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My Take: Moon’s death marks end of an era
More than 1,000 couples participate in a Unification Church mass wedding in the Philippines in 1996.
September 3rd, 2012
11:10 AM ET

My Take: Moon’s death marks end of an era

Editor’s note: Eileen Barker is professor emeritus of sociology of religion at the London School of Economics.

By Eileen Barker, Special to CNN

With the death of the Rev. Sun Myung Moon at 92, we see the end of an era.

Moon was the last surviving charismatic leader of the wave of movements that spread throughout California and the rest of the West in the 1970s and ’80s other examples included L. Ron Hubbard’s Scientology, David Berg’s Children of God and Prabhupada’s Hare Krishna movement.

In the case of Moon’s Unification Church, hordes of young, well-educated hippies left college and their comfortable middle-class homes to work up to 18 hours a day on the streets, selling flowers or candy and urging others to follow a Korean who declared that he was the messiah.

After they had spent perhaps years in mobile fund-raising teams and had drawn a sufficient number of “spiritual children” into the fold, these young converts would be "matched" with a partner whom they were unlikely to know (and who might not even speak their language) and then blessed in a mass wedding ceremony with thousands of other couples.

Perhaps it was not surprising that many of their parents, who had other plans for their (adult) children’s futures, objected strongly when their sons or daughters started referring to Moon and his wife, Hak Ja Han, as their “True Parents,” in some cases cutting themselves off from their families.

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A number of so-called “anti-cult movements” sprang up throughout the United States with the aim of exposing and combating the perceived evils of such “cults.” Large sections of the media joined in the fight, agreeing with the anti-cultists that the only possible explanation for the young people’s behavior was that they had been brainwashed.

This theory led to the arrival of “deprogrammers,” who would kidnap converts, holding them against their will until they either renounced their faith or managed to escape back to their movement.

In the meantime, Moon’s notoriety in North America was spreading far beyond the concerns of individual families.

He and his church were investigated for connections with the South Korean CIA by the U.S. House of Representatives Subcommittee on International Organizations. At the time of the Watergate affair, Moon came out strongly in support of President Richard Nixon. And in 1984 he was sentenced to prison for tax fraud.

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Moon also accumulated impressive wealth through his teams of volunteer members and through a number of businesses in both America and elsewhere, particularly in Japan and South Korea. His businesses included armament factories, boat building and fishing, ginseng products and a number of media outlets, including The Washington Times.

Although Moon is likely to be remembered for all these things mass weddings, accusations of brainwashing, political intrigue and enormous wealth he should also be remembered as creating what was arguably one of the most comprehensive and innovative theologies embraced by a new religion of the period.

The basic beliefs are to be found in the “Divine Principle,” which describes how the Fall took place when, in the Garden of Eden, the Archangel Lucifer who had been asked to look after Adam and Eve until they were mature enough to marry had seduced Eve into a spiritual, sexual relationship.

According to Moon, Eve later had a sexual relationship with Adam. As a result of this Lucifer-centered (rather than God-centered) union, their children were tainted with “Fallen Nature,” the Unification equivalent of original sin.

According to the “Divine Principle,” the whole of history is interpreted as God’s attempt to restore the Kingdom of Heaven on Earth. Jesus was meant to get married but was killed before that was possible. Moon, with his marriage to his second (or third) wife in 1960, is said to have laid the necessary foundation for restoring the Kingdom of Heaven on Earth, with the mass blessings playing a role in purifying the blood lineage of the participants.

Moon’s movement has undergone considerable changes since its founding in 1954.

Most members no longer live in communities but live and work independently, possibly tithing 10% of their income to the movement. There is now a burgeoning second generation which, to a large extent, is involved in running the movement.

Moon’s children have taken up leadership positions, with the youngest son, Hyung Jin Nim, being the heir apparent. But a split has emerged within the “True Family,” with siblings fighting among themselves for the assets and control of the movement.

It is unlikely that Unificationism will continue as a single entity. But also unlikely that Moon’s legacy will fade away within the foreseeable future.

The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of Eileen Barker.

- CNN Belief Blog

Filed under: Leaders • Opinion • Unification Church

soundoff (132 Responses)
  1. Prince

    History and the things that had been done will show... I love True Father, Rev Sun Myung Moon, the Messiah, the Saviour, Lord of the Second Advent, King of Kings the True Father of Humankind....

    September 14, 2012 at 9:42 pm |
  2. len

    For those who have expressed their negative thoughts , "there is no restoration in ignorance". read and you will brainwash your self for the truth. Do not judge because you will be judged according to how you judge others. I am just a simple follower of Rev. Moon whose faith in God has been strengthen after knowing the truth that Rev. Moon has taught us. I was not brainwashed by anybody else but brainwashed by my own self determination to seek for the truth because this truth has set me free from the captives of sinfulness all my confusions and questions has been resolved, cleared and answered. I am just but grateful to this man whom you labelled as "cult" , because of him I understood the life and heart of Jesus, the heart of God and our portion of responsibility to reciprocate God's love when He created us. I am just a proud unificationist !

    September 13, 2012 at 7:43 am |
  3. Evett

    Hey, remember 99% of the Christians where druggies, drunks, home breakers, from prison, killers, and on and on. I asked a Christian why 9/11 happens. He couldn't tell me. So he gave me the same typical stupid reason that Christians always give you when asked about "what is god doing" about this world? Did god or jesus reach down and helped the ones that died? Nope, did he help America to get even? Nope. Did god or jesus help out America by sending young men to war and losing their life there? Can we add those 3000 (9/11) killed to the list that got killed oversea? You know the ones that were sucked in believing this was about 9/11 war and it wasn't about oil and investors’ protection plan? The Christians told me, must be jesus plan, and praise the lord. Maybe that’s why I don't give a crap if there is a jesus or not. I don't see him, don't see what he is doing about the kids (like in 9/11), and killing our men oversea? Where is he, where was he on 9/11? Is he or she going to turn to Ronnie to find out how to heal the world? Ronnie thinks god is going to give him the new golden rule book on a mountain top. If humans would drop this thing they call god. We wouldn't have wars. I am not saying there is a god or not, I am saying I don't care if there is one or not. I only care for doers as Obama and not in godly fairy tells. Been there and got out from all the brain washing and fairy tells. It is all BS.
    Like to add: if Ronnie knows what to do with America. You think he would share it with Obama. Why Ronnie did kept his godly healing powers to himself? Isn’t that what Americans are supposed to do, help their country. How long did Ronnie know about his healing powers……one day? Ten years? Maybe there wasn’t money in it. So why try to help your own country out. Ronnie, “F” him,..I’ll vote for Obama, and not a man that haves two gods, money and more money. ….good day.

    September 11, 2012 at 11:45 pm |
  4. Hari

    I Love reverend Moon as a messiah, saviour of humankind, king of king forever...aju.

    September 11, 2012 at 9:29 am |
  5. Steve Dufour

    What you describe Professor Barker sounds a lot like any religion. People interpret the message according to their needs and what works for them.

    September 10, 2012 at 12:22 pm |
  6. fujiir0

    I have never seen a life lived with more sincerity, passion, determination and love for Heaven than that of Father Moon. The blood, sweat and tears that he shed for God and mankind will remain forever and bear witness to him, and people will know him for who he is. A world of True Love longed for by our Heavenly Parent and all saints will come, and until that day, let's not stop! One who has studied his life in depth and from a spiritual/religious perspective cannot claim anything less than that he is one of the greatest men to have lived.

    September 10, 2012 at 10:51 am |
  7. Herman

    "H.L. Mencken"

    September 7, 2012 at 10:27 am |
  8. tuvia

    B"H

    GOOD SHABBOS

    ----------
    SHALOM, YOM TOV.
    TUVIA

    [youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=947by3X6_RU&w=640&h=390]

    September 7, 2012 at 10:25 am |
    • mendrys

      Thanks for the link to this disturbing video. The jewish Rabbi is very disturbed. The type who would say "you are either for all of Israel policies or you are for the terrorists".

      September 9, 2012 at 12:39 pm |
  9. Herman

    He was a marketing genius who figured out, in the early seventies, that with the burgeoning Jesus Freak movements, Hare Krishna sects, Transcendental Meditation organization and various New Age eastern mysticism cults, that an amalgam of Christianity and eastern religions couldn’t miss. And, with H.K. Mencken’s and P.T. Barnum’s accurate assessments of the American public, he was spot on.

    Apparently, Wun Hyung Lo will now take the reins.

    September 7, 2012 at 10:23 am |
  10. jack

    Charismatic leader. LOL He was a liar and a fraud. A religious phony. Also an ex-con!!!

    September 7, 2012 at 2:01 am |
  11. Bill

    Read Lord of the Second Advent by Steve Kemperman. It tells the story of a person's involvement with Moon's church and how he was liberated from it. It's exceptional.

    September 6, 2012 at 11:25 pm |
  12. Angelia

    Moon married those people for the Green Cards, that is the only reason.
    And his ultimate goal was to be Emperor of the World under the Unification Church.

    September 6, 2012 at 5:30 pm |
  13. Rev. Ayo Abraham

    Rev. Sun Myung Moon was a servant of Satan who used him to mess up so many lives and lead them to Hell. Except if he had repented before he died, he is now with his master and the world is better off without him and the evil church that he founded. The wrath of the true living God is upon everyone who follows in his footstep at it was with Sun Myung Moon. If you are one of them, it is not too late to turn to the true living God and accept Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior. Otherwise, you will likewise perish. For what does it profit a Man or Woman if he or she gains the whole world only to lose his or her soul and become cast away for all eternity from the only true God and eternal joy!

    September 6, 2012 at 4:30 pm |
    • Peter Perry

      Jesus was put on the cross for the very reason you are doing. You never ever read any of his speeches Blind guide. You would have been one of the first to nail Jesus to the cross.

      September 10, 2012 at 12:07 pm |
    • kygav111

      Jesus either unbelievable that time. People at that time stick on mossainic law, and sadly to say, they persecute Jesus and nail to the cross. It is the same of some christian, waiting the lord came from the cloud, but the messiah already born on earth. I don't know, or How long they will wait by that day?
      I am very sorry to Rev. Abraham, but, One thing I can say, You did not understand the providence of God, His Heart, and His suffering.
      Please study your bible with the reality and small making sense. and the most important Pray and Ask God, Either Rev. Moon is the Messiah? and, I have confident God will answer you with... Absolutely Yes...

      September 10, 2012 at 2:14 pm |
    • Noone Special

      So you're saying you believe that, after Moon took advantage, brainwashed, and victimized these most likely already vulnerable and broken people, our loving and merciful God would condemn those same people with eternal damnation for being his victims?

      September 10, 2012 at 5:08 pm |
  14. dahditdah

    How could Ms. Barker leave out Maharaj Ji (Prem Rawat) in her list of cult leaders? A few of my high school friends starved themselves so as to send this 'teacher' all their earnings and whatever they could beg. Kind of lost touch with them after one conversion attempt.

    September 6, 2012 at 3:54 pm |
  15. back bencher

    he was just a cheater.he has created whealth for his children.thats all.no church here

    September 6, 2012 at 9:58 am |
    • Noelle

      Yes, like many other churches in the world.

      September 6, 2012 at 11:25 am |
    • inachu

      The one thing that irk me about Mr. Moon was that he was always trying to get all churches to remove the cross from iside the house of worship. If your church does not have a cross in the place of worship then you can bet 100% that Mr. Moon is to blame.

      September 6, 2012 at 12:03 pm |
    • Maurice

      What Sun Myung Moon have done is far from any religious leader in the world, from Jesus to now, no one has accomplished like Moon.
      If he was American he could been recognized by the you selfish American, for you, what is not American isn't good. We are Unificationists and are proud to be. Keep your biased jugment for yourselves.

      September 11, 2012 at 5:01 am |
  16. inachu

    Mr. Moon is not GOD.
    He is not the messiah.
    He does not have super human powers.
    He is a human being with no powers at all and is plain and simple human. Nothing extra ordinary about him. He is a father and has a wife. Many people who get married has a husband and wife and they are TRUE husband and wife. Nothing special about calling him a true father. Many men are true fathers without being married. The occult usage of words to make a man appear more than human is a party of the sick mind at work.

    September 6, 2012 at 8:07 am |
    • kygav111

      Yes, because of your understanding of Jesus is God, in one blink of an eye everything is changed.
      Jesus is human being
      Jesus is the messiah
      but, Jesus is not God himself
      Jesus the son of God, born to the earth.
      You know Why people that time slander Jesus? because,
      Jesus did not meet the expectaion of the Jews.
      What kind expectaion?
      1. Jesus was born to the earth, not from the cloud.
      2. Jesus bringing the new truth, and different from the old testament. thus Moses word nail him.
      3. Jesus the only Son of a carpenter, compare to John the Baptist.

      Rev. Sun Myung Moon, was born to the earth, mis understood, and persecuted
      He is also bringing the new truth, (Divine Principle) that's different in the new testament of Jesus. Thus nailed him.

      So, Jesus the first coming of christ, and Rev Moon is the second advent of christ.

      September 10, 2012 at 2:42 pm |
  17. William Russell

    Sun Myung Moon will rest in peace...
    Few people recognize the good work that he has done, preaching marriage, purity, fidelity, living for the sake of others, risking his life and leading a charge against communism all the while not being respected, unfairly criticized, incorrectly incarcerated and being sent to die in a North Korea labor camp where the communist put him!

    Before anyone criticizes think twice and actually read what the Rev Moon teaches!

    September 5, 2012 at 6:38 pm |
    • Ella JA

      Good comments Bill. I hope to read more like them. While I am not a direct follower of the church, still AGREE there is much good he and his followers have achieved. Skimming through the comments seeing all the hateful remarks while searching for peaceful, joyful and some real statements of R.I.P from other leaders or people who believe in living a peaceful life would be nice. Not seeing that is more evident there is still so much more for people to learn how to LOVE and be greatful.

      September 7, 2012 at 10:52 am |
  18. BigDog

    good riddance

    September 5, 2012 at 6:27 pm |
  19. Raymond S

    I do have to go so I probably will not be around to answer any more responses just in case someone accuses me of not responding. I don't expect to convince any of the people that I have responded to of anything that I have said... So why did I respond at all?

    I will answer that question with a question...

    Are you the only ones reading this? Surely if you are as intelligent as you claim to be you will understand the fullness of what I mean which is more than what it implies.

    September 5, 2012 at 3:16 pm |
  20. Raymond S

    Huebert
    So you are saying that god intentionally keeps people in poverty and in suffering so he can teach others how to "love". Your god has a terrible idea of love. Love should alleviate suffering, not cause it.

    No, rather it is your utter lack of understanding about how the spirit realm works that is the flaw. To a spirit the flesh is nothing, something that is transient and temporary, clay to be molded and remolded as it sees fit. Physical pain, pleasure, are all a mist that disappear as quickly as they appear; you and the scientific community who observe evolution I.E. change over time do not know this? The lessons learned by this temporary pain is nothing compared to the permanency of the Spirit realm or the lesson that the allowance of this pain invokes.

    So in short if a person learns to love over helping a blind person in such a way as to teach them to love then God will allow blindness until love comes to completion. It is your short sighted, narrow minded, physical view that is the problem for if people were to learn to love as God had asked there would BE NO BLINDNESS. Much of the blindness, poverty, are due to mankind's GREED in short lack of love. God simply uses those things that mankind PLACED ON HIMSELF to teach a lesson. It is the sad lack of that understanding that has caused man's woes, not the God who gave the instructions on how to love in the first place.

    Second of all God DOES cure blindness today and has been doing so for over two thousand years. The problem is that this requires faith something that this generation knows little about. No faith, no healing.

    So Huebert if you want to place the fault on someone blame mankind fails to love and not the God who instructed them to love in the first place as I said.

    September 5, 2012 at 2:27 pm |
    • toxictown

      absolute lunacy.

      September 7, 2012 at 1:27 pm |
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The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.