A New Way of Thinking About “Church”

By Lorman Lykes

“All things reach perfection after passing through the growing period (the realm of indirect dominion) by virtue of the autonomy and governance given by God’s Principle. Human beings, however, are created in such a way that their growth requires the fulfillment of their own portion of responsibility, in addition to the guidance provided by the Principle.” (Chapter 1, Exposition of the Divine Principle)

Have you ever wondered how long it would take before you uttered the words, “I’m perfect?”

The quotation above succinctly explains the process of reaching the top of the completion stage, which in Unification terminology means reaching perfection as a child of Heavenly Parent.

I would venture that many Unificationists have dismissed the notion of personal perfection at best as far-off in the future and even as an unobtainable.  How can Unificationists bridge the gap between the reality and the elusiveness of this lofty ambition?

In attempting to answer this question we must acknowledge that perfection is an ambiguous concept to define. Even though it is at the center of Divine Principle’s understanding of spiritual growth, it carries with it the ethos of Christian theology and secular psychology.

For Unificationists, a reasonable length of time has passed in which a consensus of agreement should have occurred to define clearly and conclusively the meaning, scope and parameters of the presumed goal of our physical life on earth.

What’s more, with a clear definition and understanding of perfection, it would provide for the individuals who exemplify a model of perfection an opportunity to pave the way for others to follow, encouraging them that it is possible.

I am not aware of any individual who has declared or been designated a perfect individual that adheres to Unificationist doctrine.  Therefore, I have concluded that after more than 45 years of Rev. Moon’s ministry and teaching in America, no one is perfect except True Parents.

It’s Time for Unificationists to Leave the Growth Period

To be frank, since 1954 the Holy Spirit Association for the Unification of World Christianity, a/k/a, Family Federation for World Peace and Unification, a/k/a, Heavenly Parent’s Holy Community, has been unsuccessful in educating its members despite 21 day, 40 day, 120 day workshops and a plethora of educational books, tapes, videos, etc., to achieve the goal of direct dominion for its members.

I am not judging the institution for what seems to be an obvious problem for all organized religions who have high hopes for their members’ spiritual attainment.  If my observation is correct however, then by identifying the institution’s level of performance in obtaining the goal of direct dominion for its members versus the number of certified perfected direct dominion members, it points out two or three possible criteria by which the institution can be evaluated.

First, an inconsistency in the order of priorities for the stated mission of the institution.  I just read True Mother’s message at the 8th Anniversary of True Father’s Holy Ascension, on the topic, “What is the mission of the chosen people.” She said, “Our Creator gave humankind a special responsibility to fulfill. That responsibility is to reach perfection in oneness with God.” She said the mission of blessed families is to teach that, “From the outset, God the Creator has been our Parent, and His dream is to realize the Kingdom of Heaven on earth and live here together with us.”  From this statement, the immediate question is, what is the operational program of the institution that can facilitate members achieving their “special responsibility?” Since this is “the” mission of the chosen people, then it should be a top priority of the institution and its leadership.

The second possibility is that despite considerable effort and attention by the institution to facilitate spiritual growth toward the goal of oneness with our Heavenly Parent, the process and practice of this perfected state has eluded them.  Not to sound hypocritical, but I personally was responsible during my term of leadership in the Unification movement for the education and edification of members who struggled with the process of perfection. I had face-to-face encounters with members who were brought to tears when explaining their frustration with forces they believed were blocking their efforts toward perfection.  It was not a joking matter for them to believe that you can be in contact with God on a personal basis only to be denied by forces you cannot control.

Comparably, some evangelical Christians, who initially are inspired by its pronouncement that to be born again as Christians one must believe the blood of Jesus is their only way to salvation and true happiness, become disheartened and seek answers elsewhere.  Whether it’s by a born-again transformation or a spiritual pathway through the three stages of growth, the objective is basically the same — the sonship and daughter-ship of God. What is similar in this context is that being born again and Unificationists’ concept of perfection is rooted in achieving oneness with our Creator, but neither prioritizes an agenda to achieve the concept literally.

But there is a major difference.  Born again adherence requires believers to recommit to the process generation after generation to be perpetuated by the grace of God; while Unificationism sees a one-time transformation passed on generation to generation. The issue for Unificationists, however, is how, who, where, and most importantly, when is this going to happen?  What is ironic is that neither faith has proclaimed obtaining oneness in its membership. Are Unificationists diluting themselves like Christians?

Third, and probably the best explanation for why perfection has not been achieved by Unificationists, is that the path to enlightenment has been pursued for centuries by gurus, saints, prophets, and scholars in almost every religion, philosophy, and sect from Buddhism and Taoism to Judaism and Christianity, with the same result — lack of empirical evidence. Why should Unificationism be any different? (My next article on this site intends to examine the empirical evidence for direct dominion)

Nonetheless, I believe the Unification Movement is different because of one great overwhelming principle: Ockham’s Razor or the law of parsimony (problem-solving).  The idea is attributed to English Franciscan Friar William of Ockham (c. 1287-1347), a scholastic philosopher and theologian who used a preference for simplicity to defend the idea of divine miracles. Dr. Hak Ja Han Moon and the Divine Principle have given Unificationists the solution to the perfection question that is so simple that it has been overlooked.  Instead of contemplating the perplexing question of what perfection is and how to obtain it, people should strive to trigger the special responsibility they have which is unique to all of us on the path to perfection.

Before a serious discussion on this premise can be undertaken, it is necessary to better understand what the “special responsibility” is, so members have a clear understanding of the path before them.

It’s Time for the Movement to Leave the Church Period

Father said many times that “church” was like a hospital that we go to for a cure.  Then we are expected to be released just like a cured patient in a hospital.  Can you imagine living in a hospital with sick people and not being able to leave once you are cured?  Why would you do that?  You want to leave so you can live as God wants you to.  Where would you go once you were cured?  Back to your home, your tribe and your community.  You would be the antidote to cure others and be the example they need to follow.  Everybody needs to go to the church hospital who is sick with the virus of separation from God.  In that hospital you get the cure – love from God.  You also get trained how to stay well and healthy.  People who leave the hospital don’t have to be doctors and nurses.  The doctors and nurses are specialists who know how to treat people — they stay behind.

The church is like a hospital that treats and cures unloved patients who have been suffering with symptoms of neglect, insecurity, ignorance, confusion, loneliness, hunger, poverty, injustice, war, racism, addiction, and suicidal thoughts. The people who don’t suffer from these things can now leave and build a community where no one can get sick again — everyone starts living in a healthy loving community, a place that welcomes everyone. The mercy of these individuals can attract more people than rallies and seminars because people will see, feel and follow their hearts, not their words. But to do this it takes a strong community that shows mercy and empathy out of appreciation for being healed by loving people infused by God’s love — and the cycle continues.

The church should remain a hospital for those afflicted by the fallen world’s sicknesses, but a new community should emerge that is not a church structure.  Community is the evolution from church into the Kingdom. The scenario I describe isn’t a fairy tale; it’s happening already in new communities being formed around the world but without Unificationist Principles

Dr. Hak Ja Han’s address marking the 8th Anniversary of the Holy Ascension of Rev. Sun Myung Moon, Sept. 4, 2020, Cheongshim Peace World Center, South Korea.

Prepare Now for the Next Great Awakening of Heart (Shimjung)

When I moved to Maryland, one of my first assignments was to visit churches.  I remember visiting a huge church in Bowie. I couldn’t meet the minister of the church, so I started talking to its members. I asked, “This is such a big new building that you have here; how did it get started?”  They responded, “Rev. Johnson started by having meetings in his house.” “When was that?” I inquired. “That was ten years ago.”  Amazing! From a house to 20,000 members in ten years. Why? Answer: Community spirit. The heart of community built Rev. Johnson’s congregation. What can it do for the Unification Church?

I believe Rev. Johnson was not a great “pied piper” who knew how to influence people to follow him.  Rather, he understood his “special responsibility.” As a humble man in his living room caring for a few lost souls, he learned how to have unconditional love for them.  I don’t know how he learned it: maybe he had a mentor, maybe he took Jesus’ words seriously, maybe God taught him directly. Nevertheless, the “special responsibility” was manifested in his ability to give unconditional love to others.

Unconditional love isn’t just about the way we see others, it’s about the way we see ourselves and the world around us. Jesus’s words say it succinctly, “Love others as you love yourself.”  The first and most difficult step on the path to perfection in love is self-love. Why is this so important?  Because God is dependent on our self-love as our Heavenly Parent who communicates with His/Her children.  Synchronization of love needs the receivers to be on the same frequency as the sender. Remember, 1 John 4-16 says: “And so we know and rely on the love God has for us. God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in them.”

When we fulfill our special responsibility, God dwells in us, period.  This is what Rev. Moon had been showing us by example throughout his ministry.  If God dwells in Rev. Moon, God is waiting to dwell in all willing members. This is what it means to be transformed in the direct dominion. This is the definition of perfection that inspired you from your first lecture of the Divine Principle.

If these sound-like fanciful words you’ve heard before, you have.  But that was before Foundation Day in 2013.  Things have changed now, and True Mother is trying to get the message to us that we have to change our attitude about how we see church, thus the name change.  By pursuing the vision of the Heavenly Parents’ Holy Community, we have several hurdles to overcome.

First, what is a community? What is holy? And most important, who are we as the perfect people — are we qualified to live there?  If we can’t believe in perfect people, how can we believe in a Heavenly Parent’s Holy Community where they are supposed to dwell?  You need loving people to be the foundation of a loving community.  You can’t have one without the other. In a loving community the connection of everyone involved is important.  In today’s society the importance of everyone’s contribution has to be considered, especially those who have been historically omitted or left out of the conversation, i.e., women in the Bible.

An example is Noah’s wife.  As Noah’s spouse, didn’t she have some feelings and inclusion for the matters of God?  But no one even knows her name. This illustrates how the representation of everyone’s feelings is important in the proper heartistic development of a community that represents God.  This is a time to seriously consider the real implications of living with God as a community and not just building another institution of man.  That is why the next few years are so important for the Unification Movement. This is the transition period from church to community, but it must start now — not on paper, not in a lecture, meeting or conference, but in our minds as a possible reality.  And in our hearts as the truest ideology.

My final point is the one I started with: “How do we bridge the gap between the reality and the elusiveness of this lofty ambition?”  Sometimes the simplest solution is also the hardest to accept — we need training in unconditional love.

We will start all over again as reborn Unificationists.  Remember how we learned to be missionaries, fundraisers and lecturers to build the church?  Now is the time to train to be citizens of the HPHC by training in unconditional love.  Where will it start? In our homes; they will be the new training ground for the Kingdom.  Each home can be a hospital for the family within and/or to care for the lovesick from outside.

But in reality, some families may not be ready to take on that responsibility. In that case, support should come from what is still the Unification Movement for those who are still in need of care and self-love. In the past, the church depended on Divine Principle lecturers to spread the word and raise up an army of “heavenly solders” to campaign for peace and freedom. That battle was won. Today we need men and women who learned the lessons of love personified in the heart of God. They can be the spiritual mothers and fathers for the next generation of people who have mastered true love to live in God’s community.

Soon everyone should be able to graduate from the church and be in the community of God’s love.  We should be able to say with confidence, “I’m in the direct dominion. How do I know? Because God told me so.” Heavenly Parent’s Holy Community is not a place. It is a state of mind where Heavenly Parent and the true self meet in a holy oneness of peace and happiness within and all around them. The Home Church providence of the 1980s was just a practice exercise for the future that was to come. This time it won’t be practice.♦

Rev. Lorman Lykes (UTS Class of 1981) was born in Detroit, Michigan, in 1949. He graduated with a B.A. degree in history from Wayne State University and joined the religious movement of Sun Myung Moon in 1973. He served as a missionary, pastor and teacher of the Divine Principle for over 40 years. He has traveled extensively in search of the true meaning of life, love and death.  After the transition of his wife, Laura, in 2006, he has taken a special interest in researching and studying neuroscience, metaphysics and the evolution of sentient beings.

10 thoughts on “A New Way of Thinking About “Church”

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  1. Thank you, Rev. Lykes!

    This is a well-written and logical explanation as to how Unificationist and eventually all people can reach maturity and oneness with the Creator’s heart and purpose, and then express their maturity in heart and soul within their community and environment.

    However, instead of “perfection” I would prefer “maturity”, because perfection is too technical in my opinion, whereas the term “mature person” conveys a more wholesome feeling. But that’s just me, a non-native of the English language.

    “We should be able to say with confidence, ‘I’m in the direct dominion. How do I know? Because God told me so.'”

    Regarding this quote from your essay I suggest we should be thoughtful; this could easily be seen and perceived as arrogant and aloof by those who hear such words. Father often emphasized that in the end we need a certificate issued by God’s main adversary so that God can truly recognize a person. Therefore I would rather let others testify to and declare my “being in God’s direct dominion”.

  2. Dear Lorman,

    Thank you so much for such a refreshing, thoughtful and hopeful essay! I really enjoyed reading your progression of ideas and completely agree with your conclusions. I love that you included John 4:16. Many Christians focus on John 3:15, but 4:16 is much more personal and relevant! I’ve never thought it all through theologically or philosophically, but I have intuited what Mother is about in declaring the Heavenly Parent’s Holy Community, which I don’t think we should think is limited to just the Unification Movement.

    One of my favorite quotes from Father is: “Being loved by God and knowing God’s love, is the starting point of finding yourself.” It is very important to remind ourselves constantly of God’s love for us personally and know that God is loving us not for what we do or accomplish, but just for who we are. This mindset automatically puts one in the frame of mind to share with Heavenly Parent more intimately and invite HP to share with us.

    I’m still in process, but I feel your essay helps me to understand my goal better.

  3. Thank you, Lorman, for your excellent food for thought. We can find many explanations for “perfection” from TPs and the DP. I believe that they are all true. The common thread for me seems the be that “perfection is a quality of heart (love)”. It has also been described as “oneness with our HP” as well as fulfilling (completing) “the three-object purpose and form the four position foundation. This would be the fulfillment of the purpose of creation.”

    Some have just recently been approved entrance into the Cheon Bo Won. This signifies True Parent’s “perfection” level blessing to us. As True Mother expressed…this is not the end. We cannot retire until all mankind receives God’s blessing. This teaches us that most don’t understand perfection and the direct dominion.

    The night before the Cheon Bo Celebration, I had a dream in which True Father came to me and said, “A person with mature conscience still has the choice to follow True Parent’s directions or to follow their own conscience.” I am still chewing on that one.

    Recently, we are being taught by our True Mother that we can find “perfection” in our heart of filial piety = attendance toward True Parents. Through our own attendance we come to understand that HP attends us when we wake up each morning. We should return that love to Him. This is what He always wanted. He loves each of us unconditionally and always has. Perhaps perfection is our attendance toward God.

    Rev. Jesse Edwards likes to do his own informal survey whenever we have had larger gatherings, especially with pastors. He asks our members, “How many of you believe that you can become perfect in your lifetime”. He has found that less than 50% respond, “yes”. This surprises him.

  4. The Four Principles of Restoration: 1 ) Separation from Satan; 2 ) Get through the two stages of Formation and Growth; 3 ) Receive the Blessing from the Messiah (spouse); 4 ) Get through the Completion stage as a couple and reaching God’s Direct Dominion.

    So, perfection is fulfilled as a couple and not as an individual. As we know, who may resemble God is a man/woman together, not as an individual.

  5. Lorman,

    Thank you so much for this. This is exactly the kind of discussion we need to be having. I agree with almost everything you say, but there is a point that Sally Sayre brings up that perhaps needs more attention.

    She quotes Father, “Being loved by God and knowing God’s love, is the starting point of finding yourself.” This is such a key point. In contrast to this, most Unificationists, and I think your article too, assume that the way forward is to love others first. That is, we think that if we love others then God will be present. Over the years members have dedicated themselves to this, but, as you point out at the beginning of the article, this has not been successful. This lack of success is not for want of dedication and trying. There is something missing from this approach.

    Community, loving others, is an extension of the Second Blessing. Jesus’ commandment to love others as you love yourself is his second commandment. Before both of these is something else that must come first. We can’t jump to the Second Blessing without the First Blessing, and before loving others as yourself you must first love God.

    In other words, what should come first is our personal relationship with God, as in Sally’s quote from Father. The hallmark of the First Blessing and Jesus’ first commandment is our direct relationship with God. So the first task is to develop a personal relationship with God. That is why we are in the hospital of church in the first place. Then, on the basis of that personal relationship with God, love for others will naturally arise within us. It is not forced, but a natural extension of our personal relationship with God. If we try by force of will to love others first, then at some point we can go no further.

    Consequently, I believe that the first point of building Holy Community is not “out there” with others; it is “in here” with God. Holy community will naturally emerge “inside out” as people live with God in themselves. God will then dwell in that community. Personally, then, I need to first live and breathe with God. After that, I will have the capacity to love others and build community. You can’t force community by will from “outside in” as we currently try to.

  6. Lorman, thanks for your essay.

    I do think, however, that what I would consider one essential point has not really been explored — the significance and outcome of the Blessing. All that you discuss — special responsibility, unconditional love, supportive community — is not new nor is it unique to HPHC. What thrilled me when I first met this movement was the concept that the root of all evil and sin could finally be attacked through the Blessing, whether we describe it as ‘regrafting’, removal of original sin’ ‘change of blood lineage. This ceremony claims to break through that which has kept all good people of conscience and religion from achieving ‘perfection’, better described as Johann says as ‘maturity’. Time and experience has brought me to a point of ‘agnosticism’ about the Blessing and especially the claims for the progeny of this ceremony, but I would be curious as how you see this fitting into your ‘new way of thinking.’

    1. Dear Catriona,

      Thanks for your comment and serious question. It is a subject that should be on the mind of every blessed couple: What is my personal responsibility to perfect the blessing process? Father initiated at least three stages of blessing that I am aware of to bring to our attention that “the blessing” is not a panacea for perfection. I believe it is a right of passage. The Divine Principle states the Holy Blessing is necessary for Direct Dominionship but that does not negate the necessity for individual responsibility — your 5%. This is one of the drawbacks of the institutional blessing narrative. Please refer to Dr. Keisuke Noda’s article titled: “Interpreting the Principle: Transformative and Objective.”

      I am of the belief that the transformative process of the blessing has not been developed as a church teaching. The objective understanding of the blessing has been the focus. This is one of the reasons for my article. I am attempting to bring to light the potential blessed couples have when they go beyond the cultural and doctrinal remnants of Christianity and Western civilization.

  7. Rev. Lykes,

    Thank you for the brilliant call for love. Should one allow the living real-time God of love healthy access to self, the resource of stimulation can afford greater happiness and well-being in all directions. The community you speak of is perhaps the heart’s desire we seem to have forgotten how to implement in loving self and others? Every one of us has a beautiful core. The Holy Spirit can afford a reset to honor God within each encouraging love over the constraints of doctrine. Now that we have the benefit of being post-Foundation Day, may we recover the resonance of love that unites the children of God into “community” with all of its diversity. Blessed be True Mother, and her guidance for greater love. May she be encouraged and even comforted by our maturity in self-love and the discovery of living with God as individuals and community that practices love.

  8. Lorman,

    This is an excellent article for discussion. The idea of maturity or perfection being raised to develop a “personal” relationship with God limits the extent to which an institution like a church, which is impersonal, can help one accomplish that. The relationship one has with their own parents or True Parents can be personal and is needed to reach perfection; a church can’t do this, but it can act as a kind of hospital. A church can provide a general path, like “the formula course” that can protect you on the growth process, but one does not have a personal relationship with an impersonal institution.

    I liked your question, “Can you imagine living in a hospital with sick people and not being able to leave once you are cured?” How could you raise a family or run a business if you are in a hospital? A church can also help families with their own job of raising children to perfection by providing a community where personal relations among others seeking to be true parents can be developed. So a church can serve as a support, but by itself it cannot provide perfection.

  9. Rev. Lykes,

    Thank you so much for this article. I really liked your conclusion and your article got better and better the more I kept reading it.

    I do make a distinction between “perfection” and “completion” or “maturity.” I think this way because the Exposition of the Divine Principle uses the word “perfection” as the translation for the word “완성” in Korean. In Korean, the word “perfection” and “completion” are different. Therefore, how do you see the difference between using the word “perfect” and “complete” in relation to becoming One with God?

    I would like to keep reading articles like these because knowing the difference and evolution from the “Church” era to the “Holy Community” era is very important. Thank you.

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