"Lovin Life Ministies" help Rev. Moon's Unification Church in the United States?

Daughter of Rev. Moon trying to hold onto second generation of believers

May 11, 2012

By Rick Ross

92-year-old founder and self-proclaimed "messiah" of the Unification Church (UC) Rev. Sun Myung Moon probably presided over one of his last mass weddings in Seoul, South Korea during February, which included about 7,000 couples.

Mass weddings has been a historical hallmark of the controversial church, which has often been called a "cult". Frequently these strange ceremonies include couples that have never met, but were matched up by the organization.

For those that don't know much about the UC it is based upon the claims of Rev. Moon contained within his book titled "The Divine Principle". Moon says that Jesus appeared to him when he was a teenager and charged him to finish his work. According to Moon Jesus failed to complete his assigned mission. That is, the death and crucifixion of Jesus was not planned. Jesus was instead supposed to marry and have a family. Moon claims that he is now divinely ordained "messiah" charged to complete the true mission of Jesus by raising "the perfect family as a model for the world".

However, Moon's family was far from "perfect". To learn more about just how imperfect Rev. Moon's family history is click here.

James Beverley, a professor at Tyndale Seminary in Canada and associate director of the Institute for the Study of American Religion in Santa Barbara, succinctly told National Public Radio (NPR) that UC beliefs can be a "hard sell."

Beverley said, "When you tell the average Christian in North America that Rev. Moon is the fulfillment of the second coming, and that Jesus failed, that message doesn't help you go very far".

UC history in America began during the 1960s. Moons followers were once commonly called "Moonies". Largely composed of young people that frequently dropped out of college after being recruited. They then often traveled together in vans called "mobile fund raising teams" collecting money for "father" (aka Rev. Moon).

For more about the early history of Rev. Moon and the UC in the United States read the information entered into the United States Congressional record in 1976.

Moon was convicted of tax fraud in 1982 and served 18 months in federal prison.

The children of UC members are called "blessed children". This is based upon the belief that they were born without original sin because their parents were married by Moon.

NPR reported that the UC membership has "dwindled in recent years".

No one really knows the current membership of the UC, but some say there may be as many as 15,000 to 25,000 members remaining within the United States.

NPR reported that UC membership has dropped since the 1970s. Many of the blessed children have apparently left the fold.

NPR interviewed both current and former UC members.

It seems that the UC is now stepping up its recruitment and retention efforts and is hoping to hold onto its second generation of young believers.

One of those blessed children is Roderick Miller, a college student.

Miller told NPR that he's not dating anyone because the UC doesn't allow it. But he insisted the UC way is "the key to a successful marriage".

He explained that having a marriage like his parents' is what he wants for his "end game."

Moon matched Miller's father, Wayne in a 1979 mass wedding.

But his parents will now be allowed to match him. The UC has recently decided to allocate this power to parents.

However, Phillip Schanker is the UC "family department director" and he details the proscribed doctrinal parameters for a "happy Unification marriage" through "workshops on Unification marriage".

It appears according to the NPR report that young UC members are expected attend "many workshops".

Former UC member Jason Agress told NPR that he didn't appreciate the organization's constraints. He walked away from the UC when he was 14 despite the objections of his devoted parents.

"Everything was a system of control," Agress said. "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."

"Those of us - myself included - who were born into this movement or born into this family, we had no choice in the matter", In Jin Moon told NPR.

In Jin Moon, is the 44-year-old daughter of Sun Myung Moon and her father's hand-picked head of the U.S. branch of the UC.

Subsequently Ms. Moon decided to use the name "Lovin' Life Ministries" for the UC in the US.

The Moon organization has a penchant for using many names historically. Its critics say this is essentially an effort to use "front groups" in order to avoid the group's history of bad press.

Another former UC member D.F. Spratt seemed to agree with Agress's assessments. She specifically requested that NPR not disclose her full name. Spratt has concerns that her past involvement with the UC might adversely affect her career.

Spratt told NPR she that she once had nightmares about being married in a mass wedding to a stranger.

"Back then, if you left the church, you fell off the face of the earth," Spratt said. "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."

Nevertheless In Jin Moon hopes to win back former UC members.

But Spratt is reportedly now happily married to a non-member, someone she apparently chose for herself. And despite the new name and leader Spratt has no intention of returning to the fold.

"I don't believe in the theology," she told NPR. "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."

Note: Quotes and information specifically attributed to National Public Radio (NPR) within this article originally appeared within an NPR report titled "Unification Church Woos A Second Generation" By Barbara Bradley Hagerty published February 17, 2012.

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