The Words of the Salonen Family
Neil Albert Salonen
(This is the full text of the interview with Mr. Neil A. Salonen who is the President of the Freedom Leadership Foundation, Inc. in America. He is also one of Washington Unification Church members. Mr. Salonen has visited South Vietnam for anti-communist movement in April. On his way back to the U.S. he paid a visit to the Headquarters, HSA-UWC in Seoul, Korea on April 10th and returned home on April 16th by plane. Just before his departure, at the Kimpo Airport, Mr. Cha, reporter of The Way of the World, had an interview with him… Editor)
Han Joo Cha: Mr. Salonen, what was you exact motive to join the Unified Family? And what was your religious background?
Neil A. Salonen: I was raised as a Lutheran in New York where I went to Sunday School for many years and was confirmed in that Lutheran Church. But when I went to college I found that the Christianity I had been taught was not adequate to answer my questions about life and to give me true purpose and direction.
So I turned away from the church, and became an agnostic. Since I was studying engineering at Cornell University, I became totally dedicated to science; I believed that everything had a scientific explanation, therefore I only accepted those things which I could logically and physically prove. I experienced many different kinds of life, and I had friends from all strata of American society.
But nowhere could I find a fulfilling goal or life-style, which would help me realize my potential. On Easter Sunday 1967, I went to church for the first time after long absence. From the joy that I saw on the other faces in the congregation, I thought that I must have missed something in Christianity, that I must again study Christian doctrine to see what vital element I had overlooked before. I received communion and I was very moved. The next day, a friend invited me to come visit the Unified Family Center in Washington, DC, but they did not invite for spiritual training, rather to investigate the business program that some members were undertaking at that time.
Because I was very materialistic and business-minded I was attracted. I may not have been attracted, if they had witnessed to me directly. But when I found that this group had such high spirit and atmosphere, I wanted to know the philosophy they shared. I studied the Principle, and was extremely impressed, especially with Chapter III (The Mission of Jesus) which I could immediately accept -- it clarified so many problems in Christianity. I also accepted Chapter II (The Fall of Man) though it sounds strange to many ears, it made sense to me. And I could see that this would be the explanation of how evil had come into the world. Although I am not a deeply spiritual person, still I could see logically how the Principle had changed the lives of the members of the Family, and could help me to change my life. So after the studying and living at the church for a month, I joined and continued to struggle for six months after that.
Finally, I passed my crisis point and became fully dedicated. From that time I never hesitated even though I may have made mistakes, my heart has never hesitated in fulfilling our Family's responsibilities. Because I was originally interested in business I continued to investigate the possibilities of developing business enterprises. In my first year, because our group was small we did not undertake any major project. Instead, I conducted the witnessing for our Center. In 1968, I became Director of Business Enterprise for our Center. In that time we formed a small printing company (the Unified Press) and with the part time efforts many members were able to earn a small profit. In 1969, after our Master's visit, I formed FLF devoting my full time to our anti-communist work. In 1970 I went into the mission field for six months in Denver, Colorado to have the experience of working with a local center and helping them to organize and build their church.
Cha: What attracts most American students to the Divine Principle?
Salonen: Americans are very external, horizontal, individualistic people. So they are not greatly spiritual, and although we are nominally a Christian nation, Christianity does not have deep roots today in America. Although America was founded with a strong religious traditions, no longer is the church a major factor in our public policy, or in most private lives. But we are very logical so we have found in teaching the Principle, that most people are attracted to its logic more than to its spirituality. They are more impressed by the results and by seeing the reality of our family, then they are in the teaching of the Principle. If they are attracted first to the Family, then they like to know the philosophy behind it.
Cha: What is the religious climate in the United States?
Salonen: The vast majority of Americans are Christians or Jewish which comes from the same root. We have a small number of other religions, but an increasing number of people are now agnostic or atheistic. Because the major religions of the world have failed to take strong initiative and exercise strong moral leader and is in the questions of our times, they are no longer significant factor. Among young people there has been in the last ten years a great interest in Eastern religions and in Eastern culture, because it was completely different from our Western traditions. I think, here in East, there has been a great interest in the Western tradition and Western culture. So this is one sign that the whole world is yearning for unification. Although many young people have dabbled in Eastern religion, there has been serious movement in America. So they may practice meditation or may study Zen Buddhism or Taoism, but they are very few. There may be a few others. I think we have almost every religion in the U.S. because there is complete religious freedom guaranteed by the Government.
Cha: Does the established church persecute the Unified Family in the United States?
Salonen: Because we have the tradition of complete religious freedom, and because the established churches are so weak -- we have not suffered much persecution yet. Also because we are small we haven't attracted their antagonism. However, on individual cases, in specific churches we have been condemned or criticized. Though this has never become widely publicized, in certain areas we have been asked to leave or something like that, but we interpret this very positively, because it is their fear of us, not their legitimate anger, their own lack of confidence that makes them envious of us. Even so, in many cases when they do this, then their own members become more interested in the Unified Family.
At the Catholic University in Washington they became upset with us and made an announcement that the Unified Family was present and they did not endorse our doctrine. This caused many members to come over to us and say, "What are your doctrines and how may we hear your teaching?" So even in their anger it has a positive result for us. But we wish very hard to make friends with the churches, and have them not be afraid of us but just be attracted to us.
Cha: What are the national priorities in the U.S.?
Salonen: In 1959 President Eisenhower established a commission to determine the purpose of the United States and this commission could not agree on what the goals America were! Because we have succeeded becoming the first foremost nation of the world, because we have surpassed all over the nations, we are now in a period of unclear direction, uncertain goals.
In the past all Americans felt that they should help the nations of the world to develop and to rise in their living standard, to resist communist aggression and all forms of totalitarian oppression. But in the last ten years because we have exhausted ourselves so much over the struggle in Vietnam, still without victory, so many Americans are confused and they may think that is impossible for Americans to help all the nations of the world. So they like to just forget helping them, and spend their money inside the country to improve our domestic situation to help poor people in America, to guarantee equal civil rights to all Americans, especially the black community, to reform the educational system, to improve the housing condition for all people, etc. But most Americans still realize the importance of giving foreign aid and helping the whole world because America is an integral part of the world and if the whole world is conquered by communism, then America alone cannot stand.
So there are different groups and different ideas, there are no commonly accepted purposes or priorities. As you mentioned, in most underdeveloped countries the main goal is material. In America, many of these goals have already been achieved by large segments of the population, so they need some other priorities. In general the American people like to work for humanitarian goals, such as true world peace, so if we can provide them some direction which will really bring peace to the world and which will offer freedom and prosperity, then they will quickly unite with that ideology. Also the family unit in America is breaking down, so now there is one divorce for every marriage and many people grow up in broken homes.
So there needs to be a new concept of the family unit, and a new system of values. So I think most Americans agree that we need new spirit a new ethical or spiritual value system which they may not recognize as religion, but we know that as we teach them the Principle, they will find this provides them with the direction that they so desperately seek. So I think the whole nation of America has been prepared by God to receive the Principle at this time because they can have anything they need materially, and still they are not happy, they are not fulfilled. Now they must recognize that their deep needs our spiritual.
Cha: How different do you feel after the Blessing? What changes are there in the American Family after the blessing of 1969 and 1970?
Salonen: Because the blessing means much more than just getting married in the other sense, because the whole purpose of our group from the time someone enters our church, is to prepared himself to be adopted back to the Heavenly Father as His true son or true daughter, then this day of blessing is the high point for which we delicate our entire life. Therefore although I'd been three and half years in our church I still felt very unworthy to receive this blessing, but also deeply grateful that now I could become to a true person through the grace of the Messiah and become His true son. So emotionally, psychologically as well as spiritually I felt greatly uplifted after the wedding last October.
But there were also many immediate changes. I found a much deeper relationship with our Father in my prayer life, and I found a new sense of maturity and responsibility in the work we carry out. I also felt increasingly more like a Parent towards the whole American society. This is not just my idea, but I know among the other blessing families, that their words and their ideas have more authority. Now it seems that the spirit world is participating and cooperating more to accomplish our purposes, even though we can't see this. It seems that when we really want to do something, now it can be done more easily. But this is only the six months testimony of a married man, so in seven years I don't know how much greater the results will be. I never knew how different it would be to be married.
As one person, then it's almost like my personality is doubling. There are so many things to learn, I have to include one more person, so it is like a living on a roller coaster, which is partly out of my control, sometimes fast, sometimes slow. I think many more changes will come about. In the American family, after the first blessings in 1969, there was a dramatic turning point in the American movement. Up until that time it was somewhat as if we were all like children, waiting for our Parents to come. There seemed to be just one dimension to our work. But after the wedding and when some of the families began to have children, then we had a more completed tribal feeling. And a new sense of maturity and even dignity, it opened the way for us to present our group much more powerfully to the whole society. So many new ideas and more mature concepts came into the center, even more so in 1970.
Cha: How and where the American Family witness?
Salonen: Almost all of the members "CHONDO" every night. They also have a job during the day. We just changed our method of witnessing this year. We invite everyone to a Workshop for a weekend where they pay 12 dollars and stay with us from Friday night through Sunday, hearing the whole Principles in that weekend. This way we really make an impact in their lives, to believe they can be changed. We hope to get more members in this way. Also if they cannot come for a weekend, then we invite them individually to come hear the lectures every their schedule can be arranged. So the primary method is person to person on the streets, in the bus or the college campuses. But sometimes we put advertisements in the newspapers, sometimes we put announcements on the radio, or make speeches to churches, campus groups, etc. Once we had a demonstration -- pro-God in Baltimore. Students demonstrated for the civil rights of God, because they had been denied for six thousand years. This attracts publicity, but of all the methods we have tried, person to person is most effective. Regarding business, because the American family is small we do not have a national business yet. But every center tries to establish some business and earn some money. Some churches have a printing business. Washington Church has a Typing Service, and Office Service. We have sold Christmas cards. In the past, we have sold cosmetics. So we tried different projects but we are still looking for a major financial project to undertake which will provide the economical foundation. Primarily the money in the American family comes because the members hold full time jobs all day long, then they contribute the money to the church, so they do their witnessing at night.
Cha: Could you say about the FLF influences in the American society?
Salonen: America is such a gigantic country, with two hundred million people on a vast continent! The FLF members cannot be the sole influence in the society all the time, still our influence is much greater than our membership, because of our dedication and activities. So we are known to many Government leaders and public officials, but not yet widely to the whole United States public. Because Vietnam is the test case for the American people to decide how much to support the world struggle against communism, then FLF has taken great interest in the details of that conflict. A delegation of pro-communist students went to Hanoi, and signed a propaganda "peace treaty" with the communists there. I went to Vietnam to talk with the students and see if this "peace treaty" is really representative of their feeling or not.
Whether they favored communism or anticommunism their true feeling. I wanted to go with a joint delegation of eight people from 5 different groups, and we planned it several times but each time had to postpone it. Finally I went myself with one member of the Vietnamese Embassy in Washington, who acted as my interpreter. I stayed in Vietnam for ten days and spoke with many groups, representing a very accurate cross section of Vietnamese students. I found all of them, all of the groups were strongly anticommunist, and I only found a few individual members who seemed pro-communist or seemed not aware of the danger from communism. Although the Vietnamese students may have many grievance against their government, still they support the government in the struggle against communism. So primary purpose was to get these groups to write letters back to the American youth to counteract propaganda that being circulated by pro-communist groups. Many radical American students have been saying that all Vietnamese are pro-communist.
We wanted to prove that is not true. My second purpose was to organize a delegation of Vietnamese students to come back to America. All preparations have been made for this, but the financing is not yet fully approved. So we will wait and see if this can become reality I sincerely 'hope so. This would be very significant because it is a major project, and it would promote FLF's name all over the country. This year we have just re-organized many of the FLF activities. We will be sending some members on the WYCF (World Youth Crusade for Freedom) tour to Taiwan for anti-communist training then they will come to Korea for one week. Since this is the same time that our Master is planning to visit Washington, we have to be careful not to cross our wires. We also may send a delegation to the WACL Conference in Manila in July.
Sometimes this year we will organize an official branch of IFVC in America. We have just begun some new publications and up until now the FLF membership has been primarily our family members plus others who were really anti-communist. Now we would like to increase the number of the FLF members widely even if they are just nominal members, just supporters, so through the use of direct mail publications, and advertisements even door-to-door canvassing, will increase our membership as soon as possible.
We will be shifting much more emphasis to the Korean situation, which is now little understood in the United States, so as the Vietnam situation quiets down, we will already have begun a major effort organizing support for South Korea among the American people, and in our Government. We will continually be running seminars for anti-communist training for an increasing number of students. To do this we need money; one is speaking engagements, so I will be speaking a lot when I go back, and the other is from direct mail activities, which we are now beginning.
To show, to demonstrate that our group is substantial, we are organizing a Board of Academic Sponsors from university professors who are anti-Communists. So we began two years ago as a very small group now we are a medium sized group but with the same power as many other groups in the United States because so many of them are disorganized and they don't have the clear direction and determination that we have. In a few years, we will become the primary anti-communist group in America -- Manse! Until now the American family and the Freedom Leadership Foundation have receiving only periodic direction from our Leader.
Particularly in the anti-communist work, we would like to have close coordination with the Korean and Japanese movements so we also hope to have a united effort internationally. The whole American family loves Korea very much, so they would like to help in any way to strengthen the American support for Korea. We know your struggle has been more intense and more severe than any other country, and it's impossible to fully appreciated this, still in our own way, we know that so as much as we can, we are very grateful and very anxious to serve in some way to sacrifice the American nation for the sake of universal nation. Thank you.
Cha: Thank you very much.