(Originally published in The Manitoban, the student newspaper of the University of Manitoba, Canada.)

“MANITOBAN”
VOL. LXXVIII No. 10
10 October, 1990

“Cult personality draws people to Fellowship”

This is the second of two parts on the University Bible Fellowship

By Greg Reage

As the lessons of Genesis progress, the UBF (University Bible Fellowship) tries to draw the recruit into more activities-Sunday worship, daily(evening) study, early morning study, Christmas/Easter play, summer bible conferences and something called “love symposium”.

Eventually commitment is expected-limiting one’s sheep to five hours per day, filling in all free time with UBF activities and moving in with only UBF roommates.

The leader of the Winnipeg chapter is Shepherdess Esther Kim. She is a domineering woman who controls her believers. Anything she teaches to members is treated as gospel. There can be no dissent. Any discussion beyond what Esther Kim wants or anything questioning of teachings receives denunciation by the other members.

The UBF is ultra-sectarian in nature. They are taught to be suspicious of other religious groups and Esther Kim zealously discourages her believers from looking beyond the confines of the group. This extremist nature differs from mainstream Christianity which favors co-operation and close ties between differing religious bodies-there is agreement that there can be differing interpretations without being fearful of diversity.

Likewise, in Judaism, while the Jews originally worshiped the Lord (YHWH) as a sort of tribal god, later the prophets such as Hosea and Zachariah spoke a message of other nations being part of worship.

Kim demands complete obedience from her sheep(again, their terminology). While she has a high status in the UBF, other women are pushed to sewing and cooking. The UBF has the bizarre belief that persons should not choose to marry; rather, the leaders arrange marriages between members. Of course to marry outside the group is forbidden. It is a requirement to marry whoever the leaders choose. Equally at odds is that married persons are not a “husband and wife”-they are “co-workers”.

Kim does not permit members to move away to another city (unless to operate a missionary centre) and she berates members who feel romantic love or who have social contact with friends or families outside the UBF. Esther Kim, feels that this is how Satan works against her.

The key to Kim’s tactics is to immerse recruits in daily activities until they become highly suggestive and are relatively isolated from outside influences.

Leaving the dictatorial pressures and resigning membership is something the UBF shepherds bitterly criticize; Kim will ensure that shepherds go to work belittling anyone who expresses a desire to see things outside the confinement of the group’s dogma. Once having joined, there is no respectable way to decline further “studies”.

The UBF belief in absolutism probably derives in part from the personalities of the leaders, and from the South Korean socio-political system.

As South Korea has no democratic tradition, with a history of recent presidents such as Syngman Rhee, Park Chung-hee and Chun Do-hwan, who ruthlessly suppressed dissent; combined with xenophobic zealot Kim Il-sung of North Korea, plus the society modeled on division and subordination between the generational age-groups, it becomes possible to see the UBF developed internal absolutism parallel to that society.

It was necessary for the universities of our province to ban the UBF because that group operates by indoctrination, disdain for free thought, authoritarian control over personal decisions (marriage, education, hours of sleep, etc., exploitation of people’s vulnerabilities and the cult of personality surrounding the leaders.

For the advancement of knowledge, the promotion of science and the dismantling of barriers between peoples, the universities must operate in a non-sectarian, inclusive manner. The UBF is ultra-sectarian and exclusionary and so that group must pack up its propaganda and return to its missionary centre. The administrators of the universities have acted for the benefit of all.

As for Esther Kim, she probably is speaking about the ban in much the same way as she responds to any opposition; that is, she replies to questioning and differing ideas with phrases such as : “but I am a servant of God”, or “Jesus said feed my sheep”, or “I have a broken shepherd heart for Canadian campus students!”

One thing that is safe to assume is that as much as Esther Kim wants to teach her sheep, she likely will not draw the sheep’s attention to the words of Proverbs 9:13-16a,18 (Today’s English Version)

“Stupidity is like a loud, ignorant, shameless woman. She sits at the door of her house on a seat in the highest part of town, and calls out to people passing by, who are minding their own business: Come in…Her victims do not know that the people die who go to her house, that those who have already entered are now deep in the world of the dead”.

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