On The Controversy Over Rev. Moon, The Black Church and The Black Community
The recent national and international media attention given to the recent marriages of two Black Catholics, Archbishop George Augustus Stallings Jr of Imani Temple African-American Catholic Congregation and Archbishop Emmanuel Milingo of the Roman Catholic Church has sparked one of the most fascinating discussions of race, theology and politics in the Black community in recent memory. Near the center of that discussion and controversy is Rev. Sun Myung Moon of the Unification Church.
Rev. Moon who is also well known for his impressive business holdings which range from the conservative Washington Times to the world famous New Yorker Hotel and Manhattan Center properties, has received praise and come under fire for his growing influence and evolving relationship with spiritual leaders in the Black community, worldwide.
Many describe Rev. Moon as a true friend of the Black community willing to partner and support Black pastors and community leaders in their numerous endeavors to promote social change. Others describe Rev. Moon as a foreign agent seeking to buy off Black leaders and subsume their work in an effort to expand his influence and international empire.
We have been intrigued mostly by the latter opinion of Rev. Moon, observing how race, theology and politics are used as arguments against the Korean leader.
Race is used in argument, mostly in a veiled way, in opposition to Rev. Moon's famous mass wedding ceremonies which often result in individuals being married across religious and ethnic lines. Some in the Black community have opposed Rev. Moon's efforts along the lines that the marriages that he endorses result in Black men marrying women outside of their own people. This argument gained a tremendous amount of momentum after Bishop Stallings married a young Japanese woman in a recent mass ceremony sponsored by Rev. Moon in New York City. Many Blacks, including women who are members of Bishop Stallings' congregation, interpreted comments made by Bishop Stallings, prior and subsequent to the marriage, as disrespectful to Black women.
Reportedly, Bishop Stallings said that he did not want to marry a woman that liked " to party all the time". Many Black women assumed that the implication in Bishop Stallings' remarks was that he was stating that Black women liked "to party all the time" and therefore he could not marry them. But no direct comment from Bishop Stallings to that effect has been made public and Bishop Stallings has been quoted as consistently reaffirming his love and respect for Black women.
Some say that Bishop Stallings' relationship with Rev. Moon is unhealthy for the Black community because Rev. Moon, himself is not Black and they believe, only cares about his own agenda and the furthering of an international agenda that places him at the forefront of leadership. Some say that Rev. Moon's reported generous financial support of Black pastors is evidence of Black leaders selling out their community in favor of cash. For some, there is no difference between Rev. Moon's initiative and that of President Bush's faith based initiative which some in the Black community have come to describe as the F.B.I. - referring to the initials of the popular name of the president's effort.
Theology is used as an argument against Rev. Moon because many Black Christians question Rev. Moon's self-concept and his view of Jesus. Some Black preachers maintain that Rev. Moon styles himself as an international Messiah destined to lead the world into racial and religious harmony under the leadership of his wife and himself. These Black preachers argue that to support or work with Rev. Moon is to accept his scriptural exegesis and view of himself.
And political arguments are made against Rev. Moon by some in the Black community because of Rev. Moon's ownership of the conservative and Republican Party-friendly Washington Times and because of his close relationships with members of the religious right as well as numerous Republican Senators and Congressmen. Others charge that there exists a paper trail that links Rev. Moon to Korean intelligence agencies and a relationship with the CIA. To them, working with Rev. Moon is akin to working with the most sinister elements of the US government.
Internationally, in the Black community, many charge Rev. Moon with attempting to overthrow the influence of the Catholic Church in Africa and Latin America - two regions where Rev. Moon's influence is steadily increasing. The recent marriage of African Archbishop Emmanuel Milingo, who according to Catholic tradition is supposed to be celibate, reinforced this belief held by many Black Catholics. They see Rev. Moon as threat to the traditional view of Jesus Christ propagated by the Catholic Church under the leadership of the pope. Many Blacks in the international community see Rev. Moon's efforts as an attempt to reestablish the influence in Africa that Asia once maintained. Some see Rev. Moon as an Asian imperialist and point to aspects of the theology that he teaches as evidence of disrespect of Black people.
We think that while it is good for the Black community to engage in a robust and honest discussion over matters like this we do see some interesting areas of contradiction in the arguments made against Rev. Moon.
On the racial front, we find it peculiar that Rev. Moon receives so much attention for his interracial marriage ceremonies when Black Christians for years have argued that in Christianity there is no race distinction. Furthermore, some of those who argue against Rev. Moon, along these lines, are totally silent when the subject is racial intermarriage between Black and White or Black and Jewish. Is there a double-standard in the Black community when it comes to Blacks marrying outside of the fold? We wonder.
In addition some of the most prominent Black intellectuals and radicals in the community at one point or another dabbled with dating and marriage of men and women outside of the Black community and never received castigation for such considerations and actions, as Bishop Stallings and others have. Some Blacks can even recall the Black press, at times, giving prominent coverage of Black and White marriages in their news coverage, apparently considering interracial marriages to be an honor for the Black community, while Whites shunned these same marriages in their media outlets.
In addition while many in the Black community have raised their eyebrows at the growing relationship between Nation Of Islam Leader Minister Louis Farrakhan and Rev. Moon, we don't see that any of them demonstrate a knowledge of how that relationship developed and what the frank discussions were that preceded their public cooperation. Among other things, we know that Rev. Moon asked Minister Farrakhan how the often tense relationship between Blacks and Koreans in the inner city could be improved. Minister Farrakhan bluntly told Rev. Moon of the disrespectful manner in which many Koreans view Blacks and how Koreans often become wealthy off of Blacks through engaging in commerce, via laundromats, nail salons, and convenience stores but do nothing to help Blacks suffice their own needs. Rev. Moon told Minister Farrakhan that he wanted that to change and that he would work to help to solve that problem between the two communities.
Shouldn't responsible Black leaders be concerned about this relationship between Blacks and Koreans in numerous urban areas across the country? Do we need a repeat of the riots in 1992 which pit Blacks against Koreans before we address this problem?
On the theological front, we again, raise an eyebrow at how Rev. Moon is ostracized for aspects of his theological exegesis, especially in light of the warm reception that other religious communities receive while possessing a view of Jesus that is no where near in harmony with the traditional view of Jesus held by Black Christians. We wonder out loud why is Rev. Moon, who believes in Jesus of 2,000 years ago to whatever extent and teaches from the New Testament and Gospels, criticized more vociferously than are Jewish Rabbis who are allowed entry into the Black community and receive embraces from Black Christians as "Brothers" when the vast majority of Jews and certainly Jewish Rabbis do not believe in Jesus of 2,000 years ago at all.
Not only do they not believe in Jesus as the Messiah or even a Prophet, many Jews maintain that Jesus did not even exist. We wonder how deeply Black Christians have considered the Jewish view of Jesus. If they have never considered it before, we ask: Why not? And who is responsible for the silence within the Black Christian community on the Jewish view of Jesus, is it the same group that is placing a magnifying glass on Rev. Moon's view of Jesus?
In addition, we find it interesting that it is quite often the most popular of Black Pastors in certain cities, who reject Rev. Moon while the smaller Black preachers are the most receptive to him. Is it possible that the biggest of Black preachers are threatened or even jealous of Rev. Moon's influence in their backyard. Could their opposition of Rev. Moon on theological lines be a mask for other more common and ego-oriented reasons? We think that is a possibility.
Furthermore, these same popular Black preachers who shun Rev. Moon are, at times, the first to let into their doors Democratic Party political candidates who use Jesus' name but who endorse abortion, homosexual relationships and the death penalty, the dissemination of condoms in public schools and the rejection of the use of the Bible in public schools.
Now, we ask, how do these same Black preachers who are on record, in most instances for rejecting abortion, homosexuality, murder, fornication and atheism reconcile their political endorsement and warm reception of such individuals, in the pulpit, who openly support such causes?
Also, we wonder what is wrong with Black spiritual leaders engaging in a serious dialogue and working together for good with religious leaders of other ethnic backgrounds. What makes Black preachers working with Rev. Moon on a variety of community problems any different than Black preachers working with atheists, Jews, feminists and Gay groups? Not to mention organizations like the US Armed Services which pump millions of advertising and recruitment dollars into the Black community, and have gained a foothold in the Black community with the full knowledge and acceptance, and sometimes help of Black Christian preachers.
And what are we to make of the fact that major Black preachers of various denominations receive their authority and funding from the headquarters of their denomination which are run by Whites? Would it be fair to call these Black preachers "fronts" for or "agents" of White Christians as Black preachers who receive support from Reverend Moon are called?
And lets be honest, certainly these groups have thrown a lot more money around the Black community, than Rev. Moon is accused of.
We ask, isn't there a way to approach Rev. Moon or receive him which does not compromise either party involved?
We think Dr. Hycel B. Taylor's comments in a recent article in the Christian Science Monitor are instructive in this area:
"I was invited first to participate in a conference with religious scholars from around the world," says Dr. Hycel Taylor, pastor of Second Baptist Church in Evanston, Ill. "Theologically, there are many things on which I do not agree," he adds, "but Rev. Moon has genuinely set forth the idea that all our theologies should be placed on the table and we should attempt to find what is common among them - that I agree with."
Dr. Taylor, a national black leader, says many African-American pastors are participating, and "wherever the sheep are grazing, the shepherds ought to be." But with a few exceptions, he adds, prominent black pastors with connections to the major denominations are not involved, and "that's not going to happen."
We think the political arguments being made against Rev. Moon may be the most reasonable of all of the complaints but we wonder why the Black community doesn't make the same critique of all of the special interest groups which come into the Black community and use it for their own sustenance. The Black community will openly receive and support Feminists, Jews, Homosexuals, Unions, Environmentalists some of whom only come into the Black community when they want their political issue and agenda championed and when they need Black votes and vocal Black leaders to promote their cause. These same groups, some but not all, will then roll out of bed with the Black community and pursue their own interests until the next time they want some support.
Certainly Rev. Moon's political associations and leanings deserve the scrutiny they receive but why aren't Black talk show hosts, newspapers, opinion leaders and intellectuals as critical of the relationship of other leader(s) and groups which have obviously used the community in a way that benefits them more than it benefits Blacks? If Blacks began to apply the "Rev. Moon standard" to other(s) who come in and out of the community when they want something it would be a new day for Black politics and we are quite confident that Blacks would never be ignored or taken for granted again.
Internationally, we think that Rev. Moon's influence and the recent marriage of Archbishop Emmanuel Milingo is healthy and opens up a badly needed debate over the influence of Catholicism and the touch of the Christian Missionaries in Africa and Latin America. And for starters, we definitely think that a challenge to Catholic orthodoxy on celibacy and marriage of its leadership is healthy. Why, we wonder are leaders prevented from marrying when the first pope, the Apostle Peter, was married (Matthew 8:14)? How does avoiding marriage of women, in any way make a man a superior spiritual teacher, we wonder? We think that in many ways it makes the average man unqualified, in certain areas, to teach men or women.
Questioning Rev. Moon's motives is fine, we think, when done with the right spirit. But we think that if the Black community would extend that critique to all of its relationships with so-called outsiders, we would be in a lot better shape tomorrow than we are today.
Even if Rev. Moon's effect and motives by Blacks are as sinister as some would like us to believe, we somehow think that he could not even approach the evil done to Blacks by many who gain free access into the community and who, to this day, are called "friends" of the Black community.
Sunday, June 3, 2001