Visiting Rev. Moon promotes spiritual 'U.N.'

Religious leader preaches about peace and a tunnel

Seattle Post-Intelligencer/September 29, 2005
By Gregory Roberts

World peace, and a $200 billion tunnel under the Bering Strait to link Alaska and Russia.

That's the dual mission that brought the notorious Rev. Sun Myung Moon to Seattle Wednesday for the 10th stop on a 12-city tour. Should be no problem for the man his followers revere as the messiah -- though not Jesus Christ himself, let it be said.

Hundreds of those believers, once known as Moonies, crowded into the Bell Harbor conference center on Alaskan Way to hear the man introduced as "God the father's beloved son." The presentation was delivered by an African American ex-Catholic priest; it capped a stirring buildup featuring a youth chorale, an inspirational video of Moon's life and the exhortations of a silver-maned Pentecostal preacher flanked by a bearded rabbi in a prayer shawl and a black Muslim.

The appearance of Moon himself came as something of an anticlimax: A balding 85-year-old, he mumbled his speech in raspy Korean, with frequent clearings of his throat. Tiny, individual FM radios handed out to the audience provided an English translation.

Moon is promoting a new, spiritually driven international organization to do the job the United Nations can't seem to manage. He also wants to see a 52-mile tunnel tying together the old Cold War adversaries of the United States and Russia.

The ecumenical roadshow accompanying Moon underscored his message of interracial and inter-religious love and understanding, and the crowd included devotees of all ages and colors. Among them was Dallas Stafford of Renton, an acolyte of Moon's for 30 years who believes, as the rally was styled, that "the peace kingdom is at hand."

"We're pushing the leaders of the world to go the right direction," Stafford said. "At the same time, we're teaching individuals and families how to lead the proper life."

Moon and his wife, Hak Ja Han Moon -- they married when he was 40 and she was 17 -- are the exemplars of the God-centered existence, Stafford said.

Moon claims that at age 15 in his native Korea, he was called by Jesus to complete Jesus' mission on Earth. His marriage to Hak Ja Han, as the Moon organization's Web site puts it, "marked the beginning of the restoration of humankind back into God's lineage. ... They are the first couple to have the complete blessing of God, and to be able to bring forth children with no original sin."

But not the last, thanks to Father Moon. He passes the blessing on to other couples, often arranging the match-ups, and favoring unions across racial and religious lines.

"Remember," he said in his speech Wednesday, according to the provided English text, "that the only way to inherit Heaven's lineage, and to establish for eternity the ideal families that God has longed to see, is through the holy marriage blessing established by the True Parents."

Moon isn't stingy with his marital blessing. He may be best known for officiating at mass marriages, including one in 1982 uniting more than 2,000 couples at Madison Square Garden in New York City.

Two years later, Moon went to federal prison for a year for evading income taxes. That was hardly Moon's only brush with controversy.

His Unification Church was derided as a cult, its leaders accused of brainwashing impressionable young people. He's been called a charlatan who profits from the coerced donations of his adherents.

His political views veer to the far right of the American spectrum -- he's particularly virulent on the subject of homosexuality -- and he promotes them through his ownership of The Washington Times newspaper and other outlets.

Moon has worked hard to win approval as a legitimate religious leader: The Wednesday program included much brandishing of letters of commendation from various regional politicians. And the cult allegations have largely died down with the passage of time.

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