40 Years in America

An Unforgettable Era

Having come to the conclusion of a hugely eventful forty years of history for the Unification Movement in America and throughout the world, it remains to be questioned whether the period constituted a distinctive era. Members often inspired themselves with the sentiment that they were participating in events that were unique and never to be repeated in human history. Certainly, the pace was frenetic. However, there also were times of inwardness. The movement breathed out and it breathed in. The 1960s, in America, clearly was a time of planting. While the society around the movement exploded, the movement set down roots. It breathed in, taking up nourishment from the new soil to which it was transplanted. Then, during the 1970s, when the wider society settled down to become the "Me" decade, the Unification movement exploded. It not only breathed out, but it sneezed seemingly all over America and the response was not "God bless you." In fact, the negative reaction was such that it virtually sent the movement underground. During the 1980s, the movement breathed in again. If sowing imagery was appropriate for the 1960s, machine metaphors worked better for the 1980s. In America, the movement constructed an elaborate infrastructure of organizations that was to serve as the engine of its worldwide advance. During the 1990s, that engine took off. The movement breathed out. It was active on so many fronts that Rev. and Mrs. Moon seemed to be leading three or four different movements simultaneously.

The fact that there was a discernable pattern did not directly address the question of whether the era as a whole possessed a distinctiveness that set it apart from previous periods and would set it apart from periods to follow. This question was not absolutely answerable. To do so, particularly from a vantage point either within or barely removed from the period under consideration, was to impose oneís own categories of interpretation upon dynamic, historical reality. Nevertheless, this was something that most members were more than willing to do. The leading line of interpretation at the close of the century was that the movement and increasingly the wider society was entering a settlement era. This, of course, was the basic premise of the Completed Testament Age. Rev. Moon had proclaimed several previous beginnings of cosmic spring and conclusions to providential history. However, at centuryís end, there was a stronger consensus that this, in fact, had occurred. To be sure, the new age grew up within the old, and the initial stages of the Completed Testament Age were acknowledged to be transitional. Yet the collapse of communism, the globalization of the Blessing, the victories in the spirit world, and the Edenic potential of the movementís settlement in the pristine South American outback were indications to many that the dawn of the twenty-first century carried with it the promise of substantial fulfillment.

Therefore, the period following the tumultuous years of 1959-99 was likely to be one of consolidation. The only problem with this scenario was that it presupposed the absence of Rev. Moon. So long as Rev. Moon was present, it would be difficult to imagine the movement settling down. Even at age eighty, there were no signs of retreat. As a septuagenarian, he was as hard-driving and as driven as ever, maybe more so. There was an apocryphal account within the movementís oral tradition that once, when asked what heíd like to leave his children as an inheritance, Rev. Moon replied, "A big footstep." During the 1990s and at the turn of the century, he appeared to be pressing that footstep ever deeper into the earth. Nevertheless, there would eventually come a time when he was no longer immediately on the scene. It might be postponed several years into the new millennium, but that day was coming. This, undoubtedly, would be a time of significant transition. It might be that members would experience him to be more intimately and ubiquitously present than ever. Or Rev. Moonís passing from the immediate scene might liberate energies that had been subordinated to the service and requirements of the living messiah. Or the movement could go into a serious tailspin.

Whatever direction the movement went, the task of consolidating its outlook and tradition would become an important and unavoidable undertaking. Crucial decisions as to what aspects of its history were to be retained and carried forward and what elements were to be left behind and forgotten would be part of this. In this process, the period covered in this narrative would provide ample materials and resources with which to work. Still, it was not the whole story. The earlier period from 1920-1960 already had assumed a certain sacrosanct quality within the movementís tradition. However, that period mainly covered Rev. Moonís individual course. The period of his mature and public ministry remained to be grasped. The significance of the 1959-1999 years lay precisely there. During this period, Rev. and Mrs. Moon emerged as True Parents and carried their ministry worldwide. Their activities in America constituted only a portion of this development, but that portion was immensely important. Rev. Moon rightly saw the U.S. as the key to unlocking the rest of the world, and he concentrated the movementís efforts in America during the heart of the 1959-1999 years. In this respect, a strong case could be made that one cannot understand Rev. and Mrs. Moonís mature, public ministry without understanding the history and activities of the American movement.

If the period of Rev. and Mrs. Moonís mature, public ministry and their activities in America taught anything, it may have been that heaven and hell lay in close proximity to one another and both needed to be digested. This lesson was more apparent at the close of the period than at the beginning. Early on, members easily distinguished between the two. There was a simple formula. Heaven was in-here, and hell was out-there. However, this distinction did not stand up to scrutiny or most membersí experience. It may have been sustainable while the movement was under near-constant attack, but it could not withstand assimilation. Members saw that the United States was both the kingdom of heaven on earth and the kingdom of hell on earth. More importantly, they came to see the movement in the same light. It, too, was the kingdom of heaven and the kingdom of hell. Closer to home, members experienced inner turmoil and conflict between their idealism and selfish desires. Once they were blessed, they experienced marital bliss and marital conflict. Once they had children, they experienced parental love and intergenerational conflict.

The distinctiveness of Rev. and Mrs. Moonís teaching and example lay in their refusal to accept these ambiguities as part of the taken-for-granted fabric of life. They also refused to concede that the contradictions of history were resolvable only in the afterlife. The essence of their message and ministry was that conflicts were to be resolved at every level of human experience. This, of course, was no easy thing. The "pain of loving" preceded the "Crown of Glory" as Rev. Moon put it in an early poem, and this included the loss of their second-youngest son, just before the turn of the millennium. Hell and heaven were inextricably linked. Unificationists were no easy idealists. In his more graphic descriptions of absolute sex, Rev. Moon noted how the "palace of love" and procreation was situated on the human anatomy next to the site of refuse and elimination. There was no room to be squeamish about any natural thing.

Beyond that, there was no room to be squeamish about any unnatural thing. Without waiting for offenders to repent or even to apologize, one had to "welcome with a smile those who know nothing but deceit and those who betray without regret." Every insult, every hurt or injury needed to be digested.

Most members acknowledged that they fell well short in these areas. However, this orientation underlay Rev. and Mrs. Moonís public ministry between 1959-1999. It explained their resource expenditures, why they embraced Mikhail Gorbachev and Kim Il Sung, why they blessed the great criminals of history, and why the kingdom of heaven on earth had to start from a swamp in the South American outback. There would come a time for new insights and different methods. However, it would be a mistake for the movementís succeeding generations to enshrine the efforts chronicled in this narrative as either relics of the past or as an unattainable ideal. In their tasks, they need to revisit and draw sustenance from the movementís consummate effort to realize Godís kingdom during the latter half of the twentieth century.

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