To Bigotry, No Sanction, Reverend Sun Myung Moon and the Unification Church
by Dr. Mose Durst
3. The Spiritual Parent and the Spiritual Community
Onni, my spiritual parent, never had any doubt about the reality of the spiritual world. Inspired by the vision, she took on the role of spiritual parent to me by raising me up to a large vision, a great love, and a grand commitment to an idea. The spiritual child rearing began with a focus on meditation, introspection and, above all, to a life of constant prayer. As a spiritual parent she was to teach me about prayer as a way to know myself and to know God.
I remember those powerful prayers with her as well as the quiet and gentle ones, the strong prayers of exhortation and the sorrowful prayers of repentance. My first prayer with Onni took place on a Sunday morning at Lake Merritt in Oakland several weeks after I met her in 1972. Reverend Moon, on his first world tour in 1965, dedicated "holy grounds" in forty nations. These are essentially prayer grounds dedicated to God and to His purpose. Church members often go to these prayer grounds to pray to God for the world, for their nation, and for their city. They may then dedicate additional "holy grounds" in their own cities. A small grove of pine trees near Lake Merritt is the "holy ground" in Oakland.
Church members regularly go to holy grounds at five a.m. on Sunday morning. As in other religious traditions, we rise early and seek first to claim the world for God before the world has a chance to sin. On this particular Sunday, Onni wore a long quilt dress with a huge purple coat. About twelve of us arrived at the lake, scattered about the grove, and then, one by one, began to pray. My heart beat quickly as the childhood scene of the synagogue flashed back into my mind. The prayer here seemed, like the one in the synagogue, somewhat strange and a little disconcerting. I heard, however, Onni crying out to God that she might comfort His heart and that He could use her life for His purpose. I began to understand the meaning of the devoted child who seeks to comfort the grieving parent.
I myself began praying instead of listening. I felt a certain strength coming from within me. I felt a connectedness to the huge pine tree in the center of the holy ground, to the lake, to those praying around me, and to the God whom I wanted so desperately to know and feel. I felt as though I were awakening from a long sleep.
I can visualize Onni quietly praying on her knees by the small table in her room, and I can hear the powerful volume of her prayers as she stands amidst swirling fog atop Twin Peaks in San Francisco. I can see her praying in the Berkeley Hills, overlooking the lovely lights of the city. I hear the passionate prayer she offers at the end of a seminar in Boonville, California.
Prayer, then, was the primary way that Onni sought to guide me and take responsibility for my spiritual life. The basis of the parent-child relationship is trust and love centered upon a valued purpose. If we feel that our parents love us, and if we value the purpose of their lives, then we trust that they will be able to guide us properly, and we are generally willing to follow their guidance. Onni was guiding me into a knowledge of God and into an awareness of God-centered ethical action.
A parent is one who is responsible for raising a child physically, morally, and spiritually. In our own culture, however, because of the tremendous breakdown of families, children often lack or mistrust moral and spiritual guidance. Consequently, adults are often moral and spiritual infants. We frequently resent the advice of our parents because we don't respect the purpose of their lives; the very concept of parent is denigrated. Many young people no longer wish to assume the burden of parenthood.
The church and school that have historically functioned in loco parentis become objects that young people rebel against or view with indifference. We sometimes think of a parent as someone who controls or dominates by sheer power. It is rare that a young person trusts the wisdom and love of his parents. It is even rarer that the wisdom and love of parents can lead one to an understanding and love of God.
A spiritual parent in the Unification movement seeks to teach about God as the parent of mankind. We come to know God's parental heart by caring for and loving others. As we seek to be an example of a true parent, we care for those who are physically and spiritually younger than we are. We refer to Reverend and Mrs. Moon as the "True Parents" of our church, for we believe that they give us a God-centered wisdom and love by which we may mature in our spiritual lives. We thus hope to become "true parents" ourselves; we have this hope for all human beings.
Ironically, as we in the Unification movement seek to give God's parental love to a world that resembles an orphanage, we set ourselves up as objects of hate and rebellion. By genuinely seeking to care for others, we may act foolishly, especially if we are immature. Further, the unresolved conflicts individuals have with their physical families will be carried over to their spiritual parents. Gaining spiritual life and giving it to others, from my experience, is the most difficult process imaginable.
Tragically, some parents have reacted bitterly when church members speak of spiritual parents, or of Reverend and Mrs. Moon as "true parents." The physical parent feels threatened, and feels the child (the adult child that is, for the average age of church members in the United States is 28 years) no longer loves him. This, indeed, is tragic, for our purpose is to recreate a God-centered love within the family. Every member of our church is taught to love his family as the central unit through which God can establish His ideal on earth.
In the early years of the Unification movement in the United States, individuals have given of themselves with a great dedication that has not always been to the liking of their families. "Why don't you spend time in your hometown? Why don't you take over the family business? Why don't you spend time with us, your real family?" These concerns are genuine, and individuals must always be responsible for working out their unique situations. Nevertheless, a religious calling has always demanded hard choices.
It must have been very difficult for Abraham, father of the Jewish faith, to reconcile his religious calling with the demands of his father, the idol maker. The parents of Saint Francis were outraged by his decision to abandon a promising commercial future. How could he talk about loving his Heavenly Father and all of creation, when he didn't even listen to or love his own family? Saint Thomas Aquinas' family did not at first look favorably upon their son's religious calling. He was abducted by his mother and brother and imprisoned in a tower with a prostitute, in an effort to tempt him away from his religious commitment.
Several years ago in San Francisco I introduced a young man to our movement after he had graduated from an East Coast college. I sought to share with him whatever love and understanding I possessed. He was moved by our ideals, by our loving community, and by the purposeful direction he could give his life. Several weeks after he became involved with our church, his parents came to visit. The father was fearful about his son, hateful toward me, and mistrustful of everything going on. He had no questions to ask, of course, and feigned indifference to his son's involvement. Not long afterwards the young man was kidnapped by criminals hired by his parents. Held in an isolated setting for several weeks, he was accused incessantly of being brainwashed until finally his trust in our church was broken. Then he was immediately rushed to the media, where he could make a "true confession" about the false, deceptive love in our church, and about myself as the chief deceiver. All I could feel was a pain, as though I had been kicked in the heart.
If I felt some suffering for my spiritual son, I was made even more aware of the central reality of our spiritual life: God suffers. I was to learn that the major responsibility of life is to be a representative of God in the world. Whenever I talk to anyone, I feel I have to represent God's heart and God's love to him or her. If a person attends a seminar, comes into the church, or is just a friend, I, as the spiritual parent, try to live for that person. For if God is a being of love, of care, and of nourishment, then I can resemble God most by loving, caring, and nourishing others. The way I grow as an individual is to live for someone else. When I speak to a spiritual child, I try to do so with a purposeful heart of love. If my spiritual child has greater wisdom and love than I do, then I receive even more than I give, and I am then in the role of spiritual child. And if my spiritual child returns hatred for my love, all I can do is continue to love and remember the One who suffers for everyone's hatred.
It is not uncommon for a spiritual parent to fast three, four, even seven days in sacrifice for the well-being of his spiritual child. On my own prayer list are spiritual children who committed their lives to God over ten years ago. Spiritual parenting is not a technique. Like prayer itself, the desire to be a spiritual parent means that we must constantly extend the most sincere part of our being toward the welfare of another. Every individual is confronted with loneliness, grief, despair. If, however, we have the entire human family as a source of comfort and sustenance, then where is the evil? The immediate, concrete realization we have when we become a spiritual parent is that we are all connected to God, who is our Heavenly Parent. When we in the Unification movement speak of each other as brothers and sisters, this is a reality to us; it is not mere words.
On God's Day (a Unification Church Holy Day celebrated on January 1,) 1973, 1 wrote in my diary:
It has been a beautiful, full, and fulfilling first day of the year. When we returned from Mendocino yesterday, then went into San Francisco for the ten p.m. God's Day ceremony, I didn't realize how rich and joyful the day would be. It is so clean and good now to dedicate my life to serve mankind. The Divine Principle seems so simple at the moment:
To think always of others first
To do for others first
To have faith in Heavenly Father, and
To understand that Heavenly Father wants to restore mankind.
It seems obvious that I and our spiritual family must be an example to the world and to this country of our total dedication to others.
After joining the church, it became clear that we needed a home for spiritual parenting. That is why Boonville, our seminar facility, was begun. Boonville simply was a place to teach the Divine Principle to inquiring people. It was and is a classical religious retreat center. We did not use duplicity to get people to visit Boonville, and certainly never used force to hold them there against their will. To the contrary, so important is it to maintain a positive spiritual and educational atmosphere at a workshop that we gladly would encourage anyone to leave who did not want to stay. We did not want hostility to poison the atmosphere. The spiritual retreat at Boonville was meant to be an environment where one could study ideals and seek to actualize them in the midst of like-minded people.
Boonville, California, is a small town about 120 miles north of San Francisco. The seminar facility is actually a former sheep ranch nestled in the hills of Mendocino County, about twenty miles from the Pacific Ocean. Several house trailers were purchased and placed on the flat part of the land, below the hills, next to a creek. About forty acres of cultivated land fronts the highway, which runs through the town to the coast. An apple orchard, which yields abundant harvest, is situated on one part of the front land.
The first time I arrived in Boonville, on a Friday night, from the San Francisco Bay area, I was struck with the fresh air, bright star-filled sky, and pervasive sense of peace. I took my sleeping bag and walked over the small bridge that crossed the creek, to the large white trailer which was reserved for men. There were about fifteen brothers in the trailer, and we immediately unrolled our sleeping bags and readied for sleep after the long drive from San Francisco.
I awoke in the morning at seven a.m. to the sound of a guitar and someone singing "You are my sunshine." There was a sense of excitement as to what the day would bring. After cleaning up, I walked out of the trailer and was struck by the vividness of the green grass and blue, cloudless sky. My host for the weekend, a young man who was also a church member, was anxious to be friendly and attend to my needs, to act as my spiritual parent for the weekend.
Although to this day the pattern of a weekend seminar, or a weeklong seminar, remains essentially the same, I am always struck by how the simple environment of a country retreat allows one to contemplate the most complex questions of life. I am reminded of how Thoreau's desire, in going to Walden, was to "simplify, simplify, simplify. " Once Thoreau could simplify life, he could then ponder the serious, complicated questions about the nature of God and God's work in the world.
The great power of a Unification seminar, at Boonville or anywhere else, is the theme of the lectures and discussion. How often can one set aside several days to think about God, His nature, and creation? How often do people take time, in depth, to examine their relationship with God? How often do people examine the nature of evil and the tragedy of human history? How often do people question how they can most effectively work together to actualize God's ideal in human community? These are the topics of lecture-discussions at any Unification seminar, and they were the topics at my first seminar, when my mind and heart began to awaken to a new realization of God in my life.
Many books about the Unification doctrine have now been written by scholars who are not themselves Unificationists. Professor Herbert Richardson of the University of Toronto (formerly of Harvard University) has said that the Divine Principle is perhaps the most significant theology of the twentieth century. But how have the media dealt with Boonville and Unification principles? By writing about the food or the alleged and non-existent barbed wire fences.
I know of almost no article, out of thousands written about us, that deals with the content of Unification teaching. News media emphasize the "indoctrination techniques" as opposed to the reality of three one-hour lectures each day followed by discussion. At times, newspapers talk of Unificationists "love-bombing" those who attend. Such a cynical description! Where else can one truly feel the love of God if not in an environment dedicated to expressing it?
Even the lovely environment of the Mendocino country has been reduced by the media to the fifty feet (total length) of deer fence that surrounds our vegetable garden. Our seven hundred acre ranch, which borders other hills and ranches, could not be adequately fenced in by the U.S. Army. Yet, endless stories appeared as to "How I Escaped from Moonie Stronghold." The bus station in the town of Boonville is five hundred yards from our ranch's entrance.
Boonville was always meant to be an environment where our spiritual community could build its foundation through caring relationships. Spiritual parenting is a large part of the dynamics of every seminar. Every church member feels that he must act as an elder, a parent, to his guests by caring for them, serving them, and teaching them. Unfortunately, this has not always been done in the most comprehensive way, for the spiritual parent has often been a young church member and the guest sometimes resents being cared for. This simple failure of relationships has sometimes led to the false charges of "pressure" and "coercion" as techniques used by the Unification Church.
I remember a wealthy lady who came to Boonville in the summer of 1974 for a weekend seminar. She was invited by a woman in her early twenties who had been a member of our church for several weeks. I noticed these two women during breakfast on Saturday morning, for the older one wanted to take a walk in the woods and the younger was anxious to explain that the purpose of the weekend was to participate in a seminar. Somehow, both women managed to arrive in the lecture hall about a half-hour late. I learned later that the guest wanted to dominate the discussion hour by explaining some facts about astrology. She was asked by our sister to focus her remarks on the content of the lecture. The lady was indignant. Finally, after dinner, everyone was asked to participate in a group song. The lady could bear the experience no longer and left in a huff, asking to be driven back to San Francisco. For many months after, we heard stories about this woman's terrible experience at Boonville.
No news article ever spoke about drug abuse, sexual exploitation, or criminal behavior at Unification seminars. There was none. The complaint, as it has more or less appeared in mental health legislation in various states, was that people who came to our seminars often changed 180 degrees. They no longer acted as they had in the past. Sacrifice, public mindedness, and public spirit were the virtues we sought to teach, and people rarely came to our seminars with an abundance of these.
Through care, respect, and love, and not by fear, hypnotism, or brainwashing, we seek to draw out the individual's divine potential. Rather than doing anything to drag a person down, we seek always to build someone up. We have always discouraged and proscribed the taking of drugs, liquor, or cigarettes, and we discourage sexual promiscuity. We exhort people to respect the body as a temple of God, and hope to inspire those who have experienced our Unification community to establish a God-centered family of their own.
When people hear our ideals they sometimes feel threatened. They've become used to boxing themselves up in little rooms and are fearful that they may have to encounter the depth of themselves and the full challenge of life. We teach that it is necessary to stand up for ideals in an age that often scorns them. We encourage the young to love their country, but, more importantly, we emphasize the need to love the world. Though we teach people that the great heroes of the world were Buddha, Moses, Jesus, we point out that every nation has its righteous men and women. We teach people how to sing and "make a joyful noise unto the Lord. " We teach those in our seminars to reflect God's nature, to imitate Christ. That is the basis of our life. It is an ideal that is scorned by the world. It is considered crazy. Well, if the world is normal as it is, we choose to be crazy. That is the ultimate basis of our life. It is the basis of the road that Jesus walked. It is the declared basis of the Roman Catholic and Protestant churches. We are receiving the same scorn and rejection Jesus did, and we are happy to take it if it helps others become more loving and giving. That is our purpose. And that is what goes on at that "awful Boonville place"!
The seminar, of course, was never an end in itself. On Sunday night most people returned to their life in the city. At most, out of those guests who were new, perhaps ten percent would stay for a seven-day or twenty-one day seminar. But then they too would have to return to the city to deal with the complexities of a world not seeking to embody God's ideal. I had to return to teaching my classes at an inner-city college; Dr. George, another member, would return to his computer firm; Kristina would return to her consulting job.
In the early days of our movement in the United States, most single members lived in church centers. These were either small centers like the one on Dana Street, or larger ones such as the fraternity house across from campus on Hearst Street in Berkeley. This latter house, of course, was dubbed the "Hearst mansion" by the media. According to them, Unification members never live in houses, only mansions. And Reverend Moon never lives in parsonages owned by the church, only on estates.
The members' living situations were somewhat unique to the United States. In Korea and Japan, as well as in other countries, members usually live in their own apartments or houses and attend worship services or other activities in a community church center. Of course, wherever the movement sent out missionaries there would be an initial stage in which members would live in a church center while establishing a larger foundation.
Now that a strong foundation has been laid in the United States, most of our members are married, they have begun their families, and they live in their own homes and work at jobs just like members of any other faith. The goal of the Unification movement is not to build a new denominational community, but rather to strengthen the larger human community.
The value of a spiritual community, however, within a church center or within the larger community, is central to the intentions of the Unification movement. Ultimately, we see the family and home as the basic building block for God's ideal in the world. We believe the home should be where God dwells, and that a mature man and woman are the fullest reflections of His nature. We believe parents should give not only physical life to children, but spiritual life, too. The family and the community in modern society are not of the ideals God intended. The spiritual community, or spiritual family, can be the transitional element in uplifting the larger human community.
The elements guiding the daily life of Unification members are devotion, study, and service. When my wife lived by herself, as she pioneered in Oakland, she prayed at five a.m. each morning, sang holy songs after prayer and studied. In the evening she would try to visit those who she believed needed God's truth and love. Finally, she would return home and pray again before going to bed. This remains the basic pattern of a Unification Church member's life.
Prayer to God is the core of our life, and we continually receive new awareness about God and ourselves through the process of prayer. We try to train ourselves to be pure vessels that God can fill with His holy love. Prayer, moreover, is not limited to formal moments. We pray at all times and in the most unusual places. I remember my wife and I praying at a parking meter before we were to visit a friend. What a holy altar! My assistant Jeremiah and I have prayed in numerous elevators. I prayed in my office at the college before each of my classes. I prayed that God could use me as a teacher, and I prayed that I could value, respect, and love my students, even when neither I nor they were so lovable.
Members of our movement are continually filled with the spirit of God's creativity, and they have created numerous poems, songs, dances, and other works of art. Not a day or week goes by without some new creation. Reverend Moon himself has written songs like the following:
Come, my brethen, spring has come to the Garden and the flowers bloom.
Brethen, sing happily, sing for the spring.
All come, dance, and sing new songs.
Come, my brethen, into the Garden,
The Garden of flowers where we dance to a song of joy.
All my brothers are happy; they all gather and dance to a new song.
Come, my brothers, gather in the Garden.
Sing your happy song.
My brothers of Eden with eternally glad hearts,
All gather and dance to new songs.
(Translation from the Korean)
I have found that when people are motivated by high ideals, and where there is a spirit of care and cooperation that pervades a community, creativity overflows.
One of our members is now completing a major American opera about California; it will be produced this year. A graduate student who is a member of our church and who is working on his Ph.D. at Harvard, just notified me that an article of his has been published in the Harvard Theological Review. Several of our members who work on a New York daily newspaper have just received prizes in journalism. And I would give a prize for my sister Judyann's coffee cake.
When people in our community create, they genuinely want to bring joy to others. The purpose of life, we believe, is to experience joy, by fulfilling our God-centered love and ideals in service to others. But just because our purpose is joy does not mean that we do not experience the entire range of emotions. As I write this chapter in New York, my wife is on a church-related trip to Korea, and my beloved children are at home with my in-laws in California. This is very painful to me; I would rather our family be together each day. But I realize that the larger human family needs my work here in New York today, and it needs me at a revival meeting in Kansas tomorrow. Most of our members who are establishing the foundation for our movement in America are making similar sacrifices.
Some accuse us of working many hours a day, not caring enough for our families, and being hopelessly naive in our idealism. Well, I do not know of any member of our movement who enjoys sacrifice as a kind of sadism. We are all hurt when our loved ones do not understand the nature of our sacrifice, as we are hurt when those who do not love us do not care about our sacrifices. We are sober super-realists who understand the difficulty of trying to make the world a better place and of trying to make ourselves better people.
What is different about us is our purpose, our ideal, and how we deal with difficulties. When people say nasty things about us, we might want to immediately respond in a nasty way, but we are guided by a purpose that teaches us to temper our anger with love. When we see members of our church do foolish things, we momentarily lose hope that we can ever build a rational, caring world. We ourselves face moments when the task seems too great, our shortcomings too numerous, and the world too cruel. And so we despair.
I know of no member who does not face these challenges. To succeed as members of the Unification movement we must become people of physical health, mental health, and spiritual maturity. Sometimes I am asked how such and such a person could have left our movement. Sometimes I wonder how anyone is strong enough to continue the quest and remain.
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