If you are old enough to remember the 1970s you may recall a lot of talk about Korean Rev. Sun Myung Moon and his Holy Spirit Association for the Unification of World Christianity, better known as the Unification Church. You may recall seeing young men and women on street corners selling flowers, candy, or other items to support the church. You may have even had conversations with followers of Rev. Moon, who people sometimes referred to as “Moonies”. Most observers, Christian and secular alike, regarded the church as a cult.
Today we don’t hear much about Rev. Moon but he now is 90 years old and his church is still active. Its official name is now the Family Federation for World Peace and Unification. Let’s examine this bizarre counterfeit of Christianity and see what is happening with it today.
On January 6, 1920, Yong Myung Moon was born in northern Korea. He was the second oldest of eight children in a family that in 1930 converted to Christianity and joined a Korean Presbyterian Church. On Easter Sunday in 1936, as a sixteen year old boy, Yong Moon claims he saw a vision of Jesus Christ after which he changed his name to Sun Myung Moon (Sun “Shining” Moon). During this period of his life Moon says he was spiritually tested and imprisoned during the Japanese military occupation of Korea. In 1939 he was sent to Japan to study where, according to his account, he was again arrested, imprisoned, and tortured for anti-Japanese activities.
After World War II Moon was released and returned to Korea boldly preaching a set of unusual new doctrines. In 1946 he was charged with sexual immorality and heresy. As a result he was expelled from the Korean Presbyterian Church. In 1948 North Korean communists arrested Moon a third time. He was liberated in 1950 by allied forces during the Korean War and headed south. He then moved to Seoul where he established his ministry’s headquarters.
The following year Moon was divorced by his first wife who charged him with cruelty. Later that same year a prominent Korean, Hyo Won Eu, converted to Moon’s doctrine and began working with him to write The Divine Principle, a compilation of Moon’s doctrines. It was completed in 1952. On May 1, 1954, Moon’s church, “The Holy Spirit Association for the Unification of World Christianity,” or Unification Church (UC), was formally established with Hyo Won Eu as its first President.
On April 11, 1960, Moon married Hak Ja Han, in what the UC refers to as the “Marriage of the Lamb.” That historic event, they assert, established what they call “The True Family.” During the 1960s, the movement gained converts in Korea, Japan, and several other Asian countries.
Moon came to the United States in 1970 where he purchased several large estates and businesses in New York. He then toured the country preaching in rented auditoriums to large crowds. Several thousand Americans may have joined the church during that period. This sudden visibility and apparent growth raised the media’s, and the country’s, general awareness of the UC, Moon, and other similar cults. Many parents and other family members of converts complained that their love ones were being manipulated and estranged by intense UC indoctrination processes. As well, a number of UC defectors told stories of psychological, spiritual, and labor abuse by UC leaders.
In 1982 Moon was charged and convicted of tax evasion and spent eighteen months in United States federal prison. That same year he founded what has become perhaps his most successful enterprise in the United States, The Washington Times newspaper. It is now widely recognized by many Americans as a conservative alternative to the older and more widely circulated Washington Post. The president of the paper’s corporation and many of its staff are members of the UC.
In 1988 Moon endured one of several tragedies in his family when one of his sons died in a car crash at age 17. Moon later claimed that a young African member of his church had been possessed by his son’s spirit and was thereafter regarded virtually as an honored member of Moon’s family.
Another family crisis occurred in 1997. Nansook Hong, the wife of Moon’s oldest son, divorced her husband, cut all ties with the UC and wrote a scathing expose book about Moon, his family, and their royally opulent lifestyle. The book alleged that Moon was guilty of sexual infidelity, family abuse, and that several of his children, including her ex-husband, were deeply involved with illegal drugs.
In 1999, tragedy struck again when another of Moon’s sons, Younjin Phillip Moon, committed suicide at age 21. This event, and the other difficulties Moon has experienced in his family, conflicts sharply with the UC doctrine that his “True Family” is the model for all people and that his children would reinstitute a pure and perfect godly line of humanity.
As mentioned earlier, in the late 1990s and early 2000s, Moon became more candid about his self-proclaimed Messiahship. This culminated on March 23, 2004 when Moon and his wife were crowned by the UC as the world’s “Savior, Messiah, Returning Lord and True Parents.” This title was bestowed on them at the “Ambassadors Peace Awards” banquet held in the Dirksen Senate Office Building in Washington, DC. Incredibly, the affair was attended by several members of Congress and a few local DC church leaders.
In March of 2008, Moon’s oldest son, Hyo Jin Moon died of a heart attack at age 45 in Korea. The next month, Moon’s youngest son, Hyung Jin Moon, now 34, officially took over leadership of the Unification Church from his father.
Beliefs of the Unification Church
The doctrinal beliefs of the UC are a complicated mixture of Eastern philosophy, Christian and biblical terminology, and the many bizarre notions and interpretations of Rev. Moon and other UC leaders. The primary tenets of official UC teaching are contained in several books, the most important being Divine Principle and Master Speaks, a collection of Moon’s sermons. Other recent messages by Moon are also regarded as authoritative.
The Bible is referenced only to justify UC doctrines. Bible scholars, however, are in universal agreement that Moon’s revelations and the church’s theological teachings contradict clear biblical teachings. Also, Moon’s checkered personal history militates against the audacious claims he makes for himself.
A New Philosophy of History
The Unification Church teaches all world history should be understood in context of a sort of cosmic dualism. This dualism is called the “Give and Take Action” of creation. It consists basically of a series of universal polar opposites: positive/negative, active/passive, direct/indirect, objective/subjective, masculine/feminine. This concept is very similar to the Yin-Yang dualism of Taoism, a popular belief system in Korea that was likely the source of Moon’s worldview and historical musings.
God, according to the UC concept, is described as the “Universal Prime Energy” who (or which) constantly interacts with the universe in this philosophical system. This interaction is realized practically in what Moon called the “Four Fold Foundation” of human history. This notion asserts that all creation had its origin in God, the Universal Prime Energy, who then made a division in his creation by making Adam (masculine) and Eve (feminine) according to the “give and take action” principle described above. Out of this division would be a sexual union which would produce a divine bloodline of pure perfect children. Thus the God-Adam-Eve-child union would complete the four fold foundation which would thereafter be reproduced through their offspring in all of humanity.
However, according to UC doctrine, before Adam and Eve could produce their perfect offspring, the serpent deceived Eve. The serpent, according to their interpretation of Genesis 3, is symbolic for Satan who seduced Eve sexually and thus produced an evil, satanically sired, human bloodline through Cain.
Later, Eve had Abel with Adam, who represents a godly line. World history, therefore, is a cosmic struggle of good (God) and evil (Satan). In the last century this struggle was manifest in the final world conflict of democracy versus communism. According to Moon, the culmination of this final conflict, appropriately, was waged in his homeland of Korea.
Jesus: The Lord Who Failed
The UC teaches that, because of the corruption of the human race, it was necessary for God to send a redeemer to restore the human race to its proper state. Jesus was thus sent to “pay indemnity” (suffer) to redeem mankind from spiritual death and to restore the pure godly bloodline of humanity. The UC maintains that Jesus accomplished only the first phase (spiritual redemption) of this mission. He failed to accomplish the second phase (physical redemption) because he was crucified before he could marry and produce children. Therefore, another redeemer would need to come about 2000 years later to finish the divine mission.
Christian Response: The Bible clearly teaches that Jesus was the unique incarnate Son of God and he accomplished his mission in its totality. His death and resurrection provided full atonement for mankind. Therefore, He procured absolute salvation from the effects of sin and death, in both the spiritual and physical realms (see: 1 Cor. 15:1-28; Col. 1:19-22).
Lord of the “Second Advent”
According to the UC’s strange interpretation of Revelation 7: 2-4 and other biblical passages, the second redeemer had to be born in the Far East around the year 1920. Like Jesus, he would necessarily suffer greatly for mankind (“pay indemnity”). However, unlike Jesus, he would not die violently, but rather would live a long life, marry a perfect mate, and produce perfect children. Together they would complete the fourfold foundation and form the perfect or “True Family.”
For years Moon avoided claiming publicly to be this new Messiah/redeemer. Nonetheless, UC literature and Moon’s sermons all pointed in his direction. UC members unapologetically referred to Moon and his wife as “Father and Mother.” In the 1990’s, however, Moon became more brazen in his public claims to be the “Lord of the Second Advent.”
Christian Response: Moon’s claims to Messiahship are blasphemous. Jesus alone can support His claims to deity and Messiahship by His sinless life, death, and resurrection. There is simply no need for another Messiah. (see John 1:1-18; 8:56-59; Phil. 2:6-11; Col. 1:13-22; Heb. 1:3; 13:8).
Completed Testament Age
In 1999, it was reported that Moon, by revelation, had received communications from the spirit world indicating that, because of his successful ministry, we are now entering into the “Completed Testament” age of world history. Good (democracy) is now finally triumphing over evil (communism). Moon, in essence, took credit for the fall of Soviet communism and the increases in the number of democratic countries in the early 1990s. As a result, he asserts, peace will soon cover the world, war will cease, and all religions will unite under a single authority (Moon’s, of course).
Christian Response: The Bible teaches, however, that full peace and tranquility will come only at the return of Christ Himself. Moon’s claim that we are entering an era of world peace and freedom because of his ministry is ludicrous. If that is true, how does he and the UC explain the rise of militant Islam, terrorist attacks (such as that of September 11, 2001), and the various wars still raging around the world? Furthermore, North Korea remains a staunchly Stalinist communist dictatorship that is even now seeking to develop nuclear weapons.
Join the True Family
According to UC doctrine, all people may receive the benefits of Moon’s Messiahship by being grafted on to his True Family. This divine adoption process is accomplished primarily by joining Moon’s church, pledging total obedience to him, and entering into a marriage relationship blessed by Moon to a mate personally selected by him. Through the years, Moon has conducted numerous mass weddings in various parts of the world with thousands of couples taking their vows before him. In most cases, the brides and grooms were not even acquainted until shortly before the wedding ceremonies.
A disturbing sidelight to this practice is that, in recent years, some American Christian ministers and their wives have participated in these ceremonies to “reaffirm their wedding vows.” They may have done so unwittingly, not understanding the true significance of the UC rituals since the ceremonies are performed by Moon in the Korean language. One ritual includes the men and women drinking from a common cup of wine containing a drop of Moon’s blood.
Christian Response: Moon’s system of physical salvation by joining his True Family is totally unbiblical. The Bible teaches that complete salvation is available by grace to any person who will repent of his sin and, by faith, turn to Jesus Christ as their personal Lord and Savior (see: Rom. 10:9-10; Eph. 2:8-10). Marriage, though an important human relationship ordained by God, has no place in the salvation process.
Moreover, it demonstrates a serious lack of spiritual discernment for Christians to participate in Moon’s wedding events. They should not support Moon and his idolatrous movement in any way. Christian ministers, especially, should not only avoid associating with the UC or Moon, but publicly should rebuke his blasphemous claims and unbiblical doctrines.
The UC Today
In North America there have never been more than about 10,000 members of the Unification Church. Nonetheless, the church exerts a level of public influence of greater proportion than its numbers would seem to indicate. Moon and his church have accumulated millions of dollars as a result of various fundraising campaigns by UC members. The church also has controlling interest in a wide ranging number of business ventures worldwide. In the United States, as mentioned before, the church owns The Washington Times newspaper. Its growing media empire also includes the United Press International wire service and Insight Online internet magazine.
In the education field, the UC appoints a majority of the board of trustees of the University of Bridgeport (Connecticut). The UC bailed the school out financially in 1981 when it was facing imminent bankruptcy and closure. Its President is Neil Salonen, a former President of the UC branch in America.
The church also sponsors dozens of other affiliated organizations that seek to further its spiritual and political goals. Here is a list of some of them:
Collegiate Association for the Research of Principles (CARP)
The Professors World Peace Academy
The National Council for the Church and Social Action (NCCSA)
The Women’s Federation for World Peace (WFWP)
American Clergy Leadership Conference (ACLC)
Free Teens USA
The Future of the Unification Church
As mentioned, Rev. Moon is now in his 90s, so the chances he will live much longer are slim. In any case he has placed control of his church and empire into the hands of his youngest son and one of his daughters. How they will steer the movement after Moon is gone is anyone’s guess. However, as is often true with other cults when the main leader dies, the UC may splinter as various factions (perhaps led by other of his children) claim his authority as true successors. Possibly, the UC will seek public recognition and acceptance as a Christian denomination. It is unlikely, however, that it will renounce its attachment to Moon as messiah and reform its theology to conform to orthodox and biblical Christianity.
Suggestions for Witnessing to Unificationists
First of all, treat your UC friend with respect and dignity. Most members of the UC are sincere, but misguided, followers of Moon and his doctrine. Do not refer to them as “Moonies.”
Be careful not to belittle Moon or demean his work, but explain to your UC friend why you cannot accept Moon or his church as authentic. Focus your discussion on the person and finished work of Jesus Christ. Explain why you regard Jesus as the only Messiah who accomplished full salvation for mankind, by His death and resurrection, and that here was no need for another.
Show them how UC doctrine contradicts the Bible. UC members are taught that their interpretations of the Bible are correct and that other faiths have misunderstood its real meaning. For example, the UC’s contention that Eve was seduced sexually by the serpent simply has no biblical foundation. It is either a result of extra-biblical revelation or a gross example of speculative interpretation.
Be aware that convincing a UC member to exit the group and accept Christ is very difficult. The most important principles are to build personal relationships when possible, show patience and love, and pray for UC members.
Christians also need to be alert for people wishing to exit the movement. Many disillusioned UC members over the years have left the church. If you know UC people in your community listen for those who may want to exit and be willing to help them however you can.
© 2011 Tal Davis