Articles From the August 1995 Unification News


Looking After Number One

UViews August

A recent Wall Street Journal opinion piece by Mr. Andrew Petyon Thomas presented a compelling view of the problem with contemporary America:

"America is suffering a great and historic cultural decay. This condition has been variously describe by public figures as a "sickness," coarseness," or "lack of spirituality." These terms would appear to be groping for a blunter concept . . . as the essence of America's social discontent: selfishness."

We are gratified to find such a direct statement, and one notes, with Mr. Thomas, at how difficult it seems to be for many people to utter the term, selfishness. "Sickness" and "lack of spirituality" are not the only euphemisms for selfishness. More insidious are those such as "individualism", "self-reliance", human potential, "cleaning up one's own backyard". These themes are seductions of the spirit; they provide one a horizon which is endlessly limited. One's backyard can never be clean enough; one's human potential can never be fulfilled; one's individuality can never be fully expressed. The advice that we "look after for number one" never made much sense to me, unless we realize that God is truly the "number one" whom we all should be looking after.

We are guided to not be selfish from our earliest lessons from parents. All parents, after all, want their children to share. [I'll bracket the problem that it is people who don't share who tell their children to share. No wonder it doesn't work. But even people who don't share know in their consciences that sharing is good, and want their children to be good, hence, to share. No parents purposely teach their children to be evil.]

Parents know that the toys don't really belong to the children, that the toys are meant to bring the children joy, and hence if the children are fighting over the toys, then the toys are defeating their own purpose. God, our Parent, looks down upon us in the same way. The earth doesn't really belong to us, the earth is meant to bring us joy, and hence if we are fighting over the earth, then the earth-the creation-is defeating its own purpose. So God teaches us, don't be selfish.

The child who is unselfish may wind up losing all his toys, or being beaten up. But there is a safety net: the parents are there to protect the child. Do we adults have such a protection? Yes, the religious teachers tell us, yes, we have such a parent. The universe itself protects the one who is unselfish. God is on the side of that person. And that person is every bit as strong--and as helpless--as God.

When Reverend Moon came to America, he called this country to live for the sake of the world. That is, he told us that America, as a nation, must not be selfish. Now, America is a great nation because to an extent far beyond any other nation Americans have sacrificed for the world. Our participation in the World Wars was not without tremendous cost of our own lives. Our giving in foreign aid is unimaginably immense. What, you say, how can Rev. Moon arrive, johnny-come-lately, and tell us to start living for the world?

Vision for the future

But think again. If America is truly living for the world, then why did we find "Yankee go home!" all over South America in the fifties and sixties? Why were our own young people rejecting the nation, the way children reject hypocritical parents? Why was communism taking over the world, taking over the nations America was supposedly helping, if America was truly living for the world? The reason was that the communists were giving more than we were. How so?

America was giving a lot of material wealth and expertise, but one thing was lacking: America was not providing any vision for the future. Communists came in without any wealth or expertise to speak of, but they had a vision for the future. It was a vision of one world society, of the end of racism and nationalism, of a paradise on earth.

What did America offer? Contracts. Payment plans. Debt servicing. Liberalization. Christian missionaries, yes, which are none-too- welcome in Islamic countries. Except for our hospitals, in general what we did was not recognized by the world as being of the highest value. Reverend Moon drew our attention to this: to live for the world begins with loving the world. America was loving itself and trying to mold the world into its own image. Did communists exhort the people to become Russian? No; they spoke, however misguidedly, about an ideal beyond Russia, an ideal which attempted to be universal.

Thus, the fact that the communists were representing an ideal beyond their own nation or race meant that the Russians, in a very important way, were being unselfish. Compared with them, the American was woefully limited by nation and race. He had no vision beyond economic enhancement and some form of Christian or quasi-christian salvation.

So we can see that there are two forms of selfishness. The more obvious is the exluding of others from use of one's own goods. The opposite of that type of selfishness is to share one's goods. The more subtle form of selfishness is the deprivation of a higher vision for what to do with one's goods. The opposite of that is to provide the vision of what the goods are for. We should think carefully about which of the two types of selfishness is the more damaging.

Giving Goods and Vision

On the one hand, it may seem obvious that good and evil should be defined simply in terms of quanititative ownership. That is, if one person in a town controls 90% of the town's goods, that person would be defined without further examination as selfish. And he may very well be so, but before rendering judgement the question of how he obtains that ownership should be raised. On the one hand, he may have stolen it. On the other, the people may have given it to him. Why would they have given it to him? Because of the vision which he presents to them for the purpose of those goods.

In the medieval age, the Catholic Church owned a large percentage of the wealth of Europe. Today the American government owns a comparably large percentage of the wealth of the United States. For the most part, the people gave to the church voluntarily. For the most part, the people pay their taxes involuntarily, under the threat of imprisonment. I rather prefer the religious ideal, that of voluntary giving based upon a heavenly vision, than the secular ideal, that of giving mandated by law based upon an earthly vision. In the long run, the earthly vision will fail.

So the reasoning behind Rev. Moon's calling America to love the world relates more to the second type of love than the first. The question is not the simple allocation of resources. We allocated many trillions of dollars to the people without dollars. If their problem was the lack of dollars, then we surely solved it. But the problem is not that simple. Money cannot buy love. Giving money is not necessarily an act of love.

The question is that of providing a vision for the future, a vision which encompasses all mankind beyond race, nation and religion. That is, it is not a matter of Americans, who are living well, simply saying to the rest of the world that they should live like Americans and prosper (at least those who fit well into a rationalist/legalist society). It is a matter of Americans providing a vision.

Reverend Moon brought a new vision, and insodoing, he brought the true selfishness of America to light. Now, he was not in the business of exposing others' sins. But, come to think of it, is can be an act of goodness to expose someone's sins, especially to their own eyes. This is because you cannot heal yourself until your disease is exposed.

Also, it is not an act of goodness just to point to another's sins, unless one has both overcome the sin himself and can show the person the way they can also overcome the sin. On the first count, this explains why the media, supported by those who find a cult under every bed, is so intent on attributing all kinds of sin to Reverend Moon. This is nothing new; all religious pioneers are labeled vicious sinners and criminals by their societies. The intent is to impugn their authority to point out sin.

Once the person has vindicated themselves, then people may be willing to listen to the solution. And what is that solution? To live for the world means both to give everything (as he does and calls us to do) and to provide a vision for the world. In other words, you first must share all your toys, then on the basis of the trust engendered, you can teach the other child how to use the toys (i.e., give the vision). The other child finally will realize that the point is not the toys; the point is his friendship with you.

The Universal Ideal

That vision must be universal, so it must begin in the invisible realm within and above everyone. That beginning thus must be God, who is the source of the vision and who implants it in our hearts to begin with.

Second, that vision must be capable of concretization by all people. So it must have its primary location in the home. We all work in different settings, but everyone goes home. So that vision must be the perfection of the family. Everyone has parents and longs for a spouse and children. This is beyond religion, culture, race and class. So the universal vision must begin with God and the family.

Where does it go from there? The blueprint is in the seed. The seed is the family and the origin of the family is God. Too simple? The ideal is simple. To accomplish it is simple too: find the one who has achieved this ideal, who has found the way to establish a true family, and engraft to that person. Don't worry; as a man and woman of love, they will let you engraft. But it's your part of the bargain to prepare yourself. Where does the preparation begin? In your mind. You cannot be saved until you recognize that you need to be saved.

Let's make it more plain, let's not talk about you and me needing to be saved. Let's talk about the world going to hell in and handbasket and ourselves being part of that world. Does the world need salvation, or is it going on just fine? It needs salvation. When Reverend Moon called America to live for the world, he was calling us to exalt the ideals of God, centering on the ideal of the true family, beyond nation, race and religion. As my brother Levy Daugherty says, the point is not to change your religion; it's to change your character. When America wakes up and carries this out, the world will be saved.


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