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Identity Snatchers: Exposing a Korean Campus Bible Cult Paperback – September 5, 2015
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About the Author
Brian Karcher is an author, engineer and avid LGBTQIA ally. He is a Bible cult survivor who was "done" with church after two decades of extreme religious dedication. He is a member of Matthew Vines' 2015 Reformation Project Leadership Cohort held in Washington D.C. Through worship and Bible study with gender and sexual minorities, Brian was inspired to love the church once again and to seek out a new church community. He has been happily married to a wonderful, intelligent and beautiful wife since 1994 and has four amazing children. Brian's religious background is extensive. He grew up in the Roman Catholic Church, participating in Catechism classes through high school as well as completing the sacraments of Baptism, Confirmation and First Communion. In college he became a leader in a campus Bible study organization from Korea where he donated nearly 40 hours of time every week for 16 years. He has gone to Russia as a missionary, amassed over 15,000 hours of bible meditation and was "pastor" in his own house church for eight years. In 2011, Brian and his family realized and escaped the undue religious influence that the campus bible study group and their Christianized ideologies had exerted on their lives. Those stories are in his first three books: "Rest Unleashed", "Goodness Found" and "Unexpected Christianity". In 2012 he was baptized at a North American Baptist church.
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Karcher's perspective is certainly unique, if only because he was so deeply embedded in the church and its culture for such a shockingly long time. This is an "insider's look," a collection of loosely-joined observations that, cumulatively, ought to make for a compelling resource to any "mainline" Evangelical reader looking for a fully-fleshed illustration of an "aberrant" or "cultlike" church.
Incredibly, Karcher mentions having worked, at one point, to "scrub" the Internet of mentions of UBF being a "cult"; this is an eerie parallel with the book Going Clear, in which an ex-Scientology member, formerly tasked with "scrubbing the Internet" of negative Scientology coverage, also leaves the organization (and is subsequently "pressured" by the organization for his speaking out).
It is also not always an easy read, in terms of the prose itself. It's actually really interesting in that way: Occasionally, Karcher's halting prose almost mimics the unusual linguistic patter and diction that seems to define UBF. If I'm not mistaken, the book is self-published (I purchased it for Kindle), so although there is critical analysis here, the reader cannot expect this to be a totally academic work. Judged on its merits as an independently-published book, however, it IS very good. It was also a quick read, though not a flimsy read; I read it at a leisurely pace over the course of two evenings.
I'm not sure how interesting the book will be, anthropologically, to anyone who has never encountered UBF on a university campus. The book IS intended as "niche," I'm sure, but its content and subject matter could be interesting to a wider swath of people if Karcher's observations were folded into a larger investigation of abusive religious subcultures. Then again, such a book would alienate the type of reader Karcher is attempting to reach; it's frequently obvious that he wants to save UBF from itself. (I happened to come across his book on Amazon when I was already in the process of reading one book on the "Quiverfull" movement, and another book about child abuse -- corporal punishment taken to its drastic, sometimes tragic logical end -- among Judeo-Christian communities.)
I think I, personally, would most strongly recommend Identity Snatchers to the concerned parents of university students, people who intuit that something is "off" with their loved ones. I would hope that this book encourages those parents and family members to reach out to their loved ones before they are swept away.
In the interest of full disclosure: I studied with UBF for only a few months in late 2002, attending church services at its Chicago headquarters. I have no "grievances" with the organization, myself, and to be honest I never encountered spiritual abuse there.
But I stopped attending after a Bible study counselor goaded me into writing a check for a spiritual retreat I'd already said I didn't plan to attend (it was occurring over the Christmas holiday, and my father was by then in the beginning stages of dementia, so, no, I was not interested in sacrificing one of my last real Christmases with him to the organization). My mother, herself, was a Christian counselor, and she had lots of books on her bookshelf about cults and their "red flags" -- flags that include, among others, separating people from their families and, also, separating people from their money. So I was really turned off by that one financial solicitation, and I took my leave. (Actually, no -- first, I sought advice from our family pastor as to what to do, and he told me to listen to my Holy Spirit, AKA my gut, to tell no one else why I was departing, and to try to "lead by example." I was surprised and rather disturbed when, a short time after all this, a friend of mine still in UBF was suddenly and abruptly *married*.)
I think most people in a similar position to me would have never paid another thought to UBF after that, but I've actually thought about my own experience a lot over the years. No, I don't believe myself to have a "grievance" or "grudge" with the organization -- again, I never personally experienced abuse there and, as a matter of fact, I've never discussed my experience, prior to writing this Amazon review, at all! -- but I find it fiercely disingenuous when members of the organization dismiss accounts of abuse as wild-eyed fairytales concocted by people with "grievances." (There is one such critical book review on this very Amazon page, and I am so beyond skeptical of it.) I can sincerely tell you that the anecdotal evidence brought against the organization in the course of this book all squares with my own observations as a relatively impartial observer.
To that last point, I would add that the tone of Karcher's book is very... weird. Or, what I mean to say is, there is no resentment in this book -- Karcher's descriptions of spiritual abuse are matter-of-fact and to-the-point -- and what actually comes through the text is a pervasive sense of love, and wistfulness. I think, with any type of loss, there is grief, and it's clear that he still grieves the loss of UBF from his life. There is no "beef" here; he simply made the right decision for his life. It must be a very painful realization to come to.
As a former member of Sun Myung Moon's Unification Church, I welcome more accounts like Brian's to shed a light on the many cult groups who misuse the Bible and human authority to control people and make them into slaves.
author of Combating Cult Mind Control: The #1 Best-selling Guidebook to Protection, Rescue and Recovery from Destructive Cults