Mormon Lessons for the Unification Church

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By Takayoshi Sugawara

TakaSugawaraThe rise of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS or Mormon Church) is an incredible story of a persecuted Christian offshoot that has grown to become the most successful, new global religion in the 14 centuries since Islam. It boasts 4.5 million active members worldwide (15 million recorded), and the church itself is estimated to be worth $40 billion. Its membership has included a 2012 U.S. presidential candidate.

All this membership, wealth, and a permanent footing in mainstream consciousness was achieved within a 185 years of its founding. This is a monumental achievement. Rodney Stark, a highly regarded sociologist of religion, declared this ascent to be “one of the great events in the history of religion.”

In contrast, the Holy Spirit Association for the Unification of World Christianity (Unification Church) is a new faith experiencing difficulties in all these areas. Currently, the church finds itself in much turmoil in areas such as finances, leadership and growth. If the Unification Church is to survive and grow, changes need to be implemented.

It is fortunate for the Unification Church that the Latter-day Saints have proved it possible for a new religion to find success globally, bucking declining trends experienced by other Christian sects. Many studies of the Church of the Latter-day Saints have attempted to explain its enviable growth. Let’s consider ways the Unification Church might attempt to replicate its success.

To begin with, the development of the two faiths are strikingly similar. A charismatic leader raised in the Christian faith started a new religion upon experiencing a supernatural vision. After initial growth and success, both their fledgling churches experienced severe persecution from their communities, and the founders were jailed several times during their ministries. And now, the factionalism that Unification Church is experiencing soon after the death of its founder is eerily similar to the “Succession Crisis” experienced by the Mormons following the assassination of its founder.

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Neo-Confucian Principle(s) in the Thought of Sun Myung Moon

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by Thomas Selover

2014-04-23 15.01.09 croppedReverend Moon was arguably one of the most influential of modern Koreans, and certainly one of the most controversial. In order to better understand his thought, it is natural and helpful to pay attention to Korean cultural influences, including Confucian and Neo-Confucian content, which have helped to shape the patterns of his thinking.

In his autobiography, As a Peace-Loving Global Citizen, Rev. Moon recounts his early childhood in an environment where fervent Christian revivalism was spreading in a society deeply imbued with Confucian patterns of life and thought. He noted,

When I turned ten, my father had me attend a traditional school in our village, where an old man taught Chinese classics… At school, we read the Analects of Confucius and the works of Mencius, and we were taught Chinese characters.

Through this education, he developed a life-long love of Chinese characters, and he delighted in expounding new insights from the form of the characters. This article explores some family resemblances between Neo-Confucian thought and Unification thought in four areas, hoping to shed some intriguing light in both directions.

Li  理 as “Principle”

The first evidence of Neo-Confucian content is in the phrase “Divine Principle” or “The Principle,” used in ordinary Unification parlance as shorthand for Rev. Moon’s teachings, particularly insofar as those teachings are understood to be revelatory. Because the Divine Principle (DP) text relies on biblical quotations to advance its philosophical and theological points, it has generally been  viewed in relation to Christian theology. However, the background for many of the ideas contained in the DP book, including the title itself, can be traced to Confucian and Neo-Confucian themes instead.

In Neo-Confucian thought, li (principle) signifies the inherent principles of the natural world, as well as our human ability to understand those principles (intelligibility). For Neo-Confucian thought, li are immanent in the world of experience, rather than being primarily conceptual or formulaic.

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Going Over the Number 70 in Divided Korea

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By Mark P. Barry

Mark Barry Photo 2This year marks 70 years since the division of Korea. From August 1945, the Korean Peninsula has been split between a communist North and democratic South. Unificationists know Reverend Moon foretold, exemplified by a 1985 conference, that the Soviet Union would collapse after going over the number 70, figured from 1917. While it took four more years, highlighted by the Soviet experiment with perestroika and glasnost, President Gorbachev resigned and dissolved the USSR on Christmas Day 1991.

With the Unification movement focused on Vision 2020, it begs the question: “Can the Korean Peninsula be reunified by the end of this decade?” or, at least, “Will the two Koreas develop a peaceful and constructive relationship, ending their decades of hostility and division?”

East Asia knows the special significance of 2015. For Korea, China, and Southeast Asia, it is a year to commemorate their liberation from Japanese military occupation. For Korea, 1945 also marked the end of 40 years of Japanese colonial domination and annexation. For Japan, as it has already experienced in recent months, this year has been a painful reminder of its wartime legacy in Asia, and the expectations of its victims of 70 years ago for Japan to sincerely apologize and take responsibility for the profound harm it caused. It’s also a time when East Asia is reacting to China’s bid for regional hegemony, given it recently became the world’s largest economy.

For Koreans north and south, this year also marks the 15th anniversary of the historic summit meeting between the North’s Kim Jong Il and the South’s Kim Dae Jung. Both leaders are no longer alive, but Kim Dae Jung’s widow is expected to make a goodwill visit to Pyongyang later this month to commemorate the June 2000 summit. Sadly, little progress was made between the two Koreas after that first summit, and in particular since 2010, their relations have gone steadily downhill.

The first commemoration of the 70th anniversary of the end of World War II took place May 9 in Moscow, where Russian President Vladimir Putin hosted UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, China’s President Xi Jinping, and other world leaders to mark the Allied victory in Europe. Up until the last moment, it was expected that current North Korean leader, Kim Jong Un, would attend; but he canceled his trip.*

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Saints Behaving Badly: Nothing New

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by Jim Dougherty

Jim DoughertyIn the midst of struggles, early Puritan minister, Massachusetts Bay Colony political figure and Harvard president Increase Mather famously paraphrased I Cor. 10-13 as “Nothing has befallen you, but what is common to men, yea, and to the best of men.”

As Unificationists face the somewhat ironic spectacle of a movement dedicated to unity struggling to unify, amidst faction, division and strife, it’s important to remember we are not the first to stride, stumble, trip, and crawl down this path, and ask ourselves: “What has befallen us, that is not common to people?” — Nothing.

Most, if not all, of the problems we face are the same as others have faced before us. Those problems should not be dismissed or treated lightly, even if we’ve seen them many times before. Indeed, they should be taken all the more seriously as they have proven to be difficult, in many cases almost impossible, to solve. But neither should we be dismayed by those problems, or draw the false conclusion of discouragement because we still face them. Looking at history and what others have gone through can give us perspective, help us manage our expectations, and encourage us to work steadily on the problems we face with the many solutions at our disposal.

Great examples of historical church figures not always living up to our high expectations are found in Saints Behaving Badly: The Cutthroats, Crooks, Trollops, Con Men, and Devil-Worshippers Who Became Saints (2006) by Thomas J. Craughwell, a respected Catholic newspaper columnist.

Pope Callixtus I, for example, martyred in 223 CE and canonized, was originally a Christian slave of another Christian, Carpophorus, who had Callixtus set up a bank of sorts for fellow Christians, to protect and invest the savings of widows and orphans, and to collect donations for them. Carpophorus had come to believe that Callixtus was a man of some financial acumen who could handle the job, but it turned out that trust was misplaced. Callixtus succeeded in losing all the money invested, and embezzled some of it in the process. With Roman Christians stripped of their savings and enraged, Callixtus fled to the nearest harbor and booked passage on the first ship he could find.

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Applied Unificationism’s Second “Blog-iversary”

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The Applied Unificationism (AU) Blog launched two years ago on May 1, 2013. Its host, Unification Theological Seminary, aimed to create a site where worthy ideas applying Unificationism to all aspects of society could be regularly discussed among members and friends of the FFWPU and related organizations. In a time of transition since the passing of our Founder, we have also sought to make it a place where the future of the Family Federation and its work may be thoughtfully discussed. We consistently post new articles at least once a week.

To date, the AU Blog has received over 100,000 hits from 173 countries, with almost 450 email followers, published 140 articles, and posted over 900 comments. Our material is regularly linked to from Facebook, Google Search, email discussion groups, and the UTS Alumni site, among others. Our Twitter feed is @UTS_AU_Blog and our Facebook page has links to every article we’ve posted.

The AU Blog has provided a responsible forum where Unificationists worldwide can discuss social, political, economic, and cultural issues from a Unification perspective. Recently, we have seen a strong interest in theology as a response to articles we have posted on Rev. Moon’s influences on Christian theology; God as the Heavenly Parent; continuing revelation; and, “The Only-Begotten Daughter” (re-posted on the FFWPU International HQ site).

Several articles have generated a large number of site hits, in one case almost 1,000 in one day. Article contributors have expanded from UTS faculty to a broad and international range of writers, which continues to grow. Last year, we began a popular new feature, film and book reviews, and also published several collections of poetry. We especially encourage submissions from second generation Unificationists. As always, we welcome new op-ed/commentary submissions of 1,000-1,500 words (see our guidelines for details).

If you haven’t already, please “Follow” the AU Blog by signing up on our home page to receive an email each time we post something new. If you’ve since changed your email address, please sign up again using the new address.

And if you enjoy reading the AU Blog and find it useful, please send a donation to UTS to support this blog. Use our Donation Page and select the “Applied Unificationism Blog” at the bottom of the “Designation” pull-down menu.

We look forward to your continuing engagement with the AU Blog in its third year of operation. 🙂

Dr. Mark P. Barry
Managing Editor, Applied Unificationism