Warfare in World Religions: Has the Time Come to Junk All Religions and Found a New One?

By Ronald Brown

I adopted my traditional “stick of dynamite” approach to get my students out of their Sunday school, Hebrew school and Madrasa ruts.

“All the world religions are so mired in religious warfare they should be destroyed,” I said. “What humanity needs is a new god, a new holy book, and a new religion.  Warfare and violence are so deeply rooted in the religions of the world they are beyond saving. They cannot be salvaged.”

So began my UTS course on “World Religions and Global Conflict” (LTR 5513) in the spring semester 2017.

Such a time to take over the course! “Christian” United States was bogged down in wars in Muslim Afghanistan, Iraq and Syria; Shiite Iran and Sunni Saudi Arabia were threatening to go to war; Orthodox Russia was reasserting its superpower aspirations; Israel was expanding Jewish West Bank settlements and carrying out ethnic cleansing against Palestinian Christians and Muslims in East Jerusalem; China was fashioning Confucianism as the nation’s national religion; India and Muslim Pakistan, both nuclear-armed, were fighting over Kashmir, and the BJP Hindu nationalist party was busily transforming India into a Hindu nation.

My 20-some students reflected the diversity of UTS – American Christians of various denominations, students from the Philippines and Africa, Unificationists, and of course their residually Catholic professor. Many of the students were active in interreligious dialogue and eagerly spouted the tried and true seminary and church slogans, “God is love,” “All religions strive for peace,” “Only a few radicals believe in holy war,” and “A nice dialogue over coffee and cookies will bring world peace.” Other students were dedicated to peace studies and taking UTS courses in the topic.

My goal for the semester was to blow up the “God is love” myth and zero in on the centrality of holy war, jihad, crusades, terrorism, and genocide to world religions.

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Music as Universal Language

By David Eaton

Is music a “universal language” as Longfellow suggested? Or is this merely a platitude, easily debunked as a truism rather than an immutable “truth?”

Most of us would agree with Heinrich Heine, the noted German poet whose poems were set to music by Robert Schumann, Franz Schubert and Felix Mendelssohn, who averred, “Where words leave off, music begins.”

Regardless of our cultural upbringing, we intuit that music possesses the unique ability to reach places in our soul and psyche in ways that words simply cannot.

Our Founder once said music is analogous to the spiritual realm in that it is invisible, vibratory and touches the heart. We all sense that music “speaks” to us and possesses the ability to convey and express emotions in powerful ways.

Though we may consider music to be a language, the way it speaks to us remains inscrutable and enigmatic. Mendelssohn, a composer whose music exhibits great lyricism and warmth, suggested music is more specific in what it expresses than words written about it could ever be.

That may be true. However, the same piece of music will often “say” different things to different people. Why this happens remains a mystery, but Albert Einstein (who played the violin and loved the music of Mozart) believed there was beauty in the mysterious, and perhaps that’s why we find the transcendent aspects of music to be so enchanting and enticing.

Music’s connection to spirituality and religious ritual can be traced to the earliest civilizations precisely due to its transcendent characteristics. The Sumerians, Chinese and Greeks held to the idea that communication with their gods and ancestors could be more easily facilitated when music worked its conscious-changing magic.

Taking their cue from the Greeks, early Christian philosophers — most notably Boetheus, Augustine and Aquinas — considered music to be a potent moral and ethical force that could either benefit or harm an individual or society due to effects on consciousness — individually and collectively. What music “said” and how it could potentially benefit society became important considerations.

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Another Way Forward: Our Next Steps to Take in Transforming American Culture

By Jack LaValley

Mother Moon (Mrs. Hak Ja Han Moon) wants tribal messiah work in America to give millions of people access to God’s love through the Holy Blessing so they can practice “living for the sake of others” and usher in a new era of peace and security for all citizens. It’s a beautiful aspiration filled with expectant hopes and dreams.

The challenge to this ambition is few people know anything about us, and we are a group with limited financial resources. Our relatively small American movement has few resources to effectively tackle a multitude of serious social ills.

In this article, I explore how — after 40 plus years of unrelenting, sacrificial work by thousands of members and billions of dollars invested to “bring America back to God” — our movement has yet to emerge as a leader in transforming American culture.

I then look at how we might alter this situation and more effectively integrate Unification ideals into the fabric of American society.

I do not criticize any individual, institution or leadership, but prescribe next steps so we make good on our promise to transform American culture through Unification ideals.

Since the passing in 2012 of our founder, Rev. Sun Myung Moon (Father Moon), our movement is in a period of reevaluation and self-correction.  From our IPEC 7-day National Divine Principle Revival Workshops, to the “God’s Hope for America: Remembered, Revived, Reimagined” bus tours, to the “miracle of the Madison Square Garden event” and our recently renewed “Blessing Movement” and tribal messiahship initiatives, we earnestly try to “get our message out,” hoping to influence people’s minds and hearts to embrace our worldview and religious teachings.  Our ongoing efforts to impact American culture come on the heels of some unthinkable internal setbacks.

Hundreds of our young adults experienced great shock and disappointed in 2012 when In-jin Moon, then president of our American movement and Lovin’ Life Ministries, abruptly resigned from her positions when it became known she had carried on an extramarital affair and secretly bore a child.

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Theological Developments in the FFWPU since the Death of Rev. Moon

By Andrew Wilson

This article discusses Mrs. Hak-ja Han Moon’s effort to assert her leadership and put her particular stamp on the Unification movement. Known as “True Mother,” she is emerging as an institution builder. If one likens Rev. Sun Myung Moon to Joseph Smith, then Mrs. Moon can be viewed as the movement’s Brigham Young.

She has faced opposition, because while both Rev. and Mrs. Moon have the theological status of True Parents, in practice members of the Unification Church made Rev. Moon, whom they regard as the Lord of the Second Advent, the focus of their devotion. There had been little reckoning with the prospect of his passing and how they would regard the leadership of his widow, who today is the remaining True Parent on earth.

The Question of Succession

At the time of Rev. Moon’s death in 2012, many members expected Mrs. Moon would merely lead from behind while training a designated male heir to take over leadership of the movement. Rev. Moon had made the issue of finding a suitable heir a matter of serious concern during the previous decade. But those efforts were unsuccessful.

The eldest son, Hyo-jin Moon, declined the position due to past overindulgence, which contributed to his early death from heart failure in 2008. Ironically, because he returned repentant as a prodigal son, he now occupies a place of honor among the True Children. The next living male heir, Hyun-jin (Preston) Moon had been widely regarded as the heir apparent, but that same year Rev. Moon appointed his youngest son, Hyung-jin (Sean) Moon, as president of FFWPU, and at a ceremony in January 2009 he and his wife stood behind Rev. and Mrs. Moon wearing crowns. The following year, Hyun-jin broke from the Family Federation to form a rival organization. Hyung-jin continued as president until early 2013, when he had a falling out with his mother and moved to Pennsylvania to set up a rival church.

Thus, while few members of FFWPU anticipated that Mrs. Moon would take the reins of leadership for an extended period of time, after the sons who were designated as heirs refused to work with her, most members gravitated to her. They were willing to accept True Mother’s authority after her husband’s passing because it fit with the church’s core teaching that Rev. and Mrs. Moon stand side-by-side in the capacity of True Parents.

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Collateral Beauty: Generated from the Midst of Chaos

By Jacob David

The last week of July was a horrible week in the political arena in our country.  The conversations that took place between some of the highest officials of our country and members of the press simply cannot be repeated to our children as the language and words used in communication left much to be desired.  I have seen plenty of animosity and hatred in the past.  But I have not heard such obscene and unacceptable language used at the highest level of the political hierarchy.

And now, we are here in this sanctuary to worship a Holy and Righteous God.  We come from such a chaotic world and we see ourselves worshipping and listening to the holy word and singing and praising a holy and loving God.  Here in this sanctuary we do have a glimpse of the Kingdom of God.  People from East and West, North and South, come together at this heavenly banquet.  And what we do here has profound significance and there is beauty in what we do.

This is deeply profound.

And here is where I find this beauty generated in the midst of chaos. Remember, Jesus was born also in a chaotic world at a time when there was so much political upheaval, movement, and migration of peoples around the world. He himself was part of a family that was moving – in that sense of the word, unsettled. He came into this world in that context.  Yet, at Christmas time, we celebrate the beauty of his coming into the world.

So, I like to think of this beauty that Jesus embodies as a collateral beauty, where there is a sense of beauty that is coming out of unexpected places, in the midst of events that were pretty chaotic.

In today’s Gospel lesson, Jesus talks about the Kingdom of God as a search for fine pearls, on finding one pearl of great value, and a merchant goes and sells all that he had to buy it.  A pearl is a thing of beauty (Matt. 13:45-46). It is fascinating how oysters make pearls.

Unlike diamonds and other gems, as well as gold, a pearl is the product of a living creature. It is also the result of suffering. Down in the depths of the ocean there lives a little animal encased in a shell; we call it an oyster. One day a foreign substance, a grain of sand, intrudes, and pierces its side.

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The Most Valuable Lesson of History

By Rohan Stefan Nandkisore

Most of us born in this era tend to take our advantages for granted. However the time of the Messiah living on earth is the shortest but most precious time period, especially compared to the providential time periods of previous ages. Studying history can be a valuable asset to learn and understand what privileged position we are in today.

Moreover, the contents of Divine Principle explain the purpose of life in great detail so that agony over fate, as seen in history, can be a relic of the past.

Contemporary science and comfortable living environments, though many are caught up by them, cannot compare with these deep contents.

Great chess players always study the historical masters in order to learn the art of playing at the highest level. So too can we Unificationists improve our attitude in this age if we study the lives of those who longed and lived for Christ in their ages.

In this article, I discuss two eras as well as two important leaders of their times.

The Era of Resemblance

A young mother approached a group of Roman soldiers, her clothes in disarray while she dragged her child along. She asked the whereabouts of the group of Christians that were to meet outside the city walls of Edessa. The prefect of the city, after criticizing her strange clothing, asked her if she did not know that they were about to search for and kill them. Her reply was this was the reason for her rush; she only was worried about coming late. When the prefect asked why she brought her child along, she answered: “It is that my child will participate in the martyrdom for God, suffer and receive the same reward as we will.”

According to the church historian Sozomenus, Eastern Roman Emperor Valens (364-378) had given a directive to punish those who came together for such meetings after he had spotted a gathering on his visit to the city the day before. He gave the order to prefect Modestus to intervene. He, in turn, sent out word about his intention of the next day’s hunt outside the city walls, intending to warn Christians so they would cancel their meeting.

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The Legacy of Unification Political Theology

By Dan Fefferman

“Political theology” investigates the ways in which theological concepts relate to politics, society and economics. In this article, I examine the ways in which the expression of the political theology of the Unification Movement has evolved since its early days, especially in the U.S.

From its beginning, Unificationism has had to deal with tensions between its vision of One World Under God and its commitment to ridding the world of threats to that vision, especially that of communism. This tension led to various alliances in the political world that have impacted the Unificationist community significantly and remain unresolved today.

Victory Over Communism

From the 1960s through early 1980s, the expression of Unification political theology in the public realm was largely focused on “Victory Over Communism.” The movement’s commitment to world unity transcending race and nationality was prominent in its spiritual and evangelical work, but took a back seat to VOC in terms of activism.

Divine Principle (DP) itself provides the rationale for giving priority to VOC:

“The Third World War is the final conflict in the providence of restoration. Through this war, God intends that the democratic world bring the communist world to submission and build the ideal world… [W]hether the Third World War is waged by force of arms or as an ideological conflict depends upon the responsibility of the people…serving the providence of God…. [I]t is inescapable that this worldwide conflict take place.”

Reflecting this imperative, Rev. Sun Myung Moon founded the International Federation for Victory Over Communism in 1969 as a major ideological offensive. IFVOC established coalitions with other anti-communist organizations throughout the world. In the U.S., members created the Freedom Leadership Foundation (FLF) as the American affiliate of IFVOC.[1] Thus, it created a “hawkish” face in terms of public image, despite its equally strong commitment to world peace, which remained somewhat hidden.

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Onward and Upward: American Religion as Preparation for Unification Ideals

By David Payer

There are cultural forces from generations past that work unseen, influencing choices of a population.

These images, expectations, aspirations, and rules of thumb are taught through a weave of social institutions including church, government, educational and cultural organizations, broadcast media, and especially family.

Every family has stories that cause an instant reaction in the members. One joke retold dozens (yes, possibly hundreds of times) while growing up can be summarized with a single phrase or word and all the years of experience will be summoned back for reflection and enjoyment.

If I were to say “you can’t get there from here” to my brother or sister,  an abundant laugh would emerge and years of memories about our father jesting of a man lost in the Iowa countryside driving back from a job, would be sparked — each one with a tale of its own.

Recently, an office meeting ended with the admonition: “Onward and upward!” and one of those “aha” moments stirred within. This was a phrase used by my parents and grandparents when an episode or an era was marked as ended and yet we had to carry on to the next task.

Even if something was not accomplished with success, we would move “onward and upward” to the next goal, always carrying on because that is what we must do. Life will continue regardless of what we do but we can decide to go forward and live to the best of our ability or allow it all to pass us by and miss out on any blessings it had to offer at that moment.

What was the root of this exhortation? My online search helped uncover a poem written in 1845 by James Russell Lowell, “The Present Crisis.”  This poem addresses the evil of the era (slavery) and the need for us to adjust our views to that current reality:

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The Mission of the New Truth

By Tyler Hendricks

Rev. Sun Myung Moon spoke on both sides of many matters.

He considered God to appear as Heavenly Father and Heavenly Mother, but addressed Him only as Heavenly Father.

He referred to himself and his wife, Hak Ja Han Moon, as being free from original sin and as having original sin.

Father Moon consistently proclaimed that the wholesale success of his movement was imminent and yet spoke as if successive 40 year courses were inevitable.

He referred to Mother Moon as queen of the universe and as hopeless without him.

Through database searches of Rev. Moon’s speeches, Unificationist scholar Dr. Jin Choon Kim found numerous examples of divergent statements. On some topics, Father Moon’s words are 100% consistent. On others the divergence is 95% to 5%, 80% to 20%, and as much as 50%-50%.

Rev. Moon’s words provide plenty of citations to justify the claims of any number of sects to be his sole orthodox successors and to excommunicate those who choose to follow his words that justify the opposite position.

The Introduction to Exposition of Divine Principle states this exact dynamic provided justification for Christians to divide into hundreds of denominations. “Divergent interpretations of such symbolic and metaphorical Bible verses have inevitably led to the division of Christianity into denominations.” (p. 11) It provides both an analysis and a solution to this problem.

Analysis of the Problem

One, scriptures are susceptible to diverse interpretations. In the Bible, the cause Exposition of Divine Principle points to is that it is written in parables and symbols which can be interpreted in different ways. Father Moon’s words also are susceptible to diverse interpretations.

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