The Heavenly Deception

Crazy for God: The Nightmare of Cult Life

by Christopher Edwards
Prentice-Hall, 233 pp., $8.95

Moonstruck: A Memoir of My Life in a Cult

by Allen Tate Wood and Jack Vitek
William Morrow, 192 pp., $8.95

Hostage to Heaven: Four Years in the Unification Church, by an Ex-Moonie and the Mother Who Fought to Free Her

by Barbara Underwood and Betty Underwood
Clarkson N. Potter, 320 pp., $10.95

Science, Sin, and Scholarship: The Politics of Reverend Moon and the Unification Church

edited by Irving Louis Horowitz
MIT Press, 290 pp., $12.50

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 be no crime or poverty”—continuous group activities, just like in summer camp: “Let’s all line up like good heavenly children for hot chocolate and brownies!”

There’s even a camp cheer: “Choo-choo-choo, choo-choo-choo. Yay, yay—Pow!”

Running like little children, giggling and laughing,…people high on each other…. I could feel myself getting high, high from this smiling group, this happy Family surrounding me….

The only cards he is allowed to write home have little designs of clowns and puppy dogs on them. The only time he is allowed to phone home one of the Family members keeps her ear close to Chris’s, listening in.

In college Chris Edwards was particularly fond of Kant, Husserl, “and above all Hegel.”

In the fourth week he gives the Family his “one oh-oh” (100 percent) and takes particular pride in indoctrinating newcomers to the love-and-brotherhood ethic of Boonville Camp. “God’s even here in the cookie dough,” he tells novices during kitchen tasks.

Barely six weeks after his first dinner with the Family Chris has been transferred to “city work” and is a full-time Moonie. Through his sincerity and obedience he has joined those of the elect who are allowed to know that God has sent a twentieth-century Messiah to earth in the form of a fifty-five-year-old Korean businessman called Sun Myung Moon. To participate in the task of redeeming mankind from the hold of Satan, Chris is lying his way through the streets of Berkeley, selling flowers whose proceeds he says are going to a fund for “deprived children.” In fact the hundreds of tax-free dollars that his flower team earns each day are immediately deposited into “Father” Moon’s numerous bank accounts in the Bay Area. Chris has been instructed in the doctrine of “heavenly deception.” It teaches that since all persons not redeemed by membership in Moon’s cult belong to the world of Satan there is no reason to respect their principles of honesty or truth.

Chris has also renounced his natural parents (who are tainted because they’re descendants of Adam and Eve’s sin) and has chosen as his True Parents Father Moon and his wife, the True Mother. On Sunday mornings he goes to a Prayer Meeting Ground consecrated by Reverend Moon himself and with hundreds of cult members recites the Children’s Oath, a long vow to overcome Lucifer and win the entire world over for the new Messiah. Scribbled in indelible ink on Chris’s knuckles are the slogans “No More Concepts” and “Smash Out Doubt.” He has become skilled at the technique of “love-bombing,” which Moonies are taught to practice upon their prospective recruits—flattery, a constant and loving smile, a gaze specifically aimed at two inches behind the subject’s eyes. His group leader has a PhD in behavioral psychology from Michigan and tells him to “actualize” when he’s not working hard enough.

Chris actualizes for seventeen-hour stretches recruiting new disciples or selling flowers in streets and late-night bars. At least three more hours of his waking day are dedicated to group chanting, group prayer, and indoctrination sessions from Master Speaks, a collection of Moon’s sayings. He is constantly exhausted by lack of sleep, often weakened by the malnutrition caused by his high carbohydrate diet, comes close to having his infected hand amputated when the cult refuses to let him see a doctor until it’s almost too late. Whenever he suffers a moment of doubt, exhaustion, hunger, nausea, homesickness, or sexual temptation (intercourse not specifically approved by Father Moon is considered “worse than murder”) he resorts to the inner chanting of an invocation against the Evil One. “Smash out Satan! Smash out Satan!”

The story of Chris Edwards’s seven-month stay in the Unification Church, of how this cult managed to turn a highly intelligent young American into a robot, ends with a different sort of terror: Chris returns to his natural parents only after being kidnapped at their behest by the “deprogrammer” Ted Patrick, whom he’s been indoctrinated to look upon as “Satan himself.” “The Impala pulled in back of the Holiday Inn…man opened door…ohmyGod, Heavenly Father, save me, save me! big men, two big men climbed in back…my arms pinned…doors slammed, car flew out of lot…futile chanting—SAVE ME, FATHER….”

The Unification Church of Reverend Sun Myung Moon, which claims some 30,000 “followers” and 7,000 “hardcore members” in the United States, differs radically from the numerous other Eastern sects that have flourished in the United States in the past few decades. And in order to assess its particular dangers it must be seen for what it is, a new kind of cult which uses recent methods of behavior modification and corporate management techniques to achieve specific political and economic ends. Whereas other Oriental sects offer ancient Vedic meditations as a road to “higher consciousness,” the methods of Moon’s church are more akin to those used by twentieth-century totalitarian regimes to indoctrinate dissidents into cohesive loyalty—sleep deprivation, low-energy diets, withholding of information, frequent and disorienting shifts of living quarters, rigid schedules of group activities cleverly interspersed with brainwashing talk fests.

Mahara Ji and Hare Krishna appealed to the apolitical streak of the post-Vietnam war generation. Moon preaches a grandiosely detailed program of right-wing action which aspires to influence strongly our domestic and foreign policy; and which aims to unite all religions under his leadership into one world-wide theocracy by 1981 (Moon: “Separation between religion and politics is what Satan likes best”).

The other spiritual cafeterias of the early 1970s catered to that generation’s rebellion against the Protestant work ethic. Former members of the Unification Church report that they were exhorted to make a minimum of one hundred dollars a day for Moon to earn salvation, and Barbara Underwood, the author of one of the memoirs under review, boasts that she singlehandedly made one quarter of a million dollars for the cult in her four years of membership. (Samples from the Master’s Sayings: “We must reclaim all ownership of money and land from Satan’s stolen stockpile.” “Do you like to make green bills happy?…So many green bills are crying…they’re all destined to go to Father[Moon].”) Team cheers, kindergarten food, “bombing” with “love,” rose-selling crusades, Smiley Buttons, Children’s Oaths to a Heavenly Family, thirty “Boonville” youth camps spread throughout the United States—such sentimental imagery seems to appeal to a deeply infantile streak in many contemporary American adolescents, more than a few of whom come from exceptionally “well-educated” and “united” families.

During the past seven years the hard-selling activities of Moon’s flower-vending teams have helped him to do very good business. On the East Coast alone, his Church has been able to buy for a national headquarters the former Columbia University Club on West 44th Street (right opposite the Harvard Club and The Century Association), as well as the former New Yorker Hotel on West 34th Street, the Manhattan Center ten blocks down, and a two-million-dollar building of the Loft Candy Company in Queens. Moon has set up his own theological seminary in a monastery once owned by the Christian Brothers in upstate New York.1 He himself lives with his wife and seven children in the twenty-five-room mansion formerly owned by the Samuel Bronfman family in Tarrytown. He has also acquired a fifty-foot cabin cruiser, the New Hope, nearly succeeded in obtaining majority holding of the New Diplomat Bank in Washington, DC, and has purchased a vast complex of fishing fleets and fish-processing plants centered in Norfolk, Virginia, Gloucester, Massachusetts, and Bayou La Battre, Louisiana. These make Moon the leading exporter of untaxed fish in the United States, his so-called Church of Unification having the tax-exempt status of all religious institutions. The bluefin tuna caught in Gloucester, for instance, is shipped to the Orient under the pretense that it is a “gift” to his followers there, and is sold in Japan at $20a pound.2

There is a pragmatic mercantilism to Moon’s cult, a commercial genius for imitation and packaging. Moon came from a Protestant family in northern Korea, but was excommunicated from the Presbyterian Church in the 1950s after founding his own cult. According to a New York Times report he was arrested several times in Korea, although accounts differ whether the arrests were for political activities or “on moral charges…because of ‘purification’ rites with female initiates.”3 When he sent his first missionaries to the United States in the early 1960s, he made his sect ascetic for American export and Westernized its theology. Although the doctrine he teaches in Korea and Japan is based on Buddhism he has shrewdly marketed it for America in the form of a Christian Youth Crusade.

What Moon sells is a hodgepodge of heretic Christianity, rabid civil religion, and human potential movement practices whose elements are much more familiar and appealing to young Americans than those of any other Asian sect. According to Divine Principle, the sacred book that Moon says was revealed to him by Christ in 1936, when he was sixteen, God had intended Adam and Eve to have “perfect children” and immediately create God’s kingdom on earth. The plan was thwarted by Eve’s lapse into sin. When God sent Jesus to redeem mankind the assigned Redeemer bungled his mission by failing to marry and bear perfect children (note the stress on family again). Enter the Second Messiah, who will end the battle fought between God and Satan since the Garden Scene of Act I. We are told this Second Messiah was born in Korea in 1920, just like Moon.

As for Moon’s civil religion, it teaches politically disaffected young people to look on America again as “God’s final bulwark on earth,” “the nation which God loves and has prepared the most,” the “chosen nation” which must maintain a constant peak of military superiority to win the Armageddon over Satanic communism. To achieve his divine plan, Moon has explicitly stated his intention of infiltrating our political system at its grass roots. (“If the US continues its corruption and we find among the Senators and Congressmen no one really usable for our purposes we can make Senators and Congressmen out of our members.”) The divine plan also seems to demand that Moon maintain very close personal corporate ties to the dictatorship of Park Chung Hee. Moon came to the United States only after he had already become a multimillionaire from a large industrial conglomerate in Korea which produces among other things heavy machinery, titanium, marble bases, shotguns, and ginseng tea. He arrived in 1972, the high point of Nixon’s popularity, ready to support the president and his program of “Vietnamization” and to capitalize on the possibility that American youth were starved for family, God, country, sexual restraints, and their lost childhood.

Conversion,” William James wrote, “is in essence a normal adolescent phenomenon, incidental to the passage from the child’s small universe to the wider intellectual and spiritual life of society….” All three of the memoirs under review cite social pressures they find unique to the 1970s which make the rite of passage from adolescence to maturity particularly difficult: the mechanical quality of much of our education, a tightly competitive job market which renders part of that education useless, the painful sense of obsolescence felt by many young adults, the menaces of an overly eroticized society. All three writers suggest that while cult life serves as a refuge from true adulthood the infantile play-acting of Moon’s Church can offer a curiously potent illusion of adulthood. The adolescent’s anguish about being marginal to society is suddenly replaced by a sense of cosmic purpose and corporate power; Moon’s managerial go-getters are world-savers doing holy business; and unlike the members of any other Eastern cult marketed in the United States, they are exhorted to be enterprising salesmen in the familiar spirit of the American Protestant ethic.

Christopher Edward’s Crazy for God, the best memoir I’ve read about life in a contemporary cult, is a fascinating and troubling book; the author’s evident intelligence and wit make his particular conversion all the more difficult to grasp. Edwards describes numerous tactics used by the Unification Church to purge the recruit of his skepticism after he has been already mesmerized by “the warmth and caring” of the highly isolated Boonville camp. Cult leaders organize confusing group encounter games with no clear rules so as to make the recruit feel helpless and disoriented. Chris is made to play a totally irrational game of volleyball during which the teams rhythmically chant “Bomb with Love,” “Blast with Love.” He is initially angered by the mayhem, is ordered to shout louder, louder. “As I clapped and shouted I could feel my tensions slipping away, my sense of involvement growing.”

The recruit is constantly rewarded for his compliance with group activities by additional shows of affection—flattering words, hugs, gifts of candy. To paraphrase Chris Edwards’s psychologese, “His new ego identity is being built up as the old one is being destroyed.” Religious beliefs of a nebulous charismatic nature are drilled into the recruit in between the bouts of physical activity which are instilling group cohesion. “God is searching the world to call His children home one by one. Try praying, Chris….”

Revivalist hysteria takes over. An intense inner conflict is created between the “old” and “new” identities by increasingly stressing the power of Satan. Recruits are forced to confess that their old lives were worthless. Throughout his stay at camp, a seasoned cult member is assigned to the nascent convert around the clock to reinterpret his old life according to the new beliefs. The recruit is promised that he will receive gifts of prophecy if he offers the cult unswerving loyalty.

Why couldn’t Edwards see through such claptrap? Have Moon’s behavioral psychologists devised methods of mind control so clever that they can break down all intelligent resistance? Or was Edwards, as he himself seems to suggest, suffering from a new “malaise” that led him to crave instant “relating”—instant intimacy—so intensely that he was willing to swallow any nonsense to feel important and loved? As Chris climbs up the organizational hierarchy of the Moon Church and is indoctrinated with its specific Satanism, his own method of dealing with inner doubts shifts from energetic participation in group activities to the mesmeric devices of “inner chanting” drilled into him by the cult. Satan is blamed, for instance, when Chris fights sleepiness during a lecture by Reverend Moon himself. The pudgy, bald, uniquely charmless guru in a blue business suit addresses his acolytes through an interpreter in shouted Korean, “surveying the crowd with indifference,…chopping the air with violent strokes,” while Chris, trying to keep awake, chants to himself SMASH OUT SATAN, SMASH OUT SATAN.

What is most alarming in such passages is Chris’s admission that his loneliness, his need for community and for a childlike passivity are so immense that he’d rather shout or chant his way out of doubt than scrutinize the cult’s methods or beliefs, thereby risking the bliss of “belonging.” “Group affiliation is a stronger force than ideology,” Edwards writes, “which only justifies and reinforces the affiliation…. I who had learned to dwell in solitude was now learning to live…in utter obedience…a mere heavenly child with no past life, no history.”

The sense of infantile dependence, the renunciation of the will to which Edwards confesses are familiar from other accounts of mystical experience. One flaw of Crazy for God is that the author briefly hints that he had “searched for God” throughout his university years, but doesn’t tell us much about that search. He is still either too fragile emotionally or too reticent to do more than make collegiate jokes about the emotional starvation which made him so vulnerable to the Family’s spiritual pap. “Was I to chant with the Hare Krishnas…and drink cow urine in secret ritual each morning…? Was there no end to the desperation of my brothers and sisters of this country?”

The same “TV-fast-food-generation” that turned its back on material and technological values in the 1960s, Chris writes in his persuasive conclusion, “never abandoned the most striking effect of technological values: the search for rapid and sure results.” The young people he discusses seem to expect the immediate achievement of certain experiences—“warm relationships,” “relating in a close way”—which used to be waited for with more patience and skepticism. Who of us born before 1950 went to college burdened with the psycho-babble of the self which recurs in all three of these memoirs—“creating a supportive community” with “people who feel comfortable with each other’s needs”?

Chris Edwards and Allen Tate Wood both turned to the Father of the Second Advent to find “a warm loving group,” but there the similarities between them end. Moonstruck is a document of little value (even as pathology) because its author seems to have been so often stoned at Sewanee College that he couldn’t have told the difference between Meher Baba and Merv Griffin. Wood’s boasting about his literary grandpa Allen Tate and grandma Caroline Gordon is made all the more embarrassing by his atrocious prose. “My mother now had two teenage sons, me and my older brother Pete.” Even after being deprogrammed, Wood remains dishonest enough to giggle about his success at heavenly deception. In 1972, for instance, he earned good money on a summer job with his liberal antiwar congressman—Frank Thompson of New Jersey—while spending his free time proselytizing for the war with Moon’s rabidly right-wing youth group, American Youth for a Just Peace.

Wood later rose, for a brief time, to what he says was the second highest ranking post of Moon’s American organization, but he has little new to say about those who run it. The book’s only interesting moments concern the sect’s weird sexual practices. Cult members can only consummate their marriages with Father Moon’s specific consent, and the first three copulations must occur in the woman-above position in witness to “the woman-dominated fallen state where Eve’s seduction of Adam had left us.” “What are we going to do about the matter of homosexuality?” Wood asks Moon. “If it really gets to be a problem,” the Master answers, “tell them to cut it off, barbecue it, put it in a shoebox and mail it to me.” The Lord of the Second Advent then “roared” with laughter.

After leaving the Unification Church’s pro-Nixon crusades in 1974, Allen Wood returned to his liberal parents in Princeton, New Jersey, and eventually voted for Gene McCarthy, thereby voting for his own mother, Nancy Tate Wood, who was running as vice president on the local McCarthy ticket. Chris Edwards’s father is a successful New Jersey surgeon and “supportive” parent. Barbara Underwood’s father, a Quaker and CO during World War II, has been legal counsel to Mark Hatfield. Her mother is a prominent feminist who was a state delegate to the Women’s Convention in Mexico City. Many of the ex-Moonies so taken with the “closeness” of the Church Family also claim to have spent their childhood and adolescence with “close,” “caring,” “supportive” families of their own. One wonders if they have not confused “family” and “society,” and suffer from a regressive desire to prolong into the inevitably cool world of college and career the warmth of family ties.

Barbara Underwood’s memoir of life in the cult, Hostage to Heaven, makes much of the “mother-daughter relationship,” a prominent theme in current pop psychology. Betty (mother) has published “a series of historical novels for young adults” on the women’s rights movement, and earnestly tells us of her attempts to decipher what happened to her perfect liberal family. “Barb” (daughter) is wary, wily, shrewd, and has pretensions to writing poetry. The story of Barb’s four-year stay with the Moon cult is told in the alternating voices of the two women. As a piece of pathology this lamentably written and frequently dishonest book makes an interesting complement to Edward’s memoir, for it is told from the point of view of the long-indoctrinated recruiter rather than the fledgling recruit.

Barb” starts her account when her life as cult leader is already “a vast pace of urgent accomplishments.” Captain of a six-truck flower-selling team, each truck packed with buckets of sweet william, daffodils, and carnations, she drives through numerous states in three months, selling from 7 AM to 1 AM in streets, factories, office buildings, and bars. (Father Moon’s top aides encourage their acolytes to frequent bars because “people with a few drinks in them buy more readily.”) Selling her flowers at a 400 percent markup, she makes as much as $60,000 dollars a year to redeem the world from Satan’s hold, and boasts that she earns more money in her holy business than her dad, “and he’s a lawyer.” She has been taught that as an “urban guerrilla” for the forces of world redemption she mustn’t breathe a word to new recruits about the cult’s financial activities and that each client deceived into buying her flowers has actually taken a step toward heavenly redemption.

Ambitious and diligent, Barb takes her “holy brigade” of sellers as far as Montreal (“Voulez-vous acheter des fleurs?“), and resorts to selling little American flags and fortune cookies on a cold winter night when her team is stuck with frozen flowers. Back in Boonville to attend top-level meetings she reports that the so-called “meditation hour” allowed cult members from 5 to 6 PM is also intended to be “the only time for showering, letter writing, playing musical instruments, counselling, reading, or taking a hike.” These corporate executives’ hectic managerial schedules may make the reader want to take a bus to the nearest TM camp.

Toward the end of Hostage to Heaven there is a long courtroom scene in which the parents of five Moonies have a hearing to determine whether they can be awarded a thirty-day legal “conservatorship” of their children. Eventually they win. Keeping notes throughout the trial, Barb’s mom dutifully records her child’s personality traits as revealed in a battery of “expert witness’ psychiatric tests: “Hysterical: Elevated but in the normal range…. Depression scale: Right on normal…. Introversion/Extroversion: Highly extrovertic…. Truthfulness: Not elevated.”

That last observation is the only part of the book’s conclusion the reader will find convincing. Apart from her admission that she’s experienced “fleeting impulses to return to the cosmic cocoon of church life,” Barbara’s account of her “deprogramming” (in “a Tucson hacienda-style home…which provides warm understanding support…and very beautiful communal family atmosphere”) seems so ecstatic it is hard to credit. Moreover the flippant ease with which she swoops back into her former life goes directly against every other first-person account of cult defection I know of. Chris Edwards describes with apparently painful honesty the year of psychotherapy that followed his leaving the cult, his recurring states of trance and extreme anxiety. Other studies based on the testimonies of hundreds of former cultists4 document the hallucinations and “floating” that can pursue them for months or years; their recurring fear of Satanic possession; their guilt in all matters sexual; the sense of guilt they suffer about lying to parents, friends, and strangers; and the confused feelings they have toward the fact that they may never make that much money again as long as they live. But apart from missing “the level of exhilaration” she had in her former life, Barb slides down the ladder of defection like a kid going down a swimming pool chute and becomes a deprogrammer herself.

Former Moonies tend to engage in anti-Moon activism with the same single-minded manic commitment they once offered to the Church. Allen Wood has also become a deprogrammer. After a year of study at the Princeton Theological Seminary Chris Edwards works in the anti-Moon crusade as a counselor and lecturer on cults. They present us with a new phenomenon of reverse Paulinism, apostles turned persecutors of their former faith.

Barb even married one of her own deprogrammers, but still she finds “no community of worship as energizing as the Unification Church.” And she leaves us with this strikingly nostalgic statement about a totalitarian technique that has turned many thousands of young Americans into lying hustlers.

The Church Family offered first of all a sense of belonging to a romantic and intense world that needed each and every one of us…brothers and sisters, we were bound in eros, in the instinct for life, but shielded by Church-ordained safeguards against any expression of sexuality. Tired of competitive scholarship, we welcomed community emotion….

Science, Sin, and Scholarship is a collection of essays documenting the persistence with which Moon has infiltrated powerful groups in America, from the federal government to the universities. It is carefully edited by Irving L. Horowitz, a sociologist who became alarmed when Moon started inviting distinguished scholars to meetings of something called the International Conference on the Unity of the Sciences. The “ICUS” is a typically grandiose venture which attempts even to give Moon academic respectability. For the past four years it has invited some four hundred scholars to the Washington Hilton for three-day seminars, offering them multi-thousand dollar fees to sit on panels and discuss such themes as “the search for absolute values.”

Professor Horowitz was bothered by the fact that many more academics accepted than refused, that Moon’s guest list has often read like a little Who’s Who in Academe, including many Nobel laureates. Since 1976, Horowitz has eloquently raised the question of how scholars can with academic and intellectual integrity take part in conferences run by “a man who presumes to rule the universe.” His anthology of writings on the Moon cult gives clear evidence, for instance, of Moon’s close ties to the Korean lobby and the Korean CIA. Moon’s principal aide, interpreter, and constant companion is Colonel Pak Bo Hi, a former military attache at the US Embassy in Seoul. According to testimony given to a House Subcommittee on International Organizations headed by Congressman Donald Fraser, Pak is allowed to use the Korean Embassy’s direct cable to Seoul, which goes only to the Korean prime minister, the foreign minister, the director of that nation’s CIA, and President Park himself.

Horowitz also documents the Nixon connection: between 1969 and 1974 Moon’s campaign in support of the Vietnam war, the invasion of Cambodia, and the beleaguered presidency of Richard Nixon was masterminded by the “Freedom Leadership Foundation” headed by Neil Salonen, a former executive of the Dale Carnegie Institute who is president of the Unification Church’s American branch. Horowitz’s volume also offers fine summations of the difficult constitutional issues raised by the current practice of kidnapping and deprogramming cult members. And this excellent book makes us understand the enormous difficulties of investigating the inner workings of Moon’s empire or the legality of his political activities, since his religious status makes him immune to a public IRS audit and exempts him from registration under the Foreign Agents Registration Act.

There are ominous parallels between our government’s passivity toward the Unification Church and the early warnings—unheeded by the State Department—concerning the dangers of the People’s Temple. Congressman Fraser’s committee recommended in 1978 that further investigation of Moon’s cult be undertaken jointly by the State Department Internal Revenue, and other government agencies, but this suggestion has not been taken up. The Fraser Committee Report cites evidence of many federal laws being violated by the Church, but the Justice Department has failed to make an inquiry of its own.

Thus Moon’s campaign for power and respectability is being allowed to grow, uncurbed. The Reverend is funding the filming of an $18-million war epic currently being shot in Korea—Inchon, starring Laurence Olivier, Jacqueline Bisset, and Ben Gazzara—which dramatizes his Manichaean brand of anti-communism and promises to be yet another propaganda outlet for President Park Chung Hee’s dictatorship.5 Moon’s so-called International Cultural Foundation, one of many affiliates of the Unification Church, is suing MIT Press on the grounds that Irving Horowitz’s Science, Sin, and Scholarship is guilty of copyright violation.

Meanwhile, the newest mailing sent out by the Lord of the Second Advent includes a set of slick colored brochures that offer free admission to his weekly World of Hope Festivals in New York City. Participants are promised they will be “uplifted by a powerful and inspiring message” and have a chance to win a free trip to the Holy Land. The mailing also offers a Divine Principle Home Study Course in six glossy volumes boasting color reproductions of Michel-angelo’s sculptures and strikingly reminiscent, in its sales pitch, to the promotion campaigns of the Literary Guild, the Encyclopaedia Britannica, and other products promising self-improvement. “What is the way to greater intimacy in my relationship? What is the purpose of my life and how can I find happiness? You will discover all you need to know…in the free first volume of the Divine Principle Study Course.”

As the sect’s psychological aggressiveness increases, there are indications its members have been resorting to physical violence. On last August 20, two directors of Moon’s church in Virginia were arrested on charges of shooting at the car of two former Moonies who had gone to their previous cult homes to retrieve their belongings.6

Many former cult members have testified that Moon urges his followers to be “willing to die for him.” Chris Edwards reports that he has received two death threats since his book appeared. His parents—like those of many defectors from Moon’s cult—had to hire a live-in detective for many months because of the harassment—break-ins, trailing of family cars—which occurred after his deprogramming. The detective assigned to one of the defectors’ families, Galen Kelly, was recently in a hospital for a week with a concussion after a Moonie allegedly beat him on the head repeatedly with a rock. Former cult members like Chris Edwards fear that this violence can only grow as Moon’s messianic hopes for world domination fail to be fulfilled.

There is always the possibility, of course, that Moon will shift the focus of his millennial aspirations to another country. “If he finds it impossible to do his work in America,” Moon recently announced in that sacral third person he uses in public appearances, “he will go to Germany…. Germans are trained in totalism (sic), so it will be easier to work on his mission there.”


The Moonies April 3, 1980

The Moonies April 3, 1980

  1. 1

    Marianne Lester, “Profits, Politics, Power,” The Times Magazine (US Army Times), July 25, 1977.

  2. 2

    This information is based on Tim Sullivan’s excellent reports in The Gloucester Daily Times between 1976 and 1978.

  3. 3

    Berkeley Rice, “The Pull of Moon,” New York Times Magazine, May 30, 1976.

  4. 4

    Margaret Singer, “Coming Out of the Cults,” Psychology Today, January 1979.

  5. 5

    New York Post, September 13, 1979.

  6. 6

    The Washington Post, August 22, 1979.