Unification News for December 1999
Rites of Passage
The month’s article is born of serious concerns. Some of its ideas may be shocking, so consider yourself forewarned.
A special thanks to webmaster SuGin Bowman for her keen insights, and also to Rev. B. H. Kim and the members of northern California’s Second Generation Club.
Our movement has reached a phase where hundreds of Blessed Children are entering adulthood, and facing all the life choices that entails. They’re enrolling in college, and for the first time in their lives, moving out from under their parent’s wings. They’re also old enough to be matched and Blessed.
In August 1999, the Bay Area Family Church held a Youth Panel. About a dozen High School age members shared openly with their parents, church leaders, and other concerned Unificationists. The discussion was very frank, and some parents heard concerns and confessions for the first time.
Those young folks cared enough to be there. But some of the Second Generation, not to mention their parents, didn’t bother. This reflects our larger movement, with many of the Second Generation choosing not to participate in the Blessing.
The reality our young people face is daunting. While they have very comfortable lives (compared to most of the world), they’re meeting great tests.
Our Second Generation bears all the pressures of modern teens, plus the challenge of keeping a high standard religious life. Many of their concerns have been echoed by teenagers throughout the ages, and as ever, the young folks themselves seldom realize it.
Their major concern is "communication." Bridging the gap between parents and children, and in today’s fast-changing society, between generations.
Another is "temptation," especially that of substance abuse.
Many teens endure "harassment," because they’re different, or for girls, just because they’re female.
Some teens complain about "over-protectiveness," especially daughters.
There’s the issue of "romance," and curiosity about dating. Also the gray area of cross-gender friendships.
Note: except for the worst parents, these concerns are shared by all families.
Certain issues are specific to religious families.
Christian teens are charged to share their faith with others. They’re also expected to lead a clean life, even when surrounded by degradation.
A few issues are specific to Unificationists, such as attendance of our matching and Blessing. Also, explaining these to secular friends.
A less common issue is the Notorious P. K., the amplified rebelliousness of the "preacher’s kid." This author heard many P. K. stories while fundraising in Bible Belt states.
Another Unificationist issue directly involves the Principle. Several teens reported that, to their parents, "the Principle is the answer to everything." Not its daily, real-life application, but as an entirety. Figuratively speaking, answering every concern by slapping down a copy and announcing: "It’s in there! Read this and it’ll solve everything!"
How do we address these concerns?
Communication between parents and teens must be sought out. Teens tend to forget that their parents were once that age -- and it usually doesn’t help for parents to point it out.
Timing is important. For girls, casual remarks can lead to better sharing than a tense "family meeting." Some guys enjoy "just driving around with their dads," perhaps dining out, and sharing whatever is on their minds.
Temptation can be handled in many ways. No teenager sets out to be a drug addict or an AIDS patient, yet thousands manage it every year. Some (but not all) school based programs actually help teens refuse drugs. Peer pressure, abetted by anger towards parents, is almost always the cause.
As one minister said, "If you talk about football all day, study football, and hang out with people who play football, chances are you’ll end up playing football too." Substitute "sex" for "football" and little more needs to be said.
Many Second Generations have sought, and found, a better group of peers. Positive friendships also lend practical support against the advances of bullies, hormone-soaked athletes, etc.
All worthy parents struggle about protectiveness. Innocent daughters can be taken advantage of. On the other hand, attending some event where (gasp!) boys are present isn’t going to kill them . . .
Friends of the opposite sex (like study partners) are a daily reality that cannot be denied. Remaining "just" a friend is difficult. Good family communication is absolutely essential here.
Most Second Generation teens are uncomfortable sharing about their faith, yet they’re often asked, "Why don’t you date?" It’s easier to shut up and act "cool," but inevitably, if their faith means anything to them, they’ll have to draw the line somewhere. Many have discovered that when they do, their schoolmates respect them much more!
Actually, many traditions conflict with American sensibilities, such as Orthodox Jewish boys wearing a yarmulke, or the Sikh custom of carrying a small knife. Sometimes these conflicts end up in the courts, and on the news.
Second Generation teens who have explained the Blessing often discover that their secular friends are interested, even envious. Especially those from abusive or broken homes.
The Notorious PK issue arises because most Unificationists claim a high standard of faith, and are as active as ordinary ministers. It’s been highlighted by several tragedies involving the True Children, who are expected to follow the highest standard of all.
We must understand that all churches are peopled by mortal beings. If our Second Generation could take the time to visit dozens of churches, sometimes for years on end (as this author has), they would learn that others struggle with far more scandal, contradiction, and doctrinal controversy.
There is a popular Christian story about a prospective church member meeting with the Pastor and exclaiming, "But there are so many hypocrites in your congregation!" And the Pastor, seeing all too well, replies, "There’s always room for one more."
Some of the Second Generation would rather take the secular "lifestyle gamble" than follow the Providential course pioneered by their own parents. This is unfortunate for everyone concerned, whether they realize it now, or years later. And that’s not even asking how God feels about it . . .
Often the Second Generation’s dilemma is based upon what they’ve seen in their own families. Perhaps their parents sacrificed time and finances, even going away on distant missions. Perhaps they quarreled, seemingly unlike the Ideal Family we profess.
Psychologists know that couples usually form when they "feel comfortable" with each other. People really do look for mates like their own parents; a partner who won’t "rub them wrong." They wonder if it’s love, and if the inner reply is loud enough, they tie the knot.
Fifty percent divorce anyway, usually leaving children to suffer a broken home.
Unificationist tradition is utterly different. Our couples must unite not only themselves, but the world’s diverse languages and cultures. The challenge is far greater, and so is the reward.
Unificationists send their offspring to college. It is de rigueur in Asian cultures. True Father values a college education highly. (This author knows: he spent hours sitting quietly while Father matched brothers with PhDs, on down to guys who spent maybe five minutes in college.)
Father wants his followers to be respected. College does tender respect -- and many perils. Father also rejected a future of "breathing chalk dust until he died." Then what is its actual value?
It isn’t always knowledge. Outside the hard sciences, most schools are mired in "ethnic studies" and "political correctness," to the point where firms must give remedial courses to the graduates they hire. In this age of the Internet, the world’s knowledge is at one’s fingertips.
It isn’t money. Bill Gates of Microsoft, and Filo and Yang of Yahoo!, are billionaires who never graduated. Many skilled, blue collar workers make more money than their tie wearing neighbors—and they don’t have to endure ulcer-inducing "Dilbert style" offices.
Many Second Generation members lose their faith while at college. Why?
It can stem from being "out on one’s own" for the first time, a heady experience for any person.
There are probably more sincere Marxists at American universities than there are in Russia or China. Worse, colleges are the home of a bitter, nihilist doctrine called "deconstructionism." Belief wrecking is its stated goal.
Campus life manages to seduce most of the students who’d preserved their virginity through High School.
Overprotectiveness may produce a sensitivity to relationships. Naive women can easily fall head-over-heels for the first guy who shows them sincere personal concern. One prominent Second Generation sister was in an accident, and while in the hospital, she fell in love with her physical therapist.
Males must constantly battle their hormonal inclinations towards women—and sometimes, "liberated" females are hot on their heels.
One might attribute all this to demonic influences, but even without those, the danger is there.
The evil spirit world is real, and it can be overwhelming when confronted, especially for the first time. Anyone who’s spent a while on MFT, IOWC, or any front line mission, has almost certainly endured such confrontations. The guidance of one’s elders, and the support of brothers and sisters, helps one persevere and break through.
Thus it is important for Second Generation teens to go out on the front line. Our Summer Camps are a good start. These days, the PLA and Special Teams provide the best opportunity.
Ultimately, our Second Generation must embrace Unificationism as their own faith. Not something they copied from their parents, or what they do to get along; but perceiving its true value, and choosing it all over again.
The need for an "affirmation experience" is very real. Without it, the Jews, having gained few converts, would have vanished a thousand years ago. They faced far worse persecution than we ever have!
Is the Blessing a sufficient rite of passage? In the Ideal World, it will be more than enough to cement our eternal faith.
True Father has specifically endorsed our New Hope Academy and Sun Moon University. The new Il Shim ceremony is another valuable step.
But until fallen society has changed a great deal, we’ll still need some "School of Hard Knocks" experience.
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