The Unification Church: An Overview

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On Easter Sunday 1936, 16-year-old Yong Moon claims he saw a vision of Jesus Christ. “In that vision, Jesus asked him to continue the work which he had begun on earth nearly 2,000 years before. Jesus asked him to complete the task of establishing God’s kingdom on earth and bringing His peace to humankind” ( Moon reluctantly accepted the challenge, changing his name to Sun Myung Moon (Sun Shining Moon) and eventually launching a new religion that blends Eastern faiths, occult practices and Christianity. Moon’s church began as The Holy Spirit Association for the Unification of World Christianity in 1954, and today is officially known as the Family Federation for World Peace and Unification.

From prisoner to self-proclaimed prophet

Raised in the Korean Presbyterian Church since his family converted to Christianity in 1930, Moon says he was spiritually tested as a prisoner of war during the Japanese occupation of Korea during World War II. By the time of his release, he claims he spent nine years in the world of the occult, consorting with the spirits of Jesus, Confucius, Mohammad and Buddha. He says he confronted Satan and forced him to reveal the real reason for the fall of man, namely that Eve had sexual relations with Satan and then passed sin on to mankind through sex with Adam. By 1946 he had adopted a peculiar set of new doctrines and began to preach them boldly. That same year he was charged with sexual immorality and heresy and expelled from the Presbyterian Church. Two years later the North Korean Communists took him captive until Allied Forces liberated him in 1950. Within a few years he released The Divine Principle, considered the authoritative scriptures for the Unification Church (UC).

The next 50 years were characterized by divorce and charges of cruelty by his first wife; remarriage to Hak Ja Han in what the UC calls the “Marriage of the Lamb,” establishing “The True Family;” a growing following throughout Asia and in the United States; charges of psychological, spiritual and labor abuse by “Moonies;” charges of tax evasion and 18 months of incarceration in U.S. federal prison; the establishment of The Washington Times newspaper; a tell-all book alleging sexual infidelity, family abuse, and illegal drug use; and several family tragedies.

Messianic claims

Through it all, Moon preached the doctrine of his “True Family” as the model for all people, insisting that his children would reinstitute a pure and perfect godly line of humanity. He also grew emboldened in his claims to be the Messiah. In 1985 Moon revealed for the first time his grandiose self image, boasting in a public speech, “With my emergence as the victorious Lord of the Second Advent for the world, a new order has come into being.” In 2004 he and his wife were crowned by the church as the world’s “Savior, Messiah, Returning Lord and True Parents.”  The event was held in the Dirksen Senate Office Building in Washington, D.C.; it was attended by several members of Congress and local D.C. church leaders.

The church is less prominent today than when it burst upon the U.S. scene in the 1970s, yet it retains considerable investments in U.S. property and business, and Moon continues to yield absolute authority over his followers, estimated to number between 1-2 million worldwide. There likely are fewer than 30,000 Unification members in North America.


Key teachings

Authority. The main tenets of UC doctrine are featured in a number of books, most significantly The Divine Principle and Master Speaks, a collection of Moon’s sermons. Other messages by Moon also are considered authoritative. The UC makes reference to the Bible only to justify its doctrines, even though its doctrines clearly are unscriptural.

The Fall. Borrowing from the Yin-Yang dualism of Taoism, Moon’s worldview embraces the “give and take action” of creation. God, according to the UC, is the “Universal Prime Energy” who constantly interacts with the universe in what Moon calls the “Four Fold Foundation” of human history. All creation had its origin in God, who then made a division in his creation by making Adam (masculine) and Eve (feminine) according to the “give and take action,” which through sexual union would produce a divine bloodline of pure perfect children. In other words, the God-Adam-Eve-child union would complete the four fold foundation.

However, according to the UC, before Adam and Eve could produce their perfect offspring, Satan deceived Eve into having sexual intercourse with him. She then had sexual relations with Adam, resulting in a Satanically sired human bloodline through Cain. Later, with Adam, Eve bore the godly line through Abel.

Jesus. Because the human race was now corrupted, God must send a redeemer to restore people to their proper state. The UC says Jesus was sent to “pay indemnity” (suffer) to redeem the human race from spiritual death and to restore the pure godly bloodline of humanity. According to the UC, Jesus accomplished only spiritual redemption – the first phase – of his mission. He failed to complete the second phase (physical redemption) because he was crucified before he could marry and have children. Thus, another redeemer (Moon) would need to come about 2,000 years later to finish the divine mission. Like Jesus, he would suffer – as Moon did as a prisoner of war – but then live a long life, marry a perfect mate, produce perfect children and thus complete the “Four Fold Foundation.”

Salvation. According to the UC, all people may receive the benefits of Moon’s suffering and triumph as Messiah by joining his “true family.” One completes the “divine adoption” process by joining Moon’s church, pledging total obedience to him, and entering into a marriage relationship blessed by Moon to a mate personally selected by him. Over the years, Moon has conducted mass weddings with thousands of couples taking their vows before him. In most cases, the brides and grooms did not even know each other before their wedding day. To make matters more difficult, after their wedding ceremony, UC couples are required to observe 40 days of celibacy, followed by three days of consummation and then three years of celibacy.

Financial support. The UC uses “heavenly deception” in its fund-raising efforts. For example, healthy will solicit funds from wheelchairs. As Moon explains, lying to advance the UC is not a sin because “even God tells lies very often.” The annual income from the UC in Japan, the U.S. and Europe in charitable donations is estimated at more than $150 million.