Unification News for June 1998

The Kingdom of God in Reality

uViews June 1998

On the evening of June 13, 1998, after the completion of the Blessing '98 ceremony at Madison Square Garden, Reverend and Mrs. Moon prepared a banquet. The guests were treated to the finest cuisine of the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel; it was filet mignon. They cheered the Moon couple and presented them awards. Then Reverend Moon ascended to the podium to give his closing remarks. He began by saying, "No matter how much we want the Kingdom of God, if God doesn't want it, it will not come. But if God wants it, then it will appear even if we don't want it."

I was fascinated by that statement, and noted it down, but it was not for a few days that I looked at my notes and reflected upon it. "Why," I asked myself, "would we not want the Kingdom of God?" The answer came to me immediately: "People will not want the Kingdom of God because it is a time of judgment."

I began to reflect upon Jesus' teachings about the kingdom of God. Contrary to the Lady Clairol Jesus of recent vintage, the parables lead me to the conclusion that Jesus had an extremely harsh side to his character. For instance, "the kingdom of heaven is like a king who wanted to settle accounts with his servants" (Mt 18:23). Or, "Master…I knew that you are a hard man, harvesting where you have not sown and gathering where you have not scattered seed" (Mt 25:24). Or, "…at the end of the age…The Son of Man will send out his angels and they will weed out of his kingdom everything that causes sin and all who do evil" (Mt 13:40b-41); "This is how it will be at the end of the age. The angels will come and separate the wicked from the righteous . . ." (Mt 13:49); or the clincher: "As it was in the days of Noah, so it will be at the coming of the Son of Man. For in the days before the flood, people were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, up to the day Noah entered the ark; and they knew nothing about what would happen until the flood came and took them all away. That is how it will be at the coming of the Son of Man" (Mt 24:37-39).

Pretty harsh material, that; not the stuff of "gentle Jesus, meek and mild." It is striking to me how Jesus foresees miserable ends for those who reject God's kingdom. One can feel his vitriol against those of his own era who were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage while ignoring, castigating, undermining or making light of Jesus. And so he pronounced harshly upon those who reject the kingdom.

Now, if you are like me, you probably take Jesus' words to apply to "someone else." Hearing his words, we immediately bring to mind some incorrigibly wicked souls who have sold themselves to the devil. ignorant, loutish, gluttonous, adulterous, corrupt scoundrels, this greasy species would not recognize an act of kindness if it were put in front of them, much less who would give a whit about the kingdom of God. We feature crowds of jubilant believers shouting and cheering on everyone to come into the kingdom, and these criminals responding, "Get lost; we are too happy cheating, killing, fornicating and carousing."

But what do we do with Jesus' sayings that it is the low-lifes who will enter the kingdom first, and the religious leaders last? What if, in other words, the kingdom's coming is not transparent? In fact, what if it is very difficult to recognize, or, at least, what if it is difficult to recognize until it is too late? In fact, Jesus' sayings presuppose that the coming of the kingdom will not be obvious at first glance. The gist of the Noah account is that by the time the people in general recognized their plight, the door was already closed. Then it dawned upon them (one suspects) that it was not criminality which blinded them, but rather their going about the business of living, which blinded them to the value of what Noah had been doing. To them it was respectability; to God it was arrogance, complacency, apathy and blindness.

So Jesus' sayings that "as the lightning flashes," which indicate that all will know, could refer to a point in time after one's fate is already sealed. Thus the appropriateness of his repeated references to the "gnashing of teeth." People who gnash their teeth are those who had the kingdom within their grasp, and let it slip through their hands for what, in retrospect, was no good reason. To be sure, Jesus makes of it a rule that the kingdom will come exactly when we do not expect it. "If the owner of the house had known at what time of night the thief was coming, he would have kept watch and would not have let his house be broken into. So you also must be ready, because the Son of Man will come at an hour when you do not expect him" (Mt 25:43-44).

An Obscure Kingdom

Now, one might say that in this respect, the New Testament is not very helpful. All we are told under the heading of how to recognize the kingdom is that the kingdom will not be easy to recognize. Hey, I mean, is that highly effective leadership? Does it satisfy inquiring minds? Well, if nothing else, it gives one pause. It tells us that this kingdom is not a matter of human virtue and intelligence. It puts us on our guard, continuously on the edge of our seats. It calls all our life's activities into question. It casts doubt on their true worth.

But we can regard this from a more constructive perspective. Jesus' words in the New Testament inform us that during the period of time in which there is a real moral value to our recognizing the kingdom, it will be an "obscure kingdom." This is to say, then, that there will be a good deal of evidence against the kingdom being authentic. It may not appear that special; it may contain obvious flaws. It may be susceptible of criticism. People will examine it, but not see it; they will listen, but not hear what is being said. And Jesus describes, in the parable of the sower, what will distract us from seeing, from hearing: the cares of the world, lack of understanding, the troubles or persecution belief engenders, the deceitfulness of wealth.

This implies also that there will be numerous alternatives to the kingdom which appear more attractive, reasonable, as having greater potential for success, as being more benign, more mystical, more magical, and so forth. That is, whatever one envisions the kingdom being, these sought-after qualities will manifest with more power in places that are not the kingdom than in the place that is the kingdom. If you are into great music, you will find greater music outside the kingdom than in. If you are into profound knowledge, you will find greater knowledge outside the kingdom than in. If you are into wealth, you will find it more readily outside the kingdom than in. If you are interested in just living a stable, coherent life, you will find it more available outside the kingdom than in. In other words, the kingdom will appear in the place which seems, from every human vantage point, the last place one would expect it. Thus Jesus said, "The master…will come on a day when he does not expect him and at an hour he is not aware of" (Mt 24:50), and cited the Psalms, "The stone the builder rejected has become the capstone" (Mt 21:42), and told the legitimate religious leaders of his day that "the tax collectors, and the prostitutes are entering the kingdom of God ahead of you" (Mt 21:31).

How Does God Work?

What can we point to as positive signs of the kingdom? We know what not to look for, but what do we look for? The Bible teaches that God is very consistent. At times of His decisive intervention, He always, always, always, works on the periphery. He never, never, never, works through the mainstream religion. Will God change now? Well, the onus of the argument would certainly fall on those who argue God would change and begin to work His revolutionary change within the world's institutions--even those He created. After all, God created the priesthood of Israel, didn't He?

Second, he does His primary work through flesh and blood. Sure, He occasionally makes the sun stop in the sky, or sends a devastating flood, or sends plagues, or divides the sea, or leads the people by fire and cloud, or rents the cloth between the holy place and most holy place in two, or raises the dead. These miracles appear, nonetheless, in close association with the work of a chosen individual, a frail human being, a man on the periphery. And there are two points worth noting about God's miraculous interventions.

One, they appear after the door is closed. They transpire after the people had their chance through flesh and blood and, with or without full awareness of what they were doing, made their decision. In other words, the miracles were aspects of the judgment. The flood is the archetypal example Jesus used, as referenced above. The many miracles associated with Moses are of the same type. Pharaoh had the opportunity to accept God's message through Moses, flesh and blood. The Pharaoh rejected the words and then came the judgment in the form of miracles. The people had the opportunity to accept God's reality in Jesus, flesh and blood. They rejected and then came the miracle of the torn curtain and the resurrection.

Two, they appear in order to bolster the legitimacy of the flesh and blood representative of God before disbelievers. Jesus stated this explicitly: "…even though you do not believe me, believe the miracles, that you may know and understand that the Father is in me, and I in the Father" (Jn 10:38). It was the same with Moses. In Exodus 3, God tells Moses what to tell the people and He assures Moses that Israel will listen (Ex 3:18). Then God tells Moses to speak to the Egyptians, but that they will not listen unless God backs the words up with signs. Moses is continually skeptical about the effectiveness of his words alone, and finally God assures him that He will provide plenty of miracles (Ex 4:1-9). The Exodus narrates a continual pattern of rejecting God's words in Moses and then miraculous signs or punishments as a result.

What was Jesus' attitude about this second type of intervention? Judging from Mk 8:11-12, it was none too favorable. He "sighed deeply" at the Pharisees asking him for a sign from heaven, and said that "no sign will be given to [this generation]." In Matthew 16:4, he states that "no sign will be given it except the sign of Jonah." Now, the book of Jonah records the miracle of three days in the belly of the whale, and Jesus does refer to this in Matthew 12:40. But he immediately explains that the basis upon which men will be judged has to do not with the three days, but rather with their response to Jesus' preaching: "The men of Nineveh will stand up at the judgment with this generation and condemn it; for they repented at the preaching of Jonah, and now one greater than Jonah is here" (Mt 12:41). He clearly was talking about the people's repentance averting the wrath of God. Jesus said that the people of his day would be judged by those repentant people of Nineveh who recognized the work of God.

Thus, the judgment had nothing to do with miracles, but with flesh and blood. The people as a whole could not, or would not, recognize Jesus as greater than Jonah, as wiser than Solomon. The kingdom was obscure. There were many superior alternatives available: the Roman Empire, the Temple religion, John the Baptist. Few placed their bets with Jesus. He didn't seem to have much to offer by way of security, legitimacy, a place at the table. The troubling thing is that Jesus said that it would be the same at the second coming.

What Does God Oppose?

Another means to recognize the kingdom of God is to identify that against which the kingdom stands. It is only logical that the kingdom will oppose the same things today that it opposed consistently in the past. In the Old Testament, Israel stood against definable enemies of God, called false gods or idols. From hindsight, they appear easy to discern. They were represented by actual physical statues and actual religious institutions which worshipped these statues. Well, we might say, we don't have Dagon and Asherah and Baal to worry about anymore. Those neo-pagan groups cropping up these days are inconsequential; the worship of earth deities does not threaten Christian culture today. Right. Well, let's save that discussion for another day. But consider the nature of these false religions in comparison to the currents of today's mainstream Christian culture.

One, they were really into nature. That is, the authority of the false gods derived from their power over nature. Their main purpose was to insure that nature would be kind to us, that the rains would come, that the river would not flood, that the storms would not sweep us away, that the earth would be fruitful. To worship the false gods was to worship the gods of the environment.

Two, they were really into sex. They related human copulation with the fertility of the soil. And so their shrines were the home of prostitutes, male and female. Their worship included sexual intercourse with temple prostitutes. Third, they didn't have much truck for children. There was ritual sacrifice of children to the gods.

Now, put those elements together. A religion that celebrates free sex, condones child sacrifice and considers the highest value to be a fruitful environment. Dress it up. Put it into sophisticated English. Substitute scientists for magicians, rights activists for priests. What you have is our contemporary secular culture. Today's secular culture has many features that God fought against in the Old Testament: it is man worshipping his own creation, his own image, his own knowledge, his own pleasure.

The system of faith and morals taught in our government schools is environmentalism. Through human knowledge and technique, we are told, we will be able to calm the seas, clear the air, have good harvests and, for the elite who can get there in their Range Rovers, enjoy spotted owls flying in their natural habitat. Of course, the residue of Christianity has embedded in our language the notion that all things are created by God; that the beauty and wisdom of nature is the image of the Creator. But it never occurs to the environmentalist that the will of the living God today may have anything to do with the sustenance of the creation. The residue of Christianity is a deism in which we tip our hats to the God of long ago who created His masterwork and withdrew from engagement with it.

And then there is sex. The Canaanites have nothing over our Christian society in this department. Free sex pervades our media, entering our homes, offices, the streets, our literature, our poetry, our theaters, our commerce (advertising), our self-concept as a people. While we do not explicitly link free sex with environmental balance, both advocacies derive from the rejection of the law and providence of God. Environmentalism gives no truck to the notion that a sovereign God controls the climate. Free sex consumers give no truck to the notion that a sovereign God created the institution of monogamous marriage of man and woman as the only true expression of human sexuality.

Here is an amazing exposition of the foolishness of the wisdom of the world. Secularism, in its environmentalist mode, teaches that all things are created with a precise purpose and role to play as part of an entire eco-system. If anything in the eco-system is prevented from fulfilling its purpose, the entire system is damaged. On the other hand, secularism cannot conceive that this ecological theory might apply to human sexuality; that there may be an "ecology of sex." Secularism posits no inherent order or purpose to human sexuality. It is up to each person to decide how to use their sexual organ. That the sexual organ is part of nature just as much as a spotted owl or micro-organism, tends to go unrecognized. That there is a right use, and wrong use, of this natural resource, flies in the face of the culture of self, and, if it goes come up in conversation, is relegated to, as our president's spokesperson McCurry put it, backward and irrational ideas put forth to legitimate political power by denizens of the far right.

Is God Against Sex and the Environment?

Are we to draw the conclusion, then, that God stands against sex and wise use of environmental resources? Not at all. Our conclusion is simply that sex and the environment are the current equivalents of the false gods of biblical times. [Here by "environmentalism" I mean the viewpoint that technical knowledge in the hands of the state can save us.] God stands against these things when we elevate them to prominence above His; when we worship them.

Did somebody say worship? Hey, the secularist cries out, we liberated post- Christians aren't into worship! But worship is as worship does. When a company declares proudly, on each package of its product, that it donates 10% of its profits to earth-friendly causes, that is worship. That is its tithe. Can you imagine a company declaring on its packages, "We donate 10% of our profits to the Catholic Church." "We donate 10% of our profits to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints." "We donate 10% of our profits to pro-life organizations." Such companies would be pilloried as religious fanatics, brainwashed, right-wing and assuredly unconstitutional. But who among us does not feel a little better when we buy a Paul Newman salad dressing, or Stonybrook Farms yogurt, knowing that this company is tithing to environmental agencies?

Worship is as worship does. The primary recreational activity of American teenagers is attending movies. In the movies they see the idols of the silver screen, right? We may think we are being ironic by this expression, but consider the truth of the phrase. They are bigger than life, more beautiful than life, more righteous, more powerful, able to dismantle alien spaceships with laptop computers, able to generate unbelievable revenues for their producers. Would that American teenagers would offer they funds they spend on movie tickets to more worthy causes. Could the offering made to the gods of the Titanic feed several struggling populations for several weeks? I know that this is simplistic, but consider how the movie offering is spent. Grand mansions for gods and goddesses, in which they may carry out their fertility practices and join the mighty struggle for animal rights, or for even more worthwhile causes, such as the Clinton campaign for adequate missile technology on mainland China.

One sweetener of the wrong path is free sex. Today's tragedy is that so much of mainstream religion is trading on free sex for its authority. The churches are pockmarked with homosexuals. In some they are hidden. In some they are tolerated but quiet. In some they are vociferously demanded to be heard. In some they are being heard and are challenging fundamental doctrines. In some they are victorious.

A friend of mine, Diario Ferraboli, has been pursuing ecumenical work with Catholics, and in that context a priest invited him to his quarters for discussion. The priest's room had several couches, one of which was a love seat. The priest asked Diario to sit in the love seat, and sat down beside him. No one else was in the room. The priest asked Diario about the family values he espoused. Diario explained that a true family is made up of man, woman and children. The priest stated that he agreed, with the proviso that the parental roles could be assumed by two men, one in the position of husband and one in the position of wife. Diario concluded that this man was not going to get far with true family values or the Blessing. The artificial, low-fat sweetener of Satan's path is free sex.

You might say, wait a minute; free sex is everywhere. Precisely the point.

God of course is not against sex and the environment. He created sex and the environment. He would not be against something He created. What He is against, as any good parent, is the misuse of sex and the environment. Who planned the wise use of sex and the environment? God did, not us. And God will tell us, by one means or another, when we are turning off course. One way is by sending His messenger with His word. If that is of no avail, He will get a little more obvious.

Where Were You June 13?

Let us draw this into reality now. It may be small by worldly standards; it may be on the periphery. That it is so comes as no surprise, in light of the Bible. In the mainstream, we have the mayor of New York City, Rudy Giuliani. In the mainstream, we have the Dalai Lama. On the periphery, we have the Reverend and Mrs. Sun Myung Moon. The day is June 13, 1998. Reverend and Mrs. Moon are at Madison Square Garden. They are conducting a marriage blessing ceremony for a few thousand followers, and blessing the rededication of marriage by some 120 million couples of all religions around the world. They are standing up for traditional values. They are crying out that to save this world, we all should begin by rededicating ourselves to faithful, God-centered marriage and family life, teach sexual purity to youth, and support others in these ideals, beyond race, nation and religion. That, believe it or not, is on the periphery.

The mayor of New York City was invited. His office replied that his schedule is very busy and he could not attend. Where did the mayor's schedule have him on June 13? It had him joining a gay pride parade in Brooklyn.

The Dalai Lama was invited. His office replied that he had a very important affair that day. He was presiding over a fund-raiser for his nation, Tibet. It was in the form of a two-day rock concert. Interestingly, it took place at the site of Reverend Moon's last blessing festival, RFK Stadium, Washington, DC.

Now, these are nice people, the gay pride crowd. The best people on earth, if measured by wealth, beauty and influence. And who can be against the cause of Tibet, especially when it is aligned so closely with the Buddhist faith, and everyone knows that Buddhism is the golden road to unlimited devotion, and that it is well worth it to unite religion and state when the state is Tibet and the religion is Buddhism. We cannot, surely , unite Christianity and the United States; that would be horrible. But uniting Tibet and Buddhism, how benign! It's lost horizon all over again.

In any case, these are nice people. But their activities caused them to miss the Blessing. A religious leader chose an event on behalf of his nation instead of one on behalf of the world. A political leader chose an event on behalf of homosexuality instead of one on behalf of godly marriage. So they didn't come inside Madison Square Garden.

Oh, and there were others outside the Garden. There were the "anti-moon demonstrators"--somewhere between 2 and 20 strong. They were not "for" anything. They were against the marriage blessing. They said Reverend and Mrs. Moon are power-hungry brainwashers. They gathered outside the Garden to get their fair share of television coverage.

In and Out

Are they following false gods of free sex and nature worship? Let us consider the difference between the Moon group activities and those who are placing their priority upon sexual freedom, science or national religion. These agendas are good if, and only if, subjected to the authority of the True God and His kingdom. We cannot claim to recognize, much less represent, the True God and His kingdom based upon our merit. We just seek for as clear an idea as possible of the difference between right and wrong, between good and evil.

Goodness is to live for others; evil is to live for the self. As Jesus put it, those who seek to gain their life will die, and those who seek to lose their life for the sake of the kingdom will live. To live for oneself is to follow the way of Satan; to live for others, for the kingdom, is to follow the way of God. So, can I decide whether I will be on God's side or Satan's side?

Let us assume that I can decide my own ethical standard. Some would disagree, but let us take the liberal position here. But even being generous, no liberal can claim that we decide our origin. No one can decide his place or time of birth, his color of skin or cultural context. Part and parcel of this is that we cannot decide the quality of our parents' love, the love which is our origin. No human being at any time in history could make that determination. And yet nothing has a greater control over our individual nature and destiny. Now, if this is true then we can posit a regression to original parents, called in the Bible Adam and Eve. The Bible, and in some way, each religion, asserts that the origin of the human race was plagued by problems. In the Bible, the first man and woman were cast out of the primeval paradise of Eden. It wasn't the man who was cast out, with the woman staying behind. It wasn't the woman cast out, with the man remaining in grace. They left together. They found themselves in a state alienated from God, and it was there that they began their family. Their love was not godly. Thus, the quality of the love imbued into their children at birth was flawed. The kids had no say in it. And so it was from there henceforth to this day. Our ethical practice cannot affect this.

So the New Testament begins by taking up the issue of Jesus' birth. It informs us of the lineage leading up to his birth, that through it his birth was entirely distinct from that of any other human being. His lineage is delineated, and the "virgin birth" asserted. Virgin birth signifies that the selfish love of fallen man and woman had nothing to do with Jesus parentage. The spiritual source was God, and there was no pollution of Satan based upon original sin.

The second point of Matthew's gospel is Jesus' teachings, called the Sermon on the Mount. This is a recitation of blessings, meant to make of us pure brides and bridegrooms, worthy of the kingdom. Just as God greeted His children with blessings (Gen 1:28), so too Jesus greets us with blessings (Mt 5). Follow the way of blessing and we can become brides and bridegrooms, ready for marriage.

The third point is that Jesus himself is a bridegroom. Thus all men, as bridegrooms, should be like Jesus. The church is the bride, and all women thus should emulate the church (Eph 5:22-33). There we have the New Testament models for man and woman, bridegroom and bride, Christ and the true church--the indwelling of the Holy Spirit.

We realize the significance of these things when we move to Revelation. Bridegroom and bride are meant to marry; the words themselves point to a consummation in marriage. When is the marriage? At the second coming. Now we are defining some positive signs, aren't we? We see that the second coming involves the marriage of Christ, the bridegroom, and the church, the bride. This signifies the consummation of our relationship with Jesus, as brides with our bridegroom. And here is where Reverend Moon has something unique to say: this perfect marriage of Christ and the church in the end time is to manifest in each and every marriage on this earth. This signifies a fresh start for all marriages. This is the Blessing. However you may want to evaluate it, the fact is that he testifies that Jesus called him to do it. This is not to place credit or blame; merely to clarify the spiritual lineage of his work, as everyone inherits from the past.

Now if this is credible, then we could consider Madison Square Garden on June 13 as a place of salvation, like the ark. Those who heard the call came inside. The weather was fine as we entered. The doors closed, courtesy the Madison Square Garden staff. Outside were the gay pride activists, the anti- moon demonstrators, the rock concert for free Tibet. When the doors closed, when Blessing started, the rains came. Torrential rains washed out the gay pride parade. The rains washed out the anti-moon protesters. Lightning struck RFK Stadium, seriously injuring eleven people. That event was called off. Inside the Garden, no one was in the least bit aware of the raging weather outside. And when we emerged, when the doors opened, the rain had stopped. We walked out onto literal dry ground. The air smelled fresh; something was washed.

Now, was this God's judgment? It is not for man to say. But it is for man to make observations. Consider August 25, 1992, the date of the first "stadium blessing." It took place at the Main Olympic Stadium in Seoul, Korea. For weeks, rival South Korean churches had been praying for the event to be rained out. It rained all night, and when we boarded the buses at 7 a.m., the sky was clearing and big puddles spotted the parking lot. That day it rained throughout the peninsula. But in the vicinity of the Stadium, it was bright sunshine.

It is tough to challenge monsoon season, mid-August, but Reverend Moon , made the same challenge in 1995. It was the worst flooding in a century on the peninsula. The skies were swollen with rain all day the 25th. But when Reverend and Mrs. Moon entered the stadium, the rain stopped. It did not rain for one hour. When they departed, the rains recommenced.

Move up to 1997, on November 29 at RFK Stadium in Washington, DC. The Farmer's Almanac predicted wet and cold weather. All week it was wet and cold. The day itself was cold and overcast. But it did not rain, not a drop. And when Reverend and Mrs. Moon raised their hands to pray, the sun broke through the clouds, and the sun shined upon them for their seven minute prayer, and when they lowered their hands to end the prayer, the sun disappeared and was not to be seen the rest of the day. It's enough to make one a believer.

Need a sign of God be supernatural? Clearly not. Noah's rainbow was just that, a rainbow. But it came at a special place and time, and was seen by someone who could interpret it. As it was in the days of Noah, so shall it be in the days of the Son of Man. The true path will be obscure, until the rains come. And when the kingdom is clear to all, it will be for the sake of judging what we did during the time of its struggle for survival. And appear it will, even if we don't want it.

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