The Words of Reverends Quebedeaux
The Power Of The Principle: Whence It Came; Where It Went
By Richard Quebedeaux
Sex, money, power. These three pivotal desires, central to human nature as we know it, are addressed and dealt with emphatically in the Unification system. Rev. Moon seeks to make sex sacred by reserving it for an arranged, monogamous marital union, not based merely on sexual attraction and romantic love, but centered on a growing "true love" which provides a proper foundation for the rearing of children. He also wants to add a sacred dimension to money, by limiting its use, almost entirely, for "the public good"-that is, for others-thus assuring the material well-being of the world as a whole. Finally, he aspires to sanctify power by servanthood, something he believes enhances the effectiveness of leadership at all levels. Virtually all members of the Unification Church are very much aware of Rev. Moon's ideals regarding the use of sex and money, however difficult it might be to realize them. But few, I'm afraid, really understand his wish to temper personal and collective power with servanthood-a most important emphasis, in part, because power makes money and sex more accessible.
The Unification "Principle," which church members-and some others-view as God's revelation to Sun Myung Moon, has been described and attested to in the various editions of Divine Principle, the book, and in commentaries on it. Almost all of Rev. Moon's speeches bear at least some relationship to that Principle. But the Principle is not a book. The aforementioned writings and speeches merely "testify" to the nature of the Principle which, properly understood, is really an entity within God himself/herself, if it is anything at all. In this connection, Unificationism is not-like traditional Christianity or Islam-a religion of "the book." It is not centered on concepts or propositions to be merely believed. Rather, Unification is preeminently a "relational theology" which demands "right action" (i.e., "orthopraxis") much more than "right opinions" (i.e., "orthodoxy"). I discovered this fact personally at the many conferences for theologians sponsored by New ERA and IRF over the years, in which much of Divine Principle-the book-was virtually "destroyed" by critical scholars; while, at the same time, those academics were captivated, almost entranced, by the power of the Principle they discerned in the lives of Unification Church members who also attended these seminars.
The "power" of the Principle derives from its relational character, its ability-when properly understood and practiced-to transform people, and to radically change their relationship to God, to others, and to their own "true selves." Everyone wants to be loved, to be taken care of, in concrete, tangible ways they can actually experience. They long for peace, for harmony; but the world, in its present, fallen state, does not exhibit these desired qualities. Rather, people are divided and estranged from one another almost everywhere. Centered only on themselves, they are resentful when they cannot get what they want; and they resent the success of other, "more powerful" people who have attained what they themselves covet, and won't share it with them.
In Rev. Moon's thinking, resentment is the root cause of all human conflict. Resentment leads to the desire for revenge, and it results in division, warfare and exclusion, rather than reconciliation and peace. Thus, communism arose when the poor and disenfranchised resented the power, wealth and selfishness of capitalists who only "used" them for their own gain. It died, in part, because communist bosses showed themselves to be no less self-centered than the capitalist bourgeoisie they condemned. Feminism emerged when talented and able women were oppressed by men who didn't love them enough, who kept them down and wanted to use them for their own selfish purposes. But it too declined when feminist women alienated their male counterparts with their own brand of self-centeredness, and put down non-feminist women who didn't fully agree with their cause. "Black power" arose when blacks resented the economic and professional success of whites who selfishly kept "the lid on the garbage pail" by keeping blacks in the jobs that enhanced white economic interests. But it died, too, when black elites who "made it," who became powerful, showed their lack of concern for the brothers and sisters who didn't make it.
This is not to say that there is anything inherently wrong with "special interest groups" which desire to remedy social inequalities in a fallen society. But all too often these same groups are, in fact, concerned only about their own communities; and, within those communities, it is mostly the case that those who attain power use it only for themselves and their own self-interests. For all practical purposes, then, everyone else can go to hell. Rev. Moon, however, has a different approach to power. In the Unification system, power is extremely important. This is why he wants to train all his followers to become leaders. But the source of Rev. Moon's type of power resides in self-sacrifice rather than self-aggrandizement. Here power to change people and their social relations is based on the love of God (God's "heart"), which is not "self-centered love," but, rather, the motivation to love others in ways they can fully experience in their day-to-day lives. Leaders are to earn power by being good. Goodness, then, is the practice of love for others, even one's enemies. Love becomes tangible and concrete when it is "fleshed out" by service and sacrifice for specific individuals, wherever they may be. In Unificationism, harmony and peace are based on loving "give and take," something that comes about through the action of men and women who always take the initiative to serve and sacrifice for others, and who do so unconditionally, intensively, persistently and without distinction based on the "merit" of those being served.
Indemnity As Restitution
Rev. Moon calls such a mode of living, such a lifestyle, "restoration through indemnity." With indemnity viewed as a persistent pattern of behavior, not as a mere doctrine to be affirmed or a rational list of rules, God's ideal for human relationships is "restored" through restitution. Restitution-in the sense of a "natural law"-assuages resentment, because it is the means by which the powerful and enfranchised give the people who feel downtrodden and powerless what they believe is rightly theirs. Indemnity means that "I'm here for you." It always asks the question, "What can I do for you?" And even before the person tells you what he or she wants, you do it, and do it "with a smile," because the act of doing it becomes your great joy. Principled people, in fact, often research and meet others' needs before they ask them, even before they know their own needs.
Restitution, paying back something taken away from another-with interest-brings about reconciliation, and unification. Indeed, without restitution there is no reconciliation. It heals and restores even the most damaged relationships, to the degree that indemnity is paid. The greater the compensation paid, the greater the reconciliation achieved. In a sense, Mr. Gorbachev paid a huge deal of indemnity to the (former) Soviet people by relinquishing his once-absolute power on their behalf, in a manner very few other political leaders have ever done. To my mind, this is his greatness.
When Rev. Moon discovered the principle of restoration through indemnity, he discovered the Principle itself, and the essence of its power. Thereafter, Rev. Moon sought to understand it fully and put it to practice in his own life and in the lives of his followers, in the same way that founders of other religions tried to flesh out the truths they had discovered.
Conferences And Indemnity
I first met members of the Unification Church late in 1977, and attended my first conference on Unification teaching-at U.T.S.-in April 1978 (a pivotal event in my life, I assure you, thanks to the indemnity practiced by the hosts). Unificationist-sponsored theological seminars in the U.S.A. had begun only in 1977, and in an environment of extreme hostility within the academic community as a whole, in organized religion, and in the wider American society. But persecution, and belittling, only enhanced the quality of these new conferences, which grew significantly in numbers of people attending, in cost, and in locations covered throughout the world during the following decade. (Unfair persecution always aids the growth of heart and goodness.) Other seminars for scientists, politicians, Christian clergy, and the like (ICUS, PWPA, ICC, CAUSA, etc.) paralleled those organized for academic theologians. They were, and often still are, powerful events that cohered amazingly well and literally transformed the (often negative) attitudes of those who attended the first time. Rev. Moon saw these conferences as a "gift" to opinion makers of the world at large. Thousands of members of the Unification Church in Japan worked countless 18-hour days to pay for them; and members who came to them, whether as staff or as participants, functioned as hosts, and treated the guests-oftentimes-as if they were the most important people in the world, sometimes at considerable sacrifice of their own interests. Many, many of the guest participants over the years stated publicly that these were the "best" seminars they had ever attended, and that the hosting Unification Church members were the finest, kindest (or most "heartistic") persons they had ever met. Such feelings occurred not simply because the conferences were generally well-organized, interesting, often luxurious in their settings, but mainly because they were characterized by the practice of indemnity. (I know of no other religion or church which has invited scholars, at its own expense, to attend a conference set up to critically assess that church or religion's own teachings.) Members of the Unification Church at seminars (just as they staffed "witnessing" workshops) were there for the guests, whom they took care of and served royally-better, in some cases, than these people had ever been cared for prior to that occasion. Because of this kind of treatment of the mainly scholarly participants at conferences, Rev. Moon may have more professors in his "orbit" today than any other religious leader-not because he "bought them off," as critics who never attended a seminar still say, but because his followers paid an appropriate amount of indemnity on behalf of the guests. Whence comes the power of the Principle? It comes from the practice of indemnity, and from nowhere else.
Power In Decline
It would be nice if I could stop here, as some church members and "outside" scholars of the Unification Church are prone to do. But I can't, because human nature remains generally fallen, and the "Kingdom" of Rev. Moon's ideal-the complete reign of God's love in creation-still has not arrived. When new converts to the Principle first join the Unification Church, as deprogrammers know all too well, their idealism is kindled, they are extremely enthusiastic and are, in fact, the best practitioners of indemnity (as Rev. Moon has said himself). During their early days in the church, members are taught precisely how to be good, how to serve others intensively and live a self-sacrificial life. And, for the most part, they do it. But as the years go on, things change, and members change, too. When marriage and family life take the place of the more carefree lifestyle of singleness, members have to take on more domestic responsibility. Mothers often focus on taking care of their own children more than on serving strangers and fellow-members as in the past. Likewise, fathers become more interested in finding a "career niche," within or outside the church, allowing them to take better care of their families materially. Professional women do the same, and many married persons in the church become dual-career couples who forsake their prior concerns about practicing indemnity for others outside their families. For them, parenthood and family life constitute enough indemnity.
At the same time, as young adulthood-when most people join the church-turns into middle age, older Unification Church members often become disillusioned with the church and its leaders, whom they now view as incompetent, self-serving and/or hypocritical. For these members, the Kingdom, as Rev. Moon seemed to proclaim it, didn't come fast enough, or in the manner they expected. In fact, it didn't come at all. Thus, they see their church as little different from all the other churches, and they become tired of trying to practice the mandates of the Principle literally. As a compromise, they rationalize those demands, something which makes them more "tolerable" and easier to fulfill. But in the process, the power of these people to transform others is lost.
The tough love for others-demanded by Jesus' "hard sayings" and by Rev. Moon's concrete reflections on indemnity-turns into simple rule-keeping, things like going to Sunday service (at least now and then), tithing (at least giving something to the church), not committing adultery (even if you think about doing it occasionally), and saying pledge at 5 A.M. on Sunday (for no more than one minute or so, after which you go back to sleep). Members who have a "providential mission" assigned to them by Rev. Moon or one of his assistants come to see it as a mere "job"; and, like everybody else in the wider society, they constantly seek more pay and fringe benefits, for less work. Taking on a mid-level or higher leadership post in the church offers benefits here, because such leaders often control their department's budget and are sometimes able to set their own salary, allowing them to lead a pretty comfortable life, while disregarding the inferior material conditions of colleagues and those "under" them. But this is justified, they say, because they already fulfilled their time as servants, which, in their thinking, is only for new members-not for them and their "blessed" families. In other words, they've paid their dues. Yet, this is not Rev. Moon's conviction at all. He insists that the higher a person goes as a leader, the more he or she must become a "public figure," a true servant of his or her followers and of other leaders as well. To illustrate this, I am told that at a recent meeting of church department heads, business leaders and accountants, Rev. Moon suggested (i.e., "ordered") that each of those leaders take a salary equal to or less than the average pay of all workers in the business or department. From what I understand, Rev. Moon-the world's most militant anticommunist-told Mr. Gorbachev, when he met him personally, that he wanted to be his "obedient servant," and thereupon made ministry and service to the Russian people (and those of the other republics in the former Soviet Union) the foremost priority of the Unification Church, at a time when church money and staff are in short supply, to say the least.
The widespread loss of idealism, the rationalizing of indemnity, and the increased careerism among its membership have altogether weakened the power that members of the Unification Church had in their youth, the power to change the world (though this fact has not changed Rev. Moon's resolve to do even bigger things than in the past). This loss of power, of course, comes as no surprise to the social and behavioral scientists who have studied the movement. All utopian movements, like Unificationism, have gone this way in the past; and none, really, have been able to recapture the revolutionary spirit which characterized their early years. This departure from the Unification ideal is everybody's fault, not just that of the leaders. Nevertheless, when servanthood leaves the consciousness of leaders, they cease to be the needed role models for adult members of the church-and their children-as a whole.
At this point, once again, I could stop my analysis of the power of the Principle-leaving it to rot in its grave. Indeed, for a number of years I had concluded that Unificationism, with its blessed members and their families, had been just another "good experiment" doomed to failure. But recently I've changed my mind somewhat, because I happen to know a few members of the Unification Church who haven't changed, and the quality of their lives still gives me hope.
These "mature saints," as I call them-even with spouse and children-continue to display the power to transform the people around them. You can spot them anywhere, because they're always helping other people, but take no credit for doing so. These men and women are servants of the first order within their communities, people for whom constant self-sacrifice is part of their very being. They are compassionate, always putting themselves in other people's shoes. And when you actually tell them how good they are and how happy they make you feel because of that (as I sometimes do), they either bow their heads in silence, or assure you that you're wrong, they're really the "chief of sinners" and have a long, long way to go. Which is precisely what you-and everyone else-wants to hear, because humility and sainthood go together. People of this sort are powerful. They change the atmosphere wherever they are, and they do it quickly. They understand indemnity, practice it persistently (not only for themselves, but on behalf of others), and never rationalize its demands. When they make a mistake, hurt somebody, they repent, ask forgiveness, and make restitution for that action. They also make restitution for others who would never do that.
But you might ask me how I can still be hopeful about the power of the Principle to ultimately change the world when those who actually embody it are so few in number (I'm talking about five church members I know-four long-time converts and one "second-generation" member). The answer is simple, because a saint makes it easier to believe in God and all God stands for. Once a person has experienced the power of God's love through the practice of indemnity by others, as I have experienced it through these people, he or she can never forget it. Saints not only teach us how to be good, they also make us want to be good. The most inactive and negative church members I know, and a good number of "ex-members" as well, still have at least a remnant of the power of the Principle to be good in their consciousness. All it would take to "bring them around" again, to rekindle the love of God in their lives, is for other members to once again love and serve them in concrete, tangible ways, showing that they still value them highly, despite their "departure" from church life. Try it, and see what I mean.
All religions and churches seek "renewal." Traditional Christians have tried hard to rekindle the spirit through "revivals." The charismatic movement sought to do it with the supernatural experience of the Holy Spirit in prayer and worship. More liberal Christians seek a return to the social activism of the 1960s to bring back the spirit, while still other Christians practice all sorts of "group therapy" to achieve the same results. Jews and Muslims, to name just two other traditions, have also had their own renewal movements. Some Unificationists in recent years have employed one or more of the aforementioned strategies as well, hoping for a rebirth of their early faith. But, in almost every case, such methods result in a temporary return of the Spirit, at best; and that is usually a pretty poor facsimile of the original, to be completely honest.
In my opinion, however, there is a better way. The power of the Principle can be restored at any time by anyone who begins or starts again to practice indemnity for the sake of themselves and others-not because some church leader tells them to do it, but because they really want to do it. Only the persistent, genuine, self-sacrificial, exemplary behavior of true indemnity releases that power. It can be achieved by "independent" church members no less than by those who work within the church structures themselves. Even those of us who have never been members, but who know the power of the Principle through experience, can do it. Indemnity, practiced in this way, makes people better, and it contributes to the renewal of the organizations in which they work. The most mediocre leader can become more effective by making sufficient restitution to the people he or she has abused, because part of that restitution (exhibited by Mr. Gorbachev so well) includes the willingness to take the opinions and aspirations of those people seriously, learn from them in the process, and change one's leadership style to accommodate those aspirations. This is true servanthood as it pertains to leadership.
I used to criticize Billy Graham for insisting that society can be changed only insofar as individual hearts are changed in sufficient quantity. Now I agree with him. The practice of indemnity changes a person's heart; it makes it grow bigger. By God's standards, we are all defective in our behavior; yet, in the process of making restitution through indemnity, we achieve the power to be what we should be, and we empower others to be that way, too. When we love others with the true love born of indemnity, they will want to be like us by returning love to us (though such action may take awhile), and by loving still others. This is the power of the Principle and the manner in which it is renewed. In Rev. Moon's words, the person centered on God sacrifices himself for others; but the person who is not centered on God sacrifices others for himself.
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