‘Black Panther: Wakanda Forever’: More Than a Marvel Adventure Movie

By Kathy Winings

Black Panther: Wakanda Forever” is a rare sequel — one I found to be even better than its predecessor, “Black Panther,” in terms of the depth of its message and themes even though the Marvel Cinematic Universe film is minus its former lead actor with the 2020 death of Chadwick Boseman.

The movie is a typical Marvel film complete with lots of action, superhuman feats and high-tech wonders. “Wakanda Forever” also continues to emphasize the theme of diversity, but expands this focus more powerfully to highlight gender, age and Hispanic/indigenous culture along with that of Black culture. As good as this is, though, it is not the real power behind the film.

What makes the movie particularly poignant are timely and highly relevant themes that stand out for today’s world. Foremost is the focus on forgiveness vs. revenge. This leads to the closely-related issue of the meaning and power of love over hate that enables one to genuinely forgive. The final theme is the role of women as peacemakers.

What enables these themes to stand out is the context of age that is subtly present throughout the film. It took about 30 minutes before I realized that most of the main characters are part of the millennial generation. As an educator and minister, I found this to be a significant feature of the movie because of the issues the characters are facing. All this makes for a more sobering film this time around.

The death of King T’Challa (Boseman, the original Black Panther) is never far from the hearts and minds of the main characters and is woven into the storyline as the film begins with Wakanda mourning the death of its king despite his sister, Princess Shuri’s frantic efforts to save her brother. This sets Shuri (Letitia Wright) on the path of having to deal with her grief and anger over this loss, leaving her to question love, forgiveness and eternal life.

Soon after her brother’s memorial service, several pivotal events take place that become the catalysts for Shuri and several key women to come to terms with these important themes. One lingering question that hangs in the air from the first film concerns T’Challa’s previous offer to share Wakanda’s knowledge about vibranium with the world now that the Black Panther is gone. Are world leaders wise and mature enough to handle such an offer without greed and violence? Unfortunately, we know the answer to that question all too well.

In the year following T’Challa’s death, Queen Ramonda (Angela Bassett) and the Dora Milaje security forces find themselves protecting Wakanda from those forces seeking to gain access to vibranium. Some efforts led to violent confrontations that were wrongly blamed on the Wakandans. So each event increases the tension and fear for the future of Wakanda in the heart of Ramonda and Shuri.

At the center of this struggle comes a new threat, whose very existence came about centuries earlier because of vibranium — an underwater culture known as the Talokan. Their leader, Namor (Tenoch Huerta), sets things in motion by confronting Ramonda and Shuri when he finds them alone on a beach preparing for a final family ritual to end their year of mourning T’Challa.

Continue reading “‘Black Panther: Wakanda Forever’: More Than a Marvel Adventure Movie”

What Music Tells Me: Beauty, Truth and Goodness and Our Cultural Inheritance

By David Eaton

The 19th century French novelist, Gustave Flaubert, asserted that “the art of writing is the art of discovering what you believe.”

In the process of writing my book, What Music Tells Me: Beauty, Truth and Goodness and Our Cultural Inheritance, I realized Flaubert’s assertion was quite apt.

The chapters in the book span several decades and were written for various publications, including The World & I magazine, the Journal of Unification Studies, the Peace Music Community blog, and the Applied Unificationism blog.

They draw upon many of my experiences as a musician, as well as my interest in music in relation to politics, philosophy, commerce, education, and religion. The influence of music on self and society is a central narrative of my book.

What Music Tells Us

One of my favorite composers is Gustav Mahler (1860-1911). Mahler is generally considered to be the last of the great symphonists of the European symphonic tradition. He composed nine symphonies and his third symphony, written between 1893 and 1896, has six movements. He ascribes the following titles to each movement:

1.  Pan Awakes, Summer Marches In
2.  What the Flowers in the Meadow Tell Me
3.  What the Animals in the Forest Tell Me
4.  What Man Tells Me
5.  What the Angels Tell Me
6.  What Love Tells Me

For Mahler, nature, angels, humankind, and love all had something to say to him — presumably something imbued with beauty, truth and goodness. He would say that it was through the art of music that he could find answers to many of his questions regarding life, love and the pursuit of happiness.

Mahler intuited, as did those in ancient cultures, that music wasn’t solely about pleasure or aesthetics. Like the philosophers of ancient China and Greece, Mahler believed music possessed moral and ethical implications and could be a gateway to higher truths and deeper understandings of the human condition.

Hebrew and Christian philosophers also shared this perspective and wrote treatises regarding the effects of music on self and society — psycho-acoustics in modern parlance. Any examination of our cultural patrimony reveals that the metaphysical, spiritual and axiological aspects of music, and its potential as a change agent in the spheres of politics and public ethics, has been a constant refrain from antiquity to Mahler, and remains so today.

The Unification movement’s founders, Rev. Sun Myung Moon and Mrs. Hak Ja Han Moon, often alluded to the importance of art and culture in establishing a culture of peace. In their respective memoirs, they each aver that it’s not politics that changes the world, but art and culture that can move people’s hearts and raise consciousness and thereby foster conditions for socio-cultural betterment.

Continue reading “What Music Tells Me: Beauty, Truth and Goodness and Our Cultural Inheritance”

A Manifesto for an Integral Society

By Gordon L. Anderson

Societies have become very complex since early nation-states formed in the 17th century.

Corporations, central banks, political parties, government bureaucracies, and many other social institutions have arisen to assert great control over individual citizens. These institutions can be of great service or harm to individuals, depending on their purpose and how well they are managed.

Will a way be found to keep them in the service of the people, or will they create a dystopian future in which people have little value except as serfs to those who control these institutions?

Much of the strife in our societies results from the loss of freedom and personal sovereignty as social institutions expand, taking control of governments, land, food, money, health, and energy.

Self-sufficient individuals, small businesses, and small towns are threatened by wealthy elites, global financial conglomerates, and the financial, ideological and political hijacking of institutions. Inflation, the fear of rigged elections, and energy shortages are causing populist uprisings as those who control governments, banks and resources threaten them with indignity.

We have reached a critical point in the evolution of human society. The array of highly developed social institutions in our complex post-modern world can either be put to the service of individual sovereignty and happiness or, left unchecked, put to the service of elites who use these institutions for their own power and wealth as sovereign citizens become a new type of feudal serf.

The Divine Principle refers to this time as the “Last Days,” when the Messiah will appear with a higher truth that can usher in the Completed Testament Era. Rev. Sun Myung Moon spoke about headwing thought that would transcend both the right and the left centered on Godism.

In a Journal of Unification Studies article, “Toward a Headwing Society: The Harmony of Three Social Spheres,” I explained how important elements in Unification Thought fit with a developing school of integral thought: stages of growth to perfection in both individuals and society, internal and external aspects of human life, and the preparation for the ideal world with developments in the last 400 years in which feudalism gives way to individual sovereignty.

An integral society can be viewed as Completed Testament society.

This book intends to show the way forward and stimulate discussion on how to achieve an integral society. In an integral society, social institutions exist for specific purposes that serve human beings. Integral society is created by an integral consciousness. That consciousness is rooted in a view of the whole that respects the value of each individual.

Integral consciousness is developing in our world as reflection on the nature and purpose of our post-modern life accelerates. The most popular pioneer in the field of integral studies is Ken Wilber, whose A Theory of Everything: An Integral Vision for Business, Politics, Science and Spirituality was a bestseller.

Continue reading “A Manifesto for an Integral Society”

The Need for a Unificationist Blessing, Marriage and Family Theology and Education Providence

By Alice Fleisher

I experienced a flash of insight a few days ago while looking at Rev. Sun Myung Moon’s picture (who Unificationists call True Father).

The gist of the revelation was that some 30+ years ago, I was in a position to facilitate and contribute towards the development of a Unificationist Blessing, Marriage, and Family Educational (UBMFE) providence.

If that was the case, you may wonder why am I only now proposing the development of such a providence rather than 30 years ago? (I was first active in the American branch of the Unification Church’s marriage and family ministry — known as the Blessed Family Department [USA BFD] — between 1987 and 1989 and then reconnected in 2004)

In the 1970s and 1980s, the USA BFD work consisted of supporting and administrating the Blessing providence. The providence of guiding Blessed couples and families mainly consisted of preparing couples for their three-day ceremony, counseling, and the publication of two Blessing-related magazines, which included True Parents’ speeches and some educational material, called The Blessing Quarterly and The Blessing Journal.

Family education was not pressing because most couples were just starting out and few had children. However, anyone connected to the USA BFD who was even remotely observant could see we were eventually going to need education material and programs that could minister to and provide life guidance for these Blessed couples and families.

Unfortunately, budgetary concerns and administrative decisions occurred that had a major impact on the USA BFD and the development of that kind of material. Around 1990, the USA BFD was completely shut down, an action that wasn’t reversed until 2004 (due to True Father’s prodding).

Upon reflection, I believe that from the 1990s going forward, the development of mature, professional and comprehensive educational material on the Blessing, Marriage and Family derived from the revelations of True Father and Rev. Hak Ja Han Moon (who Unificationists call True Mother; together they are called True Parents) would have occurred. Sadly, such efforts were stillborn and cut-off abruptly due to the USA BFD’s demise.

It was not a coincidence that during the time the USA BFD was dormant, the Coalition for Marriage, Family, and Couples Education, LLC (CMFCE) was founded by Diane Sollee in 1996. I believe through the CMFCE and the Smart Marriages Conferences they sponsored, God worked to encourage faithful professionals who were caring for beleaguered families to identify and make available to the greater public, ministries, clinical practices, and educational programs dedicated to enriching healthy marriages and saving marriages that were in trouble. The purpose of the CMFCE, found on their website, is below. These are worthy and laudable goals.

The coalition serves as an information exchange and clearinghouse to help couples locate marriage and relationship courses; to help professionals, clergy and lay educators locate training programs and resources; to connect those with an interest in the continuing development of the field; to support community initiatives, legislation and research; and to promote the effectiveness of marriage education programs and increase their availability in the community.

Continue reading “The Need for a Unificationist Blessing, Marriage and Family Theology and Education Providence”

The Abundance Mentality, with Biblical References

By Esfand Zahedi

As many teachers and prophets have taught, and as supported by scientific and historical evidence, our experience is largely shaped by our perception.

A person who expects the worst, or the commonplace, is very unlikely to attract positive things or even see them if they surround him. A person with faith or a good attitude is likely to invite good experiences and frame seemingly negative events in a positive light.

If faith doesn’t lead to a life-affirming and optimistic attitude, it can hardly be called faith. Faith should lead to the conviction there is a universal answer to our inner desires and an infinite supply of good things for all; that nothing can be “too good to be true” if goodness and truth have the same Source. Convictions like these constitute what I call an “Abundance Mentality.”

Many human fears are unnecessary and debilitating. Jesus declared, “I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly” (John 10:10). When the multitude came to Jesus with their troubles, he comforted them and — without affirming their thoughts of scarcity — pointed to the infinite abundance and responsiveness of the Father.

How much of our trouble arises simply from want of faith? A mentality or attitude contains an element of faith when the mind assumes a truth that transcends immediate experience. Seeking to define “faith,” I find this a solid definition: “Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen… By faith we understand that… what is seen was made out of things which do not appear” (Heb. 11:1, 3).

Things seen (our outer conditions) were made out of things unseen (our inner beliefs). With our minds we frame the world around us, be it a world of selfishness and poverty or a world of harmony and wealth. The greatest benefits life has to offer are obtainable by changing the mind. By change of mind is meant not a mere change of opinions, but the transition to a new mentality. The word “repent,” from the Greek metanoia, means “to change the mind.”

“Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand” (Matt. 3:2).  Change your minds, for all the wonderful and good gifts of life are readily available, within your reach. We have the freedom to change our minds from a state of poverty and doubt to a state of wealth and assurance; to abandon the Scarcity Mentality and put on the Abundance Mentality.

The Bountiful Father

God is our Bountiful Parent; able, willing, and ready to do all things. The Divine Will is, however, to accomplish things through us. “[By] the power at work within us [He] is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think…” (Eph. 3:20).

The beliefs of the Abundance Mentality apply to the abundance of food, water and natural provisions. Nature offers the resources that can produce more goods than can be counted. If we are connected to the Source, then every resource can be resupplied again and again without limit. There is no real shortage in nature.

Continue reading “The Abundance Mentality, with Biblical References”

Giving an Adversary the Respect They May Not Deserve

Hand_Shake

Note: This article from Nov. 11, 2013 is being re-posted on Applied Unificationism in remembrance of Antonio Betancourt (1944-2022).

By Mark P. Barry

In April 1990, after his Moscow meeting with Soviet President Gorbachev, Rev. Sun Myung Moon asked Antonio Betancourt, Secretary General of the Summit Council for World Peace, to reach out on his behalf to North Korea. Dr. Betancourt had many years’ experience working with former heads of state and government from Latin America and elsewhere. On several occasions, Rev. Moon gave him specific instructions how to conduct diplomacy prior to undertaking this overture.

Shortly afterward, Dr. Betancourt started to visit North Korean embassies in Beijing, Lisbon and other world capitals. He would walk into an embassy, introduce himself and his affiliation, and quickly would be bodily escorted outside, and told he was not welcome. The reason was our worldwide movement’s strong anticommunist stance. Although he gave them the precedent of Rev. Moon’s meeting Gorbachev, it made no difference.

Through sheer persistence, he eventually impressed the North Korean diplomats because he showed both a willingness to listen, as well as displayed a refreshing attitude. On one occasion, he went to the North Korean UN mission in New York and met with their deputy ambassador. This official carried on for three hours condemning the United States, Japan and South Korea for many of the North’s ills. Dr. Betancourt said that once he did his best not only to endure the diatribe but listen attentively, an unexpected change in the atmosphere occurred.

The North Korean diplomat suddenly became curious and willing to listen to what he had to say. The deputy ambassador was amazed this visitor had taken his verbal punishment, digested it, and was willing to proceed to more constructive conversation. What came from this meeting led to Dr. Betancourt’s first of 17 visits to Pyongyang in May 1991, accompanied by Rodrigo Carazo, former president of Costa Rica.

Once in Pyongyang, Dr. Betancourt’s real test began. He was subjected to verbal berating for two days, despite being a state guest, because the North Koreans wanted to test his true intentions and capacity to deal with them. He concluded they do not trust someone unless proven trustworthy. This is part of understanding and managing North Koreans’ complex logic used when dealing with those with whom they have grievances.

Meanwhile, Dr. Bo Hi Pak, assisted by Dr. Betancourt, laid the foundation for Rev. and Mrs. Moon’s historic meeting with President Kim Il Sung in November 1991, as chronicled in Chapter 20 of Dr. Pak’s Messiah: My Testimony to Rev. Sun Myung Moon, Vol. II.

Dr. Betancourt notes, “Dr. Pak practiced the application of Rev. Moon’s teachings in his diplomacy and exemplified the principle of respecting and honoring everyone, including his enemies. He could speak very strongly against communism in his lectures, but in personally dealing with adversaries, he never demonized them. That’s why he could convince North Korea to invite Rev. and Mrs. Moon to Pyongyang. Without Dr. Pak’s sincerity, that would never have worked.” He adds, “When Rev. Moon embraced Kim Il Sung, it was not a political act or a pose for a photo-op. It was a heart-to-heart embrace that won Kim Il Sung’s heart. Father understood the art of turning enemies into friends.”

Continue reading “Giving an Adversary the Respect They May Not Deserve”

Unearthing My DNA: The Lost Sister

By Eileen Williams

It’s natural to presume that family are the people who think like us, are born into the same cultural group, share similar political stances, and even look like us. A homogenous comfort zone called “family” might be nice to ponder, but the reality is often a far cry from this rosy Rockwell-esque tableau.

The unexpected discovery of a half-sibling made me re-think “family” and my place in it down to my very core. To put this in a Unificationist perspective: the reality of tribal messiahship with diverse members spanning two coasts and two continents sometimes requires both flying far and digging deep.

It was Thanksgiving 2020, and I was participating in a Zoom meet-up through my local library with Libby Copeland, author of The Lost Family: How DNA is Upending Who We Are. That might make a good Christmas present for someone, I thought, unawares that the very person to benefit from the book would be me.

Inspired by Copeland’s case studies delving into family heritage — its twists, turns, and surprises, the medical miracles, the family drama — I turned to my sister Mary: “Let’s buy ourselves Ancestry.com DNA test kits for Christmas.”

Mary and I were curious about where in Ireland our relatives came from; she was readying to visit my father’s second cousins in Germany. However, we had not anticipated that we were about to “out” our own family skeleton, although that doesn’t seem a nice way to describe a newly-found half-sister.

After Christmas, I received my test results, and there staring back at me from the Ancestry.com website was a photo of a woman tagged as a first degree relative. I determined after a few stunned moments that she could neither be aunt, niece, nor cousin but rather was/must be a half-sister (really?).

She had lurked on the Ancestry.com site for two years hoping to “strike” a match. I would come to learn that she had longed most of her adult life for someone — anyone — she could call family. And strike a match she did.

Although myself and three of my siblings had managed to forge a bond despite the childhood rupture of divorce, my younger adopted sister cut all ties with the rest of us. Sadly, family is not always what folks want to find, and sometimes it’s even those we want to lose. Yet, here on the site was a half-sister hoping desperately to discover family connections.

The first thing I learned about DNA testing is people can inherit different pieces of DNA from their ancestral gene pool. One does not neatly inherit 25% of your genetic traits from each grandparent, and then 12.5 % from each great grandparent; rather hereditary traits are expressed in a random manner.

My sister and I share a 58% DNA match, which is normal for siblings or fraternal twins; identical twins share a 100% DNA match. My sister has a higher percent of Scottish DNA than I do (ah, the red in her hair!).  My half-sister was a 27% DNA match with me.

All humans share 99.9% percent DNA in common, so why bother researching your genealogy at all?  Some DNA test sites suggest you can form meaningful connections from doing this — second and third cousin discoveries, famous relatives. Maybe your ancestors go back to a signer of the Declaration of Independence, as a proud friend of mine discovered.

Continue reading “Unearthing My DNA: The Lost Sister”

A Proposal to Allocate More Resources for Counseling

By Incheol Son

A two-year-old child sat on the floor in a relative’s house, wearing only one piece of knit in the cold winter. He was staring aimlessly and couldn’t recognize who had come before him.

This boy had forgotten the faces of his mother and father. He was left there all alone in “separation” from his parents who went out for witnessing. Immediately after his father saw the baby, his father escaped to the kitchen and cried quite a while.

This is the story my mother shared with me. It was about me. In fact, I have no recollection of it.

But, I surely recall the day when I tried to describe that scene in a testimony at a workshop. All those listening suddenly cried along. They were all second generation and had similar experiences as mine. I came to realize it was not just an individual but a collective one.

From a psychological point of view, however, the vulnerable little boy was exposed to an “overwhelming” event to lose his parents in his earliest years by being abandoned in what for him was a strange place. I had to face a series of similar events that continued to take place afterward, such as my mother’s sudden disappearance to go witnessing and my father’s quitting his job to become a pastor.

These experiences were very damaging to a child, though it’s been theologically justified as “indemnity” to build a condition that UC members tried to love the world more than their own children. I was educated in training programs to accept the logic as such. I tried and it worked — for a while.

I’ve even been encouraged to sublimate such primal wounds. But, they have never gone away. Rather they’ve accumulated; the emotional lump of trauma is still active inside me. And, now I realize it has kept influencing my life.

For example, I have a kind of “fear” of facing strangers, new people. Some say it’s just my character. And so I’ve also been encouraged not only to overcome it personally but to apply the ideal model of engaging in a new relationship. But, it’s like the fear of heights I have. I just react naturally to it. Fear is a psychological “symptom” of trauma.

When I served briefly as a pastor, one Japanese woman who had married a Korean man approached me for counseling. Her husband had no faith at the time and so was more like a secular man. He just joined the church because his older sister, from a senior blessed couple, had urged him to get married. The application forms were submitted and the man was able to participate in the blessing ceremony though he was not fully qualified.

On the other hand, the Japanese wife, who graduated from a renown university in Japan, entered the blessing by hope and faith. But the reality she had to face afterward in South Korea was far from what she had dreamed. Her specific difficulty she shared with me was her husband’s habit of inviting his friends over in the evenings. She had to welcome and serve those unexpected guests every time, but she, who already had two children and was pregnant with her third, couldn’t feel happiness from his habits.

Continue reading “A Proposal to Allocate More Resources for Counseling”

My Fellow Christians: We Are Challenged to Make the Case for Faith Itself

By Robert Duffy

Dear Christians,

Let me clearly state I have the greatest respect for Jesus, my Savior and Messiah. And I have great respect for the church universal that Jesus established after his death and resurrection, and which has served, however imperfectly, to care for our Heavenly Parent and to further God’s providence of salvation.

But it seems to me there are many in our culture who are philosophically Christian, but not church-goers — would-be Christians who have become discouraged as I had in my teenage years.

In my current experience, churches today can deliver a somewhat satisfying experience on the spiritual and emotional level, but without a more credible philosophical substrate, lack the capacity to support a moral or ethical context on which further societal development can be built.

More modern referents are called for — those of technology, film, popular culture, science, art, and social media — in telling the story of salvation, promoting the predominant need for moral transformation and spiritual growth rather than a rescue from sinful depravity, although that approach is sometimes appropriate. Many consider social salvation more important than mere personal salvation, though the causal relationship should be clear.

The world today is experiencing some of the worst convulsions from the widest possible number of sources in history — wars, extreme climate change, ideological and cultural conflict, dysfunctional social systems, family and societal breakdown, to name a few.

One of the factors holding a society together, historically, has been the acceptance of similar values among its citizens, values which most of the population held in common.

In our age — with peoples and their cultures, languages and customs interacting in sometimes competitive and combative ways, sharing space with each other through the relative ease of migration and travel — societies, particularly in the developed world, have experienced unprecedented levels of social confusion as the demographic complexion of nations changes, and with it, the political and spiritual environments.

And so, dear Christians, although we may feel that our religion is the greatest (and final) one, our witness to Christ in our time must take on an interreligious character. Indeed, we are challenged not to convert people of other faiths to ours, as much as to make the case for faith itself, allowing God to move in us in our ways of thinking and acting in the world. The real object of our evangelical efforts is the modern cynic, agnostic or atheist, devoid of faith and unable to realize the omnipresence of our Creator God in their midst in everyday life.

But to reach said cynics, it will be important to have an intellectually sound basis for advocating a perspective of faith. A common value system, based on biblically-rooted first principles, would be interesting if and only if it was able to encapsulate the essentials of both a spiritual and physical view of life. In other words, it would have to embrace both religion and science.

Continue reading “My Fellow Christians: We Are Challenged to Make the Case for Faith Itself”

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