The Details - Learn to Recognize Them
by: Lee Penn
San Francisco, California
In 1939, Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union made a surprise alliance, agreeing not to attack each other, to hand over political prisoners and refugees wanted by the other side, and to divide Poland among themselves. This agreement led directly to World War II, and lasted until the Nazis invaded the Soviet Union in June 1941. Despite their supposed enmity, both the totalitarian right and the totalitarian left made common cause against their enemies, the democratic countries. In America and in Western Europe, the Communists did their best to undermine the resistance against the Nazis - until, with the invasion of the Soviet Union, the Reds became overnight zealots for the war against Hitler.
Similar strange alliances are appearing now in the churches, as anti-Christian forces of the "right" and of the "left" unite against Christ and His teachings.
Background - Who are the players?
A. The United Religions Initiative (URI) is an interfaith movement founded in 1995 by William Swing, the bishop of the Episcopal Church's diocese in the San Francisco Bay Area. It has expanded worldwide, with over 200 chapters - the majority of which are outside the affluent nations of North America, Western Europe, and the Pacific Rim.
The URI works closely with the United Nations, and it has received funding from many sources. Among them are wealthy donors (including foundations headed by George Soros and Bill Gates), a Federal agency (the United States Institute of Peace), and organizations (the Rudolf Steiner Foundation and the Lucis Trust World Service Fund) that promote various forms of Theosophy, an anti-Christian, New Age spiritual movement.
The URI supports the Earth Charter, a radical environmental manifesto promoted by Mikhail Gorbachev. President Bush, a neo-conservative Republican, and Grey Davis, the embattled liberal Democratic governor of California, have both commended the interfaith work of the URI and Bishop Swing.
URI leaders repeatedly equate evangelism to manipulative "proselytizing" and violence. As Bishop Swing has said, "In order for a United Religions to come about and for religions to pursue peace among each other, there will have to be a godly cease-fire, a temporary truce where the absolute exclusive claims of each will be honored, but an agreed-upon neutrality will be exercised in terms of proselytizing, condemning, murdering or dominating. These will not be tolerated in the United Religions zone" (1) - which evidently covers the whole world.
URI leaders say "proselytizing" is the work of "fundamentalists," and Paul Chafee (who was then a URI board member) said at a URI forum in 1997, "We can't afford fundamentalists in a world this small." (2) If the URI vision prevails, Christian evangelism based on the unique, saving identity and acts of Christ would be ruled out.
B. The Unification Church, founded by the Rev. Sun Myung Moon, is a worldwide movement founded in 1954; it promotes the idea that Moon and his wife are "the Messiah and True Parents of all humanity." (3) A follower of Moon's explains that since "Jesus could not fulfill his entire mission, Heavenly Father had to rebuild the foundation for True Parents, by sending the Third Adam, Sun Myung Moon. Rev. Moon fulfilled the mission of True Parents that Adam and Jesus had failed to fulfill. By uniting with Rev. and Mrs. Moon humanity can fulfill their purpose of creation and enter the Kingdom of Heaven both spiritually and physically." (4)
The Unification Church was a staunch, hawkish opponent of Communism during the Cold War. It has endorsed Republicans in the US, and military rulers in Latin America. The Moonies own the Washington Times, a conservative paper in Washington DC, and Tiempos Del Mundo, a major paper based in Buenos Aires. (5) The Moonies create a bewildering array of front groups, each with its own acronym; several of these organizations promote interfaith dialogue.
C. Archbishop George Augustus Stallings, Jr., head of Washington DC's Imani Temple, (a breakaway African American Catholic congregation), left the Catholic Church in 1989, accusing the Church of racism. (6) In May 2001, Stallings participated in a Moonie mass wedding - after asking Moon for a Japanese wife. (7) [Archbishop Milingo, formerly from Zambia, participated in the same wedding, but left his "wife" after he was threatened with excommunication and received an appeal from the Pope to return to the Church. (8)]
Details - What are the players doing now?
One of the Moonie front groups: The World Association of Non-Governmental Organizations (WANGO), gave an "Interreligious Cooperation Award" to Bishop Swing and the URI at an October 2002 banquet in Washington. The Rev. Sanford Garner, a retired Episcopal priest and a founding member of the URI in Washington D.C., accepted the award on behalf of Swing, and gave an acceptance speech that Swing himself had written. (9)
The award has sparked bitter controversy within the URI. One URI activist expressed "horror and deep disappointment," describing the Unification Church as a cult that engages in "threats, brainwashing techniques, marriages to pre-arranged strangers," and lying to outsiders. Nevertheless, the URI board of directors stands behind its decision to accept the Moonies' award. Members of the Unification Church, and organizations aligned with it, have been active in the URI since 1997. (9)
WANGO actively supports adoption of Gorbachev's Earth Charter. (10) Thus, the Moonies' entry into the URI appears to be part of a Unificationist effort to broaden the conservative image that they have had in the past, so as to appeal to the left as well as to the right.
A different Moonie-founded organization: The American Clergy Leadership Conference (ACLC), is leading an effort to have Christian churches take down their crosses. ACLC's national chairman, Archbishop George Augustus Stallings, Jr., head of Washington DC's Imani Temple, said at a recent ACLC symposium, "The cross has served as a barrier in bringing about a true spirit of reconciliation between Jews and also between Muslims and Christians, and thus, we have sought to remove the cross from our Christian churches across America as a sign of our willingness to remove any barrier that stands in the way of us coming together as people of faith." Stallings added that "a history of religious intolerance, forced conversions, inquisitions and even racism as used by white supremacists" follows the cross through Christian history." (11)
Another Moonie executive, the Rev. Phillip Schanker, agreed with Stallings. He said that "Jewish tradition does not recognize Christ as the savior, and Islamic teachings deny that it was Jesus who was crucified. Christians, Schanker said, need to consider those disparate beliefs and ask themselves if the symbolism of the cross is worth maintaining the divisions it allegedly creates. 'It's a matter of overcoming the religious arrogance, the religious chauvinism, the narrow-mindedness, the judgmentalism that often comes from insecurity,' Schanker said." (11)
According to the report from Crosswalk, "Schanker accused those who disagree with the anti-cross movement of overreacting. 'I'm sure, for some narrow-minded Christians, it seems like we're undermining or denying the very foundations of Christian belief. Not at all; nobody is questioning the salvific role or Jesus' sacrificial position,' Schanker said. 'But we're recognizing from within New Testament understanding that Jesus transcended the cross. Let's not continue crucifying him. That's not where he is.'"(11)
In this respect, Schanker is following the line set forth by Moon himself: "Actually we should bury the cross, it is a source of great pain to God. Jesus turned it into a victory but originally he was to be coronated [sic] King of Israel. Israel was to receive him and this must be restored. If you bury the cross a massive Resurrection centering on Jesus will occur." (12)
The URI and the Moonies agree: Just deal with those "intolerant" Christians, and humanity will be on the way to peace. Better yet, convince the Christians to silence themselves, out of guilt for past abuses.
Strange religion is making strange bedfellows. (No novelist could make up this story!) What could unite the liberal, pro-feminist, egalitarian supporters of the United Religions with the right-wing, patriarchal, authoritarian Moonies? Only a common enemy: Christ.
(1) Bishop William E. Swing, The Coming United Religions, United Religions
Initiative and CoNexus Press, 1998; p. 31.
(2) Transcribed by Lee Penn from URI-provided tape of URI forum at Grace Cathedral, held on 2/2/97.
(3) Unification Church, "Who is Reverend Moon," http://www.unification.org/rev_mrs_moon.html
(4) True Parents Organization, "Who are True Parents Page," http://www.tparents.org/Tp-WhoAre.htm
(5) David V. Barrett, The New Believers: A Survey of Sects, 'Cults' and Alternative Religions, Cassell & Co., 2001, pp. 202-211
(6) Ind-Movement.org, "Denominations: African American Catholic Congregation," http://www.ind-movement.org/denoms/aacc_imani.html
(7) "Archbishops Wed in Moonie Wedding," Christianity Today weblog, week of May 28, 2001, http://www.christianitytoday.com/ct/2001/122/32.0.html
(8) CBS News, "Breakin' Up Is Hard To Do," August 29, 2001, http://www.cbsnews.com/stories/2001/08/07/world/main305331.shtml
(9) Lee Penn, "'Moonie' Group's Award to Episcopal Bishop Troubles URI Interfaith Activists," The Christian Challenge, January/February 2003, p. 31 The sources used for that story are available on request.
(10) WANGO, "History of WANGO: 2002, Beyond Boundaries," http://www.wango.org/about_WANGO/history_wango_2002.htm
(11) Jeff Johnson, "Christian Churches Should Stop Using the Cross, Group Says," Crosswalk.com, August 2003, http://www.crosswalk.com/news/1216019.html
(12) translation of speech by Moon, as given in early 2003, "The '2400' Cheon Il Guk Activity and Extension was victoriously completed," http://www.unification.net/news/2003/news20030301_1.html
(13) The background information on the URI is from Lee Penn, "Don't Look Now But â€¦," The Christian Challenge, July 30, 2003, reprinted in Free Republic, http://freerepublic.com/focus/f-religion/956549/posts, and from a book-length analysis by Lee Penn of the United Religions Initiative and the New Age movement, to be published later this year by the Catholic Family and Human Rights Institute, a research organization that monitors international organizations' activities from a pro-life, Catholic perspective.
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