “See, we must be doing something right if we are persecuted so much!”
2. Wait for the old reformers to die off
For example, I am one of the few people alive who can recall the events of 1990.
3. Downplay, cover-up and deny anything seen as a problem
UBF leaders will almost never initiate a discussion about their own problems. They will simply react to whatever you bring up or point out your problems, focusing you on your own failings.
4. Appease current members with internal changes
UBF leaders are making many changes these days internally, as they always did after each of the three other reform movements. This fourth movement may be gaining more traction than ever before.
5. Impress a few Korean Christian agencies, especially with numbers
UBF leaders like to point out numbers. They like to say, “See, look how many missionaries we have sent! We have accomplished so much in only 50 years!”
6. Protect and promote leaders who fail
The doctrines of “covering theology” coupled with “covenant theology” provide a robust authority system in UBF that allows fallen leaders to gain more power, honor, authority and influence.
7. Accuse critics of UBF as being self-righteous sinners
“Take the plank out of your own eye!” is one of the typical Bible verses thrown at UBF critics. UBF leaders like to say “We are all sinners. We all sin.”
8. Hide behind American “stamps of approval”
For example, in the USA, around 2007, UBF did just enough to win the approval of the ECFA, avoid a large IRS fine and be re-admitted to the NAE.
Sweeping Problems Under the Rug
This week I will be blogging about a major incident that took place a while ago in UBF. The incident involved lawyers, television, newspapers and much drama. But I knew nothing of the event at the time, even though I was a leader in UBF. When former UBF members tried to tell me about this event (and many more) I dismissed it at the time.
I will no longer dismiss such events. Since I publicly dismissed this event, as my public repentance, I will be sharing what I now know publicly.
This event has already been public knowledge, but since I didn’t know about it fully until after leaving UBF, my readers may not have seen the material.