Unity In Diversity - Essays in religion by members of the faculty of the Unification Theological Seminary - Edited by Henry O. Thompson - 1984

Voluntary Association, Intermarriage and "The World of the Heart" - Tyler Hendricks

The United States is often popularly conceptualized as a nation which exalts individualism, where "human affairs should be thought of in terms of the individual,"1 and in which progress has been made chiefly through the achievements of heroic individualists. Recent scholarship however is revealing a discrepancy between Americans' conception of the individual qua individual and the way that people in reality lived and worked. Paul E. Johnson, for example, in his study of the origins of the city of Rochester, New York, found that the economic foundations of the city were laid through family and friendship networks, networks often bolstered through intermarriage. Mary P. Ryan, in her study of Utica, New York, found that conversion through evangelical revivals, once generally thought of as a supreme example of individualistic behavior, occurred in and was mediated by family networks, with mothers and wives responsible in a significant number of cases for the conversion of their children and husbands. Johnson's study indicates that the majority of the subjects and supporters of revivals were gathered from stable, well-established elements of the community. Anthony F. C. Wallace uncovered community solidarity and mutual support among the leading families in an early industrial community in Pennsylvania, and demonstrated that the economic unit of society in the working class was not the individual but the nuclear family2

People in association with each other, not rugged individualists, established the functioning social world of the United States. People formed associations in order to travel west in Wagon trains. Donald G. Matthews argues that the lasting contribution of the Second Great Awakening was not revivalism per se but was its effect as an "organizing process," a grand social movement which knit communities and eventually the nation together. Carroll Smith Rosenberg provides a fine example of how a maternal association forged in the fires of a Finney revival served to unite women of the cities and the far-flung western communities. Gregory A. Singleton argues that this associational development in the first half of the nineteenth century provided the experiential and attitudinal basis for the corporate society which later emerged in industry, government and media, shaping America on the national level in the latter half of the century3

This data suggests that the tradition of "American as rugged individualist" may be even more a romanticization than we have generally heretofore realized. We must place a new emphasis upon the motif of family and community cooperation as a hermeneutic for understanding the American experience. The primary mode through which people of the nineteenth century achieved this group solidarity was "voluntary association."

Voluntary association, although it may involve exceptional individuals, does not lend itself to the promotion of individualism or of individual independence. Alexis de Tocqueville noted what he called "the tyranny of the majority" which characterized the social world of the 1830s in America. At least on the level of "moral beliefs," he said, "there is a passive, though a voluntary, obedience... In the moral world, everything is classed, adapted, decided, and foreseen. "4 H. D. Thoreau escaped to solitude at Walden Pond, writing that most men "live lives of quiet desperation," mentally chained to store, farm, church and political party. Orestes Brownson spoke of this same problem when he noted that one could not go to sleep, get up, eat a meal or kiss his wife without consulting some society or association. Thus it seems clear that American society of the nineteenth century rewarded unity and cooperation more than it did non-conformity and strict individualism. This period was a time of tumultuous social, ideological and technological change, and the United States was composed of a fast-developing population of divergent and often discordant races spread over unpopulated territory or crowded into "instant cities." It is not surprising that such a society would not highly value nor greatly reward, as a rule, the non-conforming individualist. Treatment of minority or deviant' social groups, such as blacks, Catholics, Mormons or immigrants from southern and eastern Europe, testifies that this pressure to conform, to "Americanize," did not play only upon individuals.

I introduce this issue because I think that it is an important factor in the historical context within which we are to understand the future of the Unification Church in the United States. At issue on the theoretical level is the relationship of the individual to society; the balance between the rights of individuals and the duties of individuals. Historically the myth and rhetoric of America has tended to emphasize the rights and opportunities of the individual over against societal norms and traditions. However, in historical reality it has been behavior oriented by family and group which has been rewarded. This tension between rhetoric and reality was not a serious problem for most people in the nineteenth century. I would cite two factors responsible for this: one, the existence of the frontier in terms of both geography and economics, and two, that of which de Tocqueville spoke, the general consensus of opinion which guided individuals to exercise their independence for the purpose of forming social groups, voluntary associations, benevolence and moral societies, churches and nuclear families. With the turn of the twentieth century, however, the frontier closed geographically, and from the 1930s it began to close economically. More important has been the breakdown of what I consider was a general consensus of opinion concerning the relationship of the individual to society. The strong nineteenth century emphasis upon the rights of individuals has persisted, but it has done so without the persistence of the consciousness of the duty of the individual toward society.

We can find two major suggestions for resolution of this tension, both of which portray themselves as the legitimate legate of the American tradition. These two are represented roughly by groups known as the Moral Majority and the People for the American Way. I am using these groups in a very general and perhaps stereotypical sense. After discussing their prescriptions I will turn to a third alternative, which also has its claim to the American tradition, although it calls upon other traditions as well, the Unification Church.

The Moral Majority emphasizes the notion of the individual's responsibility toward society. One has a duty to one's family, one's community and nation, and this is the primary basis for one's action. This duty is oriented by a transcendent moral law, a law consistent with Protestant Christianity, especially in its Anglo-American formulations. Obedience to this transcendent moral order will guarantee God's blessing upon the nation, family and individual. Therefore, morality is considered a social duty. The interpretation of this transcendent order is roughly consistent with the mores of the nineteenth century evangelical culture in America; it calls for an internalized discipline necessary for maintenance of Christian industrialism and commerce and for sanctification of the family circle around the hearth.

The People for the American Way organization, on the other hand, emphasizes the rights of the individual over against society, in particular over against the perceived imposition of antiquated social and personal norms, specifically those norms advocated by the Moral Majority. In the People's view there may be a transcendent moral law but each person must be free to interpret it by him or herself, particularly in the realm of personal morality. People for the American Way sees imposed morality as a threat to pluralism and to the freedom of the individual, and perceives the continued upholding of nineteenth century values to be an absolutization of culturally relative norms, an absolutization which has the potential to lead to social coercion or even totalitarianism. People for the American Way calls upon the traditional American mythos of the individual's to pursue happiness as he or she best sees fit.

These two opponents are actually calling upon same world view, that view of nineteenth century liberalism which believed in an "invisible hand" active in the world. The theory was that if individuals are left to their own "enlightened self-interest," an invisible force, perhaps God, or natural law, would coordinate their various enterprises, creating a prospering and harmonious society. The assumption of many Americans was that as soon as they could free themselves from the superstition and bad habits of the past, all individuals naturally would come to see evangelical morality and "Christian industrialism" as the absolute truth of the universe. Those who made this assumption in the nineteenth century often got a good return on their investment. Moral Majority continues to make that assumption and feels that our problem is that not enough people are making it with them. People for the American Way rejects the absolute claim of nineteenth century evangelical morality, but nonetheless seems to believe in an invisible hand which will insure that the optimum situation will obtain through the decisions of individuals made based upon their own desire for happiness. Thus they, with the Moral Majority, accept the basic doctrine of enlightened self-interest and an immanent natural law. The free desires of adult individuals, short of criminal ones, take precedence over any traditional or theoretical morality, and are the foundation for healthy society.

Both these alternatives ultimately frame their answers in terms of the individual: the duties of the individual in a morally monistic world, or the rights of the individual in a morally pluralistic world. The People for the American Way criticizes the Moral Majority for denying pluralism, and they in turn are criticized for denying the existence or relevance of absolute norms.

At this point I would like to bring out the Unification position. Unificationism admits of valid considerations on both sides of the argument. Agreeing with People for the American Way, Unificationism sees serious problems with the nineteenth century world view associated with the Moral Majority position, specifically in its historical tendency to racial, religious, cultural and national exclusivity. However, Unificationism would agree with the Moral Majority that there exist absolute norms in terms of morality and social ethics, at least in principle, and that these norms do emphasize the duty more than the rights of the individual, in relation to family, society, nation, world and God. There are many agreements also between Unification and the Moral Majority position concerning family and social morality taken in more detail. However, Unification rejects the idea that this morality is to be enforced through political action, which boils down to the making of laws. Morality is rather the normative outgrowth of the establishment of proper relationality, involving all degrees of relationship between individuals, families, social and national structures, earth and heaven.

Unificationism agrees with the People for the American Way acceptance of pluralism and with that which pluralism implies: a qualified cultural relativism. (The qualification here would enter into the area wherein cultural relativism leads to moral relativism.) Further, Unification recognizes that human beings are more subtle and complex than the evangelical norms of the nineteenth century might give them credit as being; this applies particularly to the realm of creativity, individual freedom in artistic expression, and the definition of work and productivity. In these areas, as well as others, Unification would tend to view nineteenth century norms as restrictive and narrow. Further, it is clear that in order for the human race to survive, not only socially but ecologically, new understanding of the human relationship with God, each other and the created order must come to the fore. The liberal attitude represented by People for the American Way has more openness to the expression and exercise of such novelty of world view than does the Moral Majority. Ergo the paradoxical situation of the Unification movement attracting as the greater part of its constituency people from a liberal and often radical background (at least in America) and yet espousing a fairly conservative "moral majority" type personal and family morality.

I mentioned above the Unification proposal of "establishing proper relationality." This establishment has a religious origin and center to it; it is established, from the viewpoint of Unificationism, through the mediation of the Messiah. This may sound like a radical and disjunctive solution, and on one level it is. But on the large scale social level it need not be. Reverend Moon's message, properly understood, has great potential to gain the approval of many Americans, especially in light of the American tradition of cooperation and association for the sake of social advancement. This is so because that message dovetails in an important way with certain aspects of the American tradition, aspects brought out by the Moral Majority and/or People for the American Way but treated implicitly by these groups as discordant or mutually exclusive. These aspects are, on the one hand, pluralism and, on the other, an absolute moral standard or transcendent moral law. To these must be added another significant dimension of the American tradition not brought out by either of the groups dealt with above, that being the cross-fertilization in the American tradition of Judeo-Christian millennialism and the belief in America's special historical role or destiny. This translates in real terms into the belief that, as put by Ralph Gabriel, "progress is normal and the future promises more than has been realized in the present."5 To explicate the significance of these points I will refer to the teachings of Reverend Moon.

The Divine Principle states that God's desire for America was that through the practice of Christianity there would develop here the unity of all races, cultures and religions. Unification would agree, then, with the traditional American "Whig" view of providential history, which viewed the Puritans as carrying the purest seed of the Protestant Reformation faith to the New World in order to establish here a people and nation in a covenantal relationship with God. This nation was to become, in God's eyes, a nation which would be a home for people of all the nations of the world. I will refer to "God's Hope for America," a major address delivered by Reverend Moon at Yankee Stadium in 1976, for elaboration on this point.

He said that there were two motivations for colonists to come to America: the desire for wealth and the desire for "God and freedom," i.e., "to build a new nation centered upon God." If those motivated by wealth "had become the mainstream of America, there would have been far greater strife, division, and struggle between the different races and national groups. The United States would have been filled with unrighteousness and injustice." However, the godly motivation inspired a sufficient condition of Christian practice to enable God's hope to reside with the United States. Therefore there accrued great blessing from God in terms of physical prosperity and relative peace. The purpose of the blessing was and is not for the sake of the United States itself but for the sake of the world.

What does America have to offer to the world? Reverend Moon says that it is not Christian doctrine, and not wealth; it is rather the ideal of international and interracial harmony that America is to share, in substance and symbol, with the world.

If your lineage has been in America for some time, it probably unites many different nationalities. In your bloodstream many kinds of blood are blended together. Nations who used to be enemies have united in your blood. When the individuals and the families which transcend racial and national barriers gather together to create a church, a society and a nation, that nation will become God's ideal nation for all peoples.

This reduces to very practical terms. God's strategy, as envisioned by Reverend Moon, is to unite black, white and yellow, Arab and Jew, Catholic and Protestant, by bringing them to America and allowing them to harmonize here -- ultimately through intermarriage. This harmonization is to be lubricated by the working of a broadly based "civil religion" in a voluntaristic society. The present admixture of European races in America would be expanded to the world level.

This is actually, I believe, a "post-modern" way of thinking, in that it presupposes sensitivity to the power of cultural conditioning, sensitivity to the degree to which one's consciousness is shaped by the social world into which one is born. Given such conditioning, it is apparent that there are cultural and personal differences which reach beyond language into areas of epistemology, or the way we variously interpret the world, which simply are beyond anyone's capacity to resolve. The solution is to "blend" our blood through intermarriage, through God-centered, inter racial and international families, and in so doing blend our cultural and hermeneutical frames.

Reverend Moon observes that the United States has been the proving ground for this development, development with a limited scope (confined mainly to European races) but on a large scale. Thus he sees the existence and potential of the United States as a work of God: "There is only one nation like this in all history. It is apparent that this unique nation of America is the creation of God." Christianity is the basis for the "spiritual revolution" to begin, though Christianity in its present form does not constitute the ideal.

To do this, Christianity of the world must unite. The church must liberate herself from sectarianism. She must undergo a drastic reform and achieve an ecumenical and inter-religious unity. For this, we need a spiritual revolution. We need a new ideology, and this new ideology must incorporate Oriental philosophy, uniting the cultures of the East and the West.

This new ideology will also be capable of unifying all the existing religions and ideologies of the world. Therefore, it has come in the form of a new religious movement. The Unification Church Movement has been created by God to fulfill that mission. This spiritual movement must first succeed here in America in order to spread throughout the world. The new ideology which the Unification Church brings is "Godism," an absolutely God-centered ideology. It has the power to awaken America, and it has the power to raise up the model of the ideal nation of God upon this land.

Thus Reverend Moon is saying that a new ideology will be at the basis of a spiritual revolution which in turn will give rise to the coming together, on the most fundamental basis, of races and nations. "True Americans," he continued, "are those who are proud of such international families, churches and of the nation which consists of all peoples."

How does this relate to the earlier question concerning the problem of the relationship between the individual and society in America today? The answer is simply that unity between the individual and the whole is brought about when individuals accept common ideals or goals around which they can unite. The cultural ideals and principles of evangelical Protestantism, for example, served to unite the major portion of the United States population in the early part of the nineteenth century. Those ideals, however, were limited to the level of one race, culture, religion and nation. When racial differences were bridged, as in the abolition movement, it was done so only to the extent of the principle that all should have equal treatment under the law. Evangelical Christianity did not effect a unity of love or heart between whites and blacks. Therefore the tradition represented by Moral Majority is open to severe criticism for its inability to undergird a pluralistic society. Reverend Moon's ideology is directed exactly at that point. Individuals, he teaches, will join together when they perceive common, mutually beneficial ideals and purposes. The ideals of which he is speaking, as summarized in the Yankee Stadium speech, are so broad as to include people from every racial, cultural and national background. Therefore the problems inherent with a pluralistic situation are mitigated to the extent, at least, to which we allow our common ideals to outweigh our concern for whatever frictions our differences create. At the same time, those ideals constitute the basis for us together to go beyond moral relativism, to find common standards for our lives and society.

These ideals, of course, must be rooted in God; they can have no other origin. The purpose motivating the "spiritual revolution" cannot be individual gain (as in capitalism), the nation or race (as in fascism), the mythical proletariat (as in communism); it can only be God. Only God, the ultimately mysterious, ultimately personal, ultimately transcendent, ultimately powerful, can undergird such a spiritual revolution.

Because Reverend Moon's message is to a significant degree consistent with, as well as a development of, the American tradition, it need not be seen as calling for a radically disjunctive social change. The American consciousness is in many ways prepared, by everything from our general "civil religion" ideals, to Sesame Street, to the civil rights movement, to assimilate such an ideal vision of the world. (Even the strong admonitions, in some sectors of society, of parents to their children to beware of the "brainwashed Moonies" may have an unexpected effect, for does not the rising generation often tend to adopt that about which their parents warned them?)

Corresponding with this general cultural development must be a more "internal" or small scale development of an intentional community, a "seed culture," to set the pattern around which the general, universal culture will ultimately shape itself. This is the "leaven which leavens the whole lump." The external, general development, which might be seen as the work of God immanent in history, is ultimately futile without this corresponding internal development, which is the result of God's in breaking into history in a radical, unexplainable and unexpected way. This in breaking, in turn, has no meaning and will have little effect outside the context of a culture prepared to receive and nurture it.

This internal or seed community, which expresses traits which will come to typify the whole culture, is termed in Unification "the world of the heart." What are the dimensions of this "heart," and how is the "world of the heart" to be brought about?" The Divine Principle gives only general answers to these questions. The ideal family is the center of heart, and family relationships -- those of parent and child, husband and wife, brother and sister, centered upon God -- set the basic standards of relationship within the larger society. Divine Principle calls for the expansion from the individual's relationship to God, to relationships within the family, between families, between social groups and structures of society, and between nations. Thereby 'heart,' an invisible, ineffable quality associated more closely with God's grace than with human effort, finds its place in the human social world. It does so, as I understand Unificationism to be saying, through the establishment of proper relationality, centered upon God. Thus, social amelioration grows out of the factors of heart and relationship.

Heart and relationship are intertwined in Unificationism. Heart is given from God, but it is mediated, even "liberated," by the establishment of proper relationship. This heart, or power of love, is the only power which can overcome the historical resentments associated with race, nation, religion, culture and, ultimately, gender. The mediator of this, of God's heart, is the Messiah. The social structure mediating this heart is that structure of relationships centered around the Messiah, or in "attendance" to the Messiah, and that social structure itself would then be the Messiah, the mediator of God's heart, to the general society, nation and world. Within that structure would occur a model of interracial, international marriages, as is indeed being attempted in the Unification Church. Such a development can come only voluntarily, on the basis of religious faith. With the acceptance of the norms of the "new age ideology" such voluntary desires of people would become commonplace, and intermarriage could occur naturally on a large scale.

I hope not to be overly prosaic about this. Unificationism calls for revolutionary changes in the consciousness structure of all people, races and cultures. It calls for a harmonization of beliefs and norms which are logically and/or emotionally in many instances impossible to harmonize. The new world view and social practice which might accomplish such harmonization -- or abet the transcendence of the need for it -- has to emerge out of the "seed culture" itself, that social network which incarnates the ideal, at least in a formative or tentative way. The Unification Church family is attempting to be that social group, and the enduring basis for the "world of the heart" must be strongly evident in the minds and lives of its children.


1. Ralph Henry Gabriel, The Course of American Democratic Thought (NY: The Ronald Press, 1940), p. 4.

2. Paul E. Johnson, A Shopkeeper's Millennium: Society and Revivals in Rochester, NY, 1815-1837 (NY: Hill and Wang, 1978), pp. 21-28, 33. Mary P. Ryan, Cradle of the Middle Class: The Family in Oneida County, New York, 1790-1865 (NY: Cambridge University Press, 1981), pp. 75-83. Anthony EC. Wallace, Rockdale: The Growth of an American Village in the Early Industrial Revolution (NY: WW Norton and Company, 1972), pp. 44-69.

3. Daniel Boorstin gives a fascinating account of the associational life on wagon trains in The Americans: The National Experience. Donald G. Matthews, "The Second Great Awakening as an Organizing Process," American Quarterly, XXI (1969), 23-42. Carroll Smith Rosenberg, "Beauty, the Beast and the Militant Woman: A Case Study in Sex Roles and Social Stress in Jacksonian America," American Quarterly, XXIII (1971), 562-584. Gregory H. Singleton, "Protestant Voluntary Associations and the Shaping of Victorian America," in Daniel Walker Howe, Victorian America (University of Pennsylvania Press, 1976).

4. de Tocqueville, Alexis, Democracy in America (NY: Schocken Books, 1961), unabridged, vol. 1, p. 33,.

5. Gabriel, op. cit., p. 4.

The booklet "God's Hope for America" and the textbook Divine Principle are both available from the publisher, Holy Spirit Association for the Unification of World Christianity (Unification Church). 

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