40 Years in America
1999, A New Start
Hyun Jin Moon, Vice-President, FFWPUI
In June 1999, Dr. Chang Shik Yang replaced Rev. Pak as Continental Director of North America. Throughout the movement, as Rev. Pak noted, Rev. Moon was making a new start, "placing younger people in various positions." Aside from being younger, Dr. Yang was a graduate of Unification Theological Seminary, as were other leaders who were elevated, and held two additional seminary degrees. Dr. Yang took a different slant on elder sonship in his inaugural address, "A Sacred Bond for the Salvation of America." Citing the well-worn passage from de Tocqueville about Americaís greatness being grounded in her goodness, Dr. Yang stated, "Without question, the heart of America and her people are still good." He described Americans as "generous, big-minded, enthusiastic and creative" which was something of a departure from what members had grown accustomed to hearing in recent years. When noting problems such as children born out of wedlock or sexually-transmitted disease, he referred to empirical data and professional studies, which also was a departure. Finally, Dr. Yang promised "to love America as my own country" and, significantly, "to raise and support Americans for leadership of this nation."
It was early to assess Dr. Yangís follow-up on any of these points. There was no reason to assume that his expressed appreciation for the nation was not genuine. As Regional Director in Washington, D.C., he was a major force behind the strategy to make the World Culture and Sports Festival associated with Blessing í97 not a movement-focused but a Washington, D.C. renaissance event. In his inaugural address, he again called for the fulfillment of the "sacred mission" of "Rebuilding the Family, Restoring the Community, Renewing America!" Early in his tenure, he continued to take an empirical and professionally-informed approach to problems as well as to issues of finance and church development. The early returns on his commitment to raise Americans for leadership was mixed. Although he kept the Korean Regional leadership structure intact, he did appoint three new American Vice Presidents, including the first African-American to hold that position. On an entirely different level, Dr. and Mrs. Yang already fulfilled their commitment to love America as their own country quite literally by conceiving and offering a child to an American interracial couple who were unable to bear children. It was not uncommon for blessed members with several children to act as surrogate parents for infertile couples, but it was uncommon for a top Korean leader and spouse to do so for Americans.
However, it was not Dr. Yang who primarily dealt with the concept of elder sonship. That distinction belonged to Hyun Jin Moon. In July 1998, as previously noted, Rev. Moon appointed his third son, Hyun Jin Nim, Vice President of the Family Federation for World Peace and Unification International (FFWPUI). The FFWPUI was intended to bring the worldwide projects of Rev. and Mrs. Moon into a "unified focus," and Hyun Jin Nimís appointment was widely interpreted within the movement as a sign that he had been designated Rev. Moonís successor. In his inaugural address, Hyun Jin Nim stated that there were two areas in which he could make a positive contribution to the FFWPUI. The first was in the field of education. As he put it,
As a son, I have been very fortunate to intimately witness the extraordinary lives of my parents. Although I have been constantly impressed with the level of dedication and faith that many early as well as current disciples have exhibited, I could not help but notice the difficulty many faced in trying to live up to the standard of faith, love, and obedience maintained by my parents. Intimately knowing the standards by which my parents live as well as struggling myself to live by them, I feel I am in a unique position to offer guidance and assistance to those in need.
Secondly, Hyun Jin Nim expressed that he had "a clear obligation to revive the second generation of our movement as well as offer a fresh new vision for the worldís youth." He noted,
Up until now ... a systematic course of education and development was not laid out to prepare these youth to rightfully inherit their birthright as heirs of our movement. As a result, many have become disillusioned and have fallen astray. I pledge to alter this current state by reinvigorating them to recognize their value as historical figures in bringing about a world of peace and love. By raising these young people to represent Godís ideal, they will offer an alternative standard of life to the young people of the world.
Hyun Jin Nim refined these emphases over the next year. However, the twin foci of consolidating the tradition of True Parents and transmitting that tradition to the movementís second generation were to become the core action agenda of elder sonship.
Hyun Jin Nim was in a unique position to implement this agenda. As Rev. Moonís presumed successor, he was the ultimate elder son. At the same time, he straddled several different worlds. In his words, "As a Korean growing up in America, I directly experienced the effects of both Korean and American cultural and traditional patterns." Having come to the U.S. at age four, he received most of his formal institutional education in America. However, he acknowledged that his parents were "very traditional Korean parents" and that "the way they look at familial relationships ... is from a very Korean perspective." He noted that he was "influenced by pluralism here in America" but that as he grew older and raised his own family, "my heart goes back to the nation of True Parents, and to the culture of True Parents."
At the same time, while he was clearly a member of the movementís second generation, he remembered growing up in the seventies and eighties and said that he had "a closer affinity to ... Americans who are in ... [their] mid-40s and 50s because I identify so closely with that time." Those times, he told members of the first generation, "really molded who I am. I remember the energy then ... I remember the fire then ... I remember the purity of devotion then ... I remember the time in which you were willing to even give up your future for the sake of building up an ideal nation." Given these realities, Hyun Jin Nim was in a position to work out within himself the cross-cultural and inter-generational tensions of the larger movement.
During the first year of his tenure as Vice-President of the FFWPUI, Hyun Jin Nim undertook several fact-finding trips and exploratory investigations. He traveled to Korea and Japan where he met senior and youth leaders. He went to South America and Alaska. He continued running the movement businesses for which he was responsible and reflected further about his role. Then, beginning in mid-1999, he began asserting himself on several fronts primarily related to the building up of what he termed "a homogeneous community of faith." He became a principal keynote speaker and representative of Rev. and Mrs. Moon at public "Hoon Dok Hae" Conferences convened for the movementís VIP contacts. These seminars, under the theme of "True Families as the Foundation for World Peace in the New Millennium," afforded Hyun Jin Nim and organizers the opportunity to highlight selections from Rev. Moonís speeches as a starting point for inter-religious dialogue.
Hyun Jin Nim took a major step in advancing the elder sonship agenda by convening a conference on "Establishing the True Family Culture" in December 1999. Intended to be the first of several conferences on this theme, he invited mainly American movement church leaders, youth leaders and educators and announced his intention of taking a comprehensive point of view in "constructing our identity as Unificationists and blessed couples." The conference, itself was a fascinating outworking of issues and approaches that Hyun Jin Nim had been dealing with internally. In terms of overall content, he made it clear that he considered the Korean familial model to be the closest approximation of the ideal in terms of perspective, language and relationships. This position was not decidedly different from what the movementís East Asian leadership had been teaching American members for two decades. However, Hyun Jin Nim stressed the importance of empathy and attempted to assuage some of the concerns of his listeners. He said, for example,
Just because you are Korean doesnít mean you have inherited the culture of True Parents. Just because you are American doesnít mean you have not inherited True Parentsí tradition ... I utilize the Korean model ... not to elevate Korea, or to place Koreans over Americans.
He also designed the meeting with the focus and efficiency one would expect from the Harvard Business School graduate which he was. There was an opening plenary, break-out discussion groups, findings, concrete action-step recommendations, a wrap-up session, and an informal post-conference review. The conference was designed as a forum and, in that sense, participatory. Hyun Jin Nim called for participants to contribute their "unique insights," saying that he was "of the belief that you need to know both the positive and negative elements to develop substantial courses of action." At the same time, he made it clear that while the movementís homogeneous faith tradition and its articulation might be subject to a group process, there were certain non-negotiables. He crystallized the crux of the matter in his final reported comment,
If True Parents are really the True Parents of all humankind, then we should inherit their cultural context. It is that simple. We try to filter it through our own cultural experience. If you do that you are not inheriting True Parents. In doing that you put yourself in the position of an adopted son forever. You will forever be struggling between an old identity and a new one!
Elder sonship, then, was a dividing line. There were those among the membership who believed that sonship, and presumably daughtership, meant primarily inheriting the spirit of True Parents. Hyun Jin Nim was among those who insisted that spirit and flesh were inseparable. To him, Rev. Moon was a "universal man," but one who never could be divorced from his culture and nation. A key question was whether the movement and the movementís tradition would be similarly connected to the same culture and nation. This would be an exceedingly important consideration in the years ahead.
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