Uncovering Hope

 

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Not long before Donald Trump announced victory, early on the morning of Wednesday, November 9, my brother Kento died.

I was in Italy, meeting him for the first time just days before he passed. There in the hospital, he was unable to speak or move much at all. But he squeezed my hand. And it meant the world to me.

Our hands touched.

And then he died.

It’s been a hard month. Hard to know what’s real. Some days, I find myself curled up on the floor, crying, not always sure about what. Other days, most days, I’m numb. Tired. I’ve been struggling to pray, talk, write. It’s hard to make sense of these things. Of anything.

A few days after Kento died, my family flew back to Trump’s America. Nothing makes sense.

On the other hand, it feels familiar.

I remember sitting on floors in New York, in Brazil, in South Korea. Always, my legs were crossed, as I listened to our self-proclaimed savior, the Reverend Sun Myung Moon, founder of the Unification Church and revered Second Coming of Christ. He talked for hours about how we should live, about the people we should avoid, about his own perfection. Hours and hours and hours. Of talk.

Much of it was hate – for gay people (“dung-eating dogs”), for women (American women were sluts), for black people (“little by little the color of black people will gradually become lighter”) – in the name of “peace.” His message took root in people like my parents, discontented idealists whose hurts and hopes he used to his own advantage.

People gave their lives and all they owned to serve Moon and his church.

Moon’s evangelistic successes made him feel powerful. Entitled. There were affairs. Sexual abuse and assault. Human trafficking. He arranged a marriage between two of his own children – half-siblings. In Moon’s mind, people were objects to be manipulated and used for his own purposes. His own successes. His own pleasure.

He was a deeply selfish man. And we worshiped him.

When I see Donald Trump or read his words, I think of Moon. The language he uses, his posture, his tone, the way his face moves. Trump thinks he’s better than other people. Trump believes he is our savior. Only he knows best. Only he counts. He is impulsive, controlling, demeaning. He takes advantage of people’s hurts and hopes in order to radicalize them, in order to get what he wants.

I know what one man can do with a religion. I don’t yet know what one similar man can do with a country.

And yet, somewhere deep in me, there’s hope.

My brother, Kento, was surrounded each day in that hospital by people who knew him and loved him – people who were also strangers to me. His kindness drew people in – they all had stories.

He squeezed my hand, and I am reminded of all the ways I’ve been held together by those who love me. I’ve felt God’s hands. God’s arms. I know what it is to be held by love.

Our hands touched, and then he was gone. But the rest of us. We’re still here.

Nothing makes sense right now. Except this.

We’re still here.

I’m still here.

And I need you. To help uncover the hope in me while I help uncover the hope in you.

Maybe that feels like drinking beer, watching as much Gilmore Girls as possible before the new mini-series is released, praying even though we’re not sure how or what for. Maybe it feels like church. A community of wounded healers.

Because strong men can’t take everybody captive. And others – once used up and thrown away – will need us more than ever. Maybe this is why I still believe in church, even though I’m disappointed by so much of it. We need each other. And as we show up for each other – even as we ache, even as we feel destroyed – we testify that love is worth it. We are worth it.

I can’t promise everything will be OK or that justice will prevail. We can already see that things are going to get a lot worse before they can get better. But I can promise you this: you don’t have to be alone. Come, sit down next to me, and I’ll hold your hand.

“Radical hope is our best weapon against despair, even when despair seems justifiable; it makes the survival of the end of your world possible. Only radical hope could have imagined people like us into existence. And I believe that it will help us create a better, more loving future.”Junot Diaz

Rev. Moon is still dead

sun-myung-moon-funeral

From Moon’s funeral (or Seunghwa ceremony, in Mooniespeak)

Rev. Moon passed away four years today. I’ve written a bit about my past in the Unification Church, but in summary: Rev. Moon was a narcissist that I was raised to believe was the second coming of Christ, the Messiah. And four years ago, I was still at Calvin College in Grand Rapids, Michigan when one of my best friends, somebody who knew about my past as a Moonie but was never himself involved in the Unification Church, walked into my dorm room and told me that he heard of Moon’s passing on CNN. I was shocked. I kind of brushed him off, tried to act normal, and went to the bathroom and struggled to breath.

I knew Moon was sick—critically sick even—yet the news of his death still managed to shut me down.

I imagined this day since I came to reject Moon as my personal savior. I thought I’d get drunk and celebrate with fellow ex-2nd generation, reminiscing on the pure wackiness of our childhoods and properly mourn, celebrate, and go through whatever other emotional processing needed. I thought I’d feel a deep sense of relief and liberation.

None of that really happened.

I was in Michigan, far from the friends I grew up with, and not knowing how to react to this information. I wished I knew how to explain the fucked-up relationship I had to this man who gave me a ginseng candy once. I’ve bowed to his picture thousands of times, venerated him since birth, as well as spent hours praying for him to repent, and in darker times I fantasized about confronting him, sneaking my way into his palace in Korea and forcing him to face the facts of his shitty reign as messiah. My experience and history with Moon was complicated, to say the least. And I felt trapped with my truth and story. Yes, I was surrounded by people I loved, but people who didn’t get it. Not the way I needed.

Tonight there is a gathering for ex-2nd generation in New York to “celebrate” Moon’s death. I know that sounds morally vile, and perhaps it isn’t going to be the most godly of events, but I actually really wish I could be there. What I would have done to be there four years ago. Instead of trekking out to Brooklyn, though, I am staying in, re-watching old episodes of Degrassi, putting together my new apartment, and maybe I’ll drink a few PBRs in celebration. Not to Moon’s death, per se, but in gratitude for how far so many of us have come post-Moon. I’m continually inspired by my friends who grew up beside me and found their place in the world.

I won’t lie, Moon still has a constant presence in my life. I cannot deny the impact he and the Unification Church have had on me. He even arranged my parents’ marriage. Without him, I wouldn’t be alive. He may be present in my heart and mind for the rest of my life, but I will say that he no longer has power over me. I can recognize his voice peeking in my subconscious at times and I see it for what it is: bullshit. And for that, I thank God.

For the True Father

I can shut you out
of my mind
for only so long
before I thumb you
shouting in the cleft
of my inner ear.

My muse, my guardian
angel, the anti-Christ,
stocky brute, father
to my father,
Bone and Stone.

Who would I be
without your stain,
without your mark
on my own name?

By your transgressions,
I am saved.

Why Do I Oppose the Unification Church?

At a morning Hoon Dok Hae service with Moon

I’m in the red box at a super early morning Hoon Dok Hae service with Moon

Since posting My Strange Relationship with the Mooniverse, I’ve had current members, both first and second generation, contact me. They often say that they understand to some extent on why I am “negative” (which is a dismissive term in the Unification Church), but they always assure me that the religion I grew up with is an overall positive thing for the world.

I am sorry, but I could not disagree enough.

I started my tumblr-blog How Well Do You Know Your Moon in 2009 with serious concerns over both the theology and the illegal and abusive activities of the UC. As I’ve continued to write and moderate this blog for the past six years, I’ve come to discover there are more layers of corruption in the Church than one could ever imagine.

So for those who are curious on why I take such a strong stand against the UC, I recently worked with the other writers of HWDYKYM to put together a brief explanation of the Unification Church and its corruption. This post is not comprehensive at all but somewhere to start in understanding the theology of the UC and their immoral and abusive practices.

Family Federation for World Peace and Unification (FFWPU) Logo

Family Federation for World Peace and Unification (FFWPU) Logo

What is the Unification Church? What do they believe?
The Unification Church, also known as the Family Federation for World Peace and Unification (FFWPU) or the Holy Spirit Association for the Unification of World Christianity (HSA-UWC), was formally founded in Seoul, Korea in 1954 by Sun Myung Moon and some early followers. Moon claimed to have inherited the mission of Jesus Christ, whose sudden death on the cross left his mission and work unfinished. Moon and his wife, Hak Ja Han, were to be the restored Adam and Eve, establishing God’s lineage on the Earth for the first time in all of history. The main textbook of the Unification Movement is the Divine Principle, which was first published as a book in 1957. The theology was almost completely borrowed from other messianic teachers in Korea, such as Kim Baek-Moon.

Providential Affairs and Moon’s Theology of Sex

Soon Hwa (Annie) Choi, one of Moon's providential lovers and mother to Moon's son, Sam Park

Soon Hwa (Annie) Choi, one of Moon’s providential lovers and mother to Moon’s son, Sam Park

Moon taught that the fall of man, which introduced “original sin”, was sexual. He taught that the sexual transgressions of Adam and Eve were inherited by their descendants and that this condition could only be removed by sexual intercourse with a “restored” or “true” Adam, which he claimed to be. Sex rituals, known as ‘pikareum’ (blood separation, womb cleansing), were introduced by Moon early in the church’s history as the method by which women could be purified of Original Sin. Men could be purified by having sex with women who had undergone one of these rituals. These practices landed Moon in jail in 1946, 1948 (also for bigamy) and 1955. His “womb-cleansing” activities included the wives of the 36 and 72 couples who blessed in the early 1960s. That is why they are known as the “Royal Couples”. His sex activities may have continued to a lesser extent after that, with three representative wives from later blessings being cleansed.

The worth of a person, especially for those born into the Unification Church, is found in their sexual purity. Most of the education for second generation is about their identity as a generation without the “original sin” of Adam and Eve’s un-blessed sexual relationship, and how to protect this identity from being forfeited by sexual temptation.

Jen Kiaba, a second generation ex-member, did a brilliant photography piece on the “purity knife” phenomena among those who participated in the Special Task Force (now called Generation Peace Academy), a program for second generation that consisted largely of fundraising for the UC. She captioned this photo with the story of a second generation who was on her STF year and was raped and murdered while fundraising. She shared her story and the reaction of church members, highlighting the sexism and victim-blaming mentality in the UC and wider culture.

Kiaba wrote:

A few sisters said that their mothers had given them Purity Knives, and that all of the mothers should have given one to their daughters. This ideological relic comes from the old Korean tradition where young of women of high birth wore a knife and were “expected to commit suicide to ‘protect’ their virginity, as opposed to using the knife to defend themselves.”

While giving out these purity knives was never an official church custom, Moon did recommend that members carry “a knife to kill yourself before you will be violated” because it was a theological belief that losing one’s purity was far worse even than dying. Moon had said that “Women should always carry a small pistol or razor blade to protect lineage and sexual organ” and that “if you are assaulted, you should either kill yourself or stab the attacker in the stomach with a knife.”

At least there he spoke of a woman defending herself – even if the first option is to kill yourself. And this wasn’t a one-time quote of his. According to Moon “if someone is trying to invade you, you would rather kill yourself than go through the fall. At least you won’t go to hell that way. Even if you die, you don’t go to hell.”

Like other purity cultures, there has been widespread emotional and psychological injuries for UC adherents due to the strict and toxic beliefs on sexuality, especially for those considered “fallen” or are a part of a sexual minority.

Shamanism in the Unification Church
While church members generally consider themselves to be Christian, the church’s rituals and practices share much with Korean shamanism. Practices such as ancestor worship (liberation), spiritual channeling, sacrifices (such as fasting for long periods or sleep deprivation), and rhythmic movements and beatings are all common in Korean shamanism. These practices were deemphasized when the religion was exported to the West in the late 1960’s and early 70’s, replaced with more a more palatable slate for American and European young people, like communal living and outdoor retreats.

Me on stage in Newark, NJ, before an

Me on stage in Newark, NJ, before an “ansu” ceremony.

However, in the 1990s shamanistic elements again came to the fore with the rise of “Dae Mo Nim”, a woman who claimed to channel spirit of the deceased mother of Hak Ja Han and the deceased son of the Moon couple, Heung Jin. This woman led a series of revivals at the church’s Cheongpyeong Lake facility that became permanent and institutionalized because of their popularity with members. Her teachings were where essentially Muism, a type of Korean shamanism fused with elements of Moon’s teachings. As would be the case with a Muist priestess, she acted as an intermediary for spirits and gods and conducted long sessions of intense purification rituals. Many of these rituals involved ansu (an appropriated shamanistic practice of slapping out evil spirits from one’s body), sleep and food deprivation, and limitations on personal space.

Prayer in Cheongpyeong

Prayer in Cheongpyeong

Marriage in the Unification Church
The marriage ceremony, or “blessing”, is the main sacrament of the Unification Church, and is believed to engraft couples back into God’s lineage. Most couples, especially First Generation, had their marriages arranged (or were “matched”) by Moon and other leaders. Once married by Moon, a member is able to produce children born without original sin, or “blessed children”.

In order to be eligible for the “blessing”, one had to meet a set of conditions, although these conditions changed much over the years. In the early days of the American Movement, members were required to convert at least three people (as protective archangels, or Satan could invade their marriage) and be celibate for three years. They also had to be completely devoted to a “public mission” or fundraising for years.

moonies

A Moonie “blessing ceremony”, or mass wedding

Later, as Moon began to see the marriages as a source of money and publicity, the conditions for entry were diluted, most recently to the point where eligibility became the willingness to pay a fee and little more. In one example, the Unification Church infamously solicited single men in Korea, many of which were older, poor, and/or desperate, offering wives, mostly from Japan and the Philippines, in exchange for a matching and blessing fee. Many violent and otherwise unhealthy marriages were produced from these unions, and fairly recently a Japanese member in Korea murdered her alcoholic Korean husband, a man who had been drawn to the Church solely to obtain a wife. He was never an active member.

The Extra-Sacramental Rituals
After the Blessing ceremony, for the First Generation there is an “Indemnity Stick ceremony” where the couples all have to beat their spouse’s buttocks as hard as they can with a baseball bat or heavy stick. The purpose of this is to pay a price for the sin of Adam and Eve by hitting the sexual area. It is also meant as the one time a couple is allowed to physically assault one another, after-which all disputes should be settled verbally. This ceremony is public, and is not a private experience. Members have been hospitalized with spinal injuries because of this ceremony.

Following a further separation period of at least 40 days a “Three Day Ceremony” of sex rituals between the couple is conducted. This mirrors the pikareum ceremony of earlier times, which also required three sessions of sexual intercourse on different days in different positions for spiritual restoration to be valid. However, after the blessing ceremony, it was common for couples to remain separated for periods of up to seven years, often not consummating for years after their union. Single members are able to devote more time to fundraising and witnessing to boost Moon’s empire.

A leader at Cheongpyeong helping a sister with ansu

A leader at Cheongpyeong helping a sister with ansu

More recently, with the rise of Dae Mo Nim, the practice of Ansu became an accepted ritual in the Unification Church. In Cheongpyeong, ansu rituals were practiced three times a day until fairly recently, as it was reduced to twice a day. They are crowded and sweaty sessions that last about an hour and a half. Members sing a UC hymn (Grace of the Holy Garden) in Korean while slapping their bodies and the bodies of those in front of them. During the ceremony, members follow the instructions of a dancing/singing/drumming troupe on stage called the Chanyang team. The Chanyang team calls out what body part from which to expel evil spirits, which includes the genitals and the buttocks. Medical ansu is a specialized ansu ceremony where members strip naked and beat parts of the body that they feel needs the most ansu. As you can imagine, this has resulted in some severe groin injuries, especially for men.

Fundraising and Unpaid Labor in the Unification Church

MFT members in the 70s

MFT members in the 70s

Fundraising activities for new recruits mostly consisted of travelling cross country in groups, usually in a van, and selling trinkets or asking for donations. These groups were called Mobile Fundraising Teams, or MFT. Fundraising was considered both a way of raising money for church activities and a spiritual activity tied to the idea that members needed to suffer, or “pay indemnity”, for the sins of previous and current generations. However, as church expenses grew and the Moon’s lifestyle became more lavish, pressure for ever more money meant that MFT was increasingly members’ only activity, rather than a rite of passage for new recruits. The emphasis on money and lack of concern for member safety caused thousands of members to leave in the 1970s and 80s. During that period there were many traffic accidents, some resulting in injury or death, often caused by sleep deprivation. Worse, more female members were sexually assaulted or raped than has ever been acknowledged.

As the church matured and acquired business interests, members would typically work at these businesses for either no or submarket wages. This would allow the businesses to maximize cash generation, funneled to either the Moon family or to church activities, as both were assumed to be the same. Rarely were wages sufficient to support a family, so many moonlighted selling flowers or trinkets in order to make ends meet, much as they had in their MFT days.

The Unification Church currently has many assets, thought to be in the billions of dollar value. However, over the years those assets have largely come to be owned directly or indirectly by the Moon family, and thus have been split, much as the family has split. Many of the assets are no longer under the supervision and management of the “mainline” Church (FFWPU), effectively stolen by the Moon family, namely Hyun Jin (H1) with UCI but also Kook Jin, owner of SAEILO USA and Kahr Arms.

Though the American Church is not as aggressive as it once was in its fundraising, there remains teams of youth teams throughout the US, Asia, Europe, and Latin America living in vans and church centers, raising money for the Unification Church, as well as international First Generation fundraising groups. MFT teams still exist in the US, formerly associated with the Santa Monica “video” center and currently with the New Hope Foundation International, though not much is known about these young members, even to active members.

The Church in Japan
Even more extreme fundraising in Japan started around 1970 and continues to this day. There members deal with a higher demand of required financial giving to the Unification Church. It has been reported that about 75% of 2nd generation Unificationists in Japan do not attend college because they are unable to afford it. One example of absurd tithes was when Moon personally extracted $500 million from Japanese sisters in the fall of 1993. He demanded that 50,000 sisters attend his workshops on Cheju Island and each had to pay a fee of $10,000.

Moon inspecting the fundraising merchandise of the UC in Japan

Moon inspecting the fundraising merchandise of the UC in Japan

Not only are tithes and special “love offerings” exceptionally high, but the Church has systematically scammed Japanese people. The Church sent members door-to-door for the sales of a variety of art and religious objects that were sold for highly inflated prices, in the most extreme cases $30,000 for a set of two marble vases or more than $50,000 for a small jade pagoda. The religious objects were represented as having the power to liberate suffering ancestors and prevent misfortune. One member reported that “members were told to focus mainly on housewives, women over 30 who appeared to have some money.” Members would read these women’s palms and greatly flatter them. This scam has also run in other Asian countries, including Singapore. Moon supported the swindling as the practice raised an average of $1 million per month.

As well as putting members in providential roles in his drama, Moon put nations in providential roles. He put Japan in the role of Eve, to Korea’s Adam. (Moon explained that the shape of Korea was like a penis.) Because Eve seduced Adam, Japan had to pay the largest price of any country. In addition, because of Japan’s occupation of Korea from 1910 to 1945 and appropriation of Korea’s resources during that time, the UC of Japan is endlessly held responsible for financially supporting the entire UC providence. The Japanese members tend to be very superstitious and tend to feel guilt and shame more than most. Moon understood this and severely manipulated the Japanese.

Moon in the West
Perhaps the role of other nations in the West was mainly to give Moon prestige and power. This was largely achieved because of the money coming in from Japan. The example of the Washington Times comes to mind, which has been supporting the causes of the Christian Right since its inception.

Sun Myung Moon meets Richard Nixon

Sun Myung Moon meets Richard Nixon

Moon understood the power of the media and bought himself protection through establishing newspapers in key countries. The amount of money he spent on PR, for example on his US rallies from 1973-1976, and on publications, is huge.

As a major funder of the Christian Right, Moon had a friendship with Tim LaHaye (writer of the Left Behind series), the Bush family (George H.W. Bush, and other family members, have spoken at many church-affiliated events), Jerry Falwell (as Moon poured millions of dollars into Liberty University), and dozens of others respected leaders in both the Evangelical Church and in right-wing politics.

His influence in American politics died out towards the end of his life, and many of his messianic dreams never came to pass. That said, his financial empire still exists, though now fragmented. The value of Moon-held businesses and properties throughout the world, is estimated to be in the tens of billions dollars. Most all of these have nothing to do with building any “Kingdom of God” on earth. That seems to be just a facade. The price for followers has been high.

Moon never became sovereign of a nation. He was not given a Nobel prize. He ended up as a rather grumpy shaman king with over 120 crowns but no kingdom. His “wisdom” was stolen. His talk of love was hollow, and his ideal family is anything but. He was talented at manipulating others for his own benefit. His strongest legacy has been as a warning to others.

The history of the Unification Church is quite complex. The experience of members in different regions and decades varies tremendously. The only consistent thing about the Unification Church throughout the years and throughout the globe is that it has always been manipulative and abusive towards members. Over the decades there have been countless of lives lost in service to Moon’s organization, and one can imagine the chronic suicidal presence and action among those affected by such a manipulative organization. There have been many untold and forgotten stories of those harmed by the Unification Church, and in the honor of these individuals, and for the sake of those still being abused by the church, I will continue to seek justice in any and every way I know how.

For more information,  you can check out my blog dedicated completely to this very topic: How Well Do You Know Your Moon

Recommended Resources
Change of Blood Lineage through Ritual Sex in the Unification Church by Kirsti Nevalainen
In the Shadow of the Moons: My Life in the Reverend Sun Myung Moon’s Family by Nansook Hong
A video of Sam Park, one of Moon’s children from his extramarital affairs, telling his mother’s and his story
Video testimonies against Moon by early members

The God of My Mother

A picture from a surprise birthday party for my mom. She was surprised.

A picture from a surprise birthday party for my mom. She was surprised.

As you may know from my recent post, “My Strange Relationship with the Mooniverse“, I have recently been reflecting a lot about the religious group I grew up in, the Unification Church—also known as the Moonies. Alongside a call to expose the corruption in the Unification Church, I have also been reflecting on the positive aspects of Moonie spirituality that I was raised with. Don’t get me wrong, a lot of it was toxic (”gays are dung-eating dogs,” mandatory donations, blatant racism, etc.), but some of it still rings true in my soul. The parts most Unificationists would find as vital mean nothing to me, and some of it I find to even be revolting, including just about all of the Divine Principle, the main theological text of the Unification Church. But the spirituality of my mom, which is so grounded in the mythology of Unificationism, is something I admire. A lot of her beliefs, and sometimes even her behavior, are not at all perfect. Sometimes her beliefs drive her to do some really unwise and even wrong things, but I cannot deny that the core of her spiritual life is beautiful. There’s something about how she walks with God that reveals the essence of the Unificationism that attracted so many idealistic youth in the 60s and 70s. There’s something about it that reveals God.

My mother’s spirituality is marked by an ardent but compassionate anti-individuality, or as they put it in the Unification Church, “living for the sake of others.” We were to live not just for ourselves, but for our family, for our country, for our enemies, for the whole world, and even for those in the world beyond. I could tell you story after story of my mom’s reckless, and sometimes downright irresponsible, giving. My mom passionately cares for people. She looks for the spark of God in everybody she encounters, and she loves them like they are holy (and they are). And when people are in need, she is immediately present, with tea and food and ears to listen and arms wide open.

The spiritual life she leads is also deeply prayerful. To put it lightly, she takes communion with God extremely seriously. I was taught that conversations with God were to be constant, reverent, and that they were not always easy. My mom is almost always driven to tears when she prays. It is not in a showy, self-righteous way. She just knows with all that she is that she is before God, and carries the burden of providence and those she loves into her intercession. She would even take upon the burden of God’s sorrow.

The Unificationist narrative of God being a suffering Deity molds her worldview quite a lot. The Divine Principle teaches that since the fall, God’s heart has been outrageously broken and that mankind ought to comfort him and help his heart heal. The theology behind that is questionable, to say the least, but the idea of a suffering God is something Christian theology barely articulates yet seems so in line with God revealed in Jesus. My mom almost seems possessed by the Spirit of God when she prays, as she is often overcome by this cosmic burden. Truthfully, the way Christ prayed in the garden of Gethsemane has always reminded me a lot of my mother.

My mother often spoke of the Spirit World, which at times comforted me, and other times was simply spooky. She would tell me that my grandmother and all of my ancestors were watching me, rooting for me, and aiding me as I moved providence forward. This was, for the most part, an awesome idea, but every so often I’d feel a bit embarrassed while going to the bathroom or changing my clothes, believing Obachaan and the whole Goto clan was watching. That said, I grew up with an awareness that a spiritual reality, of angels and the departed, was close and at work among us. I grew up venerating my ancestors and even doing rituals to support their spiritual development (which is a complicated subject packed with a whole lot of corruption). We’d welcome them into our house and offer them fruit, chocolate, and cakes, and ask for their help and guidance. My mother would even place food at the altar in our house for friends and family that passed away.

Something about this ancestor veneration, about this connection to those beyond, still feels… true. As I reflect on the all-consuming grace of Christ and the communion of Saints, I cannot help but believe that God’s desire to restore every person would extend to beyond the grave. Not only that, but I cannot help but believe that maybe, just maybe, those beyond would be at the aid of those on earth, that they would perhaps be ministering spirits. The communion of saints and their intercession is an orthodox belief, but what if their interference goes beyond saying prayers for us? What if God endows those believers with the same spiritual authority he grants to those who believe on Earth? What if they too can walk in the miraculous? What if they can work and inspire among us?

Perhaps. I’d like to think so.

I also wonder if at the root and head of this communion of saints, this cloud of witnesses, and this cosmic family, is the Alpha and Omega, the Firstborn, Jesus Christ. Perhaps he is our first and truest Ancestor.

Again, I’d like to think so.

Sometimes I don’t know how much of my mother’s spirituality is Korean shamanism she picked up from her mentors or what she inherited from her own upbringing as a Japanese Buddhist or what came directly from the Unification Church. I am pretty confident, though, that a lot of it connects her to our God. In many ways she connects to God even deeper than myself. But I cannot deny that I do pray and hope that she will discover that this light, power, and love reveal God in Christ. I think to some degree she has, but I look forward to a day where her and Jesus are on a first name basis and we both can praise him together. I don’t mean this in a way that devalues her story and journey, but I say all that because Jesus changed everything for me, that man transformed my heart and soul, and I really think they would get along well.

My Strange Relationship with the Mooniverse

Long time no see. I had hoped to keep my blog updated as I went through my year with the Quaker Voluntary Service (QVS), but work got busier, life took many twists and turns, and I just couldn’t find the time to put out a post. And now I’m at the very end of the year. Whoops. I feel terrible about it, as I imagined blogging to be a powerful spiritual discipline and an engaging way to show off the brilliant work of the QVS. I apologize for those few readers who actually looked forward to my posts.

A somewhat recent picture of the Portland QVS Fellows

A somewhat recent picture of the Portland QVS Fellows

In all honesty, I also didn’t have much to say. I started this year hoping to explore Quakerism for all that it is, and to some degree I was able to do that. I read plenty of books on Quaker theology and practice, I experienced the worship and communities within both the Liberal and Evangelical traditions, and I was able to connect even deeper to the Friends of Jesus Fellowship despite our distance. In many ways, I’ve discovered what Quakerism means to me. But really, that hasn’t been the query I’ve been all too concerned about the past year.

What I have been reflecting on and wrestling with kind of took me by surprise… and I’ve actually been blogging daily, despite my absence on this blog—I’ll get to that bit later.

You see, before I was a Quaker, and before I was speaking in tongues, and waaaay before I had come to have faith in Jesus, I was a Moonie. I was born and raised in the Unification Church; a Second Generation member. This is a topic I’ve always struggled talking about, even with those close to me. Sometimes my zeal against the Unification Church can be a bit overwhelming for those listening, and there have been many times where I have attempted to mold my past in the Moonies to simply be something strange and funny, but most of the time I try avoiding that conversation at all costs.

Screenshot 2015-07-12 at 4.29.51 PM

Praying at a UC event in Newark, NJ.

For those who know nothing of the Unification Church, it is a cult. Of that I am confident. As somebody who has been critically researching the Unification Church the past six years, and as somebody who was born and raised in the Movement, I am constantly surprised and appalled by the corruption I keep discovering within it. The layers of deception and tragedy really seem unending.

Long story short, the group was founded by Rev. Sun Myung Moon, who claimed to be the second coming of Christ and established a religious, financial, and even political empire for him and his family to live off. He displayed very real signs of being a sociopath and his rule over the Moon Kingdom was absurdly nonsensical and cruel.  I bowed to his picture every morning and believed he was the messiah. He was my messiah.

I have a hard time sharing about this part of my life because it is so foreign to people and often times people’s reactions are disappointing. Perhaps my expectations are too high for how people should react, and perhaps sometimes I make my delivery of this part of my story a bit too light-hearted, but somehow, after being out of the church for the past six years, I still do not how to talk about it.

After reading “In the Shadow of the Moons” by Nansook Hong, I had finally become convinced that I could no longer associate myself with the Unification Church. I had been exploring my unbelief in Moon and his teachings for a year prior to this decision but continued my affiliation with the church. I had hoped to keep my ties to the church strong despite my lack of faith. After reading Hong’s account of her abusive marriage to Rev. Moon’s son and finding out that much of the church’s corruption is rooted in and endorsed by Moon, I knew I had to leave.

It was around that time I started writing a tumblr-blog called “How Well Do You Know Your Moon” in order to process my departure from the faith. It was meant to be a anonymous personal journal, and I didn’t find it necessary to publicize or advertise what I was writing. My entries were mainly about the inconsistencies in Unification theology, but I wrote on other matters such as the forming denominations and splits in the Unification Movement. Within a few weeks, my blog was discovered by church leaders and a witch-hunt ensued. The blog has been up for six years, though we temporarily took it down for a week at one point, and dozens of people have contributed and helped build the blog to be a constant whistle-blower of church corruption and a major resource on UC history. We’ve had several legal threats thrown at us from the Moon family and the church but luckily such threats were empty.

There were many months, if not several years, where my moderation of the blog died down a bit and I took a more hands off approach, blogging only when most convenient or urgent. Recently, though, I have found a renewed sense of passion and have made it a goal to daily report on the injustices of the Unification Church, including fraud, human trafficking, sexual abuse, etc.

My lack of activity with the blog was my way of “getting over” my experience in the church. I was constantly told by members that I was “bitter”, “resentful”, and “negative,” and I half-believed them. I’ve found that even among my friends, there is a hesitance to discuss the church we left behind. Many claimed to have moved on and feel no need to dwell in the past, and I’ve often shut down my own concerns and struggles because I didn’t want to waste my time thinking about the church.  But maybe I am bitter, resentful, and negative, and maybe that’s not that bad of a thing. I’m still on the road to healing and forgiving, but I also feel that an anger towards the viciousness of the UC is not simply just but also necessary to do the work needed to eradicate these injustices.

I can’t continue suppressing what feels like the burden of my identity. I need to embrace it, and not just for my sake, but for those living under the oppression of the church. I carry the weight of my history, yes, but also, to some degree, I carry the weight of the history of all those who have experienced being exploited by the church, as well as the weight of those who are still being abused and exploited by the Moon empire. I have not experienced the level abuse that thousands of other Moonies have, but these people are my people and their stories fuel this passion for justice.

These past few months have been eye-opening, to say the least. I have reconnected with old friends from my childhood in the church and made new friends who share this experience, and I’ve been discovering more and more that there is a need for advocacy and for the church to be exposed fully for what it is. I’ve felt guilty for awhile for not engaging more with theology and Quakerism, because that is a big part of what I had in mind for this year, but I’ve found myself tripping into what I see as an “opening” from God. I’ve accepted what feels like a responsibility but also a fire in my soul.

Though I committed myself to following Jesus at sixteen years old and have long-disconnected myself from much of the Mooniverse (at least socially and organizationally), the Unification Church is still very much a part of my identity. I’ve come to see it, at least for myself, as a gift and calling. When I think of Christ’s “mission statement” in Luke 4:18-19—“the Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to bring good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to let the oppressed go free, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor”—I cannot help but feel that I am where I am supposed to be, or at least going in the right direction.

Soon enough my wordpress here will once again quote George Fox and I will give you an update on my QVS experience, I promise, but I felt a need to share these things and ask for prayer. I don’t think anything like a profession will come out of this, but I do consider the running of my blog as a ministry. I know that this ministry is not simply about a blog and may evolve and look differently throughout my life, but I trust that the Spirit is with me in this work to bring justice to the Unification Church. I’m playing a small part in a big, scary game, but I still believe that such a call needs humility and to be nurtured in the Light. I ask for you to hold me in the Light, as I continue to discern what being prophetic with such a call looks like, and even as I sort out my own identity as an ex-UC member.

Thanks, Friends.

For more information:
The Fall of the House of Moon by Mariah Blake (The New Republic)
Mike Wallace interviews Nansook Hong on 60 Minutes
How Well Do You Know Your Moon