Aug 25, 2017

From The Oakland Family To Koreanization

40 Years in America: An Intimate History of the Unification Movement 1959-1999
by Michael Mickler and Michael Inglis

“The Oakland Family was the major supplier of the American movement’s personnel during the late 1970s. Each month, it sent a quota of members, rarely less than twenty and sometimes as many as fifty, to missions throughout the church. This earned it “hands-off” treatment and exempted it from mobilizations affecting other centers. However, all was not idyllic. During the 1960s, when the movement was almost entirely unknown, Mr. Choi’s Re-Education Foundation introduced prospects gradually to the church. During the late 1970s, when the movement became highly visible and hugely controversial, this was no longer possible.

The Oakland Family’s persistence in identifying itself as the Creative Community Project created an explosive situation. Charges of deceptive recruitment practices, front groups, and lying were generalized to the movement as a whole, creating “a folklore of deception as a common tactic in all Unificationist mission work.” High-pressure techniques described in innumerable “lurid exposes” also were generalized indiscriminately to the wider movement. In fact, two sociologists studying this phenomenon pointed out that a “Careful examination of the articles that attempt to describe in detail the brainwashing process allegedly used by the Moonies will reveal that nine times out of ten references are made almost exclusively to the Oakland Family.” A final source of strain between the Oakland Family and the larger movement were conflicts between aggressive Oakland fundraising teams, nicknamed the “Oakland Raiders,” and the church’s National MFT.

The movement finally dealt with these matters by elevating Dr. Durst to the Presidency of the Unification Church in America in May 1980. On the face of it, this appeared to be a brilliant solution. Placing Dr. Durst in a position of national prominence directly associated with the church would end confusion about his role and defuse charges of deception. At the same time, there was the possibility of infusing the wider movement with the Oakland spirit and results. However, this was not to be. After the Dursts and their key staff moved East, a succession of senior leaders from the Korean movement took charge of the Bay Area church and attempted to dismantle the entire Oakland apparatus. Thus, rather than permeating the movement as a whole, the Oakland Family was cut off at its root. In addition, Dr. and Mrs. Durst had nowhere near the authority or the autonomy in New York that they enjoyed in California. They, too, were subjected to the demands and ethos of the larger movement.

Dr. Durst had a rich and varied background, was a polished and engaging speaker, possessed an amiable personality, and with his wife had fashioned and led a center that had better witnessing results than the rest of the U.S. movement combined. Yet, over time, Dr. Durst was reduced to being a church spokesman and apologist. He did this well, and several of his nationwide public relations tours were well received. Still, his inability to become the leader of the Unification Church in America highlighted a second East-West tension. The Unification movement placed a great deal of public emphasis on the international, intercultural and interracial dimensions of its work. At Yankee Stadium, Rev. Moon stated, “God seeks to build one family of man. Therefore, the family, church, and nation God desires transcend all barriers of race and nationality. The people who are a unified blending of all colors of skin and who transcend race and nationality are most beautiful in the sight of God and most pleasing to him.” At Washington Monument, he stated, “The United States of America, transcending race and nationality, is already a model of the unified world.” America may have strayed from its Godly heritage, especially since the 1960s, and Rev. Moon clearly saw himself in the role of a physician or firefighter from the outside called to put America’s house back in order. Nevertheless, during the Day of Hope, Yankee Stadium, and Washington Monument campaigns, he was always careful to acknowledge America’s strong spiritual foundation and potential.

This changed after 1977. In the face of continuing rejection, the failure of the American church to bring substantial witnessing results, and especially after his indictment and conviction on “tax evasion” charges, Rev. Moon adopted a more critical posture toward the United States and American culture. Though rarely articulated in public, Rev. Moon’s frustration became increasingly apparent in his speeches to members and in his choice of leaders. As early as 1978, he decided that “westerners couldn’t cope on their own.” This led to a number of increasingly unflattering comparisons between Western and Oriental members. In 1979, Rev. Moon stated,

My policy is that members of the Unification movement cannot afford to do only one thing at a time. Sometimes I give so many instructions at one time that the members are immobilized and don’t know where to move. But the Oriental members will run like ants, jumping from mission to mission, and bring the result.

He concluded that American members lacked sufficient dedication or were too “business-like” in their approach to achieve spiritual breakthroughs. Thus, by January 1983, senior Korean leaders held the positions of highest authority in the American church. Rev. Moon explained that he wanted “western leaders to be trained under the fullest, vertical tradition of the Korean church.” He cautioned, “I do not mean that Korean culture should become American culture… just that Koreans are closer to the heavenly tradition.” In a memorable turn of phrase, he stated, “English is spoken only in the colonies of the kingdom of heaven.” At times, his critique was more trenchant. In March 1983, he questioned how Americans became so egoistic and individualistic. Two months later, in a “Heart-To-Heart” talk with American sisters, he observed that they were “contaminated by the American way of life.”

This tension was not resolved between 1977-85 nor afterwards. Some members took Rev. Moon’s words as a challenge and redoubled their efforts. … Other members complained about the “Koreanization” of the church and recalled that Rev. Moon had announced previously that “the leader-centered movement is over, and the member-centered movement is going to begin.” In fact, the Korean leaders were no more successful in stimulating increased membership than their Japanese and American predecessors had been. If anything, there was an increased exodus out of the church centers.”

40 Years in America: An Intimate History of the Unification Movement 1959-1999
by Michael Mickler and Michael Inglis
684 pages HSA Publications (1 Oct 2000) ISBN: 0910621993

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