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Who Is Rev. Moon? 'Returning Lord,' 'Messiah,' Publisher of the Washington Times

"True Father" to some, madman to others, Sun Myung Moon is one of the strangest and least scrutinized figures in the conservative media world.
 
 
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The following is an adapted excerpt from John Gorenfeld's " Bad Moon Rising: How Reverend Moon Created the Washington Times, Seduced the Religious Right, and Built an American Kingdom" (Polipoint Press, 2008). The video at the right is from a 1997 Washington Times party where Moon said he founded the newspaper to save the world. In it, he also demands that his employees rid the world of "free sex," meaning sexual intercourse beyond the purifying influence of his mass weddings.

One chilly Tuesday evening, strange things were afoot on Capitol Hill. The U.S. Senate was hosting a ceremony at the request of a wealthy, elderly newspaper publisher who wanted official recognition as a majestic, divine visitor to Washington. The Dirksen Senate Office Building made for an unlikely temple: a formidable seven-story block of white marble, looming on a street corner diagonally across from the Capitol Dome, its marble pediment is inscribed, "THE SENATE IS THE LIVING SYMBOL OF OUR UNION OF STATES."

On March 23, 2004, U.S. lawmakers were filmed here in a conference room, paying tribute to the enigmatic Reverend Sun Myung Moon, then eighty-four, and his wife, Hak Ja, sixty-four.

As the cameras rolled, two congressmen presented the Koreans with matching royal costumes. Wearing the burgundy robes and shining crowns, which crested into jagged golden pinnacles, the married couple smiled and waved for the cameras.

Who was this self-proclaimed monarch? In the 1970s, the evening news had presented Moon, the ranting, middle-aged business tycoon who wore flowing robes on special occasions, as Korea's answer to L. Ron Hubbard, someone for college students to avoid, luring thousands of young Americans into a cult in which they sold carnations on the street and married spouses he chose for them. But the media had moved on to other nightmares, leaving Moon, forgotten, to reinvent himself. Now time had wizened him into an elderly patriarch, wearing an ashen face for his coronation. An orange Senate VIP name tag remained pinned to his gray suit, peeking out from between rows of curly gold filigree, as he stood on stage at the head of a red carpet.

The King of Peace, the Lord of the Fourth Israel, the Messiah, they called him now -- and the publisher of the Washington Times . Though over a dozen congressmen attended his pageant, no one spoke a word of it to the press, not at first. By the time the secret was out, and ABC News was broadcasting the strange sights, it was three months later -- summertime-and school was coming soon to the States. Soon grand parade marshals would drive teen queens and their bouquets around football fields, and the helmets of varsity teams would crash through banners. And homecoming would not be so different, insisted the two hapless congressmen, from the Reverend Moon's rites, which had become a scandal.

"People crown kings and queens at homecoming parades all the time," the liberal Chicago representative Danny Davis (D-IL) said.

"I remember the king and queen thing," said Rep. Roscoe Bartlett (R-MD). "But we have the king and queen of the prom, the king and queen of 4-H, the Mardi Gras and all sorts of other things. I had no idea what he was king of."

Yes, they admitted, it was them on camera, walking in the procession with slow, worshipful steps, bowing to the stage where the Moons stood. Those were Davis's hands, wearing white gloves to avoid defiling the embroidered pillow he carried, a crown bobbing on it, to be lain on the brow of Mrs. Moon; that was Bartlett carrying the burgundy cape for Mr. Moon's shoulders. Neither seemed embarrassed.

The "throne room" itself belonged to the U.S. Senate, whose Rules Committee, under Republican senator Trent Lott (R-MS), had the final say in who booked rooms and whether visitors could be anointed kings in them. And a senator had to sign off on that. The name of the senator, said one of the evening's hosts, the defrocked Catholic priest George Stallings, was "shrouded in mystery."

"There are moments that best play straight," CNN anchor Aaron Brown said after I discovered the pageant. "So here goes. Lawmakers welcome a guy to Congress -- and the messiah shows up."

* * *

The coronation had been disguised as a Washington awards dinner, sponsored by a conservative, pro-war senator who had modestly kept his name out of the picture. The party began normally enough, serving portions of chicken and fish from the buffet and windy politicians' speeches from the podium. But through a bait and switch -- and a strange internal logic -- room G-50 of the Senate office building, all marble and eagle seals, changed during the course of the evening into a fantasy throne room, complete with long red carpet, for the stern monarch of the Washington Times , the influential conservative newspaper that warns of immigrants and threats to Christmas -- and who also controls United Press International (UPI), the formerly great news agency.

Moon walked from the chilly evening into the marble building dressed in a suit with bow tie and rose corsage. When he got up to deliver his keynote address, it was in a gravelly northern dialect of Korean, a farmer's accent. Gripping the podium, he gruffly admonished the crowd, which included members of Congress, to accept him as "God's ambassador, sent to earth with His full authority."

With a printed copy of the speech before them -- headlined Declaring the Era of the Peace Kingdom -- guests listened to an English translation in radio earpieces. "The time has come for you to open your hearts," Moon said, "and receive the secrets that Heaven is disclosing in this age through me." To prove his credentials, he spoke of testimonials on his behalf -- from the lips of the dead, with whom he claimed the power to converse. "The five great saints," he said -- meaning Jesus, Confucius, Buddha, Muhammad, and the Hindu prophet Shankara -- "and many other leaders in the spirit world, including even Communist leaders such as Marx and Lenin, who committed all manner of barbarity and murders on earth, and dictators such as Hitler and Stalin, have found strength in my teachings, mended their ways and been reborn as new persons."

His boasts were underscored with whoops and cheers from his followers, who had the good seats. To their church, the moment was a shining vindication for years of hardship: for being treated in the press as predators and for seeing their Christ-like hero, the Reverend Moon, forced onto the witness stand by U.S. tax attorneys, Sen. Bob Dole, and others between 1975 and 1984. Behind the gavels of government, these Pontius Pilates had pronounced Moon an enemy of the American family and the advance man for a South Korean dictator. The Reagan Justice Department had even sent Moon to prison. But now Moon was active in family values politics, and members of Congress were as submissive as puppies. Moon prevailed.

Believing they were saving the world, Moon's men had faced desperate pressure to arrange the awards dinner. The Senate event's emcee was Michael Jenkins, leader of the American Unification Church, a white, middle-aged, blandly enthusiastic spokesman for the cause. In the autumn of 2003, Jenkins recalls in a sermon found online, the Reverend Moon had instructed him three times, first in a low voice, then louder, that unless the world enacted Moon's plan for world peace, millions would die in a new Middle East Holocaust. "Not six million," Jenkins said, "but six hundred million." That fall the Times publisher fished for hours on his boat, while his apostles begged him not to strain his health. "You tell me to rest," Moon retorted, "but I'm determining the course of history." When Moon goes reeling off the coast of Kodiak, Alaska -- where the church-owned True World Foods cannery annually ships out over twenty million pounds of salmon and other seafood -- his followers believe his fishing also mends the wounds of the Cosmos. One day, the elderly fisherman accused Jenkins's American archdiocese of taking the mission lightly. Far from it, Jenkins proclaimed from the pulpit. "Our American members are willing to die," he said. "They're willing to die. Once they understand God's will, they'll die."

Had the Reverend Moon's crowning at the Dirksen Senate Office Building not been filmed and photographed from seemingly every possible angle, and broadcast on ABC's World News Tonight and Fox, and giggled at by The Daily Show 's Jon Stewart, and compared in a New York Times op-ed with an act of the Roman emperor who nominated his horse to the senate, it might have remained a mad whisper among Senate aides.

***

"Moon can buy a newspaper," Chris Matthews (of MSNBC Hardball fame) said in 1982, when he was spokesperson for Democratic House Speaker Tip O'Neill and Moon's editors had just printed their first issue, "but I can't buy the idea he's a newspaperman."

Five years on, the skeptics persisted. "What I don't understand," said Washington Post editor Ben Bradlee in 1987, alluding to a congressional report that said Moon's aides had been career South Korean intelligence officers, "is how anyone can take seriously a newspaper that is controlled … by the agents of a foreign government. No one would take them seriously if it was Bangladesh. No one would take them seriously if it was France."

Today the peculiar newspaper has become an "extremely important paper for conservatives," National Review editor John O'Sullivan has said, "because it's in Washington and has great influence within the administration." Its reporting is incessantly quoted on Fox News Channel, on talk radio, and in the Republican Web world, leaving a mark on public opinion. The Times originally rolled out in 1982 -- created by Moon -- to counterbalance the critical Washington Post with a friendlier treatment of the Reagan administration. The paper calls itself "America's Newspaper."

Or is it more than just a daily newspaper? Again and again, the reverend has described his paper's role in surprising terms: as a vehicle for God's word; as "our media"; as a mighty ship at his disposal. In 2005, frustrated by his lack of appreciation in the American press, Moon fumed, "How come our media is silent? … You have to write correct articles, or maybe we should sell those newspapers … All central nations should understand the Crown of Peace Ceremony."

Moon's messianic view of his paper has often led to strange collisions with its official image. In 1997, the paper held a party for its fifteenth anniversary at the Grand Hyatt Hotel in D.C., and it was broadcast on C-SPAN. After the tinkling of lounge piano, Bush Sr. appeared in a congratulatory video. Sen. Orrin Hatch made a few pointed comments about the "liberal modus operandi" and the spirit of capitalism, and mocked progressives for wanting to "help the poor, quote-and-quote." The Times's chief editor, Wes Pruden, spoke briefly about the man who was about to take the stage. He told the story of how that "young seeker" in Korea, a Sunday school teacher, survived torture, came to America, and now fostered good journalism with his "commitment to objectivity." Then the grim-faced Moon rose from his chair and spoke for about forty-five minutes.

"Free sex is centered on Sayy-tan!" he rasped -- as Times associates shifted uncomfortably in their seats. His tongue drooped lazily over his lips as he let this sink in. He continued. "World literature and the media have often stimulated free sex," he said. "But from now on, you literary figures and journalists should lead the way to prevent free sex. Free sex should completely disappear." During that evening, he also directed Times staff to read a speech of his dozens of times for understanding; he smiled to himself at a private joke about the number seven that the audience seemed to find hard to follow; and he even told the crowd, "No one can oppose me."

Chris Matthews no longer badmouths Moon. For several years his syndicated column ran in the Times. Seven years after his feisty dismissal of Moon, the fair-haired addressed a 1989 gathering with the Messiah as headliner. It was the annual conference of the Moon-sponsored World Media Association (WMA). The WMA is an allegedly serious panel that meets to think big thoughts on the future of news, behind it the flags of the world's countries, as at a UN summit. Moon is a newspaperman, after all.

***

With his seclusion, baronial palaces, and personal mystery, the Reverend Moon is a modern-day Citizen Kane. Like Kane -- and Kane's real-life inspiration, William Randolph Hearst-Moon oversees a newspaper that whips up popular anger, in service to an agenda. Like Hearst's Castle (or Kane's Xanadu), Moon's palaces (in Korea, North and South America, and reportedly Switzerland) are self-built monuments to his greatness. "[W]hen the world was adrift on the stormy waves of the Cold War," he said at a Washington Times dinner televised on C-SPAN in 1997, "I established the Washington Times to fulfill God's desperate desire to save this world." For years, in the late 1980s, reporters wondered why anyone at all came to his extravagant dinner parties in Washington. Even though they always ended the same, with Moon giving himself an award, they were reliably attended by Senator Hatch and other politicians. Then the novelty of it faded, and Moon slipped from the headlines while the rivers of cash rolled on.

Moon has never claimed to walk on water, but for decades, he has saved important Republican activists from debt and funded their organizations with a purse that has sometimes seemed inexhaustible. He has given millions to the Bush family and spent as much as $3 billion to push the conservative message in the Washington Times , which has lost money since its start. During the neoconservative Iran-Contra adventure of the 1980s, he even channeled money and support to Central American death squads. "An unsung hero of freedom," writes Paul Gottfried, a conservative scholar who has written a history of the right. "The continued refusal of Beltway conservatives publicly to acknowledge their steadfast patron is, of course, scandalous."

Instead, they had long treated Moon like some creature locked in a mad scientist's laboratory. They threw Moon a bone from time to time with private parties, but they never welcomed him into the conservative hall of fame and never allowed the marriage to stumble into the light, where it would upset the townspeople. If it hadn't been for the Internet, it would not have.

***

In the old days, the women's magazine McCall's had warned mothers about the dangers of the Unification Church, named for its pledge to fuse all religions under one Father, calling it "by far the most successful of the religious cults that have become so prominent and perplexing a feature of the American '70s." A "nettle in the national consciousness," said People.

Evangelist Jerry Falwell, Founding Father of the Christian right, cursed Moon in a 1978 Esquire piece. The article highlighted the preacher from Lynchburg, Virginia, as the crest of a new wave, a man who might become "the first preacher to become a political leader." Falwell told the reporter, "Reverend Sun Myung Moon is like the plague. He exploits boys and girls, and he should be exported. People like Moon and the healer types, the Elmer Gantry types, are religious phonies who are raping America. They will stand before God more accountable than any criminal on Earth."

Moon had come to build the American foundation, as he called it, for his kingdom. He came to California amid a widespread panic at cults.

The media made Moon an icon of the craze. While the young slaved for him, Moon was reported to set sail in a fifty-foot yacht, cruise Manhattan in a custom-built Lincoln Continental, and eat from dishes etched in gold. (His church denied that he was rich and said these blessings were voluntary tokens of appreciation from members.) When Moon gave pep talks to his young sales force, who were strung out from hustling flowers, peanuts, and toys to pedestrians, he told them they were backing his desperate fight to build God's kingdom on Earth, a living fortress against the devil.

The media didn't see it that way. Time attacked Moon as a "megalomaniacal 'messiah'" who pretended to be a Christian minister but had privately confessed the pose to be a ruse, telling the Moonies that "God is now throwing Christianity away." Moon was elsewhere assailed as a demagogue who called the Nazi Holocaust an understandable punishment for the Jewish murder of Christ and who asked for total obedience. "I am your brain," he'd said. "You can do everything in utter obedience to me. Because what I am doing is not done at random, but what I am doing is under God's command."

Moon became such a phenomenon that, in 1977, Saturday Night Live cast comic duo John Belushi and Dan Ackroyd as, respectively, Sun Myung Moon and a deprogrammer who succumbs to his magic.

For all the paranoid fantasies of cult uprisings, the real revolution around the corner -- the 1980 victory of Ronald Reagan -- celebrated ideas poles apart from the mass mind creeds of post-hippie California. From its origins in the 1964 Goldwater campaign, the conservative insurgency glorified the rugged American individual. It also promised answers for parents horrified by the radical new ways of life chosen by their offspring. Reagan had vowed to "clean up the mess at Berkeley" and its "orgies" in 1966. The pledge resonated beyond just the student protests, taken as a promise that there would be answer to attacks on tradition.

Eventually, the path blazed by Reagan-era activists would take America down the long road to the Bush dynasty, and the sincere belief in many quarters that the George W. Bush White House houses not only the commander in chief but the national preserver of old-time religion and family.

Moon had his feet in both worlds: change and backlash. On the one hand, it was his communes that the older generation found frightful, numbering seven thousand American dropouts dwelling within by the late 1970s, while tens of thousands of others followed Moon. On the other hand, his troops marched in the name of reaction. Clean-cut and sexually regimented, they venerated Nixon, spoke of banishing "free sex," and said they were starting the world's first perfect families.

***

It's well-known that Scientology leader L. Ron Hubbard went to Hollywood to become legit, but hardly anyone has heard that the Reverend Sun Myung Moon has courted Washington for decades. In the post-Watergate years, Sen. Bob Dole (R-KS), met growing pressure to stand up to the church and its play for influence.

On January 9, 1976, twenty years before running for president, Dole asked the IRS to consider repealing Moon's tax-exempt status. He wrote in a letter that Moon's empire "is based more on mind control and indoctrination than on religious faith," operating "for political purposes" as much as for God. Dole then held a televised town hall meeting on "destructive cults," attended by three hundred parents from thirty states who fretted about the Moonies and other aggressive sects. Speakers said people and families were being ruined; young people were being taught to lie for cash.

The hearings made some liberals uneasy, as calls for crackdowns bumped up against the First Amendment's guarantee of the right to follow strange gods. A piece in the New Republic accused Dole of jumping on national hysteria to jump-start his political fame, just as Richard Nixon had gotten his start attacking accused Soviet spy Alger Hiss.

Meanwhile, former members of the Moon church testified that the movement had deprived them of food and sleep to grease their willingness to swallow a terrifying agenda. A secret Unification Church publication, Master Speaks , had been snuck out of the church by apostate Steve Hassan. It captured what Moon said behind closed doors. Time headlined an excerpt: "The Secret Sayings of 'Master' Moon." Moon had said:

  • "The whole world is in my hand, and I will conquer and subjugate the world."
  • "In restoring man from evil sovereignty, we must cheat."
  • "The time will come when, without my seeking it, that my words will almost serve as law."
  • "[W]e will be able to amend laws, articles of constitution, if we wish to do so."
  • "[T]elling a lie becomes a sin if you tell it to take advantage of a person, but if you tell a lie to do a good thing … that is not a sin …. Even God tells lies very often."
  • "The present U.N. must be annihilated by our power …. We must make a new U.N."
  • "Many people will die, those who go against our movement."
  • "I have met many famous, so-called famous, Senators and Congressmen; but to my eyes they are nothing. They are weak and helpless. We will win the battle. This is our dream, our project. But shut your mouth tight."

(The church has often insisted these were mistranslations.)

The Moon Children took Dole's inquiry as a slap in the face. It came just as their new Father opened his pocketbook to associate himself with apple-pie patriotism. The rallies and marches he staged "would make … Lawrence Welk and John Wayne salute," author William Petersen observed in Those Curious New Cults , a typical paperback priming Christians to confront the seventies explosion of challenges to the Gospel.

For months, the Moonies -- largely white and middle-class -- had knocked on doors all over New York City and plastered the Bronx with slick posters. They invited America lovers to a spectacle at Yankee Stadium. Their Father smiled against a waving flag, his arm raised in a peculiar, vertical salute-to whom was unclear. "If you look at the poster, he's mimicking Hitler," says Donna Collins, the daughter of senior British church leaders. She was six in 1976, a child who still bounced on the lap of Moon, a grandfatherly figure who, she says, had scarce sympathy for the meek or wretched. "He's not the Dalai Lama, Mother Theresa type of leader," she says, "but a Mao, a Kim Jong-Il."

On the afternoon of June 1, 1976, wind blew red, white, and blue balloons over the ballpark. Moon's apocalyptic, anti-Communist campus newsletter Rising Tide had warned of "Radical Marxist Leninists Seeking to Co-opt Bicentennial." But to the relief of the Moon Children, tens of thousands of guests streamed in. Relief overcame the exhausted disciples, and they brushed from their faces rainwater and tears.

A summer thunderstorm whipped across the infield, crumpling a giant sign exalting Moon's "Bicentennial God Bless America Festival." With a confident smile, Moon took the stage to fireworks and a marching band that played "America the Beautiful." Above hung a banner in a gargantuan font size: "REV SUN MYUNG MOON-Principal Speaker." Behind his pulpit encircled in red, white, and blue bunting, he spoke in his usual style: striking the air with his hand, chopping and grasping and tilting his body, warning of the nation's subversion by Satan, a personal nemesis. "There are critics who say, 'Why is Reverend Moon so involved in America's Bicentennial? It is none of his business,'" he said. "Ladies and gentlemen, if there is an illness in your home, do you not need a doctor from outside?"

But to parents, the good doctor -- despite the helpful image he made for himself by marching their sons and daughters around the Washington Monument for the Bicentennial, dressed like Revolutionary War heroes -- had prescribed a pill with unconscionable side effects. The reasoning behind the titles of True Parents was that Mr. and Mrs. Moon were a superior replacement for our own flawed, biological parents. Their saintly portraits wobbled on the dashboards of Dodger-Chrysler sales vans on interstate highways, as the recruits inside cursed themselves for not reaching their daily targets of $75 to $100-meaning certain humiliation when they returned to HQ and were screamed at for betraying Father.

After the sun went down on the Washington Monument in 1976, according to a report in the conservative magazine The American Spectator , the leaders set afire a nearby vat with blood samples from 2,100 members to ensure "Father Moon's success in America." ("It worked!" joked writer Andrew Ferguson, years later.) "A shameless blasphemer," National Review editor Richard Brookhiser wrote at the time, "[Moon] says things about the United States that should not be said about any human creation."

To the believers, the oppression of the Roman Empire had literally returned, and Bob Dole, at that first hearing, was the voice putting Jesus out to death. "We got kicked in the gut on national TV," said Neil Salonen, the American church's leader, who had the glib manner and good looks of a fraternity president.

To congressional witness Ted Patrick, the swaggering Republican deprogrammer from the Chattanooga streets who claimed to have freed hundreds from cults, Moon was running a timeworn ghetto hustle on naive white youth. Patrick alleged that the group had wedded the totalitarian mind-set of Communist China to the old tricks of Father Divine-the Harlem preacher who claimed to be God, gave sermons in made-up words ("physicalize"), and convinced poor blacks to fund his life of luxury. The church considered the renegade Moon foe a monster. "Man," Patrick jived to a Washington Post reporter in 1979, "you get that Neil Salonen, he's the president of the whole Unification Church, and I'll deprogram his ass in front of the whole FBI, if they want it that way."

That was when Dole had assailed the Unification Church for a second time, in 1979, in the wake of the Jonestown Massacre. The first time, Moon supporters on the hill, wearing red carnations, shouted "liar" at witnesses.

This time Salonen tried to leave a better impression, the church having been continually under investigation by Washington since 1976. Outside the Russell Senate Office Building, Moon's squad of musicians blew into tubas and French horns. They struck up the protest anthem "We Shall Overcome." They called themselves Go World and played, they said, because their Father had stressed the importance of music. Mrs. Moon had picked out the cream-and-red uniforms-the reverend's color vision was not so good. Forrest Wright, a head of the band, had been humbled at a leader's breakfast when the True Father looked his way and asked, "What American musician was best?" "John Philip Sousa," Wright managed to say. "OK," Moon had said, "some kind of John Sousa band." And Wright buzzed with it all along the Amtrak trip south to Manhattan.

***

After the mass weddings, newlyweds were commanded to remain apart for months or years in preparation for their first sexual encounter. Moon believed that painstaking techniques were necessary for the "blood exchange" that would prevent a repeat of the Garden of Eden. It's not in the Bible, but Moon's revelation to believers is that Eve misused the love organ by fornicating with Lucifer.

What it means is that the Second Generation, the kids who grew up in the church, are fragile creations who must not be fouled. "We have to drain this Satanic blood, and fill it with God's blood," Moon said in 2002. Working up enough fury to harangue a stadium, he directed his words at an intimate gathering of American teens in blue T-shirts. Sired under his plan, created by his pairings, they are expected to live sinless lives. This is all on video: a scene of harsh adult-child relations that could have been a scene in a Roald Dahl book. A pretty girl of about fifteen, her face uplifted as if hoping for mercy, watches as this visitor to our shores stands cocky, collar splayed open across his jacket, before a banner commending him, not them: "Congratulations, True Parents." Twice-married himself, Moon demands chastity. "We still have this fallen blood running through our organs," he says through a translator. "So we have to protect our love organ so that no more mistakes can be made there."

A furious command in Korean, then a waving of hands. The translation comes: "If you cannot make your mind and body united, you are bound to Hell." Tears run down the girl's cheek. And the American teens chant a familiar formula along with the newspaper publisher:

True love!

True life!

True lineage!

Another girl, fifteen, sits up front, angry. Moon has been talking like that as long as she could remember: to make them feel unworthy, she thinks. She has drifted away from the church and only attended because all her friends were in the "Blue Shirt Mafia." But this will be the last harangue she comes to. Friends of hers have been shunned by the Family for having sex. Impure sex, according to Moon, does worse than ruin people-it undoes God's work for generations.

* * *

A pang of disruption, a tearing in the fabric of society, runs through Moon's 1970s press. A Montreal reporter rode along while family and friends plotted to restore a young, agnostic Jewish Canadian convert, Benji Carroll, to his former life. The new Benji was frightful to them. Now he refused to see them without a spiritual minder. His new family were the brothers and sisters of his sales force. On the highway, they pounded on the van walls and he sobbed for God to erase his shameful weakness: "Get out, get out, Satan. Get out of my body, get out of my mind, Satan, Satan."

They kidnapped him, drove him to a safehouse, and stuck him in a room with a cult buster: Aylsworth Crawford "Ford" Greene III, whom the Moonies called the Servant of Satan. As if they needed another sign he lived up to the title, he was the godson of their enemy, Sen. James Buckley (R-NY) from the Dole hearings.

Like some hippie Bruce Wayne, the intense Ford Greene was born into privilege but wounded by past tragedies, so that he fought like a man with nothing to lose. Greene's socialite mother, Daphne, wife of a prominent San Francisco corporate attorney, kept boxes of files on the movement, which had claimed two of her children. There were reams: internal church handbooks, press clippings, and transcriptions from the Moon world of speeches given to his inner sanctum: "The world really is our stage," reads one. "The money is there, and I will earn that money. I will reap that harvest. And you will become soldiers, trained soldiers." And here the royal stenographer has appended, "[Applause]."

While his sister, Catherine Greene Ono, stayed in the movement, Greene walked out, his head spinning. He spent months afterward, he says, waking up in a panic, afraid of being the twentieth-century Judas. Then came what he calls his greatest failing. When the family kidnapped his sister in hopes of deprogramming her, she smashed a juice bottle, cut herself with a shard, and had to be hospitalized, giving her opportunity to rejoin the movement. Newspaper reports said church youth were regularly trained in such tactics.

No Republican, Greene is known today in San Anselmo, California, for the marquee on the building that is his law office, overlooking the main drag in this Marin County town, Sir Francis Drake Boulevard, asking drivers to "defy evil Bushism." But his godfather, Buckley, was the older brother of conservative lion William F. Buckley, whose nephew is conservative media watchdog Brent Bozell III, who would one day sit on the board of a group funded by the Reverend Moon.

In 1978, supplementing his antique dealership, Greene, a commanding presence, charged a flat fee of $750 per mind. Carroll's was his thirty-eighth and one of his toughest --maybe even too intelligent to crack, he wondered. "Love me, Benji," Greene challenged him, forehead to forehead. "Love Satan." He began a cross-examination:

"Your eyes are vacant, your veins are sticking out, your pupils are dilated and your skin is pale …. How is selling flowers to a penniless old woman helping to save the world from selfishness? … You think you're learning to love … but actually you're learning to hate! Hate sex, hate your family, hate yourself … all in the name of loving. What kind of love is that?

Finally, the ice crumbled: Carroll's parents were no longer Satan's minions but returned to being his loved ones. There were tears. "I feel … like my mind was wrapped in an elastic band," Carroll said. That story became the 1981 movie Ticket to Heaven , with Sex and the City 's Kim Cattrall as a perky recruiter for a thinly disguised re-creation of the Moonies. She leads childlike group bonding activities-"Choo-choo, choo-choo, POW!" the chant at Booneville went-breaking down Benji's resistance to the sermons about saving the world through fund-raising.

In 1982, Moon was convicted of tax fraud. "Obedience to the law of diminishing returns may cost this little king 18 months from his countinghouse," People wrote in the magazine's roundup of the year's most intriguing people. He went to prison in 1984, and that was around the last time most people last thought about him.

* * *

In footage taken in 2002 -- apparently at the anniversary party for the Washington Times -- the Rev. Sun Myung Moon swung his arm in ax-handle blows while he demanded that all Christian churches abandon the symbol of the cross. "Revolution!" he said. "Revolutionary movement! All the crosses down. Take them down."

In his visions of the afterlife, even Jesus had been frustrated by mankind's inability to move past the crucifixion and focus on Moon. And now God, according to the Unification Church, had told the Reverend Moon to ensure the cross no longer hindered our appreciation of him. "On June 11, 2001," read the official account, "lightning struck down the cross decorating the front of the Unification Theological Seminary"-an idyllic former Catholic monastery along the Hudson River in upstate New York. "In view of this act of God, our True Father initiated the 'taking down the cross' movement. Unificationist leaders and diverse theologians have presented many profound reasons for the taking down of the cross."

It was left to Moon's American ministers to invent a palatable reason for a war on the symbol of Christianity. It was decided that "Trade Your Cross for a Crown," a reference to a beloved American Protestant hymn, would fit nicely into tradition.

I will cling to that old rugged cross
And trade it some day for a crown
.

The bespectacled composer of "The Old Rugged Cross," a Methodist minister from an Ohio coal-mining town, would probably have been surprised by what the Rev. Sun Myung Moon did with his message. When George Bennard wrote the song in 1912, he meant no slight to the cross-in fact, his life was memorialized in small-town Reed City, Michigan, by one three stories tall. The crown, he meant to say, is your heavenly reward. But Moon openly jeers at the notion that "Jesus is coming in the clouds" -- his official description of Christian belief-on the basis that it doesn't jibe with the Old Testament. Instead, he has claimed for some time that the kingdom has already arrived, here, in swampy, corrupt Washington, D.C.

Which means the time to ditch the cross is now. It is his obstacle.

A funeral party was dispatched to Jerusalem. To bury the cross six feet deep, the original plan, according to volume 22, number 6 of the church's Unification News, came from Moon's lips: "Bury the cross in Golgotha where Jesus was crucified," he said. But they got there and a cathedral was in the way. "[T]he floor is all made of marble," the report said.

So they settled for leaving a little cross there, hung with Moon's yellow and blue flag, and headed in the predawn to a funeral a mile away in Potter's Field, on May 18, 2003-Easter in Jerusalem.

The pilgrims gathered around a shallow grave, cut into the clay earth of the two-thousand-year-old burial ground traditionally believed to have been purchased with the silver Judas earned by betraying Jesus.

At bottom lay a four-foot-long cross. While holy men looked on, undertakers draped it under the flag of the Unification Church, before posting photos on the Web. "After the prayer," the report said, "the participants put soil on the cross one by one, repenting for the false faith for 1700 years."

After breakfast, according to the Unification News, they held a 10 A.M. conference and heard that a Palestinian suicide bomber struck Jerusalem right after sunrise -- a sign, said the church journalist, that "Satan attempted to stop this historical conference desperately." The travelers then discussed the next command from the Reverend for reuniting the religions.

"Have Jewish people repent for the sin of killing Jesus," Moon had said.

After a difficult discussion, a rabbi, unnamed, agreed to apologize for the crime of the Jews, and the guests raised a glass of Holy Wine.

 
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