COMING OF AGE
Published in the November 1996 issue of the Unification News.
[In 1998, the Unification Church of New Jersey inaugurated a new youth tradition, the Il Shim Ceremony, which includes an entire course of study and action, and has clear standards for qualification. This tradition has since spread throughout the world. I am glad to note that others shared my concerns, and showed the wisdom and strength to address them successfully.][12/26/07 This article is old enough that, while I've made some editorial corrections, I'm making to attempt to update it.]
Following the famed mass weddings of the 1980s and 90s, the Unification movement experienced a population boom. During my own bootstrap style educational studies, I realized that these young Unificationists, commonly known as the Second Generation, lacked something shared by many traditional societies. Something that almost all "modern" nations have abandoned.
That is, a Rite of Passage to initiate youth into adulthood, and show a clear path through the difficulties of puberty. This is especially important due to the vital nature of Unificationism's teachings on sexual purity.
The Principle is insightful in many ways. One of them is its emphasis on 'growth periods.' The vast galaxies, life on Earth, humankind, and individual people were not created in an instant. All of these require time to develop.
Several of the scientists amongst Unificationism's wide membership are now engaged in a friendly debate about the exact mechanism of this development. This is not simple to explain, but here is a brief summary. (Apologies in advance if this author has botched it too badly.)
One camp posits a version of the Strong Anthropic Principle, a new cosmological theory based on the extreme improbability of the universe ending up as hospitable to intelligent life as it is. Just how improbable? It is as if a gambler, in order to "win" the cosmos as it is, had to win the State Lottery; one win per each 'necessary condition.' Then he'd have to win it again, dozens of times--without losing even once.
Thus, even before the universe-birthing Big Bang, God had to have planned the correct 'winning' laws of Physics and Chemistry. Pre-designed them so precisely that stars, planets, life, and finally intelligence would develop naturally. In this way, God could watch it all unfold, until humanity itself was nearly developed, physically speaking.
The other camp supports a variation of Theistic Evolution, a well-known Creationist theory. This side posits that the development of the cosmos occurred under ongoing guidance. Asserting that God, by means of a 'finely tuned' Universal Prime Force, directed the material, and later the genetic, evolution of the physical world. Thus, God's hand brought about each new world, and living species, finally leading to humanity.
Only further scientific discoveries will show us which, if either of these theories, is correct. Research is currently in progress!
A more pressing concern is the development of individual humans. The Principle states that in this respect humans are unique, that our spiritual maturity is ultimately the responsibility of each individual. To be achieved . . . or not.
There are serious concerns regarding an individual's 'automatic' physical development. Recently, researchers announced they've learned how to inflate the lungs of severely premature babies with a special, oxygen-enriched liquid, dramatically increasing their chances of survival.
Conversely, and at nearly the same time, the Federal government failed to ban the grisly 'partial birth' abortion method. It's supporters claim that "the mother's health needs protection." In practice, it's a very broad definition of health. If the mother-to-be is even the slightest bit uneasy about her advancing pregnancy, it is enough to justify the procedure.
Another big step in individual development is puberty. Both internal and external maturity begins at this time. American culture regards it as a massive eruption from within, accompanied by a burst of rebelliousness, and a certain descent into personal chaos. Some doctors even assert that the "flood of hormones" disrupts the very tissues of the brain! Never mind that most folks, even without informed, much less Principled guidance, do make it through this time okay.
However, the manifestations of yesterday's pubescent rebellion--a purloined cigarette, or some 'making out' behind the barn--have now given way to the perils of AIDS and crack cocaine.
It is important to note that this picture has changed dramatically, and in historical times. Women used to reach puberty at a later age; sixteen or even older. And they used to marry at an earlier age--also around sixteen. Modern nutrition has brought the average age of female puberty down to eleven. Yet, to prepare for life in our complex society, young people usually stay in school, and remain single, until at least age eighteen. This widening disparity has provided fertile soil (no pun intended) for a host of troubles.
Some societies have simply accommodated this trend. In Tokyo, and several other places, the legal age of consent for sex is twelve years old. Only recently has this law become controversial.
In America there is a renewed discussion of family values, but the various parties define these quite differently. Christians can offer several reasons to remain virgin until marriage, but powerful Humanists are pushing to adopt Tokyo's preferences here. Our Principle-based True Family Values lessons [now popularized through Free Teens and the Pure Love Alliance] are desperately needed.
All traditional societies had special ways of initiating their youth into adulthood. In primitive times, close-knit clans led their young though a whole series of sacred rituals. In those days, the girl's time of menarche was a clear demarcation, while with boys it depended on their increasing practical abilities. Such rituals are detailed in Jean Auel's bestselling Cave Bear novels, which are well researched, if a bit overheated. In every past society, some variation of these Rites of Passage formed a landmark in each young life.
Those few societies which have maintained a link with the old ways also uphold some form of these special rituals. For example, the Jewish people practice the Bar Mitzvah.
There is a widespread movement, originated by New Age thinkers, to revive some of the ancient rituals. Seekers can avail themselves of various (often rather expensive) seminars, usually involving trips to the wilderness, and lonely vision quests. Some people have had profound experiences, though without the support of a clear, abiding truth, these often fade with time.
Men have always been the aggressors of our species, and when they go wrong, they generate virtually all of the mayhem that plagues society. Thus, most of the old traditions had to do with properly orienting men. Girls mature, emotionally and intellectually, sooner than boys, and their role is very important here. Scientific research has at last confirmed what most people would deem obvious--that marriage tames a man.
Of course, fallen nature, with its potent sexual aspect, has always dogged humanity. In recent centuries, as girls became fertile at an ever younger age, there was always the ultimate option: the shotgun wedding. To the detriment of women, today's Popular Culture has nearly eliminated such powerful constraints.
In the lives of religious people, initiations into salvation and church membership have taken on the role of the ancient rites. Religions which are growing often emphasize adult baptism and other rituals of conversion. The more established Faiths tend to emphasize rituals of sacred community, such as the holy communion.
One Unificationist, learned in religious history, has written in these pages about a challenge faced by the early Puritans. It concerned how they ought to regard their own "second generation." The adults were mostly converts, and they'd increased their separation from Europe's sinful society by crossing the ocean to America. Each was a signatory--a pledged part--of their new society's sacred covenant. But what about their children? Were they automatically included?
In many nations, children are born a member of their State Church, be it Catholic or Protestant. Stricter Christians preach that each individual must seek, and accept, salvation, by and for themselves. Those Puritans made many compromises, and found various solutions. Their rich tale is recounted in The Light and the Glory and other Christian books.
The similarities with Unificationism are clear. This is, frankly, a rather difficult subject. However, due to several published articles and news reports, the matter is already open to public discussion. Scholars, and our many other friends, may provide us with some valuable input here. Unfortunately, the professional critics ("negos") have already attempted to debase the entire matter.
Unificationists worldwide, from the eldest member to the newest convert, are currently being asked to reassess their own standing within the True Parent's covenant. Our Second Generation (and very soon, the emerging Third one) is coming of age. They're reaching a point where they too must decide where they stand. The Principle simply does not allow for much compromise, especially in the areas of love and marriage.
The ancient rituals mentioned above have no particular value, in and of themselves, yet many lessons can be gleaned from history. How might such venerable traditions apply to our Second Generation, if at all? Will there, or should there be, any Unificationist rites of passage? If such transitions into adulthood were ever an ordeal, they were also a badge of honor.
There are already several excellent Unificationist schools, summer camps, and a college-level Academy. Ought every young member attend these? Are there to be any proactive requirements, or will it be enough to have avoided proscribed behavior? An appropriate course could involve a quest, or a classroom test. More likely, it will entail an extension of several projects which are already underway. An organized, all-out, "in your face" challenge to fallen society.
Your author can offer no clear-cut answers, yet these issues really should be addressed. This modern era is comfortable materially, and a good education is readily available. However, we are still in the midst of confusing times: the Last Days. Internally, things are as difficult as ever, if not more so, especially for teenagers. This has proven true for many Unificationist families, even the most senior.
The precise mechanism by which God brought the universe, and we humans, into being, is not yet fully understood. However, the course of individual development has already been made clear, thanks to the Principle. Families are the bedrock of the Kingdom, and families are formed by each generation of newly-minted adults. Let's do all that we can to assist them in their passage.
© 1996 by Paul Carlson
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