40 Years in America

Beyond the Wilderness Course 1986Ė1992

The closing Banquet at the First World Culture and Sports Festival

The movement and Rev. Moon had absorbed the worst that American society in the 1970s and 1980s could offer: continual derision and harassment, religious kidnapping and deprogramming, investigations from virtually every Federal enforcement agency, discriminatory legislation at local levels of government, indictment, prosecution and imprisonment. Rev. Moon may have been deported if it were not for a federal judgeís "binding recommendation" to the INS. In spite of all this, the movement not only survived but established a far more solid infrastructure than it had possessed previously. As a consequence, the movement was ready to enter upon a decisive new era. Just prior to his final release from prison, on August 16, 1985, Rev. Moon conducted an Il Seung Il or "Total Victory Day" ceremony. As he proudly declared, this meant "my mission... which God ordained me to accomplish in the United States, has been victoriously fulfilled." This was reminiscent of a declaration he made after successfully completing the Washington Monument rally. However, this time, the stakes were higher. The victory of Danbury not only completed his responsibility in America but in Rev. Moonís understanding, also closed out a forty-year "wilderness course" which extended from the beginning of his public ministry in 1945.

The numerical correspondences were striking. World War II ended when Japan surrendered, and Korea was liberated. Rev. Moon began his public ministry at that time. He hoped to be able to cooperate with Korean and American Christians as well as the fledgling political parties to unify the peninsula, especially the north where Soviet occupation forces were solidifying their position. However, this did not occur. His efforts were rebuffed and by 1948, the peninsula was divided between the Soviet-backed Democratic Peopleís Republic of Korea (DPRK) in the North and the American-supported Republic of Korea (ROK) in the South. Rejected in the South, Rev. Moon was arrested in February 1948 by communist authorities in the North, convicted of disturbing the social order, and given a five-year prison term in a labor camp. He was liberated by advancing UN troops in October 1950, but continued rejection by Korean Christianity led to his founding the Holy Spirit Association for the Unification of World Christianity or Unification Church in 1954. For Rev. Moon, the whole painful "wilderness course" of 1945Ė85 had gone full circle, and he was in precisely the same position as he had been at the start of his ministry. In fact, to his mind, he was more solidly situated to accomplish on a worldwide scale what he couldnít accomplish in Korea.

For Rev. Moon, the course of action was clear. What he needed to do was connect his foundation in America, particularly the unity he had attained with Christianity, to Korea. To do so, he had to end the feud with the U.S. government and unite rather than fight with public officials. Prior to his release from prison, Rev. Moon already determined that religious liberty activities had run their course and needed to be succeeded by "victory over communism." Thus, after 1985, he increasingly focused his attention on funding leadership seminars and VOC organizations of various types. Mindful of the elections that had divided the Korean peninsula in 1948, he concluded that the three years leading up to the 1988 elections in Korea, Japan and the United States were critical. If the West held its ground, demonstrated resolve, and chose the right leadership, he predicted this would likely lead to "the collapse of the Soviet empire" and the beginning of a new global order. He foresaw this process taking seven years. Continuing with the Old Testament motif, the wilderness course was to be followed by a seven-year period of settlement into the worldwide Canaan between 1985-92.

Rev. Moon was amazingly prescient in his statements relating to the downfall of communism. In addition, just as with his involvement in the religious liberty struggle, his sense of timing was impeccable. Rev. Moon and the movement rode the wave of history during the latter 1980s and early 1990s, achieving breakthroughs that would have been unimaginable only a few years earlier. These included his consummating a march on Moscow and meeting publicly with Mikhail Gorbachev, which many South Koreans believed helped pave the way for Moscowís subsequent agreement to establish diplomatic ties with Seoul. It also led to thousands of Soviet students attending workshops in Unification theology and hundreds of Soviet deputies participating in movement-sponsored American Leadership Seminars in the United States that included "victory over communism" theory among the presentations! An agreement with communist China to construct a $250 million car plant in Huizhou, Guangdong province, the largest wholly owned foreign enterprise in the country, was another breakthrough. Rev. Moonís receipt of an invitation to visit

North Korea and his meeting with North Korean Premier Kim Il Sung was an equally unthinkable event. A few months after the visit, Kim Il Sung gave his first interview to the Western press in twenty years, to The Washington Times. Shortly thereafter, in response to a movement-sponsored forty-person delegation to Pyongyang, the DPRK made a unilateral decision to cancel its annual anti-American demonstrations that had taken place every year since the end of the Korean War, and they have remained suspended since that time.

The downfall of communism led to changes in the movementís approach that many found surprising. The first was the ease and rapidity with which it moved to cultivate contacts and gain influence within the communist bloc. The second was the extent to which the movementís messianic premises became explicit. In reality, neither of these developments should have come as a surprise. It has been pointed out that the movement parted company from reactionary anti-Communists in that it did not seek to preserve the status quo and that its presentations highlighted confusion in the Western system of values. In 1987, Rev. Moon repudiated an exclusive identification with the Right by creating the term "head-wing" to identify the movementís posture. As he put it, "we encompass, we embrace the right and left wings and bring both wings up to the highest possible spiritual ideal." To some extent, this resulted from the realization that its alignment with unadorned conservatism was self-limiting and that rightist agendas were too easily dominated by protectionist, individualist, nationalist and racist interests. Thus, communismís collapse and the end of the cold war began to dissolve what one member termed "the glue that has held us to the conservative movement." As a consequence, the movement began diversifying its interests and broadening its options.

That the messianic premises became more explicit also should not have come as a surprise, particularly during an era that some viewed as "the end of history." The movementís messianism already was well established. In addition to being an evangelist, industrialist and anti-communist, Rev. Moon commonly was typed as a Korean messiah. The movementís understanding of Rev. Moonís position was something of a messianic secret, though a poorly kept one. The Divine Principle, for example, expounded an elaborate dispensational view of history leading to the conclusion that the messiah was to be born in Korea between 1917-30. Passages from Rev. Moonís in-house speeches, which the press frequently seized upon, also contained unmistakable references to his messianic status. Nevertheless, the movement was not willing to concede publicly that Rev. Moon was anything more than a contemporary prophet "crying out in the wilderness of the twentieth century." In response to courtroom grilling, Rev. Moon once conceded that he was a "potential messiah." However, this all changed with the downfall of communism and the further accumulation of the movementís worldwide foundation. In 1990, Rev. Moon began speaking more explicitly about his identity and by 1992, he eliminated any remnant of ambiguity by declaring that he and Mrs. Moon were "the True Parents of all humanity...the Savior, the Lord of the Second Advent, the Messiah." One member noted, "He could finally declare the words that he had waited half a century to proclaim."

A number of new federations and events, breathtaking even by Unification standards, accompanied these declarations. However, this did not mean that the movement entered the promised land of messianic fulfillment. Except for Japan, where public hostility ran high, direct attacks against the movement in most countries had dissipated. Still, relatively few outside of the movementís core membership were ready to accord full credence to Rev. Moonís messianic proclamation. Although a few long-time supporters expressed dismay or became alienated, the fallout was by no means as severe as some expected. The more serious challenges were internal. There was a sense of spiritual dryness among some long-term members; others yearned for internal renewal. These elements led to "channeling" from the spiritual world and eventually into worldwide revival conferences and confessionals conducted by a young Black Zimbabwean member who gained recognition as the "returning resurrection" of Heung Jin Moon, Rev. Moonís deceased second son.

While many members found renewal, the extreme elements of these meetings and the young manís ultimate apostasy created a situation that confused some. Another issue was financial. Most movement businesses and certainly its media outlets operated at a deficit. This, combined with ever more monetary commitments and an outcry against fundraising methods in Japan, produced a money pinch which led to increased borrowing. A better solution would have been to increase its membership base. However, a hometown providence under which members witnessed to their families and friends did not produce significant enough results. These were only a few of the ongoing issues that need to be factored into a full account of the 1985-92 period.

The March to Moscow

Rev. Moon hoped to have conducted a Moscow rally by 1981, but this was prolonged for nearly a decade due to court battles in the U.S. and the need to build up a stronger movement infrastructure. Having concluded this struggle and established a multi-faceted presence in America by 1985, he mounted a march on Moscow between 1985-92, which yielded substantially higher returns than would have been the case if he had gone earlier. At the same time, the Moscow "rally" was different than most members imagined. The common understanding during the 1970s was that it would be conducted as the Yankee Stadium or Washington Monument rallies, on Red Square. There was a militant spirit and sense of high drama among members, even a willingness to go the course of martyrdom if necessary. Their slogan was "Must go Moscow!" As it turned out, Rev. Moon went to Moscow in April 1990 by invitation. The Moscow News called Rev. Moon a "brilliant anti-communist" and "enemy of the state" but added that it was "time to reconcile." For his part, Rev. Moon said that he loved the Soviet people and expected the Soviet Union "to play a major role in the plan of God to construct a world of peace." The Far Eastern Economic Review stated, "Of all the strange images to emerge as communism tottered and frequently collapsed over the past year or so, few have been stranger than that of a smiling Mikhail Gorbachov posing arm in arm with Moon Sun Myung, the South Korean preacher best known for his fierce anti-communism."

The question was how this state of affairs came about. The secret seemed to be in the movementís ability to pursue a hard-line victory-over-communism position while at the same time assiduously cultivating contacts within the U.S.S.R. Thus, while Rev. Moon never compromised his principled opposition to communism, he attempted to include representatives from Soviet bloc nations in his activities. He invited numerous Soviet journalists to participate in the annual World Media Conferences and eventually many did. He supported fact-finding tours and exchanges for both Western and Soviet journalists. He also took an interest in Russian cultural life and the arts, particularly ballet. Finally, he was not adverse to hinting broadly about his investment interests in the U.S.S.R. or contributing funds to worthy causes. In short, Unificationists were not dogmatic anti-communists. Many of Rev. Moonís overtures were met with suspicion.

However, over time and under altered circumstances, the contacts that he was able to establish proved decisive in gaining access to Soviet leadership.

Rev. Moon understood that the Soviets respected strength and that any perceived weakness on the part of the West would set back the providence. Therefore, he continued to expend resources in the fight against communism. A good example of how forceful resistance rather than appeasement was the way to meaningful engagement with the Soviets was The Washington Timesí opposition to Gorbachev addressing a joint session of Congress. According to Dr. Thomas Ward, executive vice-president of CAUSA International,

This privilege had previously only been extended to foreign dignitaries who were strong allies of the United States... nonetheless, the White House and democratic congressional leaders apparently had negotiated behind the scenes to afford this honor to President Gorbachev on December 9 [1987], during the Reagan-Gorbachev Summit in Washington, D.C. However, The Washington Timesí breaking of the story and its follow-up coverage and editorializing helped generate a furor among conservative lawmakers.

The "swelling chorus of opposition" led supporters of the invitation "to begin backpedaling...and to totally abandon plans for the address by November 22." Nevertheless, according to Ward, "In the months following this public embarrassment, President Gorbachev took a number of steps, including his announcement to withdraw Soviet troops from Afghanistan, which clearly established glasnost as more than a political ploy." In addition, a few days after Gorbachevís invitation to address Congress was rescinded, "a Soviet delegation requested a visit to The Washington Times...[and] Soviet journalists...request[ed] an exchange with the World Media Association."

Between 1983-85, CAUSA USA focused primarily on ministers through the CAUSA Ministerial Alliance. However, beginning in 1986, Rev. Moon began to extend its activities into the civic sphere. On September 1, he launched a massive signature drive. The goal was to obtain ten million signatures, including names and addresses, on a form stating that they agreed with CAUSA USAís goals to,

(1) Affirm a God-centered morality in America,
(2) Uphold freedom for all,
(3) Educate people about the dangers of atheistic communism.

Members and some supporters worked aggressively in all fifty states to complete the drive by Thanksgiving. The signature drive "victory" had an especially positive effect on members who gained in self-esteem and confidence as a result of finally being able to accomplish one of Rev. Moonís goals on the national level. The organizationís publication, The CAUSA Report sought to promote grassroots activism and offered practical guidance on communicating with local government and elected officials.

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