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May 14, 2010, 11:31:41 AM
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Offline Peter

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Moonie Mass Weddings...
« on: May 14, 2010, 11:31:41 AM »
Some recent articles about Moonie mass weddings...

Unification Church Woos A Second Generation

    The Rev. Sun Myung Moon carried out one of the signature events of his church on Wednesday: He blessed about 7,000 couples in Seoul, South Korea — most of whom never saw each other before they were matched.

    Some members believe this might be one of the last mass weddings conducted by the nonagenarian founder of the controversial Unification Church, whose membership has dwindled in recent years. Now the church is focusing on keeping its young believers in the fold.

    New Ways Of Matching

    On a bitterly cold Friday night in January, more than 100 members of the Unification Church crowd into a classroom in the church seminary in upstate New York. The heat is turned on low, but the air is electric as the believers, ranging from late teens to early 20s, gather for the first of many workshops on Unification marriage.

    Men are on one side of the room, women on the other. Matched or engaged couples sit at the back. They open with songs from the '60s — "Eight Days a Week" and "If I Had a Hammer" — anthems from their parents' generation. These are "blessed children" — according to church doctrine, they were born without original sin because their parents were married by Moon, whom they consider the Messiah.

    One of those children is Roderick Miller, a senior at the University of Pennsylvania who will attend Harvard Law School next year. He's not dating anyone — his church doesn't allow it — and he believes that is the key to a successful marriage.

    "I'm not really interested in random flings with different girls," he says. "Ultimately, what I want is a happy and successful family, and a loving relationship with someone with whom I can share my life."

    Moon matched Roderick's father, Wayne, in 1979 to a French graduate student in a mass ceremony. Wayne says he "won the lottery."

    "We've had our arguments over the years, like all married couples," Wayne says. "But in some 30 years of engagement and married life, we've never argued about anything important."

    Roderick will not be married by Moon. Recently, the church began allowing parents to match their children, and Roderick will have a strong influence in the person they select. But Roderick says the church's emphasis on commitment is the same.

    "And I think that commitment to commitment — the idea of commitment in relationships and to creating really strong, ideal families — has certainly benefited me enormously, tremendously, beyond words," Roderick says.

    He says having a marriage like his parents' is "the end game." And the church wants to help him get there.

    The History Of The Movement

    During the pre-marriage workshop in January, family department director Phillip Schanker laid out the road map to a happy Unification marriage: no sex (or dating) before marriage, selflessness, service and the strength to weather all relationship storms.

    That road map was first drawn by Moon, who says that Jesus appeared to him when he was a poor teenager, and told him to finish Jesus' mission. According to Moon, Jesus said that his crucifixion and early death were not supposed to occur; rather, Jesus had been meant to marry and raise a family. Moon says he was charged with completing that mission by raising the perfect family as a model for the world.

    Moon's message of family and world peace arrived on American shores in the 1960s. It inspired an army of young people to drop out of college, live in vans and raise funds for the church. In its heyday, the church drew national headlines for conducting mass weddings and dabbling in conservative politics.

    The young believers at the marriage workshop wear this history as a badge of honor. Sure, they know some people view their church as a cult, and they bristle at the term "Moonie." They know their parents were ostracized — and some deprogrammed — for following their Korean Messiah. But 19-year-old Renee Martinez says they had to.

    EnlargeBarbara Bradley Hagerty/NPR
    Although Josh Schanker, 20, and Marina Shimoyama, 19, were "matched" by their parents, they were allowed to help make the selection. They were married at the mass blessing ceremony in Korea on Wednesday.
    "When the movement was first starting, Rev. Moon was a revolutionary," she says. "It was so different in the hippie era. People were talking about free love, and our church comes around, and we're talking about abstinence. So, of course, our parents had to be radical."

    Going Mainstream

    But the church has a different plan for the second generation, says Carrie Pimental, 18.

    "Our parents built the foundation, and after that, we're, like, building the walls and finishing it up," she says. "So basically, our goal is to be successful, have families, and have an impact on the world by doing great things and being good people."

    Today, the church wants college valedictorians, not dropouts, says Schanker's son Josh, who plans to be a consultant once he's graduated from Boston College. The church wants the second generation to fit into society — not fight it.

    "I mean, I want to be very wealthy and very successful and have a good education," Josh says. He and his parents have similar dreams, he says: "To create a beautiful, beautiful family, and to raise children with good character and good relationships with their family."

    Struggling With Membership

    No one knows how many Unificationists there are worldwide. In the U.S., estimates range from 15,000 to 25,000. But the numbers have dropped since the 1970s, in part because many "blessed" children have left the fold. Jason Agress left when he was 14, after he began dating a girl over his parents' objections.

    "Everything was a system of control," he says. "That's what it seemed to me like. They were kind of breeding us to be a certain way. And if you weren't that way, there was something wrong with you."

    D.F. Spratt agrees. She asked that her full name not be used because she worries the stigma of being once associated with the church could hurt her career. Spratt says she used to have nightmares about being married in a mass blessing to someone she didn't know. The pressure of being blessed, and so different from her peers, drove her away — though with some trepidation.

    "Back then, if you left the church, you fell off the face of the earth," she says. "It's the worst thing you could do. One person told us at Sunday school once that blessed children who fall out of the church go to a box underneath of hell."

    Winning Members Back

    Now the church wants to win these people back, since it is easier to reignite the faith of people familiar with the unusual doctrine than to win converts outside of the faith. James Beverley, a professor at Tyndale Seminary in Canada and associate director of the Institute for the Study of American Religion in Santa Barbara, says converting non-Unificationists is a "hard sell."

    "When you tell the average Christian in North America that Rev. Moon is the fulfillment of the second coming, and that Jesus failed (in his mission to have a family and bring world peace)," Beverley says, "that message doesn't help you go very far."

    So, how does the church go about wooing back those who have wandered from the faith? Phillip Schanker says the first step is acknowledging the excesses of the past.

    "Although we talk universal love and the value of the family, we sacrificed our families to the extreme," he says. "And that was Rev. Moon's emphasis. He saw himself as a person who would sacrifice to create a family and gather followers, and then he asked them to sacrifice. He put his kids through hell — like Gandhi. Gandhi did the same thing in order to move India. Rev. Moon is trying to move the world."

    Schanker and his generation felt an "apocalyptic" urgency to heed Moon's call, by going on missions for years at a time, fundraising for the church, and forgoing their education. But the church has turned 180 degrees, he says.

    "My oldest son is in Harvard Medical School. He was valedictorian at Boston University," Schanker says. "My daughters are doing great things. I've got two other sons on full scholarships. That's definitely what we've encouraged them to do, and we hope they can not only make Unificationism great, but contribute to the world."

    In this, the church is taking a page from another new religious movement: the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, or Mormons, who are growing by leaps and bounds in part because of their economic success. As to style of worship, the Unification Church is looking to yet another model: the evangelical megachurch.

    New Leadership

    On a recent Sunday morning, 1,200 Unificationists fill the cavernous ballroom at the Manhattan Center in New York City. They leap to their feet and wave their arms as a rock band plays a mix of Fleetwood Mac and worship music with a thumping beat. They fall silent as the lights dim, and burst into applause when, theatrically, a single light comes up to reveal a woman behind a podium.

    "How are you this morning?" asks In Jin Moon. "I bring you greetings from True Parents," she says, referring to Sun Myung Moon and his wife, Hak Ja Han.

    She speaks without notes for 40 minutes, weaving personal anecdotes with references to the Bible, Aristotle and Christian leaders. She is the 44-year-old daughter of Sun Myung Moon, and a graduate of Harvard Divinity School. When her father appointed her to head the U.S. church 18 months ago, she focused on one simple goal: to win back young people.

    "Well," she says laughing, "it's been quite challenging."

    In her first interview with a reporter since taking over the church, she tells NPR that a major challenge came from the Asian church elders, who were upset that a woman was selected to run the American church. Then, they balked at her vision: a national church, which she calls Lovin' Life Ministries, based in New York City, with smaller satellite churches.

    In Jin Moon replaced the old holy songs with rock 'n' roll, and fluorescent lighting with concert lighting and a giant video screen.

    "I think a lot of the leaders wanted to put an end to Lovin' Life after the first couple of weeks, but we just kept at it," she says.

    She did so because she faced a problem that plagues even established churches: How do you transmit the passion of a convert to a child who merely inherits the faith?

    "The first generation made a conscious decision to join, in that they had a conversion experience," she says. "They had some kind of spiritual experience that made them feel, 'This is what I want to do, this is where I want to be.' Whereas for those of us — myself included — who were born into this movement or born into this family, we had no choice in the matter."

    Strategies To Bring People Back

    So In Jin Moon did what the evangelicals do: She used music and technology to spark spiritual experiences. She says it is working.

    "Some have called it 'electricity running through my body, feeling of warmth — just feeling as if they're engulfed in love,'" she says. "For those kids who come and have that conversion experience, then their belief system becomes theirs."

    Since In Jin took over, weekly attendance has nearly doubled. The question is: Can these bells and whistles woo back former members? For her part, D.F. Spratt, who is happily married to a non-Unification member, sees no reason to return.

    "I don't believe in the theology," she says. "And I don't think there's necessarily anything missing or wrong in my present life. So if I felt there was a void and I needed to fill it, maybe that would help. But I don't."

    But the church hopes that as it adopts an American style — in finding one's mate and worshipping in church — the second generation will carry the Unification Church into the mainstream.

May 14, 2010, 11:39:04 AM
Reply #1

Offline Peter

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Re: Moonie Mass Weddings...
« Reply #1 on: May 14, 2010, 11:39:04 AM »
Reverend Sun Myung Moon Turns 90

Tens of Thousands in Unification Mass Wedding

Rev. Moon Performs Largest Mass Wedding In Decade Amid Cult Criticism

    ASAN, South Korea (AP) - From South Korea to South America, Rev. Sun Myung Moon married tens of thousands of couples in the Unification Church's largest mass wedding in a decade and potentially the last for the 89-year-old leader.

    The spectacle comes as Moon, the church's controversial founder moves to hand day-to-day leadership over to three sons and a daughter, though the Rev. Moon Hyung-jin, the 30-year-old tapped to take over religious affairs, insists his father is healthy and remains in charge.

    More than 20,000 people gathered at Sun Moon University campus in Asan, south of Seoul, for the "blessing ceremony" on Wednesday while some 20,000 more joined simultaneous ceremonies in the U.S., Brazil, Australia and elsewhere.

    Some were new couples in unions arranged by the church; others were renewing their wedding vows. The brides wore wedding dresses or their national dress; the men wore black suits with red ties, with white scarves around their necks.

    The global ceremony is meant to mark key anniversaries in the leader's life: his 90th birthday and the 50th anniversary of his marriage to Han Hak-ja, church officials said.

    Brides in veils and grooms in white gloves -- hailing from South Korea, the U.S., Japan, Europe and elsewhere -- posed for photos in Asan and practiced shouting "Hurrah!" at the wedding rehearsal.

    "I'm a little bit nervous," admitted Rie Furuta. She and groom Tadakuni Sano, both 25-year-olds from Japan, had met only three times since their marriage was arranged in March.

    Critics say the weddings show the church operates like a cult, brainwashing adherents into turning their lives and salaries over to Moon. In the past, Moon routinely paired off couples, with many first meeting on their wedding day.

    These days, arranged couples usually meet several times beforehand, church officials said. But they're not expected to skip off to a honeymoon; couples are required to observe a 40-day waiting period before living together.

    During the ceremony, Moon sprinkled holy water before the couples exchanged rings. After blessing the newlyweds, he led them in a loud cheer amid a shower of white confetti.

    "I pray that you become good husbands and wives, and men and women who can represent the world's 6 billion humankind," he told them, sobbing and clasping his wife's hands.

    "I think my wife is the most beautiful bride here," said Lee Dong-seok, a 32-year-old computer programmer from South Korea tying the knot with Japanese office worker Fumi Oshima.

    His 28-year-old bride replied: "I'm so happy. I like my husband because he's very trustworthy."

    In the past, the Moons wore elaborate, high priest-style white gowns and headpieces for the blessing ceremonies. But on Wednesday, Moon was dressed in a simple black suit, a rose pinned to his lapel; his wife wore a white blouse and skirt. Their austerity reflected the church's toned-down stance in recent years.

    Moon, a self-proclaimed Messiah who says Jesus Christ called upon him to carry out his unfinished work, has courted controversy and criticism since founding the Unification Church in Seoul in 1954.

    He held his first mass wedding in the early 1960s, arranging the marriages of 24 couples and renewing the vows of 12 others.

    The weddings grew in scale; the first held outside South Korea was at New York's Madison Square Garden in 1982. That one drew thousands of participants -- and some protesters. This week's was the largest since 1999.

    Moon frequently paired off people from different countries as part of his aim to create a multicultural religious world.

    "My wish is to completely tear down barriers and to create a world in which everyone becomes one," Moon said in his recent autobiography.

    In Washington, D.C., where children played as their parents renewed their vows, Fumi Oliver called the marriages a positive political instrument.

    "This is the best way to make peace," said the Japan native who married an American, the Rev. Zagery Oliver, 12 years ago. "International, intercultural, interracial marriage is the best way to make peace."

    The mood in Australia was serene but joyful, said Enrique Ledesma, Australian director of the church-affiliated Family Federation for World Peace and Unification.

    Laudicea Corina de Padua called her wedding in Sao Paulo, Brazil, a dream come true.

    "Taking part in a mass wedding only adds to the profoundness -- I barely have the words to describe what I feel," said the 40-year-old, dressed in a shimmering wedding gown.

    Brazilian church leaders hand-picked 38-year-old metalworker Manoel Marcelino dos Santos as her husband.

    "Marrying in this way, with so many other people around the world, will give more strength to our union," he said. "It feels like they are all a part of us."

    But not everyone was happy Wednesday. In South Korea, one bride sat forlornly with a black jacket thrown over her white wedding dress, tears streaming down her face.

    "I came here against my will," she said. "I'm too young to get married. I don't understand why I have to do something like this." She refused to give her name or age, saying only that she was a student.

April 11, 2014, 11:29:24 PM
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Offline Peter

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Re: Moonie Mass Weddings...
« Reply #2 on: April 11, 2014, 11:29:24 PM »
ABC Nightline is set to air a special about the Moonies arranged mass weddings:

A prime-time special of ABC’s Nightline magazine will air Saturday, April 12th at 10 p.m. EST, including a substantial documentary on the path of several young Unificationists as they prepared to say their marriage vows in Korea. The viewer audience likely will be one and a half million. There may be a shorter additional segment that would air during the regular Nightline program (from 12:35 a.m.) Monday to Friday, according to sources at ABC.

Those weddings creep the hell out of me. They cement members' ties to the cult and ensure a next generation of members. Not allowing couples to date keeps the cult leader as the focus of member attention, and they come to thank the leader for their marriage.

And I have no doubt those are the reasons why JMS kept the practice when he left the Moonies to start his own cult:

According to former members, cult rules say that each bride or groom must be aged 27 or over and have recruited at least three new members.

Members are required to submit the results of health checks. Women are personally interviewed by Jung and asked about past romances.

Jung sometimes sexually assaulted the women during those interviews, former cultists said.

Members who pass the checks are allowed to join in parties where they must choose a marriage partner.

Once couples are formed, they are interviewed again by Jung. He sometimes told couples to separate based on what he heard from God, sources said.

At a July 2003 mass wedding, Jung was not there in person. Via a big-screen Internet connection, he urged the couples to have babies to increase the number of Setsuri members. He was wanted by South Korean authorities on rape charges at the time.

April 16, 2014, 05:26:49 AM
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Offline Peter

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Re: Moonie Mass Weddings...
« Reply #3 on: April 16, 2014, 05:26:49 AM »
Here's the report:

A former member friend of mine offered this on Facebook:

The interviewer asks about the latest revelations of Mr Moon's infidelity with Annie Choi and is told by a young groom, "he was learning to be the messiah". Is that the latest excuse?

Michael Balcombe is also asked about Mr Moons adulterous relationship with Sammy Pak's mother and says he has no personal knowledge of that. After he heard Un Jin say it on the 60 Minutes broadcast? After he read what Nan Sook had to say in her book? Really, Michael, you are shameless.