Crossing the Jordan: From a Led to a Self-Governed People
We are a movement that teaches the Principle, but do not reflect the Principle. In evangelical outreach the most apt motto for our movement would be, “Do as we say, not as we do.” Our most fundamental error has been the belief that following directions trumps the Principle and exempts us from its requirements. Our operating philosophy has been to channel all energies into the single purpose of convincing the leading lights of the world that Rev. Moon is the Messiah, assuming that everything would take care of itself once we had achieved this.
Our obsession with this “shortcut” has blinded us to the reality that people and the world do not work this way. Ultimately, people don’t prioritize the teachings that make the most sense. The idea that we could just theologically strong-arm them into believing was always going to fail.
Nomadic vs. Agrarian/Settled people
We are nomads. Nomadic people are foragers and opportunistic hunters who work an area while the pickings are good and after exhausting those resources, move onto to other lands. This lifestyle does not promote population growth and it is all such people can do to even maintain their numbers as the harsh existence of the nomad ensures a high loss rate.
The historic and even current, evangelical attitude of the Unification Movement has been nomadic in nature as we sought only to invest in those who were short-term prospects — what we euphemistically refer to as “prepared people.” There are only a small percentage of any society who are of this type though and if we track our world movement’s activity over the past 50 years, we can discern this nomadic behavior of exhausting the resources of a particular region before moving on to other lands.
Agrarian or settled people “prepare” the environment and engineer consistent and bountiful harvests. It is not a coincidence that humankind experienced a population explosion shortly after making the transition from a nomadic to agrarian, settled existence around 8,000 B.C.
Had we invested time and resources in developing faith communities over the last 50 years, then we would have also reaped the benefits of a vast UC population increase. Instead, thoughtful, quality people who wanted to take time to get to know our movement were often actually described as being “sent by Satan” to “waste” our time and distract us from finding “prepared people,” and were gotten rid of by being made to feel unwelcome. What we should have been doing was “preparing” people by investing in them, in one other and our community rather than losing patience if someone hadn’t consented to a seven-day workshop by the first month of contact.
Three Stages of Fire-building
Fire, branches and even water are all biblical and UC metaphors, so I will illustrate the principle of community development to build a model of Cheon Il Guk with a brief description of fire-building.
To build a fire three types of combustibles are needed:
Apart from size and thickness, the main differentiating characteristics of these types of combustibles are flammability and burn duration.
- Tinder is paper thin, very dry and ignites with only a spark. Once lit, the tinder burns brightly and although it burns for a short time, it blazes long enough to dry out and ignite the kindling. The “prepared people” that caught fire easily and burned brightly were essential to God’s providence, but many were like the seeds mentioned in Matt. 13:5 that “fell on shallow topsoil and although sprouting quickly were withered by the sun.”
- Kindling is thicker than tinder. Kindling cannot ignite from a spark but once heated up and dried sufficiently, it burns longer and is able to dry out and ignite the firewood. We can equate kindling to the friends and family we encouraged the “prepared” people to cut off from for fear of losing them, but actually lost the chance to connect with and establish friendship and family-based networks. Although both tinder and kindling cannot be relied on for a sustained fire, their value is they can multiply the energy from the initial spark and use their heat to sear away the moisture that renders firewood resistant to ignition.
- Firewood takes a long time to ignite, but once it does, it burns consistently hot and for a long duration; the tinder and kindling are no longer necessary to maintain the chain reaction. Firewood equates to the figures in society that needed much care and attention who would be great figures in God’s providence once they had been nurtured with sincere love and engagement. Encouraging “prepared people” to separate from their families and community after joining ensured failure as surely as a fire builder trying to burn logs would if he dispensed with the intermediary kindling and tried to ignite the logs through tinder only.
Our attitude to the growth of our movement over the last half century has been akin to someone building a fire with tinder only and frantically rushing about to gather more as it quickly burns out. (Having spent time doing mission work in Albania, this writer observed that despite the great work of the Albanian family and visiting STF witnessing teams, the burn rate is so high that the total number of members there has not risen at all for 10 years, though at least they make it to the kindling, if not the firewood stage.)
Subject/Object Give and Take Action
Subject/object give and take action is at the core of our movement’s belief system, yet we rarely implement it in a principled way. Subject initiates and the object responds. The subject gives out energy (e.g., love) and the object returns beauty. The tragedy has been our failure to recognize that for this process to be sustainable, the subject has to be able to regenerate the depleted energy. The spent energy “cannot” be regenerated by the subject alone; the subject requires the returning beauty to stimulate the regeneration of this energy. “Returning beauty” is an equal and vital part of the process of give and take action and without it the process soon breaks down.
A principled example would be members who took the subject position, initiated and gave out the energy of love — as evidenced by fundraising, labor and outreach to other communities — to bring about the existence of their very own church building. The church and activities made possible as a result are the returning beauty which gives the members of that community pride and joy, and though they gave of themselves, they do not feel empty but feel fulfilled and energized.
An example of an “unprincipled” way would be the decades-long practice of soliciting donations for projects with no regard to ensuring that beauty would be returned; so, from the point of view of the member, the energy given disappeared into a seemingly insatiable providence. By this I do not mean “unworthy” projects but projects that are too vast, abstract or the fruits of success too distant for beauty to return in a reasonable timeframe. There is room for some level of pure sacrifice for such things but the ratio has to be sustainable.
To bring Cheon Il Guk to the world, we must first become a model of it. To do this, we must be principled in both structure and function.
Having reverence for God, True Parents and the lineage of True Family does not necessitate the abdication of free will, or limit free will only to choosing whether or not to blindly obey.
Self-determination is essential in order for a local and national community to have pride in the fruits of their efforts — and this returning beauty is essential for the regeneration of desire.
Abraham challenged God over the fate of Sodom and Gomorrah, perhaps not knowing if he would be struck dead for his temerity. Moses stood up to God over His intention to destroy the Israelites in the desert, and not only put his life on the line but his very salvation as he demanded that God “blot his name from the book of life” if he would not turn from his intention. I suggest that rather than being angry, God was thrilled and relieved to see the confidence of ownership displayed by these two great men.
Establishing Cheon Il Guk can only happen when our community takes local and national ownership of ourselves, our goals, and also our relationship to God and True Parents.
The strength of resistance of the eggshell is set so that only a chick strong enough to survive beyond its protective walls can break through. I strongly suspect that True Father created a controlling culture for the embryonic phase of our movement. Only when we are strong, confident and bold enough to live as a faith community of self-determination would we breakthrough (in a principled way) to a natural and principled level of independence.
This way of thinking is not “disunity,” but rather it would be us offering to relieve much of the burden from God, True Parents and the world — and who knows, perhaps set an example of a principled movement in both structure and function that would bear great fruit and eventually begin to resemble Cheon Il Guk.♦
Peter Stephenson is the founder and CEO of a recent software startup, and has lived and worked for many years in the USA and in Korea, where he combined doing a church mission with writing for a national English language daily newspaper, The Korea Times. He currently lives in London.
Photo at top: Yurts of nomadic sheep herders in Mongolia.