Modern Messiahs

Unification Church Mass Wedding

Unification Church Mass Wedding

How is this still going on? These people are terrifying. Reverend Sun Myung Moon, now 90 years old, married off 45,000 people in a mass Unification Church wedding ceremony.  45,000! The Unification Church is kind of old news at this point, but has been pretty controversial over the years and is probably the biggest cult in the world. They have these fairly terrifying mass weddings, which occur every few years and are basically a gathering of all young Church couples in stadiums under the auspices and blessings of Rev. Moon. The marriages are all arranged; in the old days, Rev. Moon himself would pair up young church members, and in many cases the mass wedding day was the first time the couple would meet. Nowadays, they are usually introduced a few days before hand. Progress!

Rev. Moon has also been embroiled in a bunch of controversies over the years. Apparently, the Moon family is extremely wealthy as a result of the Church and it seems that the Church operates more like a multinational than a religious institution. Kind of similar to the Catholic Church in the medieval ages, the Unification Church does things on a small scale like convince its members to buy expensive personal seals by threatening bad luck if they don’t.

The Good Reverend Moon

The Good Reverend Moon

In the 1980’s the  church was accused and convicted of defrauding thousands of elderly Japanese people of their life savings. Then, on the larger scale, the Unification Church has its arms in a bewildering array of business and cultural ventures worldwide, including ownership of the Washington Times newspaper, the New Yorker Hotel in NY, an ad agency, a ski resort, a seafood distribution firm, a professional soccer team, and a ballet troupe. One of Moon’s many sons owns an arms manufacturer and is also one of the heads of the Church’s business ops. Yea, I know, its like a poorly written screenplay treatment.

People have alleged that the Church used brainwashing techniques in its recruitment practices, although these allegations probably grew out of Cold War conspiracy theory tendencies of the 70’s and 80’s. More likely, the Church, like nearly all religious organizations, sought new members from the ranks of the poor, downtrodden, and abandoned members of society. Check out this Harper’s article to see an example of this type of practice still going on today.

The weirdest part of the Unification Church is that they have elevated Rev. Moon to the status of a deity. He is considered the messiah AKA the Second Coming of Jesus Christ and his Word is the Law. Jesus failed, BTW, so Moon had to rise from Nowhere, Korea to finish the job. Which apparently is to commit tax fraud. But then, in 2007, he was crowned “King of Peace.” Rev. Moon has already named his youngest son as his successor.

Rev. Moon is now King Moon

Rev. Moon is now King Moon

A bunch of congressmen and other government officials were part of the crowning ceremony, which I guess legitimizes it.

This whole thing is completely bizarre. Moon was part of a troop of 70’s religious demigods including Tammy Faye Baker, Jerry Falwell, Billy Graham, and Jesse Jackson, but none have lasted as long, amassed as much wealth, had as much worldwide influence, and have garnered as little attention as Rev. Moon and his Moonies. I guess now they work behind the scenes, and Moon Inc. is probably about as dangerous as Nike, GE, or Levi-Strauss. In a way, this is more fun too; we get kings and crowns, coronations and mass gatherings. Imagine if we gave Steve Jobs the power to marry people off. Don’t you think thousands of people would attend his cermonies?

A few years ago, I read Don DeLillo’s novel Mao II, which opens with a vivid description of a Unification Church marriage ceremony in the 70’s from the point of view of the parents of a young woman being married off. It was a terrifying scene, anxious, confused, and buzzing, making religious and personal connection into a mass spectacle, the perfect modern movement, headed by a multinational businessman, the perfect modern messiah.

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