Unification Politics in Theory and Practice

Journal of Unification Studies Vol. 6, 2004-2005 - Pages 61-84

As he introduced the Reverend Sun Myung Moon on a national speaking tour in October 2004, George Augustus Stallings, leader of the American Clergy Leadership Conference, called for the formation of a “religious democratic party.” While this announcement came late in his ministry, Reverend Moon is no stranger to politics. He created the “Party (a.k.a. ‘House’) of Unification and World Peace” in Korea in the mid-90s, which many observers took to be a political party. More recently he launched the “Family Party” in Korea, an outright political organization. His Interreligious International Federation for World Peace (IIFWP) and Interreligious International Peace Council (IIPC) convene regular conferences on global governance, inviting current and former presidents and prime ministers. The affiliated World Association of NGOs (WANGO) is striving to engage the UN and various NGOs in discussions on policies for peace and freedom. Nonetheless, we see no comprehensive Unificationist platform on government and politics. The Unificationist position on politics begs examination both on the grounds of its theory and its practice.

Based upon its practice, the movement is ambidextrous. It is generally seen as archconservative. Reverend Moon founded the conservative daily, The Washington Times. Movement-related organizations aligned with the right in opposing communist movements in Latin America and on campuses in Japan and South Korea. Unificationists have allied with Republican candidates in the US and conservative politicians in Japan and France. Reverend Moon is strident in his denunciation of divorce and homosexuality and disfavors abortion and birth control.

At the same time the movement displays characteristics counter to the conservative label. Unificationists have a communitarian ethos and at times have been called communists. Reverend Moon embraced Mikhail Gorbachev and Kim Il Sung; Yassar Arafat (R.I.P.), Kim Jong Il and Louis Farrakhan send him gifts. Liberal theologians and African American clergy, virtually all Democrats, befriend Reverend Moon. In recent years the movement has spawned environmentalist activities and advocated “global governance” and the stripping away of national boundaries. Reverend Moon has stated that, with God’s involvement, either democracy or communism would provide a sufficient basis for governance. He has called this the “headwing” position. But perhaps monarchism is the Unificationist ideal government. Over the past year, the “crowning” of God and Jesus Christ led to the crowning of Reverend and Mrs. Moon as king and queen of peace in a United States Capitol Hill. What are we to make of all this in terms of the Unification approach to politics?

While failing to build alliances with major incumbent political leaders or parties, Unificationist efforts are gaining momentum and audience. One initiative set forth by Reverend Moon in the late 90s was to create an “upper house” of the United Nations comprised of respected leaders of the world’s religions. This group would balance the secular orientation of the General Assembly with spiritual wisdom, hopefully, and bring leverage with the world’s powerful religious leaders and their populations. Having gone through numerous revisions, this proposal is now on the official UN agenda, sponsored by the Philippines government. The Unificationist impulse for governmental reform seems genuine, and their language of peace and understanding opens doors of good-hearted leaders. But what is the Unificationist view on the political process? How would government go about its business? How would leaders be selected?

The purpose of this paper is to think about the Unificationist approach to politics. The leading expositor of Unification ideology, Dr. Sang Hun Lee, was vague on the subject. He concluded his work on the “new cultural revolution” with the assertion that “politics and economy will be based on God’s love.”[1] He explained that this will take the form of “vertical and horizontal love… realized in the workplace, the nation and the world.” He goes on to extol love’s power to reconcile, harmonize, embrace, transform, tranquilize and “even out all differences” between rich and poor and different races. [2] How does this translate into political practice? To suggest answers to this, I will work with some basic Unificationist theological stances informed by observation of Unificationist practice. This examination of actual practice takes on greater significance in light of Dr. Lee’s assertion that “The Unification movement, which the Rev. Moon has been conducting up to the present, is the movement to try to establish this very culture of Heart, or culture of love, on earth.”[3]


A Federalist Utopia

In theory, Unificationists are utopians. The answer to every question begins with reference to the ideal, the sinless state toward which all things, peoples, the world and God himself are tending. The order of creation in the natural and human worlds includes discrete levels, the individual, family, tribe, society, nation, world, cosmos and God. This is important politically, for it asserts a separation of social functions in the original order of things. In the social world, these orders of creation begin with the individual and expand to the family and tribe. To fulfill their needs and interests, people create the mediating institutions that make up the next discrete level, called society. Society is that arena of collective human interaction that occupies the God-given space between the family and the nation. We fill it with churches and denominations, factories and businesses, political parties and publishing houses, clubs, charities, museums and libraries, schools, advertising agencies, insurance agencies, banks and investment firms, sports, recreation, entertainment and so forth.

In its opening chapter, “The Principle of Creation,” the Divine Principle sets forth the way that these various entities come about.

When the body acts according to the will of the mind, and the mind and body thus engage in give and take action, the individual will live a purposeful life. This individual will then attract like-minded people. As these companions work together productively, their group will grow.[4]

This describes the creation of social entities by creative individuals freely associating with each other in a supportive environment, to create, as the text goes on to say, “myriad substantial manifestations of God’s original internal nature and original external form… in the pursuit of the purpose of creation.”[5] These institutions would offer us ways to organize and affiliate by location, profession, avocation, lineage, religion, ideology and so forth. They would allow us to combine our energies in productive ways. Here is where politics comes into play.

Moving beyond society, we come to the category of nation. The nation stands on the list with the world, society, family and individual. Multiple societies of peoples who own land and establish sovereign government constitute a nation. Reverend Moon normally describes a nation as constituted by people, land and sovereignty. The Divine Principle text differentiates between feudalistic society and a nation. The feudal society has “political power… diffused among many lords, each ruling over his territory in the absence of any national authority.” (Emphasis the author’s)[6] In fact, kings in medieval Europe “had limited power and were no more than great feudal lords.”[7] The stage beyond feudalism is called “monarchic society” or “kingdoms,” beginning with the Merovingian kings, which had “national borders.”[8]

Thus the historical referent for nations, in the primary Unification text, is the medieval Christian kingdoms, which “flourished until the French Revolution in 1789.”[9] By this account, democracy is a temporary expedient that arose in order to tear down corrupt monarchic societies and “commence a new providence for rebuilding a sovereign nation fit to receive the Messiah… as the King of Kings.”[10] Christian democracies, according to the Divine Principle prediction, will nurture societies in which the people grow to the level of spiritual maturity necessary to recognize the Messiah when he returns and allow him “to establish God’s sovereignty upon the earth with the wholehearted support of the people.”[11]

Thus Unificationism affirms the essence of democracy, for the Messiah will not ascend without the people’s support rendered within a democratic environment. At the same time, the Messiah is called a king. The conclusion of this Divine Principle discussion of the messianic ideal is that the “paths of religion, politics and economy” will converge on the foundation of a worldview that integrates religion and science, i.e. the ideals of the mind and needs of the body. “The religion founded upon this truth” will enable humankind to become “one with God in heart. Such people will build an economy in accordance with the divine ideal.” This religion and economy will be “the foundations for a new political order… a messianic kingdom built upon the principles of interdependence, mutual prosperity and universally shared values.”

In this heady vision the characteristics of the “nation” in the order of creation has been left in the dust, and yet it remains in the pantheon. Interestingly, the text envisions a religion in this ideal society as well, which other texts indicate will disappear. To shore up the enduring place of nations, the discussion of give and take action between nations is an illustration of the dynamics of the original creation idea: “The give and take actions… among the nations of the world are essential for them to live together in harmony and peace.”[12] The community of nations that fill the earth constitutes the next level, the world.[13]

I would interpret that the placement of a social entity in the Unification pantheon means that the level has inalienable rights and responsibilities, its own integrity and raison d’etre. Thus Reverend Moon’s theology is not totalitarian. The individual and family are not hung out to dry in a “naked public square.” Multiple God-given social categories stand with their own integrity within the order of creation. Because the Principle of Creation affirms national sovereignty, Unificationists are not “one worldists.”[14] Unificationism affirms a federal system, levels of power arrayed on a tier system from the local to the global. Within nations and the world, Unification theory affirms the place of diverse corporations and other associations, which are created as “like-minded people… work together productively” and “see their group grow.”


Politics Makes Strange Bedfellows

While one divine principle pervades this totality, God did not ordain the perfect ordering of this totality by fiat, nor does He plan for human beings to do so. That ordering requires, at every step, human responsiveness to God and ethical human interactivity. In the Unification ideal, all members of the multi-leveled body interact harmoniously in manifold structures, creating a prosperous and joy-filled society. Those who would attempt to achieve this by force are doomed to failure. At every step, the free human will is a paramount, irreducible value. Voluntarism is intrinsic to the Unification theoretical framework.

In this framework, the Divine Principle compares political party functioning to the body’s nervous system. Just as the nerves transmit the impulses of the mind to the rest of the body, the political parties convey God’s word to the general society.[15] While I espouse the value of the body analogy in many respects, I find it to have limited value when it comes to illuminating the significance and function of political parties. The analogy of the body does not lend itself to the give and take of multiple parties. God is one and the individual body is one. The rough and tumble between the mind and body, with the mind understood as superior to the body, is not a happy analogy. Who would want to join the political party representing the body?

The mind does not convey competing options to the body, over which the cells and organs deliberate, at least in a way that does not stretch the analogy. The body is designed as a monolithic entity, a one-party state. The mind does not need politics in relating to the body’s organs. All it needs is the means to communicate its directives to the body and receive information in return, and this is the nervous system. This not a political process; it is more akin to media (information flow) and education (training).[16] Of course there are feedback loops in the body, and each cell makes decisions, but we see no organization of coherent platforms, no substantive options concerning what functions organs or cells play. As long as one utilizes the analogy of the body, one will come up short in explaining diverse political parties.

I find the analogy of marriage to better describe political parties within the Principle framework. This draws upon the theological assertion embedded deep in the Principle that all creation exhibits masculine and feminine natures reflecting the logos. Just as a family needs a father and mother, so too society needs distinct, consistent and articulate voices representing masculine and feminine values in the body politic.[17] To any problem, masculine and feminine approaches can be applied. Men can advocate feminine approaches and women can advocate masculine ones. Sometime these are mutually exclusive options, but they can often be applied simultaneously, in a complimentary fashion. The relationship between these two voices would be like that between husband and wife in sound marriage.

Reflecting on this, between the two American parties, I would see the Republican exhibiting the more masculine character, and the Democrat the more feminine. Ronald Reagan exemplified the masculine, as in his forthright explanation of his cold war strategy to Gorbachev, “We win. You lose.” Margaret Thatcher and Condoleezza Rice are modern examples of women championing a masculine approach. Bill Clinton exemplified the feminine, with his announcement that he felt our pain. Social security is a feminine approach to the problem of aging, assuring that all are taken care of irrespective of their personal initiative. Privatization is a masculine approach, calling individuals to invest for the future and take a risk. The Republican worldview rewards individual initiative, innovation and risk-taking, and considers the successful person as deserving the maximum fruits of his or her efforts. The Democratic view rewards community values, lifting up the weak or disadvantaged, leveling the playing field, striving not just for equal opportunity but equal results.

In theory, masculine and feminine impulses are mutually supportive and equally necessary. The common humanity uniting the masculine and feminine is stronger than the power of the traits that separate them. Hence the two parties can co-exist in one government. But we need two distinct parties in order for each aspect of the logos to have a voice and sustain a creative tension and, ultimately, joy. Let’s face it; elections are fun. Nations admire venerable leaders and also are stimulated by new approaches from innovative upstarts. Elections would allow voters to determine the dominant way to approach issues society is facing at any given moment.

As does marriage, civil society rests on a shared commitment to unity among parties. In Reverend Moon’s thinking, unity comes through one, or both, of two motives. One is more masculine, shared purpose, and the other is more feminine, love.

What makes the mutual relationship one? A common purpose is required here. A common purpose can create unity. There are only two ways of achieving unity. One is to have a common purpose, but even without a common purpose, people can unite when they love one another.[18]

Those who would best lead such a society would be those most adept at articulating a shared vision and/or practicing love. Focusing on purpose, or vision, is the masculine nature. George W. Bush is a contemporary example of this. Long on vision and goals, short on care and conciliation. Focusing on love is the feminine nature. John Kerry, in the 2004 presidential campaign, strived to exemplify this. For Kerry, more important than the goal were the people, the relationships. He criticized President Bush for going it alone in Iraq and set forth confidence in his ability to build coalitions. Of late, Democrats defend Social Security, which calls the workers to sacrifice some of the fruits of their labor for the sake of others. Republicans, with the view that a person works for him or herself, advocate a change that would give workers greater ownership of the fruits of their labor, with a vision that this will lead to greater prosperity for all.

Note well that both motives adapt to the way leadership is authorized in a democratic open society. An open society relies upon consensus. Successful leaders are those who can create the greatest consensus. Uniting people through a shared purpose, on the one hand, and through community values, on the other, are consensus-building strategies. They both assume, or take it as a given, that the people come first and that the people need to be won over. Thus, Reverend Moon’s identification of shared vision and love as the twin sources of unity aligns his theory with the values of an open, democratic system. Physical power, dazzling knowledge, and money are not legitimate sources of social authority in his thought. In societies that respect the sovereignty of the individual, family and mediating institutions, power is granted those who create consensus.


Practices of the Unification Movement Viewed from the Perspective of Politics

This rendition of Unificationist theory may or may not reflect the deepest Unificationist impulse. In order to better capture that impulse, we should examine the actual practice of this global movement. It has been functioning as a global network of organizations for decades. The members of the founding cadre have been grandparents for some time now. The movement is maturing; it is hard to call it a new religious movement anymore. I now would like to examine some characteristics that might obtain in a Unificationist political society on the basis of how the movement actually functions.

Mediating Institutions

Free societies contain a multitude of empowered mediating institutions; dictatorial societies lack them. As already noted, Unificationism grants a distinctive position within the order of creation to the realm called society, the God-created space for mediating institutions. In other words, the Unificationist God designed the space for human beings to create mediating structures between the family and tribe and nation. Reverend Moon’s establishment of a dizzying plethora of associations, foundations, businesses, schools and other organizations distinct from and independent of each other puts teeth into the theory. The list runs into the hundreds.

He began with a church and then inspired the church members to create businesses, associations of students, of professors, of clergy, of scientists, lawyers, medical practitioners, and more. His people created publishing houses, schools, think tanks, service organizations, and more. Of late one observes the emergence of sports and hobby clubs, soccer teams, fishing and golf tournaments, and a mountain-hiking association. He is very supportive of alumni associations. Associations of members based upon vocation will surely develop, including professional societies such as the North American Educators Conference and affinity-based associations such as the Pocono’s Family Ministries and renewed Blessed Family Association.[19] Once the Founder’s guiding hand is gone, these institutions will have to take on a life of their own. Those that best serve the public good will flourish; surely others will fade away.

Separation of Powers

The Divine Principle states that the separation of powers also characterizes the order of creation. “From the beginning, the separation of powers was to be characteristic of the political structure of the ideal society which God has been working to realize.”[20] It illustrates this with the separation of functions of the stomach, heart and lungs, comparing these with the legislative, judicial and executive powers of government (which represents which is not specified). In the movement, however, we see the consolidation and separation of powers co-existing. Within the church per se, Reverend Moon consolidates in himself legislative, executive and judicial powers, much as parents do in a family. He decided the three core laws of the heavenly constitution. He gives the commands to church action and inspires members to extra-church activities. Leaders come to him to resolve matters of conflict. This consolidation is replicated throughout the hierarchy of the church. Using the body analogy, the stomach, heart and lungs are collapsed into one.

I believe that his consolidation of the three powers is short-term, persona and race-based. Even as consolidation obtains within Unificationist organizational units, the existence of mediating institutions brings a separation of powers and checks and balances between organizational units. The separation of young adult ministry from the church, in the form of The Collegiate Association for the Research of Principles (CARP), is one example. Young adults have options, and once one option is provided, the door is open to choice as a right. Now the “Second-Generation Office,” the Religious Youth Service, the International Relief Friendship Foundation and Service for Peace, as well as the church itself all offer options for youth with equal claim to spiritual blessing. Youth now can choose to enlist in the “Special Task Force” in America, Japan or Europe, on a regional level (RTF), or not at all.[21]

Another alternative ministry is Ocean Church, which, when it was operative, consisted of a system of witnessing centers separate from the church per se, with a different leadership. Another is the Cheong Pyeong Training Center activity, offering a spiritual path and financial structure separate from the institutional church. The Unification community contains various fundraising organizations, carrying out basically the same activity using the same methodology. Unificationists run four seminaries, two founded by Reverend Moon and two by younger leaders, none in communication regarding theological orthodoxy or practical standards for ministry. Unification businesses and non-profit organizations each proffer salvific promises. This allows business and non-profit leaders to offer members alternative paths for spiritual growth and theological justification.

These various independent organizations each check the authority of the church leader and of each other. From this perspective, the title “unification” is ironic. A church leader may be displeased with those who do not hand out flyers for a speech, and even criticize them for lack of church activity, but members can simply say, sorry, I’m distributing newspapers, or I’m fundraising, or I’m managing a hotel, or I’m organizing a religious dialogue, and have no qualms about their theological justification.

The only unifying force one witnesses in the movement is the True Parents, Reverend and Mrs. Moon, when their actions apply to every locality. The most common example is their speaking tours. But once the one un-checkable, never-to-be balanced call to attend an event with the True Parents curtails, no absolute religious force is apparent on the Unification horizon. Will this separation of powers between organizations lead to rationalization of authority and opening out of communications within organizations as well? The signs that I observe, together with my faith in human nature and what Unificationism calls “the merit of the age,” tell me it will.

Federal System

The Unification Church[22] is organized as a federal system, based on continents, nations, regions, states or provinces, and finally local churches. The larger Unificationist movement contains multiple global and national federal systems, including World CARP, Kodan, the WFWP, the networks of national messiahs, various international business enterprises, and the loose-knit global congregation—perhaps “list” would be a better word at this point—of the Ambassadors for Peace. Among major leaders, I have witnessed fierce competition horizontally. Vertically, local leaders often assert their precedence over national authority. Church entities in the same industry operate independent of each other. I recall strident vituperation on the part of the owner of one Unificationist travel agency against the practices of another Unificationist travel agency operating in the same city. Turf battle over fundraising territory in America took place between rival leaders for years. The author witnessed, as a normal course of events, proclamations by a leader taking on a new church post, relating the magnificence of the foundation he established in the church from which he had just departed, and the miserable state of the church into which he was now arriving.

In general, Unificationist vertical, or federal, integration has been so strong that horizontal integration has been practically non-existent. The vertical integration, however, is weakening. The major leader of the next generation, Hyun Jin Moon, calls teamwork a core value of the movement. He, as well as Reverend Chung Hwan Kwak, Reverend Moon’s designated deputy over all movement affairs, is attempting to bring together leaders of diverse movement entities into meaningful conferencing regarding shared challenges. These meetings have begun by sharing reports; one hopes that meaningful dialogue and planning will follow. Being optimistic, I believe that horizontal integration, or teamwork, will prevail as an external method and that vertical integration will settle down as a spiritual practice. As it does, some parts of the movement will disintegrate and others will blossom. Longevity will depend upon leaders’ ability to integrate as colleagues horizontally. Institutions that serve others’ needs and interests will prosper.

Merit over Inherited Position

Until the late 1980s, Unificationists anticipated a passing of substantial authority to Reverend Moon’s lineal descendants, even in the face of his well-publicized statement that “we are all messiahs, or should be.” In practice, lineage is not shaping into that significant a factor. Reverend Moon has democratized the spiritual authority upon which substantial authority is based by delegating to all blessed couples the keys to the Unificationist kingdom, the priesthood, the power to change blood lineage through the marriage blessing. He has called each couple to replicate his messianic course of blessing expanding circles of couples. He has granted them the authority to match and bless their own children. In October of 2004 he set up the twelve tribes of which he has spoken for years. Each is headed by a little-known Korean blessed couple.[23]

Reverend Moon’s sons are more outspoken than anyone in advocating merit over inherited status, ending, in the arenas they govern, Unificationist institutional paternalism. Less and less do seniority in the church, or number of children, determine income and status in a church-related business or non-profit. The Unification teachings are found capable of expression equally well through the vocabulary of management theory as through theology. A significant emerging leader considers the hire of non-Unification Church personnel more likely of success than that of Unification Church member, because of what he considers the entitlement mentality inculcated by the church culture. The Reverend Moon is often impressive in his ability to give soft landings to leaders who are removed; other leaders are not as parental.

In contrast with Reverend Moon’s dealings with people as individuals, he often demands abrupt changes in position on the basis of a lottery. Early in 2004 Reverend Moon broke down the church leadership structure in Korea, dispersing all the settled congregations into house churches and disrobing two-thirds of the established ministers of their clerical authority and their livings. One expects that it will not be long until church leaders also are chosen by virtue of merit as well as race and personal vocation.

Law over Personality

Reverend C. H. Kwak recently has stressed the dictum of law over personality. Now this has little meaning if one really thinks about it, because it leaves open many questions, including that of who makes, interprets and enforces the law. Nonetheless, it is a symbolic turn away from a movement guided by personal charisma or inherited status.

Representative Government

The people are sovereign in a democratic regime. To establish government, they consent to alienating a portion of their sovereignty to those whom they duly elect to represent them in the greater spheres of social organization (town, county, state, nation). In the Unification Church, leadership is normally designated not through election but through appointment. This is changing simply because fewer are agreeing to participate in it. By the mid-90s, the church in America lacked people willing to be appointed to every state. In those states, the members got together and elected their own leader. The frequency of this taking place has slowed with the arrival of more Asian and African leaders who are relatively happy to be assigned leadership positions in America.

Nonetheless, the die has been cast, and it is significant that when no appointees were available, the election of church leaders created not so much as a blip on the radar screen. In Reverend Moon’s above-mentioned decentralization of the Korean church, he directed that the newly formed house churches in each district elect a representative to serve on a council that oversees district-wide activities. Here we see a mix of Congregationalist and Presbyterian polities. At the Unification Theological Seminary in 2001-02, the students made democratic demands upon the administration. This replaced the administrative appointment of the Student Council president and class officers with an open election by all students. It led to the Student Council president sitting on the seminary President’s Cabinet. Prior to this, students had requested the end of the team system, in which each student was assigned to a team. Again, this transition was smooth.

When Reverend Moon delegated the authority of matching children to all parents, a parent’s voice arose requesting church facilitation, in particular for the purpose of meaningful exchange blessings beyond nation. Objections arose immediately from other parents, and the church did not act on the request. The desire for familial sovereignty outweighed the desire to adhere to the exchange marriage mandate. Sovereignty once granted is not easily given up.[24]

Moral Authority

Unification spiritual sovereignty, or priesthood, has shifted from the institutional church to the blessed couple. This brings a host of religious and, hence, political implications. If families, not church leaders or individuals, own the keys to the kingdom, then the values, principles and practices that promote healthy family life become primary goals for a society to be pursued through politics. The values, principles and practices that degrade family life clearly are de-legitimated. Priesthood bestowed upon all families, and only families, would tend to mean that in the Unification society, marriage would no longer be a choice, in the same sense that getting an education, learning a trade or skill, or making a living through adding value to society is not a choice. I want to balance this observation, however, with reference to other Unificationist characteristics. One is “heart,” which manifests as a willingness to accommodate situations “case by case.” A second is the related inability of Unification organizations to carry out strict administrative functioning. A third is an ultimate Unificationist pragmatism.[25] For example, non-married members with capability do establish themselves in positions appropriate to their skills and non-Unificationists at times assume positions of power.

Here we can make an aside concerning today’s political landscape in the United States. Most people accept the conventional wisdom that the Republican Party is more comfortable with the institution of the traditional family than is the Democratic Party. But under the surface is a riptide: the Republicans also enshrine the sovereignty of the individual and freedom of commerce to respond to market demands, and the Democrats advocate the community good and collective values. Democrats point out that the people of the “blue states,” supposed champions of moral values, gorge themselves on televised immorality. They debunk the Republican appeal to moral values as hypocritical, and question the merits of the “moral issues” vote in the 2004 election by noting that moral issues have been the primary factor in all recent presidential elections, and that the percentage of voters who voted on moral issues decreased in 2004.

The Republicans are succeeding, however, because they still hoist the values flag, however tattered, which the Democrats have lowered to appease those who would weave abortion-on-demand and homosexual marriage into its fabric. By sorting out these mixed threads it may be possible for Unificationists to articulate what Reverend Moon calls a head wing position, which maintains the distinction between the parties but allows them to discourse and cooperate in a way befitting a civil society. The Unificationist hope, one befitting a movement that is religious at its core, is that a supernatural grace bestowed upon society through the Blessing of marriage will open this possibility.


Unificationist Foundations of Sovereignty

Sovereignty, in the American tradition, is grounded in the individual’s status as a child of God. The individual is created to fulfill God’s purposes, and God, being just, endows each and every person with the powers necessary to do so. Human beings have the God-given right and responsibility to exercise these powers; hence they are inalienable. To remove these powers forcibly is a violation of God’s purposes. The purpose of government, in the American tradition, is to protect this God-given individual sovereignty. Individuals voluntarily turn over, or “alienate,” a portion of their sovereignty to the government in order to more effectively exercise it. Each hands over to the collective their personal right to set laws, judge transgression against them, and execute punishments. In exchange, the individual has a hand in the determination, judgment and execution of laws through elected representatives.

This is consistent, I believe, with Unification theology. Consider the question of God’s purposes, for the fulfillment of which he grants human beings power and political rights. In the Anglo-American tradition, God’s purposes were expressed as “life, liberty and (private) property.” The Anglo-American foundation recognizes the God-given right to maintain our own physical life, to act according to our will, and to own property. The America founders, at the last moment of the writing of the Declaration of Independence, substituted, “the pursuit of happiness” for “property.” The Unificationist understanding of God’s purposes affirms ownership as a cardinal principle. Thus it would affirm, in theory, the right to private property. In practice we do not see this affirmed equitably. Members are requested to give up all their property to the church—albeit with a quick assurance that it will be re-instated with godly approval. One of the three rules of the heavenly constitution demands respect for public property—not private. The movement trades on the virtue of poverty in its message to the bulk of its members. It asserts that utilization of expensive cars and homes by some leaders is necessary socially, to convey the proper image of the church. Thus the use of worldly assets is regulated in the name of religion at this time.

Unification theory also provides a gloss on “the pursuit of happiness.” Reverend Moon teaches that God’s purposes that bring happiness are elucidated in the blessing given Adam in Genesis 1:28, to be fruitful, multiply and have dominion over the earth. This is understood to mean that each individual has the God-given purpose of attaining individual maturity in oneness with God, create an ideal marriage and family and participate in an ecologically-sound society of, to employ a standard Unificationist phrase, “peace, freedom, unification and happiness.” Western political thought asserts that since God purposed that we accomplish these things, and since God is benevolent and just, He gave us the powers necessary to realize our blessings and we have the right to exercise those powers. The purpose of government, therefore, would be to enable humankind, and each of us, to achieve these things. Unificationism would accept this logic. God created partnerships through which our purposes can be fulfilled and he empowered human beings to be the “rulers of the universe,” the “mediators and centers of harmony of the cosmos.”[26]

Unificationist theory does not indicate the pro-activity with which governments should enable human beings to fulfill their purposes. Does government exist to clear away obstacles? Should government do more than that and tutor, endow, encourage and even provide for this fulfillment? The spirit of Unificationism cuts both ways. On the one hand, there is a strong ethic of individual responsibility, each person’s “five-percent,” without the fulfillment of which one could live in the Kingdom of Heaven but still be in a personal prison. No free riders on this side of the picture. On the other hand, Unificationism tends to view individuals and even nations as perennial children in need of parental guidance and nurture. Nations are fixed as father, mother, elder son and all the younger siblings. A 70-year old is still treated as a child by his/her 90-year old parent. These diverse views reflect the assent to both a masculine approach (you are on your own) and feminine approach (your parents are always with you).

Let us examine the implications of the movement’s practice with respect to the concept of sovereignty.

Individual Sovereignty

The western view that sovereignty resides in the individual has its modern roots in the Reformation (Luther) and Enlightenment (e.g., Locke). Like Luther, Reverend Moon upholds a strong view of individual sovereignty. One of his favorite maxims is “I am my own Lord in all heaven and earth,” attributed to the Buddha, which could be seen as an eastern equivalent of Luther’s legendary “here I stand; I can do no other.” Reverend Moon himself is a strong individualist who listens to no one other than God, bucking in God’s name every social, religious and political convention that stands in his way. Understanding himself to have fulfilled the requirements of a perfect servant, nay, son, of God, Reverend Moon assumes absolute sovereignty. Thus, for Luther as for Moon, the qualification to be sovereign, or free, is granted only in the context of perfect service to God and others. Implicitly, those who fulfill perfect association with God are promised complete sovereignty. Perfect sovereignty attends perfect servanthood. Luther perhaps said it best, “The true Christian is Lord of all, serving none. The true Christian is servant of all, Lord over none.”

For Locke, the qualification to be sovereign, or free, begins with tacit consent to the form of democratic government and responsible participation in it. Consent to the constitutional government allows one to participate in the shared sovereignty of the political sphere. Gaining public support, one may personify, for a period of time, the social authority granted to elected leaders.

As per the above discussion, Unification theory and practice seem to harmonize with both pillars of the democratic spirit. In fact, Reverend Moon’s teaching on the sovereignty of the individual based upon service to God and others could not be more decisive. Individual sovereignty is the exact human gift that allowed the fall to transpire. Even at the cost of separation, God would not use force to assert his power as a ruler. His teaching is aptly set forth in the following passage.

Why did God not intervene in the human fall? God’s love for human beings means that He would have dominion over them through their own initiative. In all love in Heaven and on earth, the main element is not “I” but “the other.” Hence, God respects and serves His object partner [human beings], and if He rules over [them] instead, this will ruin the fundamental basis [purpose of creating them]. So God could not intervene lest He should become a reverse ruler.”[27]

The Principle affirms the categories of rule, dominion, and governmental authority, but it clarifies the legitimate grounds for these as respect and service. Reverend Moon rails against unregulated seizure of power; e.g., “What is communism? They are a self-centered group of people. They will do anything to take and keep power.”[28] God, for Reverend Moon, is the first public servant. His commitment to respect Adam and Eve’s personal sovereignty overrode His desire to protect their position as His children. There were no entitlements in the Garden of Eden. Failure to “respect and serve,” in Reverend Moon’s words, ruins life, defeats the purpose of being alive, and makes of God, and certainly of any human being, a “reverse ruler,” the opposite of what a governor or government should be. A ruler or government that does not respect and serve the people is a false ruler and false government. A true government would be one in which leaders are chosen and who govern by the will of the people. The governors are granted their authority on the basis of the people’s own “initiative.” God, in allowing the fall, was respecting Adam and Eve’s personal sovereignty.

Reverend Moon takes this principle to its next logical step, a step that, to my awareness, no Christian theologian has ever taken. God can be God only when the people make Him God. This was the premise that led to Reverend Moon’s coronation of God, January 13, 2001. The Unification God was not completely a sovereign, or king, until His children crowned Him. Legitimate sovereignty is given up by the beloved in response to love, and in no other way. Sovereignty is granted reciprocally in return for love given. The greatest indeed is the one who serves all.

Family Sovereignty

In Lockean theory, individual sovereignty is granted automatically at age 21, with the assumption of tacit consent to the rule of law. Age 21 is the time of assuming individual responsibility for one’s life separate from one’s parents. The Unificationist theory is not that simple. Unificationism rejects the division between parents and children inherent in the Lockean view. This does not contradict the affirmation of perfected individuality, but affirms that the individual is deeply embedded in a relational context, the primary one being that of the family, and that is not severed at age 21.[29]

For Unificationists, one never ultimately leaves one’s parents. Individual perfection is accomplished only in the context of the three-generational family. Individual perfection is meaningful, but only in relation to one’s parents, spouse and children. One enters God’s direct dominion of love through the blessing of marriage. One gains eternal felicity only with one’s family. Thus, since perfect obedience to God requires a family, sovereignty is granted to the individual only in the context of the family. The rights and powers, or sovereignty, granted the individual per se under Locke and Luther are thus tempered by relationship with one’s grandparents, parents, brothers and sisters, spouse, children and grandchildren. Here Unificationists are legates of the New England Puritans, who mandated that unmarried adults live in a household with a family.

How this will work out in political practice remains to be seen. It did not work for long in Boston. In practice, Unificationists have not even attempted a thoroughgoing family-based ethic. In fact, the movement is individualistic. The price of joining the movement, for most people, was separation from their family. Members have been expected to separate from spouse and children for extended periods of time. In Japan, the blessed husband living in a different city from his wife and children is normal, in line with the larger culture. Everywhere, members are expected to work long hours, and time spent with the family in excess of that devoted to mission is frowned upon. The movement displays no mechanism to recognize “the family” as a political or social unit. It does not even begin to address tough questions in this arena, such as the merits of having both parents work, day care, educational policy, taxation, and so forth.

This Unificationist denial that family matters could change. Discussion of the discouraging results of such practices upon many of the offspring of church marriages, as well as on the marriages themselves, is becoming commonplace. I believe that Unificationist pro-family teachings sooner or later will have an effect upon the movement. A current example of this is the shift of the movement’s locus of spiritual authority from the institutional church, led and managed by heroic individuals, to the blessed family. Numerous families have taken the step of rejecting the church community in the name of family spirituality, arguing that the family is the real church. The ecclesiastical playing field is leveled, in theory and, in Korea, in practice. All blessed parents are ordained as clergy in relation to the church sacramental system.[30]

Further questions in need of answers have to do with the extent of authority that the people might be willing to alienate from themselves to those among them chosen to rule, what is the method of choosing rulers, and what Divine Principle would identify as the fundamental unit of the political society—the individual or the family.

National Sovereignty and Multiplicity of “Kingship”

A focused discussion of national sovereignty will have to wait, but I would like to discuss the question of whether Unificationism sees the leader as a public servant, a more democratic notion, or as a parent or monarch, a more traditional notion.

The contemporary democratic paradigm does not bestow much power upon leaders. America’s elected leaders are subject to checks and all powers are balanced by other powers. They rule temporarily, and are chosen on the basis of merit, not ancestry. The United States has no hereditary aristocracy to which society gives deference. Citizens serve for two to six years as legislators, before the voters evaluate their performance. They serve for four years as the chief executive, with an option for only one more term. Judges have the longest tenure, for life, but the status is not passed on automatically to their offspring. The people can change the laws, even the constitution. No one in government can act unilaterally, but for extreme circumstances, and that for a brief period. All have others with power balanced over against them; all are checked, all efforts are subject to debate and compromise. The winner is indeed the one who is best at building consensus.

In terms of Unification rhetoric, this power delegated to political leaders would be seen as puny.[31] Unificationists idealize themselves as kingmakers. God wanted Adam to be king and all Adam’s descendents to be royalty. But as the recent movie, The Incredibles, expresses, when all are superheroes, none are superheroes. How can there exist a society of multiple kings?

A society can embrace multiple kings when it is able to demarcate effectively the kingdom over which each king exercises dominion. For Unificationism, the person with mind-body unity is monarch over him/herself. Parents are monarchs of the home and family. [32] Directors, chairpersons and organizational presidents are monarchs over their club, business or association, according to the nature of the entity. If this is nothing more than democracy writ with blue blood, why use the vocabulary of royalty at all? Let us first observe how Reverend Moon defines kingship. The monarch is the one who respects and serves his/her people. Therefore, God is the king. The king is the first and greatest public servant. In the Unificationist belief, service brings unity; unity brings love, and love brings the desire of the beloved to be controlled by the lover. The only true dominion is the dominion of love. All else is false dominion, temporary and unsatisfying. People cannot trust those from whom they feel no love. Political revolution is inevitable until true dominion is established.[33]

Since the world in which we live is bereft of love, the best government is that which limits its own power, namely, democracy. This limitation built into the democratic system of laws and practices. Yet here is Reverend Moon, declaring that absolute love has been incarnated in him and his wife and family and is, in theory, possible for all to realize. Well, in theory we arrive at the same conclusion. If all can love perfectly and equally, then Unificationism still boils down to democracy. Since taking a leadership position, as a servant leader, requires incredible sacrifice of personal life, people of true love would not wish to place that burden on anyone for very long. Therefore, the Unification leaders would have short terms of office. Since all have an equal spiritual foundation to serve others, that is, equality in the realm of heart, the individuals whom society would want serving as governors and administrators would be those who also have exemplary training, talent and skill in that area. Since all have equal value based upon love, it would seem that the choice of exactly which person is going to be the one to govern during a given governmental cycle should be decided by election.[34] It seems that the proliferation of messiahship indeed implies a democratic system of governance.

In a regime in which all are royalty, one would expect that the state would exist for no reason other than to facilitate administration. The state, the governing apparatus, would serve to facilitate the life of the people, expressed in culture and family. The state would require formal legislative, executive and judicial apparatus. The state would be multi-level and each level should have powers appropriate to its responsibility.

The individuals running the government on its various levels, from village to nation and world, would have their position on the basis of their merit in terms of leadership, communication, technique, diplomacy, creativity, teamwork and so forth. As government officials they would be responsible for concerns of public interest, such as transportation, communications, public relations, exchange processes, standards of weights and measures and the environment. Many of these are technical questions on which people of good will can research, develop, implement and improve. I suggest that the Unificationist affirmation of discrete levels of the created order, each with inherent dignity, rights and responsibilities, is consistent with the Catholic social principle of subsidiarity, by which decisions are made by those in closest proximity to the appertaining causes and results.

In the state and most if not all social organizations, people would relate as colleagues, brothers and sisters. Paul’s saying that “there is neither male nor female” would apply here. People work at shared tasks for the public good, the common weal. Leaders would be elected; to do otherwise would rob all the people of their sovereignty, of the dominion over the earth with which God blessed our ancestors.[35]

Popular Sovereignty and Elections

Then what of political parties? I will address this by returning to the statement on political parties set forth on page 361 of the EDP. It defines political parties, those interesting entities that the Divine Principle has conveying God’s word to the larger society. Here is the passage:

Just as the commands of the brain are transmitted to every part of the body through the peripheral nervous system branching out from the spinal cord, in the ideal world God’s guidance is conveyed to the entire society through Christ, who corresponds to the spinal cord, and God-loving leaders, who correspond to the peripheral nervous system. The peripheral nervous system branching out from the spinal cord corresponds to a nation’s political parties. Thus, in the ideal world, people of God led by Christ will form organizations analogous to today’s political parties.

As I argued above, the Divine Principle’s body analogy breaks down when pressed to explain competing political parties within a single body politic. The biological body does not have to rule between alternative approaches to attend to its functioning.[36] The nervous system is autonomous; it is a smoothly functioning administrative and managerial regime. It is part and parcel of the order of nature, making no moral choices. The body politic, on the other hand, is rife with moral choices. Every individual, family and larger institution is making moral choices. These congeal into large-scale alternatives for a nation as a whole. This is why marriage is a useful analogy for politics in government, in particular because marriage stands outside the determinism imposed by lineage.

The choice between relatively masculine and relatively feminine approaches to government are not contests of good and evil, but rather are different paths toward the greatest good. Therefore, electoral politics in the Unificationist ideal world will have significance. In theory, elections will serve to reveal God’s will to a world in which all are equal and authentic monarchs, people of nobility. The small-scale elections that I cited above signify that once the appointment system wears away, and once the people expect to participate in self-government, elections will emerge as the method to choose the leaders of government.[37]

The Unificationist ethos has it that all people would be monarchs for the sake of others—Lords of all and servants of all. All people would have dominion and responsibility over a personal and familial realm, by nature, and some over greater realms, by vocation. The quality of life is to matter more than the quantity of assets. The Divine Principle introduces the category of monarchy in its primal discussion of the position of man and woman as true husband and wife, establishing that position as that which in and of itself fulfills God’s purpose of creation.[38] Social status, in this cosmology, is incidental, a passing dream. It is to be self-evident that a small kingdom of holiness and peace provides greater joy than an empire of profanity and conflict. Conventional wisdom has it that a middle-class citizen in a modern society has benefits and powers far greater than the kings and queens of old. The royal dignity of the parent, the priest and the servant leader is God-given and God-imbued. It is of the highest order of value. And I posit that this is why Reverend Moon utilizes the vocabulary of royalty.


Some Books and Articles on Unificationist Politics[39]

Anderson, Gordon. “American Democracy and the True Society.” Journal of Unification Studies 2 (1998).

Casino, Bruce. “Thoughts on Unification Theology and Democracy,” Currents, Fall 1989.

_______. “Suggestions on a Unificationist Social Policy.” Currents, Spring 1990.

Durst, Mose. Unification Culture and the 21st Century. New York: HSA-UWC, 1991.

James, Gene. “Family, Spiritual Values, and World Government.” Pp. 255-68 in The Family and the Unification Church. Barrytown, NY: UTS, 1983.

Johnson, Kurt. “Social Action and Politics.” Pp. 73-91 in Lifestyle: Conversations with Members of the Unification Church. Ed. by Richard Quebedeaux. Barrytown, NY: UTS, 1982.

Kelly, David F. “Religion and Society in Unificationism.” Pp. 357-64 in Hermeneutics and Horizons. Ed. by Frank Flinn. Barrytown, NY: UTS, 1982.

Kittel, Robert. “The Two Shall Become One Flesh: Fulfilling the Ideal of Creation through the Family.Journal of Unification Studies 6 (2005).

Kliever, Lonnie. “Unification Social Hermeneutics: Theocratic or Bureaucratic?” Pp. 365-71 in Hermeneutics and Horizons. Ed. by Frank Flinn. Barrytown, NY: UTS, 1982.

Lee, Sang Hun. The New Cultural Revolution and Unification Thought. Tokyo, Japan: Kogensha, 1987.

Mickler, Michael. “The Ideal Society and Its Realization in Unification Tradition,” Pp. 313-330 in The Ideal in the World’s Religions. Ed. by Robert Carter and Sheldon Isenberg. St. Paul, MN: Paragon House, 1997.

_______. “The Politics and Political Influence of the Unification Movement.” Paper presented at the annual meeting of the Society for the Scientific Study of Religion, Washington, D.C., 1992.



[1] Dr. Sang Hun Lee, The New Cultural Revolution and Unification Thought (Tokyo, Japan: Kogensha, 1987) p. 95.

[2] Ibid., p. 94. Lee defines vertical love as that expressed between parents and children, and horizontal love as that expressed among siblings or between spouses.

[3] Ibid., p. 91.

[4] Exposition of the Divine Principle, p. 31.

[5] Ibid.

[6] Ibid., p. 336.

[7] Ibid., p. 337.

[8] Ibid., p. 338.

[9] Ibid. p. 339.

[10] Ibid., p. 340.

[11] Ibid.

[12] Ibid., p. 23. The same sentence articulates give and take action “between the government and citizens in a nation,” but fails to identify give and take actions among societal entities. Give and take actions take place only “among people” and “between the government and citizens.”

[13] I will not discuss the final level, the cosmos, as its relevant to this paper introduces too many diverse understandings.

[14] I interpret Reverend Moon’s calls for the elimination of boundaries as a call to pacify borders and rationalize relations among nations, not to collapse national sovereignties.

[15] Exposition of the Divine Principle (EDP), p. 361. I reserve a discussion of this passage for the end of this article.

[16] It may be no accident that every time Reverend Moon has established an organization that resembles a political party, his lieutenants have clarified that the purpose of the new organization is education.

[17] I am no political scientist, but my lay opinion is that a mature democracy hosts, for all intents and purposes, two major parties representing the left and the right.

[18] Father’s Words on the Divine Principle I (The House of Unification for World Peace, 2003), p. 56.

[19] I believe that associations created based upon an initiative from the higher level will either fade away or will self-transform into structures with a grassroots base. For example, the BFA generated from above in the 1980s faded away, and is being renewed out of an impulse proper to its nature and purpose in a modern context.

[20] EDP, 361.

[21] In a church in the author’s vicinity, the CARP leader himself is creating an extra-CARP ministry to attract Unificationist college students who are unmoved by the CARP message.

[22] In this article, the term Unification Church refers also to the Family Federation for World Peace and Unification.

[23] Reference to the occasion is found in the caption of the photograph on p. 7 of Today’s World, October 2004.

[24] As of this writing, once again Reverend Moon is matching church offspring in marriage, in the process pointedly excluding parents from participation and even presence. It is difficult to judge the members’ reaction to this without knowing the number of families who could have participated and comparing it with the number that did. The number of couples in the first such even, in New York, was 121. The number in the second, six weeks later in Korea, was lightly lower.

[25] For an illuminating discussion of this Unification pragmatic adaptation to the environment, see Mickler, “The Ideal Society and Its Realization in Unification Tradition,” pp. 313-330 in The Ideal in the World’s Religions.

[26] EDP, pp. 46-47.

[27] Ibid., with copy-editing, italics and insertions by the author, p. 68.

[28] Ibid., p. 70.

[29] Robert Kittel provides a useful discussion of a man “leaving” his parents upon marriage, which distinguishes the Unification understanding from the Lockean: “Marriage, therefore, is the birth of a new family… drawing the support of the entire family together… the parent-child relationship grows when children leave home. Parents play a primary role in helping support and stabilize the new marital union… they have a vested interest in the success of the newly weds.” “The Two Shall Become One Flesh: Fulfilling the Ideal of Creation through the Family,” Journal of Unification Studies 6 (2005).

[30] Unificationists have in Korea a national president with significant power, and what the top leadership deconstructs, the top leadership can construct again. The structural change has endured for a year. At the same time, we note that this reform is not being carried out in Japan or America, despite the Founder’s encouragement to consider it.

[31] Yet, ironically, compare the power of the President of the United States with that at the command of most kings today and in history.

[32] The similarity of Unificationist family practice with that of the bourgeoisie family, for which “a man’s home is his castle,” is apparent here and, I believe, in other respects not covered in this paper.

[33] The Divine Principle discusses the godly sources of the “rise and fall of nations” and constant social unrest as human beings strive to achieve their ideals. See EDP, pp. 98-101, 347-51.

[34] Gordon Anderson suggests a combination of lottery and election. See “American Democracy and the True Society,” Journal of Unification Studies 2 (1998).

[35] This implies that all Adam’s children, male and female alike, inherited his dominion. Monarchists traditionally held that the eldest son alone inherited the paternal dominion. Unification theory seems to agree with this, but does not directly address the matter of the inheritance by the youngers. Unification practice, however, does not insist upon the eldest son’s unique rights. The doctrine of individual responsibility is a counterweight to pro forma inheritance rules.

[36] Dr. Andrew Wilson points out a parallel between the body and the two-party system, “as the nerves run in pairs: motor nerves and sensory nerves, sympathetic nerves and parasympathetic nerves.” [Note to the author, Nov. 30, 2004]

[37] Gene James presents an illuminating discussion of the relationship between Unification family and public ethics, in “Family, Spiritual Values, and World Government.” pp. 262-67 in The Family and the Unification Church (Barrytown, NY: UTS, 1983).

[38] EDP, p. 30.

[39] With recognition to Mike Mickler for providing much of this list.