In the mid-1970s, the man who would later become my father joined the Unification Church. He had moved to a commune in Northern California after finishing college and wanted to share his newfound devotion with his parents back in Brooklyn. So, he took them to see his guru, the Reverend Sun Myung Moon, at a Madison Square Garden rally.

That night, Moon spoke through a translator to a crowd of 20,000. He proselytized that all of human history was on the brink of culmination, that the third world war was going to happen within the next three years. He preached his sexual philosophy, which has since been quoted as, “Woman was born to connect in love with man’s sexual organ. Man and woman’s sexual organs are the place of the true love palace.”

And then Moon declared that Jews were responsible for the death of Jesus.

An enraged word pierced the hush of the reverent crowd. In front of thousands of my father’s fellow acolytes, my grandmother stood up and screamed at the top of her lungs:

LIAR!”

Her son was humiliated. But this moment of shameless dissent would become an iconic one for me. I keep the story close to my heart the way other people wear heirloom lockets.

Still, if I met you while tipping red wine into mugs at a house party and the subject of cults came up, as I find the subject tends to in our anxious times, this isn’t the story I would tell you.

Here’s the one I would: Unification Church members like my father were to remain celibate before they were deemed worthy of participating in mass weddings officiated by Moon. After these weddings, they would become the True Children of Moon and his second wife Hak Ja Han, known as the True Father and True Mother. My dad, a communications major, was known even then for his persuasive charisma, and so he was sent on road trips to collect acolytes. On one such trip, the church sent as his companion a schoolteacher in her late twenties who had moved west following a Lutheran upbringing in Iowa. She was not persuasively charismatic, was in fact skeptical of Moon’s teachings. During that road trip, they spread the good word all right, but they apparently didn’t take their vow of abstinence very seriously. On one drive, a group leader noticed my mom leaning over to put a stick of gum in my dad’s mouth. Subsequently, yours truly was born in sexual rebellion.

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Good Faith by Tine Horn

July 8th, 2019