Unification News for June 1998
United We Stand
by Paul Carlson
This month we’re going to tackle a weighty subject, perhaps the most serious I have ever written about. As I have sometimes done in the past, rather than sugar-coating matters I will deliberately sketch a "worst case" picture. Our subject, uncomfortable though it may be, is best not shuffled off. It has already been discussed in the mainstream press.
Last year, just before RFK Blessing, the Washington Post ran a series of "negative" articles, a purported exposé of the Unification Church. Among other things, they alleged that we have "no clear succession" for the "nearly eighty year old Rev. Moon."
This sort of trashing is not new. For several decades the press (and society at large) have been declaring the end of Rev. Moon, and the decline and impending fall of his movement. Rather than ignoring them, it occurred to me that we might address the subject directly. You see, this time the Post actually brought up some legitimate points.
A successful future is never guaranteed to new religions. God inspires every genuine Faith, but human beings have to manage them. Their continued unity, and even survival itself, cannot be assured. No matter how pure and wise the founder, others must eventually take over the reigns. The Buddha wondered aloud if even one of his followers really "got it."
Over the millennia, prophets have founded countless religions, whether offshoots or entirely new faiths. In historical terms, only a fraction of them lasted very long. All experienced major transformations, for good or ill-usually both.
Let’s examine several of these religions, seeking lessons from their early histories. I’d like to offer a special thanks to Dale Milne for his assistance in preparing this article, with his diligent research and invaluable historical insights. The Rev. Joel Bjorling also contributed. I have discovered numerous situations parallel to our own, at least a certain level.
Muslim and Christian history both 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 the religious elders and the direct descendants of the Prophet, respectively. This pattern was to be followed by others.
Christianity divided even within the lifetime of Jesus’ apostles. The Copts of Egypt, Uniats of Syria, Roman Catholics and Greek Orthodox Church all have their ancient traditions and lines of apostolic succession. All suffered through schisms, "false" leaders and other difficulties.
In modern history, many new religions are tied closely with the American tradition of enthusiastic revival. During the 1830s an evangelist named William Miller started a millennial movement that gave birth to the Jehovah’s Witnesses, Seventh Day Adventists and others. He created a huge ruckus with his predicted "End of the World," and soon enough, with his revised and updated prediction.
The Jehovah’s Witnesses make bold claims of unity. I have a friend who was born and raised a Witness; she even belonged to their elite (and literally numbered) 144,000 chosen ones. When she began a conversion to Unificationism, they "laid a heavy guilt trip" on her. Their elders told her that not one of that chosen band had ever-in all the years since their founding-broken with the faith. I will leave it to the reader to judge the veracity of this claim.
The Mormons can teach us many lessons. These involve prophets, leadership, holy temples and more.
For starters, their history illustrates one of the biggest dangers of recognizing a "living prophet." I have a list of more than 100 Mormon groups, and each and every one of them claims to be lead by "the genuine prophet," true heir to founder Joseph Smith Jr. Many of these groups are small; some are no more than extended families. Interestingly, about nine groups, each with a charismatic leader, broke off from the Mormons before Smith was martyred.
We Unificationists have seen several groups (perhaps two or three per continent) break off. All have been oddballs, tiny and not particularly appealing. Many of these rebels suffered from "Chapter Two" (i.e., sexual) problems.
After Smith died, the Mormon leadership divided. Their elders, headed by the formidable Brigham Young, lead 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 of the 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 it is still lead by a Smith. Because of this, in the eyes of many the RLDS church has a special legitimacy. (For well over a century they have been sending missionaries to Utah!)
We Unificationists might well ascertain a parallel situation here. I am reluctant to bring it up at all, but I’d rather not leave it to the Post. Please consider whether there could exist a similar potential within our own growing, three-generation family leadership.
Another Mormon offshoot, while quite small, is noteworthy. It’s called the Temple Lot church, and they own 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. The larger Mormon groups cannot build this temple without the Temple Lot’s permission. They’re too poor to build it themselves-and much too stubborn to cooperate.
One new religion that rivals Unificationism in public notoriety is the Hare Krishnas. Several 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.
Simply note that we Unificationists have at least two contending sites for our own planned, major temple.
The Baha'i Faith proudly proclaims their record of "unbroken unity," but the reality is a bit messier. During the 1800s, founder Baha'u'llah endured extreme persecution, organizing a new religion within Muslim society. His great-grandson Shoghi Effendi was their last individual leader, or Guardian. Upon his death, an American Baha'i scholar named Charles Remey hoped to take over as Guardian. The situation was in flux, as some of the founder’s descendants had been branded "covenant breakers," and Shoghi Effendi had left no will.
Remey was rejected in favor of a new council, and he departed, taking many followers with him. There are now two dissident groups, with slightly different beliefs, both referred to as Orthodox Baha'is. All three groups like to pretend that the others don’t even exist.
Once again, we see the leadership "baton" juggled between direct descendants, eminent leaders and assembled councils.
America’s prophets had several precursors, the best known being Joanna Southcott of England. All her life she considered herself a loyal member of the Church of England, and her unusual teachings even won over a number of their ministers.
Southcott believed she would be "the mother of the new messiah." In 1814, after a false pregnancy, she sickened and died, but left behind a loyal worldwide following. Since then, in a haphazard but widely recognized succession, other prophets have taken up her cause. The eighth of these, upon realizing her position, named herself Octavia.
The stories of these prophets are unusual, to say the least. One of Southcott’s tracts was found by a skeptic, who sent it along to a friend, as an amusement. Instead, that friend was deeply inspired, and became a powerful convert!
Today several groups of Southcottians remain, scattered around the globe. Perhaps the largest is in Australia, where they’ve weathered serious leadership scandals. Another group, visited by Dale Milne, is rather poignant: a few elderly ladies "keeping the faith" in a large, old house.
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. No one imagines that his movement would have outlasted 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 spirit world. Authentic, God-guided religions will survive and grow. The story of the Jews, from earliest times until today, is deeply inspiring. Lesser-known faiths like the Parsees have also survived millennia of adversity.
The Catholics weathered a series of failed Crusades, "anti-Popes" and such, and today they are as successful as ever. (Note that their "doctrine of clerical celibacy" was a relatively late invention, and that its time may well be ending.)
We Unificationists, as documented in several recent books, have already been through many phases. I myself can recall several of these.
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, in many gradual and worldwide steps, evolved far beyond the expectations of virtually all our members.
At the Chung Pyung Lake workshop, three "internal" Unificationist revivals are described. Our old friend the Post detailed the second of these, even if in their usual stilted fashion. The world has yet to realize what sort of miracles are taking place at Chung Pyung, under Daemonim’s ministrations.
We can conclude that new religions always reflect their founder’s character and deeds, not to mention the truthfulness of his (or her) teachings. Their fruits are shown in the history of their movements. We can be thankful to have the truest and most loving leadership of any new religion in history.
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