Friday, November 15, 2013

The Unification Church Crumbles

Astonishing account by Mariah Blake of the rise and fall of Sun Myung Moon's Unification Church. A glimpse of the weirdness:
The central pillar of Moon’s theology held that Eve had a dalliance with Satan in the Garden of Eden and then slept with Adam, which is how human beings were burdened with original sin. Moon also believed that people, movements, and even entire countries embodied these biblical figures. He himself was the “perfect Adam,” and his mission was to help humankind reclaim its original goodness by forging a new world order led by Korea, the “Adam nation.” America, the “archangel” nation, would play a key role in this mission by helping Korea to rout communism, after which it would bow down to the Korean-led regime, with Moon as its king and messiah. . . .

While Moon’s theology had geopolitical ambitions, he saw his family as the means for realizing his vision. At the age of 40, he married his cook’s daughter, a delicate 17-year-old beauty named Hak Ja Han. Moon claimed that their union marked the beginning of the “completed testament” era, in which Moon would reverse the fall of man by making his wife pay penance for Eve’s sins. For three years, he stashed Hak Ja Han in a rented room, kept her in bitter poverty, and forbid her from seeing her family. The goal was to rid her of Eve-like defiance and cultivate “absolute obedience” so that she could bear children free of original sin. By the winter of 1960, the first of these perfect children had arrived.
That Moon managed to found a church and draw in millions of followers is stark testimony to human folly. I suppose it is also testimony to how weird life has been South Korea during its one-generation march from medieval poverty to high-tech riches, that so many people decided membership in Moon's kingdom, along with an arranged mass marriage, were a plausible path to happiness. Moon spent much of the 80s and 90s in America, trying to expand his church's influence and membership here, but the American church remained small and everything Moon did in America was subsidized by the churches in Korea and Japan.

Now Moon's family has fallen apart, the founder is dead, and his wife has ousted her children and seized control of the empire. It seems she is giving up her late husband's quixotic fixation on America, which never welcomed him, and will return the emphasis of the operation to Korea. The revelations about the Moon family ought to doom the whole church, but things never work that way, and no doubt the edifice will  lumber on for years to come.

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