Cult leader Sun Myung Moon, who founded the Unification Church and also presided over a vast business empire, has died. He was 92 years old.
It is not yet known who will succeed him in leading the church, which is estimated to have between five to seven million members. But in a Washington Post article published in 1997, Moon was quoted as saying this when asked what will happen to his empire after he dies: “I will continue to lead the church from the spirit world.”
Moon claimed that when he was 15, Jesus asked him to take on the work of building God’s kingdom on Earth. He founded the Unification Church in 1954.
In a 1974 speech titled “Human Life,” Moon said, “I must go beyond the failure of Adam, the failure of Abraham, the failure of Moses, the failures of Jacob, Moses, and John the Baptist, and Jesus.” Moon believed that Jesus failed to restore human beings to their intended position as God’s “perfect children” because he was crucified before he could marry and have children.
Theologically the Unification Church is a cult of Christianity — in that it claims to be ‘Christian’ while denying, changing, or adding to the essential doctrines of the Christian faith.
Particularly during the seventies and eighties Moon’s church was also widely viewed as a cult in the sociological sense of the term. Business Week points out that
Moon faced widespread criticism for his aggressive recruitment practices. Former Unification Church members said they were lied to — a church-approved practice known as heavenly deception — deprived of sleep and beaten by church followers. Many turned over their savings to Moon’s organization.
In 1982, Moon was convicted in the US of tax evasion; he spent 13 months in federal prison. NPR quotes James Beverley, a professor at Tyndale Seminary in Toronto and an expert on Moon:
“He claimed he was innocent, and he regarded his time in prison as an equivalent to the death of Jesus,” Beverley says.
Beverley says after his release, which Moon compared to the Resurrection, Moon publicly declared himself the Messiah.
The rest of this story is available on Religion News Blog.