Unearthing My DNA: The Lost Sister

By Eileen Williams

It’s natural to presume that family are the people who think like us, are born into the same cultural group, share similar political stances, and even look like us. A homogenous comfort zone called “family” might be nice to ponder, but the reality is often a far cry from this rosy Rockwell-esque tableau.

The unexpected discovery of a half-sibling made me re-think “family” and my place in it down to my very core. To put this in a Unificationist perspective: the reality of tribal messiahship with diverse members spanning two coasts and two continents sometimes requires both flying far and digging deep.

It was Thanksgiving 2020, and I was participating in a Zoom meet-up through my local library with Libby Copeland, author of The Lost Family: How DNA is Upending Who We Are. That might make a good Christmas present for someone, I thought, unawares that the very person to benefit from the book would be me.

Inspired by Copeland’s case studies delving into family heritage — its twists, turns, and surprises, the medical miracles, the family drama — I turned to my sister Mary: “Let’s buy ourselves Ancestry.com DNA test kits for Christmas.”

Mary and I were curious about where in Ireland our relatives came from; she was readying to visit my father’s second cousins in Germany. However, we had not anticipated that we were about to “out” our own family skeleton, although that doesn’t seem a nice way to describe a newly-found half-sister.

After Christmas, I received my test results, and there staring back at me from the Ancestry.com website was a photo of a woman tagged as a first degree relative. I determined after a few stunned moments that she could neither be aunt, niece, nor cousin but rather was/must be a half-sister (really?).

She had lurked on the Ancestry.com site for two years hoping to “strike” a match. I would come to learn that she had longed most of her adult life for someone — anyone — she could call family. And strike a match she did.

Although myself and three of my siblings had managed to forge a bond despite the childhood rupture of divorce, my younger adopted sister cut all ties with the rest of us. Sadly, family is not always what folks want to find, and sometimes it’s even those we want to lose. Yet, here on the site was a half-sister hoping desperately to discover family connections.

The first thing I learned about DNA testing is people can inherit different pieces of DNA from their ancestral gene pool. One does not neatly inherit 25% of your genetic traits from each grandparent, and then 12.5 % from each great grandparent; rather hereditary traits are expressed in a random manner.

My sister and I share a 58% DNA match, which is normal for siblings or fraternal twins; identical twins share a 100% DNA match. My sister has a higher percent of Scottish DNA than I do (ah, the red in her hair!).  My half-sister was a 27% DNA match with me.

All humans share 99.9% percent DNA in common, so why bother researching your genealogy at all?  Some DNA test sites suggest you can form meaningful connections from doing this — second and third cousin discoveries, famous relatives. Maybe your ancestors go back to a signer of the Declaration of Independence, as a proud friend of mine discovered.

Continue reading “Unearthing My DNA: The Lost Sister”

A Proposal to Allocate More Resources for Counseling

By Incheol Son

A two-year-old child sat on the floor in a relative’s house, wearing only one piece of knit in the cold winter. He was staring aimlessly and couldn’t recognize who had come before him.

This boy had forgotten the faces of his mother and father. He was left there all alone in “separation” from his parents who went out for witnessing. Immediately after his father saw the baby, his father escaped to the kitchen and cried quite a while.

This is the story my mother shared with me. It was about me. In fact, I have no recollection of it.

But, I surely recall the day when I tried to describe that scene in a testimony at a workshop. All those listening suddenly cried along. They were all second generation and had similar experiences as mine. I came to realize it was not just an individual but a collective one.

From a psychological point of view, however, the vulnerable little boy was exposed to an “overwhelming” event to lose his parents in his earliest years by being abandoned in what for him was a strange place. I had to face a series of similar events that continued to take place afterward, such as my mother’s sudden disappearance to go witnessing and my father’s quitting his job to become a pastor.

These experiences were very damaging to a child, though it’s been theologically justified as “indemnity” to build a condition that UC members tried to love the world more than their own children. I was educated in training programs to accept the logic as such. I tried and it worked — for a while.

I’ve even been encouraged to sublimate such primal wounds. But, they have never gone away. Rather they’ve accumulated; the emotional lump of trauma is still active inside me. And, now I realize it has kept influencing my life.

For example, I have a kind of “fear” of facing strangers, new people. Some say it’s just my character. And so I’ve also been encouraged not only to overcome it personally but to apply the ideal model of engaging in a new relationship. But, it’s like the fear of heights I have. I just react naturally to it. Fear is a psychological “symptom” of trauma.

When I served briefly as a pastor, one Japanese woman who had married a Korean man approached me for counseling. Her husband had no faith at the time and so was more like a secular man. He just joined the church because his older sister, from a senior blessed couple, had urged him to get married. The application forms were submitted and the man was able to participate in the blessing ceremony though he was not fully qualified.

On the other hand, the Japanese wife, who graduated from a renown university in Japan, entered the blessing by hope and faith. But the reality she had to face afterward in South Korea was far from what she had dreamed. Her specific difficulty she shared with me was her husband’s habit of inviting his friends over in the evenings. She had to welcome and serve those unexpected guests every time, but she, who already had two children and was pregnant with her third, couldn’t feel happiness from his habits.

Continue reading “A Proposal to Allocate More Resources for Counseling”

Spiritual Connections: Living in the Flow of God’s Love

By Gordon L. Anderson

Spiritual Connections: Living in the Flow of God’s Love (Circle of Angels Press, 201 pp., 2022) is an engaging spiritual autobiography of Nora Spurgin, who joined what was then called the Unified Family (later Unification Church) in New York in 1967. She served in many central positions as the movement led by Rev. Sun Myung Moon developed into a new global culture. Nora’s identity is shaped by her connections to others in her lifelong pursuit to be in the flow of God’s love.

Her story begins with her ancestors who came to America for religious freedom. Her sixth great grandfather authored Confessions of Faith, which is still used for religious instruction among the Mennonites. She grew up in Lancaster County, PA, in a farming community with large families, connected to her parents, siblings, extended family, and nature. Life was a mixture of hard work, fun play, and worship of God. Personal responsibility and maintaining the community was stressed. Her community was self-sufficient. Nora learned to design and sew clothes and her father even taught her every step in building a house!

At a young age, Nora’s curiosity prompted her to ask questions about her faith in comparison to Catholics and others. She studied the people she met, wanting to learn behavior patterns and whether people were genuine or putting on a façade. She learned to approach others with confidence. While Nora wanted to learn fastidiously, her parents believed outside education would corrupt children’s faith. She dropped out of high school after one year and worked at home and in a sewing factory until she turned 21 and became a free adult. Then she grabbed lots of books, studied, passed the GED exams, and set out on the world.

A Mennonite Voluntary Service program caring for children of migrant workers in Florida exposed Nora to poverty and other cultures and broadened her faith. In college, she loved philosophy and history. On weekends she visited and served people in Appalachia, and experienced charismatic spiritual events. Then she went on for her master’s degree in social work at New York University. The intellectual confrontations and big city life were far different than life on a simple Mennonite farm. Through all her encounters, she continued her search for connections to God and was prepared to meet the Unification Church.

Continue reading “Spiritual Connections: Living in the Flow of God’s Love”

A Remedial Shift to the Esau-Jacob Model: An Internal Monologue

By Incheol Son

As a second-generation Unificationist, I’ve suffered for a long time from the Cain-Abel model, a prototype relationship that has been applied to almost all kinds of personal as well as official relationships in the Unification movement.

The Cain-Abel model in the Divine Principle is one of the key concepts that have long been promoted. It describes the nature of relationships inside the first human family that ended with great tragedy. The relationship was of the two offspring of the first human ancestors, Adam and Eve. It was the start of a subsequent series of unhappy historical events for God after their fall.

On the other hand, there’s the very successful story of the grandchildren of Abraham, the model of Esau-Jacob, which has not been promoted that much relative to the Cain-Abel model. Yet, it was surely a restored and successful relationship and thus it laid the foundation for the birth of the Messiah, Jesus, from the family’s lineage. The reason why this latter model has been less promoted is the Esau-Jacob model is full of fallen human nature such as deception, running away, fighting back, betrayal, and total surrender in fear.

But, I believe now is the time we may need to intentionally move on to the next phase and start promoting the Esau-Jacob model more than habitually sticking to the first tragic Cain and Abel model. This is mainly because a trauma has been bequeathed to us, especially to the second and third generations, as a scar deep in our spirit. We’ve been inculcated with such traumatic and guilty feelings from early on, even from the mother’s womb, in the cradle, at Sunday service, to the university, the church, and providential organizations.

Fortunately, I am now somewhat recovered from such traumatic feelings.

The release from these traumatic feelings occurred when I realized the Cain-Abel model did not fit with reality all the time and was not the only model we could apply to human relationships. I rediscovered there was another model of human relationships between Esau and Jacob that had brought a great victory to the history of the providence. Yes, it is full of less admirable aspects of human nature such as deception. But I believe Abel should have been wiser in front of his elder brother Cain. It would have been much better than being killed by him. Abel should have been able to lie to Cain sometimes for the sake of the higher good. The first lie or deception in human history would have been much better than falling victim in the first homicide.

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A Proposal for a New Way of Worship

By Tyler Hendricks

Sociological research finds that healthy marriage and family life is the key to personal happiness and societal peace and progress. Natural families — lifelong, married, two-parent (man-woman) households — produce individuals who are significantly happier, healthier and more successful than those created out of any other family structure. Historical research finds that societies that sustain natural family life thrive, and societies that fail to do so collapse.

This means that, from the viewpoint of creating peace and happiness in this world, the main responsibility of religion is to foster healthy marriage and family life. None have accomplished this; in fact, none have even set it as a major goal.

A new religious movement, that of Reverend Sun Myung Moon and Dr. Hak Ja Han Moon, has set it as a major goal. It teaches that God is our Heavenly Parent who created the universe according to the God-centered family design, and placed us in it with the responsibility to create healthy marriage and family life. Naturally, Reverend Moon defined the believers’ faith commitment as a Family Pledge. For the last three decades of his life, he and Dr. Moon crisscrossed the globe teaching God’s ideal of family life as the key to world peace.

The theological presupposition, based on movement teachings, is that the family is God’s eternal purpose of creation and eternal dwelling place of God on earth. God is love, and the quintessential embodiment of love is in the intimate, spiritual-psychological-biological relationships that take place only in the family. This would indicate that the deepest worship of God and experience of God happens in family relationships. Based on all of this, I propose that the Unification movement design its weekly worship for the purpose of creating healthy marriage and family life.

Thus far in history, God has entered the world through gifted individuals. The Unificationist idea is that God enters the world through every family. Each member of the family is created to be a vehicle of God’s love and Word to each of the others. Parents embody Heavenly Parent giving life to children. Husband and wife embody the oneness of Heavenly Father and Heavenly Mother. Children are born into the bosom of Heavenly Parent, and grow to eventually embody Heavenly Parent themselves in their own family.

This, together with social science, calls us to envision worship based not on the individual paradigm (the God-centered unity of mind and body, creating an ideal individual) but on the family paradigm (the God-centered unity of husband and wife, parents and children, creating an ideal three-generation family).

Continue reading “A Proposal for a New Way of Worship”

Learning from Therese Stewart, True Pioneer of Faith

By Jennifer P. Tanabe

A memoir is a treasure trove filled with precious nuggets of information about a person’s life. No matter how well you may think you know someone, reading their memoir illuminates parts of their life that you knew little to nothing about. Dr. Therese Stewart’s memoir, My Life of Faith, does not disappoint.

Therese was born and raised on a farm in rural Minnesota. As a child, she learned and practiced her family’s Catholic faith, and when her older sister became a nun, she told God she would follow in her footsteps. World War II somewhat delayed that plan, diverting her to nursing. This proved a minor delay, however, as she joined the same Franciscan order as her sister in 1948.

Therese spent two decades as a Catholic nun. In the late 1960s came the first crucial turning point in her life of faith. She met a member of the Unification Church, Betsy O’Neill (now Jones), while studying at Columbia University in New York City. After studying Divine Principle for several months, and having a number of significant dreams, she committed herself to a new spiritual course.

Here is how she describes her early response to these new teachings:

I felt that my life had been preparation for this. Divine Principle reinforced much of what I believed as a Catholic but there was striking new content too. I had never thought of Jesus and the Holy Spirit as “spiritual true parents,” nor anticipated the coming of physical True Parents. Also compelling was the idea that the prophecy of the Second Coming was being fulfilled by a couple! The concept of True Parents as opposed to the fallen first ancestors, Adam and Eve, was new to me. (I had no problem accepting the idea that the fall of man was an illicit love relationship even though many considered that an archaic interpretation of the Genesis account). The idea that Jesus was to have married and extended God’s lineage immediately struck me as true. (I had read years before that it was not God’s will for Jesus to die on the cross but that someday we would understand why God had allowed it.)

I did not easily accept that the Second Coming would be fulfilled by anyone other than Jesus but neither could I deny that the allegedly unfulfilled part of his mission—to marry, create a True Family, and develop a loving dominion over the creation—required his having a physical body!

Continue reading “Learning from Therese Stewart, True Pioneer of Faith”

Chaplaincy: A Gift from Heaven

By Barbara Robertson and Kathy Winings

Since March 2020, so many in our communities and families have come face-to-face with tragedy, death or a personal crisis of some type. Whether the crisis was due to the loss of a loved one from COVID-19, personal illness, loss of a job, hunger for human contact, or any number of issues, people have turned either to professional counseling, spiritual guidance or to a chaplain.

In particular, over the past year, we have seen a dramatic rise in the number of hospitalizations — especially with long-term stays. What has made this more difficult for both family members and patients has been the hospitals’ “no visitation” policy or the allowance of just one visitor for the general medical floors.

Added to this has been the stress on the medical staff of long hours, increased patient loads and number of patients who did not survive. This context has increased the importance and value of the work of chaplains — most particularly hospital chaplains. This article presents the role and value of chaplains from a very personal and direct perspective.

One year ago, Dr. Winings began a new journey that started with a medical crisis resulting in a very long recovery period. While the outcome has been good, the journey itself could have been much worse if it had not been for the co-author: a professional chaplain. Even though Dr. Winings encouraged her UTS students to complete at least one unit of Clinical Pastoral Education (CPE), she had never been on the receiving end of chaplaincy. That changed this year.

Based on Kathy’s experience, she now realizes what a gift chaplaincy is and how much a chaplain contributes to someone’s life. Pastor Barbara Robertson begins their story, sharing what a chaplain is, does and how they are trained. As a professional chaplain, Barbara has impacted so many people through her work at Vassar Brothers Medical Center, 85 miles north of New York City overlooking the Hudson River.

Barbara Robertson: What does it mean to be a chaplain? People often ask, “What is a chaplain?” My usual response is: we are like a minister without an agenda. Our role as chaplains is to meet you where you are, and help you identify your own inner resources that you can use to get through the crisis you are facing. We are not there to preach, convert or proselytize.

Thirteen years ago, while studying for my Master of Divinity degree at UTS, I was offered the opportunity to do an internship as a chaplain at Vassar Brothers Medical Center. With that first unit of CPE, I was hooked. Chaplaincy training is based on the model of “act, reflect, act.” What an amazing experience and what an amazing life lesson to always take time to reflect and then shift as needed.

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Let Your Light Shine Before Others: Spiritual Formation in the Age of COVID-19

By William P. Selig

When the test result came back positive a few weeks before Thanksgiving, I couldn’t believe my eyes. I’d followed all the recommendations — two vaccine shots, physical distancing, mask-wearing, hand-washing — yet still, I was infected with the COVID-19 virus.

Thankfully, the symptoms were mild, but for the following 10 days, I self-quarantined, which meant staying in my office, eating by myself, and distancing from my wife and family.

The experience was terrible. It was not so much the illness itself — I could deal with the flu-like symptoms — but I was troubled by the sense of “uncleanliness,” and that a passerby could “catch” my disease. It was also impossible not to feel fear and ponder the worst-case scenario. Instead of imagining a future with our grandchildren, I was left to wonder — are my affairs in order?

During this period of uncertainty, I drew on my experience teaching “Spiritual Formation and Integration,” which I describe as a process to discern God’s presence in our lives. I explain to the students that His concern is not how much money is in our 401(k) account, but the amount of love in our hearts. Through self-reflection, self-examination and contemplation, the students are guided to identify the “sacred” in the “ordinary,” and move closer to our Heavenly Parent.

Though there are different ways to understand spiritual formation, I resonate with Christian scholar Dallas Willard (1935-2013), who believed that people of all faiths go through spiritual formation. He uses the metaphor of flying to demonstrate its meaning: “One of the things I most like about flying is when you take off through the clouds and finally break through them into the sunlight.… It is so thrilling to break into the sunlight.” I appreciate this colorful image of breaking through the clouds into the sunlight as a way to describe spiritual growth. “Very likely we will not become perfect for some time yet,” he says, “but we can, as Paul urged the Philippians to do, ‘become blameless and innocent, children of God above reproach in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation, among whom you shine like stars in the world.’”

An excellent resource for our class discussions is Invitation to a Journey: A Road Map for Spiritual Formation by J. Robert Mulholland, Jr. (1936-2015), who defines spiritual formation as “the process of being formed in the image of Christ for the sake of others.” This is a straightforward definition which uses Jesus as the model for a person who loves and serves selflessly, and lives/dies for a greater cause.

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Fulfilling the Four Freedoms Eighty Years Later

By Laurent Ladouce

With the pandemic rampant and lockdowns imposed worldwide, an economic crisis destroying jobs, political turmoil in much of the West, and religious fanaticism elsewhere, we ought to proclaim, like President Franklin D. Roosevelt did in 1941: “Freedom of worship, freedom of expression, freedom from fear, freedom from want — everywhere in the world.”

Eighty years later, though global circumstances have changed, his call remains valid.

The domestic circumstances of Roosevelt’s Four Freedoms speech were highly exceptional. Ordinarily, Roosevelt would not have sought a third term in office; yet he even ran and won reelection to a fourth term in 1944. In normal times, there would have been no need for that special section of his speech to be given. 

It was exceptional, because the Great Depression had lasted a decade already. It was exceptional, because Nazism was then controlling almost all of Europe. Roosevelt faced two totalitarian threats, from Hitler and from Stalin. It was exceptional because of Roosevelt’s confidence that the call for more freedom everywhere would guarantee greater safety everywhere. We need such confidence today.   

The Four Freedoms guided democracy for eight decades. They should continue to do so, adapting to the challenges of the 21st century. They should again guide us in times of uncertainty, of great insecurity and major restrictions to our freedoms everywhere.

More than a major political manifesto, the Four Freedoms speech amounts to a prophecy. Its eschatology inspired many artists.

Here, I evaluate the spiritual and cultural importance of the Four Freedoms from a Unificationist viewpoint. I suggest Norman Rockwell’s four paintings offer the deepest interpretation of the Four Freedoms, by insisting on the primacy of family values. Finally, I discuss how the speech should inspire us today. 

Balancing freedom and security

The Four Freedoms are the centerpiece of President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s State of Union Address on January 6, 1941:

Continue reading “Fulfilling the Four Freedoms Eighty Years Later”

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