This last week or so, I have begun an effort once again to reach out to ex-members of the Unification Church by answering their questions on the Internet, in particular, those on alt.religion.unification a Usenet newsgroup which I created some years ago to foster promoting the ideas of Unificationism and the discussion of them. One such person was Danny Harth <ExUCer@aol.com>. We talked by AOL Instant Message, and by e-mail exchanging photographs, and talked about people he knew in the church. I even put him in touch with some people he really wanted to contact, and he was able to talk by e-mail with various people whom he had known almost 20 years ago during his time in New York Church. We also talked on the phone a few times.
My intent was not to convert him or indoctrinate him in any way, but simply to befriend him, and if at all possible, to defuse his anger and bitterness towards his church experience, justified or not. My intent towards other ex-members is similar. My hope is that through this effort, some of these people would be able to rediscover some of the things which had attracted them to Unificationism in the first place, but who had been driven away by one negative experience or another, or by being disillusioned by the bad example of immature and ignorant people who had caused them to feel alienated. My experience with ex-members is that they still believe in much of what they learned in the church, but because of someone mistreating them in one way or another, they had left in anger. Others left because they committed some sin for which they feel they cannot be forgiven. Others lose the vision and lose their self-discipline and then go down the slippery slope of the backslider.
A couple of days ago, Danny sent me an e-mail saying that a radio producer from Johannesburg, South Africa had contacted him to tell his story about the Unification Church and sent me a copy of the e-mail.
Date: Thu, 5 Aug 1999 15:31:25 +0200
From: Laura Jones firstname.lastname@example.org
To: ExUCer@aol.com <ExUCer@aol.com>
Subject: TESTIMONY COMMENTS
Danny (or any other ex-moonie) or the Webmaster - I am e-mailing you from South Africa (Johannesburg) and am researching the Unification Church in South Africa. I am a broadcast producer for South Africa's largest independent broadcaster Primedia. I produce radio-shows and want to make contact with you or another "ex-moonie". We are broadcasting live tomorrow night (6 August 99) at 9:00 pm South African time and are looking to talk to you beforehand about making telephonic contact with you for the show to relate to us the reality and your experience behind the facade of the seemingly mild Unification Church.
You can contact me in Johannesburg during work hours (8:30 - 5:00) on +21 (11) 802-8609.
E-mail : email@example.com
I immediately sent off an e-mail to Laura Jones, and the next day, she e-mailed me back saying that she would like to talk to me. I sent her my phone numbers and then she called me at work today. I made it clear that although she had asked for ex-members, that I am a current member and have been since 1977. She was okay with that. In fact she was pleased with my frankness and honesty. I told her that I did not want to appear under false pretenses, and she thanked me for that. I told her that I would be happy to do the interview, but I did not want to do it at work as I would have too many interruptions, and I wanted to be able to talk freely, so having worked late last night, I took off early today.
When I got home, I called Danny to see when he was supposed to go on the air, as I could not get the time zones straight, and at what time I was supposed to go on. He said he had just come out of the shower and was stark naked, but that he was supposed to be on in 10 minutes. He thought I was the radio show calling. I told him I thought he might think that, and wished him good luck. So, I got off the phone and took a shower myself, to clear my head on this hot August day in Washington DC.
At about 4:15 pm this afternoon, I got a call at home from Johannesburg, South Africa, from the producer, Laura Jones. She told me that I would be talking to the show's hostess, Nechama Brodie, an Israeli woman, not to her, and that I would be able to hear the radio broadcast over the phone. They would call me back in about 7 minutes. I took that time to collect my thoughts, to pray, and prepare myself for what might be an ordeal. Then I got the call back, the commercials came on and I was waiting to go on the air. Honestly, I was very nervous as I had never been on the air before, though I am quite accustomed to talking to the public through the relative anonymity of the Internet, and by lecturing at seminars such as church workshops, and True Family Values Ministry seminars.
Then the moment of truth came, and the hostess Nechama Brodie came on the line for 702 Talk Radio in Johannesburg. She introduced me to the audience as a current member of the Unification Church, and then asked me some questions about my own history with the church, how I had joined, and so on. I explained that I had joined the church in Paris, France on August 15, 1977, 22 years ago in about a week. Had I left college? No, I took one year sabbatical and then finished my education at the University of Cambridge in England. We talked about a whole host of issues. Then she went to the phones, and I fielded calls from the public in South Africa as it was a call in talk radio show. I was initially nervous but at the same time exhilarated that I would have a chance to explain the point of view of our movement to the whole of South Africa inn the listening audience. As I got into my stride, I got more confident and was more bold in my assertions and in standing up for what I believe. Some callers were supportive, many were quizzical, wondering how a man such as myself with two Master's degrees could belong to this terrible cult, some were downright hostile. To be fair, the show's hostess did a good job and was reasonable and cut off some of the crankier callers.
As a sample, they asked about the matching process and how we could possibly let a man such as Rev. Moon choose our spouse for us. I said it would be good to think of it like Jesus standing in your living room, and for South Africa, to make it particularly appropriate, what if Jesus were to ask you as a white South African to marry a black person? We trust Rev. Moon in a way similar to the way Christians trust Jesus, and we are willing to take his guidance on our choice of spouse, and consider his blessing on our marriage an honor. I told her that the day of my Blessing in marriage to my wife was the happiest day of my life, and that's the God's honest truth! We have four beautiful children today.
The questions did not pull any punches. We dealt with the situation of Rev. Moon's family, the state of the faith of his 14 children with Mrs. Moon, his first marriage, the US tax case, my relationship with my Catholic family of origin in England and my 11 brothers and sisters, ex-members' bad experiences in the church, homosexuality, divorce and custody disputes, fundraising, spiritual experiences, use of money, public projects of the Unification Church, marriage, family, raising children in the faith, prayer, tithing, brainwashing, freedom of religion and conscience, the vision of the Unification Church, the three great Blessings, the mission of Jesus, the role of the True Parents, the method of salvation in Unificationism, the process of the Blessing ceremony, arranged marriage, recruiting methods, Internet outreach, my web site at unification.net and so on. In all, we talked until about 5:45 pm our time, about 90 minutes with a few commercial breaks in between. I was very pleased to have been given so much time to express my point of view. South Africa is 6 hours ahead of us, so it was from about 10:15 pm to 11:45 pm their time.
It is serendipitous that she would make contact at this time as it was only a couple of months ago that I was talking to one of our sisters in the church about how I would like to get into talk radio and to promote Unificationism on the radio. In fact, I spoke to Rev. Moon personally in September 1996 while on a flight from Kodiak Alaska to Anchorage. We had just finished a 10 day seminar for Unification Theological Seminary graduates, in which we had seven days of intensive lectures, and three days of halibut and salmon fishing. We fished for halibut on the ocean, and salmon in the rivers. One of our boats caught a 180 pound halibut while I was there. We ate some of it raw as sashimi, and roasted the rest over a bonfire on the beach. We gorged ourselves on fresh salmon and halibut all week. It was truly memorable.
I had arranged to be on the same flight with them on the way to Anchorage so that I could talk with them if possible. It just so happened that I was able to sit right in front of Rev. and Mrs. Moon for the entire flight, so once we got into the air, I introduced myself and talked to him about my work on the Internet. Mrs. Moon, whom we call True Mother, was very inspired and asked if Rev. Kwak, our international church leader at the time knew about it. I told her that his assistant knew about it. Rev. Moon, True Father, said that he was using the Internet for distance learning at the University of Bridgeport. I told him that I was thinking of getting into radio broadcasting, as another vehicle for mass evangelism. He said to me, in so many words, "What's stopping you?", to which I could not really say anything. I knew I would have to investigate the field, but I had not really done anything. I would like to get into a position where I could do interviews in other countries, or in various places in the USA, so that we can promote the ideals of Unificationism through the mass media.
So, after having been on the radio for my maiden show, I can say that I was elated and very much at home on the radio, even in front of a somewhat hostile audience, and enjoyed every minute of it, once I overcame my initial nervousness. To be honest, I do love a good scrap, and this was a cause for which I love to get into the ring and duke it out, figuratively speaking one might say. Having had seminary training, and being widely read, I feel pretty comfortable tackling difficult philosophical, religious or social issues with people, and hold my ground pretty well, I believe.
I am putting this report on the web, and will send it to the Internet newsgroups and my several mailing lists around the world, and we will see what comes of it. If anyone else wants a representative of the Unification Church to stand up and be counted on the radio or TV, I would be happy to offer my services. Needless to say, I will also send copies to the radio station and to Danny who introduced me to the whole thing. Thanks Danny, and thanks Laura.
There is so much more to say, but let's leave it at that.