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Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance Report

UNIFICATION CHURCH

History


The Holy Spirit Association for the Unification of World Christianity was organized in 1954 in Seoul, South Korea by Rev. Sun Myung Moon ["One who has clarified the Truth"]. Some sources say the organization started in Pusan, not Seoul. Its followers are often called Moonies by persons outside of the Association. However, this term is considered derogatory by its members, who refer to themselves as Unificationists.

Rev. Moon was born in what is now North Korea in 1920 and was raised in the Presbyterian Church. He is a Professional Engineer by training. When he was 15 years old, at Easter, Jesus Christ appeared to him in a vision, charging him with the responsibility of completing the work in the world that Jesus had started. During his adult life he has had trouble with legal authorities, having been arrested for practicing capitalism (a crime in North Korea), charged (but not convicted) in South Korea of other activities, and convicted of tax evasion in the United States. The Presbyterian Church of Korea, in 1948, felt that his views were incompatible with traditional Christianity; they excommunicated him.

In 1957, Rev. Moon published Divine Principle which is a collection of his beliefs, as written by a member of the Church. Two years later, Young Oon Kim moved to North America as a Unification missionary to establish a church presence there. Many of the members in the US expected a type of apocalyptic event in 1967. When nothing of that nature occurred, some members became disillusioned and left the organization. In 1972, Rev. Moon moved to the United States and started a major recruitment drive. A decade later, he performed the first of many mass wedding ceremonies in which more than 2000 couples were married. In 1984, he was convicted of tax evasion in the US and sent to prison for 13 months.

The Church has established a large number of religious, political, cultural and business organizations, ranging from the International Religious Foundation, Korean Folk Ballet, International Cultural Foundation, Free Press International and CAUSA. They purchased the Washington Times.

With the fall of Communism in Europe and Russia, the Unification Church has been actively proselytizing throughout that region. They have a presence in over 150 countries, with concentrations in Korea, Japan and the United States. Total membership is difficult to estimate, but is probably many hundreds of thousands world wide. Both the Church and its opponents have issued inflated numbers. It is probable that there are on the order of 5,000 dedicated members in the US, and a much larger number of persons affiliated in some way with the church.

Rev. Moon is the ultimate authority within the Church. The administration of Unification organizations is by a board of elders.

Beliefs:


While many of the beliefs of the Unification Church are identical to those of other conservative Christian groups, there are some major differences:

They view God as a single being with "perfect intellect, emotion and will". They reject the traditional Christian concept of the Trinity. God contains within himself positive (male) and negative (female) aspects, which are in perfect harmony with each other. The Holy Spirit is the feminine counterpart to God. She is not a person, but is a form of energy that is derived from God.

Before Adam and Eveís were married in Eden, Eve had an affair with the Archangel
Lucifer. This caused the spiritual fall of mankind. She later engaged in an pre-marital sexual relationship with Adam. This caused the physical fall of mankind. Together, these illicit sexuality caused them to form an imperfect family. Their sin led to Satan taking control of the world. The church links Communism (the expression of Satan) with Cain and Democracy (the expression of God) with Abel.
Jesus Christ is viewed as a unique human being who was born without original sin. After his crucifixion, he was spiritually resurrected, although his body remained in the grave. Godís original intent was for Jesus Christ to form a perfect marriage in order to redeem humanity, and undo the harm perpetrated by Adam and Eve. Since Jesus was executed before accomplishing his mission, it will be up to a third Adam to form this perfect marriage and complete Jesusí task.
By his spiritual resurrection, Jesus has made possible spiritual salvation for persons who accept him as savior and believe in his message. They will, after death, live with Jesus in Paradise. However, because Jesus did not complete his original task, physical salvation is not possible on earth during oneís lifetime. Complete salvation (spiritual and physical) awaits the arrival of the third Adam and his subsequent perfect marriage.
St. Paul is viewed as the originator of Christianity. Through his expertise, he converted the teachings of Jesus concerning the kingdom of God into a formal religion about Jesus.
Hell exists on earth. Over time, Hell will be transformed into the kingdom of heaven on earth. Hell exists in the spiritual world as well, as an extension of life for those of us who live in hell on earth.
One of the main purposes of the Unification Church is to unite all of the fragments of
Christianity into a single body.
Jesus was reborn in Korea between 1917 and 1930. He will be recognized as the third Adam, the perfect man. He will marry the perfect woman, and will become the "true spiritual parents of humankind". Some members of the Unification Church regard Rev. Moon and his second (and current) wife Hak Ja Han as these parents, although the Church itself has never made this claim.

Practices:

The Unification Church is a profoundly family-centered Church. Members are expected to remain celibate during their youth, and to subsequently marry. The Blessing or mass wedding ceremony is the most important Unification ritual. Rev. Moon matches up each couple a month (or less) in advance, selecting from among the membership. The bride and groom are expected to marry, but can decide to opt out without disgrace. A Holy Wine Ceremony is conducted before the marriage; this purifies the couple so that they are able to have children free of Fallen Nature (original sin inherited from Adam and Eve). A special Three Day Ceremony is performed by the married couple some weeks after their wedding, before they engage in sexual activity.

A Pledge Service is celebrated at 5 AM each Sunday, and on the first day of each month and on January 1. They celebrate five major seasonal days of celebration: Godís Day, Parentsí Day, Childrenís Day, the Day of All Things, and True Parentís Birthday.

Conflicts between the Church and the Counter-cult Movement

The Church was widely criticized (largely by conservative Christians) for its unorthodox beliefs. During the early 1970ís, at a time when the membership of the Unification Church was growing rapidly, it was attacked by the Counter-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 (5) examined 190 US newspaper articles about former members of the church during the early years of the Unification Church, 1974 to 1977. 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 counter-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 committment to the group. e.g. Jehovahís 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 Peopleís 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 were kidnapped by counter-cult "deprogrammers", forcibly confined and manipulated to destroy their allegiance to the Unification Church. These illegal deprogramming attempts continue to the present day, but at a reduced level.

Unification Church Books and Publications:

The Unification Churchís main religious text is the Bible. It teaches truth, but is not truth in itself. It is only a partial revelation. Rev. Moonís 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, Todayís World and a secular newspaper, the Washington Times.

Reference Books and Articles:

1.(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, "Americaís 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.


Internet References:

The Unification Churchís official home page is at: http://unification.org/
An unofficial Unification Church home pages is at: http://www.unification.net/
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 "Human Rights Violation " at:
http://members.tripod.com/~limcm/
A slide presentation titled "Divine Principle - An Introduction: Revelations for the New Millennium and Beyond," is at: http://members.tripod.com/~jho2/


 

Please Note: While we recognize certain inaccuracies in the report, this report from an independent organization, does give a fair appraisal of the Unification Church. We commend their efforts in promoting religious tolerance.