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Christian faith groups

The Unification Church, founded
by Rev. Sun Myung Moon (Continued)

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The Church and the Counter-cult/anti-cult movements:

The Church was widely criticized (largely by the counter-cult movement) becuase of its unorthodox beliefs. During the early 1970's, at a time when the membership of the Unification Church was growing rapidly, it was also attacked by the Anti-cult Movement. The latter criticized its alleged unethical recruitment and brainwashing methods. This was an era when many people were inspired by the movie The Manchurian Candidate (1962) and believed that many small religious movements were turning recruits into robots, using physical and psychological manipulative techniques to destroy their free will.

An study examined 190 US newspaper articles about former members of the church during the early years of the Unification Church, 1974 to 1977. 5 They counted 709 "atrocity tales". The most common was psychological violation of personal freedom and autonomy. Such articles were used by some to justify kidnapping Unification Church members and forcibly deprogramming them.

One focus of the anti-cult groups were the Unification residential seminars, where people were first invited to learn about the Church. These were viewed as entrapment meetings, which lured the unsuspecting visitor into a commitment to the organization. There were suggestions that once in the Church, it was difficult to get out. These criticisms do not hold up to scrutiny. Only about 10% of the visitors decided to investigate the church further. And many of these dropped out after a few weeks or months. Their methods differ little from many Evangelical / Fundamentalist groups which are also dedicated to recruitment. 1 The rapid turnover in church membership is a good indication that the vast majority of members are not trapped in the organization. Former members now vastly outnumber the current dedicated Unificationists.

However, there is a potential negative side to membership in the Unification Church. Their core, dedicated members accept strong discipline and can develop a deep commitment to the church. They must remain celibate before marriage, abstain from tobacco and alcohol, and work long hours. The group can become their whole life, the source of their religious, cultural, social, and other support systems. If they become disillusioned by some aspect of the church, this minority of unusually dedicated members can find it very difficult to leave the organization and abandon these support networks. When they do leave, they are often angry with themselves and the church, believing that they have wasted perhaps years of their life within the group. This problem is common to all high intensity denominations which require major commitment to the group. e.g. Jehovah's Witnesses, Mormons, and (for priests and nuns) the Roman Catholic Church.

There are no indications that the Unification Church is a destructive cult, similar to the religious groups that have resulted in mass murder-suicides (e.g. the People's Temple in Jonestown, Guyana, or the Solar Temple in Quebec and Switzerland). Such dangerous groups have existed and continue to exist. However, they remain a small minority of new religious groups.

Many Unificationists had been kidnapped by anti-cult "deprogrammers", forcibly confined and manipulated to destroy their allegiance to the Unification Church. These illegal deprogramming attempts resulted in a loss of credibility by the anti-cult movement that eventually led to its downfall.

Attacks on the church are ongoing. One web site refers to what it describes as "the Unification Church's years of  deceptive recruitment, destructive mind control practices, unethical fundraising practices, and manipulative religious abuse that has disrupted and destroyed many lives around the world." 6

Rev. Moon's death:

Rev. Moon died at the age of 92, early in the morning of 2012-SEP-03. He died of complications following pneumonia. CNN reported:

"Rev. Moon died from overwork, from frequent trips aboard, including to the U.S., and from morning prayers which caused respiratory disease,"Ahn Ho-yeol, a church spokesman said.

He will be buried on Mount Cheonseong in the northern South Korean province of Gyeonggi. In its statement, the church described the mountain as the "holy land" of the church.

The Washington Times, one of several publications that Moon founded, similarly reported Moon's death.

"Words cannot convey my heart at this time," Thomas P. McDevitt, the Times' president, said in a story on the newspaper's website. "Rev. Sun Myung Moon has long loved America, and he believed in the need for a powerful free press to convey accurate information and moral values to people in a free world."

McDevitt added that the Times is a "tangible expression of those two loves." In 2010, the newspaper was sold to a group operating on Moon's behalf, according to a statement on the paper's website.

Doctors put Moon in intensive care in a Seoul hospital last month after he fell ill, said Ahn, the church spokesman, at the time. Physicians then gave him a 50% chance of survival. 9

Many religious groups experience great difficulty following the death of their founder. This was the experience in Islam where a major conflict followed the death of Muhammad. There was disagreement between those who felt that a relative of Muhammad should lead Islam and those who felt that the most competent individual from among his companions should lead. This led to a major split in Islam between the Sunni's and Shi'ites which continues today and often triggers mass murder. The Church of Christ had a problem after the assassination of their founder, Joseph Smith. This led to the formation of the Reorganized Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints -- the "RLDS Church" in 1860, and the departure of part of the church to Salt Lake City under the leadership of Brigham Young. The latter became the dominant Mormon group and is now called The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. It remains to be seen whether the Unificationist Church will be able to make the transition to new leadership.

Internet web sites covering the Unification Church:

bullet The Unification Church's official home page is at:  http://unification.org/

bullet A slide presentation titled "Divine Principle - An Introduction: Revelations for the New Millennium and Beyond," is at: http://members.tripod.com/~jho2/

bullet Some unofficial Unification Church home pages are:
bullet Damian Anderson: "Unification Home Page," at: http://www.unification.net/

bullet HSA-UWC, "Welcome to the Unification Church," at: http://www.tongil.org/

bullet "Welcome to the Unification Theological Seminary," at: http://www.uts.edu/

bullet Gary Fleisher, "True Parents Organization," at: http://www.tparents.org/

bullet An analysis by CESNUR -- an agency which studies new religious movements:
bullet "Reverend Moon's Unification Church," http://www.cesnur.org/testi/se_moon.htm

bullet Some counter-cult, anti-cult and anti-Unification sites of varying degrees of objectivity are:
bullet Craig Maxim, "My Life with Sun Myung Moon," at: http://www.xmooinies.com

bullet New Covenant Publications at: http://www.newcovpub.com/

bullet Cultwatch, "Select a Cult," at: http://www.cultwatch.com/pickcult.htm

bullet Although the constitution of Singapore guarantees religious freedom to its citizens, it has banned the Unification Church. See: "Infringement of Religious Freedom" at: http://members.tripod.com/~teopl/ and "MERCILESS REPATRIATION " at:  http://members.tripod.com/~limcm

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Unification Church Books and Publications:

The Unification Church's main religious text is the Bible. It is seen as teaching truth, but is not viewed as truth in itself. It is only a partial revelation. Rev. Moon's interpretations of Christian beliefs and additional revelations from God are contained in the book Divine Principle, which was written in Korean in 1959 and translated by Young Oon Kim in 1959. The Church publishes the Unification News, and Today's World.

They also publish a newspaper, the conservative Washington Times. According to the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC): "The Washington Times is relatively small (circulation 102,000) and money-losing (it's been estimated that its backer, the Unification Church, has spent more than $1 billion to keep it going over the past 22 years). But its influence cannot be measured in those statistics. President Reagan once described it as his favorite paper. The first President Bush said it 'in my view brings sanity to Washington, D.C'." President George W. Bush gave a personal tour for top staff of the Washington Times during 2005-JAN.

Marian Kester Coombs, wife of managing editor Francis Booth Coombs, has had at least 35 news and opinion pieces published in the Times. SPLC quotes excerpts from some of her articles:

bulletAmerica  has become a "den of iniquity" because of "its efforts to accommodate minorities."

bulletWhite men should "run, not walk" to wed "racially conscious" white women and avoid being out-bred by non-whites.

bulletLatinos are "rising to take this country away from those who made it...[the] Euroamericans."

bulletMuslims are "human hyenas" who "smell blood" and are "closing in" on their "weakened prey," meaning "the white race."

bulletBlacks, are "saintly victims who can do no wrong."

bulletBlack solidarity and non-white immigration are imposing "racial revolution and decomposition" in America.

bulletThe whole of human history as "the struggle of ... races."

bulletNon-white immigration is "importing poverty and revolution" that will end in "the eventual loss of sovereign American territory."

bulletMuslims In England "are turning life in this once pleasant land into a misery for its native inhabitants."

According to the SPLC, the Washington TImes has published articles taken from white supremacist hate groups, anti-Semitic ads for a book called "For Fear of the Jews," and an ad from a key Holocaust denial group. 8

Full disclosure declaration:

The author of this essay was able to attend a convention on religious tolerance and freedom in Washington during the late 1990s. The meeting was sponsored by the Washington Times, which is owned by the Unification Church. Airline fares, meals and accommodation were heavily subsidized by the Times.

References used:

The following information sources were used to prepare and update the above essay. The hyperlinks are not necessarily still active today.

  1. E. Barker, "Free to Choose? Some Thoughts on the Unification Church and other Religious Movements, Part 1", Clergy Review, 1980-OCT, P. 365-368
  2. T. Miller, "America's Alternative Religions", SUNY Press, Albany NY, (1995), P. 223-229
  3. G.A. Mather & L.A. Nichols, "Dictionary of Cults, Sects, Religions and the Occult", Zondervan Publishing, Grand Rapids MI, (1993), P. 281-286
  4. J.G.Melton, Ed., "The Encyclopedia of American Religions, V. II", Triumph Books, Tarrytown NY, (1991), P. 320-322. "Divine Principle", Holy Spirit Association for the Unification of World Christianity, New York NY, (1973)
  5. D.G. Bromley, A.D. Shupe, Jr., & J.C. Ventimiglia, J.C., "Atrocity tales: the Unification Church and the Social Construction of Evil, Journal of Communication, Vol. 29(3) 1979-Summer Pages 42-53.
  6. "The Unification Church," at: http://www.spiritwatch.org/unchurch.htm 
  7. Kathryn Coman, "Unificationist Calendar," at: http://kathryncoman.home.att.net/calendarintro.htm
  8. Heidi Beirich & Mark Potok, "The News That Fits. Long criticized for its brand of journalism, The Washington Times makes a habit of publishing the work of extremists..." Intelligence Report, Southern Poverty Law Center, 2005-FEB-09, at: http://www.splcenter.org/
  9. "Rev. Moon, religious and political figure, dies in South Korea at 92," CNN, 2012-SEP-02, at: http://www.cnn.com/

Copyright © 1996 to 2012, by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Latest update: 2012-SEP-07
Author: B.A. Robinson

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