Rev. Moon's Curtain Call
It's practically impossible to keep up with all the projects and conferences, rallies and summits, front groups and businesses, and political machinations involving the Rev. Moon's Unification Church -- currently known as the Family Federation for World Peace and Unification. Having recently celebrated his 84th birthday, the Rev. Moon seems rejuvenated and desiring to increase his visibility, while at the same time this master of mixed and often convoluted messages appears to be preparing his final farewell to America. Along the way, however, he is trying to plant the seeds of his political legacy -- with help from some powerful political friends.
For several decades the Unification Church -- not a Christian Church, but more of a theocratic movement with the Rev. Sun Myung Moon at its head -- has played a significant role in supporting the Christian Right and the Republican Party. Besides supporting the right financially, Moon has given them a daily voice via the pages of the Washington Times, which in these times has become a very influential newspaper.
Moon considers himself to be the True Father, the Messiah, and has stated numerous times that his goal, as Fred Clarkson put it in his book Eternal Hostility, is "an autocratic theocracy to rule the world."
On the evening of March 23, a group of the Rev. Moon's powerful political friends gathered at the Dirksen Senate Office Building in Washington. There, the Reverend presided over a ceremony presenting "Crown of Peace" awards to a number of honored guests. Seven U.S. Congressmen -- Democrats Sen. Mark Dayton of Minnesota, Rep. Danny K. Davis of Illinois, Harold E Ford Jr. of Tennessee, Sanford D. Bishop Jr. of Georgia and Republicans Rep. Roscoe G. Bartlett of Maryland, Christopher B. Cannon of Utah, and Curt Weldon of Pennsylvania -- received "Ambassadors for Peace" awards.
The Rev. Moon, who was decked out in a campy floor-length cape, was presented with an ornate gold crown and a lifetime achievement award. Introduced by a shofar-blowing rabbi, the Rev. told the star-studded audience -- made up of congressional members and a number of religious leaders -- that a "new era" had come: "Open your hearts and receive the secrets that Heaven is disclosing in this age through me."
The Rev. Moon may have turned a few heads by pointing out that while he is as human as the next guy, "in the context of Heaven's providence, I am God's ambassador, sent to earth with His full authority. I am sent to accomplish His command to save the world's six billion people, restoring them to Heaven with the original goodness in which they were created."
Inexplicably, a day after his coronation the Rev. Moon seemed ready to bid the U.S. goodbye. During an address at the Sheraton National Hotel in Arlington, Virginia, he said that after 34 years in America he was heading home to Korea. Even before this surprising announcement, the Reverend talked about how he came to the U.S. decades before and had worked "hard to support and develop America to save America and Christianity." Although he had been "persecuted in this country", he gave it his all. "Dark Forces tried to kick me out of America, but I overcame," the Rev. said. "Now a great transition is on. The Jewish and Christian people have been at odds but now the solution has come. Now the homosexuality is coming out. It is worse than an animal lifestyle. However, we will solve it."
Why would the Rev. Moon think about leaving the U.S. when he has a gaggle of congressional buddies, as well as friends in the White House? "He's contemplating the move but I don't know how serious he is," John Gorenfeld, a freelance writer whose web log keeps close tabs on the Rev. Moon's operations, told me in a recent phone conversation. "He's mentioned moving on in a few recent speeches, but he changes his mind very often, whimsically renaming his church or frequently setting new 'conditions' for his followers."
On his way to becoming a powerful, influential and controversial political figure, the Rev. Sun Myung Moon has developed a special relationship with the Bush family. After supporting Dubya's election through his flagship publication, The Washington Times, the newspaper's foundation sponsored a prayer luncheon attended by some 1,700 religious, civic and political leaders the day before Bush's inauguration. The guest list contained a host of religious right luminaries including the Rev. Jerry Falwell, former National Evangelical Association President Don Argue, Trinity Broadcasting Network's Paul Crouch and a host of leaders from the Southern Baptist Convention.
Even if the Rev. Moon is threatening to leave the U.S., however, one of his long-term projects -- developing a faith-based path to peace by re-vamping the United Nations -- is still on the organization's front burner.
As with most things Moon-sponsored, this project has been brewing for several years. A 1999 press release issued from the "Family Ethics and World Peace" conference called attention to the Reverend's intentions: "Citing the ultimately ineffective efforts of current peace organizations in securing world peace, Reverend Moon said that ... world peace in the next millennium hinges on the involvement of united, world religious leaders."
Alexander M. Haig, Jr. -- who served as President Richard Nixon's chief of staff and President Ronald Reagan's Secretary of State -- introduced Rev. Moon to the assembly, and according to the press release, "credited Rev. Moon as being instrumental in overthrowing international communism."
In early 2000, the Rev. Moon fleshed out the idea, suggesting that the UN needed to transcend the narrow national interests of member states and form "a religious assembly, or council of religious representatives within" its structure. According to Rev. Moon, this new body, consisting "of respected spiritual leaders in fields such as religion, culture and education," could "speak for the concerns of the entire world and humanity at large." Atheists need not apply.
After several years of virtual silence, in October 2003, the Rev. organized the Inaugural Assembly of the Interreligious International Peace Council (IIPC) in New York City, which drew some 300 delegates -- including about a dozen former heads of state -- from 160 countries. According to the Moon-owned United Press International, attendees heard the Rev. Moon talk about eliminating the "boundaries" that "cause division and conflict," which would bring about "a world of peace."
The Rev. Moon-owned Washington Times reported that "Hundreds of demonstrators, in yellow baseball caps and bedecked in ribbons [sponsored by another Moon front group, the Interreligious and International Federation for World Peace], rallied near the United Nations...in support of what they called 'a faith-based approach to world peace.'"
"While the UN itself has given him the brush-off, he's had a great deal of success getting leaders in Africa and South Pacific countries interested in it," John Gorenfeld told me.
But the Bush Administration apparently has shown some interest. According to a number of published reports, the Philippines agreed to sponsor a Moon-backed resolution in the General Assembly. And during a May 2003 meeting with President Bush at the White House, Philippines President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo suggested that the United States might consider co-sponsoring the proposal, the conservative online news magazine, NewsMax.com, reported. According to that report, the president "expressed deep interest and asked his national security adviser, Condoleezza Rice, to study the matter."
Showing some impatience at how slow the process was moving, the Rev. Moon gave attendees at last October's IIPC meeting their marching orders. Go back to your homes, he told the assembled delegates, "and be the first to practice true love in your family, society, nation and world for purpose of building the Kingdom of Heaven on Earth and in Heaven. I believe that you will devote your full efforts to the IIPC -- this is my direction, my order -- which we have formed together here today as a body on the level of a new United Nations."
With so many other things on its plate these days, it's hard to imagine the UN actually taking up the Rev. Moon's challenge. But then who would have imagined the Rev. Moon, in cape and crown, parading about the Dirksen Senate Office Building?
Bill Berkowitz is a freelance writer covering right-wing groups and movements.