Wednesday, June 30, 2004

Bark At The Moon is carrying two stories that have received very little attention in the mainstream media despite the controversial figures involved (as usual, non-members of Salon have to watch a very brief web ad to gain access to the site for the day, but it is quick and painless with a big payoff).

The first story recounts the bizarre, life is stranger than fiction, tale of how in late March, the billionaire leader of the cultlike Unification Church, the Rev. Sun Myung Moon, was literally "crowned" as the new messiah and second coming of Christ in a Senate office building, surrounded by lawmakers from both parties.

After the coronation, which was complete with a crown handed to Moon by the white gloved Rep. Danny K. Davis, (D-Ill), Moon "told his bipartisan audience of Washington power players he would save everyone on Earth as he had saved the souls of Hitler and Stalin -- the murderous dictators had been born again through him, he said. In a vision, Moon said the reformed Hitler and Stalin vouched for him, calling him 'none other than humanity's Savior, Messiah, Returning Lord and True Parent.'"

Despite the Fellini-esque scene, it is important to note that Moon has mainstream support from many politicians and conservative groups, such as the American Family Coalition, and a group that he is affiliated with received approximately $500,000 through President Bush's Faith-Based Initiatives program. He is also the owner of the conservative Washington Times newspaper and the UPI wire service (is there a stronger argument against lax media consolidation laws?). But these legitimate connections do not justify the absurdity of a civilian being crowned as the next messiah in the government owned Dirksen Senate Office Building, nor does it explain the complicity of dozens of lawmakers that were present.

To fully appreciate the outrage that such an event should arouse, it is important to look at Rev. Moon's somewhat checkered past, and current ideological and religious doctrinal teachings. First, it is worth noting that he served time in the 1980's for tax fraud and conspiracy to obstruct justice. But hey, who hasn't made a mistake at least once in their life. Unfortunately, the story gets worse, especially when you look at some of the teachings of his "church."

The second salon story describes in more detail the beliefs of the Unification Church, as preached by the Church's leader, Rev. Moon. The name the "Unification Church" describes one of the basic tenets of Moon's theology, that all religions will eventually come together and be blended into one faith, of course under him. Part of his plans to "reconcile" all religions include removing the Christian cross from church walls, and from Christian symbolism, because he views the cross as an obstacle for Christians accepting him as the new messiah, and persuading Jews to sign apologies for giving Jesus over to the Romans. His views on Judaism go even further, claiming that the Holocaust was payback for the crucifixion of Christ: "Through the principle of indemnity, Hitler killed 6 million Jews."

Once he has unified all the world's religions under himself his next step will be to replace the U.S. Constitution with a system he calls "Godism." As noted in Salon, "The separation between religion and politics," he has observed on many occasions, "is what Satan likes most." His gospel: Jesus failed because he never attained worldly power. Thus, he has been sent to improve on Jesus's failures.

On "Godism" and the world theocracy that will bring about the "peace kingdom," Moon will proceed by "purifying our sex-corrupted culture, and that includes cleaning up gays and American women ("a line of prostitutes")."

Regarding homosexuals, who he refers to as "dung-eating dogs," he describes the "peace kingdom" as a place where "gays will be eliminated" in a "purge on God's orders" he says that will be like Stalin's.

Still, despite the anti-Semitic and anti-homosexual rhetoric, there have been no public condemnations of Moon or his church from lawmakers on Capitol Hill, not to mention the fact that some were even willing to attend his coronation. The secret to Moon's success lies in his campaign contribution largesse, and the influence he wields as owner of the Washington Times and the UPI.

As noted by Salon, "It might almost make sense for conservative congressmen to honor Moon in this way. After all, a writer in Moon's magazine Insight wrote in February that it's long past time for Republicans to thank the billionaire Korean preacher for his gifts. '[T]he continued refusal of Beltway conservatives publicly to acknowledge their steadfast patron is, of course, scandalous,' wrote contributor Paul Gottfried. Moon has sunk an estimated $2-$4 billion into the money-losing Times, and countless other causes - like Jerry Falwell's Liberty University.'"

But maybe Gottfried's censure was premature. Under the rubric of the faith-based initiatives program, "Last summer, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services gave a $475,280 grant to fund Free Teens USA, an after-school celibacy club in urban New Jersey. Free Teens USA, like other Moon civic organizations, claims it has no ties to the Unification Church. But according to documents obtained by Salon under the Freedom of Information Act, the director and chief finance officer of the Free Teens USA club, as well as others listed on the group's board of directors, are former or present high-ranking Unification Church officials who omitted those leadership roles from their applications for the federal grant."

And then there is the fact that many of Moon's top aides have attained positions in the Bush administration. According to Salon, "Josette Shiner, who rose up through the Moon organization first as a Washington Times reporter and Moon disciple and later as editor of that newspaper, was named deputy trade representative earlier this year.

And in December of last year, Bush appointed David Caprara, a top official for Moon in Washington, to head the War on Poverty program AmeriCorps VISTA. Caprara had been director of Moon's American Family Coalition and was one of the Unification Church's top political operatives."

How can Moon's beliefs possibly square with the Evangelical Christian beliefs of President Bush and many in his cabinet, most notably Attorney General Ashcroft who famously "attended Moon's Inaugural Prayer Luncheon for Unity and Renewal" in 2000? How can Christians accommodate a man who claims to be the second coming of Christ, who also urges a campaign to remove all crucifixes from the religious landscape because they interfere with his ascendancy amongst Christians. Not to mention episodes such as this one described by Salon:

"Moon has taken out full-page advertisements in newspapers, transcribing his communications with the Spirit World, where figures from Confucius to former U.S. President James Buchanan have vouched that he is, indeed, the savior of humanity. Earlier this month, a two-page testimonial in the Washington Times quoted the 36 former U.S. presidents 'from the vantage point of heaven' (Moon, according to George Washington, is 'the messiah')."

I guess, even in matters of faith, the answer is: "In God We Trust."

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