Controversial Church Steps Up Gun Debate With Bizarre Religious Ceremony
People are talking a lot these days about guns. Chances are, you have strong opinions one way or the other about whether guns are good or bad and who should have them and who shouldn’t.
One thing is fairly certain, though: members of the Unification Church – commonly referred to as “Moonies” – have some beliefs about guns that you probably don’t agree with. In fact, you’d probably think their beliefs, about guns and otherwise, are downright strange…
Featured Photo Credit: www.ibtimes.co.uk
One might say that the Unification Church has a controversial history but that would be somewhat of an understatement. The ostensibly Christian organization is based upon the traditional Bible but also upon “Divine Principle,” a supposedly divine book written by Sun Myung Moon, who founded the Unification Church in 1954.
Moon’s teachings center around the idea that the level of true enlightenment that Jesus achieved can be achieved in part through marriage to other church members. In the 70s, The Unification Church became widely known for their public mass weddings. At them, thousands of people, who were often perfect strangers, would be wed to one another…
Through the religion he founded, Moon began a multi-billion dollar business conglomerate known as the Tongil Group, using the money that was donated by the Unification Church’s members. The Tongil Group’s best known property in the US is the Washington Times, a conservative newspaper that was founded by Moon in 1982.
In addition to influencing politics through his newspaper, Moon used his wealth and the church to fund political lobbying in the US for a number of causes, including Korean unification, pro-South Korean policies, and various conservative stances. Moon’s efforts met with considerable success…
Ceremony In Congress
Probably the biggest sign that Moon had become ingrained in US politics came in 2004 when he had a “coronation ceremony” on the floor of congress. In front of over a dozen congressman, Moon and his wife were crowned, and then he gave a speech where he said emperors, kings and presidents had “declared to all heaven and earth that Reverend Sun Myung Moon is none other than humanity’s Savior, Messiah, Returning Lord and True Parent.”
Like Father, Like Son
Since Moon’s death in 2012, rivalries between his wife and 16 children resulted in some splintering in the Unification Church. Though the tensions between family members hasn’t caused a split, per se, the members of the family largely operate independently. Rev. Hyung Jin Sean Moon is the child of Sun Myung Moon that has raised a lot of eyebrows lately…
Sean Moon leads the World Peace and Unification Sanctuary, an offshoot of the larger Unification Church. Like his father, he has consistently preached a strongly pro-gun message. But in the midst of a rash of school and mass shootings, he decided to hold a ceremony that went far beyond what most pro-gun people would consider reasonable.
At the end of February, Sean Moon’s World Peace And Unification Sanctuary in Newfoundland, PA, held a “commitment ceremony” for about 250 couples. Effectively just a renewal of wedding vows, the ceremony wouldn’t have been so strange except for one thing: its participants were all packing heat…
Crown and Rod
Before the ceremony, the Sanctuary Church asked couples to wear crowns, some made of bullets, and bring “rods of iron” to the ceremony. The church refers to semi-automatic rifles as rods of iron, a reference to a passage in the book of Revelations that discussed Jesus Christ “ruling with a rod of iron” in the Bible.
The Bible “tells us that God will shepherd His Children with the rod of iron, guarding the flock not as a dictator, but as a loving father,” said Rev. Moon at the ceremony. To add another level of controversy to the ceremony they specifically called on attendants to bring AR-15’s to the church, or a gift certificate to indicate they would be soon purchasing one…
That extra controversy was because the ceremony took place just a couple of weeks after the Stoneman Douglas High School shooting in which 17 people were killed and 14 were injured, all by a gunman using an AR-15. Access to that particular style of firearm was at that point at the forefront of the gun debate.
Argument For Restriction
On the one side, people argued that if firearms like the AR-15 – ones that put out a lot of bullets in a short period of time – were harder to get, it would make it more difficult for mass shootings to occur..
Argument For Arms
While there were people who thought that was a bad idea simply because it was a restriction of the right to bear arms, there are others who believed that more guns were the solution to the mass shooting epidemic. Their reasoning is, if there are more “good guys with guns,” it will act as a deterrent – or a countermeasure – to a “bad guy with a gun.”
It’s safe to say that Rev. Moon and his church fall firmly in the second category, taking the idea of “good guys” and “bad guys” to biblical proportions. Beyond wanting to have guns for recreational or protective reasons, Rev. Moon preaches that it is your divine right and duty to bear arms…
Cheon Il Guk
In his sermon at the ceremony, Rev. Moon reaffirmed that belief. “These actions to participate with crowns and a rod of iron/gift certificate are signs of attendance, sovereignty and vigilance to protect God’s coming nation of Cheon Il Guk”, he said. Cheon Il Guk is its name members of the church call the kingdom of God on Earth.
“They are also a foundation of faith and substance to unite with the Second King [Moon] who is advancing God’s providence at this time,” Moon added. Of course, not every gun owner has an AR-15. That’s where those gift certificates came in. Worth $700, they could be used to purchase an AR-15 from Kahr Arms, which just so happens to be owned by the Moon family…
Sales Are Good
Located about 30 minutes from the church, Kahr Arms had plenty of AR-15s in its inventory for the faithful. “I actually purchased my weapon there yesterday because, although I have several rifles, I didn’t have an AR-15,” said David Konn, a member of the Unification Church who had driven from Florida earlier in the week.
Of course, hundreds of people gathering together in one place armed with rifles will cause just about anyone to be a little nervous. A number of people in the town denounced the gathering and the nearby Wallenpaupack Area School District moved its students to another school over their concerns. Thankfully, the ceremony happened without incident…
Perhaps the Unification Church’s embracing of guns as a religious weapon and instrument of divine protection says something about the wider gun culture in America. While most gun owners don’t believe their gun ownership is a divine matter, many see it as a moral issue.
While there is a higher rate of gun ownership amongst evangelical Christians than there is among the general population, the Unification Church is far from representative of the the religious right as a whole. In fact, many religious organizations don’t believe they can be considered Christian at all.