‘The devil’s boots don’t creak.’
Many who take money from him, attend his conferences, or publish their articles in his publications will point to his anti-Communism. Others support the civil liberty issues he seems to embody. Some reassure themselves by seeing the influential people with whom he travels. A few employ the rationale of the lesser evil: the powers that be are so malevolent that collaboration with him to obtain resources for a worthy project is justifiable. Still, the clergymen, scholars, policy analysts, journalists, and the hosts of others who have been taking large amounts of money from him might do well to consider Sun Myung Moon’s purpose, beliefs, and methods.
From the Divine Principle—Moon’s statement of theology that he and his followers regard as the Complete Testament (after the Old and the New Testament)—we read that the ideal form of government is “theocratic socialism.” This is a rule of saints who will gather around the Second Coming of Christ to establish the Kingdom of God on earth. Christ, as the visible expression of God, will be analogous to the brain and the saints to the nerves in this ideal body politic.
The Messiah will, in accordance with God’s Providence of Restoration, have been born in the chosen nation of Korea between the years 1917 and 1930. Moon, of course, was born in Korea in 1920. In addition to these and many other hints in the Divine Principle, in his talks and by his actions in various church ceremonies and administration. Moon leaves absolutely no doubt about his Messianic claim, although making such a claim in public would be terribly bad form.
When will the Kingdom come? At one point Moon taught it would come in 1960; later it was pushed back to 1981 and then 1984. The Kingdom keeps being pushed back because the followers aren’t measuring up to the required standards of faith and deeds and the level of sacrifice needed for its establishment and success. Then there is the further problem of Christians and America not heeding the call. The diaspora and the Holocaust, according to Moon, stem from the refusal of the chosen nation of Israel to accept Jesus Christ. If America and Christians do not respond to Moon, they can look forward to a fate much worse than the Jews.
Few Americans—whether they are anti-Communists or aging civil rights leaders—pay much attention to Moon’s theology. Some believe it is simply a sham to gain Moon wealth and power. Others find his ideas so unusual that they are dismissed out of hand as syncretistic and harmless heresy. Yet the movement devotes enormous resources to the spread of the ideology in lectures, books, videotapes, and audiotapes. Members spend much time memorizing these ideas, lecturing them, and finding corroborating evidence. It would be a mistake to disregard Moon’s theology as unimportant, since it is a major component of the movement. As to wealth and power. Moon makes no apology for his effort to gather these. You need all the wealth and power in the world if you are lord of the universe and your mission is to establish the Kingdom of God on earth. People who come into contact with the Moon movement often sense there is a hidden agenda behind the immediate cause for relating to a member of the movement, but they can’t quite put their finger on it. Outsiders are treated like honored guests in the hope that they will convert and bring their friends along. If famous professor Y participates in a publication or conference but shows little interest in joining the inner core, perhaps he will lead to professor X, who will. Outsiders who participate in Moon front groups perform a number of functions: They prevent the inner core from being isolated from the greater society; they provide legitimacy to Moon and his movement to other outsiders; they reinforce the members’ and potential members’ faith in Moon; and they provide a continual supply of potential inner members. The outsiders also contribute their specific expertise to Moon organizations which shadow all the organizations of normal society in such diverse areas as: religion, education, business, media, politics, and the performing arts. These front groups serve as training grounds and perhaps the actual institutions which one day will replace their extant Satanic counterparts on the road to the Kingdom.
There are literally hundreds of these organizations, which all reinforce one another, with key Moon operatives sitting on their boards. For example, the Washington Times, the New York City Tribune, and the magazine Insight are owned by News World Communications, which, in turn, is owned by One-Up Enterprises, which is owned by the ultimate holding corporation, Unification Church International. When leaders of the Washington Times say the newspaper is separate from the “church” and is funded by businesses of church members, there is a grain of truth to it because the paper is a business, as are News World Communications and One-Up Enterprises. For its part, Unification Church International has only Koreans on its board, with Mrs. Moon as its nominal chairman. Despite the name, UCI does not function as a church. It is more of an international clearinghouse for many of the movement’s activities, including the businesses. Although Moon’s name might not appear on the flow charts of this organizational scheme to protect him, he is the acknowledged founder of some of these organizations. In an operative sense. Moon owns all of these enterprises because no major decisions about personnel or money are made without his personal approval.
This brief outline in no way does justice to the countless organizations Moon has begun. Still, some of the businesses aren’t in this structure, nor are the businesses based in Korea, Japan, Europe, and countries all over the world. There are also organizations which do not relate to business, such as the International Cultural Foundation. The ICF is an American-based tax-exempt educational and charitable organization whose board members are church leaders from all over the world, with Moon as chairman. Each year ICF sponsors the International Conference on the Unity of the Sciences, a multidisciplinary gathering which discusses science and values. The ICF receives its money from the Unification Church of America—a U.S.-based religious organization that really does function as a church in America. The Professors World Peace Academy is a program of ICF, but organizations of the PWPA preexisted the ICF in both Korea and Japan.
While a thorough knowledge of the corporate structures and accounting may be necessary, it is not sufficient to understand how the Moon movement functions. The real lines of authority and accountability begin with Moon and extend outward with trusted Koreans, Japanese, and the national leaders from the various countries. The organizations are simply convenient fronts to relate to the broader society. Expertise within the movement and by outsiders is used and may carry some weight, but in Moon’s kingdom spiritual authority derives from loyalty, length of service, and level of sacrifice. Moon extends his authority through the faithful, and his favor may blow hot or cold depending on ‘ circumstances. Organizational charts are secondary.
The international dynamic of the front groups is rarely perceived. If the Washington Times is influential in Washington, it’s difficult to imagine its impact in Seoul, where national security and connections in America’s capitol are the beginning and the end of power. Hundreds of copies of the Washington Times are flown regularly to Korea for distribution throughout the government leadership there.
It would be difficult to shut Moon down in Korea considering his bases and contacts in Japan, America, Europe, and the rest of the world. Nonetheless, from time to time the Korean government has jailed members of his movement and made the export of ginseng tea and other products Moon deals in difficult. To counteract such pressures, Moon has attempted in every way to make his movement indispensable. His machine tool business, Tong- II Enterprises, fulfills major government contracts for the production of weapons parts that include rifles as well as more sophisticated weapons systems. While Koreans are impressed with Moon’s contacts in Washington, visitors to Korea may be similarly impressed with Moon’s operations. Beneath the surface, the realities, of course, are very different. The big names around Moon’s front groups in America and Korea care little for Moon’s ultimate claims. In fact, Koreans treat Moon about the same as Americans: most think he is a dangerous charlatan even as they take what benefits he has to offer them.
Peeling back the many layers of the Moon movement, one encounters the core members, whose daily life is an experience most Americans would not be able to imagine or believe possible. Among others, Eileen Barker, Frederick Sontag, J. Lofland, and M. Galanter have studied the lives of members of the Unification Church with some care and from differing perspectives. According to their findings (and my own personal experience), members are generally better educated than the average person, but they are alienated and dissatisfied with their lives. They have rejected the more typical paths of education, career, or religion. They are searchers looking for answers to the basic questions of life: Who am I? Where did I come from? Where am I going? The number of neurotics who join might be slightly above the average, but not much. Psychotics who walk into lectures or workshops are weeded out in the recruitment and early indoctrination process. Moon’s ideas and projects provide a total answer and a plan of action for the spiritual quest and the acolytes’ desire to create a Utopia. For yet others, the initial personal appeal to join is an important factor.
For these inner members, obedience is the highest virtue, a means for the purification of one’s soul. Members believe their spiritual leader is the incarnation of Cod who has revealed the highest level of spiritual truth. Who can question his orders? The workdays go 18 to 20 hours seven days a week. After an early morning (as early as 4:30 a.m. but no later than 6:00 a.m.) worship service, members go off on an often bewildering array of duties which includes selling products, recruiting people for lectures and weekend retreats (“witnessing”), or working for the numerous organizations mentioned above. Evenings are a time for door-to-door witnessing, lecturing, or fundraising. Late night prayer services are held, and then it’s off to rest. But there is always some special prayer condition or a fast to insure that people are always making an extra special effort.
Life is simple for the full-time fundraisers (about 25 percent of the movement). After the worship service and organizational meeting, they go all day asking for money in exchange for flowers, candy, or some other cheap disposable item. A major hazard on the MFT’s (Mobile Fundraising Teams), given the long days, is the possibility that the van driver will fall asleep at the wheel late at night while driving back to wherever it is the team is sleeping. The number of deaths, injuries, and near misses is not known, but for those on the MET it is a nightly reason for prayerful concern, since they do occur with disturbing frequency. In the 1970’s, auto insurance coverage was terminated based on accident experience.
There is no paycheck for full-time members. Nor is there medical, hospital, or life insurance or a pension plan. For those who are paid for working with outsiders in businesses which must conform with minimum wage and other laws, there are set procedures for the money to be turned over to the Church. Nonetheless, there are discrepancies between members who work in businesses employing outsiders and those who work internally, and these are a source of continual tension.
In church centers the food is cheap, with low amounts of protein. Rice, tasteless soups, and all manner of goulashes are a regular feature. For those who can’t take another night of ersatz dinner, there is always peanut butter and jelly. For a change of pace, a member may splurge on a Big Mac, and those on the MFT’s will often sustain themselves on fast food. Of course, for recruitment activities involving outsiders, the food is good and can even be lavish for VIP’s.
Marriages are arranged by Moon, often between persons who have never seen each other and whom Moon sees for the first time in a large roomful of men and women on either side. International and interracial marriages are encouraged and involve thousands of persons. There is a strict requirement of celibacy before marriage. In 1970 Moon married 791 couples; in 1975 it was 1,800 couples; in 1982 there were 2,075 couples in Madison Square Garden and 5,800 couples later that year in Korea. While the wait for marriage can be many years, couples are not allowed to consummate it for periods ranging from two years to sometimes as long as seven years. Moon makes that most intimate of decisions for others, since fallen people lack the spiritual authority to marry in the first place.
The marriage ceremony is a kind of combination of the sacraments of baptism, holy communion, and holy orders. It is only possible because Moon and his wife have arrived on earth as a new Adam and Eve who, by their spiritual authority, may extend the dominion of God through the marriages. When the time to bear children arrives, church women are often older and not in good physical condition. (Abortion does not have the stigma in Moon’s church that it does in the more orthodox Christian tradition. It is believed that the spirit enters the child when he breathes in his first breath of life.) Since child-rearing is a distraction from those long days of devoted service to build the Kingdom, the Church has established nurseries in which the children are placed after three months. Staff at the nurseries are assigned to as many as five infants who are raised listening to Korean language tapes. After three children, the wives may leave their church mission and rejoin their husbands, with scarcely any emotional or financial foundations for building a family.
The psychological scars on the children and family life itself are perhaps some of the most serious consequences of the movement. The parents are expected to be responsible for their families while remaining devoted to the cause. There are, of course, exceptions. Like totalitarian movements anywhere, the leadership is subsidized by the cadre and may get by without supporting their own families.
While some Church leaders have impressive clothes and cars, they may have little else. If they are in the upper echelons, have put in many years of loyal service, and have Moon’s favor, he will make sure they are taken care of, but they have no money of their own. Indeed, there is the bizarre spectacle of the children of Korean members going to Ivy League universities while other Church members just starting out family life have to make do with inadequate diet and poor clothing. When the babies come, these couples face hospital and medical debt for lack of insurance, savings, or regular income. The assumption behind this approach is that Moon is the brain, the leadership, the nerves, while the members are only the responsive body. The members’ duty is not to question but to give wholeheartedly in the belief that God will provide for their future.
Of course members cannot help but raise questions about this Unification way toward the Kingdom which seems to leave them so powerless. In ways strangely similar to racist American whites who believe in the inferiority of blacks. Orientals in the movement teach Western members that their Oriental culture is superior to the materialistic culture of the West, weakened by drugs, pornography, and moral decay. This condition of weakness and inferiority is explained by Moon’s view of history which teaches that while Christian Europe was the center of God’s providence, the Orient is the land of the new Christ and the new dispensation. Korea is a chosen nation, and Moon teaches that the Korean race is connected biologically to the lost Hebrew tribe of Dan. Moon is believed to be descended from the lineage of Abraham as well as Confucius. According to Moon, Koreans are culturally and racially superior to Caucasians, who in turn are superior to blacks. Each race has a uniqueness in God’s plan, but there is a hierarchy. The Orientals are spiritual and wise, while Westerners are rational and scientific. Blacks, according to Moon, have rhythm, physical ability, and emotionality.
Since whites are too white and blacks too black, interracial marriages are seen as an especially good way to break down racial extremes. But prototypical couples of the same nationality or race can serve Moon’s purpose too, as models for the rest of a given nation or race to follow. The Korean racial group is just right, and if the whole world were homogenized, the human race would, one is led to believe, resemble the Koreans.
The consequences of these stereotypes are reflected in the hierarchy and administration of the movement. Koreans are topmost, Japanese second, Americans third, and Europeans fourth in rank, with Germans leading the continent. In planning activities and making personnel changes, these rankings are taken into consideration. Moon has targeted America for his activities because he believes it the most powerful country in the world, that can also serve as bridge between the Orient and Europe. In assigning missionaries, Europeans are responsible for Africa; North Americans for South America; while Japanese are responsible for Asia. Locals have some leadership responsibilities within proscribed limits but serve mostly for image purposes. Ultimate control resides with Moon and the Korean elders.
Needless to say. Moon’s concepts of race are deeply buried. But the problems of the West, especially sexual immorality, materialism, and individualism, are continually contrasted with the virtue of the Oriental way—the closest to the way of heaven. Not much is said of the social problems of Korea or the weaknesses of Oriental culture. The social acceptability of kisaeng girls along with the inflexibility and provinciality of Korean society is never discussed. Of course the desires for wealth, status, and sexual satisfaction exist in Korea as well but are pursued according to slightly different rules. In addition, there is a repression of individual creativity there greater than anything we might experience in the West. The “Hermit Kingdom” of Korea is facing the problems of modernity like all Third World countries and has no special claim on virtue.
Within the Moon movement there is no foundation for the ideas of freedom, the rule of law, and the dignity of the individual as they are understood in the West. While Moon’s theology borrows from Christianity, in an admittedly unusual manner, Moon’s concepts of leadership and society are Confucian with a strong emphasis on social conformity and loyalty. Rational criticism or internal disagreement on methods causes the Korean leadership to lose face and is tantamount to sedition or revolution. As is true for much of the Orient, new ideas or criticism are better offered through back-door channels at a propitious moment. Nonetheless, Moon fully utilizes the advantages afforded by the First Amendment and the Western legal tradition when they protect his freedom to operate in America. Within the leadership of the movement these fundamental Western civic norms are seen as mere expedients to build a totally new culture and political system.
Conservatives and liberals who collaborate with Moon might do well to look more deeply at what he believes and the actual practices of his movement. Ronald Reagan and Walter Mondale have more in common with each other than with Moon. Anti-Communists should be repulsed by Moon’s overt “theocratic socialism” with its model of the total state. Free enterprisers might consider Moon’s position on the state, individual choice, private property, and legality. Traditional conservatives might well look into the messianic claim, the assertion of Korean cultural and racial superiority, as well as the movement’s family practice. Moon’s religious and political views are repugnant to conservatism, even if his totalist claim is anti-Communist.
Some say it is unfair to label Moon a totalitarian. After all, he does not torture or execute people. The members are not locked in Church jails. True enough. Nonetheless, Marx never jailed or executed anyone, and even Lenin and the Ayatollah began with ideas and organization. The question to be asked is, where are the ideas headed, and what is their goal? There is little question that Moon would have no ethical conflict with running a regime as absolutist as the Ayatollah Khomeini’s. Moon believes, as do his followers, that his authority, purpose, and decisions are the will of God. Those of a different persuasion are of the devil. Moon’s claims to authority make papal infallibility seem weak in comparison.
Liberals who identify with Moon’s movement as a religious or racial minority might’ do well to probe the unpublicized assertion of racial superiority and the total failure of the movement to understand the dignity of the person, the due process of law, and the freedom of expression, in other than a cosmetic, public relations sense. Sacrificing human life for the will of God is ingrained in members from the first lectures, and Western ethical or legal angst is derided as symptomatic of a lack of clearly defined social purpose and definition.
Most people concerned with ideas like the financial support and publicity that traveling with Moon makes possible. The problem is that association with Moon legitimizes his theology and his messianic claim, both of which are odious to virtually all serious thinkers, not to mention the average citizen. If Americans who would be opinion leaders take Moon’s money or the publicity for appearing in his publications, they undermine the ideas they purport to believe in. They, then, are the ones whose ideas are a sham.