Proceedings of the Virgin Islands' Seminar on Unification Theology -- Darrol Bryant, General Editor - April 1, 1980
I'd like to welcome you all. My name is John Maniatis, and I will be the MC as well as the coordinator of this conference. It's been quite a job these past two months trying to get this conference together. It brings me great joy to see you all sitting here.
This evening we are going to have introductions and fellowship. We will begin with welcoming remarks by Mr. David S.C. Kim, president of the Unification Theological Seminary. After that our two co-conveners, Drs. Darrol Bryant and Richard Quebedeaux, will also give some opening remarks. I'd like to begin by introducing Mr. Kim.
Mr. Kim is a charter member of the Unification Church. Back in 1954, Rev. Moon, Mr. Kim and three other men and one woman began the church in a small mud hut in South Korea. The church has grown, obviously, or else you wouldn't be here right now to hear me or to hear him. Mr. Kim's life has been dedicated to the Unification Church. He has been working with the church for the last twenty-five years. He was the first missionary in 1955 to go to England; he stayed there two years, went back to Korea and then came to America in 1959 as its second missionary. Since 1959 he has been here in America, working to build the church and being very instrumental in its growth. I have been very fortunate to work with him over the last three or four years. He is widely respected for his many accomplishments in the church, but the greatest value I find in him is his heart. He has shown me what God's loving heart really is. So without any further introduction, I would like to call on Mr. Kim to give his welcoming remarks.
Ladies and gentlemen, on behalf of the faculty, students and staff of the Unification Theological Seminary I would like to extend to you a warm welcome to the Virgin Islands. I must thank all of you participants for your positive response and your acceptance of the invitations which were, with very short notice, sent by the two professors. Dr. Bryant and Dr. Quebedeaux. These names are widely known among the Unification people and they are respected as semi-experts on the Unification movement and its practice. Their academic and scholastic capabilities in dealing with this internationally controversial new religious movement are manifested in their sharp, critical, objective observations and appraisal of the Unification movement.
Very recently I personally found interesting the statement by Brezhnev, prime minister of Soviet Russia, in the SALT talks with President Carter in Austria, and a statement made by the American evangelist Billy Graham who appeared in Lincoln Memorial Hall and on the Good Morning America program on ABC national TV. Brezhnev said, "If we fail in our treaty, God will not forgive us." Some say, the comment reveals a slip of the consciousness of God in his deepest mind. Others say the terminology "God" implies a different concept to communists than it does to the free world. Billy Graham said on July 4, the 203rd birthday of America, "In order to solve the existing problems of the world, the return to God is the answer. Many young people turn their concern and interest and trust to new religious movements."
I'd like to paraphrase a portion of Rev. Sun Myung Moon's commencement address on June 30. 1979:
"The Unification Church movement is not only concerned about life and death, but more concerned about life on this earth and trying to build the kingdom of God on earth out of this troubled world."
These are quite radical and revolutionary concepts, indeed. Because of radical approaches to the solution of the world's problems. Unification people have been misunderstood, misrepresented and mistreated by established Christian churches, by the public and by the news media. Most of the accusations are unfounded and have proved to be entirely false when the true picture came to light after all the facts were explored and investigated. When we found something that needed to be corrected, we responded quickly to criticism, then tried hard not to repeat the same mistakes. As a very young movement, we had to go through what might be called a painful growth, and sometimes we were almost completely crushed. But with the help of God, we continued and will continue our steady progress and advancement under the leadership of Rev. Sun Myung Moon, a twenty-first century prophet, sent by God to speak out to the world on behalf of God.
What are the crucial and pressing world problems needing solution as they are seen by the Unification movement? Rev. Moon is raising three issues with his hard-working followers which he is asking them to solve. We cannot build the kingdom of God on earth until these three problems are solved. They are as follows:
1) Problem of youth.
-- No clear ideals.
-- No clear ethics and morality.
-- No clear goals for life.
-- No values and traditions in education.
2) Problem of decline of religious values.
-- No religious values prevailing.
-- The Judeo-Christian heritage as a dynamic force to influence society, nation and world is being lost.
-- Ecumenism is needed.
-- Social action programs are needed.
3) Problem of communism.
-- The power of communism is prevailing over the free world in all five continents and six oceans.
-- A practical counterproposal or alternative to Marxism is needed.
-- A new ideology based on theism is needed to overcome the weaknesses of communist ideology.
-- A clear concept about the existence of God is urgently needed.
The Unification movement can partly contribute to the solution of the above three problems. If Christianity and other major religions work together with Unification, we can make it. Team work is absolutely needed. All approaches to solve these problems are potentially existing in Christianity and other religions. We are simply lacking the way to apply them in actual practice. Unification has been exploring to find some "workable recipe" to treat these problems. Some may ask for proof to support this brave, optimistic statement.
Let me give you some facts.
a) Ninety-five percent of Moon people are in the age bracket of 23-28. Potentially, they are future leaders.
b) They have good God-centered ethics and morality, strictly living pure lives, both spiritually and physically.
c) They engage very actively in interfaith and ecumenical work. The unity of Christianity and all religions is their approach to building the kingdom of God.
d) They are strong anti-communists and ardent believers in Christ and God. They even believe that they can convert communists to a belief in God with their new ideology based on Unification Principle. They believe that with divine love they can change atheistic communists into theists.
Then, where does this Unification frame of reference derive from? It originated from a new theology and new philosophy contained in a book commonly called Divine Principle: more closely translated from the original Korean text it might be called Unification Principle. (Tongil-Wolri).
The word "principle" in our movement must be clarified. Principle of what? This has been a natural question to raise both outside and inside the Unification movement. I personally think that it is the "principle regarding the universe and man," dealing with the following fundamental questions.
-- Why did God create the universe and man?
-- How did God create the universe and man?
-- What is the original purpose of the creation of the universe and man?
-- What is the source of the problem in the universe and man?
-- What is the process of restoration and the methodology of solving problems?
-- Other unsolved theological and philosophical problems.
This is a vast, broad concept indeed! Therefore the applications based on Unification principles are wide open and deep and broad.
Out of these broad contexts, this seminar will explore mostly theological (philosophical) aspects of the Unification Principle as presented by several lecturers from the church, with your response, critique or further discussion and elaboration. Unification theology and philosophy are being developed by academicians both inside and outside of the church. We need more time and more assistance from outside academicians, from theologians and those in other disciplines as well. With all the help we get, Unification Principle then is able to contribute something to academic circles and expedite the realization of God's coming kingdom on earth.
A simple analogy may be fitting to explain the above bold statement. If, after long years of hard work in the mountains, a miner finds a sizable stone which contains precious diamonds, skills and technique in refining are still needed to extract the diamonds from the stone. And further processing is needed: cutting, shaping and polishing the raw diamonds, in order for them to be finally mounted in the royal crown as perfected jewels. The value of these jewels might be more than a million dollars.
If you find value in the Unification Principle, why not, all of you, make the newly-found Unification theology into something of priceless value, equivalent to diamonds, so that it can contribute enormously to the existing theological world? Your constructive critiques shall speed up the completion of this process.
Your participation and presence here in this seminar during the next eight days can help in making this most difficult task successful. Let us work together to build the kingdom of God for all of us on this earth in our lifetime. The Unification movement has already started to build the kingdom even under all kinds of hardships, rejection and persecution -- indemnity paid for the sake of all. You don't have to pay so much now. Why not join hand in hand, shoulder to shoulder, to build the kingdom of heaven for the sake of Christ, our Lord, and for the sake of God? May God bless this seminar and all the participants. Amen.
This whole project began about two months ago when Richard Quebedeaux, John Maniatis, Anthony Guerra and I met in New York about some other matters. Our meeting came at the same time that Mr. Kim had suggested to Rev. Moon that it might be appropriate to have such a gathering as this. So when we arrived in New York, we were asked to make a proposal about the kind of conference we might be willing to help put together. It is from these very fortuitous and modest beginnings that this event has emerged. It is seldom in the life of an academic that one gets to begin a project and see its fruition in such a short time as two months. So it is especially pleasing to see you all here.
I wanted to make some comments this evening about why we are here. Mr. Kim has already given you a number of larger reasons for why we are here -- I want to begin with some autobiographical reasons.
As a young boy growing up in North Dakota and enduring those incredible winters that we have, I used to hear my mother say, periodically, that we should really move to the Virgin Islands. R.D. Laing has recently told us a lot of things about the way in which neurotic formations pass through families from generation to generation. I'd like to offer a variation on that theme. I'd like to offer our presence here as the realization of a certain fantasy that has existed in my family and which you now will all help realize. So really we have these people to thank for being here: Rev. Moon, Mr. David Kim and my mother. (Laughter.)
All of you have had some prior dealings with the Unification Church. I suspect that you came to those first meetings in much the same way as I came to them and that is, with a great deal of trepidation. Having known only the kinds of things that one saw in the public media about the Unification Church, it was an act of courage and curiosity that, I suspect, brought many of us to our first meetings with the members of the Unification Church. I also suspect that, like myself, many of you have had the common experience of coming away from those first weekends surprised and delighted. My involvement with the Unification Church goes back over two and a half years. During that time I have had the pleasure of moderating a number of conferences at the Barrytown seminary. In those settings, I have always explained my participation in terms of my own understanding of our responsibilities as professional teachers of religious studies and as theologians to ensure that all religious groups receive a fair hearing. But after having been around this movement for two and a half years, it also seems important, in addition to our professional and religious liberty points of view, to begin to explore more seriously the range of theological proposals that are being made by the Unification Church.
Our gathering here, then, is the opportunity to explore together the proposals that are being made by the Unification Church. It will provide us with an opportunity to hear, in a more-or-less systematic way, the teachings of the Divine Principle presented to us as they have been presented to countless other people in North America. Thirdly, I think it provides a unique opportunity for theologians of widely differing backgrounds to begin to speak together. And on the other side, it provides an opportunity for the Unification Church to hear and receive informed theological criticism. I must applaud them for their willingness and openness to hear such criticism.
It was only after I had moderated several conferences at the seminary that I discovered that my conferences were called the conferences for the liberal theologians. I realized that after Richard Quebedeaux came to one of those conferences and subsequently was asked to moderate conferences for evangelical theologians. I had always thought that liberal theologians were essentially a nineteenth-century phenomenon that had long since died out. But, lo and behold, at least in some people's minds, I was being cast in that tradition. In retrospect, it struck me that in a sense there was something true about that labeling. Hence, one of the exciting things for me about this conference is the presence here of a number of evangelical theologians. I must admit, (and again I suspect that this is a fairly common experience for many people here) that in the circles that I move in, I am not often in conversation with representatives from the evangelical world. I suspect that this also works the other way: namely, that there are people here from the evangelical world who are not often in conversation with the so-called liberal world. This conference then begins to move us in the ecumenical direction that Mr. Kim spoke about earlier, though perhaps not in the precise sense that he might have wished. Nevertheless, at this conference we will at least begin to speak with one another.
Lastly, this conference provides us with an opportunity to test in some preliminary and provisional way the fundamental claim made by the Unification Church that it offers a new locus and context for contemporary theology. As I reflect upon what it is specifically about Unification theology that accounts for the excitement and vitality that I sense within the movement, I have come to focus upon a heightened eschatological sense, the sense of living in a moment of some decisive import. I know that this is an obvious thing to say and I know it has been said many times before. I simply find myself one of those people who is willing to go some distance in trying to see what the implications of that sense of eschatological urgency are for the reworking of the contemporary theological map.
These, then, are my understandings of why we are here. Again, 1 am delighted that you have come. I very much look forward to this week. And I want to thank you, on behalf of my mother, for helping to fulfill her fantasy. Thank you.
I am going to surprise a lot of you and not talk too much. Darrol said enough. I'm going to be talking later this week.
Can you imagine telling people that you work for the Moonies? Especially evangelicals? I sort of fell into this process by attending a theologians conference at Barrytown. As a result of that I was very much stimulated, first by the community of people at the seminary. Then, I think, as time goes on, when you see people who are very interesting, you wonder what makes them tick. What is it that makes them the way they are? I think that ultimately we have to go beyond the people to what motivates them. Part of what motivates Unification people is "divine principle," whatever that is! I am still not sure exactly what it is, and I hope that some of you will help me find out this week. But whatever "divine principle" is, that has something to do with what makes Unificationists tick; and I think Rev. Moon also has something to do with what makes Unificationists tick. I'm sure we will be talking about these things this week.
My hopes for this week are very simple: I want to learn what "divine principle" is. I have been doing this kind of conference organizing for a year and a quarter now, and I'm still not sure. I want to find out more about why Unification is able to turn people on. I know very few people coming to the conferences I've put together who could keep their mouths shut after they went home. How many of you have been to church conferences and denominational meetings'? Well, you generally forget what they are about before they are over. But nobody forgets about these conferences, and I hope this conference will be another example.
What makes the Unification movement so controversial? Does it merit this controversy? Do the established churches have something to learn from Unification? I'm sure we will have a very good week exploring these questions. I am glad that you all finally arrived. We never know the exact mixture of people there will be at any given conference, because people change their minds about coming and don't show up. Here there are some people who have never been to a Unification conference, and there are some old timers. We have a very good mix of people and I think it should be an exciting week.