Published in the May 2002 issue of the Unification News.
Much ongoing discussion by Unificationists concerns our history of millennial fervor, and how hard the members pushed to accomplish a great deal in a short time. These achievements remain impressive by any standard, however, some people were overworked or worse. As our wise elders have emphasized, we need to built a loving and vibrant church community, first and foremost.
This month's article is about human suffering, and what can be done about it. Specifically, we'll focus on the travails of our own membership.
We Unificationists have long regarded ourselves as 'heavenly front line troops.' This description is not a frivolous one. The hymn "Onward Christian Soldiers" can be heard at our services, and some of our members serve in the military. Pacifists we are not.
The forces arrayed against God's Providence are numerous and powerful. To stay in this movement and work toward its goals requires tremendous personal fortitude.
Just like people who sign up for the Marine Corps, we know we'll be engaged in difficult tasks: fundraising and witnessing, and even pioneering distant cities and nations. We knew that our relatives might not approve of such a sacrificial lifestyle. Our Second Generation is also walking a condensed version of this path.
Curiously, the anti-cultists no longer deny that the Marine Corps also practices what they've long defined as brainwashing--but now they say it's okay. Supposedly, military recruits know they're going to get brainwashed during boot camp, so in their case it's a noble American tradition! (Hence the nickname 'jarhead'?)
Our members hail from a variety of backgrounds. Each person has a special character, which grew out of a unique childhood. Not all of which were pleasant or supportive . . . We do have problems, and in order to function at all, much less make extraordinary efforts, we have to deal with them, on a daily and a long-term basis.
This author became keenly aware of this issue during a brief tenure as an MFT team captain. We were under constant (and quite understandable) pressure to make our fundraising goals. The work was hard, physically and emotionally, and became even harder due to persecution.
Under those circumstances personal difficulties emerged, occasionally serious enough to reduce that member's results to zero. Yet the rest of the team was there, ready and willing to continue, and our schedule was demanding.
As the team leader, I actually had to apologize to struggling members. Instead of hot cocoa and a roaring fireplace, and endless hours in which to discuss their problematic childhoods, we were stuck in a cramped van. Often in isolated towns, and with only a brief time between 'runs' to discuss anything at all. (Some of my greatest miracles occurred after a visiting leader did spend some personal time with me.)
Recently, at our local Family Church, this issue was brought into sharp focus. Our Pastor announced that one sister, blessed in marriage for years already, was leaving our church. Why? Because our members had not reached out to her, or aided her with a bad situation. She'd found another church whose members were more loving, and had time for her. Best of all, they came over and cleaned up her house.
Our Pastor had to admit to her that we were indeed very busy. That, perhaps, this other congregation could better assist her in her current difficulties. I have never beheld such a stricken silence as on that Sunday when he told us about the situation. Who were we, he said, to preach about an ideal, and let someone in our midst suffer so? (In fairness, other members later commented that this sister could have at least asked for specific assistance.) [Note: in 2005 or so, she returned.]
Our leaders have, over the years, made various efforts to counsel the membership. In other instances, gifted individuals, and even outside friends, have stepped into fill that need.
Our Blessed Family Department has made great efforts, holding seminars for Blessing candidates and new couples. They also published a helpful The Tradition, Book One volume.
Those sisters were woefully overextended. The seminars were few and far between, and without much followup. Their excellent Blessing Quarterly magazine ceased publication. So far as I know, a Book Two never appeared in print.
Others did try to fill that gap. A few spiritually open individuals gained a reputation as healers, but that type of effort lacked a good long-term result. Today, all such situations are directed toward Chungpyung in Korea.
One famous incident involved a tight-knit religious community on Vashon Island, near Seattle. (I knew most of the people involved, and later had to correct some strange rumors.) That group was led by a husband and wife, ministers with a great deal of wisdom and quiet charisma. We encountered them through our ecumenical work, and the relationship soon grew into much more.
Numerous members stayed with them to receive personal counseling, and most reported positive results. The group openly offered their services as a 'hospital ward' for hard working, long suffering Unificationists.
However, their methods, while not 'unprincipled,' baffled our (then brand-new) Korean regional leaders. Friction grew. Ultimately, True Father himself nixed the idea, saying that it confused the proper 'central figure' connection from members to God.
Nowadays, counseling services are mostly provided by our own local Pastors. Those members who reside near such a capable leader are fortunate indeed! [By 2008, numerous members, lay and clergy alike, had gained degrees and licenses in counselling.]
Some people are 'naturals' at counseling. Most others need, and everyone's work can be improved by, a tried-and-true method. In olden days the local priest or shaman was also the village counselor. In modern times, secular and professional therapists have emerged. Something can be learned from each of these traditions.
There are dozens of therapeutic methods, far too many to review here. Some are very popular but, in my opinion, silly and ineffective at best, and fallen and corrupting at worst. These range from simplistic 'psychobabble' to oversexed Freudian Psychology.
Others methods are difficult, and less popular for that reason; but truly beneficial at least, and effective against sin and fallen nature at best. These range from Adler's Humanistic* Psychology to Unificationist workshops at Jardim and Chungpyung. (*Not to be confused with secular humanism.)
A sympathetic overview can be found in the book Religion and Counseling by Robert J. Lovinger. (1990, Continuum.) It covers Christianity, Judaism, Islam, and new religions.
Counseling must also become a major part of the worldwide Providential effort. Recently the world was shocked to see news footage of radical Muslims--including small children--celebrating the World Trade Center attacks. Irrational, violently anti-Semitic distortions of those events are already being taught.
Those unfortunate kids have been weaned on hatred; trained from infancy through college to yearn for blood and death. Unless they transform their hearts and minds, they will trouble the civilized world for decades to come. (Please note that those radical factions get TV coverage all out of proportion to their actual numbers.)
We Unificationists emerged from, and are surrounded by, the fallen world. Our people have problems: personal, familial, cultural, and so on. We are expected to sacrifice much, and to accomplish more. So, is this movement a sympathetic healing facility or a front line juggernaut? Can we actually handle both?
Fortunately, our 'formula course' is oriented toward utilizing difficult situations. Each of them can help us overcome problems. With a contented lifestyle we'd never even face, much less overcome our weaknesses, limitations, and deeper fallen natures. (The same can be said of a purely romantic marriage.)
However, there is no guarantee that every member will successfully meet those challenges. Timely support is essential, and many of our elders are wise and compassionate enough to provide it.
And these, our best people, invariably have the largest demands placed upon them. It should be possible to organize our concerned members in a fair and effective way.
There can't be a Heavenly Kingdom without defeating evil, which isn't going to be easy. Nor can you have a Heaven without pure and joyful people to live there. Quite a challenge! We are determined to meet it.
By Paul Carlson
© 2002 by Paul Carlson
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