Lifestyle Conversations with Members of the Unification Church - Edited by Richard Quebedeaux
Stillson Judah: As a liberal Christian, my faith in God depends partly on my belief that He must have revealed Himself historically in the world religions as well as in new religions, whose very existence may indicate some failure of the well-established ones to meet needs under certain conditions at a particular time. As an historian and phenomenologist of religion, I must bracket the question of the truth of any religion investigated, in order to study its phenomena objectively.
This paper then represents some preliminary thoughts about the relationship between belief and behavior in the origin and development of religions, using the Unification Church, the Hare Krishna movement and some of the metaphysical sects of the nineteenth century as examples. In the beginning, I should like to view the Unification Church and other new religions in America in the context of the historical origins of other religions; next, to observe briefly some of the dynamics of beliefs as a basis for particular behavior; finally, to give a brief constructive critique, raising some questions.
All religions are part of some particular culture or subculture, owing their origins to ways in which they have psychologically met human needs during times of crisis. Such crises produce social and individual alienation or lack of identity. Such needs may be due to confrontation with conflicting ideas and values for reasons such as immigration, invasion and oppression, or simply rapid changes in culture.
At such times, religions may originate or change: (1) by forming new syntheses of ideas that ease the conflict, allowing new and firm identifications and commitments to be formed; or (2) by rejecting changes accepted by the established religions, and returning to what is believed to be the original teachings and values; or (3) by discovering a new rationale for the faith that meets personal and group needs. These may not be mutually exclusive categories and any new religion may represent a mixture. Conversions are only the personal aspects of the dynamics creating new religions or religious change. Now for some examples.
Christianity originated during Roman oppression amid a period of Greek acculturation when not only Greek philosophy, but also popular Zoroastrian ideas, introduced during the Babylonian captivity, were influencing the Jewish religion. The resulting confusion had earlier produced the politico-religious parties of the Sadducees and Pharisees, whose differing compromises eventually led to civil war. The success of Christianity, however, with its messianic hope owed much to the final synthesis of these opposing views and others in the Christianity of the New Testament.
It is well known that the Roman oppression led many Jews and Christians to flee into Arabia where their mingling added to cultural confusion there. At the time of Muhammad, even the traditional Arab religion and existing tribal system were experiencing severe difficulties. The final success of Muhammad again owed much to the new revelation which provided a basis for a higher social unity than that of the waning tribes. It also incorporated in modified form the indigenous Arab religion with Jewish, Christian and Zoroastrian concepts to form a new synthesis that was Islam.
As Islam spread into countries of differing cultures, it also added to cultural confusion. Many in India were converted; both Hinduism and Buddhism suffered corruption and the Hindu social system was weakened, because the Muslims did not accept the caste system. The sixteenth century saint, Chaitanya, purified the Vaishnava religion of the sexual corruption caused by these changes, by reinterpreting philosophically the sexual allusions in popular literature as well as the very basis for the caste system. This made it easier to reconvert many former Hindus from Islam, to win over many Buddhists and Muslims, and to preserve and reinforce the Hindu social system. The same religion in modified form has given meaning to thousands of youth in the United States and elsewhere as the Hare Krishna movement during this period of change.
In nineteenth-century America, the combination of new scientific discoveries relating to geology, paleontology, and the doctrine of evolution, together with the beginning of the scientific study of the Bible, challenged scriptural authority. This led again to religious confusion. Liberal churches found meaning in the Social Gospel, which became particularly meaningful to the rising middle class. Others met their needs by denying the validity of the doctrine of evolution and new scientific theories, and reaffirmed the literal truth of the Bible in the new fundamentalist and Pentecostal sects that arose toward the close of the century and thereafter. Still others were not content to go either of these ways. They joined new religious movements which arose in response to the crisis after the middle of the nineteenth century and in the twentieth. These accepted all the new scientific discoveries and theories, but also a belief in a God of science, of principle, or a higher spiritual law for which the physical laws were but a lower correspondent, a shadow of the higher reality, as Swedenborg had proclaimed. Based on a combination of Christian morality, and often a new interpretation of Christianity, together with influences from Hindu philosophy, American transcendentalism, Swedenborgianism, and imported French occultism, etc., they formed new syntheses, the so-called "scientific" religions, e.g., Christian Science, Divine Science, Religious Science, et at. As forerunners of psychosomatic medicine and stress-relieving psychotherapies, as optimists, pragmatists, and exponents of the American way of life, they believed God revealed Himself to them through their good health, prosperity and happiness. Like the fundamentalists, with some exceptions, they turned from social activism toward a highly personal religion. One example, the New Thought Movement, is related most closely to Christian Science, Religious Science, Divine Science, and other metaphysical healing movements. Its practices, involving the power of thought, have influenced greatly its general religious behavior. In these related movements, the material world is regarded as a shadow of the spiritual world, and the denial of the existence of matter as in Christian Science, or its acceptance as in New Thought, is largely a semantic problem. Such a belief, not unlike much related Hindu philosophy, has emphasized the spiritual or mental side, so that physical forms of social action to ameliorate conditions have tended to be neglected in the past except for certain well-known exceptions.
While advocating the Golden Rule, these metaphysical groups do not emphasize, as does the Unification Church, the willingness of personal sacrifice for the sake of others, as the sacrifice of Jesus Christ most fully exemplified. This difference, Henry Hanison Brown, one of New Thought's early leaders, pointed out. He said: "It is no longer a struggle for physical existence, but for spiritual expression. This demands not force, not sacrifice, not pain, not suffering, net labor, but love and love alone." While one must not infer that New Thought adherents were incapable of sacrifice, still sacrificial love requiring some personal suffering was unemphasized. Pain was to be denied as a reality. When the Social Gospel movement of liberal Christianity began toward the close of the nineteenth century, Henry Wood, another leader of New Thought, was careful to distinguish the latter's aims. He said: "It does not deal directly with social phenomena, but with their inner springs of causation. I believe the danger that most threatens New Thought... is its more or less intimate amalgamation with other reforms... upon lower planes... Without uttering a word pro or con concerning political socialism... etc., I believe the New Thought should be kept above and distinct."
The Arcane School, a metaphysical and schismatic Theosophical sect founded by Alice Bailey in 1923, while not demanding sacrificial action, is an exception to the above due to its social concern. It also has certain similarities to Unification thought and practices but with significant differences. Alice Bailey's teaching came purportedly from a Theosophical master residing on a high spiritual plane. Her philosophy orients her followers toward a life of not only spiritual self-development toward perfection but also toward a life of service to others. They are to form the nucleus of a new civilization in the New Age now dawning. She revealed that the masters have been working with "the Christ" to eliminate barriers so that the New Age would begin with the return of "the Christ." Like the Unification Church and Theosophy, she distinguished between the person of Jesus and "the Christ." The latter is similar in this respect to the Unification distinction between the person of Jesus and the Lord of the Second Advent. While the Arcane School awaits the imminent return of "the Christ," many Theosophists at one time believed that he was to occupy the body of Jiddu Krishnamurti, who later disavowed such beliefs entirely.
Alice Bailey, like the Unification Church with its belief in indemnity, taught that humanity must play a part to change conditions. This would permit the Messiah to return to bring in the Kingdom of God on earth and to unite Christianity with Buddhism. Instead of the power of indemnity to make these conditions right through prayer, fasting, and sacrificial physical acts as the Unification Church teaches, the Arcane School solves its problems solely through the mind like the followers of New Thought. Alice Bailey's followers serve others by using the Great Invocation. It is ostensibly a translation of an ancient prayer "The Christ," re-introduced to the world in 1945, when because of the terrible world conditions, he decided that he should return. The more it is recited, they believe, the more right human relations will be established, enabling "the Christ" to return.
Thus, the metaphysical movements have solved for themselves the disturbing dichotomy between religion and science by means of their type of mental science. This has satisfied them intellectually, emotionally, and given meaning and direction to their lives through what they experience as the working of God's law.
In this century the religious movements that have been so influential on American young adults have had their major growth, if not all their origins, as a result of the catalytic effects of the protests of the sixties (when most were organized in the early seventies). But the sixties perhaps only increased the momentum of change which Alvin Tofflet has called "future shock," a change which he now envisions as marking the end of the industrial age that has succeeded the agricultural one. He calls it the beginning of "the third wave," an entirely new age, socially, industrially, and economically. Besides all the various changes occasioned by the many liberation movements from civil rights to the sexual revolution, there are those produced by the rapid advance in computer technology. Moreover, there are changes brought about by the atomic age itself, when two dominant opposing powers, amid growing critical energy and economic crises threaten the destruction of our civilized world. Such changes, confusion and crises create anxieties and fear. We tend to look for an authority and a leader to give us new solutions and meaning. Many need a definite direction in which to move, and a vision of hope for the future to which they can be emotionally and intellectually committed. Adding further to this confusion, the media are bringing us face to face in our living rooms with all the incongruities of different cultures, ethical and religious views, threatening further our personal and group identities.
As one examines the Principle of the Unification Church, even a critic must regard it as a new synthesis for providing identity in meeting contemporary needs. It combines ideas of Taoism, Confucianism, Christianity, shamanism, and the principles of science by analogy or correspondence, into one philosophy. Thereby it hopes to unify all religions and cultures, among other things. In furthering this purpose, the Unification Theological Seminary offers an unparalleled opportunity for open dialogue with well-qualified faculty composed of scholars of many faiths. Roman Catholic, liberal and conservative Protestant, Orthodox and Jewish are all represented, while additional lecturers add the dimension of faiths other than those of the Judeo-Christian tradition. Through contributions of still other scholars participating in such conferences as this, in which the theology and behavior patterns have been examined in dialogue, these students will be well equipped to help formulate the future theology of the Unification Church.
In a day when the liberal Christian churches, because of their identification with a changing establishment, fail to provide fixed points of identity and needed experience to internalize them, many are practicing forms of meditation from other religions. The declining membership in liberal churches since the sixties is mute testimony to this at least temporary situation. Others, however, are returning to a new conservatism, rediscovering an identity that is internalized through their experience of the various gifts of the Spirit. These are the growing churches.
The Unification Church offers a new form of conservatism with a black and white moral code giving fixed points of identity and direction. It offers hope for the future, and is working toward restoring a God-centered nuclear family which has been in decline. This is belief in action.
Amid currently divisive cultural patterns, and believing in the necessity for the unification of cultures, it strives to overcome both racial and cultural differences by its practice of combining in marriage, partners of different races and cultures. While trying to contribute to the harmonious unity, it also gives attention to the preservation of what is valuable in each, such as sponsoring its New York Symphony Orchestra, various kinds of rock and jazz bands, as well as its Korean dance troupe, Korean music, and dances and music of other cultures.
As a further attempt to dispel the old historical opposition between science and religion, it not only offers a philosophical type of unity between the two by analogy or by correspondence, but also sponsors annual conferences on the unity of the sciences, in which some of the world's foremost scientists participate and whose results are published in very handsome volumes for the benefit of the whole world.
In a day when even the president of the United States has been accused of not appreciating the real dangers of communism, the Unification Church's Freedom Leadership Foundation has been working not only to inform the world concerning the faults of communism, but also to offer an alternative, which voices some of the protests of the sixties.
In order to work at the grass-roots level in alleviating suffering, and to aid in the transition to the restored kingdom, the Unification Church is developing social programs. I was impressed by the work of the members in Washington, D.C. There, during a patty in a racially mixed area, a Black had invited the entire neighborhood in appreciation of what a group of Unification Church workers had done there in bringing understanding and harmony between races.
The work of Project Volunteer started by Dr. Mose Durst in the San Francisco Bay Area and now expanding to Los Angeles and the East is also most impressive. It is not only distributing many tons of food each month to needy people in its area, but it has been sending needed food and medicine to countries overseas. Particularly worthy also ate its programs for helping people help themselves, such as the food fait it organized for merchants along Telegraph Avenue in Berkeley; or the kick-off drive it arranged to help SCARE, the Sickle Cell Anemia Research and Education organization; or its seminar in a racially depressed, high-crime area of East Oakland. There it arranged for legal authorities and police representatives to meet with the community in order to instruct the people concerning their rights. They told them how to help themselves legally and how they might be able to alleviate many of their problems.
All of these behavior patterns are manifestations of Unification beliefs in action to help change and to make this a better world, a part of the work they believe is necessary for a material kingdom of God to be realized on earth. They are overt expressions of their faith that the new age is dawning and the Lord of the Second Advent is here.
Such crises throughout history have also engendered belief in a new age and a Messiah in the great world religions: a Kalki avatar for Hindus; a Lord Maitreya, the coming Buddha for Buddhists; a Mahdi for Muslims. Indeed for many occultists in our troubled times there arises an abiding hope in the dawning age of Aquarius; the expectancy of the imminent return of Jesus Christ according to the Mormons, Jehovah's Witnesses, and many fundamentalist sects and movements; and the belief that the Messiah is already here, according to the Unification Church. Unlike a more orthodox Christian view which waits for God's pleasure to bring in the kingdom on earth, the Unification Church believes that the restoration which failed at various points in history again waits for humanity to do its part at this time. This faith gives hope to socially activistic members. They feel that they themselves can do something about our conditions, just as many thought they could in the sixties, even though the greatest part depends upon God's grace. For only through such behavior as prayer, fasting, and self-sacrificial action for the sake of others can they indemnify the conditions of the original sin of Adam and Eve. Through such action they believe they make conditions right for converting others toward this goal of creating God-centered families and for furthering the restoration of God's kingdom on earth. Thus through the Principle they have sacralized the secular goals to which many had aspired without success in the earlier protests, when the expected revolution did not occur. Such socially activistic behavior and concern for the problems of the world had most of their roots in the protests of the sixties. In spite of the fact that the statistics were taken in 1976, seven years beyond the height of the protests, and were from those living in areas noted for their conservatism as much as others were for their radical activism, still 40 percent of the Unificationists indicated they had been involved in student protests of the late sixties. This extent of activism compares favorably with 55 percent of 1000 senior males who earlier in 1971 at the highly radicalized University of California Berkeley campus had been involved in the demonstrations. That 62 percent of Unification Church members surveyed indicated they had abandoned their parents' faith because of visible hypocrisy of its adherents and 66 percent cited its incapacity to give a larger meaning to life indicates their depth of ethical and psychic deprivation.1 These figures among others point deafly to the existence of alienation and need for a faith that would give them direction and meaning. Further case studies also confirm this.
Although the survey of the Hare Krishna devotees reveals an almost identical percentage of those whose parents' religions lacked meaning for them and also a high percentage of former protestors, at the time of their conversion most had become hippies interested only in their spiritual search through drugs. Thus after their conversion, their behavior was not at all directed toward social action which had brought little results, but only toward trying to change people's hearts. One of the devotees expressed their view in the late sixties: "We understand that there is a root cause of all this distress, and so we're going to the root cause of all the problems: pollution, overpopulation, starvation, and wars. All these things are caused by forgetfulness of our real position to render sacrifice to the Supreme Lord... If you see a tree and there's a wilted leaf here and there, the materialistic man says, 'Let's pour some water on the leaf.' But we understand that to help a tree, you have to water the roots, then automatically all the leaves will benefit... Therefore, we are going to that root by reviving everyone's God-Consciousness, so that they benefit from this society." They would say that the material world is the creation of maya, God's illusory and inferior energy. Consequently, their principal acts of chanting, preaching, and selling their literature are to help the world return to the Godhead.
When asked to list in order of importance, the reasons for their conversion 58 1/2 percent cited the sound of the mantra, which they chanted to give them the religious experience that guided them to Krishna Consciousness. This corresponds to the earlier search of the majority to find salvation through a drug mysticism, since 61 percent had formerly been practicing a spiritual discipline while taking drugs. By contrast only 18 1/2 percent of the Unification Church members cited the devotional service as attracting them to the movement. Correlating again with their social activism, 75 1/2 percent of them gave as their chief inducement toward conversion, the Principle, the philosophy for bringing into being the material kingdom of God on earth. To the same question, only 41 percent of the Krishna's devotees mentioned its philosophy as their chief attraction to the movement, even though their spiritual master had voiced many of their protests in his commentaries on the sacred texts. One should not infer from these factors that the Hare Krishna movement has developed no social concern. Recent developments in the movement already indicate that it is changing, even though its primary goal is still the same.
The Unification Church too, in spite of its involvement in social and cultural programs that follow naturally from its particular beliefs, still puts its foremost efforts into proselytism and fundraising. One survey has reported that these two tasks were the principal work for 52 percent of members responding to a questionnaire. Unfortunately, the media, while unwilling to recognize the Unification Church's contributions to society, have been critical because of the manner in which these tasks are sometimes performed. "Heavenly Deception," a term used for the failure to make clear the relationship of some association or program to the Unification Church, has been practiced according to both former members and some current members, even though there is a stated policy against it. One can understand that deep commitment intensifies the feeling of urgency to fulfill goals one believes to be vital. It has been explained also that the "bad press" has made such practices at times necessary because public feeling has become so strong against the movement. Still, some have given "Heavenly Deception" as a reason for dropping out of the church. Even though the Unification Church is not alone in such practices, as a new movement, it must be doubly careful about its public image. The First Amendment protects beliefs but not practices, if the public feels they are either illegal or too offensive. My fears are not only for the Unification Church. If laws should be made regulating how money is raised or how people are converted, their application could affect the liberty of all religions.
There are also problems concerning the Unification Church's behavior toward its own members. The first is in respect to their physical health. There are those who have dropped out of the movement because the lack of medical attention when they were ill forced them to return home for treatment. Perhaps these have been isolated cases, because certainly care of members depending wholly upon the church as part of an extended family should be a primary concern.
The second problem is concerned with the mental health of some of the members. The Unification Church may be characterized as a communal religious movement with an ascetic discipline. Such is normally designed to increase faith and commitment. Studies have shown that the number of hours members worked are more than the average, had the members been holding positions outside the movement. Psychiatric studies have shown, however, that there is a positive correlation between the number of hours so employed and the scores for well-being. Since discipline itself may not be a negative behavior factor, then my concern is whether such tasks as fundraising are assigned to members over long periods of time without regard to their particular talents, training and ambitions. While I am aware that the Unification Church has attended to this problem very well in many cases, there are examples of dissatisfaction and even dropouts from it because of a lack of personal fulfillment.
There is one final problem which has affected stability of membership. Whereas cultural change may produce needs which new religions may meet at these particular times, such change is a double-edged sword. It may strike with one side at the established religions for not taking a firm stand on changing issues; it may strike with its other edge the new religions which do not make some compromises in the face of dominant changes which its members have supported. A case in point is the changing conditions of women in our society which have affected female members in many of our more disciplined religions. Nuns have left the Roman Catholic Church because of its rigidity. Female devotees of the Hate Krishna movement have dropped out because of the great contrast between the traditional place of women in Hinduism and one espoused by the Women's Liberation Movement. There are also women in the Unification Church, who as members of a new religion aiming to unify all cultures, feel that a Korean pattern of male dominance is being inculcated.
In conclusion, even though there are problems the Unification Church may have in making practical adjustments to change, I believe that it and other new religious movements are playing an important part in meeting the needs of many in these times. Such periods as this throughout history have been characterized by violence of the discontented and alienated. Not enough attention has been given to the role such new religious movements may have played in eliminating crime and violence. The new movements, like the Unification Church, may have played a significant role often unnoticed in changing people's hearts from hatred of society to love, from violent protest and destruction in the face of evil to constructive measures for changing this world into a better place for us all to live.
Galanter, Marc and Richard Rabkin, et al. "The 'Moonies': a Psychological Study of Conversion and Membership in a Contemporary Religious Sect." American Psychiatric Association, Annual Meeting, 1979, pp. 166-67.
Glock, Charles Y. and Rodney Stark. Religion and Society in Tension. Chicago: Rand McNally and Co., 1965, pp. 247-48.
Judah, J. Stillson. Hare Krishna and the Counterculture. New York: John Wiley and. Sons, 1974.
The History and Philosophy of the Metaphysical Movements. Philadelphia: The Westminster Press, 1967.
National Survey of Members of the Unification Church, (Date for monograph in progress) 1976.
Richard Quebedeaux: I'd like to ask the first question with respect to your comments about the First Amendment, saying that it protects the right to believe but not the right to practice. What about making conversions which could be interpreted as practice? If in fact it doesn't protect, then we're sunk.
Stillson Judah: That's right. I know it and I am greatly worried about it. Once you make a law it's not going to affect only one religion or two religions. It is going to affect the religious liberty of all religions and this is one of the reasons why I joined APRL (Association for the Protection of Religious Liberties) and for some years was its vice chairman. I worked very hard because I felt that our religious freedom was really being greatly jeopardized by some of the protests that were being made by the media. So if they begin making laws concerning fundraising, laws for how people are to be converted, this is going to affect the freedom of all religions. I have an example here, as a case in point. My son was greatly influenced at one time in his life when he was in his teens by the Young Life Movement of which Billy Graham has had sponsorship. After he was married, he and his wife were invited by one of his former acquaintances in the movement to be a chaperone for a lot of young people who were going out for a weekend to have a lot of fun. They were going to have dancing, games and music -- they had a rock band and they had gathered a number of these youngsters together and they all went out for this one weekend. 1 said, "Well look, was it only dancing and singing?" He said, "No, as a matter of fact, there were lectures and discussions. At the end, when each was asked how much this had meant to him or her, some broke down and cried. It was most amazing how at the end of two days the Lord had gotten to so many of them." I said, "Well, if the Unification Church did this in one weekend, they would call this mind-control." So you can't oversimplify this problem. It's not just in the Unification Church. You find this problem in the conversions in many of our Christian churches.
Rod Sawatsky: I want to make an observation. Adversaries of the Unification Church usually apply psychiatric categories to why people join -- it is an aberration, it is some kind of deviant response to problems, etc. On the other side, when people leave movements, then people within the movement tend to use psychiatric categories to explain why they didn't stay. And you, in your presentation, tended to give the negative interpretation of that. Now, I think it would be very valuable if someone like you with your academic tools could perhaps typologize, why people leave.2
Stillson Judah: I'm trying to do that. I've been asking everybody. I ask, "Why do you feel that people leave the movement?"
Rod Sawatsky: You mentioned inability to take the discipline and then psychiatric disorders. Is there a type who might, as a healthy-minded person, leave for rational reasons such as a disagreement with management policies?
Stillson Judah: Oh yes, absolutely.
Rod Sawatsky: There is some feeling among some very smart and healthy people in the movement, as I understand it, that there are some changes going on that are actually bad for the movement, such as increasing Korean-Unification of management and decisions. Would you call that a rational reason for leaving? Kurt the other day said that when someone leaves, it is usually wrong vision or having lost the vision.
Stillson Judah: Yes, some apparently lose the vision; and this is what I've been working on. But this is a puzzle which has many parts that are hard to discover, and then to put together. I don't think any conversion happens by mind control. Rather, the person has been looking for something, and he finds it. But when a person leaves the movement, it is usually not just for one reason, but for many reasons. These reasons build up and then, suddenly, one particular thing happens, and bang! The person leaves. So I have been trying to discover the intellectual and emotional satisfactions and the guidance which make conversion possible. And I have also been trying to find out what makes a person lose his vision.
Don Jones: Can you imagine that new insight, enlightenment or rationality is the reason for moving out? It was my reason for leaving Youth for Christ. I felt that it was not a loss to me because when Emil Brunner through his books moved me to a new grasp of the gospel, I felt that when I left, what I was leaving was a rather narrow evangelical faith. I thought I was making an advance. Yet people within the group thought that I had back-slidden. They used that category. I think it is the task of responsible scholars, like you, to develop some positive categories to do justice to our experience of having left a movement.
Stillson Judah: Right. That's a big problem. This is why I have been so long trying to write this book.3 You can't give any simplistic answer to it. There are many different factors that are involved.
Kurt Johnson: In the long run, I think there is a surety that the initial reasons why people leave are psychological. Even in the order of the Holy Cross, there was a rule: never leave the order in a bad mood. If you are going to leave the order, leave it in a good mood, so that you can deal with rational reasons for doing so. When I was talking to Stillson yesterday, I analyzed my experience of people leaving this movement. You come into the movement looking for an ideal. But there are two psychological types. One is the type who wants to take the responsibility and just build that ideal. He has focused on what he has to offer to help realize that ideal. That person will probably not leave. But the other type is looking for the ideal to be given them by the system itself. And they reach a point very often, where they start to point the finger of accusation: you did not give me the ideal you said, therefore, I will look elsewhere. Do you see that difference in type? My responsibility for the ideal or your responsibility to give it to me? This I see very frequently. That can make the final difference.
Ernest Stewart: I agree with Kurt on the idea of many people leaving because they get a little disillusioned. Too many think the kingdom of heaven is like an escalator that you ride to the top. Suddenly they discover that it is hard work. Fundraising is difficult; witnessing is difficult; the kingdom of heaven is just not floating down out of heaven on the clouds. They have to face themselves and admit that it is more than they are ready for, or more than they want to do.
Paul Sharkey: I need to react against both of those. I think they are much too simplistic. I know people who have left for doctrinal reasons. I know people who had the original ideal of social action and vision, but who left because they didn't think the church was going in the tight direction. I don't think it is just that lazy people get out because they can't take it.
Kurt Johnson: No, that is a misinterpretation.
Therese Stewart: I agree with Paul. And I base that partly on my experience of having left the community that I was a part of for twenty years. There were so many factors involved in my leaving, so many different motivations that came together in an existential way, that I resist any easy explanation of why people leave. Some people leave and return at another time with a different attitude, a different feeling, having had time to sort things out. It's something that requires a great deal of caution.
Myrtle Langley In building up the profiles of individuals who join the movement, have you been able to come up with any picture of the social context? This is the intriguing side to me.
Stillson Judah: Yes, it is interesting. Of course, it is hard for me to compare the Hate Krishna social profile with that of the Unification Church. I gathered the statistics on the Hare Krishna movement in the sixties and those on the Unification movement in 1976, and much change has occurred in these years. At that time, the profile of the Hare Krishna movement was that of upper middle-class young adults. Most of them had had some university training. The end of the first year was when the largest percentage of them dropped out of school. They had moved from their own homes and their families to radical places like the University of California campus, and in one year's time they became strongly influenced by the protests. Next, they dropped out of college and moved into the hippie ghettos.
Myrtle Langley They became marginalized, would you say?
Stillson Judah: Yes, absolutely. Now in the case of the Unification Church members, there is economically a greater sociological spread. And, of course the statistics of the Unification Church show that the ethnic content is different from that of the Hare Krishna movement. In the latter there are almost no Blacks, and I've never seen a Japanese Hare Krishna devotee in the United States. Not does one find but a few third-world youth in the American movement. They're from white, upper middle-class people of the establishment. Quite often, as far as the positions were concerned, they are people, however, whose fathers were not in the professional class, but maybe were making twenty-five thousand dollars a year driving a truck. They had access to a lot of money, and this is one of the things that comes out very strongly in the Hare Krishna profile. These were young people who had everything given to them. They suddenly decided that money hadn't given happiness to their parents, and that there must be something beyond this materialism. So they went into their hippie jungles and finally, when the drugs no longer satisfied them, they found higher spiritual values in the Hare Krishna movement. They concluded that this materialism was an illusion, maya.
Myrtle Langley: Are you suggesting that there is a mobility in the parents' lives which leads to a lack of self-identify in the children? This to me would be a deeper reason.
Stillson Judah: Yes. Many were moving up in status but with probably mixed results. One interesting thing came out unexpectedly. I wanted to make a little survey of the parents of Unification Church members. So, in the Bay Area, I asked the members to make up questions which might be asked concerning their parents. I was trying to see what type of training the different parents had given, to see if I could find differences between those parents who were against their children belonging to the Unification Church, and those who did not object. So we had these various questions. One of the questions which everyone was required to ask was, what type of training did you have which prepared you for going into the Unification Church? Now one of the strange things that emerged was that, instead of most saying there was a lack of love in the family and the need for a new family, a new relationship, it divided fifty-fifty down the line almost exactly. In other words, fifty percent said there was a lack of love in their family; or they were not appreciated; or even though their parents loved them, they didn't show it. But another fifty percent said it was because of the great love of their family, and the strong feeling of love, which they felt, then, should be a part of any family, that explained why the Unification Church was of such great importance to them.
Myrtle Langley: But there was a lack of personal identity?
Stillson Judah: Yes there was. I feel this is so important, this lack of personal identity, the lack of direction occasioned mostly in this period, by changing culture. In our society with its sexual revolution some of the big problems particularly for our liberal churches are: Is homosexuality OK? Can a homosexual become a minister in that particular church? Is premarital sex OK? Is it all right to live with another person and not get married? These are things which many of the liberal churches are talking about, but there are no decisions. How are most young persons making the transition to adulthood in the establishment going to make this passage without some kind of guidance? Here the Unification Church has a role. The movement has said, this is wrong, this is tight. It gives one a basis for meaning.
David Simpson: Does your research throw any light on how people join and leave the established churches? I have this stereotype about a lot of people who never really reflect about the religion in which they are brought up. There are some of us who go through a process of being born into a religious tradition which we initially took for granted or accepted unreflectively. I myself was brought up in a liberal Christian tradition. But there came a time when I had to ask myself whether I would discard it or really join and begin to take my faith seriously. So I'm wondering, Stillson, whether you've looked into the relation between the reasons Moonies join and then stay with the movement or leave it and the reasons people join or leave the established churches. In both cases, as Paul Sharkey said, there are some doctrinal problems -- e.g., the Roman Catholic who cannot accept the church's position on birth control.
Stillson Judah:... or abortion or some things like that; so they leave.
David Simpson: There is another aspect of this question. I am very interested in the experience of the born-again Christian. You go away for two days to a Youth for Christ or a Young Life meeting, and you come back a changed, committed person. Is this like the experience of being at Boonville for a few days?
Stillson Judah: Well, I don't think there can be any doubt about it. I feel that most of our liberal churches do not really offer enough meaning in these times of crisis.
Esteban Galvan: I want to share something that I felt was slighted over yesterday and which has come up again here. While attending a major Catholic seminary in a clinical pastoral education program, I wore a priest's collar, offered chaplain services in a local hospital, preached at a college campus, gave last rites, and heard confessions. Now, I dropped out of that professional commitment to God because I searched and was dissatisfied with my distance from Jesus Christ as a personal reality not did I see Jesus reflected in the behavior of the Catholic hierarchy. I believed that when I stood in front of people and I preached of Jesus, I really had to be accountable for those people's lives, at least for the Jesus I represented and preached. I couldn't do it and be honest with myself.
I didn't say it yesterday, but a change has happened with me and so now when I'm fundraising, and I receive money from someone, I feel I can be responsible to that person's work with the sweat and tears that the money represents. Also in the witnessing of our movement, there have been times when I have been challenged in my witnessing because I've had to ask myself whether I really believed in what I was doing. I go through the whole, same thing, asking, is this really true? So there have been times when I've sat down on the sidelines and I've not witnessed because I had to sort these things out, before going on any further.
Stillson Judah: I think that's a healthy condition. The honest facing of doubt is very important. It is one thing that makes the difference between what I would call a healthy religion and fanaticism.
Esteban Galvan: Dr. Judah, through your research have you been able to evaluate the job that the Unification Church is doing in counseling people to stay in the church or to leave, and also in giving those who stay work to do which is spiritually and intellectually fulfilling for them?
Stillson Judah: I haven't really made a complete study of those areas. I know, though, that this is a big risk you are taking and a big responsibility that you take on yourselves. There is one fellow who came to me from the Berkeley group who was dissatisfied and said he was leaving the movement. He went back to his leader and gave his reasons for wanting to leave and the leader advised him to go. I thought this was commendable of the leader. Also, I think there is something very important to say here: If you have somebody in one of the Unification families who is really completely dissatisfied with the church, that person is going to be a troubled and troubling member. He is not going to help the harmony of that group. The best thing is to let him go.
George Exoo: It is clear to me, Stillson, that in these meetings, when we're sitting here with Kurt Johnson, Diana Muxworthy or Arthur Eves, we are talking to people who are a part of an educated elite within this organization. It's also clear to me that there are a lot of workers out there who aren't going to Harvard and who aren't going to Barrytown. For the most part, it seems to me, they are fundraising on the streets, although I may be wrong about that. But whatever it is, they are people who don't have the charisma or brain that is going to enable them to function in Cambridge, Massachusetts, and compete. Did you do any research on the criteria which segregated the elite from the workers?
Stillson Judah: Well, I have asked the question whether the church was taking care of all the particular ambitions of the person. In the New Yorker Hotel, I met a fellow who seemed to be a very bright person, but who was dissatisfied. He had been on the West Virginia basketball team, but because of his size, he was just a guard in the New Yorker. He felt that somehow the church wasn't using him for the abilities that he felt he had, and so for that particular reason, after being a guard for several years...
George Exoo:... he went from a center to a guard. (laughter)
Stillson Judah:... I think that he hadn't left at that time, but I wouldn't be a bit surprised if he has left. This is one of the problems that the church has, taking in as many new people as it does. Can it satisfy the personal ambitions of each one? Can it give each individual a sense of fulfillment? A person who never does anything but fundraise might suddenly think, "Gee, is this really what I want to do?" So maybe at a particularly low point when he is particularity tired, he may decide he has had enough, and leave the movement.
George Exoo: Do you feel that the Unification policy of worker bees has integrity to it? Or is it to some extent exploitative? It may be a mixture of both, of course. I don't know whether there is a rational policy. Somebody decided that Diana was going to go to Harvard. Is there a group of people that decide that somebody is going to stay down and wash dishes and clean the toilets all of their lives?
Hugh Spurgin: You're seeing a rather recent phenomenon within the Unification movement. You're discussing what has happened since the Washington Monument Campaign in 1976 (i.e., after the completion of all the various speaking engagements of Rev. Moon). Since 1975-76, people have floated into all kinds of nonevangelical "missions" of special interest to them -- into business, education, the arts, and newspapers. Prior to 1975, egalitarianism dominated. Everybody did the same evangelical tasks: witnessing, lecturing the Divine Principle, and fundraising. (The same jobs that new members still do their first few months or years in the church.)
In my case, I worked from 1968 through 1975 doing nothing but evangelical work; then in 1975,1 was admitted to the Unification Seminary. Every person in this room has gone through that same basic process. But having completed that initial training program, which should help a person develop in his life of faith, they are now doing something else of general interest to them, jobs differing, but nonetheless satisfying. For example, there are certain people who are studying at the seminary, presumably because they are intellectually oriented, while there are other members who are working as security guards.
I know many of the guards in New York and I know that most of them enjoy their work and have little interest in studying. In life, there are always some dissatisfied people, but I tend to believe that in the Unification movement, they are a minority. There are all kinds of people in the Unification Church with diverse backgrounds, interests, ambitions and talents. Some are working in church-sponsored businesses, others in theatrical performances, still others in maintenance and construction. In this conference you, however, are seeing only a certain type of Unification person -- the more intellectual type. That is true, but to a considerable degree, people are fulfilling their needs, interests and desires.
George Exoo: Well, if I have an IQ of 70, are you going to make a place for me that's satisfying to me? What if I want to go to Harvard and I've got an IQ of 70?
Stillson Judah: Well, I know they do. Let me speak to this. (laughter) There was one particular member I have known who was not suited for a position of great leadership. He left the movement for a time but now he's back after a number of years. The church has given him a very good job doing the type of work he likes and can do best. It is mechanical work, using his hands, and he's very satisfied.
Therese Stewart: I think again, there are many factors involved and you pointed out one part of it, Hugh. A lot of it has to do with a person's own identity and self-knowledge, too, even knowing what they want to do and how determined and how confident they are to try to make it happen. Also it depends on who the central figure is in a given situation. I've seen Mr. David Kim send many people, young people from the seminary staff, back to school at some point, because he knows that they need to develop a career or trade or something. But then, there are other central figures who may not have that kind of wisdom and that kind of foresight. So I think there are different things that are happening. I think there is a period that everybody goes through, fundraising and different things, but I think that's only part of it. And there are students who are qualified to be at Harvard who aren't there. I mean seminary graduates who aren't there. There are some who went out after graduation to gain more practical experience, and then after a couple of years they went either to Harvard or some other graduate school. So there are all kinds of things that are operating.
Richard Quebedeaux: I have heard that with respect to graduates of UTS who are selected by Rev. Moon to go to graduate school, that there are spiritual qualifications that had to be fulfilled. Is that true, Therese?
Therese Stewart: That's true. But it is also true that the people who Rev. Moon considers have been recommended on the basis of professors' observations, the observation of the people on the staff, like myself, and other criteria.
Richard Quebedeaux: I've heard that some people are turned down on the basis of spiritual criteria.
Mose Durst: There is also a principle of realism involved. Realistically, we offer a whole range of things that a person can do. But some say that they know already what they want to do, and that the church does not offer them the chance to do that. Thus, they may want to work at a particular job or go to school. Now, we are delighted to have any constructive person associated with the movement, so I often tell people to come to the center in the morning and the evening, to try to live a good life, and to uphold the moral principles. And I assure them that I will support them in whatever they want to do. That is, we try to figure out a way to accommodate individual needs into the larger needs of the church. For example, we have a forty-year-old woman in our family who has a need to paint several times a week. She does this. And we send new people who also like to paint, but who do not like the intensities of our spiritual life, out with her. We tell them that if they meet any new people, they should invite them to the center in the evening. So, indeed, we try to accommodate the needs and wishes of the individual who is willing to lead a moral and ethical life.
George Exoo: Mao Tse Tung sent intellectuals to work on the farm because he thought that was where the real life was. Is that why you send some people out fundraising? Or is fundraising the bottom line in unskilled labor?
Mose Durst: My experience of carrying two bunches of flowers into Denny's at two o'clock in the morning is the most existential experience I have ever had. All the lights were glaring and all the people were looking at me and asking why I was walking into Denny's at that time of the morning with two bunches of flowers. From my point of view, to do that, to be that kind of fundraiser, takes the greatest amount of physical and psychological health. I had to re-evaluate what I was doing and why, with all my experience and education, I was at Denny's with two bunches of flowers at two in the morning. You have to have real intellectual, spiritual, and psychological underpinnings to do fundraising for a prolonged period.
Ernest Stewart: I can look back at my own career in the army as a personnel man for many years. I often had to tell a person that he may be a good truck driver but that I needed a cook, (laughter) So we have problems in the church when certain things have to be done. Also I think some young people have never experienced the joy of working. Also, we have some members who have had no work experience. They came into the movement right out of school, and their parents have taken care of them. So there are many things they haven't experienced. On the whole, however, we have many projects and kinds of work that are opportunities for developing creativity.
Thomas McGowan: This is shifting ground just a little bit; I asked some members why they remain in the Unification Church. And there was a small but significant number, ten out of seventy-four, that gave a disturbing response. They said they stayed in because they are engaged to a wonderful person. Now I realize that this was just after the engagement ceremony. Nonetheless, I found this disturbing because it sounds a little bit like behavior modification techniques. If you don't stay, you won't get this spouse. Did you pick up from your research that there is this kind of positive reinforcement? If you are very good within the church, here are rewards along the line, and specifically marriage in this case?
Stillson Judah: No, I didn't.
Richard Quebedeaux: There's another factor. I have a feeling there were some people who have left the church because they didn't get the right fiancé, (laughter) They had a very close attachment to somebody and were expecting to be matched to that person and were not.
Stillson Judah: That is true. I have evidence.
Mary Carman Rose: I have long been interested in the various dimensions of the current study of religions. I dropped out of the Society for the Scientific Study of Religion because of its great emphasis on behavioristic interpretation of religious commitment. The behavioristic approach to the study of religion is important, even necessary at times.
But it is hardly adequate for the study of all aspects of religion. Today there is less use of behaviorism. Instead, we have phenomenology with its bracketing and historicism. Stillson, you yourself started out by saying that you have to bracket the religious phenomena you are studying. I am sure that you will agree with the point that I wish to make. I want to point out that the student of religion is studying the religious beliefs, practices, and commitment of persons who have not bracketed their metaphysical and ontological beliefs. Methodologically this means that you have to go back to the community you have studied and ask the members whether your research does justice to what they really stand for. I know that many academicians who study religion do not do this. They are willing to substitute their historical, sociological, and historicist interpretations of religion for the metaphysical and ontological beliefs which are really of central importance in any religious life.
Diana Muxworthy: The issue of elitism is critical, and because I was mentioned in connection with it, I'd like to respond to it. I know my own situation is unusual, and I have thought a lot about it. If I were to decide to leave the movement now, that would be a critical, critical problem for me. I am grateful for having fundraised as much as I did prior to coming to Harvard. I wouldn't want to be at Harvard (let's put it this way) if I hadn't gone through the experience of fundraising. I regret that I haven't been able to fundraise more in order to get to Harvard, because we are trying to create a new age kind of person who is able to be intellectual, and yet in no way think of himself as separated from those who are not intellectual or educated. This is the kind of person I am trying to make myself into. It's my image of a new kind of person I'm trying to make myself into.
Don Jones: Something that you said, Stillson, triggered off an agenda that I think might be helpful for the academics, whether within the circle of Unification faith or outside. You used the term "healthy" and I take it that humility for you would be a sign of a healthy religious commitment. That is a normative judgment. OK, my response to that, as a professional ethicist who looks at institutions and behaviors from an ethical point of view, is that your report needs a way of making normative judgments about the religions you study. We all make such judgments, but we need precise criteria. We think that the Hare Krishnas are either less or more than holiness Pentecostalism or Unitarianism or vice versa. We can make those normative judgments from different religious normative points of view. However, I am more comfortable with moral categories than I am with psychotherapeutic categories. The term, "healthy," is a psychotherapeutic term. I want to suggest that there are at least ten ways of determining whether a religion is a good religion by using ethical criteria. I'm going to read them off. I think a good religion engenders and maintains the following:
(1) Humility. This is a sign that you have a transcendent perspective and that you do not identify your own articulation of it with the transcendent.
(2) Generosity. This is a sense of other-regardingness, sacrifice, altruism and attention to the interests of others.
(3) Individual freedom. This includes consent or dissent regarding one's destiny. It is the opposite of manipulation.
(4) A sense of justice. This is an interest in equal opportunity in the context of some other variables, such as merit, ability, need, and attention to justice for the disadvantaged.
(5) Honesty. Just as we apply honesty and truthfulness to the marketplace, doctor/patient relationships, and the academic community, we should also apply it to religion.
(6) Respect for human life. This means belief in the sanctity of human life, from an ethical point of view. I would judge Abraham as involved in wrongdoing by taking his son Isaac up the hill with a knife, with intent to kill. Now it is a problem whether the religious-action guide or the moral-action guide is superior. As an outsider, I see the moral-action guide as superior. The person within the faith has a different view.
(7) A sense of proper loyalties to nation, biological patents, spiritual parents, etc.
(8) Prudence. This includes knowing what's going on, rather than hiding from what's going on.
(9) Temperance. If you believe in providence, or whatever the language of the religion is, you don't take shortcuts, you don't hurt people to achieve a short term goal. You wait.
(10) Courage. If a religion engenders personal courage, which I think is the cornerstone of all virtues, then I think it is a good religion.
Now none of these are absolute and some take precedence over others.
Stillson Judah: They sound very good to me. Of course, I see my task differently. You as an ethicist are interested in the ethical and moral dimensions of religion. I am interested in the dynamics of religions -- e.g., why people go into any one religion.
Don Jones: Why wouldn't you want to make a judgment about which is a better religion -- the Hare Krishna movement or the Unification Church?
Richard Quebedeaux: You know, I asked him to do that.
Stillson Judah: I couldn't.
Don Jones: See, I could do that, (laughter) And I'll tell you. I think the Unification Church, according to these criteria, is superior to the Divine Light Mission, for instance; and I'll say that flat out. I think the Divine Light Mission is an inferior religion, morally speaking. Now the moral point of view is not the only point of view. I'll admit there are other points of view. I would see the snake handling cults in West Virginia as inferior to some other religions, morally speaking.
David Simpson: Did you ever put that in writing?
Don Jones: I haven't.
Stillson Judah: Do it. Those ate good criteria.
David Simpson: One of Don's ethical categories was personal freedom. Stillson, what do you make of the member of the Unification Church who thinks he has to ask permission to leave the movement? Have you ever heard of a wayward Catholic asking the priest's permission to not go to church anymore? Or did you ask the Board of Elders' permission not to go to church anymore? Did I ask my minister when I decided for three years I didn't want to have anything to do with the church? Somehow there is a dramatic difference between these cases and the Unification movement.
Stillson Judah: Because they are a family, you see, I think this makes the difference -- whereas in most of our Protestant churches, we go to church on Sunday, but we live at home. It's quite different. When you are a part of a group and a family, as it were, and want to leave the family, you ordinarily talk with people about why you're leaving. In the Unification Church you have this feeling of family; you are part of a unity, a social unit; and I think this makes a big difference.
Richard Quebedeaux: It's like getting a divorce.
Stillson Judah: Yes, I think that's a good analogy.
David Simpson: So if you decided to leave the movement, you'd have to move out. I mean, you'd really have to move out.
Stillson Judah: Yes, absolutely.
Hugh Spurgin: It has not, however, always been true that all Unification people have lived communally. In Korea, most members never did. It is true that those who are presently living communally, even though they may have outside jobs, are very involved with their housemates. Moreover, the movement seems to be changing in this respect, due to the newly created home church program and the emphasis upon home church membership.
To live communally is not easy; it is a struggle. Hence, it is also an indication of the greatness of the Unification way that many do live communally.
I have great respect for traditional churches, but it is different when you belong to a Sunday-only style church and don't live with others in your congregation. It is not the same as actually living with those people, and with their various idiosyncrasies. Struggle is avoided, but so is an opportunity for growth. Families living together is even more complex. Nora and I have experienced that.
Problems exist but what overcomes them is the presence of God and love for one another. There's incredible diversity within the Unification Church, but what minimizes misunderstanding is a belief that there is something or Someone who transcends all, and a willingness to give unselfishly.
Esteban Galvan: Also, I think that a lot of the persecution that we receive has caused us to grow together, to pull together. This is the same process that Caesar Chavez says about the United Farm Workers' Movement. He said the more persecution they have received, the more religious that community has become. I think it's really true in our situation. I think that persecution has stimulated our community experience in becoming closer to one another and expressing mutual love. I am discovering that not only God, but another brother or sister, another human being, really loves me.
Kurt Johnson: I want to ask David a question. We've been talking about sociology and about coming and going in the Unification Church. I want to ask what's going to be the sociological position of people who are so threatening to you, who don't even want you to be here. What's going to be the sociology of their discovering that we may authentically not only be religious, but actually have something to contribute? Can they move away from the emotional attachment they have to their negativity toward the Unification Church?
David Simpson: Well, I guess just a very quick response would be that I think that those individuals have to go through some kind of a truth finding process in the same way that I may be doing, either with this or with respect to other things that I pursue that I want to get some answers about. And I don't think that I, or any other person, can do that for them. That's what I meant about the whole individual, the need to maintain that private space and that freedom, and I think that their emotional negativism may in some way be an interesting counterpart to the emotional attachment that members within the church find to each other, to the movement and to Rev. Moon. So I don't know how to answer that, other than to say that I think there is a similar amount of psychic energy that is going on on both sides and they ought to get together and talk to each other.
Richard Quebedeaux: The anticult movement has a lot of cohesiveness and a support system, too.
George Exoo: One of the things that keeps people from leaving jobs frequently is investment in pension plans. I have not gathered that there is any kind of pension plan or provision for old age within the Unification Church and I'm wondering if a person leaves, does he leave with absolutely nothing, no investment whatsoever and does that create a problem for people? Do you have any feeling on that or anybody else?
Stillson Judah: That is a good question, I would like to heat some comments.
Hugh Spurgin: Yes, I'd like to answer that question by using the example of my wife's patents' community. Nora comes from a conservative Mennonite community in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, which opposes insurance. Their idea is that people, rather than insurance companies, should be depended upon when someone is in trouble. As to the Unification movement, currently there are no extensive plans for members. In the future, they are expected to be supported by their congregations, as well as their children and grandchildren.
George Exoo: Are you going to take care of the people who have left along the way?
Hugh Spurgin: No, I'm talking about people who have remained in the church.
Thomas McGowan: Do you think that it would be unsafe to have insurance plans because of something in your eschatology?
Hugh Spurgin: We have had some insurance plans; I'm not saying that we have not. In the past, individuals have had life or health insurance policies. But the stress is placed upon faith that people not legal commitments will take care of you when you ate old.
There is also a Blessed couples' fund. It is a fund to which couples tithe and which any family that has a special need, such as a complication during childbirth, could dip into. Unfortunately, that system is not yet as developed in the U.S.A. as it is in Japan, Korea and elsewhere.
Ernest Stewart: I've seen many people off for various reasons -- to go to school, go home or quit, or whatever. We don't give them a year's salary or something like that, but we don't send them away with nothing in their pockets. They get a couple of hundred dollars if they are going somewhere close. If they are going farther, they may get a thousand dollars.
Richard Quebedeaux: I think it is true that all this is in its developmental stages. I know a person who has not formally made an exit from the movement. His wife and kids are still in and active. He's trying to get a job and says that fourteen years in the Unification Church have not helped his dossier any, even though he's probably gotten much experience during that time that could be used in any secular organization. Yet who's going to believe it?
Diana Muxworthy: That's the risk that people take when they join.
Jane Flinn: After twelve years with the Franciscans, my husband left with fifty dollars in his pocket and ate off my meal ticket at Harvard his first year, (laughter)...
Richard Quebedeaux: Right, it's not just the Unification Church.
Paul Sharkey: I agree with Don that the ethical dimensions of any religion are important and that, judged by Don's ten criteria of the value of the ethical aspects of any religion, some religions are better than others. But there is also the necessary question: What is the purpose of religion? One purpose is the individual's gaining a sense of being accepted. But there are two kinds of acceptance. One is acceptance by the individuals in one's religious community. But there is also one's acceptance by God. This latter is more fundamental than the former. A person might leave the movement because he is looking for this and doesn't believe that he has found it.
Mary Carman Rose: That is an extremely important point, and I am glad Paul brought it up. Many of the Moonies present have talked about the support they find within the Unification family. No one has mentioned the way the Unification Church fosters the individual's relation to God, the Father, but I see this as a remarkable contribution to twentieth-century understanding of the individual's living relation to God.
Rod Sawatsky: In terms of figures of people leaving, what are we talking about? We have been talking about that so much, but I'd like the percentage.
Richard Quebedeaux: Can anybody make a wise comment in terms of the last three or four years, numbers of new members and numbers of exits.
Stillson Judah: I'd like to have those statistics.
Hugh Spurgin: I cannot give you precise statistics, but I would assert that since 1975, there has been an increase in the percentage of people leaving, as well as an increase in the number joining. Prior to 1975 in America, ours was a small movement in which most medium-sized cities had between five and ten Unificationists and only the biggest cities had more. But in 1975, there was a change. As I said earlier, many of the leaders were asked to go overseas as missionaries; others joined the various national projects, including the seminary, fundraising teams, the newspaper, etc. That is to say, though still under the Unification umbrella, many of those who didn't go overseas became involved in the nonevangelical activities of the movement. This meant that the American church was left without experienced leaders and had to rely on newly converted nineteen and twenty-year-old kids to take over key local and state positions.
Herein lies one indication of the greatness of Rev. Moon. He is always providing inexperienced people with opportunities to grow, risking the possibility they cannot handle heavy responsibilities, may succumb to temptations, or may leave the church. For instance, in New York City, members confront drugs, alcohol, money, fame, pornography, and all the ills of urban life, not to mention persecution and controversy. Some, no doubt, have been tempted by such worldly inducements and have left the movement -- probably more since 1975 than before. But Rev. Moon stresses it is important to face challenges, not avoid them. Even though it is easier to be a saint on a mountain top than in the midst of the hustle and bustle of New York, confronting reality is essential to growth. Parenthetically I might mention also that since 1975, the focus of the Unification Church has been in the cities. Consequently, the diversity as well as the number of members has increased, another factor that increases turnover.
Jaime Sheeran: I was on a fundraising team right before coming to the Bahamas, and the people on that team knew that I was to come here. I want to share something about their hearts and their faith. They are people who are aware of all kinds of options and possibilities available to them and yet they have chosen to continue on with their work of fundraising. I know what keeps them fundraising is the fact that they are experiencing the living God every day while they are out there working hard. For example, I myself, had the option of going out to the field, and one of the reasons I have decided it is good for me to do this kind of work is because it is challenging to me. I think if you want to experience God, you have to challenge yourself to your limits, do something that you've never done before, and then your faith in God can become so real and you'll experience something very deep and valuable. What will we be left with after we die? Will our insurance plans help us then? What kind of insurance will help us with our spiritual lives? The more experiences we have with God, the more we have that is of eternal value. I think this truth actually keeps these people going on the MFT, even though they know that they could have an education and go on to school too. They are experiencing God every day. What school teaches that? So it's just a question of what kind of value system we have.
Richard Quebedeaux: Thank you. Thank you for an amazing lifestyle seminar.
1 These two terms may be briefly defined as conflicts in ethical values, and lack of meaning to life, respectively. They were formulated, among others by two sociologists, Charles Y. dock and Rodney Stark, as explanations for the origin of religions.
2 Under the auspices of New ERA, a conference on the "Dynamics of Joining and Leaving the Unification Church" was convened in Berkeley, California, in February, 1981.
3 Dr. Judah is working on a book which he has tentatively entitled "The Moonies: Conversion or Coercion."