Unification News for June 2003
United We Stand
This month we’re going to discuss a momentous subject. I have several new articles planned, but recent concerns about Rev. Moon’s health have prompted me to offer this article first.
An earlier version appeared in 1998, with Dale Milne and the Rev. Joel Bjorling contributing. Thanks to God, and some excellent physicians, this remains a work of speculation.
Success is not guaranteed to new religions. God inspires every authentic faith, but ordinary human beings have to administer them. No matter how pure and wise the founder, others must eventually take the reins. Jesus lamented often, and Buddha wondered if even one of his disciples really ‘got it.’
Over the millennia prophets have founded countless religions, whether offshoots or entirely new faiths. Each of these religions changed with time, for good or ill. In historical terms, only a fraction of them lasted very long.
Muslim and Christian histories show how difficult it is for a growing religion to remain united. Within a few generations the Muslim faith split into Sunni and Shia factions, lead by religious elders and the descendants of the Prophet, respectively.
Christianity divided within the lifetime of Jesus’ apostles. The Copts of Egypt, Roman Catholics, and Greek Orthodox Church all have ancient traditions, and lines of apostolic succession. Each has weathered schisms, false leaders, and other difficulties.
Many churches arose from the American tradition of enthusiastic revival. During the 1830s an evangelist named William Miller started a movement that gave birth to the Jehovah’s Witnesses, Seventh Day Adventists, and others. Miller created a huge ruckus with his End of the World predictions, and then, soon enough, with revised millennial warnings.
The Jehovah’s Witnesses make bold claims of unity. A friend of mine was born and raised a Witness; she even belonged to their elite 144,000 chosen ones. When she converted to Unificationism they "laid a heavy guilt trip" on her. Elders told her that not one of this chosen band had ever broken with the faith. I leave it to the reader to weigh the veracity of that claim.
Mormon history illustrates the dangers inherent in recognizing a living prophet. I have a list of more than 100 Mormon groups, and every one of them claims to be lead by "the legitimate prophet," true heir to founder Joseph Smith Jr.
Many of those groups are small; some no more than extended families. About nine groups, each with a charismatic leader, broke off from the Mormons before Smith was martyred.
After Smith died, the Mormon leadership split. Many elders, headed by the formidable Brigham Young, brought the faithful to a new home in the deserts of Utah. These elders founded, and their twelve successors still lead, the Latter Day Saints church.
The decision to move was far from unanimous. Smith had proclaimed Independence, Missouri as the ‘chosen place,’ and some elders wished to settle there despite ongoing persecution. They convinced Smith’s oldest son, Joseph Smith III, to become their new prophet. Together they founded the Reorganized church.
Today the RLDS church is the second-largest Mormon group, and for more than a century it was lead by a Smith. (They have long been sending missionaries to Utah!)
Another Mormon offshoot, while small, is noteworthy. The Temple Lot church owns the plot of land (in Independence) upon which Joseph Smith Jr. planned to build his ‘ultimate’ temple. The place to which Jesus himself was supposed return and live, and rule the Earth therefrom. No Mormon group can build on it without Temple Lot’s permission. Trouble is, they’re too poor to build it themselves -- and too stubborn to cooperate.
One new religion that’s rivaled Unificationism in notoriety is the Hare Krishnas. Years ago they built a large, ornate ‘American temple’ in West Virginia. Since then the Krishna movement has divided, and that temple is now occupied by an independent leader with a style and theology all his own.
We Unificationists have seen several groups (perhaps three or four per continent) break off. They’re oddballs, tiny and not particularly appealing. Most, if not all, suffer from acute Chapter Two (i.e., sexual) problems.
The Baha'i Faith proclaims a record of unbroken unity, but the reality is a bit messier. During the 1800s, founder Baha'u'llah endured severe persecution, organizing a new religion within Muslim society. His great-grandson Shoghi Effendi was their last individual leader, or Guardian.
Shoghi Effendi left no will. Upon his death, an American scholar named Charles Remey hoped to take over as Guardian. The situation was in flux, and some of the founder’s descendants had been branded "covenant breakers."
The Baha'i leadership, dominated by Persians, dissolved the Guardianship in favor of a newly organized council. Remey departed, taking many followers with him.
There are now two offshoots, with slightly different beliefs, both known as Orthodox Baha'is. All three groups like to pretend the others don’t even exist.
As with the Mormons, we see the leadership ‘baton’ juggled between direct descendants, eminent leaders, and assembled councils.
Not all new religions were inspired by God. There have been "prophets" who openly flaunted their licentiousness.
In Europe, during the 1100s, a man named Tanchelm proclaimed himself the new messiah and gathered a devoted following. He began humbly, but soon amassed a treasure horde and lived like a debauched Roman Emperor. Five years later he was assassinated. His movement did not outlive him.
During the 1500s, the German city of Muntzer was seized twice by fanatical, messianic leaders. The second of these, Jan Matthys, was besieged by the very residents he’d expelled. Within a year, he and all his followers were dead.
The Principle explains how prophets can receive ‘mixed messages’ from the good and evil spiritual realms. Even so, God-guided religions will survive and grow.
The story of the Jews, from earliest times until today, is deeply inspiring. (Read The Gifts of the Jews by Thomas Cahill.) The Parsees have also survived millennia of adversity.
The Roman Catholics have the most successful church -- and perhaps, human organization of any kind -- in all history. They’ve outlasted invasions, heretics, Darwinism, and more.
Catholic standards and institutions endure, yet change when necessary. They may soon dump their administrative policy (it’s not a theological doctrine) of celibacy.
We Unificationists have been through many phases. The physical Kingdom did not arrive (as widely rumored, but not officially proclaimed) in 1981, much less at various earlier dates. However, the Providence has evolved far beyond the expectations of virtually all our members.
At the Cheongpyeong workshop, three ‘internal’ Unificationist revivals are described. The Washington Post detailed the second of these, with the ‘Black Heung Jin,’ if in their usual stilted fashion.
Some phenomena are, so far as I know, exclusive to Unificationists. The Principle describes ‘returning resurrection,’ and names only one example: Elijah and John the Baptist.
In the mid-1980s this teaching gained immediate meaning. A period of New Age-ish channeling ushered in the ministry of the ‘Black HJN,’ with its wave of repentance and purification.
That ministry paved the way for the installation of Daemonim/Hyo Nam Kim at Cheongpyeong. It would take many of these columns to describe her achievements. Daemonim enjoys universal recognition, most importantly from True Father himself.
When Rev. Moon eventually passes on, the way stands open for a vast new wave of returning resurrection. It is, please note, widely assumed that True Father himself will manifest in this fashion.
Any number of mediums could make such a claim, and win the support of (one or more) Unificationist leaders. Each claimant may have a strong national or ethnic backing.
How would our members, and the movement as a whole, determine whether (any of) these mediums are (and remain) genuine? A formal process may be called for.
It might not be a simple true/false judgment, because spirits aren’t bound by the usual conventions. We’ve already welcomed messages from (and thus, the unseen participation of) hundreds of saints and historical figures.
Author Elizabeth Moon (an Irish name, by the way), in her excellent Paksennarion/Gird fantasy novels, traces the founding of a new religion. In that storied time, only a handful of scribes are literate. After Gird dies, those few struggle with how best to relate his life story.
No doubt similar things have really happened. In contrast, our founder’s life has been exhaustively recorded.
New religions always reflect their founder’s character and deeds, not to mention the accuracy of his (or her) teachings. The fruits are shown in the history of their movements.
We can be thankful to have the truest and most loving leadership of any religion in history.
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