The Words of the Smart Family

About Sun Myung Moon

Ninian Smart
Professor of Comparative Religions
The University of California at Santa Barbara, US

It is remarkable how open and free the conferences he sponsored were. He fully appreciated, as seen by his actions, the nature of science and scholarship. This was true both of the way he attempted to implement his vision of the unity of science and his God at the conferences, likewise at his meetings on world peace and the family.

So the first main achievement would be his dedication to an open society of scholars and religious people. This combined with an undoubted ecumenism. He was always eager to attract Buddhists, Jews, Hindus, Muslims, Christians and many more to his gatherings. Though he and his followers assert the veracity of their worldview, this has in no way prevented his giving the utmost freedom to those whose traditions differ from his ideas.

Perhaps I can interpret his generosity and openness from the point of view of my own convictions, as a person who has been friendly with many members of his Church, and who has been happy to work with them and Rev. Moon; I do not share his theology but I admire his work and contribution to the world. I regard myself as a loyal Anglican, and therefore believe in Trinity, and therefore in the Holy Spirit, which is among other things the Light that lightens every person. Too often the Holy Spirit is neglected by Christians; it is relevant to Rev. Moon’s achievements.

So it can be that Rev. Moon’s vigorous engagement with the contemporary world supplies emphases which are important to other religions. They can be neglected by the inward-looking nature of Buddhism, and other-worldliness of mainstream Christianity. His early experience of Stalinism imprinted itself indelibly on his consciousness, and resulted in a strong belief in the future which had rid itself of Communism’s repressive system. The point was that Communism failed to give a reverence to the individual human being.

There were, of course, other Christians who shared this perception with Rev. Moon, notably Pope John Paul II. For Rev. Moon it was both fortunate and unfortunate that his main engagement with America occurred in the 1970s, when many well-meaning people had accepted the part-truth of Marxism, often naively, as a result of their opposition to the Vietnam War. But Rev. Moon’s opposition to the Soviet Union and its system was based on religion, and on the form of Christianity in particular. He was unfortunate in that many American liberals opposed his message because they had missed essential importance of humanity, and this is integral to the Christian message. His theology was a complement to much contemporary Christian theology.

One of his inspiring visions has to do with his married followers: not invariably, but most frequently, they share races, share nationalities. And this trend is growing in the world. It undermines our racial distinctions. He has paved the way for this diminution of such categories. Indeed, as the Census in America will sooner or later have to acknowledge that people of mixed marriages cannot simply be assigned to one category or another. We are all children of the same humanity; and from religion’s point of view are rooted in the Transcendent.

The question of the family makes our attitude to sex serious. In many ways, our modern knowledge about sex makes us more relaxed than in older Christian days. I respect the vision of Rev. Moon and Mrs. Moon of a vast congregation of those who acknowledge his mission and who join him in a single family, which embraces many families. The people of this world who have reared families and who live together in amity and joy should recognize that vision of his as a vital ingredient in true happiness. But again as with religions, people differ in their interpretation of the divine will; but those diverse interpretations ought in the new world to live together in harmony. And the vision of the family implies too a vision of education. The parents need to bring up children in love and knowledge. This implies the stability of the family.

He has stamped a mark on our epoch, from before the Korean War till the present age and after the year 2000. But already his achievements are immense. 

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