The Unification Church was founded in 1954 by Sun Myung Moon, a Korean minister who fled from North Korea during the Korean War.
The full original name of the church is The Holy Spirit Association for the Unification of World Christianity, but in the 1980s and 1990s it began to change its name to The Family Federation for World Peace and Unification (nickname: "family fed"). For legal and public relations purposes, the group still uses the name Unification Church.
Members were initially dubbed "Moon Children" by the U.S. media around 1973-1974, although this nickname was quickly shortened to "Moonies", a term now primarily used by critics.
The Unification Church is among the more controversial religious organizations in the United States and other nations. Although the US government recognized it as a bona fide religion entitled to organize as tax exempt status, it has attracted a huge number of opponents who denounce it as a money-laundering cult, including the Japanese Supreme Court, which in 1997 upheld a conviction for fraud against Moon's group.
Members of the Unification Church generally consider Rev. Moon to be the new Messiah. Many outside of the Unification Church consider it non-Christian because of this belief.
In 2002, the church published a message which it says describes a conference at which all the historical founders of all other religions have recently, in heaven, proclaimed Moon's messiahship (see Clouds of Witnesses).
According to Unification Church (UC) tradition, Jesus appeared to a 15-year-old Korean boy named Moon Yong-myung at Easter time in 1935. He asked the boy to help him with the accomplishment of the work left unaccomplished after his crucifixion. After a period of prayer and consideration the boy accepted the mission, later changing his name to Moon Sun-myung (i.e., Sun Myung Moon).
The authenticity of this encounter has been vigourously challenged by Christian theologians and church leaders. Some of these challengers interpret the UC view as a claim that Jesus "failed" and take great umbrage at this claim. The UC call this interpretation a misunderstanding and insists that Jesus did not "fail" (see Jesus and John the Baptist).
The beginnings of the Church's official publication, the Divine Principle, are said to have seen written form as early as 1945 (though the book is listed as having been officially published in 1956). Syn Myung Moon himself is known to have travelled to North Korea as a preacher after the end of World War II, and was imprisoned in 1946. He was liberated from prison, along with many North Koreans, by American forces during the Korean War.
The date commonly cited as the actual foundation of the organization is May 1, 1954, with the foundation by Moon of the Holy Spirit Association for the Unification of World Christianity. In 1958 he sent missionaries to Japan and in 1959 to America. Moon himself moved to the United States in 1971. They established his church's presence in San Francisco first, then quickly spread to most of the nation's most populous cities.
Critics of the Unification Church have accused the organization of being closely involved with covert CIA-authored operations against Communism in Korea during the 1960s. The Church is known to have been involved with weapon and munitions manufacturing in Korea during the 1960s, as documented in a 1978 United States Congressional Report on the Unification Church.
Moon took a full-page ad in major newspapers defending President Richard M. Nixon at the height of the Watergate Controversy. His message of "Forgive, Love, Unite" was predictably not well received, and Rev. Moon sent out missionaries to 120 countries to act in part as "lightning rods" to receive persecution. Since that time, the Moon organization has been seen as continually trying to court and influence the conservative right.
The church differentiates itself from traditional Christianity through its novel view of the Trinity and by its strong denial that Jesus' death was a preordained necessity. Like other traditional Christians, however, they do believe that his death serves as a redemption of humanity's sins and that his resurrection was a victory over death for all eternity.
The church further teaches that:
- God appointed Jesus to establish the Kingdom of Heaven on earth, preferably in his lifetime. Due to the failure of the Jewish people to accept "him whom He had sent" (John 6:29), Jesus had to go the alternate course of dying on the cross. (See the section on the role of Elijah below.)
- With the mission of establishing God's kingdom unfulfilled, He will appoint another Messiah to accomplish His purpose. "I have purposed, and I will do it. I have spoken, and I will bring it to pass." (Isaiah 46:11).
- Another teaching of the church, at odds with most of the rest of Christianity, is that in the Last Days, Satan will be brought to repentance and become a good angel again.
The role of Elijah
The church's understanding of the role of Elijah is important in terms of Jesus and his claim to be the Messiah.
Based on biblical texts (especially in Matthew), the church believes that Jesus was appointed by God to be the Messiah, not only for the Jewish people but for all of humanity. Elijah, understood to come before the Messiah, had the role of harbinger or forerunner. He was to reveal to Israel and the world the identity of the Messiah and work with him to usher in the kingdom of Heaven.
In particular, John the Baptist was to play the role of Elijah in relation to his kinsman Jesus. The prophecies concerning his birth ("spirit and power of Elijah" and "make ready for the Lord a people prepared") are held by the church to support this view. Indeed, John's perceived failure to provide active support for Jesus is seen as the primary reason that the Jewish people did not recognize Jesus as the Messiah.
Celibacy and marriage
The Unification Church uses the term "absolute sex" to refer to its teaching about sexual morality, which is essentially abstinence before marriage and fidelity thereafter.
During the church's period of early growth (1970-1985 in America), most church members lived in intentional communities.
During the 20th century, members of the Unification Church could marry only another member of the church. With few exceptions, marriage with a non-member was not recognized as valid by the church, and all members' marriages were arranged by Rev. Moon personally. In 2001, the church relaxed this rule somewhat, allowing parents to arrange (or approve) their children's choice of spouses.
Many members considered it the ultimate test of their faith to accept a match arranged by Moon, and the church's increasingly large marriage blessings have attracted much notice. These group weddings, known as "mass marriage," have been Moon's calling card, and he has presided over mass marriages of groups of hundreds or even (in a few special cases) of thousands of couples at once. Many of the arranged marriages paired people from different countries. The church has been accused of doing so because of immigration rules. Opposing religious groups, and several governments (most notably the government of Japan), have refused to accept the legitimacy of these mass marriages. Statements by Moon's critics and opponents claim regarding this ritual include the claim that the impersonality of large numbers of people all being married by a single minister negates the intimacy and person-to-person emotional and spiritual connection between the participants in the ceremony; some have considered Moon's mass marriages to be a "mockery" of the institution of marriage.
Some members consider the church poorly understood by outsiders, who have found it hard to imagine how people could marry strangers under the direction of the church leader. The passionate and sudden dedication of thousands of American young people, whom critics referred disparagingly to as "Moonies", to this new religious movement led to accusations, government investigations and a negative press image.
The principle of Indemnity
A little-known church teaching is that by willingly enduring mistreatment (the principle of Indemnity), one can receive God's blessing. The principle apparently bore fruit in the 1980s, after Rev. Moon served 11 months of an 18-month sentence for what the church considers trumped-up charges of tax evasion and conspiracy to obstruct justice. Christian ministers, particularly from the black community, rallied around Rev. Moon.
Theology and philosophy
theology, fall of man, theory of education, love, God's Message to the United Nations
The Divine Principle
The book entitled Divine Principle is seen as the foundation of the Unification Church. The Church teaches that God is the author of the Divine Principle, though the book itself was apparently compiled by Hyo-won Eu (the first president of the Unification Church). The book is believed to be Hyo Won Eu's personal notes based upon transcribed dictations of Sun Myung Moon's sermons and revelations. The book was written between 1951 and 1952; it was officially published in English on September 25th, 1956; while the Korean Version: Wolli Haesol (or "Explanation of the Principle") was published on August 15th, 1957.
Many of Moon's sermons, speeches, and directives have been collected and archived by the Unification Church. Known in the Church as Master Speaks, access to these texts have been strictly controlled by the organization. Quotations and excerpts of the Master Speaks series have been the source of many of the more controversial doctrines of Moon's organization. Critics of the Unification Church claim that Master Speaks takes precedence over both the organization's publicized Divine Principle and even before the Bible itself, and that it is the true doctrine of the organization -- a doctrine that is not often revealed to outsiders, when it is revealed at all.
The Unification Church (and Rev. Moon personally) has accumulated an enormous quantity of money, invested much of it, and consequently has a controlling interest in many companies, including Pyonghwa Motors. It is considered to be among the strongest forces in South Korean politics, among other causes in favor of a closer relationship with North Korea.
The UC is also something of a force in American politics. It established and continues to own and fund the right-wing Washington Times and also UPI newswire, and has also established many prominent groups to advocate sexual abstinence. In general the positions supported by the UC are similar to those of more mainstream conservative Christians.
In the United States the church owns fishing interests, which are for-profit businesses and pay taxes, even in years when they lose money. The biggest are in Gloucester, Massachusetts, Alaska and Louisiana. In Kodiak, Alaska the church "runs a fleet of fishing boats ... [and is] the largest private employer." 
The church also runs a variety of other business including Atlantic Video , a Massachusetts Avenue video post-production facility; the University of Bridgeport in Bridgeport, Connecticut; and a cable television channel called the Goodlife TV Network.
See also: ICUS.
The church owns the Washington Times newspaper, a generally conservative and right-wing publication that, along with such smaller political publications as Insight magazine, further the organization's political views. Critics claim that the Washington Times has never turned a profit and continually loses money, but the Church continues to finance the paper because it gives the organization a political mouthpiece in Washington D.C. and Congress. In a similar vein, the purchase of the UPI news network by the Unification Church gives the organization a press seat aboard Air Force One.
The Unification Church has been a major financial backer of the World Anti-Communist League.
Some critics downplay or even dismiss entirely the religious aspects of the Unification Church. Its most ardent detractors in the US have branded it a "cult", claiming it has no other purpose than to enrich Rev. Moon personally or to advance his political aspirations. Moon claims he has no political aspirations and laughs at the idea that his followers are stupid enough to sacrifice themselves for his personal aggrandizement: "They are smart, idealistic and determined." (Newsweek International interview with Chesnoff and Nagorsky, 1973)
Rep. Donald Fraser asserted that the Unification Church and other related groups constitute a single, monolithic "Moon organization". Like-minded critics say accuse the church of working to further a political agenda in both the Far East and in the United States. Sun Myung Moon's controversial religious and political Unification Movement, which includes not only the Unification Church but an enormous constellation of civic organizations, including the Washington Times foundation, allied politically with such Washington, D.C. evangelical Christians as Jerry Falwell and Tim LaHaye. Advocates adhering to this point of view have challenged the church's tax-exempt status in the US, arguing that the political activities of church-related groups comprise an impermissible intrusion of the church into political areas.
Defenders of the church dismiss this argument, on the grounds that the Unification movement is properly divided into distinct organizations, each of which should be judged by the laws relating to its type. Thus, church-owned businesses pay taxes, while the church itself largely need not. When some church missionaries in New Hampshire decided to campaign for Ronald Reagan, they had to resign from the church (at least on paper) while conducting their non-church political activities (private communication from Dan Peterson and Tom Carter).
The church-related Collegiate Association for the Research of Principles (CARP), which has a different type of tax-exempt charter, has more freedom than the church itself to engage in political speech and hold demonstrations on political topics. Church treasurer Kevin Smith said (in 1992) that the church is not permitted by US law to give any money to CARP, a fact that even some low-level church leaders might not even be aware of (see talk).
Some critics of the Unification Church have complained about Moon declaring himself to be the Messiah, which they consider self-aggrandizement on his part, as well suggesting that Moon's intentions for his church are to place him above all other religious figures, including Jesus.
"In early July I spoke in five cities around Korea at rallies held by the Women's Federation for World Peace. There, I declared that my wife, WFWP President Hak Ja Han Moon, and I are the True Parents of all humanity. I declared that we are the Savior, the Lord of the Second Advent, the Messiah." -- Reverend Moon, Unification News, August 24, 1992
Accusations of anti-Semitism
In 1976, the American Jewish Committee accused Reverend Moon of anti-Semitism, based on his writings. Members of the Unification Church stoutly reject such accusations, and feel they have no merit. They felt the issue was so important that they issued a statement making their pro-Judaism and pro-Israeli position clear. See Unification Church and anti-Semitism.
In the United States in the 1970s Unificationists gained a reputation for high-pressure recruitment, and critics charged that they separated vulnerable college students from their families via alleged brainwashing or mind control.
Rev. Moon called these criticisms nonsense and claimed in 1976 that he had received many thank-you letters from parents whose children became closer to them after joining the movement. (In 1977, Moon had a notice posted in all Unification Churches in America, mandating that all members write their families no less than once every 10 days.)
Europe and Japan have been less welcoming. Moon and his wife remain banned from entry into Germany and the other 14 Schengen treaty countries, on the grounds that they are leaders of a sect that endangered the personal and social development of young people. Japan refuses to issue a visa on the grounds that Rev. Moon is a convicted felon (see Moon tax case ).
In 1978, Moon's group was the focus of a Congressional investigation that alleged widespread fraud as well as ties to the Koreagate influence-peddling scandal.
Authorities in Brazil and Paraguay have expressed concerns over the Church's purchases in recent years of enormous amounts of land in South America, ranging in the hundreds of thousands of acres.
In May of 2002, federal police in Brazil conducted a number of raids on organizations linked to Sun Myung Moon. In a statement, the police stated that the raids were part of a broad investigation into allegations of tax evasion and immigration violations by Moon's organization. The Moon-funded Association of Families for Unification and World Peace was the target of the raids, which took place in Rio de Janeiro, São Paulo, and the personal residence of Moon's primary representative in Brazil, Reverend Kim Yoon-sang.
- Nansook Hong: In the Shadow of the Moons. Little Brown & Company; ISBN 0316348163; (August 1998). The book is written by the ex-wife of Hyo Jin Moon, Rev. Moon's son (to whom she was married, handpicked by Rev. Moon, at 15 years of age) and details various abuses she claims to have suffered from members of the Moon family.
Last updated: 07-31-2005 05:44:45