The Muslim World as Seen from Atop the Burj Khalifa Tower

By Ronald Brown

What better vantage point to view the chaos convulsing the Muslim world than from atop the tallest building in the world, the Burj Khalifa Tower in Dubai.

The 163-story tall skyscraper stands in the very center of the Muslim world, almost equidistant between Morocco and Indonesia and the Republic of Kazan in Russia and Empire of Sokoto in Nigeria. For my annual January academic vacation, I decided to settle into the glistening desert city of Dubai and take a Muslim view of the world as Muslims must see it.

As I glanced in all directions from atop the tower, I became acutely aware of Samuel P. Huntington’s argument in his paradigm-shattering book, The Clash of Civilizations and the Remaking of World Order (1996). He argued that the nation-state system that has dominated the world since the Peace of Westphalia in 1648 was rapidly ending. Nine vast religion-based civilizations will dominate the 21st century. The Confucian, Hindu, Orthodox Christian, Western Christian, and Buddhist civilizations were rapidly reclaiming their former greatness, with Latin America, sub-Saharan Africa, and Japan still finding their ways.

The Muslim world, on the other hand, which has no natural boundaries and abuts many of the other emerging civilizations, is convulsed with revolutions, foreign invasions, terrorism, and occupations. It is still struggling to throw off centuries of French, British, Russian, Chinese, and most recently, American colonial rule or influence, amid clashing visions of what form a restored Islamic civilization will take.

But my view of the Muslim world from the Burj Khalifa convinced me Muslims are intent on restoring their lost political and religious unity under the rule of a caliph that the Prophet Mohammed founded.

Huntington recognized that the emerging global actors of the 21st century will be 1) civilizations, and 2) they will be fueled by religious passion. The Hindu-based Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) is propelling the rise of India, Confucianism inspires the rise of China, evangelical Christianity drives the revival of Western Civilization, and militant Islam fuels the Muslim quest to become a major world power. India has even gone so far as to erect statues and temples dedicated to Bharat Mata, the Mother India Goddess, which I pondered during a recent visit to India.

Although a Harvard political scientist, professor Huntington recognized that the determining characteristic of 21st century religions will be their this-worldly orientation. No longer willing to wait for heavenly bliss after death, contemporary religions have embarked on establishing paradise on earth.

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Idealism and Naiveté: On Orwell’s “Homage to Catalonia”

by Peter Elliffe

George Orwell paid homage to Catalonia, Spain, in his journalistic book on the Spanish Civil War, Homage to Catalonia, but he paid homage to much more.

Orwell, like many idealistic men and women of his generation, gave up comfort and security to fight for socialism, communism or republicanism against the proto-fascist Francisco Franco. The war, which heralded many crucial dilemmas, ran from 1936-39, resulting in Generalissimo Franco’s victory.

One of those idealistic individuals was my high school history teacher, Peter Carver. He had fought with the communists, been jailed for his trouble, and came away with a life-long abhorrence for communism in general, and “Uncle Joe” Stalin in particular. I read Homage to Catalonia as an act of homage to my influential teacher.

Carver, like Orwell and Alexander Solzhenitsyn, managed to come away from bitter experiences with communism without bitterness of soul. Some part of the utopian dream that communism represented had touched his heart, and that openness remained.

Homage to Catalonia does not reveal Orwell as a mature political theorist, but as a man in the process of understanding his experiences and attempting to put them in perspective. Likewise, The Gulag Archipelago shows us Solzhenitsyn as a true believer, an intuitive follower of the party of Lenin, even after he is arrested on Russia’s western front. Surely there has been a mistake, he thought. I just need to speak to the right person to have the whole horrible mess straightened out, then I can continue to serve the Revolution – and in the process remove this disturbing cognitive dissonance.

Orwell presents the Spanish Civil War as a class conflict between the reactionary, would-be feudal, land-owning families (and the Catholic Church) represented by Franco, and the Republicans, who are a collection of bourgeois and working-class factions. He arrives in a Barcelona which has been revolutionized, in the hands of labor organizations such as the anarcho-syndicalists (CNT). This is as it should be for Orwell. Why pursue the modern slavery which is capitalism when the possibility of socialist revolution is within our grasp?

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Why True Mother Uses Only One Chair: A Theological Reflection

By Theodore Shimmyo

Just recently True Mother stopped using two separate chairs for her and True Father in public gatherings. She instead now uses one chair to sit, perhaps giving the impression there was no chair for True Father.

But her reason for the use of only one chair was explained publicly by a Korean leader: it is that God, True Father (Rev. Sun Myung Moon) and True Mother (Mrs. Hak Ja Han Moon) have already become completely one, constituting a Trinity. To me, it makes sense. Only one chair would be needed as long as the Trinity of God, True Father and True Mother is there.

Perhaps the traditional Christian doctrine of the Trinity, which shows how the three persons of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit are united in the Trinity, can help us understand how God, True Father and True Mother are united in their Trinity.

A first way how the traditional Christian doctrine of the Trinity describes the unity of the three persons is by talking about their “mutual indwelling” or “interpenetration” (perichoresis in Greek; circumincessio in Latin), and it is supported by Jesus’ own words: “I am in the Father and the Father in me” (John 14:11).

While this Greek term, perichoresis, was originally used to describe the relationship of unity between the divine and human natures of Christ, St. John of Damascus (c. 676-749) for the first time extended it to the Trinitarian unity in the sense of mutual indwelling or interpenetration, and its Latin translation, circumincessio, came later. Whether in Greek or Latin, it became a technical term for the Trinitarian relationship in the above sense. In the same way, we can perhaps say that God, True Father and True Mother, in their Trinity, have the relationship of mutual indwelling or interpenetration.

A second way the traditional Christian doctrine of the Trinity describes the unity of the three persons concerns their “outward operations” (opera trinitatis ad extra) in the divine economy. Usually considered to have come from St. Augustine (354-430), it says that the three outward operations of “creation,” “redemption” and “sanctification” in the divine economy, which may be attributed primarily to the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit, respectively, are nevertheless “indivisible” (opera trinitatis ad extra indivisa sunt), so that all three persons are involved in each of these outward operations.

This means the Son and the Holy Spirit, too, are involved in the operation of “creation,” which is attributed primarily to the Father; that the Father and the Holy Spirit, too, are involved in the operation of “redemption,” which is attributed primarily to the Son; and that the Father and the Son, too, are involved in the operation of “sanctification,” which is attributed primarily to the Holy Spirit.

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Gun Control: Context and Purpose

By Gordon Anderson

Discussions of gun control, like climate change, welfare, immigration, and other complex social issues get reduced to single variables for political purposes. This reduction leads to political strife and gridlock. It also leads to poor laws that do not solve the problem they are supposed to address, and often creates other unwanted or unforeseen problems.

Whenever an incident like the Parkland, Florida, school shooting occurs, the political right promotes the sanctity of the Second Amendment and the political left promotes gun control as a solution. The focus on these two simplistic approaches, pushed by special interests, and magnified by political parties and the press, obscures genuine understanding of the reasons for mass murders and ways to reduce them.

The Larger context

Human society is complex like an ecosystem. There are many interrelated variables in which some correlate with each other more directly than others. But a butterfly effect can occur in which a small, nearly unpredictable factor, influences dramatic events. To understand how components of a system affect each other requires a knowledge of all the variables and their relationship.

It is useful to look at the history of predicting the weather. Some have believed the weather was an arbitrary decision of gods. Others noticed it had something to do with geographical location. But even in areas where it rains many times a year, it is difficult to predict when it will rain or when the wind will blow without a lot more data and complex weather models.

Today’s weather models are far more accurate than just a few decades ago because they use computers to integrate variables like day of the year, angle of the sun, atmospheric pressure, albedo, proximity of large weather systems, jet stream location, and many other factors.

People commit murder for many reasons and in many ways. They kill for anger and revenge; because they are forced to; to rob or commit other crimes; to impress others; because they feel threatened; to find out what it feels like; and many other reasons. They kill with guns, bombs, knives, bats, fists, cars, fire, gas, water (drowning), pushing off of a building, and in virtually any way that will get the job done.

Guns are easier and more effective in killing than many other ways. Murder can be an uncontrolled instinctual reaction or premeditated and well-planned.

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Gun Control or Heart Control? A Great Awakening?

By David Eaton

In the aftermath of another heinous act of mass murder, this time at a high school in Parkland, Florida, there was the usual spate of hand-wringing over the question of gun laws in the United States.

For the record, I’m not fond of guns and would like to see greater prohibitions on the sale of automatic weapons. That said, it was not at all surprising to hear certain commentators reflexively cite and blame the usual suspects (the NRA, the GOP) for “America’s gun problem.”

In a discussion after the Parkland shooting, MSNBC commentator Mike Barnicle asked the rhetorical question, “Is this a cultural problem?” The answer should be fairly obvious.

Our “gun control” problem is a resultant phenomenon, a symptom of a serious cultural and spiritual disorder. By all means, let’s have the debate about guns and laws, but we need to understand this is not fundamentally a “gun problem” but rather a “heart problem.”

It’s well-known that politics is downstream of culture. The Greeks understood this long ago; Plato was very perceptive when he cited musicologist Damon’s assertion that “if you change the songs of a nation soon you will change the laws.”

Politicians and our political punditry are reacting to the Parkland tragedy in the way they have for decades. Rather than examine deeper cultural concerns — family breakdown, sexual immorality, a debased entertainment industry — their focus immediately becomes political.

This is not to suggest there isn’t a law-and-order aspect in the equation. However, we already have many gun laws on the books. Both the Parkland perpetrator and Las Vegas shooter obtained their guns legally. There are as many as 100 million gun owners in the USA and most are law-abiding citizens. Most gun-related crimes in the USA are committed with illegally obtained weapons. Chicago has some of the strictest gun laws in the country, yet annually leads the nation in gun-related crimes — over 4,000 cases in 2016.

A study on gun–related crime published in 2017 by the federal National Institute of Justice found that between 1993 and 2013 gun ownership increased by nearly 50%. Yet during the same period, gun homicides decreased by nearly 50%. Kentucky Governor Matt Bevin pointed to the fact that in the 1950s there were far, far fewer gun laws on the books, yet the kinds of mass shootings we are seeing with disturbing frequency were almost non-existent.

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Gun Control: Profound Cultural Differences Regardless of Statistics

By Franco Famularo

News of the February 14 mass shooting at a Florida high school that claimed the lives of 14 students and three staff has people all over asking questions once again. In a debate where the same arguments are exchanged consistently, it seems a spiritual numbness prevails that leads to more confusion and frustration than solutions.

Here, I look at some statistics and posit there’s a profound cultural difference between the USA and most other nations, not only in the developed world but most other countries, when it comes to gun ownership.

Neither side of the debate in the USA has convinced the other. Supporters of tighter gun control scream something must be done and restrictions should be placed on gun ownership and background checks should be more rigorous. Supporters of existing gun laws tell us stricter laws are not the answer and that “Guns don’t kill people. People kill people.”

We are told, for example, that Chicago, with strict gun laws, has a very high murder rate and high crime rate. Some would suggest stricter laws would prevent people from killing people.

Most folks living outside the U.S. are perplexed that gun laws are as loose as they are and ask why Americans don’t do the obvious. Some go as far as avoiding travel to the U.S., fearing gun violence!

But there is one puzzle that repeatedly stumps supporters and non-supporters alike. Why does the U.S. have an enormously higher rate of mass shootings than anywhere else? And why do most developed countries such as in Europe, Japan and Canada have such low homicide rates — especially those involving guns?

(click chart to enlarge; source of graphic: New York Times)

There exists a long litany of arguments for and against tighter gun laws and both sides in the USA cite the Second Amendment. Most folks outside the U.S. cannot easily understand what’s at the root of the gun issue and what the American worldview is when it comes to gun ownership and their use.

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The Power of Choo Choo…Pow!

By Greg Davis

It was 1976, the year of the famous, and infamous, Bicentennial of America.  True Father, Rev. Sun Myung Moon, was planning to speak at the Washington Monument on September 18 as a grand finale for the historical “God Bless America Festival,” which had been launched at the beginning of the year.

I, like thousands of brothers and sisters, had been pulled off of “frontline” MFT (mobile fundraising team) duty to participate in the Yankee Stadium event that took place in June.  That event was clearly a battle between heaven and hell, and in spite of the fact that we literally reversed the weather patterns inside the stadium by “chasing away the rain,” singing “You Are My Sunshine” with all our hearts, True Father declared it a “victory.”

Although some of us, maybe, were not sure. He said in his historic speech at the “victory” celebration at Belvedere, “…now I know you can succeed at the Washington Monument rally.” Father, always with the “providential numbers.”

As a veteran MFT team captain, I wasn’t so sure about my future participation in the coming weeks. It seemed that few events, historical or not, altered the consistency of frontline MFT work.  And, after a typical quick reshuffling of members, teams, and regions, my team and I went back out, to the streets, parking lots, shopping centers, and bar runs, of…Philadelphia. In summer 1976, Philadelphia was where it was all happening.  A party in the streets every night.

However, in early September, my team, as well as hundreds of others from around the country, were “called in” to join forces with the thousands of brothers and sisters who had already been working day and night preparing for the historic “Meet Us At the Monument” campaign, in cities all over the country. The plan was for Rev. Moon to address a crowd of 300,000 at the Monument and we were there to help “prepare buses.”

Now everyone has heard, “God works in mysterious ways,” so, as it turned out, my team, was sent to…Baltimore.  We were assigned to work with an already established group headed by members who came from…Oakland, California.

In 1976, many had “heard” of the “touchy-feely” success the “Oakland Family” had in swelling the ranks of the Unification family. And the stories became legend.

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Qigong, Tai Chi and Mind-Body Unity

By Rob Sayre

My wife and I became students of tai chi nine years ago. We attend one class per week, which lasts one hour with our teacher and practice at home several times a week.

I’d like to share how it has benefited us as well as how this ancient practice fits into some popular trends of mindfulness and from Father Moon’s teachings on Mind-Body Unity or the First Blessing.

Taming or fostering a focused mind is at the core or the first steps in achieving unity between our thoughts and actions.

From The Way of Unification:

“You may feel your mind changing many times in the course of a day. Because your mind varies, your direction also varies, and because your direction varies, your purpose varies too. You cannot fulfill one purpose when your mind varies. It is not simple to fulfill a goal with one mind; how much more difficult it is to fulfill it with two! Thus one mind is necessary.”

Once our mind is focused and calm, we can focus it on love or heart and connect to God. The unity of our thoughts and actions is the place where love can abide and we can connect with God. So there are really two steps involved.

From the chapter on Heart from New Hope: Twelve Talks by Sun Myung Moon:

“Which comes first, unity or love? You can love yourself when your mind and body are in harmony with each other. If you love yourself when your desire and actions are going different directions, then your love has little meaning. When your mind and body are united into one, then God will eternally protect your love. Unity is the beginning point of love, the point where love can come to abide. This is God’s ideal. Unless God can find persons whose quality is in accordance with His ideal, He cannot be happy at all. He has no one He can love.”

Qigong is the practice of moving meditation, rooted in Taoism. It serves a similar role as meditation, but also has components that include self-massage and wellness. Tai chi is a subset of qigong and adds a martial arts component and also provides strength and flexibility training as well as balance and memory enhancement. Tai chi was originally developed as a way to practice martial arts, which was forbidden in China. The slow movements disguised the very powerful martial applications.

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The Kalki Avatar and the Second Coming of Christ, the True Parents of Humankind

By Jennifer Tanabe

“Christ at the Second Advent, who is to come as the center of Christianity, is the person of the Maitreya Buddha who is to return according to the teachings of Buddhism, the True Man who is awaited in the Chinese religious tradition, and the Chongdoryong for whom many Koreans yearn. He is the central figure whose advent is expected in other religions as well.” (Exposition of Divine Principle, Part I, Chapter 5: Resurrection, Section 3: The Unification of Religions)

This passage is familiar to all Unificationists, and it is our understanding Sun Myung Moon is the fulfillment not only of the Second Coming of Christ but, together with his wife, Mrs. Hak Ja Han Moon, fulfills the ultimate role of the True Parents of humankind. Thus, we easily recognize the Mahdi in this role of the awaited returning central figure in Islam whom we can see fulfilled in the True Parents.

But what about Hinduism? If there is no corresponding central figure in Hinduism, with a billion adherents, how will all religions come together under one God, one True Parents?

I knew little of Hinduism until recently, finding the many gods, some with the heads of animals or many arms, rather unattractive. On the other hand, the greeting “namaste,” which a colleague at an interfaith gathering explained means “I bow to the divine in you,” has a deep spirituality that impressed me and evoked my respect.

When I reflected on it, I knew there must be common ground with the other religions, and this must include the expectation of a messianic figure to come, soon.

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