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published: 2/10/07
last updated: 6/26/13

Unification Church



What is the Unification Church?

Unification Church symbol
Symbol of the Unification Church.


Rev. and Mrs. Moon praying over an altar in Korea, 1997. Photo: TParents.org.



Sun Myung Moon with Richard Nixon at the White House. Photo: US Gov.


Rev. and Mrs. Moon
Reverend and Mrs. Moon conducting the 1992 Blessing Ceremony for 30,000 people in Korea. Photo: TParents.org.


Sun Myung Moon
Sun Myung Moon with his granddaughter in 2006. Photo: TParents.org.

The Unification Church (officially named the Holy Spirit Association for the Unification of World Christianity) is a new religious movement founded by Reverend Sun Myung Moon in Korea in 1954.

The Unification Church is a unique interpretation of Christianity that regards Rev. Moon as the Messiah and believes world peace can be attained through the creation of "true families." It is especially known for its mass weddings and seeking of converts. Both the Unification Church and Moon himself have been the source of controversy in Asia and especially the USA. The movement's followers have been dubbed "Moonies" by critics.





History

Sun Myung Moon was born in 1920 in what is now North Korea. At the time, Korea was under Japanese rule. Moon was raised in the Presbyterian church, one of many faiths persecuted by the Japanese rulers. The political upheavals caused divisions and new movements in Korean Christianity, including a group known as "spiritualists" who received new revelations from God and looked for a Korean messiah.

Moon says that on Easter morning at the age of 16, he had a vision in which Jesus asked him to complete his unfinished work as messiah, which is to bring the Kingdom of God to mankind and peace on earth. Accepting this call, Moon studied the Bible and other religious teachings and developed his complex doctrines about God, love, sin and the means of salvation.

Moon began to preach his doctrines in Korea in 1946. Two years later he was excommunicated by the Presbyterian Church, and shortly thereafter he was imprisoned and tortured by the North Korean authorities for reasons that are not entirely clear. In 1950 he was released and fled to South Korea, where in 1954 he founded the Holy Spirit Association for the Unification of World Christianity (HSA-UWC), or the Unification Church.

One of Moon's early converts would come to be tremendously influential in the spread of Unificationism in America. Young Oon Kim, known as 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 was especially interested in the writings of Emanuel Swedenborg (which influenced New Thought), and even reported receiving visits from him in visions.

Miss Kim met Reverend Moon in 1954, converted to Unificationism, and became the first missionary of the Unification Church to the United States. She settled in Eugene, Oregon, in 1959, where she was student at the University of Oregon in order to stay in the United States. She worked to support her expenses and in her spare time proselytized and began translating the Divine Principle into English. She gained a few followers, and the group relocated to San Francisco.

Meanwhile, Sang Ik Choi led the movement in Japan beginning in 1958. He had much success in prosyletizing, especially among high school and college students, and he employed a very systematic approach to gaining converts and then training them in Japan.

Sun Myung Moon built his Korean and Japanese enterprises, which included factories that produced armaments, paint, machinery, and ginseng tea, into a multimillion-dollar empire. In the early 1970s Reverend Moonbegan full-scale missionary operations in the United States. In 1971, he toured America for the third time and was successfully unified the disparate Unification groups.

The 1970s saw the emergence of a national movement in which members lived communally and proselytized heavily. Converts actively worked on fundraising for the Church, primarily through selling candles and flowers on the street. Youth from the counter-culture movement were attracted to the movement in large numbers, and as a result the media and counter-cult organizations began to pay close attention to the group.

In 1973 the Moons moved their headquarters to Tarrytown, N.Y., from which they operated an international network of businesses. Reverend Moon began to get involved with politics, and his strong anti-communist feelings and his willingness to spend his money strategically gained him acceptance into many political circles. Moon give a series of public speeches, including one in Madison Square Garden in New York City in 1974 and two in 1976: In Yankee Stadium in New York City, and on the grounds of the Washington Monument in Washington D.C., where he spoke on "God's Hope for America."

Moon was an outspoken supporter of Richard Nixon throughout the Watergate scandal, taking out ads on his behalf and holding a rally in Washington. This was based on the principle that God works through designated central figures throughout history, and that America played a crucial central role in the ongoing Providence of God on the world level. It was a disappointment to many in the Unification Church when Nixon resigned.

In 1978, a Congressional subcommittee issued a report that included the results of its investigation into the UC, and into other organizations associated with Moon. Among its other conclusions, the subcommittee's report stated that "Among the goals of the Moon Organization is the establishment of a worldwide government in which the separation of church and state would be abolished and which would be governed by Moon and his followers."

In 1981 the Unification Church's bid for U.S. tax-exempt status as a religious organization was denied when an appellate court ruled that the church's primary purpose was political rather than religious. In 1982 Moon was convicted of tax evasion, sentenced to 18 months in prison, and fined $25,000. He began serving his term in 1984, and some fellow prisoners have written statements describing him as humble, hardworking and joyful. His followers, as well as many non-Unification religious leaders, regarded the trial as religious persecution by the government.

At the same time, Eileen Barker, a sociologist specializing in religion, studied Unification Church members in England. She concluded that the Unification Church did not use brainwashing for conversion and published her findings in the book The Making of a Moonie: Choice or Brainwashing? (1984).

Having survived this period of intense criticism, the Unification Church emerged in the 1990s with an expansive international program. In 1992, Reverend Moon officially confirmed that he is the Messiah, or the second coming of Jesus Christ as prophesied in the Bible (see Beliefs, below). Members had long believed that this was the case, but it was not officially announced until then. At this time Moon also announced that his successor would be his wife, who is about 20 years his junior.

The influence of the Unification Church is extended by a variety of organizations that embody Moon's ideals, such as the Professor's World Peace Academy and the International Conference on the Unity of the Sciences. In 1994, on the 40th anniversary of the founding of the church, Moon announced the formation of the International Federation for World Peace, which assumed many of the functions formerly performed by the church.

Although the early 1990s was a period of relative stability for the Unification movement, problems arose for the church in Japan following the AUM Shinrikyo incident in 1995, when the country was gripped by anticult hysteria.

The church was also hurt when Nansook Hong left her husband Hyo Jin (son of Rev. and Mrs. Moon) and in 1998 wrote an exposé of life in the Moon family, In the Shadow of the Moons.

This is perhaps the most serious issue facing the Unification Church, since its theology centers on the belief that Moon's children are sinless. But Nansook Hong wrote that Hyo Jin, who grew up in luxurious surroundings and rarely saw his busy parents, was physically and emotionally abusive and addicted to cocaine and pornography.

Rev. Moon Crowned

In March 2004, Reverend Moon was crowned King of Peace, completed with kingly robes and golden crowns, in a building of the U.S. Senate. Afterward the ceremony, Moon made a long speech which included the statements:

"Emperors, kings and presidents... have declared to all Heaven and Earth that Reverend Sun Myung Moon is none other than humanity's Savior, Messiah, Returning Lord and True Parent."

"The founders of five great religions and many other leaders in the spirit world, including even Communist leaders such as Marx and Lenin... and dictators such as Hitler and Stalin, have found strength in my teachings, mended their ways and been reborn as new persons."

The event, which also gave state and national "crowns of peace," was organized by the Unification Church. The members of the Congress who attended said they were misled about the content of the event . It was reported in very few newspapers other than Moon's Washington Times but was widely reported in Washington blogs and websites.

Today, the church has a presence in more than 100 countries, though exact membership figures are difficult to estimate. The Unification Church says it has 3 million members, but others sources say it is far less, estimating membership at anywhere from 250,000 to just over 1 million.

Texts

The main text of the Unification Church is Reverend Moon's book The Divine Principle (1952). His speeches are also considered authoritative. The Christian Bible is highly regarded, but used to a lesser degree.

Beliefs

Reverend Moon's teaching is called the Divine Principle. According to the Church, "The Principle is the result of divine inspiration, prayer, and the study of religious scriptures and of life itself. Many tears and much intense suffering were part of the price of gaining this profound understanding." {dp}

The Divine Principle is based on observations of the creation in order to understand the Creator. Moon observes that everything in nature comes in pairs: male and female, positive and negative charges, arteries and veins, and so on.

This duality of Sung Sang (causal and masculine) and Hyung Sang (resultant and feminine) must come from God because God is the creator of all. God's nature is thus characterized by equal masculine and feminine aspects joined together in perfect harmony. In addition, because humans value love and harmony we can conclude that "Heart" is the essence of God's being.

Heart is the impulse to love and seek an object to love. God feels joy when He can give and receive love with His beloved. God loves each one of us individually, and rejoices when we return His love and multiply it by loving others. {dp}

In addition to this inner nature of duality and love, God has an outer nature that Moon calls the Universal Prime Energy. This is what creates, develops and sustains the cosmos.

The purpose of creation and the purpose of life is to experience the joy of love. "In His original ideal, God wanted everyone to be perfected in love, able to give true and unconditional love to every human being and to the creation." This was to happen by Adam and Eve's free will in a three-step process called the "Three Blessings":

  1. Becoming perfect, which means to have God's character and be in a "Four Position Foundation" consisting of God, the perfected individual, and the individual's mind and body.
  2. Have an ideal marriage, in which a Four Position Foundation is formed among God, the man, the woman, and their children. This marriage produces perfect and sinless children.
  3. Have dominion over all of creation, creating a Four Position Foundation among God, man, things, and a dominion of love.

After the third blessing, the Kingdom of Heaven would be established on earth. But Adam and Eve fell short and failed to realize God's purpose. Specifically, while still working towards the first blessing, Eve was sexually seduced by Lucifer. This caused the spiritual fall. Then, feeling ashamed, Adam and Eve consummated their marriage. This was the physical fall because it was not supposed to happen until they had perfected themselves.

Ever since, selfish love has dominated human existence.

Instead of multiplying goodness and love through their descendants, they multiplied selfishness and corruption. As a result, we have never seen "true parents" who could raise sinless children and create a sinless lineage. Every person has been deprived of true parents, parents who perfectly embody God's love. {dp}

This state of affairs causes suffering in God, as parents do when they see their children suffer. God has continually sought to restore his original plan for mankind, which must be done by fulfilling the three blessings. In other words, someone must attain perfection, marry, raise a sinless family, and propagate this perfection throughout the earth until the Kingdom of Heaven is established on Earth.

However, before the blessings can be fulfilled, there must be a restoration of the Foundation of Faith and the Foundation of Substance, which were destroyed by the fall. (These are referred to as indemnity conditions and together form the Foundation for the Messiah.) The Foundation of Faith was broken by Adam and Eve's lack of complete faith in God, and must be restored by someone having perfect faith. The Foundation of Substance was destroyed when the role of man and angel was reversed in Satan's triumph. It can be restored when someone in the position of the archangel Lucifer humbles himself before someone in the position of Adam.

God has frequently offered his assistance in accomplishing this and will eventually succeed in his purposes, but has been continually thwarted. God's first attempt was to separate Adam's good and evil natures into his two sons, Cain and Abel. If Cain had submitted to Abel, this would have restored the Foundation of Substtance. But Cain killed Abel. Failed attempts were also made with Noah, Abraham, and Moses, who restored the Foundation of Faith but not the Foundation of Substance.

It was John the Baptist who finally succeeded in preparing the Foundation for the Messiah. He restored the Foundation of Faith through his asceticism. This put him in the position of Abel and the Jews in the position of Cain. When they venerated John the Baptist, the Foundation of Substance was restored and the Messiah (who was Jesus) could be sent.

But then, the Foundation for the Messiah disintegrated when John denied that he was Elijah and even questioned whether Jesus was the Messiah. Therefore Jesus first had to restore the Foundation for the Messiah before he could do his work as Messiah. He restored the Foundation of Faith through his 40-fast, but the people rejected him and therefore he did not restore the Foundation of Substance.

But then Jesus allowed Satan to invade his spirit, was killed on the cross, and then his spirit self (not his physical self) was raised three days later in victory over Satan. When his disciples believed and followed him, this restored the Spiritual Foundation of Substance. Thus Jesus became the Spiritual Messiah and provided a spiritual salvation to believers. But since he did not marry, he did not restore the three blessings and complete God's plan. He failed to bring physical salvation along with the spiritual.

This is where Reverend Moon comes in. God prepared the way for his coming in the last 400 years, with events like the Protestant Reformation and the Great Awakening. Various calculations of parallels with biblical figures have led to the conclusion that the second messiah (or Second Coming) must be born between 1918 and 1930 and in Korea.

Reverend Moon says that at the age of 16, he was called by Jesus in a vision to be the second Messiah who will complete Jesus' works. According to Unification Church teachings, Rev. and Mrs. Moon were the first couple to conceive children without original sin. Moon and his wife are regarded as God's first ideal family and they are addressed as Father and Mother by disciples.

Moon calls on members of the church to follow his example of marriage and thereby participate in God's plan for restoration. In accepting the Moons' blessing of their own marriage, followers believe that they have children without original sin and help establish God's kingdom on Earth.

From true parents, a true family, society, nation and world can be generated, with children experiencing the love of God as an everyday reality. It is in the true family that God's love can blossom on all levels: between parents and children (parental love), between husband and wife (conjugal love), from the children towards their parents (filial love), and among the children (brotherly and sisterly love). If the members of a God-centered family practice these forms of love within their own home, then their family will become a model for their neighbors, their community, their country and for the family of humankind. This true family would lead to nothing other than the kingdom of God on earth. {dp}

In addition to the creation and propogation of the ideal family, the indemnity conditions for the Three Blessings must be fulfilled. According to Unification teaching, World War I satisfied the indemnity condition for the Restoration for the first Blessing and 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.

After this, the Kingdom of God on earth can be established, in which all peoples, cultures, races, and religions will be united together and united with God in a Four Position Foundation. The world will finally enjoy eternal peace, love and joy. This is the ultimate hope of the Unification Church and its followers.

Practices

The central practice of the Unification Church is the Blessing Ceremony, popularly known as "mass weddings." The ceremony has five steps, three of which take place in the mass gatherings:{bc}

  1. Chastening Ceremony. The husband and wife chasten each other three times from the position of God. This cleanses them of historical sin and lays the foundation for a "new life of pure love."
  2. Holy Wine Ceremony. The officiator gives the Holy Wine to the woman, who bows to him and drinks half of it. She then gives the Holy Wine to her husband who bows to her and drinks the remainder. He bows and gives the empty cup to his wife who bows and returns it to the officiator. This restores the couple to the position of Adam and Eve before the fall.
  3. Holy Blessing Ceremony. In this part of the ceremony, the couple become married (or re-dedicated, if already married).
    1. They are sprinkled with Holy Water, which represents the rebirth of the husband and wife as a blessed couple.
    2. Then the couples recite vows to consummate the ideal of the creation of God as an eternal husband and wife, to be monogamous, to rear their children to live up to the Will of God, and to love the people of the world as God does.
    3. Rings are exchanged.
    4. The officiator proclaims the participants husband and wife "standing within the realm of God's original and eternal Blessing."
  4. Separation Period. In marked contrast to the traditional honeymoon, the newlyweds observe 40 days of sexual abstinence "just as Jesus began his mission on the foundation of forty days of fasting."
  5. The Three-Day Ceremony. The Church website does not go into detail on this ceremony, but states that it is "the completion of sanctification, in which the couple is restored to the position of true husband and wife. Over a three-day period, the wife gives rebirth to her husband from the position of mother and then receives him in the position of wife. Then in the position of father, the husband gives rebirth to his wife and receives her in the position of husband. Through this process, God breathes into the couple a new conjugal life."

The Blessing Ceremony was originally only for Unification members and for those who were getting married for the first time, usually in a pairing arranged by the Church. It is now open to people of any faith and those who are already married, but the majority of participants in the Blessing Ceremony are still members of the Unification Church and many of the marriages are arranged by the Church along with the couple's parents. This has been controversial in the West, but is much more common practice in the East. Reverend Moon encourages international marriages as a means of spreading true familes, true love and world peace across the planet.

Ethics and Values

The Unification Church strongly promotes family values as the most important aspect of society and of religion. Rev. Moon is anti-divorce, anti-premarital sex and anti-homosexuality.

Symbol

Unification Church symbol

The Unification Church symbol was designed by Sun Myung Moon in Korea. The center circle symbolizes God, truth, life, and light, the four elements that reach out or radiate from this origin to the whole cosmos in 12 directions.

The number 12 represents the 12 types of human character and that truth (the Principle) is able to spread out in 12 ways (such as in the 12 tribes and 12 disciples).

According to Moon, the structure of the heavenly kingdom is also patterned after this system of 12. The outer circle represents the harmony of giving and receiving action, the principle of the cosmos. The square represents the four position foundation.

The symbol is used on Blessing Ceremony rings, jewelry, on churches and in publications.




References

  1. Unification Church - official website
  2. The Unification Church - Religious Movements Homepage
  3. John Gordon Melton, "Unification Church." Encyclopædia Britannica. 2007. Encyclopædia Britannica Online.
  4. "Moon, Sun Myung." Encyclopædia Britannica. 2007. Encyclopædia Britannica Online.
  5. Sun Myung Moon - Wikipedia.

Related Links

Unification Organizations and Websites

Supportive

Critical

News and Editorials

Related Books

Academic Studies

  • 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. Beverly 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, J. 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.

Official or Supportive

  • 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.
  • Moon, Sun Myun. 1956. The Divine Principles. Kim, Young Oon, trans. 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.

Critical

  • 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.
 
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