The Technology-Empowered Cleric and the End of Religions as We Know Them

By Ronald Brown

Thomas Friedman argued in Longitudes and Attitudes: Exploring the World After September 11 (2002) that modern technology had given rise to “super-empowered individuals” such as George Soros, Mark Zuckerberg, Robert Murdoch, Oprah Winfrey, and Osama bin Laden, who have amassed more power than traditional presidents, kings, generals, and dictators.

I believe super-empowered clerics have joined Friedman’s list of super-empowered individuals shaping the 21st century. These clerics are doing religion in ways never before imagined, hastening the decline of historic religions, and pioneering the rise of new global religions. Super-empowered clerics are taking religions to places where no one has gone before.

Here, I analyze the six (sometimes conflicting) characteristics of emerging religious movements: 1) The centrality of super-empowered clerics, 2) the merging of past, present and future, 3) the transience of religion, 4) the globalization of religions, 5) the deification of humans, and, 6) the politicization of religions.

Super-empowered clerics

The modern technological revolution is radically altering thousands-year-old systems of religious leadership. Super-empowered clerics such as Rev. Billy Graham, Menachem Schneerson of the Lubavitch Jewish sect, the Dalai Lama, Christian televangelists Robert H. Schuller and Joel Osteen, the Brazilian cleric Edir Macedo, ISIS caliph Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, the Buddhist Dhammakaya Chandra Khhonnokyoong, and bin Laden emerged as religious superstars. They preside over virtual congregations, even empires, that exploit the Internet, cheap air travel, mass communications, videos, neuroscience, and have at their disposal colossal financial resources made possible by the new global economy.

Brazilian pastor Macedo is a prime example of the cleric of the future. Unlike traditional religious leaders who received their authority from long-established institutions, Macedo claims he received his calling and empowerment directly from God. He did not consider himself bound by ancient tradition, long-decided dogmas, historical precedent, or hierarchical superiors.

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Confessions of a Divine Principle Editor

By Dan Fefferman

I had the privilege of working on both the 1973 edition of Divine Principle and consulting on the 1996 new translation, known as Exposition of the Divine Principle (EDP). Here, I offer some recollections and confessions, with a view toward giving our community some information for our reflection.

Prior to 1973, most of us in the USA used Dr. Young Oon Kim’s “Red Book” titled Divine Principle and Its Applicationor the blue study guide that complemented it. A smaller number used Sang Ik Choi’s Principles of Education. As part of his late 1971 push to unify the groups that had formed around the various Korean missionaries, Rev. Sun Myung Moon ordered the translation into English of the official Korean version of Divine Principle, Wolli Kangron. This task was given to Mrs. Won Pok Choi. She later told me she had to finish this work in great haste, over a period of 40 days, at the Soo Taek Rhee training center.

Sometime in 1972, Mrs. Choi’s text arrived in Washington, DC. Each chapter was given to a different editor, living in various centers, and we did not have a style sheet to guide us. Editors were relatively inexperienced and used various standards of punctuation and capitalization. In addition, there were lots of new terms.

Dr. Kim’s book was relatively short and did not use terms like “foundation of substance,” “foundation to receive the messiah,” or even “internal character and external form.” So in some chapters of Mrs. Choi’s translation, “foundation of substance” was rendered as “substantial foundation” or even “foundation of heart.” I myself changed “time-identity” to “time-indemnity” until I realized my error.

Editors agonized over whether Moses led the course of “restoration of Canaan” or “restoration into Canaan.” We also wondered how strict we should be about retaining “therefore,” instead of “thus” or “so.” Adding to the angst of the editors was the fact we had been instructed to stick closely to Mrs. Choi’s translation rather than risking a change in meaning. This meant avoiding changes in sentence structure and length.

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The Christ-Being in the Present Age: “Christ” Seen from the Perspective of Mithraism

By Shinji Gyoten

Reverend Sun Myung Moon (1920-2012) diligently studied the Bible in his youth and the Divine Principle was written mainly for Christians in the framework of Christian theology. The Exposition of the Divine Principle has been the core textbook of the Unification Church for a long time; church leaders taught lectures based on Divine Principle and the Bible; in his early days, Rev. Moon himself spoke a great deal about Jesus and biblical stories.

However, in his latter years, Rev. Moon began to speak about God in a broader sense (e.g., the God of Night and the God of Day, in Hoon Dok Hae on April 10, 2011) and other religions beyond Christianity. One time, he referred to the Persian dynasty and said, “That was the absolute dynasty (which should have been realized on God’s side) before the human fall” (in Hoon Dok Hae on October 10, 2011).

This article rediscovers the position of True Parents in the study of comparative religion by exploring the Christ-being from the perspective of Mithraism.

In the 21st century, we have the opportunity to meet “Christ” through guidance of the Holy Spirit as Sophia, who represents the motherhood of God. However, throughout Christian history, “Christ” has been identified with Jesus Christ, the only begotten son of God.

In the ancient world, such as Judea, Egypt and India before Christianity spread, “Christ” appeared on earth in the form of supernatural phenomena and incarnation of the gods. Even after Christianity expanded, in the extensive region from the Hellenistic world to central Asia where people believed in Mithraism and Manichaeism (which was influenced by Mithraism), and Buddhism, etc., “Christ” was regarded as Maitreya Bodhisattva.

In explaining the etymology of “Christ,” it is a title indicating a savior, messiah. The original word for“Christ” is the Greek “Χριστός, Christós,” which means “the anointed one” who brings salvation to humankind. This “Christ” is a translation of the Hebrew “מָשִׁיחַ” (Mašíaḥ, messiah) and originated in religious ceremonies in Judaism. However, there is a theory that “מָשִׁיחַ” (Mašíaḥ, messiah) was used in the coronation ceremony of the ancient Egyptian Pharaoh, while Cyrus the Great, founder of ancient Achaemenid Persia, was called “the messiah” in the Hebrew Bible. A scholar of Mithraism, Masato Tojo, points out that “Mitra was taken as a messiah (savior) and incorporated into Judaism. The word ‘Messiah’ comes from the name Mithia in the southern Iranian dialect of Mithra.”

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Applied Unificationism Celebrates Its 5th Blog-iversary

The Applied Unificationism Blog was founded five years ago today on May 1, 2013, hosted by Unification Theological Seminary. Its purpose is to explore the application of Unificationism to the wider world, but also occasionally posts significant articles on theology. It generally posts a new commentary article every Monday.

The Applied Unificationism Blog is broadly read by Unificationists in the U.S., as well as in Europe, Korea and Japan. One major leader termed it, “The best thing out there,” referring to its focus and discussion of how to apply Unificationist principles to today’s societal problems. Any article on the site is available for automated Google Translation from English to dozens of supported languages.

In its five years, the AU Blog, as it has become known, has posted over 275 articles nearly every week in 11 categories. It is followed (by email, Facebook or Twitter) by 800 regular readers; is read in 200 countries or territories; has received over 270,000 total page views, posted nearly 2,700 reader comments, and nearly 60,000 referrals to its articles from search engines alone and 27,000 from Facebook. Some articles have generated a large number of site hits in just 24 hours — in several cases over 1,700 in a day.

The AU Blog’s top three articles all-time are: “Morals and Messages from Harry Potter: Lesson Learned,” “The Only-Begotten Daughter,” and “Same-Sex Marriage: A Unificationist Response.” Other popular articles include: “Toward a Headwing Idea for America,” “You’re Not Really an Adult Until Your Father Dies: Reaching the Highest Stage of Filial Piety,” and “God as the Heavenly Parent of Heavenly Father and Heavenly Mother.” Popular regular authors include Dr. Andrew Wilson, Dr. Michael Mickler and maestro David Eaton.

The Blog recently ran a series of commentaries by three different authors on the topic of gun control in America. AU Blog articles are often re-posted by the FFWPU International Headquarters site and by the FFWPU-USA site and gain even broader readership.

Original written contributions of 1,500-1,800 words are encouraged to be submitted by Unificationists, current and former UTS faculty, and interested others. Quality commentary or op-ed pieces are sought, written in a lively manner, on a wide range of subjects in which the writer exhibits a strong degree of familiarity with the subject matter. Broad topics include politics and economics, religion and spirituality, gender issues and the family, and culture and the arts. The Blog especially encourages article submissions from second generation Unificationists. It also posts occasional film and book reviews, and collections of poetry.

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“Black Panther”: Theological and Moral Issues Add Impact to Film

By Kathy Winings

It’s official: “Black Panther” is now the third highest-grossing film ever in America, surpassing 1997’s “Titanic,” though it was released theatrically only in mid-February.

Even before the film opened, it enjoyed one of the most aggressive promotional campaigns in recent history and maintained first place in ticket sales for many weeks.

So when I decided to see the movie, I wasn’t sure what to expect – would it live up to the hype or would it be just another Marvel escapist movie? I was so surprised when I found the film was everything it was promised to be and more.

“Black Panther” offers more than the usual Marvel Cinematic Universe fare. It has considerable substance that speaks to our modern world. The film picks up from “Captain America: Civil War” with the return of King T’Challa, known also as the Black Panther (played by Chadwick Boseman), to his home country of Wakanda for his coronation as its new leader.

From this point forward, though, we begin to see what distinguishes this film from other superhero films. On one level, it offers an interesting balance of traditionalism and modernity.

We are introduced to a point of traditionalism with the coronation process that includes the right to challenge the future king in mortal combat. The example of modernity, on the other hand, is seen in the fact that Wakanda’s technological advancements are far beyond that of the rest of the world thanks to its secret natural resource – a special mineral called vibranium.

The film is built around three challenges facing the new king. Two of the challenges involve threats to T’Challa’s reign. One of these threats is in the form of Ulysses Klaue (Andy Serkis), a black market arms dealer, smuggler and general nemesis to the King and to Wakanda; your classic bad guy/good guy and good and evil script.

The second challenge comes from an American-born ex-military man, Erik Stevens, a.k.a. “Killmonger,” revealed to be T’Challa’s cousin. An angry young man who was orphaned at a young age and who experienced a race-torn world, Erik (Michael B. Jordan) becomes a formidable opponent to T’Challa. More profoundly, this challenge raises theological and moral questions around the concepts of resentment and anger vs. revenge and forgiveness.

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Filial Piety to God and True Parents

By Andrew Wilson

True Mother calls the culture of Cheon Il Guk “hyo-jeong culture.” Hyo is the Korean pronunciation of the Chinese character 孝 (Chinese pronunciation xiào) meaning filial piety, and jeong (정) is a pure Korean term meaning a deep connection of heart to one another.

Dr. Thomas Selover, in a brilliant paper presented at a PWPA conference in Korea in February, described hyo as defining our vertical relationship to God and True Parents, and jeong as our abiding connection of heart to brothers and sisters horizontally, extending to all humankind. Thus, to have hyojeong is to have a mind and heart devoted to Heaven and that also connects us to everyone in our family and to our community, nation, world, and cosmos.

The two concepts hyo and jeong naturally create a world that is a perfect sphere because God and True Parents, the object of hyo, have love that is universal and impartial. True Mother said as much when she declared at the opening of the HyoJeong World Peace Foundation, “I will expand the foundation to give equal benefits to mankind, making people know the original meaning of heaven and of our Heavenly Parent.”

Thus, in loving God and True Parents with filial piety, our jeong, manifest in living for the sake of others, also becomes universal. It does not discriminate or show partiality to family, tribe, race or nation, because it is imbued with the universal love of God and True Parents.

Here I focus on the concept of filial piety. The etymology of the character hyo, 孝 is commonly described as a son, 子 (Korean ja, Chinese ) carrying an old man 老 (Korean no, Chinese lao) on his back.

Several deeper spiritual meanings of hyo have been suggested; one takes the topmost strokes as a cross, while the intersecting horizontal and diagonal strokes resemble an A-frame carrier that a man in old Korea might have used to carry a load on his back; hence the whole character depicts a son carrying the cross of the providence. Or, the topmost cross is the Chinese character for the number 10, meaning completion, which gives a similar meaning: carrying the burden of completing God’s Kingdom. Certainly this has been True Parents’ heart in attending Heavenly Parent.

What’s important to understand about filial piety is that it mainly describes an adult child taking care of his or her elderly parents. It is not to “honor your father and mother” by being an obedient child while you are young and your parents are in their prime and in command.

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Healthy Minds and Mental Illness: A Brief Review

By Catriona Valenta

This article describes background research for a proposed project initiated under Cranes Club Europe.

The project, “Healthy Minds,” aims to assess the mental health needs of the Unificationist community — its prevalence, attitudes and support available. I review:

  • Reverend Sun Myung Moon’s (SMM) words about mental illness (MI). Quotes were found mostly in the Cheon Seong Gyeong; the source speech was then identified on Tparents.org, which hosts a comprehensive database of SMM’s speeches translated into English listed by year and month.
  • The basic premises of the Divine Principle (DP) and Unification Thought (UT). Do they offer insights which may be helpful for sufferers and therapists in our movement?

An attempt is also made to integrate the words of SMM and the content of DP and UT into the more conventional psychiatric view of MI.

The words of Rev. Moon

Although he did not say a great deal about mental illness, quotes from the 1950s until the last years of his life confirm that SMM saw MI as a “spiritual problem,” i.e., as the result of the influence of evil spiritual beings. The speeches from which these quotes are taken were given to various audiences; the earlier ones are to smaller groups of followers in Korea, the later ones in the United States not only to leaders, but also to the broader audience of members who would regularly gather to hear him when he spoke. I am unable to find comments about mental illness in any of his speeches to the general public.

If his view of MI seems very limited, the spiritual aspect is arguably the only one about which SMM could have had any informed knowledge. Furthermore, it is important to bear in mind that although an expert on love, SMM often made statements about fields in which his knowledge was lacking, and some of his comments may not even have been meant to be taken literally (for example, when he says, “with just a look, you can cure leprosy and other disorders”).

Divine Principle as a model of health

The core teachings of DP, upon which Unification Thought (UT), the teachings/philosophy of SMM systematized by Dr. Sang Hun Lee is based, are:

  • The Principle of Creation, God’s ideal
  • The Fall
  • Restoration

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Converting Good Intentions into Results

By Rob Sayre

A camping weekend in summer 1994 with other Blessed Families has grown and evolved for almost a quarter of a century.

Known first as the Pennsylvania Family Camp, Shehaqua Ministries is now known as “Shehaqua,” denoting specific activities, an organization, with a brand and specific worldview about education and community.

This article is about the early years, the evolution from a small startup to a more mature organization that has passed on leadership to a new generation, and how we found solutions to financial and organizational challenges while keeping our core values intact.

Certain comments are my personal reflections, others are the story of the development of the organization, and still others are lessons we applied from a book I repeatedly read for the first ten years, Managing the Nonprofit Organization: Principles and Practices (1990) by Peter F. Drucker. I hope others can learn from our success, failures and endurance.

How We Began

The first two years, 1995-97, were three-day camping outings, with each family in their own tent, cooking for themselves, but we organized Divine Principle (DP) education, sports and crafts by age groups. We stayed at two different campgrounds in 1995-96. In 1997, we rented a large, old farmhouse for a separate program for the older kids and families stayed in their tents.

Our goals from the beginning have been to provide age appropriate DP education for the entire family; to facilitate a personal or “skin touch” experience with God for every participant; and to demonstrate what a community of faith looked and felt like.

This quote from Rev. Sun Myung Moon reflects some of the guiding theology that rooted our thinking and programs:

“How should you raise your children? You should raise them like God, to have beauty and excellence, as God did when He created Adam and Eve. This is the standard of education…. Then, what is God’s love? If you analyze it, it is manifested through parental love, conjugal love, and filial love. There is nothing more. There are only those three kinds of love. This is why children love their parents, husbands and wives become one, and parents love their children. The three generations must be one.”

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Preparing for Our Eternal Life in the Spirit World

By Jennifer Tanabe

We are all familiar with the saying, attributed to Benjamin Franklin, “Nothing can be said to be certain, except death and taxes.” Death is indeed inevitable, but not necessarily a bad thing.

There is life after death, an eternal life. Divine Principle explains clearly that there are three stages to human life: in the womb, on the earth, and in the spirit world. Life in the spirit world is our destiny; there we find our eternal home.

But what kind of eternal life will it be?

A new publication, Eternal Life in the Spirit World, which I co-authored with the late Dr. Dietrich Seidel, discusses what we know about the spiritual realm starting with the thoughts of the Greek philosophers, Plato and Aristotle, and their influence on contemporary understanding.

We continue with more recent sources, including Rev. Sun Myung Moon and Dr. Sang Hun Lee, as well as reports from those who had near-death experiences, which all serve to make the spiritual realm seem much more substantial.

If the theoretical sections and testimonies are not enough to convince you of the reality of the afterlife, the inclusion of several heartwarming “letters” between Dietrich, now in the spirit world, and Elisabeth, his beloved wife on earth, surely will.

Writings of this kind enlighten our understanding and, for the most part, provide hope that death is nothing to fear and that our eternal life holds the promise of great joy. However, we must prepare well while we still have our physical bodies so as to realize such a happy state. Otherwise we may enter a prolonged period of suffering and regret.

We can imagine that people would live their lives differently if they knew that there was an eternity awaiting their spirit after their body dies. But how differently?

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