International religious leader Rev. Sun Myung Moon for decades has been obsessed with the United States.
Yet in a nation of more than 270 million people, most observers believe his controversial Unification Church still counts less than 10,000 members.
In Moons global theology, the United Stated holds special significance, said Jeffrey Hadden, a professor of sociology at the University of Virginia-Charlottesville [Jeffrey Hadden has been recommended by the Church of Scientology and an organization it seemingly controls--the "new Cult Awareness Network" --as a resource about religion] who studies the way new religious movements grow. Moon always intended his church to be world altering, he said.
"Clearly, (Moon) saw America as the leader of the free world and the leader of the Christian world, and himself as the successor to the Christian tradition," Hadden said. "I think clearly he has been disappointed that he has not had greater success in America."
Moon, the self-proclaimed messiah, is so frustrated at being relegated to relative pariah status in the United States that he is trying desperately to make inroads into the political mainstream, said Rick Ross, a Phoenix-based cult expert and outspoken critic of the Unification Church.
"Part of the job description of being a destructive cult leader is megalomania, and Reverend Moon certainly fits that job description," Ross said. "He is deeply concerned with his personal power and aggrandizement. Thats why he bought the Washington Times, thats why he bought Insight magazine, thats why he bought The World and I, and thats why he wants to have power in politics in the United States."
Moons tactics range from paying huge honorariums to entice high-profile politicians such as George Bush and Gerald Ford to speak at his conferences to working to build a network of leaders influenced by his events and agendas, Ross said.
Prominent statesmen such as Bush and Ford lend a legitimacy to Moon that boosts church recruitment efforts, Ross said.
Moons religious movement, started in South Korea on May 1, 1954, has been dogged by controversy ever since its emergence in the United States in the early 1970s. Church members have long-been accused of isolating new recruits--usually college-aged adults--from their families and "brainwashing" them. Critics also have charged that the church often exploited the recruits by forcing them to sell flowers or other cheap items to raise funds.
Moon first injected himself into the American political scene during the Watergate era, when he took a public stand in support of then-embattled President Richard Nixon.
According to translations of more recent speeches available on Unification Church Internet Web sites, Moon has taken credit for the Reagan-Bush conservative era by saying those presidents could never have risen to power without the help of operations such as his Washington Times .
Moon, who spent time in federal prison following a 1982 tax-evasion conviction, claims to have been instrumental in toppling communism, and repeatedly has told his flock that only he, not any political institutions, can rescue "dying" America from its current state of "corruption".
"Father attacks all the unrighteousness in America," Moon reportedly told listeners during a 1993 speech in New York. "In prison, where Father could have burned with revenge, he did not. He instead established the important organizations to save America."