The Words of the Harnett Family

I'm A Moonie And I Love It - Talking Spirituality And Fish Powder With Alaskan Followers Of The Reverend Sun Myung Moon

Interview of Eugene Harnett and Neil Drucker

Hal Horton Jr.
July 13-19, 2000
The Anchorage Press

I come bearing good news: the Messiah is now walking the earth. He is in excellent health, considering his age. He is optimistic and spending His summers fishing in Kodiak.

And still better news: the Messiah has a sizable band of adherents, whom you are lovingly invited to join. There is even a handful of such families in Anchorage. They are members of the Holy Spirit Association for the Unification of World Christianity, or "The Unification Church," for short.

You probably know them under another name.

"The term 'Moonie' shall not be used in your article," Pastor Eugene Harnett informs me.

Harnett is head of the Anchorage Family Church, the local branch of the Unification movement, and a follower of the Reverend Sun Myung Moon, the church's leader and messiah. Pastor Harnett has been kind enough to meet with me on short notice to discuss theology, the Unification Church's Kodiak congregation, and what it is like to cast for kings on the banks of the Olds River while standing next to the Lord of the Second Advent.

The Unification Church has invested heavily in Kodiak. It owns International Oceanic Enterprises, the parent company of both International Seafoods of Alaska, a Kodiak processing plant, and U.S. Marine, a subsidiary which runs a fleet of fishing boats on the island. Moon's church has become the largest tax-payer on Kodiak, and the largest private employer, which has done wonders to quell controversy among non-believers on the island, who once wielded picket signs in protest against the people you are now allowed to call "Unificationists."

Pastor Harnett compares the term "Moonie" to "the N-word:" in short, it's only permissible to say it if you're doing so in love, and you are one yourself.

Harnett has a point. Under "the M-word," followers of the Reverend Sun Moon have been subjected to the most virulent press coverage of any new religious movement of modern times-with the obvious exceptions of those that ended in mass suicide or in flames and gunfire.

Some headlines from a collection of U.S. and European papers in the late '70s:

"Reverend Moon's plot to rule the world;"

"Parents fight 'brainwashing' by bizarre sect;"

"Mass suicide possible in Moon Church, 3 say;"

And my personal favorite from the Paris Match of 1975: "Le Dieu Moon nous arrache nos enfants"-"The God Moon snatches our children."

Pastor Harnett looks nothing like a child snatcher. He is a youthful and friendly 44-year-old with red hair and large, freckled hands. His eyes are extremely intense when he is passionate about his subject-for instance, the subject of his 1982 arranged marriage.

For Pastor Harnett, "it was very personal. I had a match. Someone I could commit my life to. She was from Japan. And she-you see this chipped tooth? Her tooth was chipped the same way. The same tooth. When we met each other it was like that."

When they met, Harnett and his wife-to-be were standing with 5,836 other couples in a stadium in Seoul, Korea. The matches had all been made by the Reverend Moon.

"It's not like a herd of cattle," Harnett says. "Visually it might look like it, but each individual has his or her own relationship with God and is building a relationship with another person.... When there is no love, but there's a commitment to find love, that marriage can be stronger. Do you understand?"

I am not sure I do. I ask if he ever wonders about that chipped tooth-if he hadn't chipped it, might he now be married to someone else?

"What I'm trying to say is that there's a commitment to the relationship, even before there's love," Harnett says. "A lot of marriages, you fall in love, you become passionately in love with each other, like a pot of boiling water. And then you get married. And then that pot of boiling water starts to simmer and cool down as the years go by.

"In my situation, it's like we started out as that tepid pot of water. But as you add love, and you go through those times when there is no love and you're asked to find some-especially when it's over an expanse of culture, which it was with mine, or skin color, or language-then you're asked to find love over difficult circumstances, but when you do it becomes a boiling pot of water. And it gets hotter and hotter and more passionate. That's been my experience, over eighteen years."

The American contingent of the Unification Church began with a single missionary from Korea who landed in the Bay Area in 1959. Membership growth was incremental over the next decade. Fundraising relied on members' tithing and a few small church businesses. In 1972, however, a few church members in Maryland began asking for "donations" in exchange for candles. By July 1973 average sales per convert were nearly $1,000 a week, and the church established "Mobile Fundraising Teams," whose members lived communally, worked out of vans, and sold flowers and peanuts for long hours. Individual members of the Unification Church saw none of the proceeds, although their basic needs were provided for.

This era also saw the advent of "the love-bomb."

A conversion technique popular within Bay Area branches of the church, love-bombing involved gathering groups of Unificationists around a reluctant new recruit and "bombing them with love." (Keep in mind that each Unification group in the United States operated independently. The national leadership cannot be proven to have condoned any of this.)

In 1974, the church bought a mansion in Westchester County as a personal residence for the Reverend and his family. Two years later, the church bought Tiffany's. Both purchases were indicative of an underlying Republicanism which often surprises those unfamiliar with the inner-workings of the movement-including many of its professed members. During the Watergate hearings, for example, the Reverend Moon directed mass demonstrations in support of President Nixon. During the political unrest in Central American in the 1980s his church established CAUSA, an anti-communist group implicated in the Iran-Contra scandal. CAUSA funneled money to General Gustavo Alvarez Martinez who, according to Amnesty International, directed Honduran death squads.

But this is all old news, according to Pastor Harnett, along with the almost certainly false reports of individual members being psychologically infantilized and barred from seeing their families.

Such reports likely arose because, people asked, why else would members spend years raising money for a self-proclaimed messiah from Korea?

Harnett raised funds for the church for three years. It's a question he's happy to answer.

"Because [fundraising] is an education in how to love people," he says. "If you go out every day trying to make money like that, you're going to hit a brick wall. But if you go out trying to love people, if you go out with that idea, then you can break through those brick walls. . . . From a spiritual-training point of view, from a ministering point of view, it's excellent."

Harnett says that like many in the first wave of Unificationist converts, he was unfairly maligned.

"When I joined, or a couple years after I joined-a young kid, right? Nineteen, 20, 21. I was bright, I was sharp, a straight-A student. I knew what I was doing. And I'd meet people sometimes, and they'd start talking about all this stuff, digging it up and going at me, this, that, and the other thing, all this about Reverend Moon, and he's this and this and this. And I'd say 'look'-because you know they called us brainwashed, right?-I'd say 'Look, look at my eyes. Do I look brainwashed.'

"And you know what they'd say? 'Yes.'"

It is impossible to sustain for even a second the illusion that Jean-Paul Franquelin has been brainwashed. If there were such a thing as brainwashing-and there is not, outside of loss of identity brought on by extreme physical torture-it would take a peculiarly American naiveté, a hayseediness, to be susceptible. The French would be automatically immune.

The plant manager at International Seafoods in Kodiak and a Unificationist, Franquelin is from Amiens, a city about 70 miles north of Paris. He has a strong accent and looks a little like a middle-aged Jean-Paul Belmondo.

I have come to ask Franquelin about fish powder. In recent years, the Reverend Moon has become enthusiastic about grinding the parts of a fish you don't want to think about into protein powder.

The fishing industry is notoriously wasteful-from out-of-season species hauled up in nets to byproducts of the slime line-and the Reverend Moon wants to turn that waste into food for the hungry. He has invested millions in Kodiak to develop a machine that will take fish waste and turn it into a water-soluble, human-consumable powder that is 90 percent protein.

Fish powder is Pastor Harnett's first example of the charitable causes which might justify the Unification church's massive business holdings, and it seemed to me a sort of charmingly quixotic mission-one of the small surreal touches that makes the Unificationists so interesting.

Unfortunately, the machine they built in Kodiak is so far not entirely successful. According to Franquelin, it had "decanters and high-speed machine equipment, you know..." For an instant he shakes his head as if it were attached to a piston rod. "Vibrations. And it was on the second floor. We were afraid it would fall through to the first floor. And there were other business-related problems. And the quality of the powder was not so good, not what we wanted. You could see little flecks of bone-not high enough grade."

The machine is currently dismantled for repair, though it did produce enough powder for the church to send 1,500 pounds of it to Burundi in 1994. The shipment ran into a snag-fish powder was not on the list of U.N.-approved comestibles-so distribution was limited to Christian Disaster Relief agency sites.

(There have been no reports of what famished Hutus thought of the taste, but the church baked Kodiak fish powder into desserts at a press tasting in Seattle that same year. According to wire reports, the cookies were fine, but the brownies tasted a little fishy.)

Once he's finished explaining why the fish powder machine is down, Franquelin details, in a cheerfully uncomplicated way, the way in which he came to the Unificationists: he met someone in Paris, agreed to come to a meeting, and liked what was said. The fact that Franquelin's employer is also his church is not of much import to him-work is not therefore prayer.

"Americans are strange about their jobs," he tells me. "They know how to work hard, always-" and he jabs at the air to demonstrate his point. "It is not the French way. I am serious about my job, I am serious about what I believe, but-no."

International Seafoods will hire qualified workers, regardless of their spiritual beliefs-a few of the top managers at the plant are now non-members. It is becoming a business like any other, and, the vagaries of the fishing industry being what they are, it does not always turn a profit. To the people of Kodiak it has become, in a word, uncontroversial.

I suggest to Franquelin that a true Messiah would not have spent so much time and money investing in things that are more properly Caesar's. For instance, this processing plant.

"When Jesus was alive and preaching nobody followed him," the plant manager tells me. "People said Satan made the miracles, and in the end even the disciples abandoned him. And finally the people killed him. If he had fulfilled his mission, of course they would have given him clothes, so on," and he rolls his hand to signify the various fine things the Son of Man would have received.

"The Reverend Moon is more humble than any man I've met so far. He is always trying to spend for the sake of others. It is not like he is eating like a king."

He pauses for a moment, regarding me. "You know, if I had seen Jesus and he had told me he was the Messiah, I would have checked before I threw a stone at him. I would not just go by public opinion. Because truth is not always easy to listen to."

Nor does it always make for light reading. The Divine Principle, the Unification movement's book of theology, has none of the rolling, pleasant, King-Jamesian doggerel of, for instance, the Book of Mormon. It has the style of an engineering manual, and its metaphors are mostly geometric-a soul is compared to a circle becoming a sphere; husbands and wives are meant to triangulate off of God. Certain significant numbers appear again and again: Ten is the number of revelation, 40 is the number of "indemnity" (the process by which trials in this life cleanse us of sin). The Reverend Moon finds a pattern of repeating numbers in the years between Old Testament prophets, a pattern which was repeated after the advent of Jesus in such a way as to point to the era of the Reverend's own birth

But most central to the theology-arguably more central even than Jesus-is the Unificationist take on the Garden of Eden. It goes like this: Adam and Eve were intended by God to form a kind of holy trinity with him, whereby Adam and Eve would become True Parents and all their children would be "Blessed." Evil would not exist in the world. But then Lucifer the fallen angel snaked in. The familiar episode is sexualized-the apple of the Tree of Knowledge is a metaphoric fruit. First Lucifer had a "spiritual" sexual relationship with Eve, and then Eve convinced Adam to have physical intercourse. The triangulation was, therefore, based on Satan, sex occurred before God blessed the union, and Original Sin entered the world.

The Divine Principle dismisses Immaculate Conception-of course Mary wasn't really a virgin-and restates God's aims for the various Biblical personages. Moses, Abraham and even Jesus Christ are rendered as failures. What God really wanted for his Son was to see him married. Tragically, Jesus was murdered instead-and not at God's will; what Father could plan such a thing for His Son?

The crucifixion prevented Jesus from achieving His true mission, which was to enter into holy matrimony and to become a True Parent in the physical sense, as much as He is in the spiritual sense.

Instead, the world had to wait for Sun Moon.

I spent a few hours in Kodiak bars trying to get a sense of public feeling about the church. I found the people of Kodiak, or at least those who drink in public, remain almost universally ignorant about Moon's doctrine. Previous controversies on the island-in the early '80s, when the church was buying up the last remaining frontage on the Kodiak dock-had more to do with the movement's media image as starry-eyed freaks and kidnappers than with any Christian heresies.

In the mid-'90s, though, angry letter-writers to the Kodiak Daily Mirror reported wall-to-wall Unificationists in matching orange raincoats lining the banks of the Olds River. These church members were flown to the island-mostly from Japan-and were bussed to rivers along the road system in groups of as many as 200. Eyewitnesses reported that the Reverend himself was landing 25 or 30 salmon during one day's fishing-as his followers would hand him their pole whenever they hooked a fish.

"He is very intense when fishing," Harnett says of the Messiah. "He becomes very focused."

Barstool opposition to the church's presence on Kodiak lingers, though it's no longer particularly articulate:

"Motherfucking bunch of brainwashed motherfuckers."

"They ain't Moonies. They're morons. Ought to call themselves Moronies!"

More often than not, though, I found the Unificationaist presence was regarded as a non-issue.

"They're nice people. Everybody in Kodiak gets along fine with them."

And what of the accusations that church-sponsored tenders once undercut other processors and handed out twelve-packs of beer to fishermen willing to do business with them?

"Bunch of crap. They pay the same as anyone else, pay taxes like anybody else, run the plant like anybody else. And they don't drink, you know, don't mess around at all. So if they want to believe like a bunch of idiots, I say let them."

This Saturday night gathering of public opinion ended badly. The bartender at the Breakers objected to me recording people, things got ugly, and the whole episode ran out into charges of criminal mischief, a brief stint in jail, and a lawyer named "Razzo."

Suffice to say I was in the mood to be love-bombed come Sunday morning.

And I wasn't disappointed, although the experience was, at most, a light love-strafing.

The service began in Angel Garden with the singing of Unificationist hymns, which have the structure and melodies of folk songs. Pastor Neil Drucker strummed an acoustic guitar in his stocking feet.

Such scenes may be the reason people still think the Reverend Moon leads some kind of hippie cult-the church remains an odd cross between the restrictive discipline of other conservative Christian groups and the free-love stylings of the period in which the American Unificationist movement came of age.

The truly impressive thing, though, was the racial makeup of the congregation, in a country where we do nothing in so segregated a fashion as the worship of God. Kodiak has 17 or so resident Unificationist couples, and their families are strikingly diverse. A handsome black family sat in the front row of folding chairs. Pastor Drucker himself is ethnically Jewish. Mixed-race children, who comprised half the congregation, were permitted to squirm and make noise in admirable freedom.

Another impressive thing-impressive in a different way-is that Pastor Drucker did not mention the Reverend Moon once in his sermon, which was on the family as the basis for social and religious renewal. If Adam had created a church, he said, it would have been just a family. And this intimate, sacred relation would have remained among all peoples for all times.

"Family Work, Family Town, Family State, Family Nation," said Pastor Drucker. "And Family World."

His wife, Diane, thanked God eloquently and at length in a spontaneous prayer, another guest and I were introduced, and then the service was over.

A few people came over to greet me, among them Mr. and Mrs. Hokanson. It is difficult when first meeting Unificationist couples to resist evaluating the match. Mr. Hokanson is a tall, gangly, slightly awkward white American, and for a short time I suspected his wife, a first-generation Korean American, was too beautiful for him. But Mr. Hokanson has a compensating generosity of spirit. He works as a boat captain for U.S. Marine, and was also captain of the first Unificationist fishing boat in Gloucester, Massachusetts. (The entry of the church into that fishery made any of the Kodiak controversies look neighborly-at one point the mayor of Gloucester told the Reverend "you'll have strap marks on your ass before you get a permit out of me.")

Mrs. Hokanson has spoken with the Reverend Moon. I just missed him on my recent trip to Kodiak, which is just as well since the Reverend refuses media interviews. But he goes to Kodiak twice a summer for at least a few weeks-during the salmon runs-and so of course everyone I met in Angel Garden had also met the Reverend Moon. But Mrs. Hokanson speaks Korean, and the Reverend's English is not strong, so she has talked with him at greater length than most in Kodiak.

I was fascinated by this, of course, and pressed her for information. Up until that point I was told of nothing but the Reverend's humility and physical stamina-the man is 80, but Pastor Harnett says, "He could probably take down you or me."

Mrs. Hokanson's English was excellent, but accented enough to prevent me from understanding one word.

"The Reverend Moon thinks of himself as a-"

At first I thought she said "Samuel," meaning the Old Testament figure who anointed the first two kings of Israel, but I was wrong. She repeated herself.

"As a ceremony?" I asked.

"Salmon," puts in Mr. Hokanson.

"Oh," I said.

"It's the 'L," said Mrs. Hokanson, smiling.

The journey of the salmon, she explained, is like humanity's quest to get back to the Garden-to return to the place from whence we came, after so many years of wandering the world. The Reverend Moon sees himself as returning to the heart of creation, where it all began, to make things right for the world.

"And when the salmon return to the spot, they find a mate. . . ."

"And spawn and die," I put in.

"Yes, but their children-they help their children. The young."

"Nourished by the bodies of their parents," I said, and then regretted it, as the metaphor fell into pieces around us and drifted away, leaving us in awkward silence.

Fortunately, Pastor Drucker likes to talk. He is a broad-shouldered man with Jewish features, and he told me about how he joined the church in Israel as we walked across the church's Kodiak land.

The two church buildings, set among tall spruce, are bigger than barns and painted a late-'70s puce. We emerged from "Angel Garden" and made our way across the drive to "North Garden." Nansook Hong-the Reverend's ex-daughter-in-law-reports in her 1998 book In the Shadow of the Moons that the Reverend has at least nine mansions to call his own.

In Gloucester he owns "Morning Garden," in Westchester Country both "East Garden" and "Belvedere." "West Garden" is in L.A. "South Garden" is in South America.

All of this may be true, and the Reverend may also own "North Garden," but Drucker, his wife Diane, and their two children live in it.

Neil Drucker was once a surf-rat and experimental film-maker in California, and you would have to meet Drucker to understand how surprising this is: he is soft-spoken, a little shy, and anyone would have guessed a more timid history.

In Jerusalem, of all the unlikely places, Drucker became a follower of the Korean prophet. Living in the crux of so many world religions for so long has made Drucker uncommonly ecumenical. "Jerusalem has 12 gates, so everyone's coming from a different direction," he said. "But hopefully we arrive all at the same place."

But what would he say to those Christians who object to him not believing in, for instance, the Immaculate Conception?

"I consider it would depend upon the openness of the individual, whether to become emotional from what he understands and shut the door, or really to bring anything he hears to his own personal relationship with God and check it out. I consider God as never saying 'You must do this or you'll go to hell,' and that sort of thing, but as a father, as a parent. God would say, 'Test it out, check it out, make sure what I'm telling you makes sense.'"

I reviewed everything negative I've read about Reverend Moon: That he is an entrepreneur in the field of manipulating faith for profit. That he funded death squads. That as a younger man he was notoriously unfaithful. That he dyes his hair "shoe-polish black." That he is, in every sense of the term, a false prophet. The question I asked Pastor Drucker is this: Suppose Reverend Moon were in some way thoroughly and finally discredited. Would Pastor Drucker then abandon his theology?

He did not pause. "No. True love, the ideal family, these are good qualities. And if I got to the end of my life and someone told me 'It's all not true,' I would look back and think, "What did I do in my life?" And maybe I'll look back and see if I was faithful to my wife. If I was good to my family. Good to my fellow man. That's what will be important."

 Download entire page and pages related to it in ZIP format
Table of Contents
Tparents Home