“Still Alice”: Holding on to Who We Are

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by Kathy Winings

kathy-winings-2When we were younger and just beginning to study Principle concepts concerning the purpose of life and about the nature of our lives as children of God, many of us tended to think in simple, basic terms.

In terms of our life journey, we often taught that we were conceived and nurtured for nine months in our mother’s womb as our first stage of existence. Our life continued as we burst on the scene and embarked on a journey through this earthly existence for our second stage of life, hopefully looking forward to a long and healthy life. Ultimately, we would pass into our eternal home to live with God and rejoin our loved ones who had gone on before us. We learned in those early days that in the grand scheme of things, our physical life would be but a passing moment, as it were, when compared to our eternal life. Yet how we lived in this second stage of life, how well we loved and how well we lived according to God’s life-giving words were of prime importance. Most of the content though was fairly theological and did not deal with the practical dimension of our daily life.

I don’t know about you, but for me, I did not give much thought to the numerous physical challenges that might make our life on earth difficult. I was too busy going about the work of God to think too long or hard about such things other than to perhaps feel that somehow we might be shielded from some of these challenges because of the importance of the work we were doing.

However, I was reminded of this overly simple view of life while watching the sobering and powerful film “Still Alice.” Julianne Moore, in an Oscar-winning performance, masterfully portrays Alice Howland, a linguistics professor at Columbia University and sought after guest lecturer, who, just after celebrating her 50th birthday, is diagnosed with a rare form of Alzheimer’s disease that manifests at an early age. An intelligent and active woman, and mother of three adult children, this diagnosis cuts to the quick. Here is a woman whose life is defined by words, language and a life of the mind now rapidly being deprived of her thoughts and ideas as well as her memories.

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Rev. Moon’s Unrecognized Influences on Christian Theology

REV SUN MYUNG MOON

By Andrew Wilson

WilsonAlthough members and friends of the Unification Church recognize the awesome significance of the Reverend Sun Myung Moon, what about his importance for those who do not believe –specifically to conventionally-minded Christians? While some enlightened Christians have learned to love and appreciate his church as a new and uniquely Asian manifestation of the Christian faith, or his works on behalf of interreligious unity or anticommunism, for the most part Christians have been dismissive of him.

Yet in fact, Rev. Moon has been influencing Christianity quietly and unbeknownst to them through some of the new teachings he shared with the world in the Divine Principle. I say “indirectly” because often the causality is not determined. Perhaps Rev. Moon was an early proponent of certain teachings that were already in the zeitgeist of the late 20th century. Or perhaps God, in seeking to plough the field for Rev. Moon, moved to open Christianity’s theological horizons so it would be receptive to his proclamation. After all, God is the Source of truth, even the truths revealed by Rev. Moon. Suffice it to say that the theological landscape of Christianity in the early 21st century is quite different from what it was in the early 20th century, and many of those differences are congruent with Rev. Moon’s teachings.

Let me share five such instances:

1. The suffering of God

Dr. Chang Shik Yang observed, Rev. Moon “plainly teaches about God’s sorrowful situation… after His children’s fall and their expulsion from Eden, God the Father became the God of sorrow and grief, who every day sheds countless tears and emits mournful sighs.”

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A Medal for Michael Brown, Eric Garner and Tony Robinson

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by Jim Dougherty

Jim DoughertyCould the military doctrine and experience of “friendly fire“ be used to help the country heal, reform and move forward from the recent police-involved deaths of unarmed African-American men, Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, Eric Garner in Staten Island, New York, and Tony Robinson in Madison, Wisconsin? Can we “restore” a wrong that legal and political institutions do not seem to be able to come to grips with?

Many investigations, reviews, legal cases and reform efforts will and must follow in the wake of such tragedies, and they are essential in advancing justice and improving the police and related political structures that govern our lives and protect our rights, lives and property.

And, efforts aimed at reconciliation must not be used to deflect criticism or blame where it is due.  In addition to assessing any criminal responsibility, police procedures, training and technology must be reviewed, in Ferguson, New York City, and elsewhere, to do everything possible to minimize the risk of this happening again — while still allowing, and hopefully improving, the ability of the police to do their job in protecting the public.  The U.S. Department of Justice in its just-released report, while clearing the officer involved in Ferguson of any wrongdoing, nevertheless found a persistent pattern of racism in the Ferguson police department that may require remedies up to and including closing the department entirely.

Even if nothing different could have happened given the circumstances, still, unarmed men were killed by police officers — tragic losses that call out for some kind of action.  The protesters know this, that whatever explanations are given or investigations find, still, something profoundly wrong and unjust has occurred in the deaths of these men. Something that cannot be completely made-up for by criminal penalties, procedural reforms and civil damage awards. Most of our political and civil culture in such situations revolves around finding out what went wrong, who to blame and how to fix it.

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The True Value of a College Education

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The following is adapted from the book From Rogers Park to Hanover Park, the adventures of a Jewish boy growing up in the neighborhoods of Chicago and his 40 years in Reverend Sun Myung Moon’s Unification Church, published by Rev. Bruce Sutchar.

By Bruce Sutchar

bruce_sutcharWhen you grow up in a Jewish home with grandparents who were both doctors and parents who were both college graduates, the only question is which college, not whether you are going to college.  And when you go to a college basketball game and one of the colleges you are considering makes an incredible comeback to win, you have answered the second question of where.

There is a famous ad campaign for the United Negro College Fund that says: “A Mind is a Terrible Thing to Waste.”  But is it really better to go to college? In my case, God liberated me from my university’s cultural influence to rekindle the values I had fully believed in before going off to school.

I have a friend who went to college for one semester and flunked out.  He then got a job at the Post Office and 30 years later he retired with a million dollars and no college loans.  My cousin is proud of the fact that he feels he is the only Jewish boy in Skokie who did not go to college.  After high school he visited and fell in love with Israel.  He returned home for a time, so his parents could digest the idea of him not going to college.  Eventually he emigrated, married a darling French artist and is now living on the richest kibbutz in Israel, near the Red Sea.

But I digress — I went to high school during the Vietnam War era.  My father had been a navigator in Italy in World War II and I’m so old that I remember when the words “under God” were put into the Pledge of Allegiance. In fact, my fifth grade school teacher used to begin each day by selecting someone to lead our reading of the 23rd Psalm in our public school.  Years later she is still my favorite teacher and her class was the only time I ever got straight A’s.

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“American Sniper” and Moral Injury

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By Kathy Winings

kathy-winings-2Clint Eastwood’s powerful film, “American Sniper,” dares to bring to public consciousness the hidden side of war. This hidden side is the tremendous toll war takes on the moral and psychological dimension — the soul — of the men and women who serve on the front lines. The film is based on Navy Seal Chris Kyle’s autobiography by the same title and follows his experiences as one of the most lethal snipers in U.S. military history with 160 confirmed kills.

Posted in Iraq, Kyle, brilliantly played in the film by Bradley Cooper, served four tours of duty before being honorably discharged in 2009. On coming home, like many returning veterans, Kyle had the difficult task of adjusting to civilian life in Texas as a husband and father to his two children. In 2013, he and fellow veteran, Chad Littlefield, were shot and killed by another veteran, Eddie Ray Routh, while at a practice range. Routh, who had been recently discharged from a mental health facility and been diagnosed with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), had arranged to meet with Kyle, who was trying to help him with his depression. The poignancy of the film was heightened when Routh’s trial began as “American Sniper” was being shown across the country. Routh was convicted of the murders two days after the February 22nd Oscars telecast, and immediately sentenced to life in prison without parole.

The film brilliantly and poignantly presents the personal turmoil that a soldier faces when holding a life in the crosshairs of his or her rifle. One particularly heart-wrenching scene shows a moment of decision when Kyle has a small Iraqi boy and a woman, who we assume is his mother, in his gun sights. The young boy is given an anti-tank grenade by the hijab-clad woman and begins to walk toward the column of approaching American soldiers. Kyle is praying for the child to stop or at least indicate he means no harm. But the boy doesn’t, and Kyle must do what he is trained to do  —  shoot him. When the mother then rushes to her child, picks up the grenade and runs toward the soldiers, Kyle must shoot her as well.

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“March Madness” and a Real Spiritual Life

UVA vs Duke

by John Redmond

JohnRedmond2We are big basketball fans at my house. Every March we fill our brackets and root for our team to go all the way. I usually pick the underdogs and end up enduring a lot of “trash-talking” when they lose.

For the people who are focused on things like jobs, politics and careers and missed the text message, “March Madness” refers to the NCAA Division I national men’s and women’s tournaments of the top 68 teams (64 for women) in college basketball, “win or go home” contests with no consolation prizes. For most of these athletes, this represents the biggest stage they will ever perform on. Very few will continue on to pro basketball after college, and most of those that do will have unremarkable careers. This is their big moment!

What makes this tournament so special is the unscripted drama of ten young men or women and countless coaches, parents, students, and alumni locked in a battle that will never be replayed. Players have prepared their whole lives for this moment: morning practices, evening games, endless drills, miles of laps around the gym, that lead to a nationally televised championship game in front of a full field house of screaming fans.

Professional sports often seem like a soulless battle of technically excellent players with no feeling required. College students do not have the cynical detachment of the pros; they believe, and pour themselves into their game with raw emotion.  Victories often hang on a lucky, last second shot, the momentum swings back and forth, the fans sometimes seem to boost their team over the opponent in spite of impossible odds. This tournament sees all of these moments.

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Cultural Wars and Headwing Alternatives

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By David Eaton

david_eatonDoes the “Culture War” actually exist or is it purely a myth?

In the aftermath of the 2004 presidential election, Morris P. Fiorina of Stanford University and the Hoover Institution, published his book, Culture War? The Myth of a Polarized America, in which he contends that the idea of America being a “deeply divided” nation is a specious claim. Offering copious data, Fiorina makes the case that a high percentage of Americans possess moderate viewpoints regarding social issues and politics, and as such, we are not as “deeply divided” as those on the fringes of the political/cultural spectrum (or news media) would have us believe. According to Fiorina, these fringe elements tend to confer with coteries who reinforce their particular perspectives and as such, do not represent the large, moderate and politically ambivalent demographic that seeks pragmatic solutions to problems.

This is a counter to the views of Pat Buchanan and others who have long held that America is under siege due to the encroachment of non-traditional religious (or anti-religious) influences and not-so-well intentioned multiculturalists. For Buchanan, nothing less than the soul of America is at stake. That said, Fiorina admits that there is something to the “newly emergent” idea of “Two Nations Under God.” He writes:

The culture war metaphor refers to a displacement of the classic economic conflicts that animated twentieth-century politics in the advanced democracies by newly emergent moral and cultural ones… [m]any contemporary observers of American politics believe that old disagreements about economics now pale in comparison to new divisions based on sexuality, morality and religion, divisions so deep as to justify fears of violence and talk of war in describing them.

By characterizing the idea of a culture war as a “myth,” while admitting that cultural concerns have displaced what heretofore had been conflicts born of economic concerns, is Professor Fiorina conceding that the “culture war” is more than just a metaphor?

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The Crossroads: Finding One’s Path as a Second Generation Member

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By Jenny Cox

Jenny CoxI think many members of the second generation are standing at a spiritual crossroads. One course leads the way we’ve been going our entire lives: the way of our parents, the way of the Blessing, the way of inheriting the faith tradition we were born into. The other course lies outside, through what we fondly call the fallen world.

Kind of a scary ultimatum, isn’t it?

In a time of many transitions and new starts — life goals, career ambitions, even marriage prospects knocking at one’s door — it’s almost too much for a young person to handle at one time. All of the most critical decisions of one’s life seem to be clustered in this tender three-to-four year gap between teenagehood and college graduation. On top of that, add the fact that most young people, in their late teens and early twenties, are still desperately trying to find themselves.

Young people are especially vulnerable to the whims of the world, as they are also expected, and sometimes herded, to go to college during this pivotal, impressionable stage of their lives. I regret to say that, while colleges do provide a wealth of knowledge and opportunity, college campuses are also rife with harmful influences. In such an environment, confusion on many levels is likely to trouble a young person’s mind; some would even say this is calculated.

At college, students are presented with a smorgasbord of various ideas and intellectual concepts. While a few of these may be true, it is difficult for a young person to discern between truth and mere conjecture, between fact and theory. When a theory is well-supported and popularly acknowledged as gospel, it is easy to be compelled to go along with the common opinion that it is fact. Uneducated young people are in this position to judge a vast array of conflicting ideologies without a point of reference. If they are already uncertain about their own identity and beliefs, by what standards will they be able to judge the rest of the world, especially when that world is speaking from a position of authority and experience?

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Preparing for Our Seonghwa: Life as an Exclusively Spiritual Being

June 2005

By William Selig

William SeligWe live in a death-denying culture, the result of a human-centered worldview instead of a life centered on God. Because of the Fall, we lost not only the true understanding of life, but of death as well.

Reverend Moon said:

“I talk about death in order to teach the meaning of life. Who really knows the value of life? It is not the person who is going all out to preserve his life. The only person who really knows about life is the one who goes into the valley of death. He confirms the meaning of life as he desperately cries out to Heaven at the crossroads of life and death.” (“Understanding Life and Death,” Dec. 18, 1998)

Most people don’t think about death until we are forced by circumstances beyond our control, primarily, from illness or accident. Those fortunate enough to recover know how precious life then seems. When we assume that our life here on earth will go on as normal, we tend to take it all for granted, but when we are reminded that it has an end, then every moment and every day takes on a new and revitalized meaning.

We Are Not Alone

For the past six years, I have been working in a hospice or hospital environment. It is a precious and profoundly spiritual experience. Based on my observation, one of the biggest challenges facing a patient, particularly those in an end-of-life situation, is the sense of loneliness. Spirituality and religion offer patients a chance to reconnect to themselves, family, community, traditions, and ultimately to God.

According to the Principle, the cause for this sense of loneliness can be traced back to the Fall. By disobeying God and succumbing to temptation, our ancestors inherited the element of fear, which comes from a guilty conscience. This unnatural element has been transmitted from generation to generation. It is fear that drives people apart from one another, but most significantly, from our Creator.

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