Korean prophet-evangelist Sun Myung Moon wants very much to capture the attention—and affection—of the American people. Since his arrival in the United States in late 1971 to promote his Unification Church and its doctrine of a latter-day messiah, the 57-year-old Moon has spoken in scores of cities and staged several media-oriented extravaganzas, including a much-publicized rally last month at the foot of the Washington Monument in the nation’s capital.
Attendance at these rallies has fallen short of expectations, however, and much of the attention and news coverage Moon covets has turned out to be negative. Reporters, government investigators, religious leaders, and irate parents of “Moonies” have been delving deeply into his background and beliefs as well as the current dealings of the Unification Church. Serious questions have been raised, and a number of them are still unanswered, partly because Moon and his aides don’t want to talk about them.
The Moonies tried hard at the Washington rally to drown the controversy in a million-dollar media splash. Their noisy celebration was designed to show off Moon as a kindly spiritual benefactor. The rally attracted about 50,000 people, according to an estimate of the National Park Service. The chief Moon spokesman, Unification Church of America president Neil A. Salonen, told the crowd there were 200,000 present as the evening program began, however.
Moon’s message, scheduled just prior to a fireworks spectacular, lasted only thirty-seven minutes, including the consecutive translation by his aide, Bo Hi Pak. Listeners vigorously applauded and waved small flags eleven times during the speech after the interpreter finished key paragraphs.
In the address Moon positioned his church as a part of a new trinity. He declared, “Judaism was God’s first central religion, and Christianity was the second. The Unification Church is the third, coming with the new revelation that will fulfill the final chapter of God’s Providence. These central religions must unite in America and reach out to unite religions of the world.”
The Korean also called on Israel, the United States, and Korea to form a type of trinity since they are the “nations where these three religions are based.” Earlier in the speech he spoke of the failure of Israel to recognize Jesus Christ as the messiah. This failure 2,000 years ago presumably does not disqualify modern Israel from a role in the new search for “one world under God,” however.
Moon did not point to Christ as the messiah, and he did nothing to dispel the belief many of his followers have that he has been given that role. Salonen said of Moon in a Washington Star interview on the day of the rally, “We believe he is the prophet and God’s central figure.”
Months of preparation preceded the Washington rally. Without identifying themselves as members of the Unification Church, hundreds of Moonies quietly moved into the area, taking over several small hotels for the duration. They became involved in community activities designed to gain them trust and good will. They helped with children’s programs and recreation projects, and they organized block paties, picnics, cleanup campaigns, arts and crafts workshops, street concerts, and anti-smut demonstrations. Then came lectures and films on Moon, and open recruiting.
Parents and local-government officials reacted angrily, charging that the Moonies had engaged in a subterfuge in order to proselytize. Moon spokesman Michael Runyon replied that it was all a matter of priorities. “Our priority now is to spread Reverend Moon’s message,” he said. “We’re not trying per se to be a social-service agency.”
Meanwhile, teams of Moonies hustled on streets and door to door for donations. They solicited the support of area pastors. The clergymen were told that Moon was interested mainly in spreading the love of God and the spirit of brotherhood. Some of the ministers, mostly blacks, endorsed the upcoming rally, and the Moonies circulated their names. As the rally date neared, hundreds of thousands of brochures were handed out. More than 500 buses were chartered to provide free transportation to the rally site from within the metropolitan area, and hundreds of other buses were lined up to bring people in from other Eastern cities at reduced rates ($7 round trip from New York, for example). Sound trucks worked the streets, and music groups put on impromptu street-corner concerts. Nine full-page advertisements appeared in both Washington dailies, and there were spots on radio and television.
To help polish his and the church’s image following a disastrous rally in New York’s Yankee Stadium last spring, Moon hired a top-flight New York advertising executive, Stephen Baker, creator of the successful “Let your fingers do the walking” and “You have a friend at Chase Manhattan” themes. The expert PR touch was evident in Washington.
At the Yankee Stadium rally, an estimated 30,000 attended, but many walked out when Moon began to speak, and there was heckling from bands of youths in the upper deck throughout the program. Outside, a variety of anti-Moon demonstrators held forth. They included about 2,000 persons from thirty-two evangelical churches and groups, ranging from the Salvation Army and Jews for Jesus to the Chinese Christian Assembly. Among them were some 400 persons from New York City’s Calvary Baptist Church, co-organizer of the evangelical protest. George Swope and other members of his anti-Moon parents’ coalition were on hand.
Representatives of Jews for Judaism and Hineni Fellowship, another Jewish youth organization, also took part in the New York protest. Miriam Sabat acknowledged to correspondent Robert Niklaus that a number of Jewish youths had joined Moon’s group. “They took our children, and we want to get them back,” she declared. Also present were Hare Krishna devotees who objected to the exalted religious role attributed to Moon by his followers (they call him “Father,” and some ex-Moonies say they prayed to him using that title).
Moon, who spent time in a North Korean Communist prison in the 1940s (see March 1, 1974, issue, page 101), has been living with his wife (he has been divorced at least once), seven children, and dozens of aides in a twenty-five-room mansion overlooking the Hudson River in Tarry-town, New York. He calls the 350-acre estate, estimated to be worth up to $9 million, “East Garden.” Some of his time is spent relaxing aboard his fifty-foot cabin cruiser New Hope.
A multi-millionaire, Moon heads an industrial complex in Korea. He told Newsweek his five Korean companies, among them an arms manufacturing plant, are worth $30 million. His church owns a number of U. S. businesses and properties. Property purchases for church use include a former Catholic monastery in Barrytown, New York, used as the church’s seminary ($1.5 million); the Columbia University Club in New York City ($1.2 million); the big New Yorker Hotel across the street from Madison Square Garden ($5 million); and the Manhattan Center (“more than $2 million”).
The Unification Church’s assets are out of proportion to the size of its North American membership, which probably numbers fewer than 7,000. Moon claims hundreds of thousands of followers in Korea, but that figure is disputed by Christian leaders there. They say it is only a fraction of that. Moon also boasts 210,000 members in Japan, where his church has assets of $20 million (according to figures given Newsweek), and 6,000 disciples in Germany, where he plans to make his next big push for acceptance.
Moon’s beliefs are set forth in his book Divine Principle, published in 1957, and in lectures to insiders. In 1936, he says, he had a vision while praying on a Korean mountainside. Heaven opened, he explains, and “I was privileged to communicate with Jesus Christ and the living God directly.” Since then, he adds, “I have received many astonishing revelations.” Between 1936 and 1950, when he founded the Unification Church (as the Holy Spirit Association for the Unification of World Christianity), he developed the revelations into teachings. These can be summarized as follows:
Adam and Eve were meant to establish the kingdom of heaven on earth through having perfect children. This involved obedience to God, including a period of sexual abstinence. However, Lucifer (Satan) seduced Eve; this resulted in their fall (and the spiritual fall of mankind). Eve in turn seduced Adam in an attempt at self-restoration, and this resulted in man’s physical fall. Cain was the offspring of Eve’s affair with Satan, and Abel was the product of her relationship with Adam. Eventually, Cain came to be symbolic of Communism, and Abel represents democracy.
No one obeyed God perfectly until Jesus came on the scene, his way prepared by Buddha, Confucius, and Socrates. The idea was for all religions and cultures to become unified through mutual acceptance of Jesus. He would find a perfect mate and they would produce perfect children. Thus would be achieved the world’s spiritual and physical salvation. The Jews, however, refused to accept Jesus, and he had to settle for being the means of only spiritual salvation through payment of his life as an “indemnity.” There was no marriage, there was no physical resurrection, and deity cannot be attributed to Jesus. Hence the work of physical salvation must be left to another messiah, “the Lord of the Second Advent,” born in Korea in 1920 (the year of Moon’s birth) and to be revealed by the year 2,000.
In Moon’s plan of the ages, Korea is the front line in the battle against the Satanic forces of Communism, and America is destined to lead the way to victory (either ideologically or militarily). In time, the world will be unified under the Korean messiah.
Understandably, perhaps, Moon has been pushing for American support of South Korea. This has landed him in hot water with government authorities and the press. Recent news stories and an ABC television documentary have linked him and translator Bo Hi Pak to the Korean government, particularly the Korean Central Intelligence Agency. Colonel Pak served for years as a military intelligence attaché in the Korean embassy in Washington, and during at least part of that time he was a high member of the Unification Church (he reportedly joined in 1953). When he left government service in 1964, Pak teamed up with a former American intelligence officer, who has since died, to form the Korean Cultural and Freedom Foundation, a Moon front in Washington.
Moon spokesmen deny any illegal dealings or lobbying on their part, although they acknowledge that they do have a “ministry”—in a campaign to “try to bring God into government”—manned by several dozen Moonies on Capitol Hill. Moon and his top leaders have declined to testify in government hearings.
An investigation is still being carried on to determine how much control Moon and his people have of the Diplomat National Bank in Washington. The bank’s bylaws prohibit anyone from owning more than 5 per cent of the stock, but government officials found that the Moon people own at least 44 per cent—a controlling interest.
The U. S. Immigration and Naturalization Service recently ordered deportation proceedings against 700 Moonies from Japan and Korea. The order came after a court ruling upheld a similar order issued in 1974. The INS found that much of the foreign Moonies’ time was spent in fund-raising and not in missionary training as required under visa regulations. Unification president Salonen says most of the young people were to be sent to Germany by March anyway.
The number of ex-Moonies is growing. Some have been taken by force under their parents’ direction and “deprogrammed” by professional anti-cult workers. Others have left of their own choice, in most cases because they have become disillusioned. One such person is John Spradling, a Vienna-trained pianist who left the Unification Church in July and shortly afterwards professed Christ as Saviour in a service at Calvary Baptist Church in New York City. While some ex-Moonies feel they had been brainwashed in the Unification Church, Spradling insists his will power and that of others remained intact though voluntarily harnessed to Moon’s purposes.
Many young people are attracted to Moon because they are lonely and the Moonies offer friendship, Spradling told correspondent James Hefley. The Unification Church also offers purpose and a channel for idealism, he pointed out. Although he was troubled by some of the Moon sect’s practices, he said the basic problem “is that Sun Myung Moon’s teachings disagree with Scripture.”
ARTHUR H. MATTHEWS and EDWARD E. PLOWMAN
Southern Africa: Seeking Solutions
Is anyone really communicating with anyone else in southern Africa? As U. S. Secretary of State Henry Kissinger was trying last month to get whites and blacks on the same wavelength, churchmen were stepping up their efforts to avoid a communications breakdown.
Since the June riots in Soweto (on the outskirts of Johannesburg), Christian leaders both inside and outside the region have taken unprecedented steps to state their positions or to seek reconciliation. Within South Africa, for instance, the new (inaugurated in 1976) medium of television has been pressed into use in search of a just solution to the nation’s problems. On a nationwide telecast Christians were urged by Professor Tjaart van der Walt of Potchefstroom to go against their own people, if necessary, rather than to deny the Bible. He said, “Christians should be able to exercise self-control, and Soweto was no example of self-control. South Africa has lived through a black week, but there can be a bright future for us if we approach it in a spirit of resolution, love, and self-control.”
Ministers in the Dutch Reformed Church, often accused of being the chief support of the ruling Nationalist party’s policy of apartheid, have published unusually critical letters and articles in the Afrikaans press.
The quadrennial meeting of the Reformed Ecumenical Synod, held in Cape Town in August, was the occasion for churchmen to confer with South African prime minister B. J. Vorster. A six-man delegation from the international Calvinistic organization met for more than two hours with him. It was the first time a delegation from Reformed churches of various races had presented its views directly to the prime minister. Vorster told the visitors that churches seldom came to him directly but that he usually found out in the press what they wanted to communicate to him. He indicated that his door would always be open. In the delegation were representatives of the black and white branches of the Dutch Reformed Church, the Reverend Sam P. E. Buti and the Reverend Pieter E. S. Smith. They decided afterwards to seek a second meeting with him in order to find an effective way for bringing black concerns directly to his attention.
At its Cape Town meeting, the RES passed three resolutions on the South African racial situation and additional resolutions reaffirming its position favoring interracial worship and finding no biblical ban on interracial marriage. J. D. Vorster, brother of the prime minister and a delegate to the meeting, abstained from voting on the marriage resolution, but he explained afterwards that this did not mean he had withdrawn his opposition to the practice. The synod, a body made up of representatives of thirty-eight denominations around the world, passed the statement unanimously.
Another international body, the executive committee of the Lutheran World Federation, sent an open letter to the South African prime minister last month to urge “prompt correction of injustices” in order to avert a wave of violence throughout southern Africa. The Lutherans accused the Vorster government of pursuing a course of “institutional violence” that has involved “bannings, imprisonment, torture, and wanton cruelty.”
Inside South Africa, a representative of the Dutch Reformed Church addressed a meeting of the anti-apartheid South African Council of Churches for the first time in thirty-six years. F. E. O’Brien Geldenhuys, the church’s ecumenical-affairs director, spoke on the church’s role in liberation. He called for separate and distinct roles for church and state, but he said, “Wherever the Word of God should demand it, the church should fulfill its prophetic function in spite of popular opinion.” Before his address some delegates walked out. In its annual meeting the council continued its criticism of the government. Its presidium called for an immediate “roundtable convention, representative of all races” to plan for a new system of government.
A number of church leaders have been arrested during the riots, and several churches and church-related buildings have been burned.
South Africa’s neighbor, Mozambique, has continued to be a base of operations for groups pressuring the white-ruled countries of the region. The Marxist government there has maintained trade with South Africa, but it has restricted Christian activity within its own borders. Late last month, however, it released the last American Nazarene missionary in its prisons. Armand Doll, who had been jailed for over a year, was released without advance warning.
More than 2,000 of John Wesley’s ecclesiastical heirs came to Dublin the last week of August to see how much they still had in common—with him and with one another. They were barely settled in their seats before they were virtually jolted out of them by a stinging keynoter.
United Methodist Bishop Earl G. Hunt, Jr., of North Carolina sharply criticized both clergy and laity, describing the church as “languishing on the shoals of diminishing membership and deteriorating influence.” One veteran observer of the Methodist scene said the speech was the most severe indictment he had ever heard from a bishop. Hunt urged Methodists to “rekindle that original ardor which caused the brilliant son of Epworth … to leap on the back of his horse and ride out to save England and the world.”
Delegates to the thirteenth World Methodist Conference also heard a report on the progress of consultations with Roman Catholics, and then voted to continue the talks.
The Reverend Joe Hale, an American who as a young man made a commitment to Christ during a Billy Graham rally, was named full-time head of the World Methodist Council secretariat.
The council adopted a five-year plan designed to reach as many people as possible who “have not received the good news of Jesus Christ.” The plan was described as emphasizing “a personal experience of God, private integrity of living, and a radical challenge to the unjust structures of society.”
Great Britain’s membership in the European Common Market has brought it some uncommon problems as well as some benefits. Latest of the problems to be brought to the attention of officials—all the way up to the Queen and the Prime Minister—is the membership provision that allows citizens of other market nations to enter the country. At issue is the proposed entry of a Danish filmmaker, Jens Joergen Thorsen, to make a much heralded movie on the sex life of Jesus.
Prime Minister James Callaghan says it isn’t quite that simple. Nationals of other Common Market members can be excluded if they threaten public order, security, and health, he noted. Whether Thorsen can actually be kept out on any of these grounds remains to be seen, but officials hoped he would take the hint that he was not welcome.
Thorsen, who specializes in erotic films, meanwhile boasted that all the publicity was a great help. He has failed to get the necessary backing for the project in France, Denmark, and Sweden, but the controversy has brought with it many offers to finance the film.
Among those publicly stating their opposition are Donald Coggan, the archbishop of Canterbury; Basil Hume, the Roman Catholic archbishop of Britain; leaders of the Salvation Army and the Free Church Federal Council.
In the midst of the controversy, Colin Morris, president of the British Methodist Church, said Christians could be “falling for one of the oldest con tricks in the book.” After his blast at those who are helping Thorsen by protesting, he announced he would not be available for interviews on the film. He said he would be available for interviews on the “meaning of the Gospel itself,” but there were no takers.
Interviews And Issues
Religion and the personal beliefs of the major presidential candidates have shown no signs of going away as a campaign issue. Instead, they seemed to reach a new plateau of attention late last month as the candidates headed into their televised debates.
Four days before the first debate, a long Playboy magazine interview with Democratic candidate Jimmy Carter was leaked to reporters on the campaign trail. In it he covered a variety of subjects, including his personal faith, but news-media attention was drawn to Playboy’s favorite subject, sex.
President Gerald Ford, meanwhile, was responding to a variety of questions for different audiences. In a Ladies Home Journal interview on family life he said he would “protest in a most vigorous way” if he learned his daughter was having an affair. Unlike his wife, who a few months earlier said she would not be surprised at such news, the President said he would be surprised. He expressed general disapproval of early marriages and added that he made it his business to find out about his daughter’s boyfriends.
Ford also shared his views on abortion and other subjects with the same group of bishops that met with Carter (see September 24 issue, page 54). After about an hour in the Oval Office, the bishops told reporters they were “encouraged” by the President’s position on abortion. They emphasized, however, that they had discussed a variety of issues, including food, employment, illegal aliens, and human rights as they relate to U.S. foreign policy. Spokesmen for the hierarchy went to great pains after initial news coverage of the meeting to explain that the bishops were not endorsing Ford because of his stand on one issue.
In the week following the visit by the bishops, the President scheduled an Oval Office conference with three leading evangelicals. Invited to the White House were: Nathan Bailey, president of the Christian and Missionary Alliance and of the National Association of Evangelicals; Ben Armstrong, executive secretary of National Religious Broadcasters; and Harold Lindsell, editor of CHRISTIANITY TODAY. (Linsell was unable to attend, and Arthur H. Matthews, associate editor, went in his place.)
During their visit a variety of evangelical concerns were discussed, and Ford agreed to answer in writing a list of questions left with him by the three. He also taperecorded a brief interview on his own faith for NRB. Written replies to the questions were returned to the visitors the day after their White House visit.
On the tape, which NRB is distributing to its member broadcasters and to the subscribers to its World Religious News program, the President speaks of his “commitment to the Christian faith” and his “relationship with Jesus Christ through my church.” He also explains, “Faith means the dedication to His life and to His principles, and I seek to follow in my own public as well as private life those principles.”
In response to a question about religion as an issue in the campaign, Ford said, “I believe a candidate’s personal religion is a proper concern for voters when they are choosing their President. However, I do not believe that it is proper for any political figure to deliberately exploit religion for his or her political advantage. If I am asked about my beliefs, I will respond, for I am proud of the convictions I hold.”
The chief executive, in his written replies, strongly endorsed separation of church and state and expressed fear that “big government” could curtail religious liberty. He promised to “resist government bureaucracies’ intruding into the free religious institutions of America” and specifically promised to counter federal attempts to control them.
Ford replied that he planned no presidential initiatives on prayer and Bible reading in public schools. He said, however, that he believes “that prayer in the public schools should be voluntary.” He also indicated a concern that public education should not “show any hostility toward religion.”
The President reaffirmed his opposition to the Supreme Court’s 1973 abortion decision and the 1976 decision that permits a minor to have an abortion without her parents’ consent. He described the Republican platform plank on the subject as fully consistent with his own view that a “states rights” amendment to the U.S. Constitution should be passed to let each state decide on abortion. He did not reply in writing to a part of the question about curbing federal expenditures for abortions, but in the conversation with the evangelicals he said staff members were under orders to find ways to accomplish this.
On homosexuality, Ford’s reply was that “homosexual relations are wrong” since “the teachings of the Bible are very explicit on this.…” He stipulated that he had “always tried to be understanding and fair about people whose views are different from my own” on this subject.
The President answered a question about Communist expansion by speaking of it as a threat to freedom and world peace. He said he would not “like to see us return to the cold war or return to an uncontrolled arms race” but believes a “strong and determined” America is one way of preserving peace and stability. He added, “From the standpoint of the world-wide missionary effort, I recognize the importance of world peace and world stability, for only then can these humanitarian efforts flourish.”
Also visiting the White House last month was evangelist Billy Graham. He told reporters he had been invited to go with the President to a reception for visiting Liberian President William Tolbert, but he declined to answer journalists’ questions about the campaign.
Carter’s Playboy interview drew an immediate response from some prominent fellow Southern Baptists. Jaroy Weber, immediate past president of the Southern Baptist Convention, called it “regrettable.” Another former president, W. A. Criswell of Dallas, said the article would hurt the Georgian with evangelicals. But Harry Hollis, a staffer at the SBC Christian Life Commission, complimented the candidate on his “openness, honesty, and great understanding about the life and teachings of Jesus.”
At issue were Carter’s statement that he had committed adultery “in his heart” many times but that he had been forgiven. There was also objection to some earthy terms the candidate used in the interview. Carter warned against pride on the part of those who saw others sinning while they themselves had been able to resist temptation.
Pressed about how much his personal convictions would influence his official actions, Carter defended his beliefs but said, “Anybody can come and look at my record as governor, I didn’t run around breaking down people’s doors to see if they were fornicating.”
Asked if he would appoint judges who would be particularly harsh or lenient toward such offenses as adultery, drug use, homosexuality, Carter replied, “I would choose people who were competent, whose judgment and integrity were sound. I think it would be inappropriate to ask them how they were going to rule on a particular question before I appointed them.”
The former Georgia governor told the magazine that the homosexuality issue makes him “nervous” and that he does not see “how to handle it differently from the way I look on other sexual acts outside marriage.”
The candidate’s press secretary told reporters that the published interview was an accurate account.
Religion In Transit
More than 21,000 Indonesians, many of them Muslims, enrolled in a Bible correspondence course as a result of a newspaper advertising campaign during 1975 by the AMG International mission agency of New Jersey. Of these, about 3,500 professed Christ, according to an AMG spokesman. Currently, national workers associated with AMG in Pakistan are processing thousands of responses to newspaper ads there. Most requests are for Scripture portions.
Concordia Seminary, St. Louis, enrolled 354 students (including 51 in graduate studies) this fall. The figure for the 1973–74 academic year, before the Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod institution became the focal point of a denominational crisis, was 690. This fall’s total is almost four times the number of those who remained on campus after the spring 1974 exodus, a seminary announcement noted. President Ralph A. Bohlmann said the enrollment indicated a “remarkable recovery.”
The tent revival planned for Whidbey Island Naval Air Station but canceled by Navy officials (see September 10 issue, page 78) was held off base with many civilian churches joining military personnel in the interdenominational effort.
Many United Methodist institutions own the blue chip stock of the Coca-Cola Company, which was founded by Methodist layman Asa Candler. Those with investment policies like those of the church’s Board of Global Ministries World Division will have to decide soon whether they can keep them. The division’s investment committee meets next month to take a new look at its 12,800 Coke shares in light of the announcement that the company will buy Taylor Wines. The policy prohibits getting or keeping stocks of firms “deeply involved in … the promotion, manufacture and/or sale of alcoholic beverages.”
Forrest Boyd, longtime White House correspondent for the Mutual Broadcasting System, has become the first director of communications for the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association. He will handle news-media relations for Graham as well as a wide range of public-relations responsibilities for the association.
Donald R. Hubbard, 46, has been installed as pastor of Manhattan’s Calvary Baptist Church and the voice of its radio ministry. For ten years he has been the pastor of Berachah Church in the Philadelphia suburb of Cheltenham, Pennsylvania.
Dennis E. Shoemaker has resigned as fulltime executive secretary of the 126-publication Associated Church Press but will continue on a part-time basis until the ACP board decides future staffing policies. Another dues increase planned for 1977, to help cover staff costs, has been rescinded.
Ulster preacher-politician Ian Paisley has formally constituted the first congregation of his Free Presbyterian Church outside the United Kingdom. He installed a pastor in Toronto, Ontario.
Have something to add about this? See something we missed? Share your feedback here.