Thursday, May 18, 2006

"a culture of ingratiation"

(Related: 1, 2, 3, 4)

The following is part of someone's analysis of the UBF culture:

In my opinion, there is a huge amount of desire for recognition in UBF. This results often in competitive, ambitious behavior to get it. A typical place to try and get it is to show off somehow during testimony sharing. Competition or ambition exists to be, among other things, the most

knowledgeable (Bible knowledge, usually)
witty (but only in message examples--there is a tacitly assumed range of acceptable topics for humor)
fruitful (a big one, this)
obedient (especially to Samuel Lee, or now, the memory of him)
"proper" (he who follows the UBF way most closely)

In this setting, UBF members are constantly eyeing each other to see who is doing what and how much, especially if anyone is veering off the path (Koreans call this 눈치--Hangul here in case you can't see it, or "noonchee;" ask your wife; it literally means "measuring with the eyes" and basically means critical or judgemental). They (not necessarily members only--"sheep" learn to do this too) work hard to be accepted by others, especially leaders. There is a form of very strong peer pressure and corporate behavior. This is what I call, for lack of a better phrase, a "culture of ingratiation." It means to gain favorable acceptance, especially from the leaders, by deliberate effort. Basically it's a drive to be recognized, to be accepted and praised. The term "ingratiation" fits, but might be a little incomplete--if you can find a larger term that includes it, then that one might be better. I find it to be really immature behavior.

"Culture of ingratiation" bothered me a bit when I first read it. Could I come up with better words? But thinking about it again, the author has captured it perfectly with "ingratiation". It's all about human action, human accomplishment. Where's the grace in UBF? Where's the grace in the gospel of UBFism? It's missing. "Grace" is mentioned, but it's rendered meaningless, dead--drowned, strangled, suffocated by the culture of ingratiation.

In my totally unqualified opinion, "ingratiation" sounds like it has the same roots as Phillip Yancey's concept of "ungrace," the man-made laws and legalism that rob grace of any meaning and wonder in UBF. All I have to do is remember the 15-20 foot wide X-Mas "registration battle" chart (among other charts) plastered against a UBF headquarters wall to know what Yancey means by "ungrace." (Christmas 2006 UPDATE: They're still using that huge "registration battle" chart.)