The Present and Future of the Unificationist Sunday Service

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By Robin Debacker

Photo on 2014-03-29 at 18.55 #2My husband and I were empty nesters when we realized that our expectations and needs were no longer being met by the weekly Sunday service. We were newcomers to Europe, having spent 12 years in Korea, but we’d been feeling the same there, too. An idea whose time has come, mixed with the need to become an agent of change, plus the prospect of a long, dark Belgian winter — these are what propelled me in fall 2013 to begin a survey that became a labor of love, and helped me identify what was missing, and what I could do about it.

I set about asking Unificationists in various parts of the world, “What is the format of your service, what inspires you, and what would you change if you could?” I realized quickly that many were also longing for a more authentic spiritual experience. The responses I received were thoughtful and honest and I think they deserve to be shared with the wider Unification community and beyond.

The process

My instincts told me to avoid using SurveyMonkey and make personal contact with each person instead. I sent a private Facebook message to 930 people from September through November 2013. I was blocked three times, and Facebook eventually threatened to shut me down permanently, which halted the surveying stage and kick-started me into the data-coding process.

By that time I had collected 350 responses — two-thirds from the 50+ age group, and 103 from second gen. Meant to take the temperature of the average Unificationist, this grassroots survey focused primarily on people who are not in leadership positions. They came from 195 cities around the world — 38 states in the U.S. and 32 countries worldwide. Because so many thanked me for asking them, I called it the Thankyou4asking! project.

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The Growth Period: An Opportunity for the Unification Movement

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By John Redmond

JohnRedmond2My niece recently had a baby. My family and I went to see him after they recovered from the first wave of family visits. The great thing about a baby is that although he is tiny, all the pieces are there. He is in the formation stage.

In contrast, I have a teenager. Since he’s been gone for a few weeks, we’ve saved $15 or $20 a week on milk bills. He is not tiny at all; in fact, he’s pretty big.

When my kids were little and I said that clouds were made of dandelion fuzz that floated up and clumped together, they believed me because I was their dad. However, when they become teenagers in the growth stage, you can tell them the absolute truth and they won’t believe it. “Yes, that T-shirt looks really ugly, don’t wear it.” They wear it anyway. Your position shifts and your relationship changes.   In the growth period, all relationships shift and there is a different approach to how good things happen.

All things reach perfection (completion), after passing through a growth period, by the authority and power of God’s principle.  So this experience, passing from the formation stage to growth stage and at some point on to the completion stage, is not unusual or weird; it’s how things are supposed to work.

We, however, often get locked into a snapshot. We forget that things are going through a growth period and get stuck in a concept that things will always be like this. So, your kid is six or seven years old and he behaves a certain way. As he grows up a little and starts behaving in a different way, it surprises you.

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Chávez’s Legacy and Worsening Conditions in Venezuela

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Venezuelans hoarding cornmeal flour.

By David Stewart

David Stewart_edited-1I had been in Caracas for just a few days in June when a friend called me and excitedly said, “I have good news. They are selling sugar here and each person can buy four kilos. Come quickly with whoever is at home.” It was a 20 minute bus ride away and then we had to wait over an hour in line. But one spurns such opportunities at one’s peril in Venezuela in recent years.

I never had this experience when living in Caracas in the late 1990s, but this is now the norm. When visiting in March, I asked a clearly irritated mother, just leaving a supermarket, how long she and her young son had waited to buy harina pan, the cornmeal flour used to prepare the Venezuelan staple arepa. “Three and a half hours” she snapped. I could only sympathize and decided not to wait in line myself. The shops are now forbidden to sell this most essential product to anyone under 18, as, with its sale being rationed on the rare occasions it can be bought, whole families wait together in line to maximize their purchasing power.

The harina pan and sugar story is the same for toilet paper, milk, coffee — indeed over 25% of all necessary staples are rationed, being rarely available, according to the last scarcity figures published by the central bank in January. Even the government admits that the poverty rate leapt from 21% to 27% last year, mainly because incomes failed to keep up with soaring inflation, now officially over 60%. The economy is set to shrink this year by at least 1% according to even the government’s predictions. Yields on Venezuela’s sovereign debt skyrocketed in the past year, to just under 14%, tops among 50 emerging markets tracked by JPMorgan Chase. The latest hard-to-find item — coffins!

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The Hoon Dok Family Church Breakthrough in Brazil

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By George Kazakos and Glenn Strait

“I want all of you to learn from the Brazilian [and Philippine] situation and take it with you back to your home. …If you are willing to change, miracles can happen.”

True Mother during the Foundation Day 2014 meetings (paraphrase)

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Right now in Brazil many people are joining. Their strategy does not involve new individual ideas. We have heard most of the ideas and strategies before. What is distinctive is the way it is being done, not what’s being done. We Americans humbly need to learn from our brothers and sisters of FFWPU Brazil.

In the post-Foundation Day era of Cheon Il Guk when “True Parents have perfected, concluded, and completed the providence of restoration [through indemnity] and have begun a new era” (True Mother, “Korea Global Joint Worship Service,” May 11, 2014), we can expect to discover new openings for personal and collective growth.

The Brazilian Hoon Dok Family Church model appears to demonstrate one such opening by integrating some of the functions of Inreach, Outreach, and Education into the mutually reinforcing components of Small Groups, Witnessing, and One-on-one Divine Principle Teaching.

Within that model, revitalization of the church community, though profound in itself, is likely not as significant as the witnessing breakthrough that taps directly into the networks of new members. This development would be essential for achieving their growth pattern of starting slowly then later accelerating rapidly.

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A God of Second Starts

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By Tyler Hendricks

tyler_hendricks_edited-1We find ourselves in 2014, when the spirit of “we’re marching to the blessed land of Canaan with delight” is a little harder to come by. We no longer have the power of True Father shielding us. As a consequence, are we bound for demoralization and decline? Or will God’s revolutionary movement maintain and grow?

Let me start by saying that the church was just as messy before I joined as it is now, but somehow God worked through it to save my life. God’s given me more than one second start. God also does that for churches as a whole.

When it comes to second starts, the Jesus movement has had many. It is a religion that continually renews and reshapes itself. Pentecost was the first episode. The foundation for that was that the followers, although demoralized, united in prayer and fellowship. The Holy Spirit came, and Peter gave it a voice in the public square. Even if the dramatic sermon recorded in Acts, Chapter 2, didn’t really save 3,000, what the early Jesus community accomplished changed the world.

They were able to articulate the core gospel, which turned lemons — the crucifixion of a discredited Messiah — into lemonade: salvation through the resurrected Christ who shed his blood to redeem you from sin. Peter and the early community affirmed everything that had come to pass, while giving a dose of judgment to those who murdered Christ, and called it all something God would build on. Then they gave a simple prescription for what the people should do: repent, accept Jesus, be baptized, and follow his way.

The next great reshaping was Paul’s ministry, and I won’t go into that or the 2,000-year story of constant new starts, but will mention one that I observed — the Jesus movement emerging out of a stagnating Protestant mainstream in the early 1970s. This movement gave us mega-churches, cell churches, independent Bible churches, the Religious Right, and, oh yes, Christian rock.

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The Meaning of Humankind

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By Dave Tranberg

Dave TranbergWe exist in a world in the throes of great conflict, wherever we turn, internally and externally. There seem to be nothing but conflicting worldviews, animosity and strife. How human beings view ourselves is at the core of this conflict, and also the basis of progress we make towards becoming a true and peaceful society.

At the root of these different points of view is the conceptualization of exactly what humanity is. Are we just a lump of animated carbon? Or an animal? Are we God’s child? Or a “god” in our own right? It seems every culture, ethnicity and race has a different view of this important question.

The ramifications of this point of view cannot be overstated. Every action we take, as individuals, families, societies, and even as a world, depends on the answer we adopt.

The materialist-humanist side of this argument relies on old theories of reality based on Newtonian physics of the last century. The religious side of the controversy tends to rely on scripture, itself millennia old.

Today, we have clear scientific evidence for the ancient origins of man, yet the religious side of the controversy does not have a way to digest that evidence. On the other hand, the materialist side has no answer for the endlessly malleable, creative and faithful nature of mankind, other than “chance.” This is a very unsatisfactory answer for most people.

What is needed is an understanding of humanity that takes both views into consideration: humankind’s connection to the natural animal world, as well as the origins and ramifications of our eternal, spiritual nature. We must clearly explain “man the animal” and “man the eternal spirit.”

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BBC Interview: Twenty Years After the Death of Kim Il Sung

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 Dr. Antonio Betancourt meeting President Kim Il Sung in January 1994.

Kim Il Sung passed away 20 years ago on July 8. The BBC World Service broadcast an interview (click here to listen to the full interview) with Unificationist Dr. Antonio Betancourt on meeting President Kim five times (on the foundation of Reverend and Mrs. Moon’s visit with the North Korean leader in 1991), being in Pyongyang when he died, and, with Dr. Bo Hi Pak, attending Kim’s state funeral. Dr. Betancourt is currently Director, Office of Peace and Security Affairs, UPF International, in Washington, D.C., and Secretary General of the Summit Council for World Peace. A nine-minute podcast of the BBC interview may also be downloaded here.

In an analysis of the missed opportunities 20 years ago upon Kim’s passing, AU Blog Managing Editor Dr. Mark P. Barry posted an essay on NKNews.org, the leading site for researchers and journalists on North Korea, that provides an overview of what could have happened on the Korean Peninsula over the past two decades. Dr. Betancourt provided valuable assistance in the essay, and a great debt of gratitude is owed to Dr. Bo Hi Pak for his unique insights in Chapter 21 of Messiah: My Testimony to Rev. Sun Myung Moon, Vol. II. London’s The Guardian newspaper picked up Dr. Barry’s article days later, providing a vastly wider online readership, and he was also interviewed at length by South Korea’s OhMyNews.

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The World Peace Center in Pyongyang (photo taken in December 2011 upon the 20th anniversary of Reverend and Mrs. Moon’s visit). The Peace Center was later used to receive condolence visitors upon the passing of Reverend Moon.

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What is “Attendance”? Musings on a Core Unificationist Practice

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By Andrew Lausberg

75995_459821110372_999357_nAccording to the Unification Principle, the Completed Testament era is the one in which human beings are to resurrect both spiritually and physically, justified by attendance. As one of the fundamental concepts of the practice of Unificationism taught by Reverend Moon, a clear understanding of “attendance” seems critical.

When looking at the question “What is attendance?”, one has to factor in Korean and, to a lesser extent, Far Eastern culture. On the other hand, Korean culture alone cannot provide a complete answer to this question because it has never yet risen to the level of a Completed Testament culture. The answer must bring together Completed Testament elements (as introduced through Father Moon, e.g., the supremacy of true love, purpose of creation, human responsibility) with the Korean context (Confucianism, Korean history, Korean character and environment).

In Korean, the word we use to signify attendance is 모심 — [moshim] (attendance, pronounced “moe + shim”) or 모심생활 [moshim saeng hwal] (attendance life/practice). Moshim derives from the verb 모시다 [moshida], which is related but not identical to the Japanese concept of [haberu] 侍る. The cultural interpretations of Korean and Japan are different when dealing with “attendance.”

Considering Korean culture, we should recognize that it comprises both “fallen” aspects, which we should avoid, and “original” (unfallen) elements we should learn to recognize and embrace. Unfortunately, just as is the case with Unificationists from other cultures, Korean Unificationists can also fall into cultural traps. A fallen expression of “attendance” in the Korean mode would be, for example, the expression of false loyalty, or the giving of reports designed to make Father (or the leader) “happy” but which, in fact, misrepresent how things actually are. This corrupted form of attendance is the semblance of loyalty at the cost of true inner service. It pays lip service with the primary goal of maintaining one’s position or perks, or avoiding difficulty.

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A Principled Approach to Tackling Inequality

File photo of a rubbish collector carrying a bag on her back as she walks past a construction site near a recently finished residential complex in Hefei

By Graham Simon

gs-1308Income inequality has come to the fore as the most pressing economic and social issue facing the world today. According to Credit Suisse’s Global Wealth Report 2013, 0.7% of the world’s inhabitants possess 41% of its wealth, 10% have 86%, and the poorest 50% hold a mere 1%.

A new book by French economist Thomas Picketty, Capital in the Twenty-First Century, has topped the bestseller lists. Picketty’s central thesis, supported by a wealth of historical data, is that over time the relative gains to owners of capital in peacetime economies are significantly higher than the returns to labor. His book proves beyond doubt what everyone has long known – the richer get richer while the poor get poorer, at least in relative terms. Pope Francis tweeted in April that “Inequality is the root of social evil.” Christine Lagarde, the head of the IMF, recently added her voice to the debate, warning that rising inequality threatens global financial stability, democracy and human rights.

While all may agree that inequality can tear nations apart, there is no consensus on the solution. Policy proposals to reverse inequality center upon taxation and redistributive measures. These are inevitably contentious. When owners of wealth, who came by their riches honestly, legitimately and, in their opinion, deservedly, are forcibly dispossessed through taxation or government fiat, resentment arises. If those same governments then expend the proceeds wastefully or corruptly, this resentment only deepens.

But there is another approach. It requires a basic understanding of economics and the application of some principled thinking.

Understanding Economics

The starting point of economics is scarcity. With scarcity comes the need to make choices. The economic cake is not infinite in size and there are a lot of hungry mouths to feed. The two perennial questions nations seek to address are how best to make the cake bigger and how to divide it up.

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