Tuesday, August 29, 2006

The UBF sogam: not "from the heart"

(Related: 1, 2)

To say that the "sogam" is an important UBF tradition is probably an understatement. I can remember being taken to watch "Rocky III" by Little Sarah in 1982 because Sam Lee had this taste in movies that he wanted everyone in UBF to share. After the movie I was asked what my "sogam" was. (Um, I can't wait for Rocky IV?) And after other movies and conferences I would be asked what my "sogam" was.

From somewhere I gathered that "sogam" in Korean means something to the effect of "from the heart." What I experienced of sogams in UBF, though, was that it was anything but "from the heart." When you're mostly copying and pasting material from Sam Lee's manuscripts (sometimes literally with scissors and glue) and spicing it up with a few jokes and exaggerated stories, it's kind of the opposite of "from the heart," no? Yes, it is. (Unless you were fully convinced that Sam Lee's words were so unbelievably "spiritual" that you really did take them "to heart.")

Apparently, at the most recent UBF "world mission report," someone gave a report on the "theory behind sogams." Here was my comment:

Comment by chungjoe on 2006-06-09T18:04:53Z
Subject: Sogams do have a precedent in church history.

"Professor Moses Jung - the theory behind sogams. He gave historical perspective showing the place of sogams (testimonies) in church history."

(Just so there's no misunderstanding, Moses Jun-Ki Chung is a UBF lifer, though he often deceptively represents himself, at the behest of UBF leaders, as an "outsider.")

I wonder when in church history something like sogams were ever employed, where you pay an annual subscription fee to get a paper copy of a message "manuscript" to base a weekly written sogam on (and you'd better not employ your "own ideas" or "human thinking" in those sogams). When in church history did people have to attend mandatory meetings to listen to 2 hours of mandatory sogams that sound pretty much the same (because of that manuscript thing)?

I think the closest thing to the concept of the UBF sogam in church history might be the Catholic sacrament of confession, where your "Shepherd" is the Priest (without the guarantee of confidentiality). I wonder if Jun-Ki Chung mentioned that.

Thinking back on it, the sogam is a vital part of the UBF program (which is why its importance would be buttressed at an important UBF meeting). The weekly confession in sogams is an effective means of keeping recruits in a constant works- and performance-oriented mindset. Maybe there's been a backlash of sorts against the weekly sogam program lately?

And here's a more astute comment by tgifoz:

To add to this, it is important to note that one of the purposes of the Sogam, as I understand it, is to give a spiritual growth report on a weekly basis. Now, one will not willingly reveal their innermost struggles and desires to a bunch of people they don't know. I can't tell you how many other shepherds and shepherdesses who shared at the Chicago Friday meetings told me that they just wrote whatever they could to appease their Shepherd and to fit in with the rest of the crowd. UBF teaches that the sogam is a tool for spiritual transformation, but in fact, it does the exact opposite. Spiritual transformation occurs best within the context of a Godly relationship between friends, when there is mutual trust and 100% confidentiality. One cannot expect to be changed through sharing weekly testimonies based on Bible passages that may or may not be relevant to the struggles they are dealing with. This "cookie cutter" lifestyle is sure to produce one kind of person, a UBF Shepherd. UBF teaches conformation transformation based on works and not faith in God. No, the sogam practice is one of superficial appearances, whose ilk bears no reflection of true, spirit-led transformation. The sogam is a farce and it is impossible to experience God's transforming power in one's life through a watered down template of generalizations.

This sogam style testimony is also indicative of the spiritual hierarchy prevalent in UBF. The sheep reveals their spiritual growth to the leadership, and the leadership doesn't do likewise. It further confines and separates the Holy Spirit from working in people's hearts and minds. The sogam was a device created by Samuel Lee to control people and use it against them.

I also made an observation about the disparity between what's written in a UBF "sogam" and what's really going in a person's life, when I wrote about my brother-in-law:

My wife (Samuel's sister) and I were hoping that Samuel could quietly go to the Wright College UBF (Mark Yoon's chapter) and not be exposed to the abusive environment of Chicago UBF. At that time (1998), I wasn't aware of Mark Yoon's role in a forced abortion and other activities as a henchman of Samuel Lee. I knew, however, that Yoon had been (and still was) physically abusive during Chicago UBF X-Mas "drama" practices. But we still thought that the Wright UBF would be a better environment (less abusive) for Samuel than Chicago UBF. I believe the original plan was to send Samuel to the Wright UBF. But on the day that Samuel arrived in Chicago in the fall of 1998, he shared a "gracious and moving new missionary" sogam at the Chicago UBF Friday sogam-sharing meeting. Like almost all UBF sogams shared in Chicago, the sogam did not reflect the reality of who Samuel really was or how mature or stable he really was. His sogam also did not reflect the fact that his coming to the USA was probably not his decision. Anyway, Lee was "moved" by Samuel's sogam and made yet another on-the-spot decision to keep him in Chicago UBF and put him in Joshua Hong's fellowship.

One Word: "I pity the fools" who still live through the UBF sogam ground hog day.