Sun Myung Moon Still AroundThe leader of the heterodox Unification Church who made headlines in the 1970s is leaving a troubling legacy.
Here’s a quiz for you. Who is behind the Washington Times? Who claims to be the fulfilment of the Second Coming? Who is said to have brought about the demise of Communism? Who claims to have found a bride for Jesus Christ? Who had a palace built in his honour? Who believes he has liberated all humanity, Satan and even God?
Answer: Sun Myung Moon.
Born on January 6, 1920, Moon claims a divine visitation from Jesus at Easter in 1935. He started preaching in the early 1950s after UN forces liberated him from a North Korean Communist prison. His Unification Church was officially founded in 1954. He visited the United States in 1965 and moved there in 1971. He and his followers (who prefer to be called Unificationists, not Moonies) supported Richard Nixon during the Watergate crisis. That and the mass Unification weddings made Moon famous and controversial with further notoriety when he went to prison in 1984 for income tax evasion.
Moon announced he is the Messiah after prison release in the summer of 1985. That is the least of the signals that he has long departed his Christian roots. He denies the doctrine of the Trinity, salvation by grace alone, the supremacy of Jesus and the sole authority of Scripture. He teaches that Jesus was the illegitimate child of Zacharias and Mary. According to Moon, Calvary was a backup option since Jesus failed to get married while on Earth. Unificationists teach that Jesus regrets Christians have not recognized Moon as the Messiah.
Moon also teaches that his 1960 wedding is the Marriage Supper of the Lamb. Holy wine from that ceremony cleanses from sin. Followers must use holy salt blessed by Moon to purify their bodies and homes. Moon himself claims to be sinless and advises that Christians should take down the cross since it is a symbol of division and failure. Unificationists pay for ancestral liberation on both sides of the family all the way back to creation. Moon brags he provided Jesus with a Korean bride several years ago. Alleged revelations from Jesus tell how happy he is in his newly married state.
Moon also claims to possess a letter of repentance from Lucifer who has long known that Moon is victor. In spite of heresy and controversy, Moon has enormous public success. He has founded major newspapers (including the Washington Times), universities, a ballet company and significant academic organizations, including the professors World Peace Academy. He attracts international leaders to his events (including former President George H.W. Bush) and has had private meetings with Mikhail Gorbachev and former Korean leader Kim Il Sung. He was even crowned king in a Senate building in Washington in 2004 and in his own palace in Korea in 2007.
King or not, Evangelicals should protest the regular mistreatment of Moon’s followers. The most urgent case now involves the sentencing of Unification missionary Elizaveta Drenicheva in Kazakhstan on January 9 to two years in prison. She was convicted of breaking Article 164 in Part 2 of the Criminal Code for “having violated the peace and security of humanity.” You can raise your concerns with the Kazakhstan embassy in Ottawa (see www.kazconsul.ca for contact details) or write Margaret Skok, the Canadian ambassador.
Moon is still going strong despite his age and a helicopter crash last July. His movement is strong in South Korea and Japan but has shrunk in North America to only a few thousand followers. Sadly, Moon shows no signs of recognizing his own hubris and folly in building a gospel of his own making. Three of Moon’s children already have significant roles in his church but they are firmly in the grip of their father’s ideology. Nansook Hong, a former daughter-in-law, is a different story. She was raised Unificationist and married Hyo Jin, Moon’s eldest son.
Her life inside the Moon family shredded her faith in Moon as the Messiah. Her book In the Shadow of the Moons is a gripping account that powerful and dark forces can be defeated. She writes: “I believe that it was God who opened my eyes and God who gave me both the strength to survive and the courage to flee.”
James A. Beverley is professor of Christian thought and ethics at Tyndale Seminary in Toronto. He did his PhD thesis on the Unification Church.
Originally published in Faith Today, March/April 2009.
Used with permission. Copyright © 2009 Christianity.ca.