by Young Oon Kim
Sun Myung Moon
In order to understand the message of Divine Principle it is useful to know something about its messenger. Sun Myung Moon was born in the north Korean village of Jung-ju on January 6, 1920, according to the lunar calendar.
His grandfather was the first to recognize that he was unusually gifted. As a child, Sun Myung Moon would not tolerate injustice or abuse inflicted upon others. Consequently, he was many times ridiculed or even beaten by his older playmates. If he saw adults taking advantage of helpless children, he would become enraged, lying down on the ground, crying loudly, and beating his arms and legs on the floor. Even though his body became bruised, he refused to stop protesting until those guilty admitted their wrongs. Thus, from early childhood he displayed an extraordinary sense of justice and an indomitable will.
He once told me that when he was twelve he would go to a quiet place in the woods to pray. One day after he had prayed, it seemed as if the trees, bushes and grass began to speak: "Nobody takes care of us. We feel abandoned by mankind" Realizing that nature cried out to be loved, he felt like embracing the entire world, vowing, "I will be your caretaker." At another time he prayed, "Father, give me greater wisdom than Solomon, greater faith than the apostle Paul and greater love than even Jesus."
It was not until the age of sixteen, however, that Sun Myung Moon awakened to his potential mission as a religious leader. Like many Koreans, his parents had become converts to Christianity as the result of Presbyterian missionary activities. At sunrise on Easter morning in 1936, while Moon was deep in prayer, he experienced a mystical encounter with Jesus. In this vision, the Korean teenager was challenged to take up Jesus' unfinished work and establish the kingdom of God on earth.
Following this mystical experience Sun Myung Moon began an intense search for religious truth. For several years he prayed, studied, listened to what people were saying about religion and pondered deeply the problem of God's ways with men. Repeatedly he asked himself, What is the ultimate problem-for man, for the whole universe, even for God? In time the answer came. For everything in existence, including God, the central question involves the attainment of love.
Sometimes he was tempted to abandon his mission, he has admitted. Since he had enrolled as an electrical engineering student at Waseda University in Japan, it would have been easy to set aside his religious concerns to concentrate upon his future or to limit his extracurricular activities to the struggle for Korean independence. However, by the age of twenty-five Moon had made up his mind to accept the challenge issued by the risen Jesus and devote his life to realizing God's kingdom.
The next stage in his mission began in 1946, shortly after the end of World War II. Soon after the liberation of Korea from Japanese occupation, Moon felt called to begin preaching at Pyung-yang, the most important city in northern Korea. Pyung-yang had long been one of the strongholds of Christianity and was often called the Jerusalem of the East. But that city was also the capital for the Communist government which had been imposed upon North Korea by Russian soldiers. Hence, under the most adverse conditions, Moon tried to establish a secure foundation for God's new dispensation. On one hand he faced opposition from conventional Christians who believed that God's kingdom had nothing to do with the betterment of this world. On the other hand were the Communists who were determined to eradicate faith in God and establish a totalitarian secular society.
When Reverend Moon had acquired a small following, his activities were brought to the attention of the Communist authorities. Naturally he was arrested and subjected to torture. After a severe beating he was tossed unconscious out into a cold winter night where his body was discovered by his disciples. When he recovered and resumed preaching, Moon was re-arrested and sentenced to a Communist forced-labor camp at the eastern coastal town of Hungnam. Inmates were each assigned to bag and load 130 ninety-pound sacks of lime, an almost impossible daily quota. Overworked and underfed, few prisoners survived more than three months. But Moon was determined to stay alive. With faith in God and sheer will power he was able to exist under intolerable conditions for about three years, until the prisoners were liberated by United Nations soldiers in 1950.
Later, commenting on his prison experiences, Reverend Moon stated. "I never prayed from weakness or complained. I never even asked God's help. Instead, I was always comforting Him, telling Him not to worry about me. Since God already knew my suffering, I didn't want to remind Him and cause Him to grieve still more. I just told Him I would never be defeated."
Moon went back to Pyung-yang to find his disciples. The few still faithful converts were instructed to rejoin him at Pusan on the southern tip of the Korean peninsula. Moon and two disciples started on a bicycle ride over mountain roads for six hundred miles to the south. One of them had a broken leg and had to be carried.
After reaching Pusan, Moon joined countless other homeless refugees. In the summer of 1951 disciples met with him in a small hut, built from U.S. Army ration boxes and dried mud. One of the early followers reports that when Reverend Moon arrived in Pusan, he looked like a poor factory worker, "skinny and dirty." Besides suffering from Communist oppression, he-like millions of his countrymen-had to undergo the incredible hardships of the refugee camps during the Korean War.
In 1953 Reverend Moon moved to Seoul, the capital of the Republic of Korea, and the following year he officially established the Holy Spirit Association for the Unification of World Christianity.
An Australian missionary, Rev. Joseph McCabe, spent eighty days as guest of the Seoul church and published an enthusiastic report in his denomination's British magazine. Let me quote a few sentences from Pastor McCabe's article because it shows an outsider's impressions of the Unification movement in the early days:
"The group of Christians to whom I have come are not Pentecostal or Apostolic as we know it, and yet the Spirit of the Lord is manifest among them, as some have visions, others have tongues and interpretations, while a spirit of prophecy is exercised by others in private. The fervor and sincerity of the worship, the soul-stirring preaching of Mr. Moon, a born orator who stirs his congregation to response both in praying and preaching, is wonderful. Almost without exception the members are there because they longed for something deeper. The meeting place is an old hall in an out of the way spot. . . . To this hall come between three hundred and four hundred people. There are no seats as in other churches; everyone sits on the floor. Half an hour before the service is due to begin we have a time of singing, and the place is packed. . . . Mr. Yoo (sic), 9 the lecturer, gives lectures on the Principles, as they term their beliefs, for four or five hours each day." 10
Reverend McCabe reported also that the movement had eight centers from Seoul to Pusan with a total membership of between six hundred and twelve hundred. This Australian missionary recognized that his own denomination differed from the Unification Church in some sacramental practices and doctrines; yet he was clearly impressed by the charismatic quality of the Korean movement, its faith in Christ and its determination to overcome the power of a real Satan, as he put it.
In North Korea Reverend Moon and his followers were persecuted by the Communists. In the south, Unification members were denounced by the established churches. Reverend Moon was condemned by some Presbyterians as a heretic, even though he had taken little part in that denomination's life for many years.
When a group of professors and students at Ewha Women's University became followers of Reverend Moon, they were ordered either to leave the movement or be expelled from school. Since this act aroused venomous press criticism as a violation of religious freedom, the opposition began spreading vicious rumors that the new church was guilty of sexual immoralities. Reverend Moon and four male disciples were jailed as the government tried to substantiate these wild allegations made by his enemies. He was released after three months when the court found him not guilty. His enemies could provide no evidence which would stand up in court. To placate the opposition, the government jailed Reverend Moon for alleged draft evasion. When this case came to trial several months later, he was completely exonerated.
In spite of persecution, the Unification Church continued to grow. In 1958 a missionary was sent to Japan and the following year I came to Eugene, Oregon, as the first missionary to the United States. By 1975 missionary teams had been sent to one hundred and twenty countries.
In 1960 Reverend Moon married Hak Ja Han. He and his wife moved to America in 1972, where he had begun nation-wide speaking tours. These culminated in the Madison Square Garden rally. As a result of this American publicity, the foundation was laid for an immense World Rally for Korean Freedom in Seoul at which Reverend Moon spoke to more than one million people on June 7, 1975. His Yankee Stadium appearance took place on June 1, 1976, and the Washington Monument Rally on September 18, 1976, provided an appropriate finale to Reverend Moon's public speaking campaigns in the United States.
Throughout his life, his motto has been:
To restore the world,
Let us go forth
With the heart of the Father
In the shoes of a servant,
Shedding sweat for the earth,
Tears for man
And blood for heaven.
9 Hyo-Won Eu. The Apostolic Herald, November, 1956.