The Death of Sun Myung Moon – Part III: Up and Away
Rev. Moon’s funeral, or seung hwa ceremony, was held on Saturday, 15th September. Seung hwa does not mean funeral, but rather ‘ascension’: it was Moon’s own teaching that they are to be happy occasions, celebrating passing into the co-existent spiritual, heavenly realm and affirming belief in the afterlife. But how will this day be remembered in years to come?
My own experience of the ceremony – which was broadcast live online – is that it stayed true to this idea. There were many (similar) declarations of the ‘great victories’ of his life, reiterations of the various foundations and institutions he has set up. There was an odd atmosphere of celebration mixed with grief and an unspoken feeling that he had left too soon. Moon had predicted January 13th, 2013 to be ‘foundation day’ – the official beginning of the Kingdom of God on Earth, with strong suggestions that he would not die until after that date. Dying too soon is awkward for the messiah, who was so critical of the failure of Jesus to establish the Kingdom of God on Earth and was supposed to fulfill that mission. Yet this will be easy to gloss over.
Despite Rev. Moon’s emphatic declarations that the ‘age of women’ had come, no woman spoke at the ceremony. His widow, Hak-ja Han, sat by an empty chair beside the gigantic portrait of her husband on the stage, silently grieving but dignified. The prayers were led by men, the eulogies and speeches given by men, the master of ceremonies also a man. And only one speaker recognised the important role she played during his life. I wonder how the unique mixture of gender equality and traditional family values will work out in years to come. It’s not looking good so far.
Another response to the death of Rev. Moon, which I noticed in the membership as well as in the ceremony, has been a long time coming. Now that Moon is ‘free’ from his earthly body, he exists only in the spirit. The worship of Rev. and Mrs. Moon as ‘the True Parents of Heaven, Earth and Humankind’ has been steadily promoted by youngest son and established heir, Hyung Jin Moon, since he was promoted to the spiritual headship of the movement in 2007. And now the True Father has gone to heaven, the floodgates to personal relationship have been opened.
I noticed a significant lack of the mention of God, expressions of thanks for the life and mission of Rev. Moon, and praise or worship of any kind to anyone but ‘True Father’. While Unification Theology will never establish Moon as God, emphasis on his role as a perfect human being and as God’s ‘second self’ will undoubtedly be on the rise now that Moon is not around to dispel any misunderstandings, and he is not there to keep God in the picture.
The Unification Church did not die with Sun Myung Moon. Hyung Jin Moon will continue to embellish his Father’s memory with God-like qualities and push for members to find grace in his spirit and his memory. I fear that he will continue to push God aside, praising Moon as God’s ‘liberator’ and human kind’s ‘True Parent’. It’s up, up and away for the Unification Church…