WEEKLY NEWS DIGEST (November 11-17, 2013)

ARTICLE OF THE WEEK

The Fall of the House of Moon?; Sex rituals, foreign spies, Biden offspring, and the Unification Church’s war-torn first family.” By Mariah Blake. New Republic. November 12, 2013. One Sunday morning in February 2010, Bob Exler, a fiftysomething engineer, arrived at the faded ranch house in northwest Houston where he regularly worshipped the Reverend Sun Myung Moon. Most people know Moon for his mass weddings and his ultra-conservative newspaper, The Washington Times. But Exler, who joined Moon’s Unification Church in 1972, had been inspired by Moon’s mission to rebuild the traditional family. As he told me, “I didn’t want to be part of this McDonald’s Drive-Thru society, where you go from one partner to another.” For many years, the Sunday service had followed an unchanging routine. Exler and his wife, Susan—who were matched by Moon and married in a mass ceremony at Madison Square Garden—would join fellow disciples in pledging their loyalty to a portrait of Moon, or, as they called him, “True Father.” They would then sing hymns in Korean and English, and listen to sermons by a rotating cast of elders. But on this particular Sunday, Exler and his fellow congregants arrived to find that the portrait of their leader, in his traditional Korean robe, had vanished. In its place was a wide-screen television with simulcast footage of the Reverend Moon’s 45-year-old daughter, In Jin, speaking from a podium at the Manhattan Center, the concert venue where “America’s Got Talent” was filmed. With her thick makeup and sculpted red hair, In Jin bore a striking resemblance to a game-show host. After welcoming the “one hundred six churches all across the country” that were tuning in, she pointed out the church’s new “Liberace piano,” a rhinestone-encrusted Baldwin grand. Her love of Liberace, she explained, dated back to a show she’d seen in Las Vegas as a child. “I must say that he was fabulous,” she recalled, in an affected British accent. “He used to fly through the air, hoisted on a cable. He wore glorious capes—some were rhinestone, some were velvet, and they had all different textures.” At first Exler was intrigued, but after months of watching In Jin’s broadcasts, which had replaced the church’s normal services, his fascination turned to dismay. “We just turned on the TV, sat there for ninety minutes, then everyone went home,” says Exler. “The sense of community was destroyed.” In Jin had assumed control of the U.S. church at a precarious moment for Moon’s religious empire. Her father had come to the United States from Korea nearly 40 years earlier, aiming to “subjugate” America as the first phase in a plan to establish a new world order. Moon had gone on to amass extraordinary political influence, building a vast network of powerful right-wing organizations and forging alliances with every Republican presidential administration since Ronald Reagan’s. In 2004, he and his wife even staged an elaborate coronation ceremony in the Dirksen Senate Office Building, which at least a dozen lawmakers attended.1 Republican Roscoe Bartlett bowed down before the couple, and Democrat Danny Davis carried in one of two golden crowns that were placed on their heads. Moon then informed the audience that “kings and presidents” had declared him “humanity’s savior” and that Jesus, Buddha, Hitler, and Stalin had been “reborn as new persons” through his teachings. But in recent years, Moon’s plans to remake America and salvage humanity had run into trouble. Followers had drifted away; his political influence had ebbed. With his ninetieth birthday approaching, he increasingly looked to his children to preserve his life’s work.

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