Interpreting the Principle: The Transformative and the Objective

By Keisuke Noda

The Unification Movement (UM) faces a number of challenges, most obviously denominational divisions. But another challenge is the relevance of the UM and its core teachings or beliefs to contemporary society and future generations who are expected to respond and succeed.

Such a challenge is difficult because it is not readily observable, and the way to approach or conceptualize this challenge is unclear. The issue is “hidden” presuppositions we take for granted that shape a wide array of our understandings and experiences.

For some, this article may seem merely an intellectual exercise. But the matter of presuppositions has far reaching implications for all practical exercises and activities, particularly the question of what they mean.

The Principle as Interpretive Framework

The Divine Principle (the Principle), the core teaching of Unificationism, provides a framework with which to interpret biblical texts, human experiences, historical narratives, and a broad range of phenomena from a theological perspective. The Principle is thus a Unificationist theoretical framework of interpretation.

But is the Principle free from interpretation? Or is human understanding necessarily interpretive and is the Principle thus subject to interpretation?

Human understanding is unavoidably interpretive and the framework of interpretation (the Principle) is subject to interpretation. I consider how one’s ontological stance affects his/her interpretation of the Principle.

First, I highlight two contrasting stances in interpreting the Principle, the objective and the transformative.

I then explore how such contrasting perspectives affect one’s interpretation of religious phenomena in Unificationism.

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America and Islam: “The Time of Humiliation” as a Determining Feature in Modern Politics

By Ronald Brown

Most commentators call the current American involvement in the Muslim world the “War against Terrorism,” “War against Islamic Extremism,” “War against Radical Islam,” or one or the other pseudonyms that politicians, analysists, and journalists have dubbed it. In essence, it is simply the latest installment in the millennium-old confrontation between the Christian and Muslim civilizations.

The Rise of Islam

Since God first revealed to the Prophet Mohammed that he was the completion of a long line of divinely inspired prophets, Islam has considered itself the authentic religion of God. Each of the many prophets from Adam and Abraham through the prophet Dhul-Kifl to Jesus revealed elements of this primal religion, but sadly their followers failed to understand the content of these revelations.

Jews turned the revelations of Abraham into a tribal religion that shunned outsiders while Christians distorted Jesus’ teachings and declared him a deity equal to God, thus abandoning the core monotheistic goal of God’s revelation. But finally, God called up still another prophet to return humanity to his path and Islam was the result.

The Golden Age of Islam

Sweeping across the Arabian Peninsula and into the heartland of the Middle East, Islam was confident that Jews would emerge from their self-imposed ghettos and embrace the “fulfillment” of the religion founded by the prophets Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and Moses, and Christians would abandon their deification of Jesus and return to monotheism.

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How American Christians from North Korea Could Have Altered Korea’s Future in 1945

By Mark P. Barry

Few Americans realize that the hasty 1945 division of Korea and ensuing communist eradication of Christianity in the north occurred despite the efforts of a handful of uniquely qualified American officials. These men were born in the pre-World War II American Christian community in northern Korea, and were concerned, while serving in the U.S. government, about the fate of a land no less their home than America.

Historians generally maintain the U.S. government was largely uninformed about Korea during the Second World War and paid it scant attention. But these American Christians, serving in significant roles in the wartime U.S. government, sought to direct U.S. focus and efforts toward Korea. Despite their best efforts, they were unsuccessful and there is an almost complete absence from the historical record of their efforts.

Dr. George M. McCune was the best-known of these second-generation born and raised in Korea of American Christian missionaries. He became the main expert on Korea for the Office of Strategic Services (OSS), the forerunner of the CIA. His father, Rev. George S. McCune, a Presbyterian missionary, headed Union Christian College (also known as Sungsil School, both a high school and college) in Pyongyang, where, interestingly, Kim Il Sung’s father (who later married the daughter of a Presbyterian minister) attended (the late Ruth Graham, wife of Rev. Billy Graham, also attended high school there for three years).

The younger McCune was born and raised in Pyongyang, the “Jerusalem of the East,” and earned the first doctorate in the study of Korea from an American university in 1941. He served in the OSS from 1942 and the next year became Korea desk officer for the Department of State, the leading official in the U.S. government on Korean affairs. His brother, Dr. Shannon McCune, was an expert on the geography of Korea and East Asia.

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Beyond Partisanship: A Proposal to Bring Our Divided Family Together Again

 

By Jack LaValley

At a recent scholarly gathering, one participant concluded it is likely the current divisions in the Unification movement will continue indefinitely. In this article, I propose a four-pronged approach to end the polarization between the disparate groups and bring them together to fulfill the highest aspirations of Divine Principle.

I do not intend to criticize any individual, institution or leadership, but want to present a conceptual framework upon which we can overcome the historical challenge of denominational/religious division we face.

First, I discuss how reinterpreting “True Family theology” changes the rules for who can be involved in putting an end to the conflict.

I identify how the conflicting groups can shift from position-taking to problem-solving and move beyond sterile debate to engage in genuine dialogue.

I suggest a third, alternative narrative to move us beyond the limiting narratives we’ve been told thus far by the conflicting groups.

Finally, I recast the conflict in terms of a need to heal broken relationships and strengthen bonds of love between family members.

The three groups involved in the conflict (Family Federation for World Peace and Unification, Family Peace Association and Sanctuary Church) employ a variety of tactics to defend their positions, such as: assuming their group is always right; giving no possibility the other parties have parts of the answer to end the conflict; always trying to prove the other party wrong; listening to find flaws and refute arguments; defending “our own version of the truth;” seeing only one side of the argument; looking for weaknesses in the other’s position; creating a winner/loser mentality; and, seeking a conclusion that supports one’s own position.

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The Merit of the Age (Or, Why I Am an Optimist)

By David Balise

What is this time in which we are living?  The rapid changes taking place now are constantly in the news: globalization, the transforming effects of technology and communication advances, the looming possibilities of artificial intelligence, driverless cars, and the increasing ability of machines to do what used to be done by humans, to name a few.

But what about the internal side of this era?  Unificationists have a dramatic insight here.  Divine Principle explains that the great acceleration of external advances we are seeing has an internal cause, a “merit of the age.”

As Divine Principle says, “spiritual and intellectual levels have gradually been elevated due to the merit of the age,” “the merit of the age has increased in proportion to the foundation of heart,” and “with the flow of history, humankind’s spirituality has become enlightened due to the merit of the age in the providence of restoration.”

We are probably much too close to this historic transformation to understand it very well; in time the changes we are living through will become much clearer.  But it’s very helpful to have some kind of framework to understand, as best we can, the internal changes taking place, and our role in those changes.

When I reflect on the work of the Unification movement and of Reverend and Mrs. Sun Myung Moon (referred to by Unificationists as Father and Mother, or True Parents), I find it helpful to think of it in three broad areas.  Together, I believe these three areas represent substantial fruits of the merit of the age.  In some areas the changes are more visible, while in other areas they are still mostly hidden.  Time will show their true worth.

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Teaching World Religions in the Age of the Clash of Civilizations

by Ronald Brown

Unification Theological Seminary is not only in the middle of New York City, the Empire City, but is literally in the middle of the world because of its unique student body. The Reverend Sun Myung Moon founded the institution in 1975 as a seminary where students, scholars and clergy of all the world’s religions would meet, interact, and hopefully engage in creative dialogue. As an  adjunct UTS faculty in world religions for the last ten years, my students have been drawn from every continent, included all age groups, and claimed worshippers of all the world’s faith communities.

Since the Seminary’s founding, the planet has moved from “The American Century” to what Samuel P. Huntington characterized in his 1996 book, The Clash of Civilizations and the Remaking of World Order, as a world engaged in a cataclysmic “clash of civilizations.”  This clash of civilizations takes place daily in my UTS classroom as well as at Touro College, a largely Jewish school where I teach, and in lectures I deliver throughout the city.

This article summarizes three separate battlefields: 1) The struggle for my students to understand their own religion from a historical and academic perspective; 2) the struggle for students to keep an open mind while studying other religions; and, 3) the struggle to elaborate new strategies in  teaching world religions in a multi-religious environment.

Understanding one’s own religion

Studying the major religions of the world sounds like a good idea to most of my students, at least until it comes to a scholarly and historical study of one’s own religion. Students are inevitably fascinated by and curious about the other religions of the world and rarely if ever doze off. But as soon as I begin lecturing about their own religion the going gets tough.

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Our Alignment in the Era of True Mother

By Andrew Wilson

These days Unificationists may ask themselves, “Where are we in the providence? Where is God’s work headed?” When Reverend Moon was alive this was not a pressing issue, because he set the direction and we could simply follow.

But since he passed on in 2012 to take his place in heaven, things on earth have not been so simple. Furthermore, in 2013 Foundation Day arrived, proclaiming the victorious conclusion of the providence of restoration, but where did that leave us?

In my experience, every time Father made a providential announcement, it typically took three or four years to comprehend its meaning. It’s the same today; we needed some distance in time to understand what has happened since the dramatic events of 2012 and 2013.  Now in 2017 we can begin to see more clearly how the providence is changing and where it is heading.

Of course, the most obvious change is that Dr. Hak Ja Han Moon, True Mother, has begun putting her stamp on the movement. Also, we are coming to know God not just as Heavenly Father but as Heavenly Parent, and some of us are exploring what it means to relate to God not only as Father but also as Mother.

Change has always been a feature of God’s providence. Reading the Chambumo Gyeong, we can see the movement has passed through different eras, from the early days of pioneer missionary work, to the 1980s when we confronted communism, to the 1990s when we developed an interreligious and international family movement for peace, to the 2000s when we could witness the dawning of God’s royal sovereignty.

As the providence advanced from one stage to the next, we had to change our mindsets to adapt to new realities and challenges. So what is new about the reality of this era, and how should our mindset change to better align with the era of True Mother?

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Farewell Until We Meet Again, Mom

By Robert Brooks

Before my Mother passed into the Spirit World, I was given a perfect opportunity to offer her my final thoughts.

Ours was a tenuous relationship at times, often marked by long periods of silence. Her fears concerning my chosen faith course would often lead up to our intermittent silences. Before she ascended, my mother was diagnosed with vascular dementia, and that robbed her of her short-term memory. When I learned of her illness and its dire effects, it came to me clearly that my actions and words would be offered to insure her successful, unfettered ascension.

And so, my wife and I made plans to visit. She had moved far away, but there was still time. When we arrived at her home, my Mother looked both happy and relieved. Our last visit was a good time; sharing time, stories, laughter, and memories of long ago.

The day before my Mother passed, my sister, her caregiver, emailed to say Mom was fading fast and Hospice didn’t see her living much longer. If I wanted to, I could call and my sister would place the phone near her on speaker so Mom could hear and I could offer my farewell. My oldest son, viewing my distress with this sudden yet expected turn of events, suggested I sleep on my final words and compose my thoughts the next morning.

Following his advice, early the next day, somewhat surprisingly, the paper pulled the ink from my pen as fast as I could write. Forty some minutes after I got through on the phone and offered her these words, my Mother passed into the Spirit World where she now enjoys a successful ascension.

January 31, 2017

On the eve of your passing, Mom, I offer these final thoughts.

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“The Circle” and a World of Total Transparency

By Kathy Winings

Is it possible to go too far with our digital technologies? Is total transparency a good thing? If the majority of people in the world were digitally connected and our lives were out in the open, could we have a better, safer world? Are people ready to live in a totally transparent, digital world?

The new film, “The Circle,” attempts to answer these questions. “The Circle” focuses on a young woman, Mae Holland (Emma Watson), who lands an entry-level job in customer service at the Circle, a massive, powerful tech conglomerate, through a good friend who works in the company. Imagine Google, Facebook and Amazon all rolled into one company. That’s the Circle.

Eamon Bailey (Tom Hanks), CEO and co-founder of the Circle, is an energetic and charismatic leader who appeals to the idealism of his employees — all of whom seem to be under the age of 35. With the personality of a Steve Jobs/Mark Zuckerberg, Bailey and his COO and co-founder, Tom Stenton (Patton Oswalt), emphasize transparency and accountability with each new digital breakthrough they unveil. Much like the practice in today’s big tech firms, there is a regular company-wide gathering in which the new innovative breakthrough of the day is showcased and employees can cheer and marvel as their company pushes the boundaries of technology without questioning it.

Mae is drawn deeper and deeper into the Circle. Bailey is good at coming up with catchy names and phrases and selling the new tech innovations through personal stories that touch the emotions and ignite the idealism of his employees – most especially Mae. In her first week on the job, she is introduced to a webcam the size of a marble that is heralded as a means to a totally transparent world where no one can get away with discrimination, human rights abuses or crime, dubbed “Sea Change.” Bailey’s catchphrase is, “Knowing is good but knowing everything is better.”

Shortly after the launch of Sea Change, a U.S. senator trying to open an investigation against Bailey is forced out of office due to seemingly questionable actions unearthed by Circle technology operating under the guise of transparency.  Mae and her colleagues see this as a reason to celebrate their company’s role in making a change for the better.

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