I was a kid in the 1970’s when the Unification Church, founded by Reverend Sun Myung Moon, was alive and well in the United States. All I can really remember about the “Moonies” was my mother talking about them and emphasizing to stay away from anyone who suggests that being a member was a better way of life. It all seemed so mysterious to me. Sometimes, these lessons from parents and adults can go either way. The “lessons” can instill the fear of God, or be just enough of a spark to promote the need to learn more, or even join in. The “Fear of God” won, but I still had a need to know more.
I’ve always been a curious person. I spent years as a child and young adult fearing the Moonies, while also feeling a pull to understand them and Reverend Moon’s teachings. At the age of 25, when I was in college, I took a course called “Successful Utopias”. I was utterly fascinated by the study of groups of people, how they formed, how some survived, and how some didn’t. I certainly didn’t make it my life’s calling because I can’t speak with any authority much beyond what I learned in class about the many groups we studied, but I took this opportunity to delve into learning more about the Moonies and the Unification Church.
While I was taking this class, I went to New York City where my brother, Vincent lives, and asked him for a special favor. “Please bring me to the Old New Yorker Hotel”, the official local Headquarters for this movement. My friend, Bev, went with me. When we arrived at Headquarters in the heart of Manhattan, we were scared. I’m not really sure what we were afraid of…..maybe the inevitable lure of belonging to something “great”, as was thought by so many followers. But, we didn’t let that stop us, because were equally curious. With Vincent as out protector, (we expected him to bail us out if things got out of hand) we entered the hotel. Bev and I changed our names to Alice and Cindy. It seemed like the logical thing to do, but we weren’t sure why. (I guess anonymity is a layer of protection)
“Alice” and I met Paco. We asked what he did as an involved member of the Unification Church. His answer was vague, and he suggested that we talk to a higher up to learn more about the benefits of becoming a Moonie. A shiver went up my spine. I said, “That’s OK. We were just passing by and decided on a visit. We don’t have time at the moment to meet with anyone else. We’re on a tight schedule, and have to meet some friends in a little while. Thanks for the offer, though.” None of this was true, but it was our method for avoiding being “kidnapped”.
We followed Paco out into the Manhattan eveing, a never-ending mecca for interesting culture. He was carrying a large tube of flowers to sell as a way of fulfilling his role as a Unification Church member. We went the other way.
My curiosity of the Moonies has lasted a life time. I haven’t followed or tried to understand them in years, and was jolted when I read the story of Reverend Moon’s passing this morning. It created another spark and a remembrance of the feeling of wanting to understand this mysterious movement. It’s likely I won’t pursue this pull for understanding. Some things are better left in mystical form. I’m not sure I could ever really grasp it all, anyway.
The link below is a CNN article on the Late Reverend.