Use of the Internet by the Unification Movement

Journal of Unification Studies Vol. 3, 1999-2000 - Pages 101-116

We are in the midst of a revolution as great as translation of the Bible into vernacular, as great as the Reformation and the Industrial Revolution. The impact of the Internet is just beginning to be felt. The Unification Church[1] has adopted the new technology and embraced it with open arms. Web use by church members today has proliferated to such an extent that it is difficult to track it all.

It is important to remember that personal computers were developed less than 20 years ago and that only within the last ten years has use of the Internet become common. At each stage of Internet development, UC members were willing and ready to adopt new technology. Church officials in the New Yorker Hotel used word processors that preceded PCs in the 1970s. “Geeks” who kept them running enthusiastically envisioned future technological changes to an audience of wide-eyed assistants. In the late 1970s NewsWorld Publications utilized a mainframe computer—a gigantic contraption that required its own air-conditioned room and dedicated typesetters. Foreign correspondents for the Newsworld used UPI’s international computer network to send their stories back to New York.

Unification Church leaders were among those that enthusiastically embraced the new technology. By the mid-1980s a state church headquarters was likely to have a computer for bookkeeping, operated by a Japanese woman in a tiny office somewhat set apart from the rest of the center. By the end of the 1980s computer savvy individuals connected with each other using less-friendly formats that required a dial-up modem connection such as Mosaic, Gopher, Archie, WAIS, Veronica and Jughead. During this period Gary Fleisher set up a bulletin board, accessible by one person at a time. Reverend Moon’s speeches were among his first published material. In 1993 Damian Anderson, a computer consultant with NASA, began computer evangelizing on bulletin boards, mailing lists and usenet groups like alt.religion.christian. By 1994 he concluded that the Internet out-performed other media in terms of reaching numbers and varieties of people. Two years after he began, he set up his own usenet group, alt.religion.unification. (More on the last list later.) It was several years after Fleisher and Anderson set up their web pages that the Unification Church had an official presence online.

This paper looks at the current usage of the Internet by the Unification Church using a typology developed elsewhere.[2] Both public (official usage) and private use is examined. The Unification Church is not alone in its use of the Internet, and some brief comparisons are made to other religious groups.


1. Information Sharing

An important characteristic of computer use, hence of the Internet use, is the ability to manipulate and transfer vast quantities of information quickly and accurately. Information sharing is a major aspect of Internet use for everyone, including religious groups such as the Unification Church. Some of the shared information is shared is specific to religious groups, some is of general interest.

a. Publication of Religious Texts and Materials

For most Unificationists, Reverend Moon’s speeches are a particularly important source of spiritual inspiration. In the 1960s and 1970s, members waited days, weeks or even months for transcripts of tape-recorded speeches. Official printed copies were snapped up as soon as they became available and were hoarded jealously. Today, almost every speech Reverend Moon has given (that has been translated into English) is available on the Internet, including some given as early as 1954. Speeches are available on pages maintained by Fleisher[3] and Anderson.[4] Anderson also has complete texts of other church publications, including some material previously considered appropriate only for members (e.g. The Tradition).

Most Unificationists are also eager to hear news about other members and their activities. In the early days of the movement when there were less than 100 members in a handful of U.S. cities, news and encouragement came by mail on Xeroxed or mimeographed pages. By the 1970s The Way of the World magazine, published in Korea, was available in centers but generally not to individual members. By the 1980s the monthly Unification News was available for subscription in a newspaper format. Today among Fleisher’s published material is an extensive collection of articles from the Unification News, complete with an index of authors. Whether or not it was intended to replace the printed publication, the Internet version is freely available to all interested parties, and as a consequence is read around the world.

In addition to speeches and news about member activities, commentary on almost every topic imaginable is published on the Internet. Unification commentary is published by Journal of Unification Studies.[5] Non-church publications supported by Rev. Moon also have a heavy dose of commentary: Middle East Times,[6] Washington Times,[7] Insight magazine,[8] The World & I,[9] International Journal on World Peace,[10] and Zambesi Times.[11]

But Internet commentary is not limited to posting official publications. Members’ homepages often contain comments by such notables as Rush Limbaugh, Dr. Laura, and Charlton Heston. Many members are not shy about publishing their own views as well, on topics including Heaven’s Gate, Allen Ginsburg, Charles Schultz and Tiger Woods. Some members have devoted their entire web sites to commentary. Peter and Kim Brown’s “FutureRealm Productions”[12] site on morality is intended for public consumption. Taku Ikemoto’s “Moral Issues”[13] site has a series of exposes. William Stoertz[14] includes commentary on the Unified Field Theory. And there are others.

Publication of vast quantities of material online appears to be a mark of religious use of the Internet in the new millennium. Complete texts of most religious groups are now available to Internet users, some in convenient downloadable formats.[15] As to commentaries, a plethora of religious views represent every conceivable viewpoint on virtually every topic imaginable, including entire sites devoted to theology and apologetics.

b. Study Aids – Search Functions

Another important computer use, albeit somewhat less obvious, is the ability to find particular references quickly and easily. The search function has become a vital link in handling large amounts of information. Computer technology has made the earlier study aids such as a concordance of the Bible child’s play. For the most part, search functions are found wherever texts are published. And if they are not incorporated into the site, an Internet user can easily develop one using basic word-processing commands. Both Anderson’s and Fleisher’s pages offer search functions, allowing users to cross reference speeches with the Divine Principle or other material.[16]


2. Internal Communication

A second characteristic of Internet use is communication. Among religious groups there are two distinct types of Internet communication—communication between members and communication between members and non-members. Proselytizing and public relations comprise a big part of the latter, which will be dealt with later. Communication between members consists of both informal exchanges between individuals and formal directives between church leaders and members.

a. Directories, Addresses and Contact Information

Computers are ideal for keeping address lists, primarily because they are so easily updated. With a few more keystrokes, the updated lists can be published online. In some ways Internet directories are more convenient than a hard copy publications. They are ever available. You don’t have to remember to bring your directory with you when you need it—it is already there, online. The ease in updating tends to make them more accurate. And, because the World Wide Web is world wide, Internet directories are less likely to be restricted to a particular locale.

There two comprehensive and widely used directories for the Unification Church.[17] An international church directory maintained by Paul Ettl[18] in Europe has addresses, phone numbers and, most recently, email addresses for national headquarters around the world and state headquarters within the U.S. Peter Wettstein, who has collected email addresses of members worldwide for several years, maintains an e-directory[19] that has grown to 1500 members and is frequently updated.

b. Official Dissemination of Material

The Internet is an ideal way to inform members of policy decisions and directives. It is convenient, immediate and inexpensive, especially for an international membership.[20] It doesn’t take much imagination to realize how this method of communication is changing the relationship between church officials and members. The latter are, on the whole, more informed and less reliant on someone else’s interpretation of church directives.

The Korean Family Federation web site[21] is a major source of official information, available in both Korean and English. The English language page is more sophisticated than the official U.S. site and has more church material of interest to members, including a history of the church (with photos), a description of worldwide missionary work, and a biography of Rev. Moon and his achievements. The Korean language page has a missionary login page that requires an ID and password, and a page devoted to travel in Korea. Demonstrating its capability with the newest technology, the Korean site broadcasts special church events such as holiday celebrations and blessings. Internet users can find times for the broadcasts on Anderson’s WorldTies mailing list. In theory, broadcasting over the Internet allows people everywhere to participate. In reality, receiving the broadcasts requires sophisticated equipment and computer savvy that still limits its reception.

Official directives for Unificationists are also found on the sites maintained by current projects, such as the American Leadership Conference, New Hope Farm Brazil, the Pure Love Alliance, and the True Family Values Ministry, which have pertinent information about their particular efforts. Another source for official directives is a subscription to WorldTies. The mailing list regularly posts news notes, directives, announcements and explanations from church leaders.

c. Discussion among Members

News groups and bulletin boards are important means of communication for computer users wanting to exchange ideas and discuss current issues online. Email, mailing lists and listservs[22] provide a less public, and if the lists are monitored, less offensive means of discussion.[23] Today most Unificationists communicate in the latter, less public means., set up by Dallas Stafford, was one of the first Unificationist listservs. At its peak it had approximately 100 subscribers. But many of the contributors were opposed to the church and postings negative to the church were not monitored. So the list was abandoned and reformed as Global Village International (GVI). After spending some time at Chung Pyung Lake in Korea, Stafford relinquished control of the list to Terry Lester, who later passed it on to Forrest Wright. GVI is known as the most “liberal” of the three Unificationists listservs. Active church members describe it as “negative theology” written by “old, tired and cynical members and a lot of ex-members.”

Earlier, some members participated in newsgroup discussions, but like, the unrestricted comments by ex-members and others negative to Unification ideals discouraged member participation. An early newsgroup formed by Anderson, alt.religion.unification, for instance, was gradually taken over by non-members. As one church member commented recently, "Such a place needs a moderator, someone who can rule the site with strict discipline. Alt.religion.unification became a whipping boy for Unificationists, simply because there was no moderator and anybody said whatever they could dream up."

Home Harbor Inn (HHI) is another listserv available to Unificationists. Monitored by two church members, Ron Beatteay and David Payer, it is most often described as “middle-of-the-road” in its theology. Anti-church postings are not allowed, although constructive criticism is. It is an active list with a threshold of 65 posts per day.

The most conservative of the three Unificationist listservs is Unification Evangelism, maintained by Anderson. Basically for members only, it has close to 700 subscribers. The stated purpose is for evangelism but it includes lively discussions, criticisms, testimonies and international activity reports. Anderson’s monitoring assures that postings are basically supportive of the church.

Other listservs have been set up for select groups of people. Subscribers to the NM list are primarily western members holding the position of National Messiah. Official directives and nationality differences are frequently discussed. Another list for members associated with Japan, called Japan IFA (International Family Association) list. Teenagers and young adults of the second generation communicate on their own list. Some local churches maintain mailing lists to keep their members informed. Local DC residents maintain a list called DCVision.

In addition to Unification Evangelism, Anderson maintains four mailing lists. The most well known list is WorldTies, mentioned above, which sends church news, announcements, reports, testimonies and sermons to members and other interested persons. It has more than 1900 subscribers and serves as a quasi-official means of communication. (Most church announcements are posted to the mailing list.) A second mailing list, TrueFamilyValuesNews (TFVN) keeps its approximately 1560 subscribers abreast of national and international developments that impact or relate to church morals and goals. The third mailing list, UnificationTexts, has more than 900 subscribers who each receive speeches of Rev. and Mrs. Moon on a daily basis. Anderson wrote his own program to be able to maintain the list. And finally, WorldScripture has 500 subscribers who receive one section of World Scripture[24] daily. A recent tally indicates that Anderson’s listserv and mailing lists all grew by at least 25 percent during the first few months of 2000,[25] indicating a growing interest in them and an increasing use of the web by Unificationists. According to Anderson the subscription rate went up sharply once he published a web sign-up sheet for all of the lists.

An increasing number of members also have private email addresses and keep in touch with each other that way. Members also have their own smaller versions of mailing lists. It is not uncommon to receive postings sent to a number of members regarding commercial opportunities, prayer requests, or inspirational notes. Members, who lost track of each other over the years and frequent moves, get each other’s address through Wettstein’s e-directory and catch up on the changes in their lives (marriage, children, community participation) through email messages. National boundaries are no obstacle to Internet communication; it is no surprise for someone in the U.S. to receive a message from someone in Australia, or Gabon.

Members in countries in the C.I.S. with poor communication services have turned to email as more reliable, not to mention quicker and much less expensive, than regular mail, telegraph or even telephone. Some National Messiahs communicate with members in their country almost exclusively through email. Through the 1990s members in Russia used email extensively, without much worry about privacy due to the presumed inability of the government to monitor the new technology. As a result, for several years a major portion of official communication took place via the web.

d. Published Testimonies

Related to discussion among members is publication of testimonies by members. These non-interactive accounts are generated primarily for internal consumption and for the purpose of conversion. Internet testimonies are found in formally published materials, in letters between members, in letters to non-members, published on individual pages, forwarded to listservs and mailing lists. There is an experiential quality to testimonies, even though they do not appear in “real time.” As a standard part of religion, testimonies are intended to inspire others to a deeper faith and commitment.[26]

Among Unificationists, a major forum for testimonies has been Anderson’s WorldTies mailing list. For example, in the late 1990s there were numerous stories of members who were successful in giving the blessing. Usually such testimonies began with “I wasn’t too keen on the idea…” and ended with a success story.

e. Sharing Resources/Web Resources

A major use of the Internet is to share resources. This use ranges from individuals who sell various products online to helping others set up web pages and information on using the Internet. Members of religious groups share economic ventures, clipart and web page tools, bulletin board announcements, information about other web sites and programs, and real time interaction. One frequently shared item is information about filters, developed and sold by Christian parents and organizations.[27]

For Unificationists sharing resources means lively email interaction between members. On listservs and on individual homepages, members keep each other informed of interesting economic opportunities. Unificationists wanting to set up their own web page go to Fleisher’s web site, where they find photos of Rev. Moon and his family, photos of church events, church logos, directions for putting logos on a web page, and links to other computer information. Fleisher’s stated purpose is the “free exchange of information,” so he invites users (presumably members?) to submit favorite links or other information to be published on his page. Both Fleisher and Anderson have extensive links to other Unification sites. A student in England, Stewart Webster, also maintains a comprehensive page of Unification links.[28]

Another interesting example of resource sharing is found on Ettl’s page: words and music to forty holy songs, with downloadable Midi files. Some centers have reproduced the files and play them in the background or for Sunday service.

Isolated members make use of all the Unification resources. One Western member living in Japan with a Japanese wife recently discovered Anderson’s page. He wrote, “Needless to say, I don’t know much about anything that’s happened in our movement in the last 8½ years. I feel a bit like Rip Van Winkle waking up from a 100-year sleep without a clue as to what has happened during my sleep. Your work, with the various lists and the Unification Church Home Page, is my lifeline to our Movement. I’m incredibly grateful.”[29]

Sale of material is standard all over the Internet. The HSA Bookstore and (Accord Bookstore) sell Unification books and paraphernalia. Specialty books and souvenirs are also available on pages of the related organizations, such as Paragon House Publishers,[30] Unification Theological Seminary or the Kirov Academy of Ballet.

Member pages also offer things for sale. Curtis and Sanae Martin[31] have turned their home page into a spiritual bookstore, with additional recommendations of non-church publications available for sale elsewhere. Dan Fefferman[32] and other musicians have pages devoted to the sale of their original recordings. Members with businesses offer a variety of products for sale online. One enterprising missionary, Michael Kiely[33], sells web space and email addresses to raise money for his mission in Africa. A student at the Unification Theological Seminary operates a site called HERO services,[34] which offers assistance in planning outdoor adventures.

Other Unification member pages tend to be family oriented, with lots of pictures, especially of the webmaster’s family. Pages generally include something about the teachings, although the content varies. It is not unusual for member pages to have links to spiritual, religious or moral sites not directly connected with the Unification Church. Some of the church’s second generation have their own sites as well, publishing a youthful collections of talk, advice, testimonies and email addresses of other church youth.

f. Education

A shared resource that deserves separate mention is that of education. The Internet is especially important as a source of educational materials for those who homeschool their children. Interested parents have set up pages to help children navigate the huge arena of web sites to find suitable pages for their young minds. There are also meeting places for homeschool parents and homeschool children on the Internet. Parents and teachers not involved in homeschool make use of the Internet for dissemination of Sunday school material and other educational opportunities with the particular moral bent that is important to them.

Unificationists’ Sunday school material for children has been available online since the early 1990s. And for those interested educational institutions there are pages for New Hope Academy,[35] New Eden Academy,[36] University of Bridgeport,[37] Sun Moon University,[38] Unification Theological Seminary,[39] and the Asia University Federation.[40] For parents of teenagers, there are a number of sites relating to abstinence such as Free Teens,[41] Pure Love Alliance,[42] Terri Lester’s Healthy Love campaign,[43] and Peter and Kim Brown’s Hearthread page.[44] There is also a page devoted to the Religious Youth Service.[45]

As regards distance learning via the Internet, the Unification Theological Seminary first offered an Internet course in the summer of 1998, to make seminary education available to members living in distant US cities or even in other countries. The University of Bridgeport has had a distance learning program for several years.

g. Daily Inspirations/Prayer Requests

Mailing lists for daily inspirations deserve a separate mention because of the dynamic they inspire. So far as I can tell, most religions have at least a few of these, maintained either by an official group or an individual member who takes it upon him or herself to do so. Sending out a quote or some inspirational reading on a daily basis simulates a group prayer, even though individuals “participate” at different times. Like the testimonies, although not in “real time,” they have an experiential intent to inspire the reader to a deeper faith or increased commitment.

For Unificationists, two of Anderson’s lists fit this description: UnificationTexts and WorldScripture. Subscribers to the former receive readings for daily devotions, called Hoon Dok Hae.


3. External Communication

The second type of religious communication found on the Internet is communication between the religious group and non-members. This includes evangelism and public relations. Although there is some overlap, these types of communication are generally different from communication between members because the emphasis is on making a good impression. For religious groups, it includes conversion efforts, an impulse that is almost second nature to many of their members.

a. Evangelical Outreach

Almost all of the official religious sites have some evangelistic element displayed on their homepage. Each group, however subtly, advertises a way of life and a religious practice that it thinks is superior and to which others are invited. Some groups have been very successful in their Internet outreach, receiving many inquiries and user visits. It is not clear whether people are converted through their Internet contact, however. It is more likely that these online materials, including testimonies and other accounts, provide the impetus for an uninitiated individual to seek personal contact with someone. In fact, many webmasters make it a policy to refer the individual to local congregations, or encourage them to visit a particular “real time” locale.[46]

On the other hand, simply having a web presence brings some inquiries. Many Internet users first look for information about a group on its official web page. The ad hoc publishing of web pages is reflected in the variety of titles for the official Unification web sites. The official U.S. web site is entitled “Unification Church,” whereas the Korean site is entitled “Family Federation for World Peace and Unification,” as is the UK site. The French page is entitled “Unification Home Page”; the Austrian page is entitled “Unification Movement,” and the Russian is “Religious Federation.” There is no apparent consistency among the approximately 25 official sites originating in different countries and using different languages, possibly reflecting different legal situations around the world as well as the independence of webmasters.[47]

The official U.S. web site[48] is primarily for nonmembers. It has information about the church that is usually included in PR booklets and press kits. There is information about Rev. and Mrs. Moon, a slide presentation of the teaching, current evangelism projects, a description of the global outreach, links to projects, education and current events, and a bibliography of church publications available for purchase online. For members, there is Korean language page and a list of links to member pages. It describes Anderson’s site as the “most complete” unofficial news source, and Fleisher’s site as a “Library of Unification Resources.”

Paul Ettl coordinates most of the European sites,[49] although some of the national pages have separate webmasters and different layouts. Pages are available in 12 different languages including English (UK), German, French, Italian, Spanish, Portuguese, Hungarian, Norwegian, Swedish, Japanese and Korean. The European page has mirrors of both Anderson’s and Fleisher’s sites in the U.S. In addition to the European sites, there are at least 14 more international church web sites. All use the Church symbols and have photos of Rev. Moon and his wife, but otherwise they reflect the personality and technical sophistication of the national webmaster.

Most of the church-related organizations (many already mentioned) also have official web sites, some quite sophisticated and extensive. Organizations affiliated with the church usually have links to the official church sites, whereas independent organizations do not (The Washington Times, The Middle East Times, Paragon House Publishers).

Local church pages are often utilitarian with no apparent effort at attractive layout or graphics. Sites maintained by individuals, on the other hand, are often evangelical. As is the case for many religious groups, the official sites were published long after individuals (e.g. Fleisher and Anderson) had pioneered the way. In March of 1995, Anderson set up his first web site with a commercial provider. His first postings were the Divine Principle and God's Will and the World. Over time he developed his strategy to get others to his site by advertising his page on news groups. Being concerned about the moral environment of the web, Anderson also kept tabs on activities of others. In February 1997 he decided to improve the web environment by deleting porno newsgroups. He was successful for a few days, but as a result, lost his web site when his provider disapproved of his actions. Today he has his own server.

Underscoring the international character of the church, Anderson[50] has links to church sites in 19 different languages: Chinese, Dutch, Farsi, French, German, Estonian, Hungarian, Japanese, Italian, Kiswahili, Lithuanian, Macedonian, Norwegian, Portuguese, Polish, Russian, Swedish, Turkish, and Thai. Anderson originally set up these language pages, but now he simply hosts them on his server. Nonmembers as well as members often contact Anderson online to thank him for his material. Fleisher has a different approach. He asks people to contact him, submit links, quotes and other material. He also offers to deliver a message to Reverend Moon, either by hand or by forwarding email.

Other evangelistic pages maintained by members include the Family Education Resource page[51] maintained by Puay Lam Teo, Ron Beatteay’s Unificationist Perspective,[52] and Larry Barber’s True Family Values page.[53] The strategy of one European member to get people to visit his site demonstrates typical evangelistic enthusiasm. "You have to think global and act local. In other words, you should be on the ball on local violations of religious freedom, etc. Then you should get on the mailing lists of various organizations. Furthermore, I send regular short updates to hundreds of addresses… heavenly spamming."[54]

b. Publicity/ Public Relations

Closely related to evangelism is public relations strategy. Some official sites (e.g. Latter-Day Saints and the Vatican) have a Press Office link prominently displayed on the first page. But even those without such a link have material about the group easily accessible—basic facts, summary of beliefs, summary of history, news about current projects and events.

An important aspect of publicity is countering negative publicity. Groups that receive negative publicity, for whatever reason, can tell their side of the issue in a format that reaches far more people than any other communication medium. They have a chance to “set the record straight” through the use of the Internet in a way that they cannot do elsewhere. This is more obvious on some pages than in others.[55] Unificationists have made use of the Internet to counter negative publicity. The official U.S. page has news about anti-cult activity. Anderson has a multi-volume “Responses to questions about Unificationism on the Internet” where he counters a variety of charges.

Another important aspect of publicity is activism—campaigns and promotion of values important to the group.[56] Unification sites promote family values as much or more than the Divine Principle. Much of this has already been mentioned above under education and sharing resources. But some official pages actively promote particular values: World Culture and Sports Festival, Women’s Federation for World Peace, American Leadership Conference,[57] International Relief Friendship Foundation, Interracial Sisterhood Project, True Family Values Ministry, Professors World Peace Academy, Summit Council for World Peace, International Coalition for Religious Freedom,[58] Religious Freedom in Singapore.[59]

While not directly promoting a campaign, other related sites reflect an intent to bolster a public image through activity: International Highway Project,[60] Kirov Academy of Ballet, World University Federation, World Media Association, and others.



Less than thirty years ago, Unification missionaries working in remote countries felt isolated and alone. International communication was mainly carried on through mail, even though it was common knowledge that not all the letters were delivered. (Newsweek subscribers reportedly missed every fourth issue.) There was always the telephone, but an international call was expensive and reservations had to be obtained hours, or even days ahead. The missionary had to remain on hand for the operator to call back. Once connected, old telephone wires and parts required him to shout at the top of one’s voice to be heard—making the conversation anything but private. An urgent report might be sent via telegraph, but that required a trip to the telegraph office where the entire message was retyped. Receiving church news by any means was like Christmas. All printed church materials were hand carried into the country and were highly valued, carefully preserved, and generally outdated.

All that has changed with the Internet. Today even in countries where mail is sporadic or non-existent, it is possible to communicate with people privately, relatively inexpensively and virtually instantaneously. Missionaries no longer have to wonder what the latest directives are, or if someone’s interpretation of a speech is accurate. Photos and reports of recent events are readily available to everyone around the world shortly after they happen.

The Internet is changing religious groups including the Unification Church in some subtle and not-so-subtle ways. Published texts are readily available, so at least members are more informed. Members can communicate easily, discussing private life events as well as church directives and their significance. This can have both positive and negative impacts. It is positive in that members get more information more quickly and more accurately without having to rely on others. But just as more information can strengthen one’s faith, it can also be a catalyst for weakened faith. The very ease of availability may make the same material, once preciously kept, less valuable.

Another change brought by the Internet is the community one interacts with. No longer are one’s daily companions limited by their physical presence. A member can be counseled by someone from another country. He can witness to someone in another country, and even “raise” him long distance. Availability of leaders’ reports and testimonies make them seem more accessible and more personable, too. More than ever before, the membership can be a “world family.” On the negative side, it is possible to spread rumors around the world in a few minutes. Dissenters can more easily find others of like mind.

As important as Internet meetings may be, they are unlikely to replace real-life religious experiences. Members who “meet” over the Internet are likely to establish their legitimacy through common real life experiences—acquaintances, events, and group activities. Material on the web can be an important aid to someone who is making an important decision, but it is in itself unlikely to lead to a conversion experience. On the positive side, the larger world community may make testimonies more dramatic and convincing, and encourage believers to a greater faith.

The exception to the need for real-life links may be cyber devotionals, such as Anderson’s Unification Texts. Their effects are unclear. Will they replace traditional devotional practices, such as morning prayer meetings? For those with a busy schedule, they might be a stand in on occasion.

The worldwide network of communications appears to be the ideal medium for the members of the Unification Church. The national boundaries and physical distance that once divided people around the world are no longer significant due to the ease of electronic communication. But whereas members are more accessible worldwide, they are also more informed, with more resources at their disposal. And like the revolutions of the past, the changes brought by this latest technological revolution may well bring new and unanticipated challenges.



[1] Although the official title is Family Federation for World Peace and Unification, because the name change came after the advent of the Internet, and because some online pages still identify the group as Unification Church, that is how it is referred to here.

[2] “How Religious Organizations Use the Internet: A Preliminary Inquiry,” by Sara Horsfall, in Religion and the Internet, Jeffrey Hadden and Douglas Cohen, eds., JAI Press, October 2000.













[15] The Mormons ( have the complete Book of Mormon and other volumes online, as well as research information and genealogical files. The Falun Gong ( has several volumes of their founder’s words in a variety of languages. Christian Bibles include ONLINE BIBLE (, JESUSaves (, World Wide Study Bible (, Bible Gateway (, Etexts at University of Virginia (, Online Chinese and English Bible (, and Virtual Church ( There are also Bibles in Greek, Hebrew and other ancient and modern languages. The Apocrypha, Dead Sea Scrolls and other texts such as St. Augustine’s City of God are also available in their entirety.

[16] Bible Searches include Bible Gateway (, Bible Browser (, Univ of Virginia etexts (, Unbound Bible (, and Search the Bible (

[17] Christian Internet directories are heavily used and varied: member addresses of national organizations; denominational lists; interdenominational directories of web pages; directories of adherents to particular dogmas; and directories for churches, online or not. Apparent members use is to locate particular churches, whether for a mailing address, for visitation, or for reference to a third party.



[20] An interesting example is the Vatican site ( which devotes many pages to Vatican news, archives, directives and decisions of Catholic officials. The Mormons also report decisions made at their semi-annual General Conference, in many languages. Last year they had “real time” video broadcasts of the Conference, as well.


[22] For those unfamiliar with computer terminology, a listserv is a sort of community email. Any subscriber can send a message, which is then received by all other subscribers. A mailing list is a one-way communication set up from the list owner to all subscribers.

[23] Catholics have 60 or more identifiable listservs on topics ranging from Campus Ministry to Home Schooling, to Charismatic Catholics, to Former Nuns, LesBiGay, and Prayrosary. An LDS (Mormon) Resource site lists 24 mailing lists, 14 chat rooms, 10 message boards and several well-used newsgroups.

[24] International Religious Foundation, World Scripture: A Comparative Anthology of Sacred Texts (New York: Paragon House, 1991).

[25] (On November 12, 1999 Anderson gave the following subscriber numbers: WorldTies 1315, TFV News 1288, Unification Texts 678, World Scripture 406, Unification Evangelism 556.)

[26] Other religious groups make use of testimonies in a variety of forums. An interesting example is that of Falun Gong, a group severely persecuted by the Chinese government. Their “Witness Page” has testimonies from members currently residing in China, or recently returned from China. Because of the unregulated nature of the Internet, even the Chinese government has been unsuccessful in blocking all communication between Falun Gong members in China and elsewhere.

[27] Related are web hosts eager to help churches put up web pages, or receive email:,,,


[29] WorldTies, Feb. 2000







[36] This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

[37] http://www.bridgeport.ecu/

[38] For English see








[46] Individuals inquiring about Falun Gong, for instance, are usually encouraged to go to a public park where the other practitioners meet in the early morning.

[47] This is not the case for all other religious groups. Scientology, for instance, maintains a very tight reign on the use of their name, logos and materials.



[50] During the first three months of 2000 there were an average of 6,330 hits a day on Anderson’s site.




[54] NM listserv, March 2000

[55] It is impossible to miss Scientology’s “side of the story” about the persecution in Germany or their explanation that they are persecuted because they are “politically incorrect.” The Mormons address misconceptions (mainly polygamy). The Falun Gong publishes material about activities in China and states their side of the current controversy.

[56] Mormons have a Family Resources Link. The Vatican page features links related to Lent and Jubilee Events. Scientologists promote their causes in a variety of places and ways on their site.