The Ex-Gay Debate: Part II – The Unification Church and Homosexuality
The Unification Church is, on all accounts, at least a very interesting religion. It might be small, but in many ways its thinking is unique and it does provide ample opportunities for extended debate on many topics. Unificationist thought is a curious blend of Christianity (mainstream Protestant, Evangelical, and even occasionally Pentecostal) and Korean Confucianism with a broad rudimentary academic edge and Rev. Moon’s personal touch mixed in. While it has a pretty comprehensive response to many problems, homosexuality per sé is not one of them. This is because, on the whole, homosexuality is not considered to ‘exist’ – i.e. gay is not a kind of person in Unificationist thinking. To find out what they really think about homosexuality, you have to do some digging.
Unificationists generally do not think about homosexuality. The basis of their understanding of the universe, as outlined in Rev. Moon’s Exposition of the Divine Principle, is a strict male-female dichotomy. The universe works because masculinity and femininity attract one another. Atoms, plants, animals, people all exist and continue to exist because of male-female relationships and therefore God must also be so. God exists because his masculinity and femininity eternally spin in a never-ending circle, and the universe reflects that. Rev. and Mrs. Moon are the saviours of all humankind because they embody this divine complementarity on Earth.
Because God is one being, He splits His masculinity and femininity into separate entities when He creates and intends them to reunite in order to reflect Him. God would not create gay people and probably, in fact, could not create gay people. All gay people are perverting God’s plan for creation which is made manifest in the natural world – many Unificationists do not know about the existence of intersex people (see also here for BBC analysis of the issue) or the occurrence of same-sex relationships in the animal kingdom, or simply gloss over them. God’s intention is that perfected man and woman form Ideal Families that multiply into extended family, social, national and world level manifestations of God’s Kingdom, eventually establishing the Kingdom of God on Earth and in Heaven.
When your worldview rests on the idea that everything fits this perfect cosmic order, it messes with your mind when you start feeling attracted to people of the same sex. Just sayin’.
Many Unificationists are, however, quite intellectually astute. They are not naïve. They know that many people identify as gay: although of course, no one is really gay. This requires an explanation, and homosexuality is bunched up with the one massive evil which is threatening Western society today: the breakdown of the family. The implication, of course, is that everyone is heterosexual and that homosexuality is a perversion promoted by Satan to distract people from building True Families. More recently Rev. Moon has been preaching “absolute sexual morality” that almost certainly would exclude same-sex intercourse because even straight people shouldn’t be doing it that way. It’s just not allowed. Homosexuality is depraved and clearly belongs to the ‘fallen realm’. The sad reality is that, due in part to the highly conservative nature of the Unification Church (e.g. no smoking, drinking, sex before marriage; promotion of early waking hours and regular fasting), some members consider that homosexuality simply cannot exist in Church members. The marriage blessing of Rev. and Mrs. Moon is believed to remove Original Sin from its partakers, allowing them to give birth to children ‘as pure and clear as crystal’. Exactly what this means, however, is uncertain. The idea that the children of those married in the ceremony (the second generation, my generation) could be gay is in itself a little bit controversial.
So when your life plan is built around getting married by Rev. Moon and building an Ideal Family, it kind of screws up your plan when you start feeling attracted to people of the same sex. The initial response is, maybe it will go away. Eventually, almost ten years in my case, you realise that is not going to happen.
That is when I started digging, and actively looking for what the Church had to say about homosexuality. To start with, Rev. Moon’s most controversial statement is from a speech in 1997 (scroll to the middle), in which he repeatedly calls homosexuals “dung eating dogs”. But there are other examples which do border slightly on the delusional such as this:
“If you practised homosexuality before joining the Unification Church and you have still not ended such relationships, you will go straight to hell. Once you are deeply moved by the truth, everything of that old lifestyle should flee away. You have been born again. Now, no matter how much you formerly enjoyed it, your heart says no. Therefore, you have nothing to do with it. If you cannot subjugate those feelings, you should repent and pray and wail with tears.” 219:233, September 8, 1991 (World Scripture II, p. 647)
“What did God expect from Adam and Eve? He expected absolute purity and love. Where there is absolute sex [sometimes translated ‘absolute sexual morality’], couples of absolute purity will emerge, and concepts such as free sex, homosexuality and lesbianism will automatically disappear.”
– Cheon Seong Gyeong, Book 4, Ch 12, Sec 7 (Cheon Seong Gyeong is a comprehensive collection of quotes from Rev. Moon’s speeches.)
The basic attitude encouraged, then, is that homosexuality should disappear. Homosexuality should go away. Homosexuals, as people, obviously do not care enough about being straight otherwise they would just give up the whole charade and just get married like everyone else. They should submit themselves to God’s ideal because,
“Through the power of the Spirit, they can control their former feelings and re-train themselves to love their heterosexual spouse.” – World Scripture II, p 1129
Despite all this, I am struck by the sadly missed potential for Unificationism to celebrate homosexuality. The Church itself is a veritable celebration of sexuality. The Church worships a married couple and considers the sexual organs to be the finest part of God’s creation. Marriage and marriage rededication are a massive part of the Church’s culture. The acknowledgement of the innateness of sexuality in human nature and God’s delight at married couples’ lovemaking is extraordinary. But not for gays. Nope. Man and woman only. If your feelings are for someone of the opposite sex, they are holy, they are good and there is even some possibility that they may be divine (Exposition of the Divine Principle. Ch1 Sec2). If your feelings are for someone of the same sex, however, then they are perverted, evil and possibly Satanic. Having experienced both, I have to say that it is utterly impossible to distinguish one as being very different from the other: love is love. If the one is worth celebrating, the other is also; or else the feelings themselves are not holy and should not be labelled as such.
The Unification Church is convinced of its destiny to break through into mainstream society and become a major world religion. If this does happen, I think that as its public presence rises, it is likely to get more and more shtick for its anti-gay stance. Perhaps it is uniquely placed to give a solid critique of homosexuality, but it falls far short of offering anything at all helpful for real life homosexual people. The words of its founder, recorded forever, will make this difficult to hide. Unificationism takes a lot of cues from evangelical Christianity and it would not surprise me if at some point it adopted ex-gay ministry, just with slightly different language. (In fact, Richard Cohen of the International Healing Foundation is a former member of the Unification Church and probably was developing the Church’s response before he left and took his work with him. He is an ‘ex-gay’, married with children and says, “I am living my dream”, a little bit too often.) If the Church does not collapse under its own weight, it will have to start answering for the large gap in its teachings. The only problem is that most members are entirely unaware of it, and believe its doctrine to be watertight and salvific. Let’s see what happens.
Feel free to comment with thoughts or questions. Especially if you are a Unificationist, do let me know what you think.