Unification News for February 2000
Parental Love and the Marketplace
A few years ago I became enamored of capitalism and the free market system. The more enamored of it I became, the more I was challenged to reconcile it with some of our Unification traditions. Kipling said that East is East and West is West and ne’er the twain shall meet. I was considering the unhappy prospect that his was applicable beyond the sphere of the British Empire. For instance, there is our Unificationist practice of inviting people to conferences and paying all their expenses.
After all, there are numerous people who make their living putting on conferences. What they have to offer doesn’t hold a candle to Unificationist thought. People such as Stephen Covey, Billy Graham and Tony Robbins are only the best known of hundreds who put on fine and inspiring conferences and charge people good money to attend. The participants don’t think twice about having to pay their own way to the conference, cover their own room and board and pay a hefty conference fee to boot. In other words, the conference organizers are marketing the conference and its content. They are creating a product that people value. When people value something, they pay for it. Now, I thought, why can’t we do that?
After all, by doing conferences using a market model, several good things are accomplished. For one thing, when one is offering something for sale, one is challenged to make it valuable. If we call a conference and no one comes, then we obviously have some work to do on the value of what we are offering. Thus, the market forces one to improve quality. Second, and related, the market serves as a means to gauge the effectiveness of what one is presenting. Is anyone really getting the message? Why rely on "testimonies"? Why not let money talk? What would you rather have, a hundred "this was the best conference I’ve ever attended"s or a hundred dollars paid by someone who is also paying all their own expenses? Third, when you charge money, you attract people who have money. Anyone wants to work with society’s leaders. Society’s leaders do not attend free conferences, as a rule. When they find something of value, they pay for it. The more they are willing to pay, most often, the more influential—or at least successful—the person is. Fourth, obviously, you are taking care of the problem of funding your activity. You can be self-sustaining. Fifth, and related, you are liberated from dependency upon a funding source.
Then why, to come back to the initial question, are we putting on all these free conferences? When one does a free conference, then one is, in a sense, in a position of a beggar. Please come to my conference, one is saying—I’ll even pay you to come. One becomes an arbiter of human value also, when one is oversubscribed (as we have been lately). If one can support ten people to attend and twenty people are lined up, on what criterion does one choose who should get in? No matter what criteria one chooses, someone is going to feel that they were treated unjustly. You are setting up a welfare mentality, an entitlement mentality. "Why," the recipient asks, "did you accept that person and not me?"
Further, one loses any standard by which to judge the effectiveness of the conference in putting across one’s ideas. When one is giving people gifts, naturally the recipients respond with gratitude, irrespective of whether they really appreciated or grasped the contents. This point extends to the problem of attendance in one’s sessions. When your audience has paid for their seats, they will usually be diligent to attend. When their seats are free, they will not be. Attendance falls off because there is no intrinsic attraction to the content being presented, especially after lunch.
For example, in our conferences we usually provide an hour and a half for the free lunch, and people straggle back to the afternoon session. On the other hand, at a conference I paid to attend, we were given 45 minutes for lunch and we had to find a place to eat and pay for it ourselves. We rushed to our van, found a Burger King, wolfed down lunch and were back in our seats for the start of the next session. I followed this strategy for the first True Family Values Ministry seminar, March of 1996. I gave the guests, who had paid $30 for the half-day seminar ($20 for the second person from the same church), 45 minutes for lunch and they had to find a place to eat and pay for it. They were all back in their seats after 45 minutes.
And it surprised me even more at that conference when a minister came up to me and asked me if I could present the material in his church. My goodness, I thought. This is what Father has always said we should do—teach the principle in Christian churches. I of course said I would be happy to come and teach. But his next question was even more surprising: "How much do you charge?"
Well, I never did speak in that minister’s church. What happened was that True Family Values became providential. I had wanted to spend six months developing the material and associated marketing techniques, but instead I allowed myself to be swept off on a tour of the regions to instruct members on how to teach it. This was untested material, really the first draft. Then in the midst of that tour, True Father called for the education of 1,000 ministers within a month, with the first seminar to begin in about one week. All expenses paid, of course. We were off spending hundreds of thousands of dollars, and eventually millions of dollars, on the True Family Values Ministry seminars. While the conferences were going on, there was no time to develop the material. When the goal was reached and the money gone, the TFVM ground to a halt.
So you can see my dilemma. But I wouldn’t even write all of this down unless I had come to at least a partial resolution. That resolution has to do with parental love.
Parental love is not easily dismissed, for it is the very essence of God. Conjugal love stimulates creation, but parental love sustains it. Were conjugal love the bottom line, God would surely have destroyed Adam and Eve after the fall. If brother-sister love were the sine qua non of God, He would have blown off the fallen Adam and Eve in a second. But since parental love is the essence of God, He could not destroy them. Since parental love is His essence, He has sacrificed for aeons in order to bring us out of hell and into His bosom. It is through parental love that we stand in the image of God. Thus the Messiah’s fundamental stance toward humankind is parental in nature and they are called True Parents.
So the argument for subsidized conferences strikes to the root of the nature of God. The market is a manifestation of brother-sister love. It has a place in the scheme of things, of course. But it is not the core. The core is parental love and the fundamental question is, "How does humankind respond to God’s parental love?" To develop this, let us explore the nature of parental love a bit more.
Parental love leads the subject to want the object to surpass him. A parent wants his or her offspring to surpass him. To do this, the parent must allow the child freedom and responsibility. The parent gives everything and the question is how the child responds, how the child, in essence, develops what the parent has given. Does the child appreciate what the parent has done? Does the child even recognize it? Is the child grateful to be alive in the environment the parent created? Does the child accept the conditions of existence? Does the child believe in the parent and in the parent’s vision? Does the child recognize the potential inherent in what the parent has given him?
There is a German existentialist philosophy that views us as "thrown into" the world. We are here without our consent and we just have to make the best of it and construct our reality as we prefer. Kierkegaard viewed Adam’s problem as the problem of dread. Adam felt a deep-seated fear of existence itself. Adam escaped this fear, this dread, by immersing himself in the sensuality of the fall. Both these thinkers saw the created environment given by God to be unpleasant, foreboding, anxiety inducing. Christian and religious thinkers as a whole, on the other hand, view the original environment as extremely pleasant, with the problem being our failure to appreciate it and, by extension, to honor the One who created it. Failure to appreciate means that Adam and Eve had no particular commitment to what God had done for them. Thus God’s commandment carried little weight. There is also the view of the fall as rebellion against God—in particular by the angel. Somehow the angel held resentment against the One he saw as ruling over him unjustly. Another view is that Adam fell because of pride. In this reading, he appreciated the value of God but felt that he was as good as God and should have all the prerogatives of God without taking any of the responsibilities of God.
What I am setting up here is how the core problem of the fall can be viewed as the problem of the created being’s response to the Creator’s parental love. Looked at in this way, it is logical that a human Messiah would allow us to restore the human failure in the Garden by himself taking exactly God’s position of parent. He would create an environment without cost, just as God created the Garden without cost to Adam and Eve, and just as our own parents created our home for us without cost. God and Satan want to see how human beings will respond to undeserved love. Will we respond as did Adam, Eve and the archangel? From this point of view, the principle behind this subsidized conference activity is—sorry for sounding so pretentious—to recreate the conditions of the original creation. The Messiah does not come as a businessman. He comes as a parent giving abundantly to His children. The only question is: how long will it take the children to respond? The corollary question is: how will the Messiah find the means to give so generously to an unresponsive audience? That is the responsibility of his co-messiahs, those who believe and take on the task of sacrificing for the sake of the world.
Considered from this perspective, the conferences appear differently. What a gift our conferences are, for any academic, clergyman or statesman of conscience! Here is the chance to dialogue with colleagues from around the world on topics reflecting the highest ideals, free of charge. Any scholar of conscience must consider world peace to be a worthy goal. From whom, other than God Himself, would come a free invitation to a conference to discuss and build a world of peace with colleagues from the world over? From whom, other than God Himself, would come a free invitation to work with colleagues beyond race, nation and religion on issues of responsibility and ethics in the media? From whom, other than God Himself, would come a free invitation to dialogue with the leaders of other religions on how to bring mutual understanding through dialogue and exchange? From whom, other than God Himself, would come a free invitation for students from North and South Korea to confer together, or black and white women to embrace on a bridge of peace, or scientists to discuss the value implications of their research, or statesmen to resolve international conflicts, or writers and artists to discuss how their craft might assist the world to achieve peace and freedom?
It is the Messiah’s responsibility to create this environment for his children. Then the whole question is that of humankind’s response. If God can recreate the conditions of the Garden and if humankind can respond correctly this time, then God can claim us. He can say to Satan that Adam and Eve failed, but my children did not fail this time, and they are truly my children. Now, what are the various kinds of response True Parents have received to their conferences?
The most common response is probably "I can’t be bothered with it; it’s not for me. I receive a dozen invitations to conferences every month and I have to pick and choose according to my field of interest. This isn’t my field of interest, so I’ll let it pass." This would be like Adam saying that he has found a lot of work to do in the Garden—for instance, building a bridge so that he can get at those bananas—and just doesn’t have time for God, commandments, big visions about building a nation and so forth. Such an Adam has no protection against the temptation of Eve.
Another response is that of suspicion. What’s behind this invitation? There must be strings attached. There’s no such thing as a free lunch. This person refuses to believe that parental love exists, that someone truly and wholesomely wants to give to him or her without condition. Such a person cannot receive love with a pure heart. (As Jesus said, blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see the kingdom of God.) Lacking a pure heart, such a person imputes malice in the motivation of the one who is giving. What’s behind this? Where does Rev. Moon get all this money? What’s his real agenda? I know, it’s to legitimate himself by buying off a lot of big names.
Underlying all of these responses is the failure of children’s heart. This means the inability to accept an undeserved gift from a true parent who has our best interests in his heart. Our True Parents have to place themselves in that position in relation to the greatest people of the world.
Then we can consider the motives of those who do attend the conferences. There are those who believe that they deserve such royal treatment and, in fact, why don’t the organizers treat them better? What, they say—only an economy ticket? I have to share a room with someone? The hotel does not accommodate my dietary needs? My pick-up was late at the airport! This type seems to cast himself as God’s gift to any conference and tend sooner or later to feel that they get the point and are free go shopping instead of attending the afternoon session.
Then there are those who are truly and humbly appreciative, and God bless them. They enjoy the fellowship. They are stimulated by the dialogue and contribute the insights of their disciplines to the conversation. These are our friends and finest colleagues. They are the successful Adams and Eves, at least to a certain level.
What lies beyond that level is when participants receive persecution for attending the conferences, lose their job and suffer other disabilities, and still hang in there for the cause. This is the way some "pay" for the conference.
We have yet to see, however, a man arise who will inherit the parental role of Reverend Moon. We have yet to see someone who will catch the same vision and say, "What Reverend Moon is doing is absolutely right. I want to be a part of this. Here, Reverend Moon, I will contribute $50,000 to this conference." The Pope hasn’t done it; the Ford Foundation hasn’t done it; no one has done it.
Thus taking the parental role creates a realm of judgment. The True Parents present to us the same environment and the same challenges that Adam and Eve faced in the Garden. It is a free gift; the only condition to receive it is to accept it. To accept it means that one accepts the love and authority of the giver. One thereby enters into a reciprocal relationship with the giver. When one accepts an unconditional gift, one accepts the unconditional love of the giver.
Sometimes this can be a problem. Beware, the saying goes, of Greeks bearing gifts. The human race is challenged to perceive the love of God. Our stance toward our given condition must be that it is the result of a beneficial giver, a giver who can be trusted.
What is the role of the market?
What I have described could be seen as pertinent to the task of restoration. What of the original ideal? Is it also a world of free conferences? Or will we start buying from and selling to each other? Economics does affect culture in a major way. I have always demarcated real commitment to the Unification Church by the act of joining the economic realm True Father has created. When one gives up everything to God, one is in the position to receive everything from God. And what God can give to us is far more than what we can give to Him, or to ourselves.
Adam Smith considered the market to be the theater of God’s activity in the world. His worldview was part and parcel of the transition from monarchism to democracy. Beneath the wings of monarchs, as it were, the hurried busy-ness of the bourgeoisie—the shopkeepers, craftsmen, engineers, merchants and promoters—built the modern world. It is the world of brother-sister love, as True Father says, the world of the market. The market, after all, is the democratization of economy. Dollars act as votes. Heavenly socialism, it seems to me, whatever it might be, is not a democratization. And yet the Divine Principle calls it a democratization of the economy, referring, I suppose, not to the principle of "no taxation without representation" but rather to the equality of status that it is supposed to create. … to be continued.
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