Second-generation members are feeling the winds of change in the Unification Church, even as the movement faces an uncertain future as its founder enters his tenth decade and the church’s business ventures face economic turmoil.
The Washington Post (Jan. 3) reports that the children of the original members of the Unification Church have tended to embrace a less radical version of their faith, especially in the area of marriage. Most of their parents were matched by founder Sun Myung Moon in ceremonies in the 1970s and ‘80s. “Church officials estimate there are 21,000 active Unificationists in this country, including 7,500 blessed children, who members believe were born free of original sin and have a special spiritual status.
A significant number of blessed children live in the Washington area, long a hub for Moon businesses and church lobbyists,” reports Michelle Boorstein. Second-generations members’ own beliefs “run the gamut from those eager to follow in their parents’ footsteps to those who haven’t attended a Unification worship service for years.” Some have opted for a more moderate stance, choosing fellow Unificationists to marry, although opting out of matched arrangements. Others get their parents to match them. Boorstein writes that “This somewhat more conventional approach to finding a spouse became possible in 2001 when Moon made the dramatic announcement that parents could match their own children.
This was driven both by Moon’s age and what church officials say was a natural evolution of Unificationist theology, one that sees Moon as a parent (he is called ‘True Father’ by members) who established the rules and lineage and now is passing the parental responsibility of matchmaking to individual mothers and fathers.” Parents use websites with photos and biographical profiles to search for the right spouse or attend “matching convocations,” during “which they walk around with buttons showing the age and sex of their child (blue buttons for people with sons, pink for those with daughters).”
Not all young Unificationists support the more liberal marriage practices. They debate on private websites (including one called “Something in the Unification Church Needs to Change”) whether it is theologically acceptable for an outsider or newcomer to marry a blessed child and what that means for the pure lineage that Moon had preached early on was mandatory for erasing sin. With Moon turning 90 in February, it is not clear how the movement will survive beyond him; Moon’s son, Hyung-Jin, now leads the religious part of the movement. But Moon’s children “are at odds over how to run the church’s business empire, including the money-losing Washington Times, which laid off 40 percent of its staff this past week,” Boorstein adds.