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Questions swirl around Rev. Moon

Debate on airwaves precedes church founder's Milwaukee visit

of the Journal Sentinel staff
Last Updated: March 30, 2001

The Rev. Sun Myung Moon, founder of the Unification Church, is being lambasted by a local Christian radio station and embraced by a national coalition of pastors as he prepares for a rally in Milwaukee next week.

Is the 81-year-old Moon a second Adam, a messiah chosen by God to complete what Jesus left undone?

Is he a false prophet, a blasphemer with a financial empire, a tax-evasion conviction and a cult-like following of the kinds of "Moonies" who sold flowers on street corners in the 1970s?

Or, could he be the honorable leader of a Christian denomination that is worthy of working hand-in-hand with other faith groups to strengthen families, achieve world peace and foster Christian unity?

The questions are swirling.

"The key thing that is causing a lot of discussion in Christian radio right now is the fact that there are a lot of mainline pastors and Evangelical pastors who are very, very much convinced that the anointing of Jesus Christ is on Father Moon," said the Rev. Michael Jenkins, Moon's North American president and spokesman. "And that's got people really discussing things.

"So, we are happy that these discussions are going on. We love and appreciate our Christian brothers and sisters.

"We just want to point out there was similar misunderstanding at the time of Jesus. When Jesus cast out demons, in the book of Matthew, they said it was by the power of Beelzebub that he did such work, and they also called him a blasphemer."

The Rev. Vic Eliason, vice president and general manager of the corporation that owns and operates the Christian radio station WVCY-FM (107.7) in Milwaukee, has a different view.

He has been sharing it on his 2 p.m. weekday "Crosstalk" show, which is syndicated in 87 markets coast to coast. And his show's producer, Ingrid Schlueter, also has gone after Moon on her own "Homefront" show at 3:15 p.m.

"The issue is not numbers, not a coalition response, not simply a massing of people," said Eliason. "Christianity is not democratic. Christianity is a doctrine that is handed to us from God, and when someone else steps into God's place and claims to be the Messiah, that's blasphemy."

"I'm a minister, and I have no hesitation in declaring God's word as authority. Our organization believes in the Bible, and we stand for everything the Bible says," Eliason added. "Any man who usurps God's authority is a blasphemer. Any man who tells me the devil is out of business has lost his grip on reality."

Visiting all 50 states

The debate over the airwaves in Milwaukee has been sparked by "We Will Stand," a 51-city, 50-state revival and tour of interfaith pastors that Moon has helped organize. It has been billed as "clergy of all denominations and faiths coming together to lift up and rebuild the family, restore the community and renew our nation."

And its 38th site will be at Bethel Baptist Church, 2030 W. North Ave., on Wednesday. The doors open at 5 p.m. for a night of music, worship and talks by Moon and other ministers.

Using WVCY-FM's airwaves, the Rev. Joseph Dallas, pastor of New Creation Bible Church, 3934 W. Fond du Lac Ave., is helping to organize an informational demonstration that night.

"We know that Reverend Moon is a false prophet," Dallas said. "He's a diabolical deceiver and a liar."

Jenkins will respond to such attacks by appearing on Eliason's show on Monday.

It's no accident that an inner-city church was chosen. The tour is largely focusing on African-Americans, said the Rev. Hycel B. Taylor, pastor of Second Baptist Church in Evanston, Ill., and former national director of Operation PUSH in Chicago.

Some critics charge that Christian churches, in particular, are allowing themselves to be used by Moon to give him greater credibility by cooperating with him.

Taylor says he supports the tour for three reasons: It is part of the movement toward world peace and interfaith dialogue that Moon has helped foster; it enhances Christian unity; and it bolsters family values, especially in neglected, inner city areas.

"I think that it's appropriate that there's questions about his theology," said Taylor. "Conservatives questioning his theology are subject to questioning as well. . . . He is not the messiah for African-Americans. They are not naive about that."

40 million members?

Moon, originally know for his Unification Church, in the late 1990s created a new organization, the Family Federation for World Peace and Unification, to broaden his reach. Critics dispute the numbers, but Jenkins said that organization has 250,000 participants in North America and 40 million worldwide. He said the church itself - under the name Family Church - has 50,000 members in North America and 3 million worldwide.

Disagreements arise over Moon's official teachings and informal statements and over whether his words were translated accurately from his native Korean.

Some controversial teachings:

  • Moon says Jesus appeared to him at the age of 15 on a Korean mountain and asked him to complete parts of Jesus' mission that were not finished.
  • Moon teaches that he and his wife are the "True Parents," a new Adam and Eve who are free of original sin. The mass weddings he performs in stadiums and other locations - which include wedding vow renewals and church-arranged pairings of interracial couples - free those couples from original sin, as well as any children born to them.
  • Moon has been quoted as saying Satan has repented and been forgiven by God. Jenkins said Moon means that Lucifer, the leader of the fallen angels, has repented, and that evil remains in the world because of other fallen angles, and living and dead people opposed to God.

      Appeared in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel on March 31, 2001.

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