Unification News for September 1996


The Unification Movement and Sect Hysteria in the Media

by Jeff Tallakson-Washington, DC

As the new millennium approaches the tension between conventional society and new religious movements (sects) seems to be increasing . The phenomena is widespread and many nations have counter-culture spiritual movements which have been vilified by the press and governments . At the same time traditional religions seem unable to deal with destabilizing social trends. In the CIS public officials make demagogic statements about banning sects, as if all society's ills will be solved by that. Actually sects are few, small and not as ubiquitous as might be imagined from the sensationalist press. From a purely academic perspective, it is understandable that as social ills permeate and social breakdown changes family statistics, then incipient social- spiritual movements will naturally arise. All will be opposed by the structures of the establishment and tradition. Most will fail. A few will become the religions of tomorrow, as this is how every religion began. To endure, a religious movement must solve social problems . If successful, then new religious configurations ultimately alter culture. They would necessarily be new, not old, (since the social problems arose while the old was on watch) and so they would naturally be misunderstood from conventional viewpoints and opposed by conventional religious and political establishments. I draw your attention to this editorial from The Washington Times , A Word To Our Readers or We Bad

The editorial came in the wake of a Conference ; The Family Federation for World Peace (FFWP) Conference held was held in Washington, DC July 30 to August 1. The Conference was sponsored by organizations founded by and associated with Dr. and Mrs. Sun Myung Moon. Dr. Moon is also the founder of The Washington Times, a newspaper which is often quoted and which has stood over the last ten years as a conservative counter- point to the dominant medium in the Capital, the Washington Post. The whole conference was carried by C-SPAN television network.

That week Washington Post published three articles attacking the conference as well as the Unification Church and Dr. and Mrs. Sun Myung Moon. The Washington Times has a policy to NOT write about anything having to do with the Unification Movement not Dr. Moon, unless other newspapers take up the story first. Even then, the Times usually avoids dealing with news about the Unification Movement or Dr. and Mrs. Sun Myung Moon. This time they made this exception. Here is an answer from the Washington Times to the hit pieces of the Post. It is insightful and helps to put things into perspective which may be important for understanding social movement in the future.

A Word To Our Readers The Washington Times Friday August 9, 1996 / Page A5

Many of You have called or written to The Times to express your dismay and anger over the stories in The Washington Post about the convention, held last week in Washington, of the Family Federation for World Peace. The stories in the Post attempted to ridicule the conference, and by falsely implying that the conference was connected to The Times, attempted to ridicule the newspaper.

This conference attracted a wide diversity of speakers and participants, including two former presidents of the United States, a former prime minister of Great Britain and 36 one-time heads of state or governments, university presidents, the president of the Family Research Council, the executive director of the Christian Coalition, the widow of Martin Luther King, and other scholars, clergymen of all faiths, and prominent political figures of all parties and ideologies. The sponsoring Family Federation was founded by the Rev. and Mrs. Sun Myung Moon.

The participants met to encourage a reawakening of family values, to move beyond the cliches to consider how to create a new ethic of family values appropriate to the times, to reconcile the family and the explosive information age in which the prevailing media casts itself as neutral in the struggle between the forces of social decay and morality.

Representatives of all faiths met in what former President Gerald Ford called a spiritual Olympics to consider what Sir Edward Heath, the former British prime minister, described as the position of the family in world affairs. Many prominent speakers rallied participants to work to uphold the traditional values of faith and family, as understood and practiced throughout the history of our country by leaders of all the mainstream religious and civic institutions. Oscar Arias, the former president of Costa Rica, cited the family as "the oldest institution in human history," and said that "everything that threatens the dignity and integrity of the family threatens society."

Former President George Bush admonished the participants to remember the words of his wife, Barbara, to a college graduating class: "What happens in your house is more important than what happens at the White House." Coretta Scott King, the widow of Martin Luther King, called for "a new revolution based on nonviolence."

Maureen Reagan, the daughter of former President Ronald Reagan, described the central role of women in restoring the values of a society adrift: "The woman is essential to society. Deny her value and there's chaos."

Few Americans would argue with such sentiments. Nevertheless, the stories in The Washington Post, which consistently mocks and trivializes the beliefs of men and women of faith, imputed dark and sinister motives not only to the organizers of the conference, but to the participants as well, and, by implication, this newspaper.

Many of You have asked, what's going on? Only those in charge at The Post can answer this. But the rest of us are entitled to speculate. The owners and editors of The Post, contemptuous as they have demonstrated they are of men and women of faith (The Post recently described evangelical Christians as "largely poor, uneducated, and easy to command"), are not likely to have had a theological purpose for this remarkable coverage, consisting of three lengthy stories over the span of merely one week.

The target is clearly The Washington Times, which has been an obstacle to suppressing dissent since it came on the scene in 1982. In the early days of our existence, The Post printed many stories, with not- so-subtle allusions to ancestry and race, about the ambitions and motives of the men who organized The Times. Ben Bradlee, then the executive editor of The Post, labored tirelessly and tediously to foster the fiction that the nation's capital, despite the presence of The Times, remained "a one newspaper town."

When he retired, still bent badly by his failure to eliminate the obstacle to a long-sought monopoly, The Times had begun to thrive. These curious assaults ceased. Last week, we saw a reprise of this sordid campaign, with "news" stories riddled with inaccuracies and slurs, inventions and invective. Recent months have not been kind to The Post. The Post has lost circulation over the past three years, years in which the circulation of The Times has grown dramatically. Advertising lineage, the lifeblood of newspapers, is down sharply at The Post, up sharply at The Times. The Post has reported that its advertising lineage is down 15 percent so far this year.

During this same period, The Washington Times has prospered as never before in its history, scoring dramatic gains in circulation and advertising, and becoming one of the most influential newspapers in the world, with its exclusives quoted daily in the major world capitals. Whitewater, Travelgate, the FBI files scandal, a flood of disclosures of secret arms and technology deals throughout the world- all are stories broken or developed by The Times. Business Week magazine said it best: The Post is out, The Times is in.

We have done it, not with attempts to undermine the credibility and stability of our rivals, but by aggressive reporting, lively writing, and spirited and balanced presentation of the news, buttressed by the owners' guarantee of unqualified editorial independence, crucial to all great newspapers of the world. Commentary is not disguised as news, but clearly labeled as commentary. Our readers know from experience that the editor-in-chief is the sole arbiter of the editorial content of the newspaper.

The Times is now available to readers throughout the world on the Internet's World Wide Web, and the phenomenal growth of the National Weekly Edition of The Washington Times will almost certainly enable it to surpass the circulation of The Post's national weekly edition sometime later this year. The cloud once no bigger than a man's hand is now a thunderhead above the presses on Fifteenth Street NW.

In the parlance of the young, "We bad." We're going to get Badder, and we're here to stay. Our readers and advertisers-and our colleagues at The Post-can count on it.

Wesley Pruden, Editor in Chief; Geoffrey H. Edwards, Vice President, General Manager


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