Religions that Thrive and Religions that Die

By Ronald Brown

Jacques Marion is one of those first generation Unificationists who, he told me, “dropped everything” when he met Reverend Moon and set off to spread the teachings and vision of Unificationism to the world.

He described his years as a missionary in Russia and Africa and the enthusiastic welcome the movement is receiving there. He concluded that it was in times of turmoil and trouble that people are most open to new and often radical solutions. Russia and Africa were in such states when he was there and largely remain so until today.

My conversation with Jacques and other Unificationist missionaries evoked major questions regarding how religions take root, thrive or die.

Why did Buddhism thrive in China, Korea, Japan, and South Asia, while it all but disappeared in its Indian homeland? Why did the Russians adopt Greek and not Roman Christianity, or even Judaism, Islam, or Buddhism as their national religion? Why is Evangelical Christianity sweeping the USA while mainline Christian churches are at best lingering?

In Paris this past summer, I decided to explore how Catholicism became and remains the dominant religion of France. My experience there led me to reflect on how Unificationism might fare in Africa.

The Thermes de Cluny: The latest in modern technology

In the early centuries after Christ, the Gauls swept out of the forests of northern Europe, eliminating all traces of Roman civilization in front of them. They sacked Rome in 387 B.C. but mighty Rome was not so easily humbled. Rome drove them out and back into their primeval forests. Finally, between 58 and 51 B.C. Julius Caesar conquered the barbaric Gauls and founded the city of Lutetia along the banks of the Seine River among the local Gallic tribe of the Parisii.

Little remains of the Roman town of Lutetia except for the underground ruins of the Roman Northern Baths beneath the ruins of the medieval Monastery of Cluny. Of all that remains of the ancient Roman bathhouse the most impressive and insightful was a massive marble bathtub dating from the 2nd century. According to the sign, the tub was made in Rome and brought to Lutetia to serve the ruling elite in the gigantic domed bathhouse.

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