Unification Church

views updated May 08 2018


UNIFICATION CHURCH . The Unification Church is a messianic, millenarian religion, dedicated to the goal of restoring the kingdom of heaven on earth. It was founded in Korea in 1954 by the Reverend Sun Myung Moon (b. 1920) as the Holy Spirit Association for the Unification of World Christianity (HSA-UWC). Within a quarter of a century it had become one of the best known and controversial of the contemporary wave of new religious movements. In Korea it is known as the Tong Il movement; in the West it has been referred to by various names such as the Unified Family, or the Moon Organization; then, during the 1990s, it was reconceived as the Family Federation for World Peace and Unification (FFWPU), with the Unification Church being merely the religious arm of the movement. However, despite their attempts to be rid of the label, the movement's members continue to be widely known as "Moonies."


Moon was born in what is now North Korea in 1920. He claims that on Easter Day 1936 Jesus appeared and asked him to assume responsibility for the mission of establishing God's kingdom on earth. During the next two decades Moon is said to have communicated with various other religious leaders (such as Moses and the Buddha) and with God himself. This resulted in a body of teachings eventually published in English as the Divine Principle (1973).

During the movement's early days in Korea it met with considerable opposition from both the established churches and government officials. Moon was imprisoned several times, and at one point spent two and a half years in a Communist labor camp. In the late 1950s Unification missionaries went to Japan and the West, but it was not until the early 1970s, when Moon himself moved to the United States, that the movement became known to more than a handful of Westerners. Over the next ten years, however, Moon's name became a household word as he spoke on lecture tours and at large rallies, and hosted leading academics at international conferences and local and national dignitaries at lavish dinners. The movement also received considerable attention by supporting U.S. president Richard Nixon during the Watergate crisis.

Several valuable properties (including the New Yorker Hotel and the Tiffany building in Manhattan) were acquired by the organization. Businesses affiliated with the movement (including fishing concerns and ginseng production companies) appeared to prosper. Cultural activities (including the Little Angels dance troupe, the Go World Brass Band, and the New Hope Singers) flourished. The Unification Theological Seminary was established in Barrytown, New York, in 1975, Sun Moon University appeared in Korea (1993), and the University of Bridgeport, Connecticut, which had been founded in 1927 as the Junior College of Connecticut, was rescued from financial disaster by the Professors' World Peace Academy, an organization created and supported by Moon, in 1992. Newspapers and other publications, including the Washington Times (in 1982), were launched in Tokyo, New York, Latin America, and elsewhere.

Clean-shaven, well-groomed Unificationists became a familiar sight on the streets of North America and Europe, selling candles, candy, cut flowers, potted plants, Unification literatureand the Unification Church itself. Those who joined as full-time members in the 1970s and 1980s were disproportionately white, middle-class people in their early twenties. As in Japan, they lived in communal centers, but by the early 1990s most grass-roots members had been sent to their hometowns, where (like the Korean members) they tended to live as nuclear families, no longer working full-time for Unification-related businesses.

Partly because of a high drop-out rate, the number of fully committed members has always been considerably lower than the media (or the movement itself) have suggested; indeed, there have never been, at any one time, many more than 10,000 full-time members in the West, where the movement has not grown substantially since the 1970s, but has come to rely on second-generation members to sustain its membership (although, following the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989, a modest number of new converts were recruited in Eastern Europe and the former Soviet Union). In Asia, full-time membership is unlikely to have exceeded two or three times that number. There is, however, a considerably larger category of people who express support for Unification beliefs and/or other aspects of the movement while, perhaps, maintaining allegiance to another religious tradition. Indeed, with the passage of years, it has become increasingly difficult to distinguish between core Unificationists (rather like priests or monks) and those who are more or less loosely associated members of the wider Unification congregation. As with many new religions, the aging of converts and the arrival of second and subsequent generations has been accompanied by a tendency towards "denominationalization," or general accommodation to the wider society with a lessening of sharp dichotomies between "them" and "us."


Unification theology is one of the most comprehensive among the contemporary new religions. The Divine Principle offers an interpretation of the Bible that, it is claimed, can unite all religions. God is portrayed as a personal being who created the world according to a few universal principles. All creation consists of positive and negative (male and female) elements; these unite into larger units, which in turn unite to form still larger wholes. Adam and Eve were created so God could have a loving "give-and-take" relationship with them. The original plan was that they should mature to a stage of perfection when they would be blessed in marriage; their children and their children's children would populate a sinless world in complete harmony with God. This, however, was not to be. The fall is interpreted not as the result of eating an apple, but as the consequence of a disobedience that involved the misuse of the most powerful of all forces: love. The archangel Lucifer, whom God had entrusted to look after Adam and Eve, became jealous of God's love for Adam and had a (spiritual) sexual relationship with Eve. Eve then persuaded Adam to have a (physical) sexual relationship with her. As a result of this premature union, which was Lucifer-centered rather than God-centered, the fallen nature, or original sin, of Adam and Eve has been transmitted to subsequent generations, and the whole of history can be seen as an attempt by God and man, especially key figures in the Bible, to restore the world to the state originally intended by God.

Ultimately, restoration is possible only through the person of a messiah, who with his wife will perform the roles in which Adam and Eve failedthat is, those of True Parents. They (and those whom they bless in marriage) will have children born without original sin. But for this to happen, humankind has to create a foundation ready to receive the messiah. In practical terms this involves the concept of "indemnity," whereby a good, sacrificial deed can cancel "bad debts" accumulated by a person or his ancestors. The role of the messiah is seen as an office filled by a man born of human parents, but free of original sin. Jesus was such a man, but, largely through the fault of John the Baptist, he was murdered before he had a chance to marry. Thus, he was able to offer the world spiritual but not physical salvation through his death. Numerous parallels between the period before the time of Jesus and the past two millennia are believed to indicate that the present is the time of the second coming. In 1992 Moon publicly declared what his followers had long believedthat he was that messiah, he and his wife being the True Parents of all humanity.

Unification teachings now extend well beyond the Divine Principle. In particular, there has been the development of what might be termed Moonology, which elaborates on the achievements of Moon and his immediate family, both on earth and in the spirit world. In 1993 Moon announced that the first True Family had been established (by him and his wife, children, and grandchildren) and that the world had entered the Completed Testament Age (CTA). In 1997 Moon instituted a new tradition, Hoon Dok Hae, meaning to meet for reading and disccusion, enjoining members to read, from 6:00 to 7:00 every morning, passages from his speeches, which now constituted the basic scriptures for the CTA. On the first day of each week, month, and year, and on the movement's holy days, members take the Pledge, a short statement in which they vow allegiance to God and "True Parents" (Moon and his wife), but on May 5, 2004, Moon announced the change from the "era before heaven" to the "era after the coming of heaven," and, henceforth, the pledge services would be observed every eighth day. The most important Unification rites are the mass weddings, known as Blessings. In the movement's early days, members were "matched" with a partner suggested by Moon, and were expected to practice celibacy before and for some time after the Blessing. By the mid-1990s, however, Blessings were extended to include millions of couples, many of whom did not attend the ceremony and had little awareness of their being associated with a Unification practice, let alone the practice's spiritual significance.

Moon has always spoken of a close relationship between activities in this world and the spirit world, but the connection became increasingly pronounced with two revivalist movements. First, several members claimed to have received messages from Moon's son, Heung Jin Nim, following his death in 1984; then, in the late 1980s, Moon's family recognized his embodiment in a young Zimbabwean member. For several months "Black Heung Jin Nim" enjoyed a privileged position, traveling the world and meting out punishments to members who confessed to having strayed. Eventually, however, he was denounced and returned to Africa, where he started his own movement. Another Unificationist revival, associated with Chung Pyung Lake in Korea, dates from the mid-1990s and involves the channeling of messages from Mrs. Moon's mother (and others in the spirit world). Members are expected to attend forty-day workshops for healing, contact with the spirit world, and participation in ceremonies to liberate their ancestors. According to the Unification Church, billions of couples have been Blessed in the spirit world, and in 2003 advertisements appeared in major newspapers containing testimonies from religious and political leaders (including Moses, Jesus, Muammad, Karl Marx, Pol Pot, and John F. Kennedy) declaring Moon to be the True Parent of humanity.


Throughout the world, the Unification Church has attracted considerable hostility from the media, cult-awareness movements, several government bodies, and, indeed, the general public. Among the many accusations are that it uses brainwashing or mind-control techniques to recruit and keep its members; that it breaks up families; that its leaders live in luxury while the rank and file are exploited and oppressed; that it manufactures armaments; that it is politically right-wing and has had connections with the South Korean intelligence agency (KCIA); that it is merely a front for a seditious organization that is attempting to take over the world and establish a theocracy with Moon at its head; and that it violates tax and immigration laws. (In 1982 a federal-court jury convicted Moon of conspiracy to evade taxes and sentenced him to eighteen months' imprisonment.) Other controversies have surrounded the financial situation of Unification-related businesses and the church's attempt to establish a large community, New Hope East Garden, in South America.

Attacks on Moon's personal behavior have come from a variety of sources. In 1993 an early member, Chung Hwa Pak, published The Tragedy of the Six Marys, claiming that Moon had frequently indulged in the sexual "restoration" of the world by having sex with women who would then be expected to have "restoring" sex with six men. In 1995, however, Pak publicly retracted his account. Another book, published in 1998 by Nansook Hong, the estranged wife of Moon's eldest son, described how her husband was addicted to hard drugs, committed adultery, and beat her while she was pregnant. The book also mentioned Moon's illegitimate son and suggested that, far from presenting the ideal example of a God-centered family, the Moons seem to constitute an uncommonly dysfunctional unit, with several of their children deserting the movement. The movement has vehemently denied the criticisms leveled against it, expressing particular concern where such accusations have been used to justify kidnapping members to make them renounce their faith (although, apart from Japan, few countries continue this practice of "forcible deprogramming"). Except for the occasional, short-lived exposé, the media and cult-watching organizations for the most part have lost interest in the movement as it has matured and become less high profile than it was in the 1970s and 1980s.


Unification theology exists in various versions. Exposition of the Divine Principle (New York, 1996). There have been many versions of this text, and this is the most recent version. Basically the theology is the same, though stresses and presentation vary. The first full translation into English from the Korean is Divine Principle, New York: Holy Spirit Association for the Unification of World Christianity, 1973. Moon has not actually penned any of the versions; they were taken down by his disciples from his talks/sermons and later plished/translated/interpreted by other Unificationists. English version is is accessible at http://www.unification.net/dp96. Numerous books, mostly partisan, have been written by members and close associates of the movement, ex-Unifications, and conservative Christians; Nansook Hong's In the Shadow of the Moons: My Life in the Reverend Sun Myung Moon's Family (Boston, 1998) is one of the most critical exposés, and the 600-page volume 40 Years in America: An Intimate History of the Unification Movement 19591999 (New York, 2000), by Michael Inglis and Michael L. Mickler, provides an extremely useful overview of public and internal developments from the church's own perspective. Sebastian Matczak's Unificationism: A New Philosophy and World View (New York, 1982) provides a theological critique and comparison with other thought systems. For sociological approaches, see John Lofland's Doomsday Cult: A Study of Conversion, Proselytization, and Maintenance of Faith, enl. ed. (New York, 1977); David G. Bromley and Anson D. Shupe Jr.'s "Moonies" in America: Cult, Church and Crusade (Beverly Hills, Calif., 1979); and Eileen Barker's The Making of a Moonie: Choice or Brainwashing? (Oxford, 1984). Massimo Introvigne's slim volume The Unification Church (Turin, Italy and Salt Lake City, Utah, 2000) follows events up to the end of the twentieth century.

Eileen Barker (1987 and 2005)

Unification Church

views updated May 29 2018

Unification Church

The Unification Church, formally the Holy Spirit Association for the Unification of World Christianity, represents a blend of Christianity and Confucianism. The movement maintains an elaborate organizational structure and claims several hundred thousand members worldwide, but membership has declined since the 1970s. Full-time American membership, which peaked at five thousand to ten thousand, is currently in the range of one thousand to two thousand. At present, church growth is greatest in Latin America and Africa.

Sun Myung Moon: Founder of the Unification Church

The Unification Church was founded by Sun Myung Moon, born Yong Myung Moon in 1920, in what is now North Korea. His family converted to Presbyterianism when he was ten years old. At age sixteen he had a spiritual vision in which he was instructed to complete Jesus' unfinished mission of restoring God's kingdom on earth. By 1944 Moon began gathering disciples. His anticommunism and revisionist Christian theology resulted in his imprisonment on three occasions in the 1940s and 1950s. Following the Korean War he settled in Pusan, founded the Unification Church in 1954, and published his major theological treatise, The Divine Principle (1957). In the late 1950s he dispatched missionaries to Japan and the United States. In 1960 Moon was wedded, for the second time, to Hak Ja Han, who bore thirteen children over the next two decades. In 1971 Moon immigrated to America, which served as his primary residence until the mid-1990s, when he expressed disenchantment with American hedonism and began redirecting his movement's initiatives toward South America. He further announced that he had fulfilled the conditions requisite for the messianic role in the Restoration process (see below).

The Divine Principle

The core of Moon's theology, the Divine Principle, is the sequence of the Creation, Fall, and Restoration. God created the world to reflect his inner, loving nature; Adam and Eve were to share the joy of love and to form a perfect, God-centered family. However, Adam and Eve failed to realize God's purpose, as Eve was spiritually seduced by Satan and prematurely consummated a physical relationship with Adam. Sexual indiscretion thus constituted the Fall, the ultimate source of human sinfulness, and humanity thereby became rooted in a satanic lineage. Humans bear responsibility and must pay indemnity for their sins to earn the opportunity for Restoration. Jesus offered the most recent such opportunity. Although he was successful in creating the basis for spiritual Restoration (through acceptance of him as savior), he was crucified before achieving physical Restoration by establishing a new lineage of God-centered families. Moon represents the new messianic figure who can complete the Restoration process by bringing all relationships and institutions out of the satanic into the God-centered domain if humanity embraces his leadership.


Moon is a successful corporate executive with a network of enterprises in Korea, Japan, and North and South America. These corporations include industrial, food, fishing, newspaper publishing (most notably the Washington Times), consumer goods, and recreational enterprises. In the United States, corporations are organized through a holding company, Unification Church International, with profits redistributed to Moon's religious agenda. These projects and organizations include a broad range of political, economic, social, intellectual, and artistic initiatives that are all intended to link individuals and organizations to his messianic mission. The primary source of funding has been Japan; businesses elsewhere have had mixed economic fortunes. Recent organizational changes include the founding in Brazil of the New Hope communities, which Unificationists regard as the new Garden of Eden, and Moon's replacement of the Unification Church as the organizational vehicle for his mission with the Family Federation for World Peace and Unification, which sponsors lectures and programs supporting moral and family values.

The central project of Restoration is the creation of God-centered families; as the True Parents, Moon and his wife initiate this new spiritual lineage through the blessing (marriage) ritual. There have been a succession of blessings in mass ceremonies, generally held at outdoor stadiums and broadcast worldwide. The most recent such ceremony was held in 1998; it involved 30,000 couples on-site and 3.5 million overall (most were non-Unificationists renewing their marriage vows). During the 1970s and 1980s, Unificationist membership involved intense, full-time commitment, with married couples pursuing movement projects independently. More recently Moon has emphasized the home church, which encourages families to return to their former faiths to create bridges between Unificationism and other denominations.


The Unification Church has been embroiled in controversy since its inception. Moon was imprisoned briefly in the United States on tax-evasion charges; the church became the most prominent target of the anticult movement during the 1970s for allegedly brainwashing adherents and was the target of federal and state legislative investigations; conservative Christian groups have continued to denounce Moon's theology and messianic claims; and the National Council of Churches has denied the church membership. Most recently, two daughters and a daughter-in-law have distanced themselves from Moon, and the daughter-in-law has offered public accounts of abusive family relationships within the church.

See alsoAnti-Cult Movement; Brainwashing; Confucianism; Cult; Cult Awareness Network; Financing Religion.


Barker, Eileen. The Making of a Moonie: Brainwashingor Choice? 1984.

Bromley, David G., and Anson Shupe. "Moonies"inAmerica: Cult, Church, and Crusade. 1979.

Lofland, John. Doomsday Cult. Enlarged ed. 1977.

David G. Bromley

Unification Church

views updated May 11 2018


The doctrines of the Unification Church derive from revelations provided to the Reverend Sun Myung Moon, a Korean-born charismatic figure whose followers number in the tens of thousands. He was born of converted Presbyterian parents in 1920, and at the age of 16, reported a vision in which Jesus charged him with the completion of the Messianic mission. Christ's mission was incomplete because he had been killed before he could generate a new human lineage and establish an earthly kingdom. Moon's teachings have been systematized by Young Oon Kim in the book Divine Principle, considered a sacred scripture of the church.

Although his formal education at Waseda University, Japan, prepared him for a career in electrical engineering, Moon began to preach his version of salvation history without seminary training, Biblical scholarship, or ministerial ordination. Gathering disciples first at Puson, he then moved to Seoul, the capitol of the Republic of Korea, and in 1954 established the Holy Spirit Association for the Unification of World Christianity. As the church grew in members it sent out missionaries, first to Japan in 1958, then to America in 1959. Eventually, it established missions in more than 100 countries. After the Rev. Moon took up permanent residence in the United States in 1972, the world headquarters was fixed in New York City.

Structures and Practices. In organizational polity the Church resembles a paternalistic kinship system, with the Rev. Moon as final authority and "true parent." There are no clergy in the Church, but governance is assisted by the spouses of the "36 blessed families" of the first mass wedding held in 1961. At the intermediary level are the "central figures," appointed as state and local leaders who direct the church's many missions and commercial enterprises. Loyalty at all levels is filial and familistic rather than hierarchical and ecclesial.

The Unification code of moral behavior emanates from the sanctity of the God-centered family. According to the teachings of Moon, the fall of Adam and Eve was due to sexual license and brought humanity under the spiritual and biological power of Satan. This power is to be broken by the blessings of marriage. Children born of the marriage union are a new and innocent race. Family stability and marital fidelity build on the key virtue of chastity, which is the absolute condition of membership. According to Moon, God's children "can attain divine perfection by becoming a family totally formed on God's principles, and can become dominant over the universe by means of biological reproduction." When members are matched by Rev. Moon for marriage they take on his lineage, become his spiritual children and spiritual siblings to fellow members.

Theology. The center of Unificationist theology is God, the Creator, who suffers as a result of the sins of his children. There is no place for the Trinity, because neither Jesus nor the Holy Spirit is acknowledged as divine. Human creatures pay some indemnity for human sinfulness, but the Father carries the greater share of this debt. The most marked contrast between the teachings of traditional Christianity and those of the Unification Church is the claim that "Jesus did not come to die, but to establish a God-centered family on earth." By his death and resurrection, Jesus paid indemnity for the spiritual redemption of humanity, but the restoration of a physical kingdom is still to be achieved.

With neither a sacramental nor a sacerdotal system, worship services are a simple liturgy patterned on the typical Protestant practices of congregational hymns, prayer, and preaching. The most solemn repetitive ritual is "The Pledge," a prayer recited in unison on Sundays and on the first day of each month. Personal meditation and prayer are the focus of spiritual training in seminars and retreats. All members are trained for public prayer and witnessing to prospective converts. In their ecumenical thrust, the Unificationists participate in the worship rituals of all Christian denominations.

The Rev. Moon's church has been widely described as a "cult." In a few celebrated cases, members have been stolen away by their parents and subsequently "deprogramed." In July 1982, the Rev. Moon was convicted of income tax evasion in the United States when a court rejected his claim that proceeds from the numerous commercial enterprises run by his followers should be exempted on religious grounds. Although many established Christian churches viewed the Unification Church with suspicion, they showed considerable support for Rev. Moon on the grounds that his trial violated the Constitutional separation of Church and State. The Supreme Court declined to hear his final appeal on May 14, 1984 (Moon v. U.S. ).

Bibliography: j. h. fichter, The Holy Family of Father Moon (Kansas City 1985). y. o. kim, Unification Theology (New York 1980). t. mcgowan, "The Unification Church," The Ecumenist 17:2 (1979). f. sontag, Sun Myung Moon and the Unification Church (Nashville 1977). s. m. moon, Divine Principle (New York 1973). e. barker, The Making of a Moonie (New York 1984).

[j. h. fichter/eds.]

Unification Church

views updated May 21 2018

Unification Church

A religious movement founded in 1954 in Korea by Rev. Sun Myung Moon, a South Korean engineer. His family had converted to the Presbyterian Church, and in 1935 he had a vision of Jesus, who reportedly told him to complete Jesus' unfinished work. He began to collect followers as early as 1944 into the Broad Sea Church. In 1946 he began a six-year stint in a North Korean prison camp. After his release, he made his way to Pusan, South Korea, where he eventually founded his church. Its basic teachings were written down in the Divine Principle, first published in 1957.

The first missionaries of the church were sent to Japan, where they had their greatest success. Members moved to the United States in 1959, and the first centers were begun in Eugene, Oregon, and Washington, D.C. Moon moved to the United States in 1971. Soon established were a headquarters in Manhattan, a seminary in Barrytown, New York, and Moon's residence in Irvington, New York.

Unification thought is based on a unique understanding of the concepts of Creation, the Fall, and Restoration. The principle of Creation asserts that God created the world and by that act became known. The world, reflecting God's nature, has two expressions, as Sung Sang (internal, invisible) and Hyung Sang (external, visible). It also is expressed as male and female. In the first set of expressions, one sees the relationship of spiritual and material; the second reveals what is traditionally known as yin and yang, the masculine and feminine. God created out of his inner nature, his heart of love. The purpose of creation is to experience the joy that comes from loving.

The Fall came about from Adam and Eve's failure to realize God's purpose in creation. The Fall placed Satan in control of creation. God has been trying to restore his primal intention ever since. The Bible is an account of God's various restoration attempts.

The principle of Restoration delineates the conditions necessary for the reestablishment of God's intention. The plan involves both God's sending of one sinless man and the response of a free and responsible humankind. The Messiah was to be born as a substantial, physical being, an example of the ideal person. He was also to take a bride and realize the ideal family and thus become the True Parent. Through the True Parent, God will implant love in the hearts of all who follow him. He will also show them how to accomplish the true purpose in life.

Throughout the 1970s the Unification Church (full name: The Holy Spirit Association for the Unification of World Christianity) became one of the more controversial of the new religions. Because of its intense indoctrination, it was labeled a "cult" by many parents of the primarily youthful converts. Many were offended by the church's policy concerning sex and marriage. New members spent at least seven years in celibacy, after which Moon selected a spouse for them. Most marriage partners were drawn from a different country or race. Following their engagement, couples were married in mass weddings, the most recent of which occurred in 1995.

The church spawned a number of organizations, some evangelistic arms and others designed to carry out social policies. The church also made friends with many scholars and intellectuals. Most of the church's programs are now organized into two structures, the International Cultural Foundation and the International Religious Foundation. The former has sponsored possibly the most successful program involving nonchurch members, the International Conference on the Unity of the Sciences.

The church has spread internationally and is active in over 150 countries. It has approximately five thousand members in the United States but counts members in the hundreds of thousands worldwide. Address: HSA-UWC, 4 W. 43rd St., New York, NY 10036. Website: http://www.unification.org/.


Barker, Eileen. The Making of a Moonie. Oxford: Basil Blackwell, 1984.

Biermans, John T. The Odyssey of New Religious Movements. New York: Edwin Mellon, 1986.

Divine Principle. New York: Holy Spirit Association for the Unification of World Christianity, 1973.

Outline of the Principle, Level 4. New York: Holy Spirit Association for the Unification of World Christianity, 1980.

The Unification Church. http://www.unification.org/. March 8, 2000.

Unification Church

views updated May 09 2018

Unification Church International religious movement founded (1954) in South Korea by Sun Myung Moon. Its adherents are popularly known as Moonies. The movement's teachings are based on Moon's book Divine Principle (1952), which interprets the Bible. The movement aims to re-establish God's rule on Earth through the restoration of the family. The Unification Church is famous for its mass weddings and has been accused of cult-like practices, such as brainwashing.

Unification Church:

views updated May 21 2018

Unification Church

views updated May 14 2018

Unification Church an evangelistic religious and political organization founded in 1954 in Korea by Sun Myung Moon.