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.

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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).

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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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What Is Love? Here’s What to Know

By Tom Froehlich

Human love is passionate by default, as in “being in love.”

Poets and novelists intuit love as a most delightful phenomenon of highly personal and deeply intimate relationships. Love begets new belongings and makes life worth living. Thus, human love is rather virtuous.

Unification leaders talk a lot about love, that is, about God’s love and true love. Human love, however it may be implied, is usually not distinguished as a worthwhile virtue. This may have resulted in many Unificationist offspring seeking love outside their parent’s faith community.

More clarity and an appreciative attitude toward human love may help Unificationists to better reach out to a world full of smart and curious young folks.

Surely love — passionate as it always is — cannot arise without mutual attraction and be nothing less than profound affection and some esteem for each other. Reciprocal and non-exploitative, love eventually kindles surrender due to enchantment and thus delight in each other, both in body and mind so as to not leave anyone wanting.

Yes, that is a lot to ask of love.

Does love happen all the time, always to its fullest, and everywhere to everyone? No. Just imagine what a young, single male living with his parents in an Alaskan village of 187 people has to figure to make love come true for him. Or what about that single, middle-aged mother working as a street vendor in New Delhi, India? Can she worry about anything else than how to feed herself and her child?

Realistically, love seems to be out of reach or otherwise not feasible for a whole lot of folks on Planet Earth.

Forsaken Delights

Nevertheless, it is not just a safe, new belonging that people seek, but also the delights of a passionate love — often rather secretly.

There aren’t that many delights to be had while “being loved” or “being cared for” by either a mate or a deity. Such one-sided love induces shame after all. More delights are found in the undisturbed act of reciprocal and non-exploitative loving between a man and a woman. That is to say, “being in love” with another in both mind and body is truly exhilarating!

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“The Life Ahead”: A Modern Love Story

By Kathy Winings

A new Netflix film, “The Life Ahead,” brings back to the screen the legendary Sophia Loren after more than a decade since her last film. Her performance in this film shows that age does not matter when it comes to giving an Oscar-worthy performance.

Directed by her son, Edoardo Ponti, and adapted from the novel, The Life Before Us by Romain Gary, “The Life Ahead” is the story of Madame Rosa (Loren), a Holocaust survivor and former prostitute who understands the challenges of young streetwalkers who are mothers, and Momo, a 12-year-old street-wise orphan from Senegal.

Finances are tight and as Rosa is preparing to sell her silver candlesticks, a young African street boy rushes in, pushes her down and steals her bag as she is waiting in line. The boy, Momo, played by young new actor Ibrahima Gueye, has been placed in the care of a local older physician, Dr. Coen, a friend and doctor for Rosa.

When he learns what Momo has done, he takes him to Rosa to apologize to her for stealing her silver.  Rosa, a crusty elderly woman who has seen it all, is skeptical of his sincerity, questions his apology, but grudgingly accepts it. The doctor then tries to convince Rosa to take the boy for a short period of time — just a few weeks or two months at most — believing she can do more for Momo than he can.

It is clear that he cares for Momo but his medical practice doesn’t allow him to spend the time and guidance the boy needs and he thinks Rosa has the grit that will be good for Momo and she can provide the guidance to try to set him on the right path. Of course, her response is, “Are you nuts? Over my dead body!” But she eventually relents and agrees to take him in for a short time.

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Marxism vs. the Principle as a Means to Solve Social Problems

By Stephen Stacey

Within the Principle framework, social development is primarily seen to be a product of lineage development. If our children are a bit more wholesome than we, then future development is assured. Many parents in the movement are incredibly proud of the remarkable gifts their children embody. The Divine Principle notes social improvement occurs when development happens inside any of the three blessings.

But social improvement based on lineage improvement takes time.

It takes time for individuals to grow so that they can then enter the world and improve the education system, the health system, the legislative framework, the media, the national infrastructure, the way businesses are run, the products companies can make, medicines, the kind of help charities might provide, and what religious communities may be able to offer to the faithful and others — all as a means to improve social outcomes in the next generation.

For example, it took time to develop the education system in the West. But, eventually, each generation grew up to be slightly more skilled than the last.

As this happened, each successive generation typically became slightly wealthier and more capable of protecting itself from the ravages of life. Through taking this natural pathway, the West slowly but surely developed.

However, some can get impatient with this natural law. They might insist that social development should happen much faster, primarily through state intervention. Sometimes, new technology allows for this to happen. But often there is no way to solve a social problem other than for the whole of society to work together to improve the level of wholesomeness of the children we bring into this world.

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The Marriage Has Come: Holy Wedding and Holy Community

By Thomas Selover

Unificationists recognize the Holy Wedding of Sun Myung Moon and Hak Ja Han on the 16th day of the 3rd lunar month (3.16)  in 1960 as the long-prophesied Marriage Supper of the Lamb from the Book of Revelation. “Blessed are those invited to celebrate this great event,” proclaims the angel in Rev. 19:9.

This year, 2020, marks the 60th anniversary of True Parents’ Holy Wedding, a time to renew our understanding and celebration. In East Asian life philosophy, a 60-year cycle represents a full completion and a new beginning at a higher level.

At a special gathering to mark the 60th anniversary of True Parents’ Holy Wedding, on May 8, 2020, True Mother announced a new name for our providential endeavors, namely “Heavenly Parent’s Holy Community.” At the same time, she also announced that from now on, our New Year will begin in the Spring. Heavenly Parent’s Day (formerly 1.1) will be celebrated on 3.16 of the heavenly calendar, the anniversary of True Parents’ Holy Wedding.

In the context of world religions, I offer some thoughts on these major announcements.

The Marriage Supper of the Lamb: From Persecution to Celebration

In chapter 19 of John’s Revelation, the Marriage Supper of the Lamb is prophesied as a momentous event, accompanied by great rejoicing: “Hallelujah! For the Lord our God the Almighty reigns. Let us rejoice and exult and give him the glory, for the marriage of the Lamb has come, and his Bride has made herself ready” (Rev. 19:6b-7, RSV).

Yet, as we know, that most holy event happened in the midst of terrible persecution. True Father explains: “Despite the global and cosmic significance of that ceremony, in reality it was held in the presence of a small number of people and amid persecution that was beyond imagination.” (CSG, 1233-34)

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Unification Faith Parenting: Thirteen Best Practices

By Jennifer Tanabe

Unification Faith Parenting: 13 Best Practices, by Michael H. Kiely, a recent publication I edited, is based on his dissertation for the Doctor of Ministry degree at Unification Theological Seminary.

Much more than an academic exercise, it documents the real-life faith parenting experiences of six Unification families, an opportunity for first generation parents and their adult second generation children to share what worked and what didn’t in passing on their faith.

Their honest testimonies are fascinating, funny, heartbreaking, and enlightening. They faced practical as well as spiritual challenges, adapted when things went wrong, and celebrated when they experienced success. The understanding gained from their experiences is presented in the form of 13 “best practices”:

1. Attend passionately
2. Model attendance with love
3. Read the word together and translate it
4. Trust in heaven and in original nature
5. Love each other, and love children unconditionally
6. Know and understand them
7. Converse with them
8. Practice heavenly tradition together
9. Pray for them
10. Protect their virginity for the blessing
11. Liberate ancestors and other spirits and bless them
12. Create and shape the environment
13. Keep learning, adapting and trying new things

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