The Unification Church
Name: The Unification Church; official name: Holy Spirit Association for the Unification of World Christianity. The group has also been known as “The Moonies.” While Unification Church members initially embraced the name “Moonie,” in recent years they have come to view this term as pejorative.
Founder: Reverend Sun Myung Moon (meaning “someone who has clarified the Truth, or Shining Sun and Moon), who changed his name from Young Myung Moon.
Date of Birth: January 6, 1920
Birth Place: Kwangju Sangsa Ri, North Korea
Year Founded: 1954 in Pusan, South Korea
Sacred or Revered Texts: The Divine Principle is the sacred text for the Unification Church. However, this book is not seen to contain the entirety of truth. Thus, Reverend Moon’s speeches are also considered authoritative. To a lesser extent the Bible is considered sacred as well. That is, when viewed within the framework of Unification interpretation, the Bible has a special place in the Church.
Size of Group: Gordon Melton reports official membership listed at 50,000 in the U.S., with about 3 million worldwide as of 1995 (Melton: 703).
Moon’s Early Years
Reverend Moon was born in North Korea on January 6, 1920. At the time, Korea was ruled by Japan. Moon’s parents took a bold step becoming Presbyterians when Moon was only ten years old, risking severe persecution by the Japanese government. Japanese rule had brought many divisions among Christians in Korea. Some obeyed the Japanese authorities by bowing to Shinto idols, while others did not. Also, there were those known as “spiritualists.” These spiritualists were given to receiving new revelations, and these revelations brought them into conflict with established churches which did not receive their revelations (Early Unification Church History Part I, Last Visited: May 4, 1999 ).
It was in 1935 that Reverend Moon claims to have received his first major revelation from God (Melton: 702). On Easter morning, Moon reports having had a vision in which Jesus appeared to him, telling him of the important role he was to play in bringing the Kingdom of Heaven to the Earth (Barker:38).
Moon’s studies took him to South Korea and Japan, where he studied electrical engineering. During this same time, Moon reports to have received visions from various religious leaders including Jesus and Buddha (Barker: 38-39). After finishing his studies, he moved back to Korea. He was arrested and tortured for political reasons, and then he moved to Pyongyang, where he established the Broad Sea Church (Barker: 39). Between 1946 and 1950, he gathered a following, and was imprisoned multiple times for political and religious reasons.
General MacArthur’s troops freed the camp where Moon was imprisoned in 1950 and he headed south as a refugee to Pusan, South Korea. Over the next few years, Moon had a great deal of interaction with some of the spiritualist groups in Korea at that time, even living for six months in a monastery built by various spiritualist groups who were awaiting a Korean Messiah (Early Unification Church History Part II, Last Visited: May 4, 1999 ). It was in Seoul, South Korea that on May 1, 1954, he formally founded the Holy Spirit Association for the Unification of World Christianity (HSA-UWC). This was the official birth of the Unification Church.
Moon began gaining converts soon after founding the HSA-UWC. One early convert by the name of Young Oon Kim would come to be tremendously influential in the spread of Unificationism in America. Miss Kim was prone to seeing visions in her youth and came to believe she had a religious role of importance to fulfill in the world. She underwent five years of training at a Methodist seminary in Japan and later more training in Canada. The writings of Emanuel Swedenborg interested her, and she even reported receiving visits from him in her visions. Then, in 1954, she met Reverend Moon and converted to Unificationism (Lofland: 35).
The Early Years in America
Miss Kim became the first missionary of the Unification Church to the United States in 1959, settling in Eugene, Oregon. She had to be a student at the University of Oregon in order to stay in the United States and had to work in order to pay her expenses. With her spare time, she proselytized and began translating the Divine Principle into English (Mickler, 1993:7-10). The work was frustrating, but she did manage to gain a few converts in this time. Most were of spiritist backgrounds, with an affinity for the occult (Lofland: 36-46). The group relocated from Eugene, Oregon to the San Francisco Bay area (Mickler, 1993:10-12).
The group lived communally in the San Francisco Bay Area. They worked hard at translating the Divine Principle into English, and they worked equally hard at gaining converts. John Lofland and Rodney Stark, graduate students at the University of California, Berkeley, studied the group (Lofland and Stark). Lofland went on to study the group intensely as his Ph.D. dissertation topic. He chronicled their early attempts at gaining converts in great detail. The group experimented with many different means of proselytization. They visited churches of all different types, but had the best luck particularly with churches which were charismatic and open to visions and speaking in tongues (Lofland:104-105). They also put advertisements in the classified section of newspapers trying to entice people to call them or come to their center (Lofland: 79). The group had a very millenarian flavor to it, with Miss Kim teaching that the world would be changed into the prophetic millennium of the Book of Revelation by the year 1967 (Lofland:48). Lofland did not appear to give the group much of a chance at survival, but history has proven him wrong thus far as a result of several events which he could not have foreseen.
At the same time as Miss Kim’s missionary activities in the United States, other Unification Church missionaries were active in America as well. David Kim had first come to Eugene, Oregon in 1959, and Col. Bo Hi Pak came to Washington, D.C. in 1963 (Mickler, 1993:10,30). Then, Sang Ik Choi left his post as a missionary to Japan to come to the San Francisco Bay area in 1965 (Mickler, 1993:75). Each of these men gathered followers and had distinctive flavors to their groups. Along with Miss Kim’s group, the groups had become rather diverse, and each had different emphases.
Reverend Moon’s visit to America in 1965 helped to keep the different groups from becoming completely distinct factions, but they were still not in any sense united (Mickler, 1993:68-69). In order for the groups to unite into one national movement, the tension among the groups needed to be resolved.
On to the Present
At the same time that the Unification Church was gaining members in the United States, the Church was growing much more rapidly in Korea and Japan. Reverend Moon’s leadership as well as the lack of cultural problems allowed the movement to gain many converts in Korea. The movement in Japan was led by Sang Ik Choi. Mr. Choi, although Korean, had grown up in Japan and served as a missionary there beginning in 1958. He found difficulty in overcoming hostility between Japanese and Koreans, but he nonetheless had much success proselytizing, particularly among high school and college students. He left in 1964 to turn the mission over to Japanese leadership (Mickler, 1993:92-95). Mr. Choi had employed a very systematic approach to gaining converts and then training them in Japan. Under the leadership of Miss Kim, the Unificationists in America had tried many different kinds of approaches to proselytization, and there was no rigorous system in place for the training of those who did convert. This structured nature of the group in Japan may have contributed to its ability to grow at a much faster rate than the group in the United States (Barker: 49-52).
In the late 1960s, the different Unification groups were still very disparate in the United States. Attempts were made to forge one national movement, but distrust prevented such a direction (Mickler, 1993:136-140). During these years, the groups also established many organizations, such as the Collegiate Association for the Research of Principles (CARP). This was the beginning of a pattern of creating what critics considered to be “front” organizations which pursue Moon’s values and organizational objectives without identifying the group. If Moon’s organizations were not always identified “up front,” the origin of the group was usually not difficult to locate. Today, the Unification Church has hundreds of businesses as well as many organizations which are not necessarily directly related to their religion, but espouse some ideal with which non-church members may agree.
In 1971, Reverend Moon toured America for the third time. This time, he was able to forge a bond among members of the different groups (Mickler, 1993:168). During the 1970s, a national movement emerged in which members often lived communally and proselytized heavily. Youth from the counter-culture movement were attracted to the movement in large numbers (Barker: 242-245). As a result, the media began to pay close attention to the group.
Many of the activities of the young converts centered on fundraising for the Church. These members worked long hours, mainly selling flowers and candles on the streets (Mickler, 1993:189).
Meanwhile, Reverend Moon became involved politically. He supported President Nixon when Nixon was being investigated as a result of the Watergate incident by placing advertisements in newspapers across the country as well as holding a rally in Washington (Mickler, 1993:204-206). It was a disappointment to many in the Unification Church when Nixon resigned shortly thereafter, but these actions did serve to give Moon and his church public exposure. He began to rub shoulders with many political figures, mainly conservatives. His strong anti-communist feelings and his willingness to spend his money strategically gained him acceptance into many political circles. At the same time, counter-cultists and anti-cultists took notice of the Unification Church. Many members were “de-programmed” by anti-cultists (Leaving New Religious Movements: The Deprogramming Model, Last Visited: May 4, 1999 ). This conflict brought a sense of persecution to the members of the Unification Church and confirmed in their own minds that the movement was from God.
In 1981, Reverend Moon was investigated in New York for tax evasion. He was subsequently convicted and sentenced to eighteen months in prison for not paying taxes on interest accrued from accounts containing money from member donations. Moon had held the money in an account under his own name, and interest had accrued on the account. Despite being in his name, the Unification Church maintains that the money was used for church-related expenses, not for Reverend Moon’s personal expenses. Many religious leaders denounced the ruling as an infringement on the tax-exempt status of funds used for religious purposes (Charges of Tax Evasion, Last Visited: May 4, 1999 ). Many of these religious groups saw no difference between the practices of the Unification Church in handling its money and their own practices in handling church funds. As a result, they filed amicus curiae briefs and even held a protest in Washington against what they saw as religious bigotry. Moon’s imprisonment served to portray him as a sacrificial leader to his followers willing to suffer on behalf of Unificationists (Barker: 69).
In the late 1980s, the fall of Communism in much of the world was a victory in the eyes of Unificationists since they had spoken out so fervently against atheistic Communism. In recent years, the Unification Church has become more appropriately described as the Unification Movement. In this regard, the Movement focuses much of its energies toward inter-faith cooperation and world peace. An example of this shift can be seen in the Blessing ceremonies. These mass weddings have been opened to people of all religions instead of being only for qualified Church members as they were in the past. The Movement has also vigorously sought legitimacy in the eyes of the public. See the Issues and Controversies section for more information regarding these and other recent activities of the Unification Movement.
Unification theology pivots on three events in history: (1) Creation, (2) the Fall, and (3) Restoration. God created the world in six days as described in Genesis 1, though the days are not taken to mean literal twenty-four hour periods. Rather, they are seen as periods in God’s creation (Kwak: p.32). As an artist’s character and nature are seen through his painting, so the character of the invisible God is seen through his creation. Thus, much can be learned about God by looking at his creation (Kwak: 1-2).
The Nature of God and Creation
Unification theology points out a dualism existing in creation. Some examples of this duality include maleness and femaleness seen in humans, animals, and plants, as well as positivity and negativity in molecules, atoms, and other particles (Kwak: 5-6). Everything has an internal character (Sung Sang) and an external form (Hyung Sang).
This idea is not far from the Aristotelian idea of substance and accidents. However, these characteristics are not limited to objects of creation, but instead they spring out of the Creator. God’s creation comes out of himself, in contrast to the idea of God creating everything out of nothing. Thus, when God says in Genesis 1:27 that “God created man in his own image – male and female he created them,” the Unification Church believes that each of these dual characteristics observed in creation are results of a dual nature of God himself. God’s nature consists of the Original Sung Sang and the Original Hyung Sang. Similarly, God’s nature consists of Original Positivity and Original Negativity. This dualistic view of God and his creation distinguishes the Unification Church from mainline Christian groups which view God as Trinity even at his basic core. In fact, the dualistic nature of God and his creation could be more easily compared to the ancient Chinese philosophy of yin and yang.
God’s Original Design for Man
God had a particular design for his relationship with man. He created the first man and woman, Adam and Eve, without sin. Man is the closest among all creation to God’s heart. God desired to be in a Give and Take Relationship with man in which God and man would relate perfectly to one another. In this situation man would reflect God’s divinity and relate perfectly to the rest of mankind as well.
This was to be accomplished through three blessings. The first blessing is that of becoming perfect. Once man became perfect, he would have God’s character and be found in a Four Position Foundation consisting of God, the perfected individual, and his dual characteristics of mind and body. The Four Position Foundation is a position in which God, a being’s divided subject and object, and their union all are one, and each of the four interact in a perfect Give and Take relationship.
The second blessing consists of the ability of man to have an ideal marriage. In this blessing, a Four Position Foundation is formed among God, the man, the woman, and their children. The perfect man and woman produce perfect and sinless children.
The third and final blessing brings man dominion over all of creation. This creates a Four Position Foundation among God, man, things, and a dominion of love. It is then, after the third blessing, that the kingdom of heaven on earth is established (Kwak: 26-30).
God’s design for Adam and Eve, then, was to first attain perfection through a three stage growth process consisting of the formation stage, growth stage, and completion stage (Kwak: p.32). God did not, however, force Adam and Eve to persevere in this process. Had they obtained the three blessings, they would have lived in a perfect world in which everyone and everything lived in complete harmony. When their bodies perished, their complimentary spirit would go on to the Kingdom of Heaven and live eternally in God’s perfect love (Kwak: 30).
Most Christians have believed that man first sinned, and thus fell, by eating the fruit of a tree in the Garden of Eden, a fruit which God had commanded them not to eat. According to Unification theology, however, while Adam and Eve were still going through the growth stages leading toward the first blessing of perfection, Eve was sexually seduced by Lucifer. This caused the spiritual fall. Feeling shameful, Adam and Eve then consummated their marriage (Kwak: 54-56). This union, part of the second blessing, was not supposed to happen until after they had perfected themselves. Through this act, man experienced a physical fall in addition to his earlier spiritual fall (Kwak: 59-61).
As a result of the Fall, the Four Position Foundation involving God, Adam, Eve, and their children as part of the second blessing could not be established. Instead, a false Four Position Foundation was established with Satan taking the place of God. In this way, Satan became the spiritual father of mankind and has dominion over mankind (Kwak: 66-67). Man’s initial status in creation was higher than that of the angels, but as a consequence of the Fall, man became lower in status than that of the angels.
Restoration: An Overview
God’s plan for Adam and Eve to participate in his three blessings was thwarted by the Fall, but God’s purposes stand forever. According to Unification theology, God will establish his kingdom of heaven on earth. God will provide for the salvation, or restoration, of mankind. This restoration can only occur through someone accomplishing the purposes originally set forth for Adam and Eve. That is, someone must attain perfection, marry, raise a sinless family, and then propagate this perfection throughout the earth until the Kingdom of Heaven is established on Earth.
This being God’s purpose, he needed to have someone to initiate the world into the Kingdom. He needed True Parents for mankind. This was to be accomplished through the sending of a Messiah. Messiah, coming from the Hebrew Meschiach, means anointed one. The Messiah was to restore humanity both spiritually and physically, reversing the effects of the Fall and leading humanity into a world of perfect unity. Before the Messiah was to come, however, God needed to prepare mankind for his coming. The Unification Church employs the idea of indemnity as being necessary for Restoration.
Indemnity, as used by the Unification Church, refers to the writing off of a debt. The Fall had destroyed the Foundation of Faith and the Foundation of Substance. Restoring the Foundation of Faith has to do with meeting indemnity conditions for Adam and Eve’s failure to have a complete faith in God (Kwak: 160). Indemnity conditions are conditions which must be met in order to indemnify the loss of the original – in this case the loss caused by the Fall – and thus to bring restoration by indemnity (Kwak:156-157). Restoring the Foundation of Faith requires someone to stand in absolute faith in a vertical relationship with God. The restoration of the Foundation of Substance requires someone in the position of the archangel Lucifer to humble himself in respect to someone in the position of Adam. This would rectify the relative status of the angels and mankind, which had been turned upside-down in the Fall.
God tried to restore the Foundation of Faith and the Foundation of Substance through several men throughout Old Testament times. He was ready to send the Messiah once the complete Foundation for the Messiah, consisting of these two separate foundations, was restored. God attempted to use Adam and his family, Noah and his family, Abraham and his family, Moses and his family, and finally John the Baptist. God could send the Messiah once the conditions of indemnity were met.
God’s Attempts at Restoration Through Old Testament Men
After the Fall, Adam had both good and bad living in him. That is, he had both his good Original Nature as well as his bad Original Sin. God separated these two natures in his sons Abel and Cain. These are only relative positions, but they place Abel in the position of Adam and Cain in the position of the archangel. Thus, were Cain to submit to Abel, they would satisfy the indemnity conditions for the restoration of the Foundation of Substance.
However, when Cain killed Abel, he not only squelched the opportunity for the restoration of the Foundation of Substance, but he also prevented Abel from the opportunity of satisfying the indemnity conditions to restore the Foundation of Faith. Thus, God’s plan for laying the Foundation for the Messiah was not accomplished. The Messiah’s coming, thus, was delayed. From this point onward, those attempting to establish the Foundation of Substance are known as being in the position of Cain and Abel, where he who is in the position of Cain corresponds to wickedness and the archangel, and he who is in the position of Abel corresponds to righteousness and Adam’s status before the Fall (Kwak:171-178).
God brings about what he says will come to pass. Thus, while he does not force his creation to do as he says, he perseveres in choosing another person to complete the failed task of a previous person. God chose to use Noah to lay the Foundation for the Messiah after Adam’s family failed to do so (Kwak: 179). Noah obeyed God in his instructions for building the ark, and then continued to obey God throughout the forty day flood. By doing this, Noah accomplished the mission of satisfying the indemnity conditions for restoring the Foundation of Faith (Kwak: 182-183). The Foundation of Substance was to be restored by Noah’s son Ham being in the place of Abel and Noah’s son Shem being in the place of the Cain. This required Ham to be close in heart with Noah, but Ham sinned against his father, breaking this bond (Kwak: 184-185). Thus, the Foundation of Substance was not restored through Noah’s family, and the coming of the Messiah had to be postponed once again.
God turned his attention to Abraham and his family in order to restore the Foundation for the Messiah. Abraham’s attempt at restoring the Foundation of Faith ran awry when he sinned by failing to cut the birds in two as part of the sacrifice which God asked of him (Kwak: 188). When Abraham was willing to sacrifice his son Isaac, there came the possibility for the Foundation of Faith to be restored through Isaac. Isaac offered with his father the ram which God provided in place of himself as an offering, and by doing so he met the indemnity conditions for the restoration of the Foundation of Faith. This placed his sons Jacob and Esau in the position to satisfy the Foundation of Substance as Esau was in the position of Cain and Jacob was in the position of Abel. When Jacob and Esau were reconciled to one another, the indemnity conditions were met for the Foundation of Substance. Thus, God changed Jacob’s name to Israel and made his descendants his chosen people because Jacob had laid the Foundation for the Messiah. The Israelites still had to undergo the indemnity for the sins of Abraham, but the path had been cleared for the Messiah to come.
Moses was the next major figure in the path of restoration. He had the advantage of standing on the shoulders of Isaac’s family, which had laid the Foundation for the Messiah. Moses, however, had the task of leading the whole nation of Israel into a National Restoration of Canaan as well. Moses fulfilled the Foundation of Faith personally by being in Pharaoh’s palace for forty years, and then choosing to leave the palace and be mistreated along with his people. He was then in the Abel position to restore the Foundation of Substance, while the Israelites were in the Cain position.
It was necessary for the Israelites to submit to Moses and be obedient to him to restore the Foundation of Substance on a national level. However, when the Israelites dishonored Moses by exposing his righteous killing of an Egyptian, the Foundation of Substance could not be established on a national level (Kwak: 214-217). Hope was not yet lost, however. Moses underwent another forty year period, this time in Midian, restoring the Foundation of Faith again. Once again, the Foundation of Substance could not be established on a national level because of the Israelites faithlessness when they sent spies into Canaan for forty days. The Third Course of the National Restoration of Canaan was then set into motion. Moses once again restored the Foundation of Faith by attending to the tabernacle throughout the forty years the Israelites wandered in the desert. The attempt at the restoration of the Foundation of Substance at the national level failed when Moses struck a rock twice to bring forth water when God had told him only to strike the rock once. The baton was then passed to Joshua. He was to be the next leader of the Israelite nation. He had been one of the two spies who had been faithful, and so had restored the Foundation of Faith. When the second generation of Israelites in the wilderness followed his orders and took Canaan as their own, the national Foundation for the Messiah was established. The Israelites’ unfaithfulness once in the land of Canaan delayed the coming of the Messiah (Kwak: 231-233).
The Roles of John the Baptist and Jesus in Restoration
After four hundred years of preparation for the Messiah beginning with Malachi, it was finally time for God to send the Messiah. God had told the people that he would send Elijah again beforehand to prepare the way for the Messiah. This figure is John the Baptist, who established the Foundation of Faith through his asceticism. This put John in the position of Abel, and the Israelites in the position of Cain. The Foundation of Substance was established through the people’s veneration of him.
The stage was set for Jesus as the Messiah. It was John’s purpose to serve the Messiah and to be his primary follower. However, John misunderstood his role as Elijah, denying that he was Elijah. Furthermore, though he held out Jesus as the Messiah at first, he did not follow him and even questioned whether he was the Messiah or not (Kwak: 236-238). Thus, the Foundation for the Messiah disintegrated (Kwak: 235-238).
It was then up to Jesus first to act not as Messiah, but to take over the responsibilities which John had failed. To establish the Foundation of Faith, Jesus had to fast for forty days, and then resist three temptations from Satan. Jesus triumphed over Satan’s temptations and established the Foundation of Faith in doing so. He was then in the Abel position for the Foundation of Substance, and the Israelites were in the position of Cain. Because the leaders of the people did not believe Jesus despite his miracles and teachings, the Foundation of Substance once again was not established for the World-wide Restoration of Canaan (Kwak:239-246).
Still, Jesus was not finished. The first attempt for the World-wide Restoration of Canaan under John had failed, then the second attempt under Jesus had failed, but there was to be still one more attempt by Jesus. Jesus then allowed Satan to invade his Spirit, and he was killed on a cross. However, his spirit self (not his physical self) was raised three days later, a victory over the invasion by Satan. In doing so, he established the Spiritual Foundation of Faith. Then, he was in the position of Abel to restore the Spiritual Foundation of Substance. The disciples believed in him and committed to following him, and thus the Spiritual Foundation of Substance was established.
Having then established the Spiritual Foundation for the Messiah, he became the Spiritual Messiah. He has provided a kind of spiritual salvation for believers. However, because he had to complete the mission of John the Baptist, he was not able to provide for a complete salvation. A second Messiah would be needed to save the physical self as well. According to Unification theology, this second Messiah was never intended by God, but he is needed as a result of the failure of Jesus to save both the body and spirit (Kwak: 247-254).
Preparation for the Second Coming
If a second Messiah is needed to restore mankind according to God’s original plan, the question of when that Messiah will appear and how he will be recognized is of tantamount importance. The concept of indemnity is applied here to the dispensations of the history of God working toward Restoration.
The dispensation from Abraham to Jesus is linked to the dispensation from Jesus to the Lord of the Second Coming. Thus, according to Unification theology, one can view the parallel time periods to see how God acts throughout history, as well as when the Messiah will return. The first four hundred years in each dispensation were times of suffering. For the Jews, these four hundred years were spent as slaves in Egypt. The early Christians endured heavy persecution under the Roman empire for four hundred years until Christianity became the official religion of the empire. For the next four hundred years of Jewish history, judges ruled Israel. The next four hundred years of Christian history saw the dominance of the patriarchs. The next period in the dispensations lasted one hundred and twenty years. For the Jews, this was the time period in which Israel was one united kingdom. Similarly, in Christian history this was the time in which the Eastern and Western Churches were united. The next four hundred years for the Jews correspond to the time in which Judah and Israel constituted a divided kingdom. For the Christians, this time period corresponds to the divided Eastern and Western branches of Christendom. After this, we find two hundred and ten years of Jewish history consisting of captivity by and return from the Babylonian and Assyrian exiles. In Christian history, this is the time in which the pope was in exile in Avignon, France, and then even after his return to Rome there was much confusion as to who was the rightful pope. At times there were as many as three people claiming to be the true pope. Finally, from the time of Malachi onward, in Jewish history was four hundred years of preparation for the Messiah. Similarly, in Christian history the four hundred years from the Reformation onward signify the years of the preparation for the Messiah (Kwak: 261).
What then, does the preparation for the Messiah entail? According to Unificationists, part of this preparation for the first coming of the Messiah includes God’s work in reforming the Jewish community. However, it also included God’s preparation of other nations by sending people like Buddha, Socrates, and Confucius to prepare other cultures spiritually for the arrival of the Messiah. God has been working in the last four hundred years in order to prepare the world for the Lord of the Second Coming, or the second Messiah. God’s work has included bringing about the Protestant Reformation, the pietist movement, and the Great Awakenings. Furthermore, World War I satisfied the indemnity condition for the Restoration for the first Blessing. World War II satisfied the indemnity condition for the Restoration for the Second Blessing. Finally, World War III, which Unification Church members say is yet to come, will satisfy the indemnity condition for the Third Blessing.
The Second Coming
Since the way is prepared for him to come, how, then, will the Messiah come again? Christians have long believed that Jesus will return in the clouds. However, since the second coming of Elijah came in the form of John the Baptist being born here on Earth, the Unification Church teaches that the Lord of the Second Coming would be born here on Earth (Kwak:296-298). Based on parallels between the dispensation from Abraham to Jesus and the dispensation from Jesus to the Lord of the Second Coming, the Unification Church concludes that the Messiah must be born between 1917 and 1930 (Kwak:303-306). For several reasons, they also conclude that the Messiah must be born in Korea (Kwak: 307).
Ever since the founding of the Unification Church by the Reverend Sun Myung Moon, followers of Reverend Moon have believed Moon to be the Lord of the Second Coming. This teaching had not been officially stated, though the church had hinted at the idea. In July, 1992, Reverend Moon laid all speculation aside by pronouncing himself to be the prophesied Messiah. Thus, the Unification Church believes that it is through Reverend Moon that both physical and spiritual Restoration will be accomplished. It is Reverend Moon and his wife, Hak Ja Han Moon, that are the True Parents of mankind and have come to complete the mission started by Jesus of restoring mankind to a state of ultimate union with God through the establishment of the Kingdom of God reigning on Earth. This Kingdom of God will be one in which all peoples, cultures, races, and religions will be united together as well as united with God in a Four Position Foundation. This is the ultimate hope of the Unification Church which springs from its teachings and doctrines.
The Unification Church has been controversial in the U.S. since it first began to achieve success in the early 1970s and was discovered by the press. Five points of this controversy will be discussed: (1) mass weddings, (2) recruiting techniques, (3) finances, (4) claims that Moon is the Messiah, and (5) the “sinlessness” of Moon’s children. Also, the issue of Moon’s proposed direction for the United Nations will be discussed.
The group is known around the world for its mass weddings, the largest in the world. Some of those involved in the blessing ceremonies have already married and recommit themselves to their wedding vows. Others, however, marry a spouse hand-picked for them by Reverend and Mrs. Moon. Sometimes the couples have not met until a few days before the wedding ceremony (Unification Church Weds Thousands In South Korea, Last Visited: May 4, 1999 ). It is possible, however, for one to back out of the marriage after meeting but before getting married (Reflections on a Matching, Last Visited: May 4, 1999 ). Marriages often unite those of different races (Unification Church Weds Thousands In South Korea, Last Visited: May 4, 1999 ). This practice may seem odd to those from the West who are conditioned to choosing their own mate. However, in many cultures around the world, marriages continue to be arranged by families. The tradition of the Unification Church does not seem so strange to one who is accustomed to arranged marriages.
The concept of the mass wedding has changed substantially in recent years. The Blessing ceremony used to be only for Unification members who had met certain conditions. However, since 1992 the ceremony has been opened to those outside of the Unification Church (‘Blessing’ ceremony reaches millions of couples via satellite and Net, Last Visited: May 4, 1999 ). In this sense, it is a real ecumenical event. The number of couples blessed in each ceremony has risen over the years. After starting with thirty-three couples in 1961, forty thousand couples participated in the Blessing ceremony in early 1999 in Seoul, South Korea, with many more participating via satellite and the Internet all around the world (Unification Church Weds Thousands In South Korea, Last Visited: May 4, 1999 ; ‘Blessing’ ceremony reaches millions of couples via satellite and Net, Last Visited: May 4, 1999 ). Many of these couples were reaffirming their wedding vows, and a large number of the participants were not Unification Church members. This Blessing ceremony, in true ecumenical fashion, even had a Hindu spiritual leader as a speaker. In order to participate, couples had to make “four vows: to make God a central part of their marriage, lead a monogamous life, raise their children to do likewise and dedicate themselves to serving humanity” (‘Blessing’ ceremony reaches millions of couples via satellite and Net, Last Visited: May 4, 1999 ).
In the 1960s and 1970s, the group recruited vigorously in the U.S. Two charges made by those opposing the group brought controversy to their recruitment of new members. The first is the allegation of brainwashing, and the second is the allegation of deception.
Those who focused on the notion of brainwashing generally viewed the group as taking advantage of impressionable youth who were susceptible to their mind-control tactics. Many anti-cultists participated in the kidnappings and involuntary deprogramming of converts. Data concerning many of these deprogramming of Unification Church members is available (Leaving New Religious Movements: The Deprogramming Model, Last Visited: May 4, 1999 ). Eileen Barker, a British sociologist, investigated the claims of brainwashing. She presented research showing that only about 0.005 percent of all those who visit a Unification Church center are still with the Church two years later. This statistic, among many other factors, brought her to the conclusion that there is no evidence that potential converts are brainwashed, drawing them irresistibly to the movement (Barker: 233-234).
Many allege that the group practices deception by not being up front with their beliefs and practices with non-members. Instead, they claim that Unificationists withhold some of their more unique beliefs from the public as well as potential converts until the convert dedicates himself completely to the group. Allegations abound that Unification Church members use love-bombing to create emotional attachments with potential converts upon initially meeting them. Along the same lines, many have claimed that the Unification Church has taught members to deceive the public intentionally when convenient. Examples of such behavior, according to those making such claims, include concealing the true destination of funds raised by Unificationists selling flowers and candles (Bjornstad: 20-21). Barker examined these claims, finding that there were many who had a great deal of contact with Moon’s organization before realizing that it was indeed Moon’s organization with which they were interacting. Also, she found that many aspects of the church which may discourage newcomers were not shared openly. Furthermore, Barker does find that Unification Church members did treat newcomers with a high degree of friendliness. However, to Barker, none of these accusations constitute coercion, nor are they anything unusual in social groups (Barker: 176-184).
The Unification Church has control of a vast financial empire. It owns many businesses, some of which appear to be in business to make money, while others appear to be in business to promote other objectives of the Church. For example, David Bromley cites several Korean businesses which have fared well. However, he also discusses the case of the Washington Times, the largest conservative newspaper in the nation’s capital, which has consistently lost a large amount of money. The profitable Korean and Japanese businesses certainly provide some of the money to cover the losses of many American businesses, but it is uncertain just how successful these businesses are on the whole. It appears that the Unification Church operates the Washington Times not in order to make money, but instead to establish connections with people in power in Washington (Bromley: 258-262). In this regard, the endeavor has been quite successful. This is part of a larger movement by the Church to spread its dollars to various organizations and causes in order to gain influence and obtain legitimacy. Those who have received money from the Unification Church include evangelicals and political conservatives (Bromley: 265-267).
The Unification Church has been viewed as a cult in both Korea and the United States, and it is pursuing legitimacy vigorously. Reverend Moon hopes to gain friends in high places so that his movement might be recognized more broadly as a legitimate religious organization. His spending of money to back right wing politics has paid dividends in making many friends among those groups. George Bush has even spoken at Unification Church events (Responses to Questions on Unificationism on the Internet – Volume 31, Last Visited: May 4, 1999 ).
Some organizations sponsored by conservative evangelicals which have received money from Moon face a dilemma in that many of them desire Moon’s money but have no qualms rejecting his doctrines as heretical and labeling his group as a dangerous and destructive cult. The Unification Church even promotes the books of some of these evangelicals like Dr. James Dobson and Tim and Beverly LaHaye (HSA Books. Books of Interest, Last Visited: May 4, 1999 ).
Toward the end of the 1990s there were repeated reports of Unification Church businesses failing. The failures, in the presence of continued church program, lead one to wonder exactly what the source of all the money is. The sources of Unification Church wealth has been a source of much speculation, all kinds of allegations, and some actually analysis. While some of the resources come from donations of successful adherents, there still remains a considerable degree of mystery surrounding the church’s money.
Lord of the Second Advent
The Unification Church announced in 1992 that Reverend Moon is the Messiah, or the second coming of Jesus Christ as prophesied in the Bible (Restoration from the Origin and Rebirth are for Myself, Last Visited: May 4, 1999 ). Members had long believed that this was the case, but it was not announced until just a few years ago. For Unification Church members, this was the announcement of what they had long believed and hoped to be the case, but for counter-cultists, this was an official announcement of heresy (Is Rev. Moon the Messiah?, Last Visited: May 4, 1999 ). Reverend Moon is now officially considered the third Adam or the Lord of the Second Coming by Unification Church members. He and his wife Hak Ja Han Moon are considered by followers to be the True Parents of all mankind, here to usher in a new age of perfection. They are viewed to be sinless and worthy of all admiration.
Also announced at the same time in 1992 was the answer to the question of succession of leadership after Reverend Moon dies. Many new religious movements flounder after the death of their founder and leader, while others splinter after a struggle for power (Group Survival: Succession and Institutionalization, Last Visited: May 4, 1999 ). In the case of the Unification Church, however, Rev. Moon announced his wife to be his successor. While Rev. Moon is almost eighty years old, Hak Ja Han Moon is about twenty years younger. Speculation earlier in the Church’s history had been that Rev. Moon’s eldest son by his present wife, Hyo Jin Moon, might be the one to carry on the torch, but he has run into many problems that have been of great concern to the Church.
Hyo Jin Moon grew up in luxurious surroundings. The Moon’s live on an extremely expensive estate. Hyo Jin was spoiled materially from an early age, and his parents were often away from home conducting church matters. He was blessed in marriage by his father, but in 1995 his wife, Nansook Moon, left him with their five children. She reports physical and emotional abuse by Hyo Jin as well as Hyo Jin’s addictions to cocaine and pornography (New York Post, Friday, July 10, 1998 Page Six, Last Visited: May 4, 1999 ). Whenever the child of a religious leader preaching family values rebels against the moral code taught by his parents, the formula is there for scandal.
Hyo Jin’s rebellion (along with the rebellion of some of the Moon’s other children to a lesser extent) provides a serious problem for the Unification Church. In Unification theology, Rev. Moon as the Messiah is believed to be sinless. His mission was to marry a perfect woman, Hak Ja Han Moon, and together they would produce sinless children. Hyo Jin’s rebellion poses a serious theological problem for the church. Many church members have pointed to the fact that due to their service to the church, Reverend and Mrs. Moon had to spend much of their time away from their children while they were growing up, and that this provided the opportunity for their children to go astray. Furthermore, the children were influenced greatly by the American culture around them (My Life’s Fate and Destiny, Last Visited: May 4, 1999 ). Certainly the reality of sin in the lives of Moon’s children presents a serious issue facing the church today.
United Nations Future Direction
Reverend Moon has long been a proponent of world peace. He has founded several organizations dedicated to the pursuit of world peace. Examples include The Summit Council for World Peace, The Inter-Religious Federation for World Peace, and Professors World Peace Academy.
Recently, Moon has proposed one practical step toward this end. The United Nations (U.N.) exists for the purpose of promoting peace worldwide, and Moon wants to restructure the U.N. in order to make it more effective. His idea is to make the U.N. a bicameral body in which the higher body is composed of religious leaders from around the world while the lower body is composed of political leaders from around the world. Moon presented this idea at the conference entitled “Reaching the Interfaith Ideal: Action Beyond Dialogue” sponsored by the Inter-Religious Federation for World Peace in December, 1998. Attendees at the conference included religious leaders and U.N. representatives. The idea was embraced by those in attendance, though many people would likely oppose the change based on the ideals of separation of church and state (Unification News, January 1999: p.1, 4-7, 10, Last Visited: May 4, 1999 ). The idea is significant to the Unification Movement of today as it is demonstrative of the growing ecumenical spirit in the Church. Unification theology looks forward to the day in which religions, governments, and science are all united in the Kingdom of God on Earth. Were the U.N. to be structured as Reverend Moon proposes, this could be seen as a sign by Unificationists that the world is moving in the direction of the Kingdom.
Barker, Eileen. 1984. The Making of a Moonie. Oxford, UK: Basil. Blackwell
Bromley, David G. 1985. “Financing the Millennium: The Economic Structure of the Unificationist Movement.” Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion, 24/3:253-274 (Sept).
Bromley, David G., and Anson Shupe. 1979. “Moonies” in America. Bervely Hills, CA: Sage Publications.
Bryant, M. Darryl, and Herbert W. Richardson. 1978. A Time For Consideration: A Scholarly Appraisal of the Unification Church. New York: Edwin Mellon Press.
Chryssides, George D. 1991. The Advent of Sun Myung Moon: The Origins, Beliefs, and Practices of the Unification Church. New York: Saint Martin’s Press.
Dean, Roger Allen. 1992. Moonies: A Psychological Analysis of the Unification Church. New York: Garland.
Fichter, Joseph H. 1985. The Holy Family of Father Moon. Kansas City, KS: Leaven Press.
Grace, James H. 1985. Sex and Marriage in the Unification Movement: A Sociological Study. New York: Edwin Mellon Press.
Horowitz, Irving Louis. 1978. Science, Sin, and Scholarship: The Politics of Reverend Moon and the Unification Church. Cambridge, Massachusetts: MIT Press.
Lofland, John. 1966. Doomsday Cult: A Study of Conversion, Proselytization and Maintenance of Faith. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall.
Lofland, John, and Rodney Stark. 1965. “Becoming a World-Saver: A Theory of Conversion to a Deviant Perspective”. American Sociological Review. 30/6:862-875 (Dec).
Melton, Gordon. 1996. The Encyclopedia of American Religions, 5th ed. Detroit, MI: Gale Research Co.
Shupe, Anson. 1998. “Frame Alignment and Strategic Evolution in Social Movements: The Case of Sun Myung’s Unification Church.” in Anson Shupe and Bronislaw Misztal, eds. Religion, Mobilization and Social Action. Westport, CT: Praeger. 197-215.
Sontag, Frederick. 1977. Sun Myung Moon and the Unification Church. Nashville, TN: Abingdon Press.
Church Related or Pro-Church Publications
Bryant, M. Darrol, and Susan Hodger, Eds. 1978. Exploring Unification Theology. New York: Rose of Sharon Press.
Durst, Mose. 1984. To Bigotry, No Consent: Reverend Sun Myung Moon and the Unification Church. Chicago: Regnery Gateway.
Fichter, Joseph H. 1987. Autobiographies of Conversion. Lewiston, New York: Edwin Mellon Press.
Kim, Young Oon. 1956. The Divine Principles. (translated and compiled by Kim Young Oon). Seoul, Korea: Holy Spirit Association for the Unification of World Christianity.
Hwak, Chung Hwan. 1980 Outline of The Principle. United States of America: Holy Spirit Association for the Unification of World Christianity.
Mickler, Michael L. 1993. A History of the Unification Church in America, 1959-1974. New York: Garland.
Mickler, Michael L. 1987. The Unification Church in Ameirca: A Bibliography and Research Guide. New York: Garland.
Pak, Bo Hi. 2000. Messiah: My Testimony to Rev. Sun Myung Moon. Vol 1.. Translated by Timothy Elder. Lanham, MD: University Press of America.
Bjornstad, James. 1976. The Moon Is Not the Son. Minneapolis, Minnesota: Bethany Fellowship.
Edwards, Christopher. 1979. Crazy For God. Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey: Prentice-Hall.
Heftmann, Erica. 1983. Dark Side of the Moonies. New York: Penguin Books.
Hong, Nansook. 1998. In the Shadow of the Moons. Boston: Little, Brown and Company.
Levitt, Zola. 1976. The Spirit of Sun Myung Moon. Irvine, California: Harvest House.
Created by Drayton Benner
For Soc 257: New Religious Movements
Spring Term, 1999
Last modified: 05/09/01
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