The Words of the Kovic Family

Life In The Unification Church Part 1

James W. Kovic
December 2007

One thing you might have noticed when you read "Tamara's Journey" is that the main character is a member of an organization called The Unification Church. The name of this particular religious organization may or may not mean anything to you. However, it has always been a very controversial religious organization and given that I chose not to get into very much detail about it I've decided to devote myself to a series of articles here so that I can go into greater depth about what happened to me during that time in my life.

The reason why I wrote about The Unification Church in my book was because there was something I needed to get off of my chest. I was a member of The Unification Church for fifteen years. Being a member of that church was a life-changing experience. It changed my whole perspective on life. Everything. On one hand I had a very profound experience. It taught me a lot about spirituality, about God and the purpose for which I should lead my life. It was extremely rewarding. But yet on the other hand it taught me a lot about how power in the hands of a few people can often become corrupted. I found myself, a very impressionable and trusting individual become genuinely persuaded to join an organization I knew not very much about. That's not to say that for the most part it was a bad organization. To this day I don't believe it is. But I do believe that it operated by way of keeping it's members ignorant of other spiritual organizations and truths that are out there.

The Unification Church was founded by a man named Sun Myung Moon, from Korea. He founded this church based upon a genuine experience he had with Jesus in 1936 as a teenager. Sun Myung Moon explored the Spirit World and learned many profound truths. Jesus wanted him to continue his mission that was cut short by his crucifixion. Moon's purpose was to bring his message to all of the denominations of Christianity so that they could be united. Then if Christianity could be united then the threat of Communism could be thwarted and stopped. This mission of his has been absolutely successful and I give credit to Reverend Moon for this.

So, why do I have a problem with The Unification Church? Mainly this: Sun Myung Moon proclaims himself to be The Messiah. When I joined The Unification Church in the spring of 1979 that's what I was told through the series of lectures given me and many others who first joined. We were taught The Divine Principle, the teaching of The Unification Church as received by Reverend Moon as a result of his shamanic journeys into the Spirit World.

As a nineteen year old kid this totally blew me away. He's the messiah? The messiah's here on Earth right now? And they're teaching me their beliefs in this workshop and asking me to join this movement to help bring about the Kingdom of Heaven on Earth? I just didn't know how to think about this. Actually, to be completely honest with you I didn't do a whole lot of thinking about this at all. I suppose I was caught up in the spiritual fervor at the moment with all of the other participants in the workshop that I was attending in Northern California. But the thing is that I didn't have the skills with which to think about such deep spiritual teachings. I hadn't gone to college. I had only made it through the eleventh grade and part of my senior year in high school. How was I to make an informed decision on whether to join an organization like The Unification Church?

To be honest, the time which I joined the church was an emotionally turbulent period in my life. I had just gotten fired from my job in Southern California and so with a couple of hundred dollars in my pocket I drifted up to San Francisco to see what was going on. I was very lonely, no friends and three thousand miles from home where I grew up on Long Island. I was a prime candidate to join a religious movement like The Unification Church.

You know, it's lucky for me that I actually joined The Unification Church and not some organization like The People's Temple run by Jim Jones where my life could have been in danger. No matter what anyone says, The Unification Church is not dangerous. If you really need to join an organized religion so that you can really have a deep religious experience and change your life then The Unification Church is absolutely the way to go. And especially for people who were searching for spirituality and meaning in their life in the 1970's and 1980's; Back then when you joined The Unification Church they would totally take care of your every need. They would feed you, clothe you, house you and of course keep you very busy. You lived a very stoic lifestyle. After all, it is a religious organization and there is a lot of work to do to build the Kingdom Of Heaven on Earth so everyone has a mission to fulfill.

But let me get back to who Reverend Moon is. When we joined the church you were told that he was the Messiah. Knowing that alone is enough to change your life. I no longer believe that Sun Myung Moon is the Messiah. By me believing that meant that I had to give most of my power over to him. I don't do that anymore. Nor should any of you. Every one of you out there is very special. Every one of you out there is a Divine Being created by God to accomplish great things in your life.

To be honest with you, Reverend Moon gave a speech in the late eighties in which he announced that God's Dispensation changed and that all of us is a messiah on one level or another. That was a very big change that occurred in The Unification Church at that time. The thing is that I wish he would have made that announcement a lot earlier. The thing about Reverend Moon is that when he journeyed into the Spirit World he uncovered a lot of profound information. He has made known only some of it in the Church's teaching The Divine Principle but most of what he knows he chooses not to reveal to his members. This is not right. Oh he justifies it by saying that we're not ready to know all of the truth. To me that is plain bullshit. No one should be kept from any of the truth if they sincerely are searching for it and ask the right questions. It's wrong to keep people ignorant of the truth. Besides, it behooves Reverend Moon to be absolutely forthcoming about all of what he knows to his members no matter how crazy it might seem.

Nevertheless, I don't hold any resentment towards Reverend Moon. I respect him immensely and I am honored to have been a part of his organization. It's because of him that I benefited so much from his teaching and his connection to God. Being a member of his church has meant so much to me and taught me so much about spirituality. Okay, now that I've talked a little about what The Unification Church is, I'm going to talk about how when you join this church your whole perspective on life changes. Like I said before, The Unification Church, overall, is a fine organization. However, it is a religious organization and in order for it to be effective in getting it's message out it must bring you to the point at which you feel differently about the world which you are most familiar.

For any spiritual organization there is nothing new about this. Every religion teaches you about God. But it's hard for them to do that if you are so very attached to the physical world. And all of us are. This isn't a bad thing. Most of us live honest and moral lives but we do live in the physical world. It's not easy not to unless you're dead. But in order for you to understand about God you must disassociate yourself from this very familiar physical world and everything that you've been taught, everything you have come to accept as undeniable reality.

In the past religious people lived an ascetic lifestyle. This means they chose to live in poverty, were vegetarians, worked very hard and didn't sleep very much. Their whole entire life was spiritual. It was a very demanding lifestyle but that's what is necessary if you wanted to live your life for God. If you know someone who is a priest or a nun in the Catholic Church then you might know something of their lifestyle. That's pretty much how things work in The Unification Church. However, members of The Unification Church aren't nearly as ascetic as most of the early Christians were or Muslims, and Buddhists. But there are methods that The Unification Church used to train their members so that they could still think less about the physical world and pay more attention to the spiritual so that they could search within themselves for the answers.

In "Tamara's Journey" you read about how the main character, Michiko Tanaka, lives and works on a fundraising team in the Midwestern United States. Have you ever heard of a fundraising team before? In my book I told you about how these young people on this team headed by John Delaney, the team captain, go from town to town selling laser prints and taking the money that's made from that to help financially support the church. That's what I did when I was a member of the church back in the early eighties. I actually worked in the same MFT (Mobile Fundraising Team) region as Michiko's team did.

Let me tell you a little about my experience on MFT. When you first join MFT you've probably been in the church now for a couple of months. You're new and you're young, probably about 20 years old and you have all of that energy and exuberance from sitting in lectures hearing about The Divine Principle. In fact you've probably been through a 21 day workshop which was the requirement of most new Unification Church members so that they have a very solid but preliminary understanding of their tenet of faith. So you've been sitting on your ass now for almost a month listening to lectures, lectures, lectures. When you finally find out that you're all done with that and now you've been chosen to join MFT you go, "Wow, something different and what's more I can get out in the fresh air and travel on the road with the MFT."

So you explode onto your new mission. MFT. You don't mind getting up at six o'clock in the morning. After all, every day in The Unification Church begins with Morning Service. When you grew up your parents took you to church on Sunday mornings, oh around eleven and then to the bakery for donuts if you were well behaved. Well, in this church, guess what; every day is Sunday. Yea, that may sound pretty cool but it's not because you have a day off but it's because every morning you wake up you must begin the day in prayer to God. This is what is termed Morning Service in the Unification Church.

Okay, let's talk more in detail about what morning service is all about in Reverend Moon's organization. Remember I told you that he is The Messiah? That's right. But Reverend Moon is married. Her name is Hak Ja Han Moon. Sun Myung Moon and Hak Ja Han were married in 1960. That was the beginning of True Parents. I'll explain that in a minute. This was something that, according to most Christian believers, Jesus wasn't able to do before dying on the cross. Otherwise things would have been very very different. More on that later. What's important here is the fact that marriage in The Unification Church is synonymous with the forgiveness of Original Sin. This is the sin that, according to the book of Genesis in The Bible, Adam and Eve committed in the Garden Of Eden in their relationship with Lucifer. More on that later too. So Sun Myung Moon and Hak Ja Han as the True Parents, were qualified to forgive the Original Sin of those who became members of The Unification Church. This was done through the marrying of Unification Church couples so that they can become parents giving birth to sinless children. And that will also be dealt with in depth at a later time.

Naturally, when we had morning service there needs to be a central focus for our attention while at prayer. In Christian churches they look to the crucified Jesus but in The Unification Church we look upon a photograph of Mr. and Mrs. Moon, The True Parents. So, usually when we were living at any of our church centers (what we called the homes in which we lived in which was also a center of church activity) we would have a special room, a prayer room designated for individual or group prayer or in this case morning service. It was a simply furnished room but it was very clean and had a table at one end covered with a white cloth. Upon this altar we'd place an appropriate framed picture of True Parents and it would be flanked by a vase of fresh flowers as well as other sacred objects.

So that's what a prayer room would be like. However, on MFT we're constantly traveling in our van. So this is what we'd do to create a temporary altar to focus our attention during morning service. In most vans in the front adjacent to the dashboard there's this area where the cup-holder is. That's where we'd place the framed picture of True Parents; usually a small 5 x 7 laminated photo would be more practical. But usually the team captain would whip out a wallet size picture of True Parents from his or her wallet and put that up. And then we'd have morning service. This was, mind you, if we had time for morning service in the van. Usually that wasn't the case. We'd wake up, either in the motel room we stayed in that night or in the van parked in a parking lot somewhere (to save money on a motel especially if we had been traveling until very early in the morning), get our breakfast from the cooler in the van or do a drive-through at McDonald's and eat. Oh yea, and especially if we slept in the van in a parking lot we'd need to brush our teeth and shave and stuff like that. Well, where are you going to go for that. Well hey, McDonald's has a bathroom. Hell, they got one for men and for women. Our team captain would, at the chagrin of most on the team, tell us we had fifteen minutes for all of us to take care of all of that in McDonald's. And then we were off to our designated yet still unknown fundraising area.

But the morning service; oh yea. When we do morning service, first we sing three songs from our Holy Song Book. Then Team Captain would choose someone to read some of Reverend Moon's (or Father as we affectionately called him) words from one of his printed speeches. You see, Reverend Moon gave a lot of speeches. In the old days he would speak at the Belvedere Estate in Tarrytown, New York. That's one of the properties that the church purchased when Reverend Moon first came to America during the early 1970's. Reverend Moon's home was called East Garden which is located in Irvington, New York. That's where he, his wife and their thirteen children lived. It was a very nice home and if you were one of the church's leaders or a person with whom Reverend Moon needed to speak to then you got a chance to go to his home. But getting back to Morning Service. So, one of us would read some passages from one of Reverend Moon's speeches and then that person would pray and then we'd have what we called Unison Prayer. We would pray together out loud. To tell you the truth, this is what really freaked me out when I first joined the church. When I went to church that was usually the only time me or anybody ever prayed. What can I say, I was raised a Catholic. I realize that in other churches other than the Catholic Church people usually pray out loud but I had never experienced this before. It wasn't enough that praying for me was not easy to do. It was clearly another that I had to pray in the cacophony of other people praying. But that's life in the Unification Church. You are often challenging yourself and having to go beyond preconceived notions and stuff like that.

Then after about five minutes or so of praying, the Team Captain would start singing a song that would indicate that we were drawing morning service to a close. What was usually sang was this old Korean song called Ariang. It's actually a very beautiful song.

With that all taken care of, it was time to go -- you guessed it -- fundraising. 

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