Unification Theology In Comparative Perspectives - Edited by Anthony J. Guerra - 1988

Practical Theology in the Aftermath of Marxism: Unificationism's "Three Blessings" Theology -- by Thomas Walsh

Among contemporary theologians, consideration of the relationship between theory and practice has caused a shift in theological attention, a shift away from preoccupations with either hermeneutics, on the one hand, which seeks to bridge the historical distance between the truth of ancient texts and contemporary settings, or, on the other hand, transcendental-epistemological foundations for theological affirmations. While not effecting a total eclipse, there is little question but that the questions of praxis have taken the high ground in relation to the traditional concerns of both dogmatic and foundational theologians. In many respects this shift has been precipitated by the force of Marxism, as exemplified in the "Theses on Feuerbach," wherein Marx charges that not only is it more important to change the world than it is to interpret -- the task of hermeneutics -- the world, but also that the question of truth is essentially a practical question, and, furthermore, practical questions are essentially social questions.1 In keeping with this shift, the issue of "right action" comes to be understood not merely as an outcome of correct theology, i.e., as a function of hermeneutics or dogmatics. Rather "right action," it may be said, functions as a kind of foundation or even criterion for correct theology. Or, as Gustavo Gutiettez would tell us, the time has come for theology as wisdom and theology as rational knowledge to give way to theology as critical reflection on praxis.2 And in the words of David Tracy, practical theology has the task of "articulating praxis criteria of human transformation."3

Of course the move from hermeneutics or philosophical theology to practical theology is itself fraught with peril. Not only does one not easily escape the hermeneutical circle, but one also finds that, even having made the move from traditional theology to ethics and social analysis, fundamental questions still remain. Even though it may be granted that all thought has a ground in practical action in the world, one still has the problem of judging those practices most adequate and most conducive to the creation of a true consciousness or even a good and just society. Any theory of practice, be it political, economic, or theological, must have some criteria in terms of which to assess the adequacy or promise of practice. If this is true, then it would seem that ethical reflection on the adequacy of practice becomes the criterion for theology. However; unless there is some reason to believe that ethics is something about which we all agree, or, more importantly, about which we can achieve some greater certainty, there is really little hope that the move from theological reflection to ethical reflection will necessarily advance the discourse in any significant way. In effect, taking on the task of being "critical" of practices may be less promising a project than appears at first glance, for about practices we can be no more sure than about theologies. In sum, just as all theory may be laden with practical -- e.g., biological or economic or political -- interests so too are practices laden with theories and beliefs.

Ultimately, then, one must face up to the hermeneutical issues insofar as there exists no theory-independent way in which to interpret the value of any particular set of practices. In other words, even if we move from the level of theological theory to the consideration of practices, we are still confronted with the problem of securing a foundation for "critical reflection," if we are to avoid the danger of arbitrariness being masked by an idiom of critical protest and righteous indignation. If there is anything that the contemporary discussions in the Philosophy of the Social Sciences has taught us, it would seem to be that social analysis -- and not only Parsonian social analysis, but Marxist and neomarxist as well -- has no more an epistemologically privileged standpoint than has theology.4

Practical theologians seek to accomplish their task by appeal to one or another of the classic frameworks for the analysis of society and moral decision-making. Marxism, for many, holds promise as a sociological framework for the assessment of concrete social practice, just as Kantianism, among many liberal theologians, held promise as a philosophical framework for moral deliberation which could proceed without the heteronomous constraints of dogmatic theologies. As philosophy has traditionally provided resources for the formulation of both fundamental and systematic theologies, philosophical ethics and sociology have served the task of formulating a practical theology. For example, theology has never been the same since Marx, particularly insofar as the "class struggle" image has become central to the whole notion of being critical and being political. Both liberation theologians and political theologians employ revised Marxian, i.e., neomarxian, perspectives in their attempt to develop theologies which are practical in attending to the conditions of concrete social existence. As Thomas has deferred to "the Philosopher," contemporary political theologians defer to neomarxists such as Ernst Bloch, Herbert Marcuse, and Jurgen Habermas. To quote Alfredo Fierro, "Political theology is a theology operating under the sign of Marx, just as scholasticism was a theology operating under the sign of Aristotle and liberal Protestant theology was one operating under the sign of Kant."5

In this essay I will examine Unification theology insofar as it may be understood as a practical theology, i.e., in the sense that theological reflection is integrally related to practices. However, Unificationism departs from the idiom of practical theology as articulated by, say, Gutierrez or Moltmann, in that it lacks a neomarxist sociological imagination. Therefore, if one is required to be sociologically or politically neomarxist in order to speak meaningfully of practical theology, Unificationism would seem to fail as a candidate. On the other hand, if, as Unificationists hold, the Marxian legacy is not only politically and theologically problematic but sociologically unpromising, then there may be room to suggest that Unificationism may be understood in the mode of a practical theology.

The practical and indeed political character of Unification theology implies a form of social organization governed by a vision of family. Such a vision is neither individualistic nor abstractly collectivism I argue that Unification theology is practical in its stress on a doctrine of sanctification, its theology of the family, and its communitarian social vision. As will be demonstrated below, such characteristics derive from Unificationism's three blessings theology. For many this communitarian, if not Utopian social vision represents little more than a blueprint for a community set apart from the world, i.e., the sect. I hold, however, that the Unification perspective offers promising resources and principles of organization not only for the sectarian community, i.e. Gemeinschaft, but for complex modern societies as well, i.e., Gesellschaft. That is, grounded in a "three blessings theology," Unification ethics has a trinitarian structure which integrates an ethics of agency and action with an ethics of community and an ethics of society or social system. In this way Unification practices are related to the individual, the life-world, and society.

Of course, inasmuch as Unification theology is understood essentially as a "confessional" theology -- one which grounds itself in a claim to special revelation -- it would seem to commend a "teleological suspension of the ethical."6 Insofar as its morality is governed by its theological vision, Unification ethics must be understood as holding to either a heteronomous or perhaps theonomous morality, but not an autonomous ethics. Ethics remains largely under the "tutelage" of theology. At the same time Unificationism is illustrative of the same ambiguity regarding specific social and political practices that has characterized Christian social ethics traditionally. One can be reminded of Ernst Troeltsch's description of the early Christian community: "It is clear therefore that the message of Jesus is not a program of social reform." Rather, according to Troeltsch, the social form which the Christian community was instrumental in shaping was more a "by-product," for "the fundamental idea was solely that of the salvation of souls."7

That is, theological ethics, while not being primarily ethical, is essentially practical. Max Weber, too, Troeltsch's mentor and friend, argued that the tremendous social impact of Calvinism was not so much a result of its explicit theory of social practice, than it was a product of character formation governed largely by the first order concern with salvation. In the case of Puritanism, according to Weber, its socially relevant Wirtschaftethik was an outgrowth of a particular conceptualization of God's nature and relationship to history. In effect, the Weber-thesis attempts to stand Marxism on its head by pointing to both the autonomy and practical relevance of ideas, in this case theology or theodicy.8

In considering Unification theology as a practical theology, it must be admitted that ethics is understood as operating under the sign of the Reverend Moon's Asian-Christian theology, hence, theological ethics. Of course, one may argue that the theology is sociologically conditioned, particularly by Korean-Confucian culture, and therefore Unification theology is little more than the sacralization of a particular cultural way of life, i.e., the theology of the family is nothing more than the exaltation of Confucian family ethics to the status of an "order of creation." Some might also suggest that Unificationism's insistence on a post-marxist future is merely representative of the Reverend Moon's disaffection with the communists following a series of brutal beatings and a neatly three year imprisonment-cum-re-education experience in the Hung Na m work-camp just prior to the Korean War. And certainly the historicity and contextual character of knowledge must be taken into account in the consideration of any text or community. At the same time, reductionism must be avoided. However, a defense of Unificationism in the face of a "sociology of knowledge" theory of theology is not my present task. Rather, I will attempt to offer an exposition of Unification theology which accents its practical dimension not as a retreat from the idiom of neomarxism, but as a position wrought not only in the crucible of a "divided nation," but one wrought in the "aftermath of Marxism."9

According to David Tracy's understanding of the task of a publicly relevant practical theology as one of "articulating praxis criteria of human transformation," such a theology is, by this definition, to be concerned with the historical and practical conditions of and for redemption. Whereas traditionally such an understanding may have, as Troeltsch points out, been concerned exclusively with the cute of souls, post-Enlightenment understandings, evidenced initially in the emergence, during the industrial revolution, of a sociologically-conscious Christianity -- the Social Gospel, British Christian Socialism, the Catholic Social Encyclicals -- paid serious attention to the empirical conditions of social existence. Stated in another way, practical theology witnessed a shift from the concern with an other-worldly redemption, i.e., the cute and salvation of souls, to a concern with this-worldly emanicipation, i.e., the achievement of Mundigkeit as understood by Kant, or the achievement of non-alienated labor as understood by Marx. These Kantian and Marxian notions of emancipation, and their respective "praxis criteria of human transformation" are treated with great respect by a number of Protestant and Catholic theologians.

Kantian presuppositions are evidenced whenever the ethical serves as a foundation or criterion for the theological, as was the case among liberal Protestants such as Albrecht Ritschl and Adolf von Hatnack. In effect, the generalization of moral maxims, derived by impartial and autonomous reason, becomes the rational criteria in terms of which theological utterances are to be evaluated. Under the conditions for practical theology established by Kant in the Critique of Pure Reason and the Critique of Practical Reason, reason unsullied by tradition and formation, assesses the adequacy of theology. For Kant, "absolutely no [moral] incentives can be attributed to the divine will."10 In effect, theology must be measured against the categorical imperative. Furthermore, only such theology which meets these standards, i.e., which shows itself to be in compliance with Kantian deontology, may be judged as rational and moral.

Unlike the Kantian reliance on autonomous rationality, the Marxian theory of practice stresses the impossibility of actual autonomy insofar as the social conditions on inequality persist. The adequacy of Kantian morality is viewed as possible only under particular historical and social conditions, and as long as these social conditions do not obtain, morality is merely a mask for power, as Nietzsche has told us. Those "praxis criteria for human transformation" which Marxists accent are those of the social, and particularly the economic conditions of a given society. Insofar as any theory is praxis-conditioned, and insofar as society is characterized by systematic oppression and inequality, no theory is to be trusted which does not have as its first priority the elimination of alienating social conditions.

I have stated that the central difficulty one faces in presenting Unification theology as a practical theology derives from the fact that it departs in large part from these conventional frameworks -- the Kantian and neomarxian -- for presenting a practical theology. In other words, if the Kantian and the Marxian positions are the only adequate perspectives available, and if I wish to argue that Unificationism is a practical theology, then I am required either to demonstrate that indeed it subscribes to either one or both of these orientations, or it must be demonstrated that these two options do not exhaust the possibilities for practice. In sum I will attempt to follow this latter tack, arguing as well that something approaching a theistic-Aristotelian cum Confucian-family-ethics framework most adequately serves Unificationism, and, furthermore, is more adequately suited to the integrity of a theological ethics than are the Kantian and Marxian perspectives. In fact, I would contend that a subscription to either the Marxian or Kantian frameworks will only predicate the theological impoverishment of the understanding of practice.

A Theistic-Aristotelian Option

In his essay, "Theologies of Praxis," David Tracy distinguishes between, on the one hand, the classical, Aristotelian formulation of praxis that characterizes the work of thinkers such as Bernard Lonergan and Eric Voegelin, and, on the other hand, Hegelian-Marxist formulations which inform the positions of both "political" and "liberation" theologians. The former, according to Tracy, stresses the primacy of "radical and enduring personal transformation,"11 while the latter underscores the need for "ideology-critique."12 Tracy says that whereas in both Aristotelian and neomarxist positions "personal transformation" is primary, there are nevertheless differences:

Far more than alternative Aristotelian formulations of the same basic position, the liberation and political theologians will, of course, ordinarily demand explicit analysis of the infrastructural and suprastructural realities affecting any possibility of personal authenticity.13

Although Tracy neither spells out what he means by "infrastructural and suprastructural" nor suggests which "realities" might be considered primary, he argues that "all theologies of praxis will ordinarily be concerned with society as their primary referent group."14

Speaking of Bernard Lonergan as representing an Aristotelian approach to practice, Tracy says, that, "he joins the Aristotle of the Ethics and the Politics to insist upon a transformative ethic of agency, character, and prognosis and joins the mainline Christian tradition in understanding the transformative reality of faith as first a matter of orientation, trust, and loyalty (fides qua) that grounds all fight beliefs (fides quae). "15 What Tracy's distinction seems to suggest is that the Aristotelian position, on the one hand, stresses the praxis of the subject, while the neomarxian position, on the other hand, stresses the systematic conditions of the social environment. Tracy, in effect, seems to suggest that the Aristotelian and neomarxian perspectives may be joined together in developing an adequate theology of praxis. In fact, Tracy has argued that a classical position is "not retrievable save through the kind of historical and social-scientific mediations effected by the Hegelian and Marxist traditions in Europe or the Peirce-Dewey tradition in North America."16

Tracy's position, which calls for either a neomatxian or liberal-democratic mediation of Aristotelianism, amounts to a kind of both/and position which tends to distort the integrity of both positions involved in the synthesis. That is, I would argue that an Aristotelian or communitarian understanding of character formation and politics cannot be so easily mediated through a neomarxian or pragmatic-democratic theory of society. If, for example, one appeals to a pragmatic-democratic theory -- essentially an appeal to the presuppositions of liberalism -- one seeks to transcend particular theological perspectives in the hope of achieving trans-theological, moral consensus. While theologies divide, one argues, pragmatism unites. As a result theology is marginalized, except insofar as theological positions reinforce positions derived without theological assistance.

Marxism, on the other hand, may be understood essentially as a form of anti-liberalism, and particularly anti-capitalism, i.e., as an effort to correct the errors and unmask the alienating structures believed to be constitutive of liberalism. In its promise to correct the weaknesses of liberal societies, Marxism has been a beacon of hope to those disaffected with liberalism. Marxism, however; in order to implement and enforce its ideal of a post-liberal just society, has resorted to unparalleled measures of domination and control. In fact, Marxism's insistence on the decisiveness of the material conditions of existence, particularly labor, has resulted in a profound distrust of theology and religious community. Marxism's anti-theological stance, indeed, may be understood as a largely ethical and practical stance, i.e., ethics and compassion require the colonization of religious communities.

While liberalism presents itself as neutral in regard to religion, the conditions of public discourse in liberal societies generally require the marginalization or secularization of religious language and practice. Marxism, on the other hand, openly penalizes religious practice (except, as is the case with the U.S.S.R.'s Muslim population, when the threat of rebellion calls for caution). I contend that a religious community which seeks to mediate itself publicly through a neomarxian or pragmatic-democratic framework will only impoverish itself of the resources for transforming the human condition. That is, the medium employed for the creation of the conditions of relevance only serves to effect the attenuation and erosion of those not easily renewable resources, such as church and family and community, without which life -- be it Marxist or liberaldemocratic -- may not be worth living.

Unificationism, with its emphasis on the development of character, standards of excellence, and practical wisdom (prognosis) stands more closely allied with neo-Aristotelian theories of practice. Furthermore, Unificationism, like Aristotelianism or Thomism, is not merely a theory of the moral agent and those virtues constitutive of true agency, but is also a social philosophy, which, in the case of Unificationism, underscores the primacy of the family, not as a "haven in a heartless world," but rather as that primordial and specific mode of practice which is believed to be basic to the well-being of society. In this sense the family is a mode of practice more basic than labor, understood in the Marxian sense, and more basic than linguistic sign-interpretation in the Peircean, liberal-democratic sense.

The Trinitarian Structure of Unification Ethics

The doctrine of creation forms the theological foundation for Unification ethics, though this is not to suggest that Christology is unimportant. Unificationists, however, would argue that Christology becomes intelligible only in light of a doctrine of creation, i.e., a doctrine of God and a doctrine of the purpose of creation. In this way, however Christocentric Unification ethics may be -- that is, however much Unification practice may involve an "imitation of Christ" -- Christ is understood according to a particular theologic. As described in the Divine Principle, the "three blessings" form the framework in light of which Unificationism develops both its Christology and its theology of practice. As these blessings are thematized, they form the basis for understanding the trinitarian structure of Unification ethics, i.e., the integration of self, community, and society.

Within the first chapter of the Divine Principle, the "Principle of Creation," there is a third section entitled, "The Purpose of Creation." In this section is explicated, based on the passage in Genesis 1:28, the "three great blessings."17 On the face of it the blessings, "to be fruitful, to multiply and fill the earth, and to subdue it and have dominion," lack substance. Fleshed out, however, in accord with a Doctrine of Creation, this simple passage serves as the governing image in terms of which theological ethics, within the Unification tradition, may be understood. Furthermore, this "three blessings" framework gives a three-tiered structure to Unification ethics, a perspective which, as mentioned above, integrates individual, family, and social ethics, i.e., a micro-ethics, a meso-ethics, and a macro-ethics.18 To quote Unification theologian, Young Oon Kim,

Unification theology claims that God created Adam and Eve. He gave them three blessings: 1) to be fruitful, 2) to multiply, and fill the earth, 3) to subdue the earth and have dominion over the entire creation. This threefold blessing signifies God's original and continuing purpose for mankind.

However, such an interpretation of man's role seems to be a distinctive teaching of Divine Principle. No other modern theology, Jewish or Christian, has so clearly focused upon this particular passage of scripture in working out a doctrine of man.19

The meaning of a "blessing" in Unification theology, while entailing the notion of God's grace, is understood as inclusive of human responsibility. That is, a blessing, or promise, is only fulfilled relationally, and is thus not to be understood as capable of being fulfilled by heavenly fiat. Grace is resistible, hence the Fall. The fulfillment of the three blessings is historically contingent, and in fact, due to the Fall, there has been no fulfillment. As a result, the way in which eschatology is understood within Unification theology is directly related to the potential for the historical fulfillment of the three great blessings. Given that the three blessings concept is essentially ethical, it follows that Unification theology is both thoroughly ethical/practical and thoroughly teleological, with its telos being the restoration of the Fall. In considering the "three blessings" I will attempt to bring into relief the underlying practices which are embedded within the Unification theological framework. I will demonstrate the way in which these practices differ from contemporary Hegelian-Marxist or neomarxist understandings of practice so popular among political and liberation theologians.

First Blessing Ethics: Theological Virtue

On a certain level it appears that Unificationism has no ethics, only a religion. That is, there is no differentiated morality which operates with autonomy, e.g., in Kantian fashion. Rather more in keeping with Karl Barth's prohibition of an ethics outside the sphere of dogmatics. Unification ethics is wholly theological. Theology thus provides the foundation for practice. While it may be argued that Unificationism begs questions of social justice by reducing ethics to personal spirituality, Unificationism views such a mode of practice as fundamentally publicly relevant and socially effective. This publicity and social relevance, however, are consequences external to the internal pursuit of certain "foundations of faith."20 The spiritual entails the social. Stated in another way, the social, absent the grace of God paves an unpromising path to emancipation.

In other words, as I would interpret the Unification position, theological practice entails a sociology, but not such that theology must be understood merely as "functioning" within a particular social system, e.g., as performing what Niklaus Luhmann would refer to as a "complexity-reducing function." That is, theological practice only maintains its integrity insofar as such action is not understood primarily as performing a social function, but as being faithful to God's will, i.e., not as "seeking to save one's life" but as "seeking to lose one's life." The ministry of Jesus is therefore viewed not as primarily political or social, but as primarily faithful. Faith, however, is socially relevant. To quote H. Richard Niebuhr, faith might be understood as "trust or distrust in being itself." Furthermore, "Faith as trust of distrust accompanies all our encounters with others and qualifies all our responses."21

Apart from the theological virtue of faith, Unificationism accents the virtue of heart, a theological virtue of the affections. As Augustine has said, "We must seek after God with supreme affection." He states that, "I hold virtue to be nothing else than perfect love of God." And of the moral virtues, Augustine suggests that temperance, fortitude, justice, and prudence are "four forms of love,"22 each of which has a direct bearing on the perception of truth. Stated in another way, the first blessing has to do with the doctrine of sanctification, i.e., the formation of character in response to a relationship with God. As Young Oon Kim has stated it,

According to Divine Principle, a perfected individual feels as God does, as if God's feelings were his own. He has fully united with God's heart. In unrestricted give and take, he loves God with all his heart, soul, mind and strength.23

This position is certainly not without precedent among Protestants such as John Calvin, Jonathan Edwards, and John Wesley. Stanley Hauerwas has said, in reference to Calvin, Wesley and Edwards, "the most striking idea is that sanctification involves the determination of a man's 'person,' his most basic thing. It is not a shallow or surface change of a man's way of life, but rather it affects a man at the very heart of his existence."24 That is, the capacity for agency and even the capacity for responsibility are powers which must be cultivated and formed in relation to God. Autonomy is not that which is given with existence, but that which is both given -- justification -- and achieved -- sanctification -- as a kind of theonomy. This is not to say that Unification is Pelagian, having no doctrine of grace or justification, but only that within the context of grace and God's action there is a realm of autonomy which may give way to either heteronomy or theonomy.

The "first blessing" dimension of Unification ethics may be understood in terms of both conversion and discipleship. Insofar as Unificationism stresses conversion, there is required a fundamental grounding in faith, akin to what Jonathan Edwards understood as "true virtue."

True virtue most essentially consists in benevolence to being in general. Or perhaps, to speak more accurately, it is the consent, propensity and union of heart to being in general, which is immediately exercised in a general good will.25

Edwards was exceedingly skeptical of any promise for social transformation that was not grounded in regeneration through conversion. In his essay, "Some Thoughts Concerning the Present Revival of Religion in New England," Edwards says:

The work of God in the conversion of one soul, considered together with the source, foundation, and purchase of it, and also the benefit and eternal issue of it, is a more glorious work of God than the creation of the whole material universe.... More happiness and a greatest benefit to man, is the fruit of each single drop of such a shower, than all the temporal good of the most happy revolution in a land or nation amounts to, or all that a people could gain by the conquest of the world.26

Edwards speaks of the disposition of love. Calvin spoke of a "turning of life to God,"27 i.e., repentance. For Unificationism the first blessing signifies the development of the self as "the image and likeness of God," with the primary trait being that of love or heart. This requires grace, nature and responsibility. While conversion is not an acquisition, so much as it involves the infusion of God's grace, the agent nevertheless takes responsibility in certain respects for the creation of the conditions which would make such an infusion intelligible for what it is. With Thomas, Unification holds that theological virtues are infused virtues, i.e., not habits acquired merely by one's own power. At the same time, Unificationism understands the theological virtues relationally, and in this sense human agency is involved in the generation and maintenance of theological virtues, as indicated by the notion of a "foundation of faith."

A second dimension to Unificationism's first blessing ethics -- one closet perhaps to the ethics of monasticism -- involves the notion of discipleship and a following of a way or life, guided by elders, including, in the case of Unificationism, not only the Reverend Moon, but predecessor saints who have sought to imitate the way of Jesus Christ. This would include elder church members who have demonstrated both their loyalty to that way of life, and who have come to exemplify, to some degree, Unification virtues of heart, loyalty, and filial piety.

The problem which an ethics of virtue presents to the post-Kantian moral theologian lies in the dependency on a notion of the good way of life, in terms of which the virtues are intelligible. As such, the right is dependent upon a vision of the good, and moral obligation is understood within a teleological framework. Virtues are integrally related to particular practices and disciplines which require the appropriation of particular traditions, be they archery, stonemasonry, or spirituality. The capacity for critical reflection upon such practices is only realizable upon the foundation of one's having mastered a particular tradition. In this sense, viewed from a Kantian perspective and its interests in absolute autonomy, Unificationism may be understood with suspicion as a heteronomous practice. Indeed, a number of members of the mental health establishment, not to mention members of the legal profession, have concluded that Unificationist practices are not only heteronomous, they ate forms of "brainwashing." Such diagnoses may speak less of Unificationism than of the poverty of various "expert cultures" in their attempt to explain the persistence of religion in the face of all "reason."28

The neomarxian discomfort with virtue ethics derives from the apparent privatization, and thus its begging the question of social injustice. It is worth mentioning also that the neomarxists have the same problem with the individualism of Kantian ethics. What Marxists and neomarxists alike have failed to appreciate, except in the form of lip-service, is the social relevance of micro-ethics, particularly virtue ethics, and theological virtues. I would concur with Charles Davis who, in his consideration of political theology, charges that, "Clearly, in one sense, that mystical element is apolitical. As transcendent, it is not enclosed within the political order. But I suggest that it is eminently political in as much as it is the deepest source and ground of politics. In releasing human persons into individual freedom as subjects, it makes possible the process of communication among free and equal participants, which is the essence of emancipated politics."29

Neomarxists, in their attempt to get behind society by uncovering conditions of labor, have neglected the role which individual characters play in the determination of society. Furthermore, there has been a failure to fully appreciate the power of theological virtue as a socially relevant and transforming force. There has also been a failure to recognize that an ethics of virtue is far removed from individualistic ethics. Virtue ethics only has intelligibility when understood within the context of a particular polls, oikos, republic, community or practice. That is, virtues are intelligible in the context of a shared vision of the good life which practitioners seek to achieve, maintain, and transmit over time. As understood within the Unification context this shared vision of the good life has to do with the family, the school of virtue.

The Second Blessing: The Family as Mediator of Micro- and Macro-Ethics

In Unificationism, to some extent, ecclesial existence is eclipsed by an emphasis on familial existence. Regarding the second blessing the Divine Principle states the following:

In order for man to realize God's second blessing, originally, Adam and Eve, the divided substantial objects of God, after having perfected their respective individualities and thus fully reflecting God's dual essentialities, should have become husband and wife, forming one unity.30

Within Unificationism the family is the central category for ethical reflection, even more so than the individual. For the family is the location where abstract and universal love may be most concretely focused: achieved, maintained, and transmitted. In effect, within Unificationism the notion of grace is directly related to God's willingness to bless historical, human families. Young Oon Kim says that, "For Divine Principle the God-centered family represents the best example of how God works in history," wherein is synthesized the fundamental patterns of "human relatedness and responsibility."31 While appreciative of human sociality, Unificationism avoids the abstraction or considering the human being as such, conditioned by the abstract society or system. Instead, Unificationism underscores the theological and social relevance of the familial matrix or life-world. Kim argues that, "Only if... kinship relationships are positive and creative is it possible to manifest the full give and take of love with God and our fellowmen."32

The emphasis on the family is unmistakably Confucian in character and represents perhaps Unificationism's most significant contribution to contemporary practical theology. Kim suggests that due to Reverend Moon's cultural heritage he "was able to recognize an aspect of the Biblical heritage often overlooked in the Christian West, because of the predominantly individualistic nature of Protestantism and the church-centeredness of Catholicism."33 Central to the Confucian understanding of ethics is the accent placed upon the relationship between family ethics and social ethics. The virtue oi jen or "human-heartedness" is cultivated not within society as_ such, nor from public education alone, but within the intimately relational matrix of the family. The "fundamental law of reciprocity" is learned in the context of the family. To quote Kim at length,

Confucianism has special merit today because it uses the family as a model for society at large. In the West, people often speak of the "machinery" of government as if the nation is regulated impersonally, almost mechanically. Or they refer to the "business" of government, as though society was a purely commercial matter, merely collecting and spending money. Is it not better to see society as an extended family? This concept implies that we should treat all men with the affection, care and honor with which we treat our kinsmen. To look at society from this perspective, say the Confucianists, will prepare the way for the Great Commonwealth (ta tung), a state of world-wide harmony and happiness. For this reason, there is merit in recognizing the similarities between Unification theology and Confucian wisdom.34

As Kim also points out, Unificationism's theology of the family relates not only individual ethics (micro-ethics), but family ethics (meso-ethics), to the telos of reconciliation with God. Hence marriage and sexuality, within Unificationism, represent a virtual synthesis of the seven sacraments within the Catholic tradition, and is undertaken with the same seriousness as characterizes many Protestants in approaching Baptism. In fact, the Unification marriage involves aspects of Baptism, Confession (repentance), Eucharist, Confirmation, and Holy Orders, and of course the exchange of marriage vows. But apart from its being viewed in a sacramental and soteriological perspective, the Unificationist view of family is also decidedly social. The family is the matrix for the mediation of personal ethics and social ethics.

The family may seem to be a flimsy basis upon which to develop a social ethics. For the simplicity and potential for human-heartedness that may characterize families and, by extension, tribes, offers little in the way of guidance for a complex, pluralistic, and metropolitan society of strangers. However, a brief comparison with Marxism may be helpful in communicating the intelligibility of this position. Marx, as is well known, saw social labor as the foundation for the creation of individual consciousness and character, on the one hand, as well as the foundation -- depending on the forces and relations of production -- for the alienation or emanicipation of society, on the other hand. In a similar way, Unification presses the significance of the family as a basis not only for the reproduction of individual consciousness and character, but as the paradigm for sociality in general. The family is to serve as a basis -- to relate Unification family to Marxian labor -- for the emancipation of the relations of re-production, which, in turn, are to provide the model for the emancipation of the relations of production, i.e., labor. Thus the notion of family, in Unification, has a social, and emancipatory thrust analogous to the Marxian ideal of labor.

Third Blessing Ethics: Social Ethics

In the Divine Principle one reads that the third blessing points to the "Kingdom of Heaven on earth."35 We also learn that this Kingdom will be characterized by a "politics according to the will of the people," and, moreover, this society will be "socialistic," though perhaps the use of this latter term is misleading, and is better read as indicating some form of mixed economy.36 Also within the Divine Principle there is generous employment of an organic metaphor for speaking of the social order, even comparing an economy to the harmonious inter-relationships among "the stomach, heart, and lungs of the human body."37

We also learn from Dr. Sang Hun Lee, author of Explaining Unification Thought, that,

The third blessing refers, not only to dominion of creation, but also to abilities such as statesmanship and business management. In the Unification Thought view, the standard of conduct necessary for realizing the third blessing is nothing but an extension and application of the standard of conduct in family life -- i.e., ethics. When these ethical standards are applied to business, they become business ethics; when applied to a nation, they become national ethics.38

Certainly, a tremendous burden is placed on the role of the family, for Unification views the family as the basis for its global vision, macro-ethics. Certainly the weight which the family is expected to carry must be questioned. At the same time, however, one must consider the expectations which have been placed, by Marxists, on the role or labor and the conditions of labor, or by Enlightenment thinkers on the role of science and rationality delivered from theological encumbrances. In this light, the emphasis on the family does not appear so scandalous.

Family ethics has often been indicative of a tribalistic or totalistic ethics, i.e., a closed society. Family economics or family politics (nepotism) has meant preferential treatment for those within, and discrimination toward those not sharing the blood-line of the tribe, thus constituting what Benjamin Nelson has referred to as a "tribal brotherhood."39 Family models for society also appeal to notions of organic solidarity, with a concomitant tendency toward a coerced consensus. In short, family ethics is generally viewed as an unacceptable basis for ethics with a modern, pluralistic society. Family ethics is thus viewed as a form of "private ethics" which is only marginally relevant to the political and economic life of modern metropolitan societies, for these societies operate in accord with principles that are to hold not between family members, but between strangers. Hence the preeminence of notions of tights and of procedural and distributive justice.

Such notions of justice and of rights become central categories for ethics in inverse proportion to the degree of substantive solidarity that exists within a moral community. While the concern with tights might be interpreted as indicative of humanity's moral development, it might also be indicative of a certain moral impoverishment. Rights become central when trust and a shared sense of participation in the common good have eroded. When solidarity is reduced to the concern for fights and procedural rules, the social fabric is held together strictly by a via negativa. In many respects, that is a feature of the neomarxian legacy, and its protest idiom. Alasdair Macintyre, for one, has charged that "Neo-Marxisms of the present" are sorely limited by a post-Enlightenment ideology which "has fatally infected much of modern protest and rebellion with the idiom of abstract universality."40 By its reliance on abstract universal ideals, neomarxism has neglected the mundane task "of creating practices and institutions which will actually enable the children of the hitherto deprived and the hitherto arbitrarily excluded to learn... to play baseball or cricket and to listen to and to play string quartets and to value excellence in all these areas. It has instead encouraged them to pursue fictions of rights and of equality so that everybody in the end will have equal right to an education that it is worth nobody's while to have."41

The aspect of Unificationism's social ethics which has been most public is its anti-communism, so some clarification is in order. First of all, the central underpinnings of Unification anti-communism are ethical, and do not derive from "bourgeois" interests. In this respect, Unificationism's anti-communism is best understood, I would contend, as of the same order, or at least formally analogous to other more popular forms of moral outrage, e.g., the "moral equivalent of war" against racism, nuclear proliferation, or sexism. Unification anti-communism is relevant to its constructive social ethical thrust insofar as communism is viewed as making a promise, i.e., emancipation, which it is unable to deliver or is not the employment of moral discourse which Unificationists object to, nor the use of social analysis, but only that such employment is understood to be wrongheaded, and destructive. Furthermore, the history of the Marxist treatment of particularly minority and emergent religions is depressing to say the least. Marxists have tolerated only religions with traditions too pervasive to stamp out within a few generations, e.g., the Russian Orthodox Church and the Muslims in the U.S.S.R.; toward minority religions they do as they will;

The emphasis on anti-communism, as evidenced in the Unification-sponsored CAUSA movement exists not as a raison d'etre for Unification, but as a regrettable task that needs to be done, in the same way that racism needs to be combatted. Unification appreciation for the liberal democracies derives primarily from not only their tolerance for religious expression, but their providing an environment encouraging the flourishing of religion. At the same time Unificationism's disaffection with liberal democracies is related to the erosion of that environment conducive to the emergence, maintenance and transmission of religion.

In what follows, I will suggest features of Unificationism's third blessing ideal. This projection involves more than mere speculation, for I hold that a Unification society exists in embryonic form, evidenced in present practices. By extrapolation I will briefly -- and with no pretense of having exhausted the possibilities -- sketch features of the third blessing ethics. In particular, I will address the issues of politics and economics within the framework of a Unification ethos.

The Possibility of Politics Within the Unification Ethos

A cause of great concern for many who come to know the Unification Church, and the intensity of its commitments, has to do with the extent to which Unification communities are political in the democratic sense, i.e., open to dissent, criticism, loyal opposition, and collective will-formation. If we were to rely on the media accounts from the seventies it would seem that within Unificationism the political -- like the ethical -- is collapsed into the religious. Unificationism would then seem to represent a form of religious totalism with few resources for political existence.

While often exaggerated, such concerns are not wholly without warrant, for there is indeed a tension between a community which holds "the truth," and the pluralistic interpretation of truth that seems to ground liberal, pragmatic societies. Liberal political societies, as I understand them, are constituted on a conviction that, in politics, procedures are more important than truth. Furthermore, truth is acceptable only insofar as, on the one hand, it is kept privately at home or in the church, synagogue or mosque, or, on the other hand, accommodates itself politically to the established procedures and laws of a larger community that does not share some particular holder's understanding of the truth. Politics, then, is unburdened of questions of truth, and may proceed to represent the public interest -- genetically understood, and short of ultimate goods and goals. Politics deal, in a context of pluralism and dissension, with basic possibilities and necessities. Religion, however, deals with ultimate values and goals and potentials. Hence the need for the differentiation of these spheres.

As I understand Unification there is no aversion to, rather an acceptance of the inevitability of politics. Certainly, while the church itself remained a small face-to-face community, politics was only remotely considered. As the church moves from its "tribal stage" to its "society stage," differentiation occurs. As a result, the relevance of the political comes to the fore. To apply a phrase of Max Weber's, there occurs the "routinization of the charisma." However; what distinguishes the Unification ideal of politics, from politics within the context of pluralistic liberalism, is that political existence is to operate as embedded within the context of ethos, i.e., politics, though differentiated, is not disembodied or uncoupled from the ethos of the religious life-world. In sum, there is an ideal of consensus at the level of ethos, and not merely at the level of law. In this respect, then, Unification implies a political ethics that differs from post-theistic or post-Christian liberalism. At the same time, this is not to suggest that Unification anticipates the establishment of a totalitarian theocracy. Not at all, for within the Unification notion of "God's rule" there is no place for totalitarianism. Politics within the context of Unificationism is affirming of the principle of open expression, competing interests, and compromise. The purpose of politics is to allow for the provision of basic public goods; furthermore, politics requires that public goods be determined publicly, though participatory democracy, and not merely -- as characterizes Marxist societies -- determined by a Party of the elite nomenklatura.

Politics, if we take, for example, the perspective of Reinhold Niebuhr, involves a system of checks and balances which prevents the centralization of power, and thus prevents the possibility for the centralization of the powers of injustice and sin.42 There is much wisdom in Niebuhr's anti-utopian Christian realism, and much with which Unification agrees. However, his perspective is governed too much by the doctrine of sin, and little appreciation is given for the possibilities of goodness and redemption. Hence, his political ethics omits the questions of the good. Unificationism, in a way that would respect, yet differ with Niebuhnan realism, accents the positive role of politics, i.e., as grounded and devoted to a vision of the good life. The good is vitiated, however, if derived by means of coercion. The Unification understanding of God prohibits the employment of strategies of coercion in an effort to establish the good. That is, rights are not to be violated, and that violation justified by appeal to a goal. As such, politics must employ methods of open argumentation and persuasion, i.e., speech and rhetoric. Of course, coercion is necessary at that point when the most basic laws of community, i.e., those the violation of which renders the existence of the community endangered, e.g., rape or burglary, are violated.

In sum, I contend that politics is possible within the context of the Unification ethos. Politics is not defined negatively, i.e., as that which prevents the war of all against all, but positively as having to do with the realization of the good. While the image of the family governs the Unification conceptualization of society, that image thins out, both naturally and necessarily, in accordance with the development from nuclear family to extended family, to tribe, to metropolitan society, and to national society. In this sense, a city or nation is not to be governed like a household in any literal sense. Aspects of familial care and harmony, however, are fundamental to the ethos in respect to which political power is to be acquired and exercised.

The Unification Economy, Embedded in its Familial Ethos

Unificationism seems theologically committed, in many respects, to a form of socialism. At the same time, Unificationism underscores the significance of individual responsibility and the justice involved in the reward due to those who contribute in extraordinary ways to the society as a result of their labor and creativity. Political intervention into the affairs of the market seems warranted for the purpose of attending to the basic needs or the people. At the same time, the government is not to interfere with individual initiative and creativity. It would seem, therefore, that Unification is supportive of some form of mixed economy.

As stated earlier, in regard to Unificationism's political ethics, the affairs of the market place, as with the affairs of the polis, are not to operate independently of ethos, i.e., in accordance with a wholly independent "reason of state" or market. The Unification economy is an embedded economy which subordinates the pursuit of wealth to the generation and maintenance of the good. Within the Unification movement at present there are businesses, such as Happy World in Japan and Tong II Enterprises in Korea, which are very prosperous. At the same time, the aggressive accumulation of wealth is not divorced from the ideal of providing a service to the public, i.e., the consumer, not is it divorced from the ideal of the creation of a good society. A large percentage of the profits from Unification businesses are directed back into the non-profit activities of the movement, e.g., to subsidize conferences and publications. In this way Unification's "economic miracle" differs in certain respects from other "Pacific Rim" economic miracles which might thrive merely on the incentive of self-interest, or nationalism.

At the same time, business activities are not "means" to be justified by the "ends." For example, Unificationists would not enter the lucrative pornography industry, in an effort to gain wealth for "the Kingdom." In this sense, there is an understanding of "tainted money." While Unificationists do seek to accumulate wealth, and with bravado, both the relations of labor, as well as the products of labor are to be identifiable in accordance with the ethos. Wealth is accumulated not for the sake merely of the individual or the family, but in consonance with and for the sake of a larger goal. Wealth is not to be pursued as an end in itself, in the same way that (political) power is not to be a means of self-aggrandizement.

The way in which the Unification Church allocates its resources is indicative of its commitment to using wealth purposefully, and unselfishly. While truly there are many "domestic" needs of the growing membership, most money is put to use for a variety of projects such as the "Little Angels" Fine Arts Academy in Seoul, Korea; the I-Shin Hospital in Tokyo, several daily newspapers in Japan, Korea, the United States and Latin America, and numerous conferences and academic associations sponsored by the International Cultural Foundation or the International Religious Foundation. These projects are not profitable in any pecuniary sense. The use of money, however, is based on something more than merely a cost-benefit analysis. Rather, principles govern the use of money. Conferences, for example, are funded in an attempt to create contexts for dialogue and communication among scholars, religious, journalists, and others dedicated to human well-being.

In regard to the distribution of wealth, it does not hold that the practices as currently existing in the Unification Church U.S.A., i.e., a form of communalism or socialism, will be normative as the church grows. In fact, the communalist system is eroding rapidly as families must "make their own way." Indeed there is evidence of a distrust of too much reliance on a literal familial theory of economics. The familial model does not seem to require that a Unification society administer to the needs of its people. However, policies of the redistribution of wealth should be developed in ways which do not provide disincentives for either creative entrepreneurship or industrious participation in the labor force.

One factor that merits consideration in this discussion of economics, has to do with the affinity between market economics and political democracy. In this sense, given that there is indeed a high correlation between democracy and capitalism, it would seem consistent that Unification, in its support of democracy, would also support capitalism. Indeed, I hold that Unificationism does support not only political activism and participation, but economic activism and participation. The opposition to communism is based on a progressive view of history and social change that views the Marxist-Leninists as not only politically and economically regressive, but also, in their anti-religious attitudes and policies, culturally regressive.

Unificationism's economic ethics affirms creativity and industriousness. However, such ambition is to be constrained by ideals of character, of family, and of the common good. Labor, and here Unificationists are in agreement with Marx, ought not to be alienating. Labor, rather, ought to involve the shared participation in a common and profitable project. The products of labor ought not to represent values antithetical to the achievement of the good way of life. And the relations of labor ought not to be adversarial, but familial.

Once again the notion of family has to be qualified. As I view this image and its relevance to the conditions of labor, I stress not the relationship of parents to children, though this image, with qualification, is helpful in some cases, but instead I consider family as an association of adults, familiarly related, and thus caring for one another, and sharing a common quest. And while families are not always united in profound sentiments, families often do care for one another despite differences. This is, I believe, a way of understanding the ideal of Unification economics.


The real promise of Unificationism does not lie in its particular political or economic platform. Such strategies are necessary, of course. However, as I see the Unification role, it lies more in the area of culture, i.e., the attempt to initiate a religious revolution similar to those revolutions effected by Judaism and Christianity. The politics and economics of such a cultural project will have to be worked out in the context of particular nations. The Unification identity is centered around its theology, and the kind of character its people and families come to possess. There is, as yet, no Unification nation which may be pointed to as exemplifying a Unification polity or economy. And in this sense it is a bit premature and hypothetical to speak of a Unification city or national government. History, after all, has a way of working on the abstractness of ideas. Unification, in this way, will be no different. All the more reason, I would suggest, to commend an ethics of character and family. The Unification accomplishment, if forthcoming, is not something that can ever be taught merely as an idea. Rather, it is a form of practice that comes to be known as the Unification character.


1. Karl Marx, "Theses on Feuerbach," in Easton and Guddat, eds.. The Writings of the Young Marx on Philosophy and Society (Garden City, New York: Anchor Books, 1967) 400-402.

2. Gustavo Gutierrez, A Theology of Liberation (Maryknoll, New York: Orbis Books, 1973) 3-19.

3. David Tracy, "The Foundations of Practical Theology," in Browning, ed., Practical Theology (New York: Harper and Row, 1983) 61.

4. See, for example, Karl-Otto Apel, Towards a Transformation of Philosophy (London: Routledge and Keegan Paul, 1980), or S.C. Brown, ed., Philosophical Disputes in the Social Sciences (Atlantic Highlands, New Jersey: Humanities, 1979). Also the discussion among Hans-Geotg Gadamer, Rudiger Bubner and others in Cultural Hermeneutics 2 (February 1975) 4, and Mary Hesse, Revolutions and Reconstructions in the Philosophy of Science (Bloomington, Indiana: University of Indiana, 1981). Thomas S. Kuhn, The Structure of Scientific Revolutions (Chicago: University of Chicago, 1970), and Helmut Peukert, Science, Action, and Fundamental Theology: Toward a Theology of Communicative Action (Cambridge, Massachusetts: MIT, 1984). Finally, Bryan Wilson, Rationality (Oxford: Basil Blackwell, 1981), and Peter Winch, The Idea of a Social Science and its Relation to Philosophy (London: Routledge and Keegan Paul, 1977).

5. Alfredo Fierro, The Militant Gospel (Maryknoll, New York: Orbis Books, 1975) 108.

6. In Fear and Trembling Soren Kierkegaard develops the notion of Abraham's "suspension of the ethical" as a kind of religious supercession of ethics.

7. Ernst Troeltsch, The Social Teaching of the Christian Churches (Chicago: University of Chicago, 1976)62-63.

8. Max Weber, The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism (New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1958).

9. This term, "aftermath of Marxism," I borrow from Alasdair Macintyre whose use of it I came across in reading his, "Bernstein's Distorting Mirrors: A Rejoinder," in Soundings 61 (Spring 1984) 1, 33. See also Macintyre's After Virtue (Notre Dame, Indiana: University of Notre Dame, 1981).

10. Immanuel Kant, Critique of Practical Reason, trans., Lewis White Beck (Indianapolis, Indiana: Bobbs-Merrill, 1956) 74.

11. David Tracy, "Theologies of Praxis," in Creativity and Method, ed., Matthew Lamb (Marquette, Wisconsin: University of Wisconsin, 1981)40.

12. Tracy, 41.

13. Tracy, 42.

14. Tracy, 48.

15. Tracy, 39.

16. Tracy, "The Foundations or Practical Theology," 75.

17. Divine Principle (Washington, D.C.: HSA-UWC, 1973) 41-45.

18. Karl-Otto Apel uses the term "micro-domain" to refer to family ethics, "meso-domain" to refer to national politics, and "macro-domain" to refer to "the tact of mankind." See "The Communication Community and the Foundation of Ethics," in Toward a Transformation of Philosophy (Routledge and Keegan Paul, 1980) 225-300.

19. Young Oon Kim, Unification Theology (New York: HSA-UWC, 1980) 70.

20. Divine Principle, 228.

21. H. Richard Niebuhr, The Responsible Self'(San Francisco: Harper and Row, 1978) 118.

22. Augustine, "Of the Morals of the Catholic Church."

23. Kim, 71.

24. Stanley Hauerwas, Character and the Christian Life (San Antonio, Texas: Trinity University, 1975)210.

25. Jonathan Edwards, The Nature of True Virtue (Ann Arbor: University of Michigan, 1969)3.

26. This passage from Edwards' Some Thoughts Concerning the Present Revival of Religion in New England was taken from Norman S. Fiering's essay "Benjamin Franklin and the Way to Virtue," in American Quarterly 30 (Summer 1978) 2, 219.

27. John Calvin, Institutes of the Christian Religion, Vol. II, ed., John T. McNeill (Philadelphia: Westminster, 1960) 597.

28. Herbert Richardson, New Religions and Mental Health: Understanding the Issues (Toronto:

29. Edwin Mellen, 1980). See particularly Richardson's "Introduction" to the volume. 29- Charles Davis, Theology and Political Society (Cambridge: Cambridge University, 1980) 180.

30. Divine Principle, 43.

31. Kim, 76.

32. Kim, 76.

33. Kim, 77.

34. Kim, 78.

35. Divine Principle, 46.

36. Divine Principle, 444.

37. Divine Principle, 444.

38. Sang Hun Lee, Explaining Unification Thought (New York: Unification Thought Institute, 1981)233.

39. Benjamin Nelson, The Idea of Usury: From Tribal Brotherhood to Universal Otherhood (Chicago: University of Chicago, 1969).

40. Macintyre, "Bernstein's Distorting Mirrors," 40.

41. Macintyre, 40.

42. See Reinhold Niebuhr, An Interpretation of Christian Ethics (New York: Seabury, 1979). 

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