The Words of Hyung Jin Moon From 2009
Our church media advisor Richard Biddlecombe contacted our office in Korea late in August to say that a BBC World Service representative (who was already in contact with the movement in London) was coming to Korea from the United Kingdom for a conference, and that while he was here he would like to interview members of our church, including, if possible, its international president. This was duly arranged.
What is the distinctive contribution to the religious landscape made by the Unification Church? What sets you apart?
This was the first question Christopher Landau, religious affairs correspondent of the BBC World Service, asked Hyung-jin nim during a September 24 interview in Hyung-jin nim's office, which is annexed to the Headquarters Church in Seoul. Hyung-jin nim answered by saying:
We define God's essence as true love, the love that God intended his children to inherit.... In other traditions it is often said that God is unexplainable or beyond comprehension. For us, God is powerful and mighty but He is also a parent who is within reach.
Rev. Moon defines the essence of God as true love and further defines true love as a selfless type of love that can win over the worst evil. We are called to try to perfect, to move closer to inheriting, that type of love. And that really is our central teaching.
And what's the significance, in terms of the beliefs of the church, of your father himself?
We refer to Rev. and Mrs. Moon as the True Parents. In order to understand their mission, one would have to understand the mission of Jesus. And to understand the mission of Jesus, we believe one has to understand why God created human beings in the first place. And that is that God wanted to have beings with whom He could share His joy, His love, His essence.
Christopher Landau was in Seoul to attend the fifth ASEM Interfaith Dialogue, but he made time within that schedule to meet with Hyung-jin nim and some of our members.
Together Hyung-jin nim and Yeon-ah nim welcomed their guest warmly, then Hyung-jin nim boiled the water for Oolong tea, which he served in tiny, elegant cups. Yeon-ah nim was present, supporting, but had firmly decided this would be her husband's interview rather than a joint one.
As can be gleaned from the recent media coverage of the 10.14 True Parents' Cosmic Blessing Ceremony, many observers are curious about Hyung-jin nim's role and speculation on how extensive are the responsibilities that Father has delegated to his son has fueled recent media interest. So when Hyung-jin nim explained during the interview that Jesus had asked Rev. Moon to continue his [Jesus'] mission, Mr. Landau immediately asked, "And are you carrying on that work?" Hyung-jin nim's response was clear:
I am not in that messianic role; I'm absolutely not! That has to be 100 percent clear. Paul may have been an apostle, but he could never be the Christ. In the same way, I am just a conveyer, one who witnesses to the True Parents....
Even so, the BBC World web site suggested that Hyung-jin nim had "taken the reins" from his father, and the title of the web article came out as 'Moonies' mull future without founder. Some in our Unificationist community felt the BBC's use of the so-called "M" word was unfortunate. However, within hours, and for some hours, the story was the seventh most read on the (international) BBC News web site and Hyung-jin nim's photo made the home page. In a later contact by e-mail, Mr. Landau mentioned that he was sorry about the headline's inclusion of the "M" word but explained that it is the name we are most recognizable by in the UK. In other words, the BBC's editors had selected it in order to draw readers. Whether efforts should be made to prevent the term perpetuating itself in this way is an issue for discussion.
As a radio journalist, Mr. Landau was keen to include in the broadcast some sounds of day-to-day life at the Headquarters Church, to give a "sense of location" to listeners. And so Hyung-jin nim gave him a guided tour of the building. As they walked up the stairs into the main chapel, Mr. Landau asked Hyung-jin nim to describe the scene and recorded what he said. In his commentary Hyung-jin nim included an explanation of the meaning of the Unification Church symbol on the wall and the two chairs for True Parents.
Mr. Landau was even interested to record the sounds of the children playing in the children's playroom. The Two Rivers Choir were practicing for the weekend services, and they obliged him with a song.
But it was the sounds of their voices at our Saturday international service two days later (recorded on Hyung-jin nim's thirtieth birthday) that made it into the final cut. The four-minute radio piece that went out on "World Today," for example, featured a poignant narrative by Mr. Landau that indicated he had listened closely to Hyung-jin nim during the interview. For example:
Followers of the movement believe that Hyung-jin Moon's father was sent by God to complete the mission of Jesus Christ. He and his wife are regarded by Unificationists as the world's True Parents. Love between a married couple is seen as a divinely-ordained building block for society.
The piece also included brief inspirational excerpts from Hyung-jin nim's sermon and several extracts from his interview on subjects varying from our members' right to practice their faith to how couples become engaged. An excerpt from a brief interview Mr. Landau conducted with Franz and Elizabeth de Jong about how True Parents had matched them personally provided an interesting backdrop to Hyung-jin nim's explanation of the variety of approaches employed today.
Overall, Mr. Landau's radio piece and his article on the web gave a distinct and (of the church in Korea, at least) accurate impression of a forward-looking movement that is gearing up for growth under the management of a new generation. The radio broadcast concluded with Mr. Landau's observation:
As it looks to the future, this controversial movement, founded on reverence for the family, is facing another set of challenges as key responsibilities pass from father to son.
In the taxi from his hotel to the Headquarters Church on the day of the interview, I lightheartedly asked Mr. Landau if he often got into vehicles taking him to unknown locations He replied that doing so was indeed part of his work and yes, it required a certain amount of trust! His willingness to confront the unknown was matched by his open-heartedness and inquisitiveness. Hyung-jin nim wrote to him afterward that it had been a "true delight" to meet him.
Media reports in the past have often seeded, or added to, people's misunderstanding of True Parents and our movement, using dehumanizing descriptions that perpetuate mistrust or fear. In this instance, however, the encounter between one youthful journalist of religion and our (also youthful) international president resulted in a report that gave our church a very human face and voice.
Media representatives who ask us to explain our beliefs, ethics and activities in our own words, and then present them without bias, help a truthful picture of our church to emerge. Christopher Landau did not bias his report in our favor, and he never expressed a word to us on what he thought of our Saturday service and all that Hyung-jin nim said (except to say that Hyung-jin nim had given him some very radio-presentable content). But he did convey Hyung-jin nim's words honestly; perhaps even more telling, his own narrative was based on what he had learned through the interviews he conducted, not on archived content he had not personally researched.
Notably, this approach continued in the worldwide media coverage of the October 14 Blessing Ceremony, in which participating members were either quoted in the press or appeared on video. Are the conditions ripening for change? Certainly, Hyung-jin nim and Kook-jin nim believe that speaking candidly and openly to the media about our movement's vision and practices is the best way to earn honest and respectful coverage. And they are taking the lead in doing this.