Rev. Moon raising his profile
Fifty-state tour seeks to build interfaith, interracial alliance around 'true family values'
More than 500 people at a hotel in Nashua, N.H., have just been treated to stirring gospel music from an interfaith choir. Archbishop George Augustus Stallings of the Imani Temple in Washington, D.C., now holds forth in a stem-winding speech worthy of a political campaign stop, preparing the crowd for the main speaker.Skip to next paragraph
Subscribe Today to the Monitor
"Never in the history of America has there been a leader with such spiritual boldness, audacity, and fortitude to bring together all religious leaders," he says in a rousing voice. "I am thankful to God for having called Rev. Sun Myung Moon to lead us as a prophet and messianic figure to tear down the walls of separation.... Don't get hung up on your religion or race, we are one family.
"Tear down the walls!" he shouts. And the crowd joins in.
The Rev. Michael Jenkins, president of the Family Federation for World Peace and Unification, moves to the podium with the follow-on: "True family. True Parents. Say that!" Again, the crowd responds.
This is one of the last stops on a whirlwind 52-city, 52-day tour billed as an interdenominational, interracial effort of clergy to come together to "strengthen family values in America." Sporting a roster of backers ranging from a former director of Operation PUSH to a founding member of the Christian Coalition, the tour has drawn as many as 3,000 local ministers, politicians, and church members to some venues.
And squarely in the center of each event is the controversial founder of the Unification Church, who proffers, in a speech lasting more than two hours, his unconventional teachings on family and the future of humanity, including his role as the God-chosen leader who is to finish Jesus' work and set up a theocracy.
At a time when religion is playing a larger role in public life in the United States, Rev. Moon seems eager to raise his profile, and has reached out particularly to minority groups. Last fall, he joined with Louis Farrakhan, of the Nation of Islam, to cosponsor the Million Family March in Washington. This tour, called "We Will Stand!," is a well-orchestrated interfaith revival to build a network that can bring greater legitimacy and influence to the Korean evangelist and his teachings. The tour culminated Monday in a gala ceremony in Washington, D.C., and a three-day conference.
Today, a "declaration of interdependence" signed by 12,000 ministers is to be unveiled at the Lincoln Memorial. "This was a relationship-building tour to forge strong bonds of cooperation between religious leaders who realize we need to rise above doctrine and denomination to cooperate around fundamentals - rebuilding the family and restoring the community," says Phillip Schanker, vice president for public affairs for the Family Federation.
The next steps, Rev. Schanker says, include regional crusades, inter-church programs, and development of curriculum for family education around abstinence for young people and ending divorce. A Moon-sponsored AIDS/HIV curriculum has been introduced in a few schools.
Rev. Moon is already, some say, a powerful player in some conservative circles in the US, having provided financial backing at crucial moments to important figures of the religious right. And he has remarkable ability, despite the controversies that have surrounded him, to draw top-level politicians - including former Presidents Bush and Ford - to speak at his events.
Moon is perhaps best known among the US public for his mass marriages and for the indoctrination methods used to gain members for his church among American youth in the 1970s and '80s. His conviction for tax evasion in 1984 also made news, as did Congress's investigation of "Koreagate," in which testifiers told of connections between the Unification Church and the covert operations of Korean Central Intelligence Agency in the US.