(RELIGIONS AND FREEDOM after 1945 – continued)
A new international religious organization called the Unification Church offered people another alternative spiritual home. Its full title is The Family Federation for World Peace and Unification. It was the creation of a Korean, Sun Myung Moon and has expanded world wide, mainly to Japan, the Philippines and the United States.
Sun Myung Moon grew up in Korea in the 1920s and 1930s. His parents were farmers who had become fervent Christians and had joined the Presbyterian Church. Moon says he had a vision or revelation of Jesus while praying atop a small mountain. He says that Jesus asked him to complete the unfinished task of establishing God's kingdom on Earth and bring peace to the world.
Japan ruled Korea, and when he was 19 he criticized Japanese rule in a graduation ceremony speech. After the Second World War, in Communist-dominated northern Korea, Moon was arrested and sent to a labor camp. Moon credits his survival to God's protection. The US military rescued Moon when they pushed into northern Korea in late 1950. Moon fled to the South, and in the southern-most city of Pusan, during the great impoverishment that had accompanied war, he built a church of mud and cardboard boxes.
Moon claimed that he was fulfilling Jesus' unfinished mission, and to move that mission forward he put on paper what he described as Divine Principle, which was to become the basic textbook of his movement. Its subject was Judeo-Christian history: God as the creator and source of truth, beauty and goodness – God's purpose. Moon's expressed purpose was to restore the world to God's Ideal.
In 1954, Moon's church was formally and legally established in South Korea. Moon's church grew in the US during the restlessness of the 1960s, when many were searching for a spiritual home. A few Moon devotees were active on the University of California Berkeley campus. A devotee might approach a stranger and invite him to a dinner. One such dinner was at a home filled with sober and polite people enjoying each other's company – just quiet talk without conversion as an obvious motive.
Moon's anti-Communism put him in sympathy with the Republican side of politics in the United States. So did his emphasis on the importance of the family over the individual. During the Watergate scandal the Reverend Moon supported President Richard Nixon. The Unification Church took full-page ads in major newspapers defending the president, and Church members prayed and fasted for three days in Washington under the motto: "Forgive, Love and Unite." On 1 February 1974 Nixon publicly thanked them for their support and officially received Moon.
Moon's appeals for the beleaguered president made him a target. Moon was portrayed as a hypnotist and an agent of a foreign government. His church was described as a cult, and cults were described as employing brainwashing. Young members of the Church were kidnapped by concerned parents. Thomas Ward was kidnapped and held 35 days against his will during which attempts were made to "deprogram" him and make him renounce Reverend Moon's teachings. Ward escaped and sued.
Moon continued his effort at unity and peace. From 1974 to 1976, he talked about setting up a global infrastructure so that when the world economy faltered, "we would be there to feed people and give them jobs."He gave a speech at Yankee Stadium and another at the Washington Monument. Moon spoke on "God's Hope for America" to a crowd that he said included "representatives from all over the world." He said:
Today we are living in an age when we must look at every individual and every nation as vital components of the world. In our world, there are basically two ways of life. One is the selfish way of life, and the other is the unselfish way of life where one thinks beyond himself and his family and lives for the greater purpose of the nation and the world. Throughout history, whether in the East or West, those who played important roles were public-minded or selfless persons. The well-being of the family should come before that of the individual; the nation should come before the family; the world before the nation, and God before the world. This is the philosophy of the selfless way of life. The righteous men and women and saints in history were those people who selflessly sacrificed themselves for God and mankind. Jesus Christ was indeed the supreme example of such a righteous man.
In 1982 hostility toward the Unification Church was intense. Moon was convicted by the US government for filing false federal income tax returns and conspiracy. Moon supporters saw it as politically motivated and a hostile exploitation of circumstances that prosecutors misused. Based on the case, reporter Carlton Sherwood wrote the book Inquisition: The Persecution and Prosecution of the Reverend Sun Myung Moon. Moon spent 18 months in the Federal Correctional Institution in Danbury, Connecticut. Having endured imprisonment in North Korea, Moon had known much more severe persecution. He believed in the United State and is said to have done his time and prison work with diligence and good cheer.
In 1982 an organization associated the the Unification Church purchased the a daily newspaper, The Washington Times, which had been the competitor of one the foremost newspapers in the US, the Washington Post. In 2002, during the 20th anniversary party for the Washington Times, Moon predicted that the power would "become the instrument in spreading the truth about God to the world."
In 2003, Korean Unification Church members started a political party in South Korea. It was named "The Party for God, Peace, Unification, and Home."
Copyright © 2006-2014 by Frank E. Smitha. All rights reserved.