The Unification Church: Studies in Contemporary Religion
by Massimo Introvigne
Signature Books, 2000
eISBN: 978-1-56085-369-5 | Paper: 978-1-56085-145-5
Library of Congress Classification BX9750.S43I58 2000
Dewey Decimal Classification 289.96
Nearby on shelf for Christian Denominations / Protestantism / Other Protestant denominations:
Where they depart from traditional Christianity is in their acceptance of the Divine Principle as a companion to the Bible and in their assertion that founder Rev. Sun Myung Moon is Lord of the Second Advent, that with his wife (together the “True Parents”), Original Sin is conquered through special blessings.
Since 1954 Unificationism has evolved toward a more normative approach to worship and lifestyle, if not belief—a point that Italian scholar Massimo Introvigne emphasizes in his balanced overview of the church’s history, doctrine, spirituality, missionary activities, and controversies. He notes that in doctrine Unificationism has moved away from mainstream churches toward increased emphasis on contact with the spirit world, numerology, and construction of a modern “Garden of Eden” in Brazil.
The history of the Unification Church is inseparable from that of its founder, whose given name was Yong Myung Moon which was changed when he was twenty-five to Sun Myung Moon. Yong Myung Moon was born in Cheong-Ju, a village now situated in North Korea, on January 6, 1920.1 He was the fifth of eight children born to a couple who converted to the Presbyterian church when young Moon was ten years old. According to official biographies, Jesus Christ appeared to Yong Myung Moon when he was sixteen, revealing that he had chosen him for a special mission. However, at that time Yong Moon did not tell anyone about this revelation which was the first of many he received. In 1938 he left his native village for Seoul, capital of Korea, where he enrolled in a course in technology. Korea in 1941 was still under Japanese occupation, and Moon went to Tokyo to study engineering at Waseda University. In 1943, in the midst of the Second World War, he returned to Korea where he worked in a construction company. He also became involved in a movement fighting for Korean independence against the Japanese. He was discovered, arrested, and imprisoned for four months by the Japanese political police.
At the end of the war, during a period of great religious fervor in Korea, Sun Myung Moon decided to dedicate himself to preaching full time. He married Sun Kil Choi, a fervent Christian, in November 1943.2 In June 1946, shortly after the birth of his first son, Sung Jin (Moon),3 he declared that he had received a revelation which commanded him to go to Pyongyang, a city situated in Communist North Korea. He left for North Korea while his wife remained in Seoul. Reunited again in Pusan in November 1952, Mrs. Moon found that being a pastor's wife after surviving the pain of separation for six years was too difficult to bear. Unable to accept her husband's commitment to his calling, she divorced him.4 Today Sun Kil Choi and Sung Jin Moon are both members of the Unification Church and both have received the "Blessing."5 Sung Jin Moon was "blessed" in the early 1970s; his mother, Sun Kil Choi, was "blessed" on June 13, 1998.
In July 1946 Rev. Moon founded an independent Christian church called Kwang-ya, characterized by a strong charismatic enthusiasm. It appears that married women were advised to live in chastity until their marriage was "blessed" by Rev. Moon.6 This new group quickly attracted the hostility of Communist authorities and its leader was arrested in 1946 and again in 1948. He was tried and condemned to five years of hard labor in a prison camp in Hung-Nam. After two and a half years of imprisonment, Rev. Moon and two of his disciples, making use of the advance of American troops during the Korean War, were able to reach the south. In 1951 Rev. Moon recommenced preaching in a simple hut made of mud and cardboard in a refugee camp in Pusan.
After having developed the first nucleus of his doctrine--known as the Divine Principle--Rev. Moon left Pusan and went to Seoul, where on May 1, 1954, he founded the Holy Spirit Association for the Unification of World Christianity, later known as the Unification Church. In Seoul the young movement was especially successful in converting young female students and professors from Ewha University, a well-known Christian school. Alarmed, university authorities sent a group to study and prepare a report on Unificationism. On this occasion one of the young women in the group, the theologian Young Oon Kim, converted to Unificationism and played an important role until her death in 1990.
In 1955 the first Korean edition of the Divine Principle was distributed to members of the movement. As the movement grew, so did opposition, and in 1955 Rev. Moon was again arrested. According to Unification biographies, he was accused of evading military service, even though at the time of conscription he had been imprisoned in Hung Nam. Other works claim the church was accused of wrongdoing and that it practiced sex rituals.7 Nevertheless, on October 4, 1955, Rev. Moon was absolved of all accusations and freed. A few days later the church acquired a Buddhist temple at Chong-Padong, an area in Seoul, which became its headquarters. From that time on, Unificationism became a national phenomenon; by the end of 1955, there were already thirty Unification centers throughout South Korea. In 1960 the marriage between Rev. Moon and his present wife, Hak Ja Han, took place. Unificationists--who regard the marriage as having great theological significance--believe that this event was a major development in the life of the founder and in the history of the church.
In the meantime, on June 16, 1958, the first Unification Church missionary, Sang Ik-Choi, left Korea for Japan, one of the countries where Unificationism would later enjoy its great success. Other missionaries eventually went to the United States, among whom was Yun Soo Lim, called Onni (Korean for "elder sister"). She came to the U. S. with Sang Ik-Choi after he left Japan, and was later "blessed" (married) to Doctor Mose Durst, her spiritual child (i.e., she had converted him); together they took charge of the "Oakland family" in California. This was the most important center of proselytism for the Unification Church. The couple remained in California until May 1980, when Durst was nominated to be president of the Unification Church of the U. S. A. and went to live in New York.
Towards the mid-1960s, many young people who had joined the church in the United States were sent back to their countries of origin to spread Unificationism in Europe. The first small groups developed in Italy, Germany, Austria, and Spain. In France the first missionary, Reiner Vincenz, arrived in Paris in February 1966. The first member, Henri Blanchard, joined the movement in 1968. In the west during the 1960s, mostly young students were recruited. This made some sociologists very interested in the movement (John Lofland's research refers to this period). However, proselytism did not enjoy much numerical success.
Nevertheless, it is important to mention that during this period proselytism in the United States differed in style from that in Europe (a study on this was made by Bromley and Shupe) which would cause numerous problems in the 1970s. On the one hand, the "Oakland family" invited potential disciples to spend a weekend at the church during which Unificationism was presented as a message of peace and unity for the world, without much emphasizing the theology and occasionally without mentioning the name of Rev. Moon at all (some would later accuse the church of concealing its true identity). On the other hand, in New York disciples insisted on teaching the philosophical and theological aspects of the Divine Principle; while in Washington, D. C., Unificationists emphasized the movement's political potential as an alternative to Communism. The practical consequences of these differences were fundamental: in California Unificationism seemed vaguely utopian, and this especially attracted students who aspired toward idealism and humanitarianism, while on the east coast the anti-Communist accent permitted adherents to be in contact with more conservative people.
So the 1970s witnessed marked differences between the group led by Young Oon Kim, which concentrated on theology, and the California group directed by former missionaries to Japan including Sang Ik-Choi. Later, on the east coast, recruitment techniques which had been used successfully in Japan were adopted: seminars were longer, lasting either a week or a month, after which people were asked to join the movement as full-time members in one of the community centers. The Washington, D. C., group, guided by Colonel Bo Hi Pak, maintained its political anti-Communist stance (in 1969, with this mission in mind, the Freedom Leadership Foundation was founded). A third development in the movement originated with David S. C. Kim, whose primary interest was ecumenism and the unification of all Christian churches.
Rev. Moon traveled to the United States on two occasions, in 1965 and 1969, while on round-the-world tours. The first tour was intended to create "holy grounds"; the second to celebrate mass weddings. In 1971 he started on a new world tour which lasted three years, at the end of which he decided to live in the States. One of the reasons for this move was to settle, if possible, differences among the different styles of the various church branches in the U. S. The Unification Church interprets these incidents theologically. After twenty years in Korea, which represented the new Israel (i.e., the Old Testament), Rev. Moon and his wife transferred to the U. S., which represented Christianity in its worldwide expansion (i.e., the New Testament).
America became in the years to follow the center of the church's developing activity and of the Unification movement in general. Rev. Moon declared that the reason for his being in America was to remind its citizens about its role as a providential nation for God and the world. For this reason, the themes of his first campaign were "The Day of Hope," "Christianity in Crisis: New Hope," "The New Future of Christianity," and, on the occasion of the bicentennial of the founding of the United States (1976), "God Bless America." The objective of bringing these campaigns to national attention, in spite of certain difficulties, would be fulfilled in the 1970s. The arrival of Rev. Moon in the United States marked, in effect, a decisive development in the Unification movement internally and the expansion of the movement, which at that time had only around 500 American members. At the end of his tour in February 1972, during a meeting in Los Angeles, Rev. Moon personally proposed to his disciples a program of reorganizing the recruitment of members, based on the formation of mobile witnessing teams destined to visit the entire continental United States. This was "The One World Crusade." Also permanent church centers were to be opened in all forty-eight continental states with a national center in the New York area.
The limited success of the 1972 tour pushed the Unification movement to be better organized. According to one of the chief directors, Ken Sudo, who was primarily responsible for gathering a crowd of some 20,000 people in New York in 1974, 300 Unificationists from the area and 700 from other cities were organized. They worked for two months stopping passers-by on the street and telephoning everyone with whom they had come in contact, putting up posters, distributing flyers, and using many other methods.8 To put into practice Rev. Moon's new directives, it became necessary to collect large sums of money in a short time. This gave birth to the Mobile Fund-Raising Teams that began going throughout the States and later in other countries, selling flowers, magazines, candles, or simply asking for donations. The funds collected were used to finance the programs and development of the church, and, together with the fruits of industrial and commercial businesses, developed especially in Japan and Korea, were used to buy the Belvedere residence in Tarrytown, New York (a property previously owned by the well-known liquor dynasty, Seagrams). Belvedere was also used as an international training and conference center, and remains to this day the place where Rev. Moon gives Sunday morning services when he is in town. Later the Unification Church bought, again in New York, a property near Barrytown that belonged to the Catholic Brothers of the Christian Schools, and there established a theological seminary. Also from the profits of its different businesses, the Unification Church was able to launch in 1977 the first of its daily newspapers9: The News World, later renamed The New York City Tribune (1976-91). This was followed by the most important daily newspaper with Unificationist connections, The Washington Times, founded by Rev. Moon in 1982 after successful test issues in 1981, and a Spanish newspaper in New York, Noticias del Mundo.
Rev. Moon's tours of different American cities in 1973, 1974, and 1976 were very visible. Around 300,000 people attended the rally held by the church in the American capital near the Washington Monument on the occasion of the bicentennial of the Declaration of Independence. The theme centered on America's spiritual responsibility to save the world. At the same time, other rallies were taking place in Japan and Korea: on February 8, 1975, Rev. Moon celebrated in Seoul the wedding of 1,800 couples from twenty countries throughout the world. On June 7, again in Seoul, he presided over a rally denouncing North Korea's politics of aggression; some one million people attended this event.
In 1973 the church's political ties with American conservatives guided Rev. Moon to support President Richard M. Nixon during the Watergate scandal. Rev. Moon declared that his decision was inspired and was not a political strategy. At different times in 1973 and 1974, thousands of Unificationists fasted and prayed for Nixon. This was not because they considered him innocent, but because they thought that America should forgive its president. Rev. Moon hoped the president would admit his error and that Americans would forgive him and remain united to a conservative leader to halt the advance of Communism as well as moral and social decadence. The motto of the campaign conducted by members of the Unification Church, who demonstrated by fasting and praying for three days in front of the U. S. Capitol, was "Forgive, Love and Unite." On February 1, 1974, Nixon thanked the Unification Church for its support and officially received Sun Myung Moon. The campaign gave the Unification Church its greatest public notoriety, and new anti-Unification press campaigns were launched by Rev. Moon's opponents.
In the United States and other countries, the parents of young followers of the Unification Church, the majority of whom disapproved of their children's choice, organized themselves into associations accusing the Unification Church of "brainwashing." They frequently turned to "deprogrammers" who, as noted earlier, arranged for kidnappings followed by "treatments" to convince their children to abandon the church. Controversies, court cases, and further press assaults followed.
In Europe some conservative members of England's parliament began to propose measures against "brainwashing." Tax investigations regarding the Unification Church were conducted in the United States, where some Unificationists were charged in 1978 as a result of the Congressional investigation into the so-called Koreagate scandal. This was an affair relating to the lobbying and corruption of U. S. representatives in favor of the political and economic interests of South Korea. All the Unificationists involved were eventually released without charge. The church's defense hinged on the intervention of Colonel Bo Hi Pak and are described in a book he authored.10
Faced with these accusations, which were repeated and amplified in the popular press, the Unification Church energetically defended itself and intensified its propaganda, often in court. In 1981 in London, England, they lost a defamation case against the Daily Mail, but in return would subsequently win a certain number of cases in the United States. On February 3, 1988, a four-year investigation by the British government, initiated in response to the verdict in the Daily Mail libel case, to remove the charitable status of the two charities comprising the Unification Church in the United Kingdom, was dropped as the evidence was "insufficiently reliable" or of "insufficient weight," according to then-attorney general Sir Patrick Mayhew."
At the same time the Unification Church concentrated its energies on creating and developing many organizations and foundations. Some of these, created during the last thirty years, are: the International Conference for the Unity of the Sciences (ICUS), the International Cultural Foundation (ICF), and the Professors Academy for World Peace (PWPA). These organizations have promoted international academic conferences, often featuring personalities otherwise unaffiliated with Unificationism. The International Federation for Victory over Communism (IFVOC) and the Freedom Leadership Foundation have promoted international conferences and activities that are anti-Communist in character. The Collegiate Association for the Research of Principles (CARP) undertook student activities. The Assembly of the World's Religions (AWR), the Council for World Religions, and the Youth Seminary on World Religions, later known as the Religious Youth Service, formed part of the church's inter-religious and ecumenical activities, the axis of which was the International Religious Foundation (IRF). These and other organizations have promoted religious and spiritual activities usually of an ecumenical character. In 1991 Rev. Moon reorganized a number of groups into different, new international federations. The Federation for World Peace (FWP) and the Inter-Religious Federation for World Peace (IRFWP) were created more or less simultaneously. The first is responsible for coordinating the activities of Unificationists attached to the political world together with the Summit Council for World Peace. The second promotes interreligious dialogue through conferences and publications. Among the achievements of IRFWP is the publication of a monumental anthology of sacred scriptures from all the great religions,12 excerpts which emphasize the common points believed to exist among the religions.
On July 1, 1991, the Unification Church took a new turn with Rev. Moon declaring that now was the beginning of the providence of "Tribal Messiahship." Members already having their own family were encouraged to return to their countries of origin to undertake apostolic work there. Rev. Moon invited "blessed" families (that is, families whose marriages had been celebrated by him), who were already defined as "Tribal Messiahs," to follow teachings taken from Jesus' life and not those from Jacob's life, which had previously been followed. In reality, Rev. Moon asked "blessed" families to pass from a life of service in the wider world to more specific service with their own families and relatives in order to "save" their own "tribes" in their own nations. From a sociological point of view, this change in 1991 confirmed that being a full-time member would now be less crucial.
In December 1991, forty years after Rev. Moon's imprisonment in a forced labor camp, he returned with his wife to North Korea to meet Kim II Sung, under whose regime he had been tortured and imprisoned. He considered this to be a crucial step for the unification of Korea and for the institution of world peace. Additionally, Unificationists regard the meeting as important because it was the will of Providence and represented the unification of "Cain" and "Abel." In his residence in Hung Nam, the elderly North Korean dictator warmly received the Moons. After forty years, in the same place where he had begun his work in 1951, Rev. Moon declared that in a certain sense he could now conclude his mission by passing it to his wife who, after a few months, would proclaim the beginning of the "era of women's liberation." On the same occasion Rev. Moon returned to the city of his birth and met those of his family who had survived. He was also able to lay flowers on the tomb of his parents, who died under the Communist regime.
Two other organizations were founded between 1992 and 1994: the Women's Federation for World Peace (WFWP) on April 19, 1992, in Seoul, and the Youth Federation for World Peace (YFWP) on July 26, 1994, in Washington, D. C. The first organization under the presidency of Mrs. Hak Ja Han Moon, Rev. Moon's wife, is primarily involved in the struggle against immorality and defending family values by proposing to play an educational role in society, particularly among young people, and promoting the ideal of sexual abstinence before marriage and fidelity after. WFWP, which promotes charitable, humanitarian activities and racial and international peace events, was granted Category 1 NGO consultative status by the Economic and Social Department of the United Nations in 1997. With regard to charity, the International Relief Friendship Foundation (IRFF) is also acknowledged as a non-governmental organization by the United Nations and has helped Cambodian refugees as well as different populations in Latin America in emergency situations following natural disasters. Other foundations are active in the artistic field. Among musical groups are the Go World Brass Band, the Korean Folk Ballet, the New Hope Singers International, the New York Symphony Orchestra, and especially the children s ballet, the Little Angels, a creation of the church's Korean Culture and Freedom Foundation, later associated with a primary school bearing the same name. This school, although inspired by Unification principles, is not directly connected with the church, and a majority of students are from non-Unificationist families. The Little Angels ballet has performed at UNICEF, the White House, the Vatican, and the London Palladium for Queen Elizabeth II. The most prestigious artistic institution of the Unification movement is the Universal Ballet Company.
The academy, established in Washington, D. C., teaches classic Russian ballet, thanks to maestro choreographer Oleg Vinogradov.
In the 1980s, the Confederation of the Associations for the Unification of the Americas, or CAUSA, extended its activity to the entire world, developing different cultural and political projects with an anti-Communist orientation. At the beginning of the 1950s, the International Federation for Victory over Communism (IFVOC) was founded in Korea. In 1976, at the end of the American bicentennial campaign, Rev. Moon concluded with a promise to members that one day he would organize "a great rally for God in the Soviet Capital." In 1980 CAUSA was founded in America, and in August 1985 in Geneva, almost 200 people, academics and experts, met to debate the theme "The situation in the world after the fall of the communist empire." This meeting was organized by the Professors World Peace Academy. In August 1987 the student association, CARP, led 3,000 young demonstrators in Berlin, who asked Communist leaders to bring down the Berlin Wall. In April 1990, at a conference organized by the World Media Association, AULA, and the Summit Council for World Peace, leaders and journalists from all over the world met to discuss freedom of the press in Moscow, where the politics of glasnost and perestroika had already begun. On April 16, 1990, during an official meeting with President Gorbachev, the Reverend and Mrs. Moon embraced Gorbachev in front of photographers. This meeting was perceived by Rev. Moon as having theological importance and represented an historic meeting on a worldwide level between Esau and Jacob. After the dismantlement of the Soviet Empire, the activities of CAUSA have diminished substantially, and the association is no longer a priority of Unificationists. They are now more centered on the fight against sexual permissiveness, which they consider to be the ultimate battle between God and the forces of evil. CAUSA was born from Unificationism and was sustained by the church with people and means, but also among its directors were many non-Unificationists. It was in this capacity, for example, that two ambassadors, both Roman Catholics, were among CAUSA's greatest activists.
One cannot reasonably affirm that this confederation had proselytism as its objective; on the other hand, it seems improbable that among the conservative political and cultural personalities involved in CAUSA were men and women who would not consider changing their religion. Still, very little if any proselyting on behalf of the Unification Church was ever accomplished by CAUSA.
Similar considerations may be attached to the Association for the Unity of Latin America (AULA), inaugurated and organized by members of the Unification Church. However, AULA is composed of numerous prestigious political Latin-American personalities, many of whom are often far removed from the history and mentality of Unificationism. Participants at an international congress of AULA were received in a special audience by Pope John Paul II at the Vatican on December 6, 1985. Evidently, no one thought this audience implied that the Holy See supported the Unification Church.
There are also commercial activities belonging to the Unification Church in which Unificationists work but are in the minority. Before going bankrupt in the 1998 Far East financial crisis, the best known of such activities were the machine industry Tong Ii in Korea and the society for producing dietary supplements II Wha, the largest world distributor of Korean ginseng. At Tong Ii weapons parts were made, causing considerable controversy. The church responded that these activities were a means of patriotic collaboration with the national defense of a country still technically at war with North Korea. This, the church said, was normal in South Korea for all businesses. In the United States, the church has developed different activities in the areas of marine work and fishing. According to newspaper reports from Korea, on August 31, 1999, Hong Kong-based and Unification-affiliated Pyonghwa Motors received initial permission to develop plans to invest $300 million to build cars in North Korea. Pyonghwa hopes first to establish a car repair facility in the North.
But controversies continued._
[This chapter continues for another 11 pages.]
1. See also Frederick Sontag, Sun Myung Moon and the Unification Church (Nashville: Abingdon, 1977).
2. See Breen, 62.
3. Going to North Korea and the difficult relationship with Mrs. Sun Ku Choi are described in Rev. Moon's autobiographical speech "The Path for Our Family," Chung Pyung Training Center, August 28, 1971, in the section "You can't expect to have a father/son relationship without walking the miserable path" (available from http://www.tparents.org/library/moonl talks/moon7lftJM7lO828.htm).
4. See Breen, 154-59.
5. This refers to the marriage ceremony of the Unification Church. It is claimed that through this ceremony Original Sin is forgiven and couples are removed from Satan's blood lineage and are grafted into God's blood lineage. Only Rev, and Mrs. Moon officiated in Blessing Ceremonies until 1995 (see chap. 4).
6. See W. P. Kim, Father's Course and Our Life of Faith (London: The Holy Spirit Association for the Unification of World Christianity, 1982); the author is one of the oldest disciples of Rev. Moon.
7. Chung Hwa Pak, one of Rev. Moon's first disciples, caused considerable controversy by confirming these accusations in a text widely circulated by critics (and later published in Japanese) called The Tragedy of the Six Marys. Pak, who had left the Unification Church, claimed that Rev. Moon practiced during the church's early years sex rituals with, among others, six married female disciples ("the six Marys") who were to have prepared the way for the virgin who would marry him and become the True Mother. The church vehemently denied the allegations. Pak eventually returned to the fold and, shortly before dying, recanted all the accusations in a second text he authored in 1995, called The Apostate. Similar accusations were discussed earlier in libel cases in Korea and not proved. In 1989, after a ten-year legal case, the Seoul District Criminal Court (79 ko dan 3372) convicted a protestant minister, Rev. Shin Sa-hun, of criminal libel after his accusations of sexual misconduct could not be proved. In another case decided by the Seoul District Civil Court (83 ga hap 3012), damages were paid by Tak Myung-hwan, a well-known critic of the Unification Church, to a woman who had been accused of having an illegitimate son with Rev. Moon and to her son. Corrections were published by the Christian newspapers Gidok Shinbo on October 8, 1983, and Hanhook Gidok Gongbo, on October 1, 1983, after printing similar accusations of sexual misconduct in the early Unification Church. Part of the retraction stated, "The article ?The Secret Sexual Practices of the Unification Religion' was a repetition of information published during the 1950s, and we have found it to have no basis in fact."
8. See Ken Sudo, The 120-Day Training Manual (Belvedere, NY: The Holy Spirit Association for the Unification of World Christianity, 1975).
9. There are other newspapers: in Japan, Sekai Nippo, begin-fling in 1975; in Cairo, Middle East Times; in South Korea, Sae Gye Ilbo, beginning in 1989; in Uruguay, Ultimas Noticias; and a pan-Latin American newspaper, Tiempos del Mundo, established in Buenos Aires in 1996.
10. See Bo Hi Pak, A Historic Defence: Before the U. S. Congress Subcommitee (London: Unification Church, 1978).
11. Transcript of Statements Made in the House of Commons, February 3, 1988, 3:30 p.m., p. 978.
12. See World Scriptures: A Comparative Anthology of Sacred Texts: A Project of the International Religious Foundation (New York: Paragon House, 1991).