Cults in Culture: An Eclipse of True Christianity – The Unification Church (Part 5)
A multipart series on religious groups commonly associated with Christianity
The “Christian” organization you are supporting may very well be a cult.
The Unification Church, otherwise known as The Holy Spirit Association or the Family Federation for World Peace and Unification, founded by the Rev. Sun Myung Moon, owns or is affiliated with several organizations, many with Christian-sounding names.
The organization itself “uses Christian terminology and categories, but the definitions and meanings are totally different,” said Fred Miller of True Light Educational Ministry in Shirley, N.Y.
Kurt Goedelman, founder of Personal Freedom Outreach, an apologetics ministry that deals with cults, told The Christian Post, “They claim to be Christian but they deny all tenets of Christianity.”
The movement rose to its peak in the 1970s, when the hippie generation embraced the Unification message of peace and love.
“When the hippie culture became popular in the 60s, young people turned to alternative religions and one of the new religions was the Unification Church. Moon got enormous attention through his support of Richard Nixon and his followers worked zealously to bring people in to the movement,” James Beverley, professor of Christian Thought and Ethics at Tyndale University, said in an interview with CP. Followers are sometimes termed “Moonies” due to the founder’s last name, though Miller noted that they consider this term offensive.
“Back then he (Moon) was drawing the kids in. You could see them standing on corners selling roses and trinkets,” said Miller, who has been studying cults for 20 years.
"The Unification movement was popular in the 70s and 80s but membership has gone downhill in the United States and Canada and most parts of the world,” Beverley noted, in part because of Moon’s conviction of tax fraud. However, “Moon has many followers in South Korea and Japan.”
Despite the Unification promotion of peace and love, the movement is not a Christian organization, based on the faith’s primary tenet of having a relationship with Jesus.
“Moon claims that he’s the Messiah. In order to get to heaven, you must be married. Now I don’t know how different you can get from Christianity,” said Miller.
“He (Moon) was also actually ‘crowned’ King of Christianity,” he added.
Craig Branch, director of the Apologetics Resource Center, called the Unification Church “a pseudo-Christian cult,” in an email to CP.
Beverley agreed. “If cult refers to a group that claims to be Christian but is far, far away from clear, main biblical teaching then the Unification Church fits the description,” he said.
“Part of (the Rev. Sun Myung) Moon's strategy was/is to form conservative political group alliances and therefore credibility with traditional conservative Christians, which unfortunately ... had some apparent endorsements from notable Christian leaders. For example the conservative newspaper, The Washington Times, is owned by Moon,” said Branch. The Rev. Jerry Falwell has also been tied with Moon, and interestingly, said Miller, “Ninety-five percent of the sushi in American restaurants is coming out of his factory.”
Many of these have Christian-sounding titles, such as the Christian Heritage Foundation, the National Conservative Political Action Committee, the National Prayer and Fast Committee or the Washington Institute for Values in Public Policy – the Unification Church is affiliated with all.
“The Unification movement retains the outline, though not always the substance, of classical Christian doctrine,” Beverley states in his book, The Nelson’s Illustrated Guide to Religions. “Divine Principle, the famous Unification ‘Bible,’ has been the centerpiece in Unification evangelism and in-house teaching.”
Divine Principle was penned by the Rev. Moon, with a disciple, and published in 1966. But “Moon has always made it clear that his ongoing teachings and sermons themselves constitute the most important source of modern revelation,” the book clarifies.
“The Unification Movement would see the Bible as an errant book,” Kurt Goedelman, of PFO, pointed out in an interview with CP.
Theologians seem to agree on other key areas where Unificationist teaching clearly departs from Scriptural Christianity: the Fall, the Trinity (including denying Jesus’ sinless nature) and the resurrection of Christ.
“Moon denies the Trinity, minimizes the sovereignty of God, and teaches salvation based partly on human works, including payment for liberating ancestors," Beverley explained.
Also, “The Unification Church (Sun Myung Moon) teaches that mankind’s Fall was twofold: (1) spiritual and (2) physical,” said Ric Walston, president of Columbia Evangelical Seminary of Washington, in an email to CP.
“(1) The Spiritual Fall: The Unification Church teaches that God wanted Adam and Eve to mature to the point of spiritual perfection before they engaged in sex and had children. If they had done this, they would have been ‘True Parents’ and they would have had perfect children, and, thus, they would have established the kingdom of God on earth,” he wrote. “But, Lucifer seduced Eve and had spiritual sexual relations with her. Their spirit bodies committed fornication. This is what caused the ‘Spiritual Fall.’”
“(2) The Physical Fall: The Unification Church teaches that in her effort to right this wrong, Eve seduced Adam and they had physical sex. But, Eve was motivated by ‘satanic love’ and Adam and Eve’s children (and all children thereafter) were children of the devil. This physical, sexual union between Adam and Eve is the ‘Physical Fall’ of mankind.”
Walston said that the belief system teaches “Jesus was [the] only person since the Fall who was without sin and so he was to redeem mankind both spiritually and physically. But, Jesus failed his divine mission.”
Instead of getting married and having children, thereby redeeming humanity “both spiritually and physically,” Jesus died, Walston said.
“So, Jesus only redeemed humanity spiritually by dying on the cross; and, now, Sun Myung Moon is the second coming of ‘Christ’ to redeem mankind physically.”
Branch also explained, “Sun Myung Moon claims to have received the revelation that he was to fulfill what Jesus did not do.”
PFO director Goedelman summed, “Only devotion to Moon and his wife can bring salvation.”
"The Unification Church centers on Sun Myung Moon as the key Savior and Lord. Jesus is viewed ultimately as someone who failed in his original mission. Unificationists focus on Moon and his Divine Principle and his ongoing teaching. Christians focus on Jesus and the Bible and the Gospel as given by Jesus and his original disciples," Beverley stated.
Because followers are so heavily indoctrinated and highly devoted to Moon, it is hard to reach them with any other message.
“Defectors are extremely exiled,” Miller noted. “One leader in the Unification church told me that he believed in true Scripture, but if he left the church, ‘I lose my wife, I lose my job, I lose my family, I lose everything.’”
Beverley stressed, “The way to win the Unificationists is through love not coercion."
"Followers of Sun Myung Moon are usually highly committed to Unification teachings. Consequently, there is not much openness to evangelical Christian faith,” he said. “However, the Unification Church is going through a crisis now because of the split between Moon's oldest and youngest sons. Further, there are increasing signs of doubt about Moon himself, given the clear evidence of his own failures and those of his family. Given these realities, Christians can witness with love and patience about the supremacy of Jesus as the only Savior and Lord."
“Generally, when I approach any cult member, I don’t tell them their religion is wrong. I take a more confused approach: ‘Wait a minute, I don’t understand, you believe this, but your Scripture says this.’”
He said that when regarding the Unification Church, Christians need to keep in mind Matthew 24 and Luke 13.
“For many will come in my name, claiming, 'I am the Christ,' and will deceive many” (Matt 24:5).
“Many will knock on the door, saying Lord, Lord, open unto us, but He will reply, ‘I don't know you or where you come from'” (Luke 13:25).
Editors’ note: This is the fifth story in a multi-part series examining cults, Christianity and belief systems that claim to be Christianity. The Christian Post will be looking at several belief systems that are commonly associated with Christianity and providing expert opinions and research on those belief systems. While the CP recognizes the issue of semantics when using the words “cult” and “Christianity,” for our purposes, we are defining those belief systems outside of Christianity whose proponents claim to be Christian to be "cults."