The Hope and Promise of the Singapore Summit

By Mark P. Barry

I usually tell people that if you visited Earth from Mars, looked down at the Korean Peninsula and saw it’s divided and technically in a state of war since 1950, you’d say, “This has got to end.”

In other words, this kind of situation is simply unsustainable, despite that many practitioners of international relations seem to believe it’s possible to manage conflicts in perpetuity.

Last Tuesday’s summit in Singapore between President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un is at least notable for one important thing: it potentially changed the trajectory — hopefully for the better in the long run — of events on the Korean peninsula. This is because no sitting American president had ever met a North Korean leader. Previous presidents generally would not even consider the idea; Bill Clinton was the exception, but in the waning weeks of his presidency, he chose to focus on Middle East peace rather than Korean peace.

Ironically, Jimmy Carter was the first former U.S. president to meet his North Korean counterpart, Kim Il Sung, in 1994. He wisely observed at the time that “we should not ever avoid direct talks, direct conversations, direct discussions and negotiations with the main person in a despised, misunderstood or condemned society who could actually resolve the issue.” To his credit, Carter brokered an agreement, concluded months later, that froze the North’s fledgling nuclear program — which endured until the early years of the Bush 43 administration.

This simple truth — of the need for top-to-top communication and relationship-building — was easily grasped by President Trump because it had been a key lesson of his years of business experience. Kim Jong Un knew he had to take advantage of the opportunity to meet the U.S. president — the one person who could make fundamental foreign policy decisions without the encumbrance of a bureaucracy with a long and deep institutional memory.

It matters less what were the motivations of Trump and Kim; in both cases they were a mixture of the strategic and the selfish. But history shows that key figures, sometimes with unsavory motives, nonetheless produce changes, however unintended, whose impact endures for decades or even centuries (e.g., Henry VIII’s disagreement with the Pope over marriage annulment led him to initiate the English Reformation, separating the Church of England from papal authority).

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The Technology-Empowered Cleric and the End of Religions as We Know Them

By Ronald Brown

Thomas Friedman argued in Longitudes and Attitudes: Exploring the World After September 11 (2002) that modern technology had given rise to “super-empowered individuals” such as George Soros, Mark Zuckerberg, Robert Murdoch, Oprah Winfrey, and Osama bin Laden, who have amassed more power than traditional presidents, kings, generals, and dictators.

I believe super-empowered clerics have joined Friedman’s list of super-empowered individuals shaping the 21st century. These clerics are doing religion in ways never before imagined, hastening the decline of historic religions, and pioneering the rise of new global religions. Super-empowered clerics are taking religions to places where no one has gone before.

Here, I analyze the six (sometimes conflicting) characteristics of emerging religious movements: 1) The centrality of super-empowered clerics, 2) the merging of past, present and future, 3) the transience of religion, 4) the globalization of religions, 5) the deification of humans, and, 6) the politicization of religions.

Super-empowered clerics

The modern technological revolution is radically altering thousands-year-old systems of religious leadership. Super-empowered clerics such as Rev. Billy Graham, Menachem Schneerson of the Lubavitch Jewish sect, the Dalai Lama, Christian televangelists Robert H. Schuller and Joel Osteen, the Brazilian cleric Edir Macedo, ISIS caliph Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, the Buddhist Dhammakaya Chandra Khhonnokyoong, and bin Laden emerged as religious superstars. They preside over virtual congregations, even empires, that exploit the Internet, cheap air travel, mass communications, videos, neuroscience, and have at their disposal colossal financial resources made possible by the new global economy.

Brazilian pastor Macedo is a prime example of the cleric of the future. Unlike traditional religious leaders who received their authority from long-established institutions, Macedo claims he received his calling and empowerment directly from God. He did not consider himself bound by ancient tradition, long-decided dogmas, historical precedent, or hierarchical superiors.

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Converting Good Intentions into Results

By Rob Sayre

A camping weekend in summer 1994 with other Blessed Families has grown and evolved for almost a quarter of a century.

Known first as the Pennsylvania Family Camp, Shehaqua Ministries is now known as “Shehaqua,” denoting specific activities, an organization, with a brand and specific worldview about education and community.

This article is about the early years, the evolution from a small startup to a more mature organization that has passed on leadership to a new generation, and how we found solutions to financial and organizational challenges while keeping our core values intact.

Certain comments are my personal reflections, others are the story of the development of the organization, and still others are lessons we applied from a book I repeatedly read for the first ten years, Managing the Nonprofit Organization: Principles and Practices (1990) by Peter F. Drucker. I hope others can learn from our success, failures and endurance.

How We Began

The first two years, 1995-97, were three-day camping outings, with each family in their own tent, cooking for themselves, but we organized Divine Principle (DP) education, sports and crafts by age groups. We stayed at two different campgrounds in 1995-96. In 1997, we rented a large, old farmhouse for a separate program for the older kids and families stayed in their tents.

Our goals from the beginning have been to provide age appropriate DP education for the entire family; to facilitate a personal or “skin touch” experience with God for every participant; and to demonstrate what a community of faith looked and felt like.

This quote from Rev. Sun Myung Moon reflects some of the guiding theology that rooted our thinking and programs:

“How should you raise your children? You should raise them like God, to have beauty and excellence, as God did when He created Adam and Eve. This is the standard of education…. Then, what is God’s love? If you analyze it, it is manifested through parental love, conjugal love, and filial love. There is nothing more. There are only those three kinds of love. This is why children love their parents, husbands and wives become one, and parents love their children. The three generations must be one.”

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Toward a Headwing Idea for America

By Henri Schauffler

In the past two years, many Unificationists have found themselves very troubled by the extreme divide we find ourselves in culturally and politically in the United States.  It can be easily understood that the political spheres are driven by the cultural spheres.

We seem so divided that the two cultures can barely even understand what the other is thinking, saying or doing. It’s almost as if we have two Americas at this point. We have been in similar situations before: the Civil War era; and the 1960s into the 1970s. We always got through it because God was still guiding and protecting America. God willing, that is still the case.

In various conversations with Unificationist elder friends, many younger Unificationists, family, clergy, clients, and in the larger community, it seems that Unificationists feel we do not fit comfortably into the conservative mantle as in the past. Nor do we appear to fit into the liberal sphere of the present.

How does a Unificationist react to the highly charged issues of the day with a Divine Principled response, rather than just one’s own ideas?

For example – what about the gun violence debate? Is a Unificationist position pro-gun or anti-gun? Some gun control or none? Is the Second Amendment sacred under the Divine Principle or is it open to discussion? What about the immigration debate? Would the Divine Principle and True Parents’ teachings tell us to “build the wall” or to show compassion and accept refugees from struggling nations?

How about environmental laws? Do we want the government to control individual and industrial activity so as to curtail environmental impact? Or is decreasing government control more important? Do we decry the rise of the LGBTQ movement or embrace these folks with God’s love as brothers and sisters? These are just a few of the issues a Unificationist encounters on a daily basis.

With conservatives, on the one hand, one might resonate with the principles of self-reliance, free markets, America as a beacon of freedom for all those in the world (including a strong defense to help those in need), love for America and respect for its founding principles, a strong moral code, and so on.

On the other hand, it may have been difficult for some Unificationists to relate to the “America First” idea and the suspicion of all immigrants. Clearly, Unificationism is pointing towards a world culture where a “God First” idea will prevail.  From that, an “all of us first” idea might follow.

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The Muslim World as Seen from Atop the Burj Khalifa Tower

By Ronald Brown

What better vantage point to view the chaos convulsing the Muslim world than from atop the tallest building in the world, the Burj Khalifa Tower in Dubai.

The 163-story tall skyscraper stands in the very center of the Muslim world, almost equidistant between Morocco and Indonesia and the Republic of Kazan in Russia and Empire of Sokoto in Nigeria. For my annual January academic vacation, I decided to settle into the glistening desert city of Dubai and take a Muslim view of the world as Muslims must see it.

As I glanced in all directions from atop the tower, I became acutely aware of Samuel P. Huntington’s argument in his paradigm-shattering book, The Clash of Civilizations and the Remaking of World Order (1996). He argued that the nation-state system that has dominated the world since the Peace of Westphalia in 1648 was rapidly ending. Nine vast religion-based civilizations will dominate the 21st century. The Confucian, Hindu, Orthodox Christian, Western Christian, and Buddhist civilizations were rapidly reclaiming their former greatness, with Latin America, sub-Saharan Africa, and Japan still finding their ways.

The Muslim world, on the other hand, which has no natural boundaries and abuts many of the other emerging civilizations, is convulsed with revolutions, foreign invasions, terrorism, and occupations. It is still struggling to throw off centuries of French, British, Russian, Chinese, and most recently, American colonial rule or influence, amid clashing visions of what form a restored Islamic civilization will take.

But my view of the Muslim world from the Burj Khalifa convinced me Muslims are intent on restoring their lost political and religious unity under the rule of a caliph that the Prophet Mohammed founded.

Huntington recognized that the emerging global actors of the 21st century will be 1) civilizations, and 2) they will be fueled by religious passion. The Hindu-based Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) is propelling the rise of India, Confucianism inspires the rise of China, evangelical Christianity drives the revival of Western Civilization, and militant Islam fuels the Muslim quest to become a major world power. India has even gone so far as to erect statues and temples dedicated to Bharat Mata, the Mother India Goddess, which I pondered during a recent visit to India.

Although a Harvard political scientist, professor Huntington recognized that the determining characteristic of 21st century religions will be their this-worldly orientation. No longer willing to wait for heavenly bliss after death, contemporary religions have embarked on establishing paradise on earth.

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Idealism and Naiveté: On Orwell’s “Homage to Catalonia”

by Peter Elliffe

George Orwell paid homage to Catalonia, Spain, in his journalistic book on the Spanish Civil War, Homage to Catalonia, but he paid homage to much more.

Orwell, like many idealistic men and women of his generation, gave up comfort and security to fight for socialism, communism or republicanism against the proto-fascist Francisco Franco. The war, which heralded many crucial dilemmas, ran from 1936-39, resulting in Generalissimo Franco’s victory.

One of those idealistic individuals was my high school history teacher, Peter Carver. He had fought with the communists, been jailed for his trouble, and came away with a life-long abhorrence for communism in general, and “Uncle Joe” Stalin in particular. I read Homage to Catalonia as an act of homage to my influential teacher.

Carver, like Orwell and Alexander Solzhenitsyn, managed to come away from bitter experiences with communism without bitterness of soul. Some part of the utopian dream that communism represented had touched his heart, and that openness remained.

Homage to Catalonia does not reveal Orwell as a mature political theorist, but as a man in the process of understanding his experiences and attempting to put them in perspective. Likewise, The Gulag Archipelago shows us Solzhenitsyn as a true believer, an intuitive follower of the party of Lenin, even after he is arrested on Russia’s western front. Surely there has been a mistake, he thought. I just need to speak to the right person to have the whole horrible mess straightened out, then I can continue to serve the Revolution – and in the process remove this disturbing cognitive dissonance.

Orwell presents the Spanish Civil War as a class conflict between the reactionary, would-be feudal, land-owning families (and the Catholic Church) represented by Franco, and the Republicans, who are a collection of bourgeois and working-class factions. He arrives in a Barcelona which has been revolutionized, in the hands of labor organizations such as the anarcho-syndicalists (CNT). This is as it should be for Orwell. Why pursue the modern slavery which is capitalism when the possibility of socialist revolution is within our grasp?

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Gun Control: Context and Purpose

By Gordon Anderson

Discussions of gun control, like climate change, welfare, immigration, and other complex social issues get reduced to single variables for political purposes. This reduction leads to political strife and gridlock. It also leads to poor laws that do not solve the problem they are supposed to address, and often creates other unwanted or unforeseen problems.

Whenever an incident like the Parkland, Florida, school shooting occurs, the political right promotes the sanctity of the Second Amendment and the political left promotes gun control as a solution. The focus on these two simplistic approaches, pushed by special interests, and magnified by political parties and the press, obscures genuine understanding of the reasons for mass murders and ways to reduce them.

The Larger context

Human society is complex like an ecosystem. There are many interrelated variables in which some correlate with each other more directly than others. But a butterfly effect can occur in which a small, nearly unpredictable factor, influences dramatic events. To understand how components of a system affect each other requires a knowledge of all the variables and their relationship.

It is useful to look at the history of predicting the weather. Some have believed the weather was an arbitrary decision of gods. Others noticed it had something to do with geographical location. But even in areas where it rains many times a year, it is difficult to predict when it will rain or when the wind will blow without a lot more data and complex weather models.

Today’s weather models are far more accurate than just a few decades ago because they use computers to integrate variables like day of the year, angle of the sun, atmospheric pressure, albedo, proximity of large weather systems, jet stream location, and many other factors.

People commit murder for many reasons and in many ways. They kill for anger and revenge; because they are forced to; to rob or commit other crimes; to impress others; because they feel threatened; to find out what it feels like; and many other reasons. They kill with guns, bombs, knives, bats, fists, cars, fire, gas, water (drowning), pushing off of a building, and in virtually any way that will get the job done.

Guns are easier and more effective in killing than many other ways. Murder can be an uncontrolled instinctual reaction or premeditated and well-planned.

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Gun Control or Heart Control? A Great Awakening?

By David Eaton

In the aftermath of another heinous act of mass murder, this time at a high school in Parkland, Florida, there was the usual spate of hand-wringing over the question of gun laws in the United States.

For the record, I’m not fond of guns and would like to see greater prohibitions on the sale of automatic weapons. That said, it was not at all surprising to hear certain commentators reflexively cite and blame the usual suspects (the NRA, the GOP) for “America’s gun problem.”

In a discussion after the Parkland shooting, MSNBC commentator Mike Barnicle asked the rhetorical question, “Is this a cultural problem?” The answer should be fairly obvious.

Our “gun control” problem is a resultant phenomenon, a symptom of a serious cultural and spiritual disorder. By all means, let’s have the debate about guns and laws, but we need to understand this is not fundamentally a “gun problem” but rather a “heart problem.”

It’s well-known that politics is downstream of culture. The Greeks understood this long ago; Plato was very perceptive when he cited musicologist Damon’s assertion that “if you change the songs of a nation soon you will change the laws.”

Politicians and our political punditry are reacting to the Parkland tragedy in the way they have for decades. Rather than examine deeper cultural concerns — family breakdown, sexual immorality, a debased entertainment industry — their focus immediately becomes political.

This is not to suggest there isn’t a law-and-order aspect in the equation. However, we already have many gun laws on the books. Both the Parkland perpetrator and Las Vegas shooter obtained their guns legally. There are as many as 100 million gun owners in the USA and most are law-abiding citizens. Most gun-related crimes in the USA are committed with illegally obtained weapons. Chicago has some of the strictest gun laws in the country, yet annually leads the nation in gun-related crimes — over 4,000 cases in 2016.

A study on gun–related crime published in 2017 by the federal National Institute of Justice found that between 1993 and 2013 gun ownership increased by nearly 50%. Yet during the same period, gun homicides decreased by nearly 50%. Kentucky Governor Matt Bevin pointed to the fact that in the 1950s there were far, far fewer gun laws on the books, yet the kinds of mass shootings we are seeing with disturbing frequency were almost non-existent.

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Gun Control: Profound Cultural Differences Regardless of Statistics

By Franco Famularo

News of the February 14 mass shooting at a Florida high school that claimed the lives of 14 students and three staff has people all over asking questions once again. In a debate where the same arguments are exchanged consistently, it seems a spiritual numbness prevails that leads to more confusion and frustration than solutions.

Here, I look at some statistics and posit there’s a profound cultural difference between the USA and most other nations, not only in the developed world but most other countries, when it comes to gun ownership.

Neither side of the debate in the USA has convinced the other. Supporters of tighter gun control scream something must be done and restrictions should be placed on gun ownership and background checks should be more rigorous. Supporters of existing gun laws tell us stricter laws are not the answer and that “Guns don’t kill people. People kill people.”

We are told, for example, that Chicago, with strict gun laws, has a very high murder rate and high crime rate. Some would suggest stricter laws would prevent people from killing people.

Most folks living outside the U.S. are perplexed that gun laws are as loose as they are and ask why Americans don’t do the obvious. Some go as far as avoiding travel to the U.S., fearing gun violence!

But there is one puzzle that repeatedly stumps supporters and non-supporters alike. Why does the U.S. have an enormously higher rate of mass shootings than anywhere else? And why do most developed countries such as in Europe, Japan and Canada have such low homicide rates — especially those involving guns?

(click chart to enlarge; source of graphic: New York Times)

There exists a long litany of arguments for and against tighter gun laws and both sides in the USA cite the Second Amendment. Most folks outside the U.S. cannot easily understand what’s at the root of the gun issue and what the American worldview is when it comes to gun ownership and their use.

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