Sun Myung Moon, the South Korean who founded the idiosyncratic Unification Church and profited handsomely by it and other ventures, has died at the age of 92. A shameless self-promoter who was once imprisoned for 13 months in the United States for filing false tax returns, Moon declared himself a messiah after having allegedly met Jesus as a teenager in the 1930s, which motivated him to later establish his church and heaven on earth.
Establish heaven on earth he did, to the tune of what is believed to be billions of dollars in personal net worth. Of course, it helps to head an organization with anywhere between 100,000 and 3 million members who believe that you are the Second Coming of Christ.
After founding the church in 1954, Moon married Hak Ja Han in 1960, after which he announced that the couple was the True Family, which according to Unification theology, are the “True Parents” of humanity. Moon was famous for performing mass weddings called “blessing ceremonies,” in which he would marry thousands of couples simultaneously. “Moonies,” as followers of the good reverend are derogatorily called, believe that the Fall of Man was not because Adam and Eve ate forbidden fruit in the Garden of Eden, but because Eve had sex with Satan.
When he wasn’t conning converts and bilking followers out of a recommended tithe of 10% of their yearly income, Moon tended to his political ventures, which were frequently made possible by his ill-gotten gains as a false prophet. After he moved to the U.S. in the early 1970s, Moon won favor with American conservatives because of his outspoken anti-communism. He even met with President Richard Nixon, and defended him during the Watergate scandal. Over the next two decades, Moon expanded his connections in American politics.
According to The Guardian,
“At various times he met or received support from British prime ministers Margaret Thatcher and Edward Heath, ex-presidents Gerald Ford and George Bush Snr, Canadian ex-premier Brian Mulroney [of Canada], US senators Strom Thurmond, Jesse Helms, William Fulbright, and Orrin Hatch, Reagan's defence secretary Caspar Weinberger, former Nato chief general Alexander Haig, former US education secretary William Bennett, Boston University president John Silber, Christian Coalition ex-chief Ralph Reed, and rightwing Christian leader the Rev Jerry Falwell.
“These connections survived Moon's increasingly embarrassing activities – his sermons dwelling on the ‘sexual organs’, his description of American women as descended from prostitutes, family scandals, the Rabbinic court condemnation for antisemitism and a vow to ‘conquer and subjugate the world’”.
Moon associates even scored federal funding under the guise of running a faith-based “healthy marriage” initiative during the administration of George W. Bush.
The origins of much of Moon’s funding remain a mystery. What is known is his connection to the late Japanese millionaire, Yakuza mobster, and (according to the U.S.), war criminal Yoshio Kodama, who helped bankroll several of Moon’s activities. These included the founding of the Washington Times in 1984 by Moon’s News World Communications. Moon launched the Times as a counterweight to the Washington Post—the establishment newspaper that was apparently too liberal for his tastes. At a commemoration of the 20th anniversary of the paper’s founding, Moon declared, “The Washington Times will become the instrument in spreading the truth about God to the world.”
Of course, “truth,” for Moon, was always a malleable thing, as it is for all religious hucksters. It is easy to dismiss him as an eccentric conman because of the sheer ridiculousness of his claims. But ultimately, the difference between Moon and the leaders of other churches is only a matter of degree.