Religious cult leader of the Unified Church, business owner, and self-proclaimed messiah, Sun Myung Moon died today at the age of 92 due to complication from pneumonia. The Washington Times, one of several publications Moon founded and owned reported his death, according to CNN.
"Our True Father passed into the spiritual world at 1:54 AM Monday, September 3rd, Korea time," a message on a Unification Church English-language website said.
"Words cannot convey my heart at this time," Thomas P. McDevitt, the Times' president, said in a story on the newspaper's website. "Rev. Sun Myung Moon has long loved America, and he believed in the need for a powerful free press to convey accurate information and moral values to people in a free world."
One of his sons, who is part of the church’s ministry, delivered a sermon last month, reporting on his father’s condition, saying, “Father, who is responsible to save the world, pushed himself way beyond his limits.”
His religious “empire” claims over a million followers around, but in 2009, a Washington Times article said that he only has a little over 100,000 followers world-wide and the Encyclopedia of American Religious History says up to 50,000 members in the U. S. People often call his followers Moonies and his movement began in the 1950s, often attracting many young people, who sold flowers on street corners to raise money for Moon's church.
Critics often accused Moon of brainwashing his followers, breaking up families, and lining his pockets with money. He would often conduct mass wedding ceremonies, believing and teaching that in order to get into heaven one must be married. He often mixed Christianity with his own beliefs and proclaimed himself the messiah.
He claimed that, while he was praying at the age of 15, Jesus appeared to him and asked him to set up God's kingdom on Earth.
Moon said he refused twice, but accepted on the third request.
He was later thrown out of the Presbyterian Church and also jailed and tortured by the Communists before he fled to the South.
In 2004, at what the New York Times called a bizarre moment at a peace awards banquet, “Representative Danny K. Davis, an Illinois Democrat, wearing white gloves, carried in on a pillow one of two gold crowns that were placed on Mr. Moon and his wife.” Other members of congress stated they had no idea of Moon’s involvement with the banquet, even though the Interreligious and International Federation for World Peace, a foundation affiliated with the Unification Church, hosted it.
At the banquet, Mr. Moon said emperors, kings and presidents had “declared to all heaven and earth that Reverend Sun Myung Moon is none other than humanity’s savior, messiah, returning lord and true parent.”
He added that the founders of the world’s great religions, along with figures like Marx, Lenin, Hitler and Stalin, had “found strength in my teachings, mended their ways and been reborn as new persons.”
Allegedly, Moon’s sermons and spiritual guidance are published in 400 volumes. His website states, “For the followers of the Family Federation for World Peace, his religious teachings provide the most clear and profound answers to their deepest questions about life.” The also claims that no other religious leader founded as many organizations and institutions for world peace as he did and give his life story, missionary work, establishment of his church in the U. S., tells about the U. S. charging him with tax evasion.
Without bitterness, Reverend Moon served time in Danbury Federal Prison, the sixth imprisonment of his life. He quickly won the respect of fellow inmates for his humble and friendly ways.
On August 20, 1985, Reverend Moon was freed after completing thirteen months of incarceration. Upon his release, major Christian and civil rights leaders, including Reverend Jerry Falwell of the Moral Majority and Reverend Joseph Lowery of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, held a press conference decrying the persecution and imprisonment of Reverend Moon and to welcome him back.
In addition, the U. S. charged and convicted Moon with tax evasion in 1982. He spent 11 months in prison, according to the BBC, with no mention of Evangelicals welcoming Moon back.
The organization itself “uses Christian terminology and categories, but the definitions and meanings are totally different,” said Fred Miller of True Light Educational Ministry in Shirley, N. Y.
Kurt Goedelman, founder of Personal Freedom Outreach, an apologetics ministry that deals with cults, told The Christian Post, “They claim to be Christian but they deny all tenets of Christianity.”
Despite the Unification promotion of peace and love, the movement is not a Christian organization, based on the faith’s primary tenet of having a relationship with Jesus.
“Moon claims that he’s the Messiah. In order to get to heaven, you must be married. Now I don’t know how different you can get from Christianity,” said Miller.
“He (Moon) was also actually ‘crowned’ King of Christianity,” he added.
Craig Branch, director of the Apologetics Resource Center, called the Unification Church“a pseudo-Christian cult,” in an email to CP.
Beverley agreed. “If cult refers to a group that claims to be Christian but is far, far away from clear, main biblical teaching then the Unification Church fits the description,” he said.
However, the Washington Post claims that Christian evangelist Jerry Falwell once compared Moon to “the plague”, but yet he went to Unificationist events as a supporter after Moon’s organization donated $3.5 million to Liberty University. Prior to that, the university almost declared bankruptcy.
He allegedly rescued University of Bridgeport, in Connecticut, from bankruptcy too. He gave them over $110 million in subsidies and in return, the university gave him an honorary degree. Critics accused the University of luring students into Moon’s church, by promising them scholarships, but the University denied the accusation.
According to the Washington Post, Moon would make grandiose statements, such as, “God is living in me and I am the incarnation of himself,” he said, according to sermon excerpts printed in Time magazine in 1976. “The whole world is in my hand, and I will conquer and subjugate the world.”
The Post stated, “His most prominent investment was the Washington Times, founded in 1982 as a conservative counterbalance to what Mr. Moon perceived as The Washington Post’s liberal bias.” The Washington Times wrote and extensive obituary on Moon of which the Post mentions things not covered in the Times' obituary, stating that the Washington Times goes with Moon.
The Washington Post also stated that Unificationists live communal lives, often forced to sever ties with their families, and calling Moon and his wife, Hak Ja Han, their Mother and Father, as well as their “True Parents”. Their real parents would often hire deprogrammers to get their children back again.
Moon was born in Korea, but was anti-Communism and pro-Capitalism, as he set up many newspaper and media businesses, earning millions of dollars from them. His wife Han and called the “True Mother”, gave birth to 14 of his children.
In September 1976, he sponsored a “God Bless America” rally, which attracted 50,000 people. During his sermon to them, he stated, “This is a time for awakening. America must accept her global responsibility. Armed with Godism, she must free the Communist world and, at last, build the Kingdom of God on Earth.”
The Washington Post stated several children and his wife survive Moon.
Survivors include his wife; one child from his first marriage; and 10 children from his second marriage, including daughter In Jin Moon, who is trying to reinvigorate the American branch of the Unification movement, and three U.S.-educated sons who have led the Moon organization’s day-to-day operations since late 2009: Kook Jin “Justin” Moon, who founded a gun-manufacturing business in New York and now is chairman of Tong-il, the Moon family’s Korean business conglomerate; Hyung Jin “Sean” Moon, who once honored his parents with 21,000 bows and now leads the church’s international ministry; and Hyun Jin “Preston” Moon, whose estrangement from his family has contributed to upheaval and near-insolvency at the Washington Times.
His son, Preston Moon, took over the newspaper in 2006 and after it became millions of dollars in debt, his father bought it back for $1 and assumed the business’ debt. As the senior Moon aged, much of his empire went into debt and in he settled hundreds of lawsuits in Japan. The lawsuits claimed that the Unification Church persuaded people to buy religious icons, claiming that the icons had special powers. Allegedly, the icons brought $400 million a years in revenue to Moon’s church.
Moon believed that he would continue to lead the church from the “spirit world” after his death.