The Unification Church is a new religious movement founded by Korean religious leader Sun Myung Moon. The Unification Church owns, operates or subsidizes other organizations involved in political, cultural, commercial, mass-media and other activities. The church and its related organizations are sometimes referred to as the "Unification Movement."
Unification Church beliefs are based on Moon's book, Divine Principle, and draw from the Bible as well as Asian traditions. These beliefs include a universal God; in the creation of a literal Kingdom of Heaven on earth; the universal salvation of all people, good and evil as well as living and dead; and that the second coming of Christ is a man born in Korea in the early 20th century. This Messiah is believed by Unificationists to be Sun Myung Moon.
In 1954, the group was formally and legally established in Seoul, South Korea as The Holy Spirit Association for the Unification of World Christianity (HSA-UWC). In 1994, Moon changed the official name of the church to the Family Federation for World Peace and Unification.
Members are found throughout the world, with the majority living in South Korea or Japan. Church membership is estimated to be several hundred thousand to a few million. In the English speaking world church members are sometimes referred to by the derogatory label "Moonies.
The beginnings of the Church's official teachings, the Divine Principle, first saw written form as Wolli Wonbon in 1946. (The second, expanded version, Wolli Hesol, or Explanation of the Divine Principle, was not published until 1957; for a more complete account, see Divine Principle.) Sun Myung Moon preached in northern Korea after the end of World War II and was imprisoned by the communist regime in North Korea in 1946. He was released from prison, along with many other North Koreans, with the advance of American and United Nations forces during the Korean War and built his first church from mud and cardboard boxes as a refugee in Pusan. Moon formally founded his organization in Seoul on May 1, 1954, calling it "The Holy Spirit(ual) Association for the Unification of World Christianity." The name alludes to Moon's stated intention for his organization to be a unifying force for all Christian denominations. The phrase "Holy Spirit Association" has the sense in the original Korean of "Heavenly Spirits" and not the "Holy Spirit" of Christianity. "Unification" has political as well as religious connotations, in keeping with the church's teaching that restoration must be complete, both spiritual and physical. The church expanded rapidly in South Korea and by the end of 1955 had 30 church centers throughout the nation.
In 1958, Moon sent missionaries to Japan, and in 1959, to America. Moon himself moved to the United States in 1971, (although he remained a citizen of the Republic of Korea). Missionary work took place in Washington D.C., New York, and California. UC missionaries found success in San Francisco, where the church expanded in both Berkeley and San Francisco as the Creative Community Project. By 1971 the Unification Church of the United States had about 500 members. By 1973 the church had some presence in all 50 states and had a few thousand members.
Irving Louis Horowitz compared the attraction of Unification teachings to American young people at this time to the hippie and radical movements of the 1960s and 1970s, saying:
In 1975, Moon sent out missionaries to 120 countries to spread the Unification Church around the world and also in part, he said, to act as "lightning rods" to receive "persecution."
In the 1970s Moon gave a series of public speeches in the United states including one in Madison Square Garden in New York City in 1974 and two in 1976: In Yankee Stadium in New York City, and on the grounds of the Washington Monument in Washington D.C., where Moon spoke on "God's Hope for America."
In 1976 Christian writer James Bjornstad wrote The Moon Is Not the Son, which criticized Unification Church theology. In 1979 Canadian writer Josh Freed wrote Moonwebs: Journey into the Mind of a Cult, which was the basis for the film Ticket to Heaven. In the 1980s, the church co-sponsored journalist Carlton Sherwood's book defending Moon; Inquisition: The Persecution and Prosecution of the Reverend Sun Myung Moon.
In 1978, a Congressional subcommittee issued a report that included the results of its investigation into the UC, and into other organizations associated with Moon. Among its other conclusions, the subcommittee's report stated that "Among the goals of the Moon Organization is the establishment of a worldwide government in which the separation of church and state would be abolished and which would be governed by Moon and his followers."
In 1982 Moon was convicted of tax fraud by the government of the United States and spent over one year in federal prison.
In 1991 Moon announced that church members should return to their hometowns in order to undertake apostolic work there. Massimo Introvigne, who has studied the Unification Church and other new religious movements, has said that this confirms that full-time membership is no longer considered crucial to church members.
In 1997, the Russian government passed a law requiring the Unification Church and other non-Russian religions to register their congregations and submit to tight controls.
In April 2008, Sun Myung Moon (then 88 years old) appointed his youngest son, Hyung Jin Moon, to be the new leader of the Unification Church and the worldwide Unification Movement, saying, "I hope everyone helps him so that he may fulfil his duty as the successor of the True Parents."
A spirit man is the part of a human being that continues to exist after the death of the physical body. It has the same appearance and the physical body, although if major sins are committed it may become distorted and ugly. The spiritual body of a good person who dies, looks like the person did on earth at the prime of their life.
Unificationists believe that the Fall of Man was an actual historical event (rather than an allegory) involving an original human couple, who are called Adam and Eve in the book of Genesis in the Bible. The elements in the story, however, such as the Tree of Life, the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil, the forbidden fruit, the serpent, etc., are interpreted to be symbolic metaphors for ideal man, ideal woman, sexual love, and Satan, respectively. The essence of the fall is that Eve was seduced by an angelic being (Lucifer). Eve then seduced Adam. So love was consummated through sexual intercourse between Adam and Eve apart from the plan of God, and before Adam and Eve were spiritually mature. Unificationists believe there was a "spiritual (sexual) fall" between Eve and the angel, and a "physical (sexual) fall" between Eve and Adam. They also regard Adam and Eve's son Cain killing his brother Abel as a literal event which contributed to humankind's fallen state. Unificationists teach that since the "fall of humanity," all of human history has been a constant struggle between the forces of God and Satan to correct this original sin (cf. Augustine and lust, concupiscence). This belief contributes to their strict moral code of "absolute love" and sexual purity, and the need for "indemnity" or reparations.
The Unification Church upholds a belief in spiritualism, that is communication with the spirits of deceased persons. Moon and early church members associated with spiritualists, including the famous Arthur Ford. The Divine Principle, the main scripture of the church says about Moon:
The ancestor liberation ceremony is a ceremony of the Unification Church intended to allow the spirits of deceased ancestors of participants to improve their situations in the spirit world through liberation, education, and blessing. The ceremonies are conducted by Mrs. Hyo Nam Kim, whom church members believe is channeling the spirit of Dae Mo Nim, the mother of Hak Ja Han (church founder Sun Myung Moon's wife). They have taken place mainly in Cheongpyeong, South Korea, but also in various places around the world.
In the 1990s and 2000s the Unification Church has made public statements claiming communications with the spirits of religious leaders such as Confucius, the Buddha, Jesus, Muhammad and Augustine, as well as political leaders such as Karl Marx, Engels, Lenin, Stalin, Trotsky, Mao, and many more. This has distanced the church further from mainstream Christianity as well as from Islam.
During the church's period of early growth (1970–85 in America), most church members lived in intentional communities. The majority of members' marriages were arranged by Moon personally. In recent years, Moon passed on the responsibility of matching to the parents for their children, in cooperation, sometimes with suggestions from church leaders.
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 ceremonies, dubbed "mass marriage" by the press, constitute the feature of the Church that is perhaps the most unusual to Westerners. Moon has presided over marriages of groups of hundreds, thousands, or even of tens of thousands of couples at once. Many of the arranged marriages paired people from different countries, races, and cultures. Moon teaches that such "exchange marriages" will help build connections among the divided human family, as people stretch their hearts to love spouse, in-laws, and children.
Several church-related groups are working to promote sexual abstinence until marriage and fidelity in marriage, both among church members and the general public.
The Family Pledge of the Unification Church is an eight-part promise of church members to focus on God and His kingdom. Eight verses of the Family Pledge include the phrase "by centering on true love." For the first 40 years of the church's existence, members recited the pledge on Sunday mornings at 5:00 A.M. Now they recite it every 8 days, on Ahn Shi Il: Day of Settlement and Attendance, which is the Unification Church's equivalent of a Sabbath. The church holds Sunday Service weekly like most other churches, but every eighth day is a special Family Pledge service. (next occurrence: ).
The first part says, "Our family, the owner of Cheon Il Guk, pledges to seek our original homeland and build the Kingdom of God on earth and in heaven, the original ideal of creation, by centering on true love."
News World Communications is the international media arm of the church. It owns the Washington Times newspaper in Washington, D.C., United Press International (UPI), Insight Magazine, The World & I, the Middle East Times, Tiempos del Mundo, Segye Ilbo, Segye Times USA, Chongyohak Shinmun, Sekai Nippo, GolfStyles, and the World Peace Herald.
The Professors World Peace Academy was founded on May 6, 1973, in Korea, by Moon declaring its intent to "contribute to the solutions of urgent problems facing our modern civilization and to help resolve the cultural divide between East and West". PWPA now has chapters in over one hundred countries.
As of 1999 the Tongil Group, at that time owned by the Unification Church, was the nation's 35th largest commercial conglomerate. ("Tongil" is Korean for "unity" or "unification".) It owned over 1 billion USD in real estate in South Korea and was in the process of expanding into North Korea. The Unification Church now owns auto manufacturing and hotel interests in North Korea.
In the United States the church owns fishing interests, which are for-profit businesses and pay taxes. The biggest are in Gloucester, Massachusetts, Alaska and Alabama. In Kodiak, Alaska the church "runs a fleet of fishing boats ... [and is] the largest private employer" in Kodiak. True World Foods runs a major portion of the sushi trade in the United States.
The church or church leaders also play key roles in a variety of other business including Atlantic Video, a Massachusetts Avenue video post-production facility; the University of Bridgeport in Bridgeport, Connecticut; a cable television channel called the AmericanLife TV Network, the firearms manufacturer Kahr Arms, multi-million dollar real estate developer USP Rocketts LLC, and the New Yorker Hotel in Manhattan. What is sometimes called "the Moon organization has founded many businesses in other countries, including 20 newspapers in Asia, the Middle East, and Latin America, as well as large development projects in fish farming, livestock breeding, and new agricultural technologies. In Eastern Europe Unification Church missionaries are using the church's business ties to win new converts. David Bromley, a sociologist at Virginia Commonwealth University, said:
In the United States the church was instrumental in the formation of the American Clergy Leadership Council (ACLC), an association of mainly African American Baptist and Pentecostal clergy.
The Unification Church was a major financial backer of the World Anti-Communist League. In the 1980s church members in South America, following Moon's direction, founded the anti-communist organization CAUSA International.
The Sun Moon University in South Korea is the movement's principal institution of higher learning in Asia.
In 2004 the church founded the Cheongshim Graduate School of Theology in South Korea.
In 2006, Cheongshim International Academy was founded right next to the Graduate School. It admits both church members and non-members as students. Cheongshim International Middle School, which is a part of the school, is recognized in South Korea as the most prestigious middle school. In 2007 admissions, the competition rate for this school recorded 54 : 1.
Moon has proposed the creation of the World University Foundation which will include the University of Bridgeport in the United States and the Sun Moon University.
The Universal Peace Federation, an international organization associated with the Unification Church, says that it is trying to promote peace in the Middle East, South Asia and other regions, as well as proposing a 50-mile, $200 billion tunnel linking Siberia and Alaska.
The Summit Council for World Peace is an international group active in Moon's effort to unite North and South Korea.
Some commentators have mentioned the Unification Church's belief that religion alone can not establish the Kingdom of Heaven on earth as a reason for its sponsorship of other organizations.
The Unification Church is among the most controversial religious organizations in the world today. A number of opponents denounce it as a cult with bizarre features such as Sun Myung Moon's saying he is the "Savior, Messiah, Returning Lord and using a Senate office building for a coronation ceremony, or his saying that his teachings have helped Hitler and Stalin be "reborn as new persons".
Some doubt the organization's religious origins. But after an 11-month study of the worldwide Unification Church, Frederick Sontag, a professor of philosophy (whose view of the church is no longer favorable) concluded that "one thing is sure: the church has a genuine spiritual basis. A German court made a similar finding.
B. A. Robinson, in an essay published by the Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance wrote:
Nansook Hong, who lived with the Moon family for 14 years, describes the Unification Church as "a cash operation" and reports on a number of incidents of questionable movement of money, for example: "The Japanese had no trouble bringing the cash into the United States; they would tell customs agents that they were in America to gamble at Atlantic City. In addition, many businesses run by the church were cash operations, including several Japanese restaurants in New York City. I saw deliveries of cash from church headquarters that went directly into the wall safe in Mrs. Moon's closet."
In the 1990s, thousands of Japanese elderly people claimed to have been defrauded of their life savings by Moon followers' spiritual sales Moon's church was the subject of the largest consumer fraud investigation in Japan's history in 1997 and number of subsequent court decisions awarded hundreds of millions of yen in judgments, including 37.6 million yen ($300,000) to pay two women coerced into donating their assets to the Unification Church.
In 1979, Dr. Byron Lambert, in a forward to a book highly critical of Unification Church beliefs, wrote that accusations of brainwashing were extremely dangerous to the religious freedom of other religious groups, which used some of the same recruitment techniques as the Unification Church. Eileen Barker, a sociologist specializing in religious topics, studied church members in England and in 1984 published her findings in her book The Making of a Moonie: Choice or Brainwashing? Observing Unificationists approach to prospective new members, Barker came to reject a strict interpretation of the "brainwashing" theory as an explanation for conversion to the Unification Church.
Moon and his wife were 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. The Netherlands and a few other Schengen states let Moon and his wife enter their countries in 2005. In 2006 the German Supreme Court overturned the ban.
Some detractors of the Unification Church have said that its main purpose is to advance Moon's political aspirations, such as the formation of a one world government.
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 since the 1960s, as documented in a 1978 United States Congressional Report on the Unification Church. The explanation given by Korean Unification Church members is that all manufacturers seeking to do business in South Korea were required to supply the military.
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, is allied politically with evangelical Christians such 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.
In her 1998 book In the Shadow of the Moons: My Life in the Reverend Sun Myung Moon's Family, Nansook Hong-- ex-wife of Sun Myung Moon and Hak Ja Han's eldest son, Hyo Jin Moon-- said that both Sun Myung Moon and Hak Ja Han told her about Sun Myung Moon's extramarital affairs (which she said he called "providential affairs"), including one which resulted in the birth of a boy raised by a church leader, named by Sun Myung Moon's daughter Un Jin Moon on the news show 60 Minutes.
In 1993, Chung Hwa Pak released the book Roku Maria no Higeki (Tragedy of the Six Marys) through the Koyu Publishing Co. of Japan. The book contained allegations that Moon conducted sex rituals amongst six married female disciples ("The Six Marys") who were to have prepared the way for the virgin who would marry Moon and become the True Mother. Chung Hwa Pak had left the movement when the book was published and later withdrew the book from print when he rejoined the Unification Church. Before his death Chung Hwa Pak published a second book, The Apostate, and recanted all allegations made in Roku Maria no Higeki.
Moon has spoken vehemently against "free sex" and homosexual activity. In talks to church members he compared homosexuals to "dirty dung-eating dogs and prophesied that "gays will be eliminated" in a "purge on God's orders". These statements were criticized by gay rights groups.
The B. A. Robinson of the Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance wrote:
Moon has indicated several times that his wife Hak Ja Han Moon will be his successor upon his death. He had her start the Women's Federation for World Peace and sent her on many lengthy speaking tours to proclaim core church teachings. She took on major leadership responsibilities in the mid 1980s when her husband served a little over a year of a prison sentence for white-collar crime; see Sun Myung Moon tax case. Moon has also said that he desired to find a successor among his sons. Hyo Jin Moon (who died of a heart attack in 2008), Hyun Jin Moon , and Hyung Jin Moon have been mentioned.