Why I Am Not A Moonie
Six reasons why I am no longer a member of the Unification Church
My Life with Reverend Moon
For the first nine years of my life, I was raised by a single mom in the Catholic Church. My mother emphasized to me that God was a God of love, and that I needed to follow the example of Jesus. I went to church every Sunday, took First Communion, and occasionally prayed the rosary on weeknights. While I was a very religious child, I never suffered from any guilt or shame as a result of it.
When my mother remarried a Unificationist, I started to hear things about God which were different from that which I had been taught. We were now encouraged to bow down before a photo of a Korean billionaire and his wife. I began to hear that the Fall of Man was a sexual fall, that Eve had sex with Satan and then had sex with Adam, which made our blood lineage satanic. So instead of human nature being centered on God, our nature was centered on Satan. This lineage could only be restored if a True Adam married a True Eve and started a True Family.
Jesus was meant to be this True Adam, but because the people rejected him, he had to go the way of the cross. While the crucifixion did provide us with some spiritual salvation, it did not restore the satanic blood lineage. I was taught that Reverend Sun Myung Moon was the new messiah would restore our lineage. This is why his followers are called “Moonies.”
Moon outlined his theology in The Divine Principle, which claimed that God could only work to restore his true kingdom through the payment of “indemnity.” In practical terms, this meant that much of the suffering throughout human history needed to occur in order to gradually reverse the Fall and lay down the spiritual foundations for the Second Advent.
Moon founded the Unification Church in Korea in 1954, which was called such because of its original aim to unite global Christianity. Moon married Hak Ja Han in 1960, after which they became the True Parents of all mankind, giving all of us the opportunity to restore our blood lineage. This process took place through mass weddings known as “The Blessing”, where Moon would arrange weddings between complete strangers and have them drink “Holy Wine” so that they would be connected to his divine lineage. Children born from these marriages were called “Blessed Children,” which meant that they were born without original sin. I was one such child. For while I was not born from a Moonie wedding, my parents were remarried under the Church and we all drank from the Holy Wine.
I never felt quite right in the Church for the decade or so that I was a part of it. On the one hand, the idea that the Messiah was here on Earth was quite exciting to me. I truly believed that I would live to see the Kingdom of Heaven realized. I also enjoyed the Moonie workshops, where I met great people who took the ideals of the faith more seriously than Moon ever did. I was even guaranteed a future wife.
On the other hand, I struggled to embrace the teachings as fully as everyone else. Whether it be the more upsetting aspects of the theology or the demands for perfection in an imperfect body. I feared God and Moon more than I loved them. I remember once spotting a mother and child at a grocery store and thinking, “Do these people really need True Parents in order to be righteous? They seem good enough to me on their own.”
I was at war with myself and so I decided to subject my beliefs to the strongest possible scrutiny. I figured that if Unificationism could make sense to me logically, then my heart would be able to reconcile with it. The trouble is that once I put my beliefs to the test, Unificationism no longer made any sense. I had many reasons for breaking away, but I have narrowed them down to six:
1. Unificationism hinges on the existence of a literal Adam and Eve, for which there is no convincing evidence
“Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence.”
- Carl Sagan, science educator
“Nothing in biology makes sense except in light of evolution.”
- Theodosius Dobzhansky, theist and evolutionary biologist
Unificationism places all of its bets on the literal existence of Adam and Eve as depicted in Genesis. After all, if Adam and Eve didn’t exist, then there is no sexual Fall and no need for a messiah to restore the “satanic lineage.” The Divine Principle assumes that the Genesis creation myth is rooted in literal history, but provides no archeological or scientific evidence to bolster this belief. No genetic tests proving that our earliest female ancestor had sex with an archangel are provided. Furthermore, the Principle assumes that the Fall was a metaphor for sex, despite this reading having little to no precedent throughout centuries of Christian thought.
Now, the Principle does point out problems with the traditional narrative: “how could God--the Parent of man--make a fruit so tempting (Gen. 3:6) that His children would risk falling in order to eat it?” The trouble is that the Unificationist version also has similar absurdities. Consider: If God knew of the possibility of Lucifer seducing Eve, and the grave consequences thereof, then why didn’t God simply make Lucifer asexual or a eunuch? Why does an archangel need sexual genitalia?
Furthermore, geneticists have yet to trace all Homo sapiens to a single couple, which would be highly improbable anyways given the needed levels of inbreeding. While scientists have found a “mitochondrial Eve”, who was the most recent common ancestor for all women on Earth, they have been careful to stress that she was not the first human female. Moreover, while physician and genome scientist, Joshua Swamidass, has argued for the possibility that all humans now alive descended from a single couple 10,000 years ago, he neither asserts that they were the first humans, nor that they had sex with archangels.
Another problem with a literal reading of Genesis is the fact of evolution by natural selection. Thanks to the observations of Charles Darwin and Alfred Russell Wallace, we could, for the first time, explain how human beings came about without a relying on a literal reading of Genesis. Evolution asserts that all life descended from a single common ancestor, and that living things evolve in accordance with their environments through genetic mutations over the course of millions of years. The evidence for evolution is overwhelming, such as the fossil record, which shows a lineage of ancient organisms that share gradual similarities with their modern day descendants, to the fact that viruses evolve before our very eyes to adjust to vaccines.
As expected, Moon was a fervent denier of evolution because it no longer made a literal Adam and Eve necessary. It also appears that the True Parent of all mankind had little understanding of evolutionary theory, saying in one of his speeches that “evolution rests on the assumption that the development of life just happened-by chance or accident on its own, automatically.”
This is a common, and frankly, scientifically illiterate misconception. While there is a degree of chance in evolution, these mutations are (imperfectly) developed in accordance with how best a species might survive within a particular environment. To quote The New Scientist: “Consider any kind of creature that lives underwater and has to chase its prey, for instance. Random mutations will result in some offspring having variety of shapes. Those with shapes that allow them to move faster with less energy are much more like to survive and reproduce than those whose shapes slow them down.”
Moreover, while Unificationism claims to bring together world Christianity, it ignores the fact that many Christians accept evolution as compatible with their faith. For example, Pope Francis, the head of the Catholic Church, has said, “Evolution in nature is not inconsistent with the notion of creation, because evolution requires the creation of beings that evolve."
Lastly, many Christians do not interpret Genesis literally. This is because they recognize that the Bible is not meant to be read as a scientific text, but as God’s way of imparting his morals onto the people of the time. Allegorical readings of Genesis can be found as early as St. Augustine of Hippo. A more modern example would be Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams, who said:
“…the question there is not so much, would we find a little grave in the Middle East marked ‘Adam and Eve, Loving Husband and Wife For So Many Years?’ I doubt whether we would, but we could say, right from the beginning of human beings being human, we’ve had the same problems, the same temptations, and we make the same sort of mistakes.”
2. Unificationism is obsessed with controlling human sexuality
“He that is without sin among you, let him cast the first stone at her.”
- John 8:7, The King James Bible
“If you misuse your sexual organ you are condemned to Hell.”
- Sun Myung Moon, “Where And How Do You Want To Live Your Life?”
Sex is an enjoyable part of human life. While sexual ethics can vary across religion and philosophy, there is some general agreement that consent between the two parties is important. It is wrong to sexually abuse children and animals because they cannot consent. It is also unreasonable to expect people refrain from sex entirely, because otherwise, we would go extinct. Thus, as humans, we should try to find a happy medium between unbridled libertinism and self-castration.
For many religious traditions, chastity before marriage was that medium. These restrictions made rational sense for much of human history. Deadly sexual diseases, like syphilis, were rampant, and childbirth was a high cause of death for women. Restricting sex to marriage helped to limit sexual disease and usually ensured that children would be well taken care of by a husband and wife.
Now, however, we have birth control methods like contraceptive pills and condoms, which can prevent unwanted pregnancy. Condoms, in particular, can also prevent the spread of sexual disease. Given the accessibility of birth control, restricting sexual activity to marriage is no longer necessary. I do not believe that it is immoral for two adults to consent to sex outside of marriage. No one is harmed and most people who have pre-marital sex (or masturbate for that matter) manage to live happy and fulfilling lives.
Unificationism, however, regards sexual activity, outside of its strictly prescribed methods, as the worst sin one can commit. This is because we interpreted the Fall as a sexual one. So if you have “illicit sex”, you are reenacting the original sin that cursed all of mankind. Moon also opposed “free sex” because it perpetuated Satan’s blood lineage, “The meaning of the human fall is the contamination of the blood lineage through sexual intercourse.” For Moon, the content of one’s blood was more important than the content of one’s character: “Everyone has a lineage, whether bad or good. Which side is yours on, God’s or Satan’s?” He even stated, in one speech, that a child born of such “filthy” blood would not want to be born, “Do you think that new life would want to get involved in the dirty, filthy lineages of its parents?”
Moon was also not above considering punishment for those who violated these rules. He once said that people who had AIDS were sex maniacs that should suffer public humiliation:
“…people who have AIDS should wear a sign on the back of their clothing; a big letter A written big and bold, to let the rest of the world know who has AIDS. It should not be covered up and protected. We should never allow them comfort, even to ride on a bicycle, because once they become comfortable then the only thing they can think about is what? We already know. So we should give them a hard life.”
The result of these teachings is that many members suffer from intense guilt and self-loathing over their sexuality. Your body’s natural desires were an evil to be opposed, to quote Moon: “Our flesh is the base of Satan, so it is our enemy.” He also reiterated, on many occasions, that sex outside of marriage could lead to the end of civilization itself: “Your sexual organ is like the head of a poisonous snake. If you use it wrongly, it may destroy your family or even your nation.” He even employed imagery of genital mutilation for the end of preserving this “pure” lineage, he once told men to consider keeping a pair of pliers in their pants, so that they could pinch their penises to suppress their sexual desire. He also advised that women who pursued sexual pleasure for its own sake to seal their vaginas with concrete. Whether or not Moon was being literal here, the intended effect is to promote a violent phobia of one’s own sexuality. In fact, he uses “sexual organ” and not “penis” or “vagina” in order to de-personalize your own genitals. He never referred to the heart as a “blood organ” or to the lungs as “breathing organs.”
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Let us say that you agree with the traditional religious views on abstinence before marriage. Fine, but consider this: Unificationism forbade any expressions of love outside of marriage, such as dating, hand-holding, and kissing. As such, members were forbidden from choosing their own spouses. Even if you did get married, there was a waiting period before sex. Even when that ended, were special instructions for the first three conjugal acts, also known as the Three Day Ceremony. These instructions demand that you consecrate the sex to True Parents and have their photo nearby. This is Moon’s way of claiming your most intimate moments as his. Is it right for one man to exercise such high levels of control over another couple’s sex life?
These teachings also had a misogynistic effect. From Moon’s perspective, a woman’s ultimate purpose is to marry and have children in order to further the blood lineage. She has little value in and of herself, “…the family, nation, and universe do not want to connect to a woman alone, no matter how great she may be.” A women’s sexuality was particularly dangerous, as Moon blamed the Fall on Eve’s disobedience, “…women have to be obedient and feel reserved. This is a virtue. That was the beginning of the fall, because Eve asserted herself. So to go backwards, she has to be unusually obedient.” Moon has said that women have no bodily autonomy: “Everything of yourself belongs either to your husband or your children. No one can argue this fact. Certainly members of the women’s liberation movement would oppose Father’s words.”
As Blessed Children, we were supposedly born free from Satan’s lineage. That being the case, it was fair to assume that we would be less prone to sexual temptation. It only makes sense that a “pure” lineage would be less inclined towards “fallen nature.” In my experience, however, this was not the case. My sexual desires were just as strong as those of my “fallen” friends. I began to hate my own body and feel that I was a tool for Satan. My life was a living hell.
3. Sun Myung Moon repeatedly violated his own sexual taboos
“In conversations with scores of non-Unificationist Koreans the first information I have been given about the Unification Church has, in almost every instance, been that Moon engages (or has engaged) in immoral sexual practices with his followers.”
- Eileen Barker, The Making of a Moonie: Brainwashing or Choice?
While demanding absolute chastity for his followers, Moon made numerous sexual exceptions for himself. A growing body of evidence has revealed that the Church had its origins in Korea as a sex cult, where Moon and his early followers had sex rituals known as “pikareum” in order to purify women of their satanic lineage. While this does seem, at first, to contradict the Church teachings, you have to recall that Moon only opposed any sexual activity which contributed to the satanic blood lineage. So, from a hypothetical standpoint, any sex acts which contributed to restoring that lineage were permissible.
In 1993, Chung Hwa Pak, one of the founding members of the Church, published a book in Japan known as The Tragedy of the Six Marys, which detailed Moon’s ritual sex. It was drawn from 6,000 pages of Pak’s Korean manuscripts and featured original photos. Other early members who contributed to the book were Hyo Min Eu, Shin Hee Eu, and Deuk Jin Kim. According to the book, Moon claimed that he needed to have sex with his female followers three times, representing the stages of formation, growth, and completion, in order to restore their lineage. The purified women would then have sex with other men, and the men would then have sex with other women, and so on, spreading the purified lineage in a sex relay. Shin Hee Eu, who had had ritual sex with Moon, refused to do the required two other times after she allegedly saw him rape one of his followers:
“When this young woman was a university student, and still a virgin, Sun Myung Moon dragged her into his hut and had sex by force with her. He took away her chastity with the excuse of ‘restoration’. This young woman was crying as she spoke to me. She said there was a lot of bleeding. Even if it is done in the name of ‘restoration’ it is still an act of sex. Sun Myung Moon hurt a young woman by doing this. That is why I gave up on being ‘restored’ two more times.”
Pastor Deok Jin Kim, who also had ritual sex with Shin Hee Eu, testified that he participated in Moon’s sex rituals to satisfy his own lust:
“I selected about 15 or 16 beautiful women, not only in Seoul but also in Taegu and Pusan, and had sex with all of them. I had sex with five women in Seoul. Apparently the group became 72 after a week. This was the result of practicing the principle.”
Sun-gil Choi, Moon’s first wife (before he married Hak Ja Han), came out after the publication of the book to tell the Weekly Post that she divorced Moon because of his extramarital affairs:
“My husband made relationships one after another by deceiving those women. I kept thinking that I couldn’t bear such a life any longer – so this was the reason for my divorce.”
In 1955, Moon allegedly began the sex rituals again with the students and faculty of Ewha Woman’s University in South Korea. As Jeong Ok Kim, the Dean of Students at Ewha, told the Weekly Post in 1993, “Sun Myung Moon of the Unification Church wanted to create one large family group by having sexual relationships with many women. He was aiming for world domination through using their strong connections.”
Church apologists seize upon the fact the a court found Moon innocent of adultery charges to dismiss the scandal. However, another Professor Kim from Ewha told the paper Sagae in 1957 that the women’s families were too ashamed to have them testify, “The parents forced their daughters not to give any evidence at Moon’s trial, so that no shame would be brought to their families. For this reason the adultery charges against Moon could not be proved.” Hyo Min Eu supported such reasoning in a 1993 interview with Friday magazine, “as for the matter of Mr. Moon being found innocent, it was because there were no complaints from these women or their husbands.”
Church apologists also point to Pak’s retraction of The Six Marys in 1995 as evidence that the sex ritual allegations are false. We should keep in mind, however, the circumstances under which this retraction was gained. The Church had a lot influence in Korea, as religious scholar and Moon biographer, Frederick Sontag, once observed, “In Korea, one even senses a fear, like one induced by the Mafia, among the opposition, and in this country the outspoken opponents speak of death threats.”
In fact, in 1994, religious scholar Myeong Hwa Tahk, who wrote the introduction to The Six Marys, was murdered by a member of another sect only weeks after Moon said that those who opposed him would die. Even if Moon was not involved, the murder likely had a chilling effect on critics. Pak’s apology was also only made after repeated interviews with Japanese Church authorities. The aging Pak had also suffered a stroke that prevented the use of his left arm and was clearly in a vulnerable state.
Furthermore, none of the other members who testified for Six Marys ever retracted their testimonies. The Six Marys is also consistent with findings from a U.S. govt subcommittee, as well as investigations from the FBI, that the Church’s origins could be traced to ritual sex. Between 1991 and 1992, the Church even held Japanese workshops justifying pikareum in anticipation of The Six Marys. Finally, Moon’s own son, Sean Moon, who runs a gun cult in Pennsylvania, admitted in 2015 that his father engaged in the sex rituals. Moon’s other son, Justin, who helps run the gun cult, also admitted to the ritual sex.
Moon’s sexual affairs continued well after the early days of the Church. Moon told his daughter-in-law, Nansook Hong, that he had providential affairs with other women. It has also been revealed that Moon had one of these affairs with Annie Choi, who had a child out of wedlock named Sam Park. Choi, by the way, had also witnessed the sex rituals of the early days. Knowing how embarrassing this was, the Church tried for years to hide Park’s existence, that was, until Park himself started speaking out against his father.
Some Church apologists may find it suspect that these people only started to speak out in the 1990s, several decades after the alleged events. However, around this same time of The Six Marys publication, the Korean “comfort women” who were victims of the Japan’s forced prostitution during WWII, also began to testify for the first time. I don’t think that these events are a coincidence. After the democratization of South Korea in 1987, the citizens felt more open to speak about the controversial and sensitive issues they had suffered in silence during the dictatorship. Indeed, Pak noted in the introduction to The Six Marys, that the dictatorship’s relations with the Church prevented him from speaking out. The lifeblood of democracy, after all, is the public square, and the voices of the past would not be silent.
4. Unificationism is bigoted against Jews and the LGBT
“…what happened in His passion cannot be charged against all the Jews, without distinction, then alive, nor against the Jews of today. Although the Church is the new people of God, the Jews should not be presented as rejected or accursed by God, as if this followed from the Holy Scriptures.”
“If someone comes to me and asks whether homosexuality is okay or not, I will ask ‘What is your companion’s opinion?’ If you both agree, then I think I would say, ‘If two males or two females voluntarily agree to have mutual satisfaction without further implication of harming others, then it is okay.”
- Tenzin Gyatso, the 14th Dalai Lama, Buddhist religious leader, and peace activist for Tibetan rights
“I would refuse to go to a homophobic heaven. No, I would say sorry, I mean I would much rather go to the other place. I would not worship a God who is homophobic...”
- Archbishop Desmond Tutu, anti-apartheid peace activist
Unificationism claims that it wants to create one True Family under God. Bigotry should be antithetical to this goal, but alas, hateful teachings towards the Jews and the LGBT community are central to the theology of the Church.
The antisemitism of Unificationism is rooted in the outdated Christian idea of “Jewish Deicide,” or the idea that the Jewish people deserve particular blame for the rejection and death of Jesus. This concept has led to hundreds of years of Jewish persecution in Christian Europe. Frank K. Flinn, a professor of religious studies at Washington University, has argued that it was the Romans who executed Jesus because they saw him as a political threat: “Had the Jewish authorities been directly involved, Jesus would have been stoned, as Stephen was in Acts 7. Only Roman authorities could authorize crucifixions and they often did so on a gruesome, massive scale.”
Moreover, the idea that Pontius Pilate would have given the Jews a say in Jesus’ execution is absurd, given his famously strained relationship with the Jews, which even included a massacre of Samaritans that led to him being replaced by Rome. The Gospel writers may have had a number of reasons to exaggerate Jewish responsibility, according to The Daily Beast: “They may have been trying to avoid attracting attention from the Romans. They may have been embroiled in religious disputes with other Jews who rejected their claims about Jesus. They may have been trying to “divorce Jesus from Judaism” in order to win Roman converts.”
In conclusion, “Jewish Deicide” has no basis in historical fact, and yet Unificationism not only teaches it, but takes it one more gruesome step further. It states that the Holocaust of six million Jews by Nazi Germany was a direct result of the Jews rejecting Jesus. This is because according to the Unificationist principle of “indemnity,” you may be asked to pay for the crimes of your ancestors. This framing of the Holocaust as payment of an ancestral debt is meant as a warning to those who would reject the True Parents:
“Since Jesus was actually killed and God’s will was not upheld, there was an enormous amount of indemnity to pay. In fact, it was not fulfilled until after the last World War, when a staggering number of people had to suffer. Six million is an enormous number of people.
“Whoever helps to kill True Parents can never be forgiven. At the time of the Second Coming, this phenomenon also comes to be seen. The children who go against the Parents cannot be tolerated. It’s like the heavens as well as the earth cannot tolerate them. Do you follow?”
Though not even the Holocaust was enough of a payment for Moon. In another speech, Moon had the audacity to call on the Jews in his audience to repent, and once more, there is the implicit threat that the Holocaust could happen again if they reject him:
“Who are the Jewish members here, raise your hands! Jewish people, you have to repent. Jesus was the King of Israel. Through the principle of indemnity Hitler killed 6 million Jews. That is why. God could not prevent Satan from doing that because Israel killed the True Parents. Even now, you have to determine that you will repent and follow and become one with Christianity through Rev Moon.”
In other words, Moon trivialized the Holocaust by making it about himself. He took a Jewish genocide and made it about a Christian messiah. For him, the root cause of the Shoah was not the Nazis, Europe’s history of antisemitism, or the world’s indifference. It was the Jews themselves.
Now, the existence of same-sex love presents a particular problem for Moon’s theology. After all, if God intended for love to only be between one man and one woman, then how do you explain homosexuality? The answer is by framing queerness as perverse behavior which is an outgrowth of Satan’s lineage.
It is evident, however, that Moon lacked an educated understanding of homosexuality and should not be taken as an authority on the subject. He claimed that since homosexuality was not in God’s will, it could not be found in nature, “Even in the insect world there isn’t any mix-up in that standard. Even in the animal kingdom there is no such confusion in their natural setting. No other group in creation has this problem.” This is a complete falsehood, as the Scientific American once observed, homosexuality “has been observed in over 1,500 animal species, from primates to sea stars, bats to damselflies, snakes to nematode worms.” He also claimed that the love shared between same-sex couples is devoid of any real happiness, “Can you imagine lesbians and homosexuals—do you think they are smiling when they take off their clothes? All their smiles are false.” I think that they might beg to differ.
Moon even made the prediction that if we permitted gay marriage, that human beings would go extinct within two generations. The apparent implication being that if we legalize gay marriage, then everyone will suddenly become gay and stopping having children. Same-sex marriage was first legalized in the Netherlands in 2001 and a generation is around 20 years long, so if human beings go extinct in 2041, then we will know that Moon was right.
Consider: Jesus called on people to forgive their enemies, to refrain from judging others, and avoided condemning homosexuals in his sermons. Moon, who claims to be Jesus’s successor, saw the LGBT as little more than “dung-eating dogs,” and further stated that it was wrong to love them:
“Those people who love dung eating dogs must have some problem. Especially American people, and American leaders. If they truly love such dogs, they also become like dung eating dogs and produce that quality of life. If such dogs are around can’t you smell them? Do you want to be close to them or far away?”
Any student of history knows where this sort of rhetoric leads to. And indeed, during a “God’s Day” speech in 2004, Moon spoke of an era of peace, where all evils would be purged, including the LGBT:
“There will be a purge on God’s orders, and evil will be eliminated like shadows. Gays will be eliminated, the three Israels will unite. If not then they will be burned. We do not know what kind of world God will bring but this is what happens. It will be greater than the communist purge but at God’s orders.”
This is genocidal language. Made all the more grotesque when you recall that many homosexuals were murdered in the Holocaust. Moon may have loathed communism’s godlessness, but he had no problem with Stalinist purges against his enemies. Indeed, through Unificationism’s bigotry towards Jews and the LGBT, we can observe how callously the theology values the lives of those that go against its teachings.
5. Unificationism uses guilt and phobias to maintain obedience
“Fear is the main source of superstition, and one of the main sources of cruelty. To conquer fear is the beginning of wisdom.”
“Who wants to be always in debt to someone who never asked them if they wanted the loan in the first place?”
- Christopher Hitchens, writer and atheist
The God of Unificationism is a God of Suffering. He is an impotent God that is injured by the slightest transgression. In Unificationism, it is taught that God is in a constant state of torture due to his sadness over mankind’s repeated failures since the Fall. Thus, when you fail to obey True Father, you are adding to God’s pain. It is this guilt which is used to manipulate you into obeying Moon and his abusive form of God.
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Indeed, Unificationism often stressed that your personal problems are minuscule compared to the pain that God has endured since the Fall, to quote Moon, “God’s suffering is the only true suffering. No one but God is truly entitled to use the word ‘suffering.’ ” Moon also called on his followers to “Never shed tears for yourself” and even implored them to “shed tears beyond self-centered suffering and misery.”
Moon is held up as the ideal man, the only one who understands the suffering heart of God because of what we call “Father’s Course.” We were raised on stories on Moon being tortured by the Japanese fascists under their occupation of Korea, and then by the North Korean communists while he languished in Heungnam prison camp. While Moon’s torture was, no doubt, reprehensible, he framed his ordeal as repayment for 6,000 years of man’s failure to unite with God. To quote an early disciple of Moon, Rev. Won Pil Kim, “The Hung Nam prison was hell on earth. Father chose the most difficult job in hell in order to liberate all the resentment the predecessors had left in the Providence.”
Thus, the only way to get closer to God’s heart is to suffer. He won’t accept you otherwise: “If you are trying to be comfortable in a religious life, it cannot work. Those who study God will suffer more if they are to close to God.” Moon has warned that Heaven is place where “only those who have triumphed over the suffering of hell can enter.” He also reminded us that good things only come to those who suffer: “Blessing does not come in a comfortable situation, but should come after you go over the hill of suffering and the cross.”
Thus, you will suffer in ways big and small through the principle of “indemnity.” As I mentioned earlier, indemnity is when you suffer in some way in order to repay a spiritual debt. This can either be for your sins or for those of your ancestors. Nothing occurs by chance in Unificationism. When something bad happens to you, it is believed that you are paying indemnity of some sort. This concept keeps members obedient to Moon, because they fear what indemnity might come should they oppose him. Many members choose to voluntarily pay off some indemnity through what are called “conditions,” such as cold showers, fasting, or fund-raising. It is believed that by doing so, you pay off some spiritual debt and may avoid the worst consequences of the principle.
Rhonda Bryne’s New Age book, The Secret, was quite popular in Moonie circles, because it proposed that “negative” thinking will bring you misfortune and vice-versa. This idea affirmed the Unificationist teaching that you must accept indemnity with a heart of gratitude, however terrible the payment demanded. After all, unless you’ve grieved for 6,000 years as God as, you have no right to complain, as Moon once said:
“Your attitude will decide the amount of blessing. Are you ready? If an extraordinary grief or tragedy hits you, are you ready to thank God and ask what is next? You know the law of indemnity; you cannot expect only good things and then curse God when unpleasant things happen. With knowledge of indemnity there should be nothing you cannot bear. That is the attitude of those who truly know God.”
Of course, the Catch 22 of Unificationism is that indemnity can never be paid off in full. Moon expects you to do conditions for the rest of your life. There will never be a point at which you can call yourself an ideal man and be the equal of True Parents. You are expected to be in subservience to them forever. Moon once said, “Unless you suffer more than all the prophets and sages who emerged in history, you will forfeit the position of being able to stand before God.” Can anyone beside the messiah ever hope to achieve such a standard?
Satan may be God’s enemy, but he and his army of demons are often the executors of indemnity payments. The genius of Unificationism’s totalitarian theology is that it doesn’t require a singular Big Brother to watch constantly over your shoulder. It instead encourages the members to conjure their own little brothers in the form of evil spirits. I was told that there were hundreds of tiny spirits on my finger, influencing my every decision and thought. Satan and his minions were in your very flesh. So if you fell asleep during an early church reading or kissed a girl on a date, you were giving in to Satan, to quote Moon, “In man the mind is on God’s side and the body is on Satan’s side. When heaven gives an order the mind follows but the body does not. If the body refuses to move then it becomes satanic.”
This spiritual totalitarianism is also the reason why Moon requires members to have many photos of him in their households. It is so you can feel his presence constantly watching over you. Even in the privacy of your own home, you will never be out of his sight.
6. Unificationism values its dogma over human life
“I’m pledging in my heart of hearts; Father my life is for you.”
- “Grace of the Holy Garden,” Unificationist holy song.
In Unificationism, human life is cheap. Our grief is inferior to God’s grief and our suffering is small compared to Moon’s suffering. Human history, and all the tragedies therein, are reframed as a cosmic struggle between God and Satan. In this theory of history, human lives are little more than fungible objects to be sacrificed en masse to build the foundation for the Kingdom of Heaven. Moon sat upon a throne of blood.
Unificationism is very much a proponent of collective punishment. You are either on God’s side or Satan’s, and if you are unfortunate enough to find yourself on Satan’s side, you will be subject to God’s wrath, regardless of how good of a person you may be. The Exposition of the Divine Principle stresses that you must not see these things from a human perspective, but in light of God’s providence. It uses as an example the genocidal actions against the Canaanites in the Bible (the historicity of which is very much in doubt):
“Likewise, the Israelites invaded the land of Canaan and killed many Canaanites seemingly without much justification. To someone ignorant of God’s providence, their action might seem evil and cruel; nevertheless, it was just in the sight of God. Even if there were more good-hearted people among the Canaanites than among the Israelites, at that time the Canaanites collectively belonged to Satan’s side, while the Israelites collectively belonged to God’s side.”
This belief becomes more upsetting when it is applied to more recent atrocities, like World War I. Moon’s Exposition justifies the war as a necessary condition to establish the Second Advent of the Messiah. It makes no mention of the rising nationalisms that led to the cataclysm, the butchery of the trenches, the chemical warfare, the Sykes-Picot agreement, the reparations on Germany, or the Armenian Genocide. The poor Germans who were drafted to die for the egos of their leaders were no more “satanic” than the poor Brits and Frenchmen who were forced to do the same. It makes no mention that the nations on “God’s side,” Britain and France, were running brutal colonial campaigns in India and Vietnam. Why was God not with the Christian pacifists, like Jane Addams, who opposed the war? Why would a loving God involve himself in the foolishness of a meaningless conflict? Unificationism does a great disservice to the victims of WWI, and has no right associate itself with the word “peace.”
Now, what does accepting such a perverse theology mean in practice? It means that the needs of the dogma outweigh the needs of the individual. That you are to accept the demands of the faith, even if it contradicts the pull of your conscience. Robert J. Lifton, a psychiatrist who studied eight “mind control” techniques in Maoist China, has identified this concept as doctrine over person, in which the individual experience is subjugated to fit within the myths of the ideology:
“For when the myth becomes fused with the totalist sacred science, the resulting "logic" can be so compelling and coercive that it simply replaces the realities of individual experience. Consequently, past historical events are retrospectively altered, wholly rewritten, or ignored, to make them consistent with the doctrinal logic.”
We can see the detrimental effects of “doctrine over person” through the lives of two women in the Moon family: Un Jin Moon and Nansook Hong. Both of whom were arranged to be married by Moon himself. Un Jin, Moon’s daughter, was married to Jin Hun Park, while Hong married Moon’s son, Hyo Jin. Being members of the messiah’s True Family, it was expected that they would be well-treated by their husbands, who had pure blood lineage, but this was not the case.
Un Jin suffered domestic violence from her husband, and when she appealed to Moon about it, he told her that she deserved it for not being an obedient wife. Hong was similarly abused by Hyo Jin, who was well-known for his love of guns, drugs, and violence. Moon, meanwhile, was an absentee parent, far too interested in promoting himself to discipline his own son. He victim-blamed Hong for not being a loving wife. Hong later left the Moons and published a memoir where she described their cruelty up close, including an unsettling moment when a cocaine-addled Hyo Jin beats her while pregnant as his brother-in-law, Jin Sung Park, laughed away.
Profiles In Conscience: Nansook Hong
NOTE: The following essay is an abridged summary of an unfinished series of essays about the Unification Church. Upon…
Consider: Moon taught that two teenagers having sex was the worst crime in history, and yet he was indifferent to the domestic violence rampant in his own family. All to maintain the fiction that his family was sinless and that his marriages were holy. Un Jin and Hong were expected to accept their suffering as part of their spiritual course, to quote Hong, “I believed that my mission was to be a good wife, and that my mission was to help him change. But he had no desire to change.”
Is this the example of Christ?
The tragic experiences of Un Jin and Hong are the apotheosis of Unificationism. A theology which justifies atrocities under the guise of providence, which treats women as breeding machines to further a blood lineage, and which values the narcissism of its founder over the souls of mankind. It is only inevitable then, that with this sort of barbaric thinking, that such repulsive horrors would make themselves known.
“I have sworn upon the altar of god eternal hostility against every form of tyranny over the mind of man.”
A divine principle that demands the blood of the innocent because of the acts of our ancestors is not a moral principle. A theology of the body which demands abstinence for the laity but has loopholes for its messiah is no law worth respect. A religion which privileges the feelings of invisible spirits over the suffering of human beings is of no benefit to our lives. A messiah who justifies unjust war and condemns dating offers no salvation worth seeking. A god who is helpless before such a cruel spirituality, is neither a god, nor worth any decent person’s worship.
I am a humanist. I believe that all human beings are born as equals, and that we are not split into castes of pure and dirty blood. I believe that instead of subjecting ourselves to needless suffering, that we should seek to reduce suffering for all. I believe that we should not judge people for what they do in their bedrooms, but for how they treat their neighbors. I believe that people should only be judged by their own crimes, and not by those of their forefathers. I believe that everyone has the freedom to love and to marry whomever they wish, but also that a person’s value is not dependent on whether they choose to marry. I believe that love and reason should be our guides to determining the truth, not fear and guilt. I do not believe that it is selfish to follow your bliss and to do what makes you happy. Nor do I believe that helping your neighbor means being a servant in another man’s kingdom.
That is why I am not a Moonie.
Addendum: An Open Letter To A Skeptical Unificationist
NOTE: I wrote this on my old blog on 2015, around four years after I had left the Moonies. It was written in reply to an anonymous member who began to question the cult, but feared the consequences. It is probably my only pre-Medium piece about the Moonies which I still stand by. If you are in the Unification Church and are questioning it, I pray that this old letter will serve as a guide. It has also been reposted on many ex-member sites over the years, including How Well Do You Know Your Moon and The Tragedy of the Six Marys.
I, too, was afraid of becoming an apostate.
I had been raised under the belief that Sun Myung Moon was the Messiah since the age of nine. I hardly knew any other life outside of the faith, aside from Catholicism. I was taught, as you were taught, that Moon and his wife were the “True Parents”, an invaluable gift for mankind’s salvation. We were given a rare opportunity not to reject God’s messenger as other generations had. To finally bring about Heavenly Father’s Kingdom On Earth, the Cheong Il Guk. We have yet to see that ideal world we were promised, and I’m sure you know that many divisions have arisen in the Church since Moon’s death over how best to realize this ideal.
What I’m not going to tell you is whether to stay or leave the Church. That’s a decision, I believe, you should have to make for yourself. I don’t know about you, but I feared that leaving the Church, Heavenly Father’s gift, would bring me into the arms of Satan. Much of my motivation for staying, then, was based on this fear of turning away from God, as the Church understood him. If it is guilt or fear that is keeping you tied to the Church, then you must ask yourself, are these the emotions I want to commit me to this belief system? Is such a mindset healthy? Yes, I was afraid, but if I was going to dedicate the rest of my life to following Moon, it had to be because my heart wanted to do it. Otherwise, if I couldn’t commit fully, why commit to the doctrine at all?
I had recently taken a critical thinking class in college, and I began to apply the reasoning of the scientific method to my beliefs in the Church. This basically amounted to weighing the arguments for and against Moon’s messianic authority, then deciding for myself which ones made more sense, which ones seemed to carry more weight. In my research, I found that others like Nansook Hong, Steve Hassan, Donna Orme Collins, and Un Jin Moon had left the Church, to no notable Satanic horrors. In other words, it became apparent that one could leave Unificationism and very well get along with life relatively unharmed. Recognizing that these fears of Satanic seizure had been greatly exaggerated, will grant you a clearer head in making the decision whether or not to keep following Moon.
There are other exercises I’d recommend for you. One would be to look at the claims Moon makes for himself and then look at his behavior. Does Moon’s behavior seem consistent with his claims, the claims of a moral messianic leader? I’d also ask you to read the Bible, if you haven’t already, since Moon claims to follow in the Biblical tradition. Though I’d ask that you read the Bible on its own terms, ignoring any interpretations of it made by Moon’s Divine Principle. Is what is written in the Bible, particularly those teachings of Christ, consistent with what the Principle teaches, or how Moon has lived his life? While we’re on the topic of the Principle, has anything in that book ever made you uncomfortable on an ethical level? If so, ask yourself why. Do the ends ever justify the means in the Principle? If so, what reasons are given to justify those ends? Do these reasons seem to come more out of moral necessity that considers the individual in pursuit of the goal, or do these reasons feel more like rationalizations that privilege the goal over the individual? What sounds more just to you?
As you know, there are people other than Unificationists who have been able to lead morally fulfilling lives. You may have been taught that they belong to the “fallen world”. Ask yourself if the “fallen world” is really as terrible as you had been lead to believe. No doubt, people outside of the Church can do bad things, but are not people inside of the Church also capable of committing similar behaviors? If so, ask yourself what really differentiates a person in the Church from a person outside of it. If it is possible to lead a moral and even a religious life outside of Moon’s teachings, then seriously consider what it is about a belief in Moon that cannot be grasped elsewhere.
Do not be afraid to investigate cherished ideologies and dogmas, religious or secular, in accordance with the scientific method. And like Thomas Paine and Thomas Jefferson, two of the founders of the United States, you must follow reason wherever it may lead. In this commitment there may be a struggle, but the fruits of clarity you will receive, I think, are worth any personal cost. It is better to believe what you believe because it is consistent with your own common sense, than to believe it out of a blind obligation to tradition or sentimentality. I’ll leave you now with the words of Christ, and I pray that you’ll make a decision that best suits your own conscience.
“You will know the truth, and truth will set you free.”