Lifestyle Conversations with Members of the Unification Church - Edited by Richard Quebedeaux
Richard Quebedeaux: Obviously people are not going to witness or do evangelism until they have their spirituality straight. It's interesting to note that both of the witnessers and evangelists who will speak now happen to be women, so perhaps this will flow very freely into the next hour which is about women's roles in the church. I'd like to introduce Diana Muxworthy and Jaime Sheeran who will be giving us a presentation about witnessing and evangelism. Both of them have been and are involved in this process.
Jaime Sheeran: I graduated from the Unification Theological Seminary in the first class of 1977. At that time, I felt very excited about going out to the field to meet people and to witness about Rev. Moon and the Principle. It is ironic in a way that this was my despite because when I joined the Unification Church in 1973 I had no idea what the term "witnessing" meant. In my Catholic background there was very little focus in this direction. In the Unification Church, though, witnessing is very much a part of life.
I moved into our "family" while still a student at the University of Vermont. I'll never forget my first exposure to witnessing. One day it was announced that we would all be going out to the streets to speak to people about the Principle and invite them to come to our church center. The whole idea was overwhelming to me and even sounded religious! While everyone else was out witnessing, I ended up sitting in a restaurant for three hours trying to get the courage to actually approach someone. My new-found faith was just barely beginning to form at that time.
Needless to say, there has been a great change in my feeling and my understanding of what it means to witness and evangelize. Presently, I am directing our church activities in the state of West Virginia. Upon graduation in 1977, all of the seminary students went on fundraising teams for a couple of months, and by September 1977, Rev. Moon had asked several of us to go to various states to direct the church activities. If I can, I would like to paint a picture for you of what it has been like to witness on behalf of the Unification Church in West Virginia. You might wonder what it is like to go and visit people, to knock on their doors as a Moonie. What kind of reaction do people have to us, and what kind of experiences do we have meeting them?
Recently, a new aspect of our church witnessing has begun. In about the middle of 1978, Rev. Moon began to speak to us about something called home church. Our focus in witnessing up to that time, basically, had been to meet people in the streets, stopping them as they walked, and asking them things like, "What is your purpose in life?" or "Do you believe in God?" Then we would invite them to come to one of our evening programs to hear a lecture about the Principle. Also we would often go to campuses setting up lectures, discussions and workshops. So, for the most part our focus had been what we call "street witnessing" and the greater portion of the people who responded seemed to be young people. Our experience was that young people were more open to new ideas and more interested in actually changing the world.
With the coming of home church, though, everything seemed to turn around and take a completely different focus. Instead of approaching people on the streets or on campus, we began to visit people in their homes. Rev. Moon has asked each member of the Unification Church to take an area of three hundred and sixty homes in which to witness, serve and love the people with all our heart, all our soul and all our strength. I was very excited as Rev. Moon began to explain to us the meaning of home church. For myself, I felt it was very close to what I had been prepared to do and had been interested in doing my whole life. It was exciting to me because I could see in a more substantial way than before how God would bring the fulfillment of His ideal of the kingdom of heaven on earth.
In college I had majored in social work. I wanted to do something that would involve working with people and would improve our society; there seemed to be many problems especially in the family life of American homes. While still in college, I worked with elderly people and families in low-income housing projects. Before long I began to feel disappointed in my studies and in the work I was doing. There seemed to be a lack of real depth in understanding the core of the problems people were facing. No matter what solutions were being offered, the real situation in the field was not improving at all. I found that by providing material things for people you could solve their problems temporarily, but you couldn't give them a sense of pride or value. In housing projects there was little respect for property and often it would be vandalized. I could see that the theories I knew were extremely limited in their capability to improve our society, so I began to search for more answers and turned to religion. Up until that time I had not seriously considered religion as a way to solve the world's problems. I had viewed myself as an agnostic and sometimes as an atheist. My interest in religion began to grow, though, until I finally decided to make it a dual major along with my studies in social work.
I can see how home church is a fulfillment of both religion and social work. In home church, we visit homes with people of all ages, occupations, attitudes and economic brackets. It is our hope not only to teach people about God and spiritual life, but it is also our desire to serve people by helping them in many various ways. For example, in West Virginia our church center is actually a small house located in a residential section in a town called Huntington. It is a middle-income area with quite a variety of folks. There are many old people, young families, students and professors. In the area I have chosen, one side of my home church area is mostly people of the lower income bracket, while on the other side it begins to have people who are more wealthy. There are very few Black people, unfortunately, or people of various nationalities. In visiting out homes we have tried to approach people in as natural a way as possible. At the same time, it is very much our desire to be as out front as possible about Rev. Moon and the Unification Church. In fact, one day we set up a table in the park near our church center where we wore tee-shirts which said, "Make friends with a Moonie" as we gave away balloons, watermelon and church literature. So we have tried to be out front, and because Huntington is a fairly small community, people easily find out what's going on.
The first thing we do when we go to people's homes is to approach them by taking a survey in which we gather their opinions about such things as moral issues, the future of America or their goals in life. What do you think can help the world more today, religion or technology? Do you believe in God? What makes you happy? These are examples of the kinds of questions we ask. In this way, we can quickly orient the discussion toward meaningful issues; also, if we first are willing to listen to people rather than just tell them our own ideas, a more natural and comfortable relationship develops. Through the survey, we can also find out what their needs are and how we can best serve them. Sometimes, that means we end up cleaning people's homes or washing their cars, baby-sitting or doing an errand. Recently, I have been learning how to cut hair, because often people find it is very expensive to go someplace to have it done. Home church is our chance really to do service for people with unconditional love. We have made it a policy not to accept any money for the things that we do; instead Rev. Moon has often reminded us that through serving people, we can learn the meaning of true love. In a way, without these people to serve and to love, we could never become citizens of the heavenly kingdom. For God will speak through them, guiding us, whispering to us, teaching us how to love His children.
You might think we would encounter a hostile environment as we visit and talk to people, but actually we find there is very little hostility towards Rev. Moon and the Unification Church. People seem to be quite open and curious, and if they are not interested, they are usually very polite saying, "No thank you. I'd rather not be involved." In general though, they seem to be curious and interested.
One experience I had as we began to visit people's homes was with a Baptist woman. I knocked on her door and told her I was with the Unification Church. Immediately she asked me to leave, saying she wasn't interested in talking to me. I said, "Well, ma'am, I'm not trying to force any ideas on you. I just would like to meet you and find out your opinions on the Unification Church." She looked at me very carefully and said, "OK. You come back a little bit later and we'll talk about it." Well, I did come back, and after a fairly short time we became very close friends. She is a divorced woman who runs a beauty parlor and has raised her two sons by herself. For hours and hours we would sit and talk together. She eventually felt as though I was one of her closest friends, like her own daughter. She offered me a place to stay in her home and really wanted me to live with her family.
In providing service to people you have to be very flexible. Sometimes you can do something for them, and sometimes it may mean just having the willingness to listen and the heart to understand. Not everyone will respond with interest to the teaching of Rev. Moon and the Unification Church, but everyone can respond to the love of God. Some people as a result of our service do become interested in hearing more about Divine Principle; they may attend our workshops and actually become full-time members. Others may just become our friends. The least thing that happens is that people's opinions of what a Moonie is change very much. For the majority of people, the only contact they may have had with us was probably through the media or through one of our fundraising teams. Finally, through home church, I believe they can begin to understand the real heart of Rev. Moon and the Unification Church.
From a providential viewpoint, according to Rev. Moon, home church should have begun in the Garden of Eden with the family of Adam and Eve. It was God's intention that Adam and Eve reach individual maturity and oneness with God and establish the first God-centered family. As you visit homes you find out very quickly that most homes are not God-oriented and are often filled with numerous complications and problems. Although everyone is searching for a happy life and home, it is often not easy to find or to maintain. So Rev. Moon says to us that home church is not just a method of witnessing, a way to gain members. Home church is actually one more step towards the accomplishment of God's original ideal. The kingdom of heaven on earth is very simply a world in which God lives within each home, in the heart of each individual.
The reason we each have three hundred and sixty homes is because the number 360 represents a complete circle. So each area becomes a mini-world. Since the concept of loving the whole world seems so nebulous, by having our home church areas we can at least give our hearts to this mini-world. When you go to your area even if no one seems to care if it is dirty or full of garbage, our church members think, "I will care. I will be the one to take responsibility to make this place beautiful." Often we plant flowers, or in West Virginia we have been getting up early in the morning, praying for people before they awake, cleaning the trash from the streets or shoveling the snow in our areas. If there is crime in our home church areas then we search for a way to help stop it, perhaps by organizing more cooperation among neighbors. In other words we try to create a family among our three hundred and sixty homes. The hope of home church is that not only will we as Moonies try to do this, but that each person we meet can also take three hundred and sixty homes and they, too, can give love and service to others and expand further God's kingdom on the earth. In a way it is beyond denomination or religion; it is simply learning how to love. We, as members of the Unification Church, feel that God has given us a responsibility to pioneer a model of success, going through all the stages of human history and establishing a kingdom of love in our home church areas. Others, then, can follow that pattern as a model in their three hundred and sixty homes.
As I mentioned in the beginning, through home church, I could see more substantially than ever before how God could actually establish His kingdom on earth. At one point Rev. Moon mentioned that as we visited our homes we would experience going through six thousand years of biblical history. First, through the Old Testament age, we would be like a servant of servants or a servant. Then, we would go through the New Testament age as an adopted child. And finally, we would become like true sons and daughters and true children of God. I actually experienced something like this as I was working in my home church area. One time I visited our next-door neighbor who is suffering from arthritis. It was Christmastime and she was having a difficult time because when she had taken down her Christmas tree many of the dry needles had fallen off and become embedded in her carpet. She had tried to pick them up with the vacuum cleaner but it didn't work. The only way to do it was to get on her hands and knees and pick them up one by one. Because she had arthritis, though, it was too difficult for her to do. I therefore offered to pick them up for her, and on my hands and knees, I picked up each needle one by one. In a way I felt as if I was God and each one of the needles represented us, so brittle and dried up. As carefully as I picked up each one of those needles, I thought, in the same way God picks up each one of us. Then at that moment I heard a voice in my heart which said, "Servant of servants." A few minutes later the woman's son came in. She asked him if he would please take some chairs up to the attic for her. I was still on my knees gathering up the needles. Her son began to argue with her and complain about having to help her. Again I heard a voice in my heart which said, "In some ways you are more of a child of hers than her son." Finally, I felt as if through all of this, I was actually becoming more like a true child of God.
In conclusion, I feel very grateful to have the opportunity to do this kind of work. It is very exciting to try to practice high ideals and hopes. As I was growing up I could never understand why in Christianity so much emphasis was put on spreading the Word. If we are humble, though, and we approach people with the heart that Jesus had when he washed the feet of his disciples, then our words will have meaning and weight as our actions substantialize what we feel in our hearts. The kingdom of heaven is a place not only where we speak the truth but where we live the truth, and that is very difficult to do. But the great thing is that through all the joys, tears and struggles, we find God in a real way and it is very exciting.
Not only do we visit our home church areas, but we also try to visit public officials, ministers and professors to explain more about Rev. Moon and the numerous projects that we are initiating throughout the United States and the world. There is probably a lot more I could say about this but Diana also wants to share something. If you have questions, I'll be happy to try to answer them.
Diana Muxworthy: I'm going to add to that. I realize that there are a lot of questions, but I'm asking you first to listen to just a bit more on witnessing. I will gladly respond to your questions later. I would like to give a brief story of what I've done in terms of witnessing in the Unification Church and then refer to my being at Harvard and how I now look at witnessing.
I joined the movement in June 1974 at the beginning of the Madison Square Garden campaign. That was my first taste of witnessing. Then, my next chance to do witnessing was at the seminary, when on Saturdays and Sundays we would go into New York City to give away tickets for the Yankee Stadium celebration which took place in June 1976. I remember standing on the street in sun and rain for hours and hours, some days giving out over a thousand tickets. That was one way of witnessing: tickets to Yankee Stadium. My next chance to go witnessing was after seminary when I went to Rhode Island and was asked by Rev. Moon to be the director of the Unification Church in Rhode Island.
At that time witnessing was mote of what I suppose most of you imagine witnessing to be -- on the street, talking to people, bringing them over to the center, taking them to a workshop site, and on from there, helping them make personal decisions. In 1978, the home church providence was announced and in January 1979, I was accepted at Harvard. So my taste of home church was brief.
At Harvard, I can't say that I'm witnessing in the sense that I used to witness on the streets or even when I was doing my home church. I'm at Harvard to learn what is there, to learn the heart of Christianity, to learn the problems that Christianity and other world religions have. My witnessing now consists of my learning how my life is to be a witness to Divine Principle, to Rev. Moon and Mrs. Moon, to Franz, my fiance, and to my own family, and even to myself. I'm one of the few people in the church who at this point has been thrown to the wolves. I guess I can say that, but this has nothing to do with Harvard, (laughter) I've been to a certain extent a lamb, immersed in the life in the centers, in an environment which was cloistered in that I lived in a community of Unification Church members, praying, working, eating, waking with members of the church. Now I'm living in a dormitory with the wolves and with the lambs of other faiths. So I'm having to learn in this stage what it means in these circumstances to be a witness, what it is to be someone who believes strongly, not just in the theology of Divine Principle but also in the life stimulated by Divine Principle. What does believing in the Principle mean in reference to how I live my life? What does that have to do with the academic work? What does Divine Principle have to do with creating theology, studying ethics and dealing with feminist issues? How does the theology relate to what Kurt is doing with social action? I feel all this is part of my reason for being at school -- that I may learn from what is going on there and from my own experience. From my belief in the Principle I hope to learn how to work out possibly new methodologies, new ways of intellectualizing, new ways of creating models of theology.
The other aspect of any witnessing is a very personal part. That is my personal life of being a witness to the Principle. My life obviously being quite different from that of a lot of the people at Harvard. I have been very touched, very moved by people's acceptance of Unification Church members. Yet intermittently I run into some unpleasant situations. The first week of this semester, for instance, a woman living across the hall came into my room and said, "Do you know that there are Moonies in this dormitory?" (laughter) I was standing with a very dear friend of mine who looked at her a bit in shock. I looked at her and said, "Yes, you're talking to one." The woman was very embarrassed. Her response was, "Well, you sure don't look like a Moonie!" And my friend's response to her (my friend is not in the Unification Church) was something like, "Yes, she sure doesn't look like a Jew," mirroring to this woman what she was saying.
The woman was very embarrassed. But my first reaction was to pray for her and for this situation. This was someone who obviously had some preconceptions about what it was to be a Moonie. I determined within myself to see how this girl and I by the end of the school year could become friends. To me that's part of the testimony of what I have learned of what it is to live a Principled life, which I don't think I would have had the patience to do in the past. That means simply learning how to surrender a part of yourself for the sake of another, making conditions, praying, learning to live for the other before yourself. This woman and I are not now best friends, but certainly the preconceptions evident that day are somewhat cleared. She's asked me, for instance, if she could come to Barrrytown to one of the student conferences to engage in a Unification dialogue. Much of what I'm doing at Harvard is simply to testify to the fact that Unification Church members are not what most people think we are. And when people do become interested in Divine Principle, they might be invited to come to Barrytown to participate in one of these dialogues.
Another manner of witnessing occurs during Franz's visits. There is a very interesting dynamic that goes on there because of the ways of the world. The ways of the wolves in a contemporary twentieth century U.S. dormitory, tight now, would be that if your boyfriend or fiancé comes to visit you, it's father unusual if he doesn't sleep with you. It's been many a night when poor Franz has had to grab a sleeping bag and walk down the hallway into Klaus's room and have people look at him and wonder what he's doing, (laughter) At that moment it's embarrassing for both of us. But when I go back to my room alone, I'm glad to be able to make a statement to these people and to my community of friends of how Divine Principle has helped me understand something about living a moral life, especially in relation to the other things that are going on on college campuses. Witnessing at Harvard then, is being a witness to Principled life. That's the new perspective that I've gained on what witnessing is. Home church has a lot to do with this -- it's being a witness to the Principle, to the theology being actualized in our lives. This, though, is something that will be very gradual for the movement to embrace. It's even hard for the members of the church to understand. We're very hungry to find the resources and people to work with us because we believe that there's a war going on, spiritually and otherwise. The tactics that we use are sometimes shortsighted. But I think that the home church providence is something that we, the members of the church, are willing to struggle through in order to understand the deeper heart of what it all means.
I'll leave it at that and open it to whatever questions you have.
Paul Sharkey: I have been thinking about this seminar, not just this one, but the one on theology which is going on in the other room as well. I think it is significant that we are separated. As some of you know, I'm a rather Humean philosopher, which means that I don't take occult metaphysics very seriously, especially certain kinds of metaphysics that I think are perhaps dangerous but which often are associated with theology. What I've seen in terms of witnessing here, the way witnessing has been described, is refreshing. I happen to live in the South right now, where witnessing often means telling you about theology. It seems to me, however, that Christian witnessing is not that at all, but is rather being Christ-like in relationships with people. Now, this is the sort of thing that I am not only hearing in this seminar, but that I know happens. I think this is one of the major attractions of the Unification movement. Definitely it will help your image, because if you're serving people and don't expect anything back from it, then they can't be threatened. And, as you've said, not only are they not threatened, but they become very attached to you because this sort of kindness doesn't happen in society. I think that something that needs to be thought about is the possible lack of wisdom of throwing the lambs of your religious life to the wolves of theology. I think Diana has done some good thinking on this. I worry about stressing too much to people in evangelizing the theology of Divine Principle as opposed to the practice. The theology of Divine Principle is "the book" as opposed to the practice of the Principle, which is not "the book." I think the latter is something that is needed and important. I'm not sure how much of the theology is needed, and too much theology can be a hindrance to the development of that other kind of witnessing for the Principle.
Mary Carman Rose: I'm glad that Paul made this sharp distinction between the direct Christ-like giving and love and the theological and metaphysical grounds on which the aim to be loving might be based, but I don't think that in the Unification movement these two can be separated. For me this is a tremendous strength in Unification thought. I've never heard members of the church discuss this; but, in fact, they are very wise in basing their actions on principles. They see their lives as constantly in a dialectic relation between their theological beliefs and understanding and their actions. Understanding without action is sterile. But action without profound and constantly developing understanding of reality, man, and his relation to God is without a fundamental raison d'etre. Such action could become mere naturalism and, hence, not God-centered at all. Once it becomes a naturalism, it could easily become egocentric and carried out for reasons of self-aggrandizement. I see the Unification insistence on a theological and philosophical basis as protection -- and a necessary protection -- against all kinds of dangers, spiritual as well as intellectual.
Don Jones: Yes, I want to make a witness to how graduate students in the Unification Church come over to me. There are two types, and I have a preference for one of the two types. One is Jaime's type, where the witness really is in just the ordinary life. I also think of Franz this way. When Franz is down, Franz kind of lets you know he's down. He doesn't have to always be up on top as a witness. That's more meaningful to me because I know that Franz is human like everyone else, and sometimes he feels lonely and sometimes he's down or frustrated because he can't finish his work or solve a problem or something. But Franz's sheer intellectual curiosity is a witness to the faculty, and that's very important. He will, for example, come in and ask what he can read. Steve, you come across that way too. But there is another type where there is a more intentional proselytizing kind of witness, not to faculty but to students. And I'm just not sure how appropriate that is. We may say to each his own, and yet it has been a little more off-putting. The second style appears to be combined with some deception. It may not be that at all, but to get students into groups and then six months later reveal that you are a member of the church is probably not very wise. I think there's probably more wisdom in Jaime's policy of coming out front immediately. But anyway, that is my experience.
Diana Muxworthy: I'd like to show you the other side of this. I have seen Andy Wilson, another student at Harvard, on his way to take a final exam, wearing an "I'm a Moonie and I love it" button. That's just Andy's personality. I guess that's one of the refreshing things to me about the academic community. There's something in the academic community that lets you be very up front and even be respected for it.
Stillson Judah: Is your home church a nucleus for meetings of the community where teaching can be conducted? Or is this all done in individual homes? In other words, will this eventually develop so that your homes will become a central place where worship would be carried on, and where perhaps some lecturing or preaching would take place?
Jaime Sheeran: That possibility is there, but it hasn't fully developed yet. In people's minds, because of the controversy surrounding the Unification Church, to associate with us involves a risk on their part. I find that quite a few people are willing to come over, to be our friends at this point, to visit and participate in our activities, but they will not come out openly in support of us. They may even tell you secretly that they are behind us, but in this community they may consider it a risk to actually publicly state that. I think that will eventually change though, especially if we continue to develop our service-type projects.
William Shive: Jaime, you said you visit city officials. What's that all about?
Jaime Sheeran: Yes, we not only visit our own home church areas, but everywhere we go is like a home in a way, including visiting city officials. So, for example, in West Virginia I have met people like the mayor, ministers and also the governor. Actually, so far I have met the governor here three times. When I first visit city officials, and other people of responsibility, I introduce myself as a member of the Unification Church and ask them if they have any questions about us. Secondly, I ask them if there is some way I can be of help to them in the community. Oftentimes, because we have visited so many people's homes, we get very much in touch with what is happening in their lives. Sometimes we have even helped people get back in touch with their own congregation. For example, one of our members, Kim Pickard, helped an elderly Jewish couple to recontact their Rabbi. Kim had already met the Rabbi because she had visited his temple. So those kinds of services go on because we're out there every day visiting homes.
George Exoo: When you spoke of visiting officials, I got the impression that you were doing advocacy work for the people in your communities. For example, if they had a problem with the city, you might go to the city and help them.
Jaime Sheeran: Yes, I might. First though, I introduce myself to officials as a member of the Unification Church because they have heard a lot of different things about us and may have questions.
George Exoo: As you said, your style of witnessing is really not a method. It's just your individual style, but I didn't find that to be very indicative of the Oakland family, because they deny their affiliation with the Unification Church. Now, of course, I didn't approach any large number. But I did approach some of them, and maybe it was because they were very young in the movement that they denied it and possibly you don't deny it because of the conservative area in which you live.
Jaime Sheeran: No, that's not the reason why I don't deny it. I can't speak for the California church, but I feel closer to God if I'm able to be honest and out front. By saying who I am, and where I'm from I feel more spiritual and mote providential in what I am doing. Also, Rev. Moon encourages us very much to be up front. I find at times I have to counsel members not to hedge on that; they do tend to do that, especially when they're fundraising. I myself go fundraising. We have to support our church center and at times, when I'm with fundraisers, I find myself having to encourage them to have courage. Some of them haven't been trained in theology. They don't always know what to say when people criticize Unification beliefs, and it may cause them to avoid confrontations. But I think it hurts them in the end. They really want to tell the truth to people. They are very excited about what they're doing or they wouldn't be out there. As I am in a position of leadership, I feel I have to encourage members to go ahead and say who they are.
Richard Quebedeaux: Again, I'd like to remind you that Di. Durst will be with us this evening and he is the director of the Northern California church and I do hope you'll address this question to him.
Jaime Sheeran: One thing to consider though, is that I haven't had great success in my own work. Maybe California (laughter) has been more successful. Of course, it all depends on what the criteria of success is. We haven't gained a lot of members in West Virginia. It may be because it is a conservative area, but I think primarily it is because of me not really living up to what Divine Principle actually says. That's really the primary problem, I think.
Kurt Johnson: I just want to comment on Stillson's question to Jaime. In Harlem, home church is really developed. It's even to the point now where people who have become home members of the church are moving in together to make communities. They buy property, not with church money, but with their own money. This is very similar to the Christian model. You meet in a home. Then you meet in a larger place. Finally you buy a place and form a community. The value of that is that it centralizes your people and you're really serving the community. You've got tangible personnel right there.
Jaime Sheeran: In larger church centers, members actually will live in with some of the families and try to be of help. Ours is so small at this point, it wouldn't really be worthwhile. But if we grew large enough then some of us could accept an invitation to live with a family.
David Simpson: I have a couple of questions. If they are too personal just say "no comment." I sat on all my feelings this morning, so I've got to get some of them out now.
First, Jaime, I have dealings with people in political office, and I'm curious about the statement that you had three meetings with the governor. One does not get into the governor's office without an appointment, and that you have had three meetings with the governor is of great interest to me. (laughter) I would like to ask you if you would be willing to role-play your three meetings with someone in the group. I won't do that, however, because we are not in group dynamics. But I do want you to comment on that.
I also want to ask you and Diana questions about how you live, in terms of some very mechanical kinds of things. For example, who pays the bills? Do you work at jobs that earn money? I guess specifically in terms of Harvard, who's paying the tuition? I just have a need to have some answers to those kinds of questions. I'm curious to know where you live and how you lived before you ended up in the dormitory at Harvard. By the way, if you do become disillusioned with people on the North Bank of the Charles River, there is a place in New Haven that you might be interested in.
But first, my question about what exactly is it that you say when you have meetings with people in public office? What is the real content of the conversation beyond, "I'm a member of the Unification Church and I'm here to let you ask any questions that you may have"? That would be about a thirty second conversation with most people in public office, so I'm curious about the real content of these conversations.
Jaime Sheeran: First of all, I just want to clarify one thing, I didn't say I had three meetings, I said I met him three times. The second meeting was actually an appointment I had made in which we discussed the Unification Church. The other two were more by chance. I had met and talked with his appointment secretary on a few occasions, and he was able to advise me as to where the governor would be during the day if I wanted to try and meet him. So, for example, after his dentist appointment one time, I was able to talk with him. For one thing, he happened to know one of our church members very well because they went to school together. The governor is Jay Rockefeller and he met Edwin Ang who works at our seminary now, when they were both students in Tokyo. I asked him about that to see if he remembered him, and he did. The second time I met him, it was a formal appointment in which I shared with him my point of view about the church as opposed to the way the media had presented us to the public. I felt that was important to do. The third time, I just happened to have an inspiration to go there. I stopped in the office at the tight time, just as he was going out, and I was able to meet him once again and talk to him for a couple of minutes about his work and what he was doing, nothing much about the Unification Church. I feel that it is important to show an open door to begin communication. One of the meetings therefore was a planned one, the other ones were by chance. I felt they were valuable though, to me.
About our life, well it's kind of unusual. We have a three-year-old little girl there with us, and her mother who works at a regular job. One church member is a full-time student. They both contribute money towards rent. The rest of our finances are raised by fundraising done by me and one other church member, Kim. We often travel throughout the state with the MFT raising funds. Every month I have to do that for a week or two. Sometimes we receive contributions from people in our home church areas, but it's nothing really reliable. We try to conserve our money. Our budget is about one thousand five hundred dollars per month.
Every day we pray together in the morning and at night. At 5:00 pm we meet to have dinner and discuss our day. We try to study Divine Principle, too. If the student or the working person have time, they will try to come with me to visit homes. Or sometimes we may have guests coming over to hear a lecture and we all participate in that kind of thing. But Kim and I do most of the active witnessing in people's homes.
George Exoo: Do you have to account to anybody for your budget?
Jaime Sheeran: Yes, I send a monthly report in with my budget. Actually it is a thorn in my side in a way because it takes so much time to write down the money we receive, collect all the receipts, and write down everything we spend it on. I'm not very number oriented but we have to be careful. The IRS is interested in knowing what we spend money on, where the money goes. So we keep a good accounting of it.
George Exoo: Jaime, can you tell us something about your family? I know there is here a curious twist to the Jacob story, because I know that Jaime witnessed to her mother.
Jaime Sheeran: Yes, actually I have two sisters who are members of the church. My older sister and the next youngest sister to me. I also have a brother and one other younger sister who are not members of the Unification Church and neither are my parents. My mother does seem to be taking interest in it, especially in activities like these conferences. Actually before I left to come down here, she was giving me advice about what she thought it was important to say. Last spring she came to visit me in West Virginia. She was able to meet quite a few people in my home church area who were very friendly and said some good things to her about us. So, she really seemed to be enjoying herself. She and I travelled around to different parts of the state together. At one time my mother had been very opposed to the Unification Church; both my parents were. I think at one time they even considered deprogramming, but changed their minds on that. My father is still far from supporting our work. My mother, though, seems to have had some kind of change now. My mother is a person who never was inclined to pray or go to church or speak about God. But now, she speaks a lot about the importance of God in the family. Recently, she said she watched the Pope speak on television. He was speaking about the breakdown of families in America and it brought tears to her eyes, she said. So I see a lot of changes occurring in my mother, at least in terms of her attitude towards religion itself.
Diana Muxworthy: All the Unification students at Harvard are on full scholarship from the Unification Theological Seminary. We do not go fundraising. When summer came, I was expecting to go fundraising with the attitude that I should fundraise because so much was being given to me. The tuition is quite high, and so are room and board. But we all stayed and did whatever we had to do -- take languages or whatever. Then I receive work/study help because I'm in the M.Div. program which means that you have to do a certain amount of field work; and if you are eligible, you can receive work/study money from Harvard for this particular field work. My situation is different from Jaime's. I don't need to report to the seminary where the money goes. It's certainly generous, but it's not so much that I can spend it frivolously. It's enough for telephone, clothing, laundry, books and so on. So in a sense, I'm certainly free to buy anything I want and have dominion over what I'm buying and what I do. If I have extra money, I spend it on movies, presents or phone calls to New Jersey.
George Exoo: What about a bottle of wine?
Diana Muxworthy: The only time I've bought a bottle of wine was for a lawyer who had helped us out in a Rhode Island deprogramming case.
David Simpson: Diana, what do you see as your future goal in the church after your theological studies?
Diana Muxworthy: My future goals? That's a very good question, and I'm really trying to work that out. I'm having to work that out for myself, in terms of what Kurt said, in terms of what's in the future for social action. I think that's the situation for each of the graduate students. When Rev. Moon speaks to us, it's very open. I'm really amazed and impressed; but it also puts tremendous responsibility on us. My dream is to do something with Franz. Franz is German and is at Drew in a doctoral program. I'm in a master's program, but hope I'll be going on for doctoral work. I will have to learn German for my studies. I already know French a bit, and know Spanish fluently, so there is a lot of international potential between the two of us. What we do is up to Franz and me. We're being given the financial resources and the blessing of being at school. I think we're going to create our mission, and it's a tremendous responsibility. It certainly will be in service to the Unification Church, and it will be something new that hasn't been done before.
Hugh Spurgin: I want to say something about Paul's and Don's comments. There's a long-standing debate in the Unification Church as to whether the direct or indirect approach is more effective. On the one hand, there are those who have been effective by employing the direct or confessional approach, whereas others have been equally effective using the indirect or apologetic method. Let me give an example of the direct approach. If I knock on a door and say, "I'm Hugh Spurgin. I'm with Rev. Moon's Unification Church," I'm likely to get the door slammed in my face; although with a nice personality like Jaime's, that is less likely. (laughter) Although that approach may be effective, the problem with it is that people say, "I've got my own church. Don't try to impose your religion on me. I don't want to be proselytized."
On the other hand, by employing an indirect method one opens himself to the exact opposite type of criticism. In an apologetic approach, a person seeks to get to know another person before telling him he is a Moonie, trying to share what interests the other person and find out "where he is at." Some Moonies don't even mention God but talk only humanistically -- even though eventually they are probably going to say they are a member of the Unification Church. The criticism that is often made is that in this manner, people can be deceived. However, such an approach can also be viewed from another perspective. It can indicate that a Unificationist is concerned about other people, not merely his own interests and opinions, that he is sensitive to others and not trying to "lay a heavy trip" on them. My opinion is that most -- if not all -- Unificationists employ both approaches to people, depending upon the situation, just as other Christians have always done. With some people they are more assertive, with others more passive. Indeed, all of us are both trying to find out what someone else feels and thinks, while at the same time expressing our own experiences.
Superficially Rev. Moon may appear to be an authoritarian leader, but those who know more about our church acknowledge that leaders, as well as members, within the Unification Church have considerable freedom and function quite independently. A dialectic goes on within the church between freedom and accountability. My observation is that the polity of the church is essentially congregational; leadership is simultaneously centralized and decentralized, but much more dispersed than most people believe. That's why there exists such diversity within the movement in spite of the commitment to the same overall lifestyle and goals.
William Shive: How does CARP1 fit into evangelizing?
Jaime Sheeran: Well, it goes to college campuses and witnesses directly to students who are interested in world problems. I'm not involved in that, so I can't speak so much about what CARP is doing.
Kurt Johnson: I've heard that Rev. Moon wants CARP to make a lot of noise, because he feels it is very important that something make a lot of noise, to balance lots of other kinds of noise on campuses.
William Shive: Organizationally, is CARP at the University of West Virginia at all related to you?
Jaime Sheeran: Supposedly by the end of this year, there will be CAR P centers in every state, so I imagine we will have some relation with them. It's in the future, though, and I don't know what that relationship would be.
Stillson Judah: Since I have spoken about the Creative Community Project in a rather adverse way, I want to bring out something else which may help clear up some of the problems. When the church first started in the Bay Area, there were two missionaries, Mr. Sang Ik Choi and Miss Young Oon Kim. Mr. Choi worked in San Francisco, and he had an entirely different approach from Miss Kim. His idea was not to teach theology at all. Instead, he was interested in moral and ethical living, in teaching people to live the life of the kingdom itself. He didn't care about theology. Now this approach is the one behind the Creative Community Project. Presently in the Creative Community Project the first weekend, most people will never hear at all the name "Rev. Moon." Dr. Durst's approach is similar to that of Mr. Choi. But in the seven-day workshop following, they have Miss Kim's approach, which is entirely theological. At that time, of course, the name "Unification Church" is introduced. I think this explains this particular approach: there is one side relating to the experience of life itself, and the other side, the theological which follows.
Judith Simpson: I'm wondering if too much self-doubt is not as dangerous as too much discrimination. I'll explain what I mean by each of those words. Discrimination is present when a person makes choices, and sometimes arbitrary choices. He says that he likes one person but not another. Too much discrimination is a very narrow, streamlined, uncooperative, uncommunicative vision or position. It tends to be oppressive and narrow. At the other pole is self-doubt, which I would like to align with the Unification idea of sacrifice. What provoked this thought in me was Jaime's saying that her project hasn't been more successful because she hasn't done enough. That idea of self-doubt seems to go along with sacrifice, the serving but not having served enough. I guess I don't think that's as dangerous as too much discrimination, but there should be some middle-of-the road attitude that you could find more satisfying. Why should you always be doing more and more soul-searching about why you haven't done enough? I'm not really asking for a response. It's just a remark.
Jaime Sheeran: Yes, sometimes you find out that it is not only you that is the problem. You find out that at times people are just not interested. They may not be concerned with world problems. In my area it's very easy for people to live within their own small world and not be interested in what's happening elsewhere. They are fairly happy people and may not be concerned with issues, yet here I come bringing them a sense of world responsibility. Still, within myself I try to keep a balanced attitude, realizing that I don't know everything. Maybe it is different in a place like California that attracts people who are searching. People in West Virginia who are searching may leave and go somewhere else. When I was in California at a conference once, I actually met a young man in a small restaurant there who had left West Virginia for that reason. I confess, sometimes I wonder if there really is anyone in West Virginia who is searching, (laughter)
1 CARP (Collegiate Association for the Research of the Principles) is an international student organization which studies the relationship between various academic disciplines and the Principle. It also publishes a newspaper, the World Student Times, and sponsors programs on campuses.