n Western society, where people often experience an overwhelming feeling of senselessness, there is a desperate, yet pious search for a completely different way of life. Many have found in new religious leaders a purpose and focus for their lives. Contrary to what some would have us believe, these leaders are not restricted to one particular race or characteristic: Rev. Moon, for example, is an Asian from the once-obscure land of Korea.
In the Unification movement, Rev. Moon is regarded as the returned Messiah and hopes to be recognized as such by the 1.8 billion Christians worldwide. Rev. Moon’s program is accordingly bold: unification of world religions; sponsorship of international conferences, attended by top scientists from all fields; controversial speaking tours; rallies and banquets. To produce worldwide impact, he places the focus of his work in the United States. We are able to observe through this wide range of activities Rev. Moon’s sense of confidence, his communicative ability and his remarkable organizational and intellectual capacity.
We are left with the unmistakable impression that we are dealing with something quite other than a pretext for a religious world cartel or a mere figurehead. We are dealing with a very distinctive, assertive personality (with a pronounced athletic disposition), astonishingly vigorous and of consistent mental intensity. From objective biographical data we are left in no doubt that Rev. Moon also has a tremendous amount of spiritual experience.
It would be misleading to classify Sun Myung Moon’s personality according to the psychological model of introvert and extravert. Besides his clearly expressive nature, one can definitely observe that he avoids all types of unnecessary gestures, such as stretching the body or sweeping arm and hand movements. With his sparse facial expressions and gestures, Rev. Moon always conveys, instead, the impression of a collected personality, of stabilized inner security and motility. And that which he formulates in his speeches in no way lacks clarity of emotional coloring or succinctness.
Those who mistrust psychological analyses will probably gain the same picture of Sun Myung Moon’s personality through an "information-getting" interview. Such an interview was conducted in a penetrating and thorough way by the American philosophy professor Frederick Sontag in 1977.
Sun Myung Moon identifies himself completely with his mission. And that mission is much more than that of a theological or religious instructor! His Jesus vision on Easter morning, 1935 was a typical religious peak experience and one which could not be more accurately reported even by a psychologist of religion. From that moment on, he has seen his life mission tenaciously and unswervingly as the completion of what he sees as the uncompleted salvation work of Jesus.
The plan of salvation upon which this is based culminates in Rev. Moon’s marriage, which has an eschatological meaning in the sense of Revelation 19:7 (the "marriage of the Lamb"). The Divine Principle, the basic document of faith of the Unification Church, sees the family as the core of the perfected world desired by God. Sun Myung Moon and Hak Ja Han Moon see themselves as the founders of the "True Family" of mankind. This is certainly an astonishing ideological break in the increasingly pathological development of our Western society, a society which considers the consumption of pornographic films to be as much an expression of freedom as motorcycling and football.
The self-proclamation of Rev. Moon is, of course, considered by outsiders to be extraordinarily arrogant and offensive. This is, by the way, a well-known enough and oft-repeated process in church history. However, the seemingly scandalous certainty of his mission, which members of the ecumenical movement find utterly impossible to tolerate (despite their agreement on the provisional nature of the church in history) must be understood in the context of a cosmopolitan mission program. This is because we are dealing here with the establishment of the kingdom of God on earth—which has often been rehearsed in church history—and, at the same time, the restoration of fallen creation.
Sun Myung Moon does not consider himself to be a cult figure but an eschatological figure. As the "Third Adam," he has revealed the secret of Satan and has recognized the true meaning of the Fall. In this way, he has become the first person to sever evil at its roots and is able to bring about the inevitable transition to goodness which takes place at Christ's return.
Through a psychological analysis of this enormous sense of mission and his unguarded statements, Rev. Moon is defenselessly exposed to public suspicion as someone who belongs to the vast throng of those who are religiously misguided and megalomaniacs. Yet one must exercise here extreme caution and restraint, because psychological instruments are not particularly helpful for distinguishing true prophets from false prophets. This article in any case excludes the possibility of seeing Sun Myung Moon as a mere passing phenomenon or a bluffer.
Especially, young people are attracted to the Unification Church for a variety of reasons. These include: the teaching, the familial models, the lifestyle of the members with their infectious example of selfless investment and sacrificial faith, the preaching of messianic hope, the reconciliation of science, culture and religion in an ecumenical unity of all the faithful. However, the fascination with the Unification Church lies not only in these things. The evangelical effectiveness of this religious movement is rooted in the convincing way in which Sun Myung Moon presents God as the ultimate base of our existence.
In the individual and family spheres, Sun Myung Moon appears at first sight to be rather conventional. The impression one receives is of a broad-minded personality dealing with everyday realities and duties with a strong sense of responsibility and reliability. He never avoids any task, including the most menial. No occupation is below his dignity and he encounters all people with warmth and sympathy. Just that he is seen by Unificationists as possessing the aura of the secret of messianic election. If you want to track down Sun Myung Moon's charismatic abilities, the sober truth remains that one is dealing with a more or less explainable personal center of attraction, which is, of course, countered with equal vehemence and intransigence. How is it able to continuously captivate young (and elder) people?
According to the religious educationalist G. Lange in his analysis of the latest Catholic Synod resolution on religious education, "the saints are the answer to the question: What do you Christians consider to be a successful and victorious life?" And he lists a wide variety of qualifications and methods of description:
Canonized and unambiguous saints, as well as ones appearing in an unfavorable light, …both juxtaposed to fellow humans who have simply surpassed themselves in a precarious situation…; commitment to society juxtaposed to commitment to God;… good people juxtaposed to those who are exemplary in their fight for goodness, without necessarily being good themselves.
In my opinion, Sun Myung Moon can without doubt be included in this extensive catalogue of characteristics of saints. Under the precondition that every saint without exception is only able to objectify and demonstrate a single perspective on the truth of the gospel, one may well state: Sun Myung Moon belongs to the lineage of those who, in terms of biography and life content, in a particularly vivid and unforgettable way represent that which all Christians demand: to take responsibility for the initiating nature of God's love. He establishes here markers and directional constants, which one ought to take seriously.
Sun Myung Moon is in full accordance with the most essential and unmistakable characteristic of saintliness: to bring strongly into focus again a socially predominant, diffuse, but currently dying relationship to God.
Self-appointed Devil's advocates will bring to bear against this undesirable canonization process the aggressive anticommunism of Rev. Moon. Certainly, whoever has become accustomed to despise primitive anticommunism (which in this country has combined with an obsequious pro-Americanism, political unimaginativeness and dangerous suppression of reality, producing an explosive mixture) can hardly understand a religious Korean who has suffered the brutish socialistic re-orientation of his homeland—and all the evils that are connected with it—under incomparably difficult circumstances.
It is, therefore, natural that Sun Myung Moon is not devoted to the unrestrained capitalism which has turned the first world into a pile of goods, military bases, private land and rubbish tips and left third world countries dilapidated and impoverished should they not show their reverence toward the "American way of life." Moreover, if one should accuse Rev. Moon of profit-addicted business and trade practices, then one should come straight to the point and explain why and when such profit-making is or was unethical and whether it truly violated the idealistic goals of the Unification Church.
The paradox in relation to Sun Myung Moon, which has to be productively solved especially in terms of religious psychology and religious sociology, consists of the following: One does not need to become entangled with the phenomenon of this modern saint and his charisma to nevertheless recognize in him a positive and creative opposing camp set against the worldwide triumphal procession of banality and cynicism. Ideologists of all nations, who deliberately preach to "the only true church" of the center and for whom every religion is either condemned to extinction or merely has to stand boldly for the self-justification of the so-called free world, will always furiously march into battle against productive religious fringe positions, not least against a "Jerusalem of the East" of Sun Myung Moon.
The saint always tries to surmount the limitations of his own denomination. He feels directly responsible for the well-being of all others and is there for them. The special saintliness of Sun Myung Moon is that he does not belong exclusively to the Christian realm, but also to the shamanistic, Buddhist and Confucianist as well. Yet he found his deepest roots in Korean Christianity.
If one is to take seriously the role of Pyongyang as the Jerusalem of the East, which Sun Myung Moon has always done, we should hope that against the background of this eschatological light—a coming together of all religions will take place. However, he will have to develop a much greater ecumenism than our forefathers attained at the end of the last century. A more tolerant, accepting and deeply founded "advanced ecumenism" is called for.
The pointers and principles for such a brotherly and continuous discussion among all religions have been laid down. It would seem that Sun Myung Moon possesses the appropriate philosophical instrument to enable him to realize his life's highest goal.