Crazy for God: The Nightmare of Cult Life
Moonstruck: A Memoir of My Life in a Cult
Hostage to Heaven: Four Years in the Unification Church, by an Ex-Moonie and the Mother Who Fought to Free Her
Science, Sin, and Scholarship: The Politics of Reverend Moon and the Unification Church
He’d just graduated from Yale with straight A’s in philosophy but his girl-friend left him for an Iraqi Marxist. His career at college was academically brilliant and emotionally arid. He was “searching desperately for community.” Walking through the streets of Berkeley in the summer of 1975, Chris Edwards was approached by a young man his age who invited him to have dinner with “the family” he lived with, “a very loving, very idealistic group of young people.” He went to dinner. He was a little perplexed by his hosts’ affectionate, constant smiling; but their passionate interest in him seemed like an oasis after “the verbal jousts, the endless mocking and scorning” of his Ivy League life. He was touched by the affectionate way they piled brownies on his plate. They called themselves the Family. They had a country place in Boonville, ninety miles north of SanFrancisco.
“Since you enjoyed this evening so much, Chris, why don’t you join us for the weekend?”
That night they took Chris to the country in a yellow school bus the sides of which were painted with elephant faces. Plied with hot chocolate and marshmallows (“my boyhood favorite”), Chris continued to feel extraordinarily loved and appreciated during his weekend at the Family’s farm. His initial unease with their frequent God talk vanished during the strenuous program of singing, shouting, and group games the Family indulged in throughout the three days.
“Zip-a-Dee-Do-Dah…. Put On a Happy Face…. Getting to Know You…. Happy Days Are Here Again….”
“Okay kids, let’s go for a dip in the brook, last one in is a monkey!”
Chris is never given a moment to be alone, he’s not even allowed to go to the bathroom by himself. He soon experiences “the ecstasy of merging into the mass, tasting the glorious pleasure that accompanies the loss of the ego.” Childhood fantasies—“images of chocolate-chip cookies and warm milk”—sway through Chris’s mind as he goes to sleep in a dormitory called the Chicken Palace; he runs his fingers across the top of his sleeping bag “just as I used to do with my blanket as a child.” No drugs, drink, sex, no problems or decisions. Chris signs up to stay for another week at the Family’s camp, and then he signs a pledge form for a three-week stay. “Here was the warmth and free acceptance for which I had been searching. How different from college, where you could share a bathroom or classroom all year…without truly bridging the gulf between two lonely people.”
Throughout these weeks Chris is never told that the Boonville farm is an indoctrination center for the Unification Church of the Reverend Sun Myung Moon. He only knows it as “a wonderful caring community.”
In between long group discussions about how the Family is going to help save mankind—“fulfill God’s plan for creation,” “create a world where there’ll…
This article is available to online subscribers only.
Please choose from one of the options below to access this article:
Purchase a print premium subscription (20 issues per year) and also receive online access to all content on nybooks.com.
Purchase an Online Edition subscription and receive full access to all articles published by the Review since 1963.
Purchase a trial Online Edition subscription and receive unlimited access for one week to all the content on nybooks.com.