The Unification movement has endured many tribulations, and by any standard, we've accomplished a tremendous amount. Today we face additional challenges, similar to those experienced by every new religion. Here are my own musings, summarized as of February 2014.
What is the biggest issue to affect the future of our movement? What is True Father's greatest teaching and practice, his essential ministry, and his unique legacy? This issue that will arise again and again, in the decades and centuries to come, long after today's leaders and preachers have become historical figures.
That is: the standards and practices of the matching and Blessing. Our members have developed a wide variety of opinions about the Blessing, and many are sharing about this now.
* Shall we keep the same tough qualifications, and high standards of individual purity, as instituted by Father and maintained over 50 years? The education, fasting, ceremonies, formula course, and more. Most of us have done so, and is it really an excessive thing to ask of others? (Many Unificationists are now certain that it's too difficult, and will turn almost everyone away.)
* Alternatively, shall we make a wider path, a bigger tent (as with political parties), and welcome pretty much anyone who asks to be Blessed into our ceremonies? That could rapidly increase participation, and grow our overall UC membership. (However, would that negate Father's heritage, and dissolve the unique standards of sexual purity that our elder members have long upheld?)
From numerous conversations, it seems to me these positions are not held based on a member's background, level of faith, or political ideas. Rather, they're drawn from the situation of their own Blessing, and more so, reflect the course chosen by their grown children.
Are Unificationist standards really too hard? Several members have served in the US Marine Corps, and that organization thrives upon the extreme personal challenges they set forth. Everyone knows how difficult it is to pass the Marine's physical and mental exams, and then get through boot camp, yet thousands sign up -- and many succeed.
Look at the Roman Catholic church. The Catholics require their priests to be celibate, and despite various scandals, the vast majority really are. That is a lot to ask of a young man, yet thousands do apply, and many remain priests for life. How much harder is that, in comparison to our requirements for sexual purity and monogamous marriage?
When the Catholics finally allow their priests to marry, our Blessing will be easy in comparison, seen by many as a fresh new way to remain holy in the eyes of God.
Let's compare our current situation to modern Judaism. That ancient faith now has Reformed synagogues, with leftist ideas and lesbian rabbis. They also have ultra-Orthodox movements, with strict requirements for conduct and even dress. Both types, plus others, continue together.
Looking at Judaism, might we find a similar compromise? In my opinion, there's not a lot of 'middle ground' here. Either we strictly maintain Father's high standards, whether society likes it or not -- or we compromise, and effectively dissolve Father's unique legacy of the Blessing.
Across the globe, we already have socially appealing practices. There are holy wine ceremonies for thousands of people, and large gatherings to rededicate existing marriages, and wonderful educational campaigns about sexual fidelity and stronger marriages.
Those efforts can grow, with verve and creativity, to reach farther into the popular culture than ever. At the same time, we can strictly uphold our own core standards, as voluntarily practiced by the most serious members and converts. Many organizations have several levels of membership, and most churches have ordained clergy and laity. The expectations are different for each.
Our core UC members, the actual dedicated Blessed Central Families, should always and forever adhere to Father's strictest standards of devotion and sexual purity. That is, quite literally, the only key to Heaven on Earth. (Obviously, we are all sinners to some extent. Still, to put it crudely, "keep it zipped" and "do not fall" are simple enough.)
I can envision other churches and movements embracing this standard. Without formally joining the UC, and in all sincerity, people will learn the basic Principle and heavenly standards, and become fully Blessed in the eyes of God and humanity. For example, Mormons could embrace the Blessing upon advice from their prophet, and Pentecostals find a bright new gift from the Holy Spirit; while many others choose the smartest way to a fulfilling and reliable marriage.
Some members refer to Father's words about "opening up the Blessing," and describe how future parents will have the right to "give the Blessing to their own families and community." That is a wonderful thing, which we should all look forward to. However, while the world remains secular and fallen, we must be very careful. I'll give two examples.
Millions of parents are home schooling their children, and for many that is a wise choice. Families will select the curriculum, and often those students do especially well in life.
However, should we 'open up' the granting of diplomas? If parents can simply declare their child to have a college degree, and proudly include that on a resume, what happens to the actual value of a degree? In the real world, established standards and respected institutions oversee the bestowing of valuable diplomas.
Here's a parallel from secular medicine. (It's a bit icky, but relevant.)
Blood donors are asked: "Have you ever engaged in anal sex? Even once, under any circumstances?"
If the answer is yes, the blood bank will politely accept that donation -- and then throw it away. Why? If even one blood donor among hundreds has HIV or hepatitis, etc., the entire pooled supply is poisoned and hundreds could die.
(It's happened before.)
It's not about prejudice. Anyone who practices the various LGBT lifestyles, and men especially, has likely had anal sex. Morality aside, that's just a fact.
How is this parallel to our Blessing tradition? For the past half-century, a pure lifestyle and course of sacrifice have been expected. Realistically, many converts who got Blessed were not virgins. However, they kept a pure course after joining, and pledged with all believability to continue.
(As the decades have passed, perhaps 20% of those spouses fell away, and it's still an admirable record.)
For our Second Generation folks, the standards and expectations are somewhat higher. The rewards are greater, as well.
(Please do recall, with the discreet Back on Track workshops, there is always an open door, and a graceful return course.)
Why is a lengthy course important? For many reasons, and here's a pragmatic one: 'seroconversion.' It can be weeks, sometimes months, before certain STDs will show up on medical tests -- but that person is already infectious.
If the Blessing is opened up, and anyone can simply declare their willingness to get matched, then how does a parent, or a young participant, know that the others are free of deadly disease? Perhaps something nasty in their lifestyle was not detected, because that individual hadn't been 'connected' for a while, if ever.
As with the blood supply, with a 'wide open door' policy, the potential of even one horndog 'player' who's salivating over our beautiful Second Generation offspring, would literally poison the entire pool. Speaking clever DP-style words is not enough! A real course of months and years, and really learning the DP, and being well-known to local parents and church elders, is a much better guarantee.
(Yes, I freely admit, here I am tugging at heartstrings. I am also describing a harsh social reality.)
In conclusion, there are all sorts of ways to appeal to the larger secular world, and to other churches, and to a skeptical public, plus to Unificationist backsliders. Even so, there's no need to "widen the path" so very much that anyone, whatever they're up to, all of a sudden is deemed qualified for the full Blessing ceremony.
Here's a historical comparison. In the early days of Christianity, they debated about whether to maintain Jewish practices and kosher standards, or to allow former pagans to convert more easily. As we know, Paul prevailed over Peter, and millions of pagans joined the fold, bringing along many of their ideas and practices.
However, kosher foods were never the key to salvation, and eating kimchee isn't a crucial practice for Unificationists. Accepting Jesus has always been more simple than supporting Rev. Moon. True Father did not come to found one more religion, he brought a new and precious blood lineage to this Earth, and a clear path to actually create Heaven.
We hope to win over the entire world, and such an appeal does not require a watering down, much less an effective dissolution, of True Father's strict half-century-old matching and Blessing tradition, for converts and second/third generation folks alike.
Millions are welcome to learn the Principle, and to join in supporting our multi-threaded movement. For those converts who are deeply serious, the Blessing standards which Father established beckon brightly.
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