Barbara Underwood and the Oakland Moonies

The Pittsburgh Press

Tuesday, May 31, 1977   page 13

Lonely, Barbara Underwood was easy prey for the ‘Moonies’

‘The Moonstruck Cult’ (This is the first in a four-part series describing a young woman’s experience as a disciple of the Rev. Sun Myung Moon.)

Barbara Underwood spent four years as a Moon disciple.

By Bill Keller

TUCSON, Ariz. — Sometime around 1960 the followers of a then little-known Korean “messiah” began moving into a big old house on 21st Avenue in Portland, Ore.

At night the disciples’ songs, some of them in Korean, would carry across an alley and into the bedroom window of a colonial house next door, where a young girl listened as she drifted off to sleep.

They were neighbors on 21st Avenue – the early followers of the Rev Sun Myung Moon and the upper-middle-class Quaker family next door. They had little to do with each other then. But 15 years later their lives would be knit in an emotional and legal tangle of national significance.

The family was named Underwood, and their daughter Barbara, now 25, is a central figure in a drama of alleged brainwashing and exploitation.

Barbara Underwood was swept up four years ago in the Moonies, the best known of the scores of religious cults that have become a growth industry and a legal dilemma during the past decade, touching thousands of American families.

For the Underwoods, the drama climaxed earlier this year in a San Francisco courtroom where lawyers and psychologists argued for 12 days over who controlled Barbara Underwood’s mind.

It began much more peaceably, in October, 1972, when Barbara was a student at the University of California’s experimental campus near the surfing community of Santa Cruz.

Barbara was the sort of student Cal Santa Cruz was designed for: bright, independent, creative, adventuresome, idealistic.

A top graduate of a Portland area high school in 1970, she was a promising poet and photographer with a history of social concerns ranging from an anti-poverty march in Washington, D.C., to the oil spill beach cleanup at Santa Barbara, Calif.

At Santa Cruz she studied sociology and experimented with drugs, Marxism and communal living, always keeping long, thoughtful journals of her experiences.

Barbara’s first contact with Moon’s teachings was not through the Unification Church, but with one of its many operational guises.

More than 60 organizations have been identified by reporters and Moon critics as “fronts” for the church, including names like Creative Community Project, New Education Development Systems. World Family Movement, Center for Ethical Management and Planning, Collegiate Association for the Research of Principles (CARP).

Later, as a Moonie, Barbara would learn to play down or flatly deny any affiliation with the Unification Church when she was “witnessing” on street corners or San Francisco Bay Area Rapid Transit trains. She would joke about the vaguely academic-sounding front names and help make up new ones.

This deceptiveness is Exhibit A in the case Moon critics make that the church is different from “bona fide” religions.

“Unification Church is a Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde,” Barbara said recently in a four-hour interview at a cultist “rehabilitation center” on the outskirts of Tucson. “There’s definitely a front stage and a backstage, and at least in Oakland (Calif.) the front stage is called any other name but the Unification Church.

“I met a group called the International Re-education Foundation.”

A former college roommate named Joy was living in Oakland in one of several San Francisco Bay Area houses populated by Moonie “families.”

Barbara went to visit her old friend “on impulse” one Friday night in October and found herself overwhelmed by the interest and affection “the family” seemed to feel for her.

Saturday morning she asked them to drop her off at the Oakland bus depot for her return to Santa Cruz. Instead, they turned north on the freeway and headed toward International Ideal City Ranch in Boonville, a Moonie retreat in northern California.

Barbara started to object, then went along: “Inside, I figured: ‘Well, I guess a decision has been made for me.’ ”

The unannounced detour, she would learn, was nothing unusual.

“If you’re in the church, you assume you know what’s best for a person,’’ Barbara said recently. “I know people who were tied up and brought back to the church, and taken places against their will. And other people who had all their things packed for them without their knowing it and moved into the church.”

On the road to Boonville and throughout the weekend, she was pressed to join in religious and folk singing. Two Moonie women were assigned to escort her, and they kept her company around the clock, steering her away from other newcomers.

She received a diluted dose of Unification Church doctrine — introductory lectures called “principles of education” — but there was no mention of Moon or of his ultimate message: that a Korean messiah is coming to overthrow communism in the world.

Four months after Barbara Underwood’s first encounter with the followers of the Rev. Sun Myung Moon, the cult beckoned again. This time she was ready.

Ex-cultists and psychologists say such groups tend to attract people at vulnerable periods in their lives – moments of need or insecurity.

Since her October introduction to the Moonies, both of Barbara’s grandmothers had died and she had begun having scary thoughts about death. She had suffered through an unsuccessful love affair. She had had a “mystical-spiritual” experience at the mountain retreat that gave her a sudden new interest in religion.

And she was lonely. In her junior year of college, her greatest objection to the ruggedly individualistic campus at Santa Cruz was that people seemed “rootless; everyone kind of fleets through your life.”

She made a second trip to the International Ideal City Ranch, this time plunging into the vaguely identified group with both feet.

After a visit home to Portland and a trip to Santa Cruz to arrange a leave of absence from school, she moved in with the Moonie “family” in Oakland.

Barbara told her parents she wanted to live with the sect for a few months and write her senior thesis about this seemingly Utopian community. But within a week she was part of her subject.

For the next four years she would sleep on floors or in vans, observe strict cult rules against drinking, drugs and sex, and devote 18 to 20 hours a day to collecting money and new believers for Sun Myung Moon.

The process Barbara went through in her first weeks is described by church members as religious conversion. It has been described by parents, ex-Moonies and some psychologists as “mind control,” “coercive persuasion” or in popular terminology, brainwashing

At first, Barbara said, it was easy to suspend doubt. “There’s not that much you can disagree with.” The lectures were “about love and truth and beauty and goodness and becoming a more giving person.”

Eventually, the Moonies are told that doubt must not be simply put off, but permanently erased. “If you really doubt, you’re considered an insincere person, an untrustworthy person.”

The newcomers are reminded constantly that the world “outside” is an imperfect place. They recall the hassles they left behind – magnified in the lectures and in group “sharing” sessions – and compare that life to the surge of love and warmth in their new setting.

Soon many of them accept the idea that this group is alone against the evils of the world.

“Suddenly there’s an overwhelming desire to repent for your life, get rid of it, confess all the evils that you’ve done,” said Barbara. “Pretty soon you’ve thrown out everything that was of any value in your life before. There comes a point when you have to feel even your parents have this small, possessive love for you.”

The Rev. Kent Burtner, a Catholic campus priest at the University of Oregon who has studied the Moonies and assisted in several “deprogrammings,” believes the critical point for new cult members comes when they learn to feel guilt and shame – not just for their conscious actions, but for feelings and emotions.

“If you can get that by somebody,” says Father Burtner, “you can get them to feel guilty for anything. If you’re hungry or tired or afraid, these are signs of moral weakness. Then the way to assuage the guilt is to do what Moon tells you.

“It becomes a really marvelous way of controlling people.”

Barbara said: “After 18 hours of fund-raising, you’re hungry and you start thinking about a candy bar – that’s selfish. You should be more sacrificial.”

“It was seen as a sign of weakness to want to go home, because you were attached to your parents.”

The greatest guilt, of course, was attached to the ultimate sin: leaving.

“There’s a real instilling of fear that if you leave, Satan’s going to consume you, you’re going to die spiritually, it’s going to be the end of all hope in your life,” she said.

After the first few weeks, sacrifice becomes the life style: long days of work without pay, nights of three to five hours sleep, fasting, denial of physical pleasures.

Devotees even sacrifice to Moon their right to select a husband or wife. When they become eligible for marriage, after spending three years in the church and converting the required number of “spiritual children,” the church may arrange a marriage, possibly with a total stranger.

As Barbara was absorbed into the church, her family reacted at first with misgivings, then alarm.

After a phone call from Barbara a few weeks after her induction, her mother, Mary Betty Underwood, scribbled in her own journal: “Her voice sounds strange, flat and hoarse; she says it’s because ‘we sing so much.’”

Four months later, Barbara visited Portland. Her brother Doug picked her up at the airport, where he found her staring out a window, singing out loud to herself. The family said her voice was worn and sing-songy, her eyes lifeless. She would talk of nothing but Moon’s teachings.

“It’s like she’d parked her brains at the door,” said her father, Ray Underwood, now chief counsel for the Oregon Department of Justice.

In October, 1973, Mrs Underwood and son Phil visited Barbara’s group in Oakland, one of several efforts the Underwoods made to comprehend their daughter’s new way of life.

They were repelled, Mrs. Underwood said, by the occasional violence of the church’s rhetoric. They heard one lecturer tell the disciples to “explode the country. Everybody will be hit by us. We can steamroll the world with love.”

As they prepared to leave, a number of Moonies encircled Phil and insistently urged him to stay. And Mrs. Underwood wrote: “Beneath the cordiality, I sensed something harshly different.”

The Pittsburgh Press

Wednesday, June 1, 1977   page 31

Disciples Fill Moon’s Pockets

‘The Moonstruck Cult’ (This is the second in a four-part series describing a young woman’s experience as a disciple of the Rev. Sun Myung Moon.)

Foes of Sun Myung Moon scrawled “Hitler” on posters heralding Moon’s Bicentennial festival at Yankee Stadium.

By Bill Keller

Tucson, Arizona – “I have established the record in using people, pushing them ahead,” self-proclaimed prophet Sun Myung Moon boasts in Master Speaks, a series of lectures to his advanced followers.

During her four years in Moon’s Unification Church, Barbara Underwood was used to raise a quarter of a million dollars for the Korean evangelist, according to estimates by ex-Moonies.

The 25-year-old Portland, Oregon woman earned the money selling roses 18 to 20 hours a day on street corners, in factories, office buildings and bars.

As often as not, Miss Underwood said in a recent interview here, she and her fellow Moonies lied to customers about where the money was going, a practice church members referred to as “heavenly deceit.”

Based on similar allegations, the Oregon Consumer Protection Division is looking into alleged fraudulent sales practices by Moonies in Oregon. One former high-ranking church member estimates the take from candy and flower sales in Oregon alone is about $10,000 a week.

Barbara’s earnings became part of a tax-exempt flood of money Rev. Moon has used – according to ex-Moonies and congressional testimony – to build a diversified business empire, to acquire extensive property holdings, and to advance his religious and political cause – the simultaneous advancement of South Korea and himself.

According to Barbara Underwood, making money and recruiting new members were the daily obsessions of the church. Conventional religious study was secondary, and the practice of “good works” was almost unheard of.

The church devotion to fund-raising was evident even in the morning chants which started off a typical day in a Moonie house. Rising before dawn, the Moonies would pray in the name of the True Parents – Moon and has wife – read from the Bible, then gather to chant verses like these:
“Glory to heaven, Peace on earth, restore the material foundation” (the church bank account).
“Glory to heaven, peace on earth, find a millionaire to move into the family.”

After a brief stint as a typist for the Forest Service – during which she signed over her paychecks to the church – Barbara was assigned to a seven-member flower-selling team and began a series of sales sprees that would keep her on the road or most of four years.
The teams roamed the country in vans and slept in them at night, even when the weather dropped, as it did one winter in Michigan, to 40 below zero.

“Occasionally, if we thought the flowers would freeze, we would rent a motel room for the sake of the flowers,” she said.

They ate two meals a day, emphasis on starch, sometimes begging donuts or a pizza from passers-by to save their flower-selling money for the church. Sometimes they fasted.
They snuck showers in motel rooms, darting in after the paying tenants had left and before the maids arrived to clean up.

The Moonies would work taverns until closing time, finding drunks the most pliable customers. Then they would clean and cut the flowers, put them in water, and bundle up for a few hours of sleep.

“Our bar runs would be flowers that were dead from two days before,” when the flowers had been air-freighted in from San Francisco, Barbara said, “We’d just wrap them up in green paper and disguise them and sell them.

“The new people who had just started selling, it was so hard for them to sell dead flowers; it would really hit their conscience. But eventually you had to indoctrinate them to feel the higher purpose, the spiritual purpose.”

Customers who asked were told the money went to benefit something called New Education Development or another front, which Moonies would variously describe as a Christian youth group, or a nondenominational religious community, or a drug abuse program.

“The whole justification is that you have to get money from everybody, because that might be their own ticket to heaven,” said Barbara.

Barbara Underwood became an assistant leader, and finally the leader, of a seven-member flower team and was trusted to establish a sales base in Toronto.
In Canada, she got an importer’s license, opened a bank account and rented vehicles using a phony address and pretending to be a Canadian citizen, in apparent violation of Canadian immigration laws.

“We were going by divine law,” she explained. “We weren’t going by secular law, democratic law.”

Barbara’s journal includes her own list of 18 ways the Moonies routinely broke the law, including soliciting without permits and in forbidden areas, driving uninsured vans, giving false information on welfare and medical aid applications, ignoring traffic tickets and failing to file traffic accident reports.

“We were in a lot of car accidents because people were so tired driving,” she said. “One car was totaled. It was always because somebody fell asleep.”

Once Barbara’s flower team took a sick team member to a hospital emergency ward and got her treated as an indigent, although they had $7,000 in their van, Barbara said.
Barbara and other former members of her flower-selling team estimate they averaged about $2,000 a day. A top seller, Barbara regularly collected $400 herself.

“I know I made significantly more than my dad as a lawyer,” she said. “But I never felt I was doing enough.”

Despite the hardships, Barbara says she liked the excitement of being on the road, and preferred the relative independence to living in a Moonie house all the time.
Flower-selling is the most common Moonie money-maker. But Moon’s international business empire includes companies marketing pharmaceuticals, stoneware and titanium, karate schools, restaurants and a variety of publications.

Moon’s business activities in the United States benefit from large amounts of free labor.
Phil Greek, a 22-year-old who recently left the Moonies to continue an interrupted education at Stanford University, started one lucrative enterprise in Chicago — selling butterfly displays encased in plexiglass.

Greek said he made as much as $800 a day selling the displays for $15 to $20 in Chicago office buildings.

Jeff Scales, who was Barbara Underwood’s flower team leader until he left the church last December, ran several Moonie businesses in the San Francisco Bay area. He dreamed up others which never got off the ground – the weirdest one, in 1969, a proposal to export Frisbees to Spain.

Scales ran a chain of restaurants, caterers and tea and coffee shops under the trade name “Aladdin.” He also oversaw a maintenance and carpet-cleaning company.
“With no labor costs and people willing to work 14 to 15 hours a day, you can undercut anybody,” he said.

Scales said that when he ran the Aladdin restaurants, employees signed over their pay-checks to the personal slush fund of West Coast church leader Onni Durst, who spent freely on clothing and jewelry for herself.

The Moonies also made feeble efforts to fulfill their prayer to “find a millionaire to move into the family.”

In one case described by Barbara and ex-Moonie Eve Eden, two attractive Moonie women wooed a rich Jewish hotel owner in California, establishing a new front – Judaism in Service to the World – in hopes of attracting some of his wealth.

The women played up to him – bending, but apparently not breaking, the strict church rule of chastity. The man loaned them the key to his penthouse, bought them presents, but never blessed the church, the ex-Moonies said.

Because Rev. Moon’s sect has the legal protections and tax-exempt status of a religion, little is known with certainty about how much money the church raises and where it goes.
Large sums have gone to acquire property in New York (Rev. Moon once bid to buy the Empire State Building) and in other cities. Some has gone to a slick, new color newspaper, The News World, which is distributed widely in Washington and New York.

More money has been poured into Rev. Moon’s religious and political rallies, including a Bicentennial fireworks display at the Washington Monument and several demonstrations supporting the war in Vietnam and then-President Richard Nixon.

In sworn testimony last year before the House international organizations subcommittee, witnesses alleged Rev. Moon has supported lobbying efforts on Capitol Hill in support of the government of South Korea, which the Unification Church teaches is the new holy land.

The witnesses also alleged – and the subcommittee ls still investigating – operational ties between the church and the Korean Central Intelligence Agency.

Rev. Moon himself boasted in a lecture to top church leaders three years ago that “we have successfully dealt with many senators and congressmen,” and that “every politician in America has to think twice about the Rev. Moon.”

The Pittsburgh Press

Thursday, June 2, 1977   page 33

Moonie Court Battle: Fighting For ‘Rights’

‘The Moonstruck Cult’ (This is the third in a four-part series describing a young woman’s experience as a disciple of the Rev. Sun Myung Moon.)

From left, Barbara Underwood, Janice Kaplan, John Hovard, Leslie Brown and Jacqueline Katz.

By Bill Keller

Portland, Oregon – By the summer of 1976, Ray and Mary Betty Underwood were almost resigned to the idea that their 25-year-old daughter, Barbara, had traded them in for the mysterious family of Rev. Sun Myung Moon.

The Underwoods are Quakers and political liberals (Ray Underwood quit a job with Sen. Mark Hatfield, R-Oregon, when the senator endorsed Richard Nixon) so they found Moon’s warlike talk of world conquest distressing.

But they are also long time members of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), with no-compromise views on religious and political freedom. So they felt bound to honor their daughter’s choice.

Last March, though, the Underwoods entered a San Francisco court room to battle the Unification Church, their daughter, and the ACLU in a case lawyers believe will break new constitutional ground.

The case pitted the American guarantee of freedom of religion against an unproven and psychological concept, freedom of thought.

The Underwoods had decided that their daughter had joined the Unification Church under severe emotional pressure and, though not physically restrained, was powerless to leave it without help.

Together with parents of four other Moonies – all over the age of 21 – the Underwoods asked the courts for 30 days in which they and professional deprogrammers would try to “restore the children’s ability to think for themselves.”

“While it seems extreme to say it, these young people are put into a form of slavery, mental enslavement.” Underwood, who is chief counsel for the Oregon Department of Justice, said recently.

Once they are in it, the pattern is to keep them so busy, so preoccupied, that they never have an opportunity to stand back free of the influence of the cult…

“I don’t see how there’s any great threat to civil liberties, as long as the deprogramming is conducted under court supervision. It’s a special situation that ordinary principles of free choice don’t apply to, because these people aren’t free.”

Underwood argued, too, that Unification Church is legally different from other religions because it recruits members without telling them it is a religion. Barbara, for instance, joined what she thought was a communal group called International Re-education Foundation, and didn’t hear Moon’s name until she had been swept up in the movement.
“I know of no legitimate church that brings in its members on the basis of lies,” Underwood said.

The church counter-punched with charges ranging from religious persecution to the allegation that deprogramming was “the real brainwashing.”

The five Moonies, with Barbara as the star witness, testified they had converted freely and were blissfully happy in the church.

The ACLU called the parents lawsuit an attack on freedoms of religion and association – in short, a threat to a person’s right to be different.

“To deprive people of their liberty because their parents don’t agree with their religious beliefs is blatantly unconstitutional,” ACLU attorney David Fishlow said. Fishlow said the legal danger in the case was not brainwashing, but overprotective parents.

“Barbara Underwood is a very intelligent, thoughtful person who probably made a mistake when she joined the Unification Church. But I have no doubt the time would have come when she would have decided to leave on her own,” Fishlow said.

He contended that any group puts peer pressure on members to stay in, “but that doesn’t mean you’re a zombie – I don’t believe in witchcraft, and I don’t believe in mind control.”
The Underwoods say they didn’t either, not seriously, until they began meeting last September with a group of parents whose children had joined cults.

Adrian Greek, retired director of adult education for the Portland YMCA, and his wife, Ann, began organizing parents of cultists after two of their children became Moonies. They say their group, Concerned Parents, knows of about 15 Portland-area families touched by Moon’s movement and has put some of them in touch with lawyers and deprogrammers.

In a series of meetings in Portland, the Underwoods first heard the “mind control” theories of psychologists Robert Jay Lifton of Yale and Margaret Singer of the University of California, who had pointed out similarities between cult followers and former prisoners of war in Korea and China.

The Underwoods also learned that parents in California had begun winning court-ordered conservatorships for their cultist children “ex parte” (without bringing their children or church into court).

The conservatorships – called guardianships under Oregon law – were designed to protect the senile or mentally incompetent who cannot care for themselves or who might be pray to swindlers.

Last December, the Greeks won a temporary guardianship over their 22-year-old son, Phil, in Marion County, the first Moonie case in Oregon. They later obtained a California custody order over their 21-year-old Moonie daughter, Cheryl, but she fled the state.

Just before Christmas, the Underwoods determination was bolstered by a phone call from Eve Eden and Jeff Scales, two of Barb’s closest friends in the church. They had been yanked from the cult under conservatorship and said they wanted to help get Barb out, too.

Assisted by attorneys from the Freedom of Thought Foundation, an anti-cult organization in Tucson, Arizona, the Underwoods obtained a Californian court order for their daughter’s custody. But it was too late.

“There where conservatorships out and nobody knew who for, so we were being extra cautious,” Barb said. She said Moonies leaving their houses were told to wear garbage bag masks so they could not be identified by scouts for the parents.

On January 5, Barb and 16 other Moonies were told by church leaders to sign papers authorizing unnamed attorneys to represent them. Then a jump ahead of the conservatorship, they fled the state.

A month later, Unification Church lawyers agreed to return a group of Moonies to California on one condition: the parents would have to fight it out in open court.” The Underwoods and four other parents agreed.

Church leaders summoned Barbara from a flower-selling mission in New Mexico, and gave her $20 “escape money” in case she wanted to flee from deprogrammers after the court verdict.

“We were really prepared, if we lost the case, not to see Barb again,” her mother said.
The case of Underwood vs. Unification Church lasted 12 days. A parade of parents, Moonies and psychologists debated whether the Faithful Five, as the Moonie defendants called themselves, were converts or robots.

Stanford psychiatrist Samuel G. Benson and Dr. Singer, testifying for the parents, described the Moonies as childlike and emotionally frozen, limited in their mental range and vocabulary and out of touch with world events.

“Benson said Barbara finished answers about Barb” her mother wrote afterwards. “I don’t know how she felt, but I was worried to death.”

Dr. Singer who has studied more than 100 ex-Moonies, said the church practices classic tactics of “coercive persuasion,” described by Korean prisoners of war: physical and social isolation, sleep deprivation, complete monopolization of time, a heavy emphasis on guilt, strong group pressure, repetitive indoctrination lectures and hypnotic chanting.

The Moonies, she said, were not even aware they had joined a religion until the indoctrination was complete.

Recently, Dr. Singer compared the transformation of Barbara Underwood to that of Patricia Hearst at the hands of the Symbionese Liberation Army. The psychologist, who has interviewed both women at length, said Barbara “was a quite scholarly woman who dropped her whole past, and would answer simple questions by parroting abstract phrases from Unification Church doctrine.”

Witnesses and lawyers for the defense countered that coercion could not take place without captivity, hypnosis or drugs; as long as the Moonies were physically free to leave, their liberty had not been violated.

The alleged brainwashing, they said, was little different from the persuasion practiced by other religions – or even by political and fraternal groups, businesses and advertisers.

Los Angeles psychologist Alan Gerson and Washington psychiatrist Harold Kaufman tested the defendants and found them normal, healthy, mature, creative and happy.

The Moonies, church attorney Ralph Baker said, “had a real conversion. They stopped using narcotics, stopped living with other people and straightened out their morals. That’s what America needs.

“Their parents had 18 years to work with them. Now they’re saying let’s get them back to their natural selfish state so they can start smoking and using drugs and living with people.”

Outside the courtroom, Barbara stayed with the Moonies, but joined her parents most days for lunch or dinner. Her parents hopes would soar at one meal as Barbara showed clues of her old independence, then sink at the next meeting when she was adamant about returning to the church

Considered the most articulate of the defendants, Barbara went before reporters repeatedly as spokeswoman for the Faithful Five.

With her parents sitting a few feet away, Barbara took the stand and said her time in the Unification Church had been “as real as I’ve ever known happiness.”

Insisting she had joined the church freely and stayed without coercion, she said: “It’s my life to choose the beliefs I follow. I feel if I make a mistake in my life it should be my own choice.”

(In an interview several weeks after the trial, Barbara said her testimony that today was an act: “All of us perjured ourselves on the witness stand during our hearing, because we had to protect the church,” she said.)

On Friday, March 25, Superior Court Judge S. Lee Vavuris handed the Faithful Five over to their parents for 30 days, saying he had decided to put his faith in the family. “We’re talking about the essence of civilization here – mother, father, child … The child is a child even though a parent maybe 90 and the child 60,” he said.

The day of the ruling Barbara let another Moonie – John Hovard, the only defendant still in the church today – handle the press. She said she was secretly relieved and afraid it would show.

“Inside, I was hoping for it. It seems so strange, but I wanted to hear what they had to say and understand whether there was any validity at all to the people who left the church who I trusted, and to my parents viewpoint … and I knew that I would not be allowed to (hear the other side) if the conservatorship were not granted,” Barbara said.

The following Monday, Barbara announced she would leave the church, fire her attorneys and go voluntarily into her parents’ custody.

The Underwoods won the battle, but the war is not over.

The California Court of Appeals has since ruled unanimously that Judge Vavuris’ ruling was dubious law and has issued a stay. After reading the trial transcript, the appeals court is expected to issue a final order in a month or so.

If the court overturns Vavuris’ decision, parents and deprogrammers may have to look for another legal way to attack cults in California, and similar court fights can be expected in other states.

The Pittsburgh Press

Friday, June 3, 1977    page 21

For Moonies ‘Deprogram’ Meant Torture

‘The Moonstruck Cult’ (This is the last in a four-part series)

Those who returned to Rev. Moon’s church after deprogramming were regarded as heroes.

By Bill Keller

Tucson, Arizona – Deprogramming, the psychological antidote to alleged brainwashing by exotic religious cults, has become almost as controversial as the cults themselves.
It is such a chilly, 1984-ish word even those who practice it would rather call it something else.

To a member of Rev. Sun Myung Moon’s Unification Church, the word conjures up kidnaping, confinement, torture, loss of friends, loss of God, loss of hope.
Barbara Underwood, who was deprogrammed a few weeks ago, now calls the experience “sensitive and compassionate,” and says she may want to try it herself on those still in the church.

But while she was in the Moon movement she was warned that deprogramming tactics might include cursing, beating, humiliation, seduction or even rape.

A few months ago she was secretly spirited out of California to avoid deprogramming. Another time she went, armed with chemical mace and a deafening noisemaker, to stake out a house in Ohio where a Moonie was undergoing deprogramming and, if possible, aid in an escape.

So intense was the terror of deprogramming inside the cult, she said, that some Moonie leaders passed out razor blades, with instructions that captured Moonies should attack their deprogrammers or hurt themselves so they would have to be taken to a hospital.

The horror stories of deprogramming, ex-Moonies claim, are largely church propaganda fed by reports from disciples who have been partway through the process and escaped back to the church. Ex-Moonies say the escapees embellish their stories to enlarge their hero-status within the cult.

One recent escapee from deprogramming has claimed his captors poured water up his nose; witnesses who were present say one of the deprogrammers sprinkled water in his face in an effort to break his trance-like state. Another Moonie says she was beaten with pillows; witnesses say an ex-Moonie gently tossed a pillow at her to get her attention.

Ex-Moonies don’t deny that occasionally a cultist has been slapped or sworn at, or that it has sometimes taken considerable force to hold a deprogrammee — especially in cases where the youngsters have been snatched without the authority of a court order. But they maintain such instances are exceptional.

Berkeley psychologist Dr. Margaret Singer, who has studied more than 100 former members of the Unification Church, said she knows of “nothing untoward” about the deprogrammings of any of Moonies.

Dr. Singer says that almost all the ex-cultists she studied continued to be deeply religious, either returning to the faith of their childhood or developing “a basic religious belief of a kind they say is really theirs.” Barbara said she has kept a deep faith in God, without feeling attached to any particular religion.

But concern about deprogramming is not limited to Moonies, nor based entirely on exaggerated stories of brutality.

Ralph Baker, attorney for the Unification Church, said he believes the pillow-beating and water-up-the-nose stories but feels even nonviolent deprogramming “is kind of alien to our American way.”

Baker says deprogrammers often charge “$15,000 to $25,000 a head,” and are simply profiteers taking advantage of gullible parents.

Deprogramming is expensive, though less so than Baker claims. The Freedom of Thought Foundation in Tucson, which wrestled Barbara from the Moonies says it charges parents a $10,000 retainer for legal work, travel, motels and the actual deprogramming. The foundation also provides several weeks of “rehabilitation” in a bungalow on the outskirts of Tucson, paid for by a Detroit philanthropist whose daughter left a cult.

Ann and Adrian Greek, a Portland, Oregon couple whose son, Phil, was pulled from the Unification Church under an Oregon court order and deprogrammed in the state, said it cost them about $4,000. Neither family complained of the cost.

According to Barbara and several other former Moonies, the deprogramming process consists of two basic elements: confinement and conversion.

After the “pick-up” of a Moonie, sometimes a forceful kidnaping but now more commonly under a court-ordered conservatorship, the cult member is confined in a motel room, at least until he or she seems unlikely to attempt escape.

The deprogramming period, usually a matter of days, often includes walks and trips to restaurants. In the case of Barbara who responded rapidly, the first few days included a picnic, horse-back riding and a tour of a California winery.

All of those interviewed said the cultists are given three meals a day and at least 8 hours of sleep a day. Under the conditions of Barbara’s court order, she was allowed to talk to her church attorney, to have any reading material she wanted and to practice her religion.
“I’d rather talk to you well rested, well fed and with all your faculties,” said Joe Alexander, a veteran deprogrammer with the Freedom of Thought Foundation. “You can accept what I have to say much better.”

Alexander, a high-school-educated former Ohioan who used to run a chrome and nickel plating shop in Akron, got into deprogramming six years ago when he helped pull his nephew out of a small cult called The Christian Foundation.

He claims a 90 per cent success rate, working with hundreds of young people in more than 30 cults. The Moonies, Children of God, the Hare Krishnas, Divine Light Mission, Scientology, The Christ Family, The Way International – “All of the groups are carbon copies of each other,” he said.

The key figures in a deprogramming are not usually the professionals like Alexander, however, but ex-members of the cult who are fluent in the church jargon and can reassure the “client” that they’ve been through it themselves.

The goal ls to get the cultist to listen.

“Eventually each person deprograms himself,” Barbara said. “Eventually a person talks out all the defenses until they’re tired of talking out their defenses, and then they begun to listen.”

The process was easier for Barbara than for most. She says her faith in the church had already been rattled when her two closest friends – Eve Eden and Jeff Scales – were taken and deprogrammed last December. Both now practice deprogramming.

Then during the 12-day courtroom fight for her custody, Barbara said, the give and take aroused her curiosity. Why, she puzzled in her journal, had her attorneys not tried to convince the court of the alleged abuses that take place in deprogramming? And if all those charges were true, she wondered, why would her parents be willing to put her through it?

When the judge awarded her parents a 30-day conservatorship, Barbara and four Moonie co-defendants were driven to the Travelodge near San Francisco Airport, where they were met by a large team of deprogrammers and ex-Moonies.

The families split up into smaller groups, Barbara with her parents, her old friends Jeff and Eve, and Gary Scharff, once the top East Coast lecturer for Moon, now an official of the Freedom of Thought Foundation.

Many cultists resist for days, chanting to themselves, praying, pacing the room. Eve Eden said she “tried to fake it” for four days; pretending the talk was sinking in but actually chanting inside and concentrating on the possibility of escape. Barbara, however, had decided from the start to give it a try.

“I really had confidence that if I talked, it wouldn’t shake my beliefs,” she said. “I’d spent four years believing it and I’d sacrificed my whole life for it, 20 hours a day working for it and four hours dreaming about it.

“I just couldn’t conceive of anything short of brutality and torture that would get me to change my mind.”

For the past several weeks, Barbara has been relaxing in Tucson with other ex-Moonies; swimming and hiking, reading and studying, “trying to reclaim my past.”

Her future plans are uncertain, which is not unusual. Dr. Singer says it takes most Moonies eight months to a year to return to a “normal” way of life.

“Once you’re deprogrammed, that’s one thing,” says Eve Eden. “Then you’ve got to face yourself.”

In New York recently to be interviewed for a television talk show, Barbara worried for a long time whether to wear her long brown hair down, a style considered “satanic” in the church. Concerned about the Moonies who might be watching, she wore it up.

But despite such emotional tugs she feels she is free of the Unification Church, and glad of it.

“I can’t express the amount of relief I feel about being rescued,” she said. “And I really feel it was a rescue, because I know that I never would have left on my own. It would have been absolutely impossible. It’s so hard for anybody outside of the experience to understand the depth of that.”


by Barbara Underwood and Betty Underwood

Four years in the Unification Church by an Ex Moonie and the mother who fought to free her.

published 1979

back cover

A riveting firsthand account by a mother and daughter of the dangers of cult life, and a moving testimonial to the power of family love.

From the advance praise:

HOSTAGE TO HEAVEN is the mother-daughter book of the year—in poignancy to be compared with Anyone’s Daughter by Shana Alexander. … An exceedingly personal book, it will also be grist for psychologists and for social commentators on our times. Once you start reading this alarming work you cannot put it down.
Paul Ramsey, Professor of Religion,
Princeton University

A moving and gripping account of a young woman’s journey to define meaning and structure in her life, and in the universe, but at the expense of her individual and intellectual freedom … This is an autobiography of searching, of endurance, and of familial love of the highest order. It is an enlightened warning to each and every household.
Senator Mark O. Hatfield, Oregon

Not only is the book informative and revealing about what led to the daughter’s becoming involved with the Moonies and what happened while she was with them, both to her and her family, but parts of it hold the suspense of a mystery novel.
Margaret Thaler Singer, Professor of Psychology,
University of California, San Francisco and Berkeley

cover flaps

by Barbara Underwood and Betty Underwood

Four years in the Unification Church by an Ex Moonie and the mother who fought to free her

A deeply disturbing look at the dangers of cult life, and a testimonial to the power of family love

Betty Underwood and her daughter, Barbara, give their overlapping, sometimes conflicting versions of the four years Barbara spent in the Unification Church, more popularly known as the Moonies: four years of increasing anxiety and anguish for Barb’s family, four years of self-denial, self-sacrifice, work to the point of physical and emotional exhaustion, and the excitement that comes from a sense of mission and destiny for Barb.

What Barbara saw as her God-given purpose in life—fund-raising, recruiting, and, on occasion, much more dangerous and frightening work for the benefit of the Moonies— Barbara’s parents came to see as enslavement. And when a group of parents similarly deprived of their children by the Unification Church approached them about their possible interest in springing Barb from the Moonies, they began an intense period of soul-searching. They were torn between their desire to respect their daughter, her integrity, her civil rights, her freedom to make her own decisions on the one hand, and, on the other, their growing conviction that she had endured a form of brainwashing that effectively prevented her from making any free choices.

What followed was the internationally publicized court hearing of the “Oakland Faithful Five,” where, for the first time outside of the context of war, mind control was the central issue in a court of law. Climaxing in a series of courtroom scenes in which Moonies and their parents confront each other. Hostage to Heaven is a dramatic and moving portrait of a family in conflict. As an indirect testimonial to the strengths and virtues of the traditional family, as a deeply disturbing account of the emotional and psychological chaos in which so many of our young people are floundering, and as a horrifying look at the power that various cults can exercise over them. Hostage to Heaven is an important story, the ramifications of which are being played out on the front pages of newspapers across the nation.

Barbara Underwood was born in Eugene, Oregon. After spending four years in the Moonies, she attended the University of California at Berkeley and received a B.A. degree in sociology in June 1979. Since she left the Moonies, she has done deprogramming and counseling with other young people from various cults, and at present is working free lance as both writer and counselor. Recently she married Gary Scharff.

Betty Underwood is an award-winning author of books for children and young adults, whose book The Tamarack Tree received the Jane Addams Children’s Book Award for excellence in writing on the theme of brotherhood. She was born in Rockford, Illinois, and lives in Portland with her husband, Ray. She is the mother of three children.


Ray Underwood’s insights, steadiness and fortitude helped build this book.

Gary Scharff added a very special dimension of care and understanding.

Clarence, Scott, and Lauriel Anderson gave of themselves in time of need, as did Russell, Douglas, and Jeffrey Underwood.

Carl Katz generously let us share some of his notes on certain days of the court hearing.

Eve Eden and Jeff Scales were initiators and counselors.

Jean Naggar and Beth Rashbaum believed in the book.


Foreword by Barbara Underwood   ix

Foreword by Betty Underwood   xi

Barb: Who Is the Captive?   1

Betty: Growing Up—Barb, Her Family, Their World   13

Betty and Barb: Going Into the Cult—A Combined Account   37

Barb: In the Unification Church—I Am Reborn   57

Life at the Centers   61

Flower Seller   75

Behind Fences: Boonville   97

All for True Parents: National Activities   109

Who Is Not With Us Is Against Us: Persecution   121

Betty: In the Cult—Visits and Nonvisits   127

Betty: Deciding to Take Action   151

Betty: Hearing   163

Barb: Hearing   213

Barb: Deprogramming   233

Betty: Barb’s Coming Out   257

Barb: Free of Captivity   263

Betty: Barb Is Out   271

Barb: Conclusion   277

Mind Control   283
The Sociology of Cults   289
Unification History   291
Unification Politics and Finances   293
The Divine Principle   297
Glossary   299

Foreword by Barbara Underwood

The genesis of my voice in this two-person account goes back to April 1973, before I entered the Unification Church. As a student of sociology at the University of California at Santa Cruz, I had intended to keep an objective account of my experiences while “studying” the Unified Family. But I never predicted an account of four years duration. Nor did I predict such a totally involving and personal record. In short, I failed to anticipate the overwhelmingly seductive power of an experience to which I eventually surrendered without reservation.

I waged an inner battle about keeping my journal while I was in the Church. At first writing seemed like a personal, selfish attachment. So I stopped. Then I conceived of my writing as a testament by a living disciple of the Messiah; I thought my journals might one day be a chapter in the “Completed Testament.” I also began to cherish my Church brothers and sisters whose personalities and character traits I felt compelled to preserve, with the intention of writing a series of biographical sketches some day when there was time—presumably when the Kingdom of Heaven arrived.

After leaving the Church in April 1977, I worked with my mother on an account of the events of the preceding four years, years that had transformed our lives. Our decision to write together, as mother and daughter, reflected a need to bridge the chasm those years had created. As I read her story of the pain of rejected parenthood, my love for her took deeper root. As she read my story of sacrifice and visionary hope, she recognized a reflection of her own youthful idealism.

The Unification experience is complex. Within the Church or without, there are no ultimate victors and no easily defined enemies. And within the Unification membership there are decent but fallible human beings demonstrating a desire to love, to weave myth, to claim for themselves the glory of God. Unfortunately, the passion for God and goodness can lead to severe violations of the freedom of the individual. And worse.

Was I “brainwashed”? My mind was certainly manipulated through my intense desire to believe and love, my freedom was lost, my values distorted. But even now it is difficult to say for sure which cult experiences are dangerous, how to evaluate them, how to strike a balance between spiritual commitments and secular freedoms. Having seen both sides of the issues involved, I have no easy answers.

Foreword by Betty Underwood

“How the Moonie Magic Is Turned On”; “The Battle for Mind Control”; “Out of the Shadow of Moon Madness”; “What that Spaced-Out Look Means”; “Judge Gives Moonies to Parents”…

On and on they went, the lurid yellow journalism headlines about cults and cultists.

When I came from my daughter’s court hearing, the last thing I wanted to do was write a book. I wanted instead to forget.

But after I’d regained my strength, I did put together the notes on the hearing in order to give them to a trusted young journalist friend.

Meanwhile, those sensational headlines kept proliferating and added to my sense that the cult phenomenon was being treated by the media as though it happened only to weird people.

I can’t remember the exact moment when Barb and I came to an agreement to try a book, probably sometime in June 1977, after she had left the cult.

By the fall it had already taken rough-draft shape as Barb clattered upstairs at the typewriter while downstairs in the den I did the same. Every now and then we shouted up the stairway to confirm a point or ask a question.

We were trying to write a book which would say, among other things, that our experiences could happen to any American family.

Look up and down the street (and inside your hearts) and, yes, it could happen.

More by unspoken understanding than by grand design, we began this two-person account, some of it based on journals and tapes that both of us had kept at various times during the four years Barb was in the cult.

A book which we hoped would tell what we knew to be our truth as we understood it.

Barb: Who Is the Captive ?

“And I know not to this day
Whether guest or captive I.”

AUGUST 1976.
“Come immediately to Hearst Street. Pack for a week. You’ve got to look mature, up-to-date. This is a very special mission so I can’t tell you over the phone. They’re probably listening in. All right?” The voice was not waiting for an answer. It had delivered its command.

“Teresa, there’s one thing. My mother’s flown all the way to San Francisco to spend the weekend with me. I haven’t seen her in two years. She’s coming to Washington Street tomorrow morning.”

“Don’t worry about your mother. You can pray for her,” the voice advised, determined and dispassionate.

“Shall I call her tonight?” I asked hesitantly. “What shall I do?”

“No, absolutely don’t call. You’ll have to explain too much. Leave a note at the front desk and someone’ll treat her gently when she arrives tomorrow. Say you’ve been called out of town on an unexpected emergency,” Teresa ordered. “Now come quick. Amos and Irene are waiting.”

I hung the phone up, nervous with the excitement of imminent intrigue. Racing upstairs two at a time, I thought of my sparse wardrobe packed in brown grocery sacks in various closets. I had nothing fashionable to wear, only corduroy pants and turtlenecks, my daily uniform for flower selling or Boonville ranch life. As I rooted around the sisters’ wardrobes, I suddenly felt inadequate, wrongly chosen for the mission. Trying on dress after dress, I appeared to myself too young, too babyfaced, too tomboyish.

All the dresses were too short.

“Oh, no, my poor mom,” I thought abruptly. “She’ll never understand.” But I knew such thoughts were looked on as total faithlessness; I had to extinguish them.

Finished packing, wearing a tailored blue dress a staff sister had lent me, I scribbled a note which read: “Dear mom. I’m sorry I can’t see you. I’ve been called out of town on an emergency because a Family friend of mine needs me. I’ll write you later. Love, Lael (Barb).”

As I was driven across town, guilt was replaced by a secret sense of power which flooded me—after all, I’d been chosen to represent God and the Lord of the Second Advent. I was being given this chance to help establish the Kingdom of Heaven on Earth.

Irene, an elegant, angular-faced Jewish woman from New York with a gutsy, omniscient manner, greeted me at the door of the palatial Hearst Street center. I’d never felt comfortable around her. I’d been in the movement two years longer than she, but she had swiftly ascended to a higher position of responsibility and power. I knew too well about myself what Teresa had once told me, “Your problem is, you came as a wild rose and you’ve never been properly pruned.” Irene was already pruning others.

Amos, tall and restrained, disguising his urchin spirit, waved me a good night as he crawled into his sleeping bag next to the front door to guard the entrance to Hearst Street center. “Heavenly dreams,” he called out in a paternal voice. “Get some sleep. In the morning we’ll tell you what’s about to happen.”

Irene and I marched up the three flights of newly carpeted stairs. We opened our sleeping bags, removed our first layer of clothes, and, in order to execute a quick wake-up in the morning, hopped in, slips, hose, and all. “Let’s pray, then I’ll tell you the plan,” Irene said.

“O.K. You and either Jonah or Amos will be flying to Columbus, Ohio, to try to free Michele Tunis from deprogrammers and bring her back to the Family. We know where they took her after her parents kidnapped her because she left a note with her wallet in the San Francisco airport indicating Phoenix, Arizona. Then two days later she left a message and address in the stall of a john in Illinois; someone mailed it to us. She’s at the Alexanders’ house in Munroe Falls, Ohio, being deprogrammed. Of course, she’s there against her will, and we don’t have much time before they could break her. They could even be torturing her right now. You’re to go along to help influence anybody in the state government or courts, or police departments, to help release her. This is criminal. We’ll talk more in the morning. We only have three hours till we get up. Good night.”

“Amazing,” was all I could answer; my shivering I kept to myself.

“Hurry, Amos,” Irene yelled. “Onni and Abba are expecting us for breakfast by eight!” Onni (meaning “elder sister” in Korean) was the handsome, forbidding spiritual commander of Sun Myung Moon’s Unification Church in California. Her will was undisputed, her decisions about policy matters autocratic and final. With her mystically manipulative aura, she was Moon’s most faithful and accomplishment-oriented disciple, was called his “daughter-in-spirit,” and was often bodyguard and caretaker of Hak-Ja Han, Moon’s wife, when she attended special public events in New York and San Francisco. Although everyone worshipped Onni’s passionate and indefatigable ambitions for God, privately she was regarded as impersonal and scary by certain staff members and novitiates alike. Abba (meaning “father” in Korean) was the name Onni had given to Dr. Mose Durst, a kindly, philosophical, tender Jewish college professor whom she’d handpicked as her husband and been married to in a “blessed” service performed by Moon himself. Dr. Durst, a credible public performer, had developed a benign front organization called New Education Development Systems, Inc., whose generalities about love and sharing appealed to and brought in many innocents, who later discovered they had somehow become members of the Unification Church. Together, Onni and Abba formed the leadership of the Moon mission on the West Coast.

We piled into the car. Within minutes, Amos, Irene, and I entered Onni’s magnificent western-style Berkeley Hills mansion, named The Gardens, through a controlled intercom system of electronic gates and doors.

We took off our shoes, stopped for pious and grateful prayers, and looked to each other for further directions. Soon someone beckoned us into the kitchen, where breakfast was being served: pancakes, bagels, yogurt, cheeses, eggs, juice, coffee. Preparations were always dignified and bountiful around the local “true parents.”

Onni came in with a flourish and indicated we should sit. Abba trailed in behind, fatherly, affectionate, with his arm around Jonah, one of the business-brain-children of the church.

I rose to shake hands with Dr. Durst. We all waited to see what kind of mood Onni was in. Our spiritual lives—which is to say everything that mattered to us—depended on pleasing her.

She wore curlers in her striking black, usually stylish hair; she was the least adorned I’d ever seen her. She radiated impatience, anxiety. Dr. Durst, too, looked more than usually upset.

“So, Jonah, you know how to get Michele back?” Onni barked in her idiomatic Korean-American blend.

“Well, we know where she is, but we don’t know who to go to when we get there. Play it by ear, I guess,” Jonah answered.

“You mean you don’t know what to do?” Onni accused. An oppressive silence followed.

“Amos, you go instead. Jonah, you don’t have head for this.” Jonah, shocked and speechless, turned to Dr. Durst for support. But there was no help there, either.

“Amos, you know all legal part? You and Lael make plane reservation right now. Lael, do exactly what Amos says. You must get Michele back. She so stupid to go with her dad. Good luck.” Onni got up and went out of the room.

Dr. Durst seemed near to tears. We knew he, too, saw deprogramming as the violent death that stripping away one’s spiritual life meant to the Church. The end of all hope for Michele … He showed us out the door, offering unspoken encouragement.

Amos and I stood for a moment on the doorstep. We had our orders, but no strategy. We’d have to devise a battle plan, using only God’s intervention and guidance.

At the airport Amos immediately assumed the parental role. From now on, I was to be his “object” and support, his obedient assistant … his attractive child. He purchased the tickets and we boarded the United airliner.

Picking out window seats, Amos motioned me to sit down. He took my hands in his and, as older brother-in-charge, urged, “Let’s pray: Heavenly Father, we’re so sorry for your misery. We know you’ll never have a moment of happiness until our Father has subjugated Satan in the spirit world and started the Kingdom on Earth. We’ll do everything we can to claim our sister, Michele, back from Satan’s grasp.” His beseeching voice concluded, “We pray that you can work through Lael to follow Amos exactly, and that together we can bring victory to our True Parents. Amen.”

It was a long ride. Amos opened his attache case and handed me piles of news articles and leaflets on the recent barrage of kidnappings and deprogrammings by parents of various cult young people, from Unification Church to Hare Krishna to Children of God. To the Church, the real devils appeared to be Ted Patrick, a black man known for his forceful snatches; Joe Alexander, senior and junior, noted for their legally sanctioned deprogrammings; and the Alexanders’ “mercenary” attorney, young Michael Trauscht from Tucson, Arizona. Michele was being held captive by the legal device of a conservatorship her father had just been granted by a California court. Her father had claimed she was in need of temporary parental guardianship because she was susceptible to “artful and designing” people in the ranks of the Unification Church. This was the first I’d ever heard of such a legal tangle; it sounded threatening, and I agreed with Amos that conservatorships must be fraudulent. We made a solemn vow to use any means necessary to spring Michele from her captors.

The plane let down in Columbus after two hearty meals, a catnap, and lots of earnest prayer and discussion. It was midnight.

Determined to save every penny for God, suitcases in hand, we Walked arm in arm two miles down a straight highway to the Holiday Inn. Stiff and formal, I felt like I was enacting American Gothic amidst the hayfields and cricket sounds of the Ohio summer.

I hid outside while Amos rented a single room. Dr. Durst had advised Amos to “be careful,” which, in the puritanical Church doctrine of total chastity before marriage, meant “no compromise” or, practically speaking, two separate bedrooms. But, eager to be frugal, Amos simply prepared a separate bed for me—the tub in the bathroom! We both laughed uncontrollably at the primly propped pillow, delighted we’d “obeyed” Abba without spending the extra cash.

At 5:00 a.m. Sunday we woke for Pledge Service. Together we carried out the Familial Unification Church ritual, chanting our lifelong devotion to God and Moon and our burning antipathy to Satan—who was everyone opposed to Moon.

Honoring the sacrifice Moon had made for us during his imprisonment in North Korean prison camps years ago, we drank orange juice and coffee but couldn’t eat till noon. Amos, in an elaborate and sanctimonious gesture, put sugar and cream in my coffee. To serve another in the Church is the highest honor; inverting usual habits, the server becomes the victor. A cup of coffee or tea offered and taken has cosmic significance.

Amos rented a silver Dodge and we drove to Ohio State University and made ourselves comfortable in the faculty club. Chanting under my breath for a good lead into our puzzle, I sparked up a conversation with what turned out to be the head of the dental school. After hearing my careful story, it developed that he’d graduated from Berkeley and knew the dean of a law school in northern Ohio very well. What a gold mine!

Amos was pleased with God’s effort so far.

After several phone calls, Amos made arrangements to meet with the dean of the law school that night. We knew Munroe Falls, where Michele was being held, was a suburb of Akron. Only two hours’ drive away, we were getting warmer….

The dean of the law school invited us into his orderly office. Calling himself a follower of New Education Development Systems, Amos pleaded Michele’s case. After Amos finished, our dean promised us that his assistant, Dean Reece, who’d handled the Vietnam Calley case, would help us the next day. The dean showed us briefly around his law school, bought us hot chocolates, and offered to let us sleep in sleeping bags in the student lounge. Surprised but grateful, we declined the hearty invitation because we needed to be where we could plan more privately.

Monday morning we charged into the Akron Public Library, fighting crowds of people swarming to see the famed Soap Box Derby, and combed through thousands of feet of microfilm of newspaper and magazine articles about the Alexanders, Michael Trauscht, and deprogramming.

The microfilms led us deeper into espionage and masquerade. We discovered there was an Akron person who conducted deprogramming from a subterranean office in an alley beneath the haunted-looking Brown Derby Hotel. The label on his door read Mind Freedom.

Inside worked a young, slapstick psychologist who claimed he knew everything about the recruitment methods of Hare Krishna, T.M., Scientology, and, worst of all, in his opinion, Unification Church.

We introduced ourselves as Amos and Lael; soon he’d handed me a New Age Magazine article by a journalist named Bob Banner about our own Boonville ranch. I recognized the magazine writer instantly; the article was all about Bob Banner’s experience in my group (and he named me) up on the recruitment farm! I excused myself hastily to go to the bathroom while Amos—unaware—kept presenting himself as a deprogrammer with special expertise in the neurophysiology of brainwashing. Amos, however, was soon handed the article, came across my name, and shortly excused himself, too, to fulfill “other obligations.”

Close call! we breathed, out on the street.

Dean Reece met us that afternoon. A gentle southern hulk of a man, he took in every word of our story and scoured it in his mind. I trusted him at once, but Amos made it clear by several sharp looks that I was not to reveal so much information. Reece himself, a loyal Baptist, said he didn’t care for the deceptions and dubious goals of some of the cults, especially Moon’s army (whom he suspected, despite our circumspection, we had some connection with), but he was concerned for the civil rights of “a woman being held against her will.” He promised that if we could verify Michele’s presence in Joe Alexander’s Munroe Falls house, he would go there accompanied by the local chief of police and talk to her. He recommended we do some sleuthing that night and find out exactly where she was.

Equipped with new Penney’s tennis shoes, a can of chemical eye-spray, and a deafening noisemaker, I stole through the molasses-black woods behind Prentiss Street, while Amos patrolled the pleasant rural neighborhood from the car, its headlights switched off. I’d never spied on a suspected house before, but I was well versed in stealth; flower sellers for the church dare illegal entrances to restaurants, bars, and office buildings, all of which forbid solicitations, from San Diego to Toronto. I prayed to be invisible and for the chorus of neighborhood dogs to stop yelping so suspiciously.

I crept up to the back of what I was sure was the right house and clung to one side of a tree. Finally I dared to look in.

Sure enough, Michele herself sat in the kitchen with a group of people. She looked tired and high-strung, but that was to be expected. After all, she was surrounded by the worst people on earth, the ones God raged against.

Yet, as I watched in fascination, eight ordinary-looking people around the dinner table bowed their heads and prayed. Then everyone laughed and talked companionably as they ate.

I grew more and more outraged. How could they pray, even presuming to address God? How could they pretend to be happy? I remembered Dr. Durst’s lecture: “God and Satan, good and evil, look exactly alike. But one is for world benefit, one is for self-benefit.” Who, the thought flashed in me, dictates or defines world or self-benefit? I let the troublesome wonder escape, seized as I was with the abrupt desire to let Michele know that her saviors had come, that her true Family was nearby, that her captivity was about to end….

Then, through the gold-lit window of the homey kitchen, I watched Michele get up, yawn, stretch, and leave the room with three young people. Eventually I edged across the moonlit lawn on hands and knees, hiding myself in the shadows alongside the back porch in order to eavesdrop on the people who had just entered it. A pair whom I guessed to be the Alexanders were talking with another couple whom I recognized from photographs as Michele’s parents. I studied their faces, earnest and worried; they looked malevolent, plotting….

Then a phone rang. When it did, I recognized my only chance to dart away unnoticed in the flurry of interruption.

Panting, and fearful of discovery, I caught up with Amos’s car and climbed in the window to avoid the noise of the door banging. Amos yelled when I stepped on his hand. I shushed his cry, only to sit down on the noisemaker in my back pocket! The pair of us, unintentional clowns that we were, eased the car through back streets to the main highway.

“Amos, she’s there! I saw her! We’ve got her!” I exulted.

“Is she tied up? Does she look bruised or beaten?” he demanded.

“Mostly just nervous. Out of place,” I replied, more slowly.

“Great, we’ll have her out by tomorrow. The dean’s reliable.

Thank you, Heavenly Father. Let’s pray.” Then, “You hungry, partner?” Amos coaxed.

“Anytime you are, chief,” I joked.

“We haven’t eaten all day. Let’s stop at the Red Barn. You order and I’ll call and give the good news to Onni.”

“Give her my love,” I offered awkwardly.

“I expect she gets all she needs from God,” Amos rebuked me. I felt like Cain, whose offering had been rejected.

After we ate it was midnight, but Amos’s and my night watch wasn’t over. Shortly after Michele had disappeared with her father in San Francisco, Mitch, a responsible Church member, had been seized in a hotel by his uncle and father on a conservatorship order and flown to Ohio to stay with one of the Alexander sons. Amos was intent on recovering Mitch, too, though his loss to the church was considered less disastrous than Michele’s, as she was a top staff member. We roved from one end of Akron to the other blindly searching for every Alexander listed in the phone book. We turned in unsuccessfully at 4:00 a.m. after singing boisterously to keep ourselves awake.

We met Dean Reece at ten sharp in his office the next morning. Amos told him the results of our reconnaissance the night before, filling in more details about my part than I’d supplied him. Reece listened closely, then put in a call to the Monroe Falls chief of police. An appointment was set up an hour from then in the sedate bedroom town.

As we crowded the dean into our rented car, he talked about an episode a month earlier when a boy had come bursting into his office, insisting that he buy some peanuts. Reece, from Georgia, couldn’t refuse, but he fumed to us now about the brazen intrusion. “That was Unification, wasn’t it?” he pressed. “I tell you, that kid acted like a little demigod, as though his work was more earthshaking than any I’d ever heard of.” Amos and I, in silent fraternity, winked at each other. Someday it would all be clear….

The sterile beige police station didn’t offer us much relief from our anxiety. We chanted incessantly in a lifeless cubicle while Reece conferred with the cop. When both insisted on going to the Alexanders’ home without us, Amos rebelled.

“No representation without us. Satan could get into the dean, especially with that policeman beside him. He’s not sympathetic,” Amos muttered to me confidentially.

More conferring.

Amos lost.

But as soon as the two men left, Amos instructed me to stay behind in the jail and pray hard. He was going to take the rented car and park outside the house on Prentiss Street anyway. After all, God had made him Michele’s guardian.

Amos later told me that at the very moment of his arrival, Michele and her mother had driven up from an errand. The dean and chief were with Esther Alexander on the front lawn awaiting their arrival.

Amos had hurled himself out of the car and run toward Michele.

“Michele, Michele, Lael and I are here. Onni and Teresa love you,” Amos shouted.

Instantly Michele turned to Esther, wild-eyed. “Get me away,” she begged. Esther Alexander grabbed Michele’s hand and ran with her into the house.

“Hey, you go back to the police station,” the chief came out on the porch and angrily shouted at Amos. “We told you to stay away.”

In dismay, in anguish, Amos drove back to join me. He didn’t interrupt my chanting nor did he offer any insight. Instead he held his head in his hands and cried for the pain of Michele’s betrayal.

The minutes we waited were merciless; more like light-years.

Dean Reece and the chief finally entered our room, sober-faced. The chief said, “The girl doesn’t want to see you. She says she cares for you both but she plans to stay with the Alexanders. She believes the conservatorship is justified. So do we,” added the chief.

I shot a hard, blazing glance to Amos. “But I thought conservator-ships were a fraud, a setup,” I backed him up.

“What did Michele say about Onni or Teresa?” Amos begged.

“I heard someone say—I can’t remember who—that Teresa has a devil’s mesmerizing ability,” commented the chief; he seemed open to that possibility.

“That’s a lie! They’re the devils!” Amos pounced.

“Now listen here, you’re a nice-looking pair of kids. The woman you claim is being held against her will wants to be there. Something’s fishy,” the chief remarked.

Dean Reece stood, judgelike hands behind his back. “It seems Michele’s undergone an experience called deprogramming. You’ve heard of it, of course….”

“Yes, and that’s exactly why we’re here. They’ve just finished intimidating, maybe even torturing her, ripping God out of her life in hateful cold blood,” Amos exploded in fury. “If Michele doesn’t come back with us, it’s because they’ve planted false, evil fears in her about a life she loved just two weeks ago. They’re the ones doing the brainwashing, can’t you see?”

“Look,” calmed Reece, “she appears to have control of her senses, and although she appreciates what you’re trying to do for her, she’s happy where she is and wants to stay there.”

“What makes you so afraid of deprogramming?” suddenly asked the chief.

Shocked, vulnerable, I waited for Amos to speak up. “Well,” he said, “my faith must be deeper than Michele’s ever was, but all the same, I wouldn’t relish having it threatened in inhuman ways.”

“How do you know it’s inhuman? Michele speaks highly of both the Alexanders and her parents.”

“She must be brainwashed,” I concluded.

“They’ve taken the Messiah out of her life and Satan’s possessed her spirit. She’s no longer responsible,” Amos added.

“Nonetheless, you two had better think pretty hard before you go traipsing all over America trying to uproot people from a situation they prefer to be in,” warned the cop.

“She no longer knows what she wants. She’s captive. Michele can’t be herself,” I spoke up.

“That, my girl, is a very serious accusation. Who are you to go around legislating or determining one preferred reality for another?” Reece moralized.

The policeman jumped on me. “Who told you to do this anyway? Maybe you’re the captive?”

I didn’t care what he said; I knew I was absolutely right. He simply didn’t understand God. How could he know that the final Truth of God had been proclaimed by the Lord of the Second Advent, who was living in New York at this very hour?

“I hope we’re still friends. I expect you’ll hear from this Michele again. She seems like a sweet person, and sincere. Let me take you both to lunch back at the Holiday Inn,” offered Reece. Since we’d been trained never to refuse a gift to a heavenly child, Amos and I accepted. But the meal was pervaded by our stunned silences.

On the phone to Onni before our return to San Francisco, Amos tried to explain Michele’s action. He told me it seemed beyond Onni’s mental capacity to accept. Michele, Onni said, was lost in Satan’s hands. Then Amos surprised me by a more practical note: Onni feared that Michele knew many secrets about the inner operation of the Church and would tell.

We were ordered home immediately. We owed God a thousand repentances; Onni left us with customary guilt.

“Amos,” I summarized on the plane, “one thing I’ve realized through this disappointment is how vicious and deceiving Satan is. Satan turns everything upside down. And God is helpless without our faith. I could never be deprogrammed. God needs me and I love Him too much.”

Two weeks later I finally talked by phone to my parents. Teresa told me my father had called our centers repeatedly trying to find me. I explained to my mother the mission I’d been on; she made little comment about being abandoned on the Washington Street porch when she came to visit.

What I couldn’t tell either my father or mother was that in June, when I’d begged them to come down just once more to a weekend seminar and they refused, I’d gone out and spent two hours in the dark crying under a tree in Lafayette Park.

That evening I’d finally given my mother and father up. I’d prepared never to see them again in my life, if God demanded.

When I’d come in from that heartbreaking darkness, my real parents had irrevocably and eternally become Moon, Hak-Ja Han, Onni, Dr. Durst. As I had been repeatedly taught in the cult, it was they who were my True Parents.

pages 57-60

Barb: In the Unification Church—I Am Reborn

“I would rather be ashes than dust. I would rather that my spark should burn out in a brilliant blaze than that it should be stifled by dry rot. I would rather be a superb meteor, every atom of me in one magnificent glow, than a sleepy and permanent planet. The proper function of man is to live, not to exist. I shall not waste my days in trying to prolong them. I shall use my time.”
— Joan London, Jack London and His Times: An Unconventional Biography

April 1973-January 1977.

The Unification years meant one essential thing: I was reborn. I experienced myself as a transformed, totally reconstructed person. In the transition period, I died to my old self, Barbara, and became Lael. My new identity was shaped by action, for life in the Church is action. As a new person in a new Family, acting upon new hopes, anxieties, and goals, I began my life for the first time. What was the process of this rebirth?

The seeds were planted when I first named all the love I had experienced in my life, God. But as Barbara, meeting the Unification Family, my love was uncharted and without direction. Through the Unification concept of Truth and God my love found embodiment in an individual, Sun Myung Moon, as a divine object of worship. Reverend Moon offered my life hope, power, and authority. Barbara was forced to die; only Lael would live forever.

Reborn, I was several different persons depending upon my “Heavenly” task. I participated in five major missions or activities: Center Life, Recruitment Workshops, Flower Selling, National Campaign Activities, and Devotion to Moon. In center life, where the new Truth was structured in community, I grew from “infant” to “child” to “parent” as I gained responsibility. In the recruitment workshops, where I learned the theology, I was a “visionary” along with all the other chosen brothers and sisters. As a flower seller, I was a “soldier” for God. As a national campaigner, I was a “crusader.” And in devotion to Sun Myung Moon as my Messiah, I was a “saved” person, who had sinned.

The only reason I could ceaselessly recruit, fund-raise, campaign, give over my possessions and submit to a rigorous and self-denying spiritual discipline was because “Father” (Reverend Moon), as God’s Son, became my total love. Love-God-Moon was the energizing dynamic shaping each day of my four-year commitment to the cult.

After first joining the Unification Family in Oakland, California, in April 1973, I worked for the U.S. Forest Service and donated all my paychecks. I was also trained in the techniques of street proselytism or “witnessing” at this time. My mother and brother visited me for one of our weekend workshops in October of that year.

Between August 1973 and February 1977, I sold flowers sporadically in the San Francisco Bay Area, as well as around the country. The greatest portion of my time was spent “on the road.” My selling teams combed territory as far-reaching as California, Oregon, Washington, Idaho, Utah, Arizona, and Texas to Arkansas, Louisiana, Oklahoma, and Ohio, Kansas, Michigan, Illinois, Wisconsin, and surreptitiously in Canada.

I set out with an Oregon-bound team on my first out-of-state flower trip in December 1973, while the rest of the Church members drove to Washington, D.C., to march (with hundreds of “Forgive, Love, Unite” posters) in support of President Nixon after the Watergate disclosures. My team and I stayed briefly with my parents.

Beginning in January 1974, I lived—regarded as a great honor— with my flower team in the Avalon mansion, the Berkeley home of Dr. Durst and Onni Soo Lim, leaders of the West Coast movement. I was a servant for Reverend Moon and his wife the week they came to Berkeley for the “Day of Hope” tours.

From May to June, 1974, I recruited new members from the streets and campus of Berkeley while living at the Hearst Street mansion.

July to September, 1974, I sold flowers on teams around America. September 7 found me with twenty-eight others on a New York-bound missionary truck caravan to campaign for Moon’s Madison Square Garden Rally. I spent one frenetic week pamphleting on Flatbush Avenue in Brooklyn.

From November 1974 to spring of 1975, I fund-raised with several teams on flower trips in the south and midwest. In December 1974, I flew up for another brief visit with my family in Portland.

I was assigned the tasks of cook, hostess, accountant, lecturer and recruiter at the Oakland Dana Street center in summer of 1975. My parents visited me there for two days, which turned out to be our last time together for over two years. My weekends were spent with newfound guests at the Boonville training center. I was promoted to a seven-day staff workshop leader in Boonville in July 1975. I didn’t leave the farm gates until January 1976.

From January to May, 1976, I was assigned to travel on two flower teams in Detroit, Dallas, and the south.

June 1, 1976, signaled Moon’s Yankee Stadium Rally, which my flower team attended. On that same day, my captain, Yacov, was ‘kidnapped” by his New Jersey parents for “deprogramming,” but he escaped back to the Church.

I was moved to the all-women’s Washington Street house on Pacific Heights in San Francisco for the summer. House teams witnessed from a bus on the wharf and in the Cannery. In August, I was sent to Ohio to regain a staff leader, Michele, who was legally constrained and taken by her father in San Francisco. After my unsuccessful mission, I spent a week in Boonville in training with several “fugitive” members who feared their parents would attempt “deprogramming.”

From September to November, 1976, I went out flower selling in Canada, interrupted only by attendance at the September 18 Washington Monument Rally of Moon. After returning to Berkeley in November, my team captain and other staff members were legally “kidnapped” and “deprogrammed” from the Church.

I inherited the responsibility to “captain” the flower team from December 1976 until February 1977, when I returned to San Francisco for a court trial. March 9, 1977, marks the beginning of the end of my “reborn years.”


pages 61-74

Life at the Centers

“Thence did I drink the visionary power;
And deem not profitless, those fleeting moods of shadowy exultation.”

Center Life Schedule

(Monday through Friday, without deviation)

5:00 a.m. – Wake up, dress, fold sleeping bags

5:15 – Chanting Condition

5:45 – Exercises

6:00 – Clean-up

6:30 – Bible reading

6:45 – Liquid breakfast in small groups

7:30 – Lecture practice/Prayer

8:00 – Business meetings: Flower selling/Witnessing for that day

8:30 – Clear the house, everyone out to work for the day

5:00 p.m. – Find a guest for dinner program

5:30 – Bring guest home

6:00 – Singing, dinner

6:45 – Lecture program/Slides

8:00 – Refreshments/Weekend sign-ups and membership forms

9:30 – Clean house (On Friday, drive to Boonville with guests)

10:00 – Family meeting, small group study, or selling flowers in bars, or visiting potential recruits

11:00 – Prayer meeting

12:00 – Fast break for fasters

– Write in diary, read Divine Principle, write letters

12:30 – Ready for bed, lights out for Family

12:00-2:00 a.m. – Staff meetings

Like the proverbial Goldilocks, I tasted and tried center life in many “seatings.”

I first moved into the Oakland Regent Street house for two months. I lived out of my backpack. The brown-shingle, six-bedroom house bulged with forty brothers and sisters. With never enough closet, bathroom, or sleeping-bag space, the first lessons in life as a spiritual “infant” were: DON’T BE NEGATIVE and USE CONSCIENTIOUS COMMON SENSE!

I was assigned to a small living group of three (a “trinity”) and received my initial spiritual care and training from Joanna and an elder sister, Shelly. To them I confessed. I told them how selfish and wrong I felt I’d been in past intimate relations, how I hadn’t been a perfect daughter, how I’d sometimes disappointed or hurt my friends. I felt guilt that I couldn’t love ideally, that I was less than free.

From them I learned the proprieties of being reborn as an infant before a new God. They taught me how to approach this God. They showed me how to relinquish my ego, and become a total dependent on other hands. Every detail was attended to: how to pray and chant; how to serve my elders; how to approach Onni to please her; how to take notes in lecture; what to share and not share in group meetings; how to feel about Reverend Moon as Father and Messiah; how to recruit new members; how to fast; what to wear; how to part with my belongings and bank account; how to write letters; how to relate to brothers and to non-family men; what to think about world events; how to eat; how to sing; how to overcome sickness; and what to think of my parents and former friends. They taught me that any doubts are unfaithful and must be erased.

After two months I graduated from “infancy” to “childhood.” I moved to Dana Street, Onni’s home. I was assigned a new trinity leader, named Martha. She was a severe ultra-puritan who felt justice overruled kindness. When my Forest Service job ended, I joined Martha’s witnessing team. Finding new recruits and caring for them as potential Family members was the surest way to grow a child’s heart to parental size. To take responsibility for other peoples’ salvation and growth proved more difficult than I thought. But after being nurtured for a period, it was now my turn to nurture others.

Martha believed the quicker the ego was cleaved away at the root, the quicker one’s heart grew. One Monday in July 1973, while riding to campus to witness together, Martha told me I mustn’t let my laryngitis (from enthusiastic singing in training session) interfere with talking to strangers.

“Martha, I have to whisper.” I apologized.

“No, you don’t! It’s just your concept!”

“I’m sorry, I can hardly talk. I don’t mean to be negative.”

“It’s SATAN controlling you. If you yell ‘OUT SATAN’ all the way to campus, you’ll be fine,” Martha ordered.

“Martha, but …”

“Out Satan! Out Satan! Come on, Lael, Out Satan!” she screamed. She started pounding me on the shoulder.

I joined in, my throat straining, “Out Satan, Out Satan!”

“Louder, come on!”

“OUT SATAN! OUT SATAN! OUT SATAN!” we screamed together, our faces getting flushed.

“Don’t stop, Lael!”

After several weeks of witnessing at Dana Street, I gathered in and cultivated a crop of prospective members who attended the Dana Street weekend workshops. We called workshops “training sessions” because they trained “character.” My spiritual growth proceeded through practicing “caring for others”—often people I felt nothing in common with except the vision the Church promised all people.

This theological “vision” penetrated me each workshop. Through continuous lectures on moral principles and the Divine Principle, through group experience and testimonials by elders, I accepted along with younger members several startlingly new and foreign speculations about spiritual reality. I began to accept them as revealed Truth. My new “vision” consisted of: the acceptance of an organic, invisible spirit world of ancestors—evil or righteous—who were influencing me; the necessity to replace atheistic communism with theocracy; the authenticity of original sin and my own fallen nature; the acceptance of deliverance, transcendence, and purification through Reverend Moon and his wife as my True Parents; and the yearning for a child and husband, an Ideal Family centered on God.

Divine Principle was continually reinforced by community life, especially in Family Meetings. These were a time for brothers and sisters in the centers to share their realizations of God, their conquests of their own selfishness, or their dreams. Sometimes Onni would speak words of fire. Because of this, the call for Family Meeting struck like lightning.

“Quick, pali-pali!” (Pali meaning hurry in Korean.) “Onni’s coming tonight for a Family Meeting. Clean up now!” Teresa ordered. Teresa, who was responsible for preparing the worshipful atmosphere, assigned an older sister to prepare fruit and Ginseng tea for Onni and Dr. Durst, tasks accepted with honor and fear. Tensions ran high to meet Onni’s standard of perfection. Windows were opened because we all knew Onni’s “spiritual smell” was very sensitive to “low spirits” from recently departed guests still dwelling in the Satanic world. Hair combed, faces washed, shirts tucked in, the Family gathered in full circle around a pillow or sofa prepared for Onni. Teresa would lead us in singing before the magisterial arrival.

Onni and Dr. Durst would sweep in. Onni’s presence commanded full obedience. Meetings would usually start with a ritual passing of fortune cookies, which we read out loud. Seen as a barometer of our spiritual states of mind, the ones I saved were memorable: “Great thoughts come from the heart,” “Life to you is a dashing and bold adventure,” or “He that falls in love with himself [which I publicly read, “God”] will have no rivals.”

One Family meeting scarred my soul. An elder sister, Amy, had left the Family months earlier to take care of her daughter. Teresa met Amy one day and invited her back for an evening. Pressured to come, Amy sat as guest of “honor” across the long banquet table in the dining room. The atmosphere was strained as Family members waited for Onni’s cue to know how to treat Amy. Was she a prodigal daughter returned? Should we sit in judgment and condemn her selfish departure?

“Amy, why you left?” Onni bore in.

“Onni, because I couldn’t give up my daughter and many pleasures in life,” Amy was shaken but forthright.

“Amy, you come back now to Family. Stop your evil ways! You make promise to me this moment!” Onni spoke the verdict.

“I can’t.” Amy bowed her head.

“Why you can’t?” Onni yelled.

“Because I’m too selfish,” stated the “fallen” sister.

“Amy, listen. Stop your flirt with Satan. You dying out there. Promise me you come back, become righteous sister. Repent!”

“No, Onni, I’m sorry, I want to keep my daughter; I’m too selfish for your world.”

“Amy, you no good daughter of God. You don’t give your life to God, He kick you out forever! Bah!”

Amy’s attachment to her physical child, born outside Church blessing, was the most extreme of the problems of attachment. Principle dictated that in three years’ time, each must be willing to give up all attachments to one’s mind, body, and to physical “things,” of a personal nature. When a new member moved into a center, musical instruments and conservative clothes were kept for community use, but property regarded as less utilitarian was often sold in rummage sales without the owner’s consent. Books and backpacks were “stored” and disappeared forever. Valuables like jewelry were given to “Heaven” in the form of offerings to Onni or Dr. Durst as “Heaven’s representatives.” Cars were often turned over to the Family, as well as bank accounts, in the constant effort to wrest material ownership from Satan and return it to rightful ownership in God’s lap. It was advised that even physical children be cared for elsewhere.

I changed trinities again, and left Dana Street. I joined the flower-selling company in August 1973 and moved in with an “army” of elder brothers and sisters—Yacov, John, Denise and Gerald—who lived at Dr. Durst’s Kingston house, the house he had owned with his two sons and former wife prior to his meeting Onni. My memories of the cozy Kingston house include clandestine outings with John for omelettes at three in the morning, learning to address Mose Durst as “Dr.” in the interests of future diplomacy, “whisper” exercises with Yacov under the stars at 5:00 a.m., returning home from selling flowers in the bars to eat cakes, cookies, and casseroles baked by Denise, who mothered us with ardor.

Once Yacov, Gerald, John, Dr. Durst and I converged on the kitchen from our different directions for one of our clandestine snacks after a hard day. At the same time, Denise woke with a shock, suddenly remembering she had baked a rebirthday cake for Gerald, but unable to remember, in her sleepiness and exhaustion, what she had done with it. She found us—midnight bandits all—huddled round the refrigerator. Whirling around, opening shelf doors, unconscious of her disconnected movements, she finally discovered the cake still in the oven. As she grabbed the hot pan, it flew out of her hands right into Gerald’s arms. Frosting splattered as the cake slipped through his clutches onto the floor. Our stealthy, guilty midnight mood erupted in laughter! “Anyway, happy rebirthday, Gerald,” read Denise’s disappointed face.

I also lived at the Hearst Street mansion, a stately old Georgian ex-fraternity house near the University of California campus; at The Gardens, elegant and palatial home of Onni and Dr. Durst, for a few months; up in the Boonville trailers; and at the dignified Victorian Washington Street center in San Francisco.

The most complete responsibility in center life I ever assumed was during two months in summer of 1975 when I moved back to Oakland’s modest but historic Dana Street center. Jonah directed that house with bursting momentum, consistent as a reliably wound clock. My duties as his “object,” or assistant, included cooking for thirty each day and night, buying food and provisions, and in “spare” hours leading a recruiting team in downtown Oakland in which our goal was a “date” for dinner each night. (I still recall those unsuspecting sidewalk innocents on whom we lunged in desperation a few minutes before dinner.) I also hostessed evening lecture programs, gave lectures and slide presentations, kept the finances and the family history, answered telephones, drove flower-selling missions at night, conducted prayer meetings and trinity meetings, group-assisted at Boonville on weekends, and, above all, served Jonah with total obedience.

Jonah treated me with stern instruction, ever ready to correct. He’d catapult out of the house for meetings at The Gardens with Onni, sticking his head back in the door to yell about all the errors in judgment I’d committed that day. With no chance to plead for justice, I’d trot to Onni’s prayer room to faithfully pray for inner strength to humble myself to his holy tyranny, to feel “married for eternity” to his will. I tried to sense our bond as unending, the only way I could force myself to submit temporarily. After unlocking it with a hidden key, I’d slip into the Dana prayer room. One for each center, this one was immaculate with quiet light, translucent curtains gently blowing, photos of True Parents and Jesus, mementos from Korea, holy books, and the fragrance of fresh-cut roses. These moments were the few times when Reverend Moon’s wife, my True Mother, emerged as more important to me than “Father” himself. I had been told that her course in restoring the world set the example for all sisters. She lived an absolute shadow existence to Reverend Moon, an obedient birth-giver to “perfect” children, one after another. Kneeling under her unreadable face posed beside Father’s, I identified with her intense struggle to endure her life.

At Dana Street, while I was assistant, our main mission consisted of recruiting eight hours a day in places like the San Francisco wharf, Golden Gate Park, on Berkeley’s campus, or on the new subway system, BART. Working with a small team of partners, we would approach and invite to dinner as many bright, capable passers-by as we could manage to engage in conversation. Onni instructed us to avoid talking too long to any one person, especially to avoid talking philosophy about the Church. She herself had set the standard when, in the early movement, she had reached out to one hundred people in one day. “Make friends, offer them whatever they are seeking, pray for Heavenly Father to guide them to dinner,”’ Onni would teach. “Sisters get handsome men, brothers attract pretty girls. It’s good if they come because they like you. Once in God’s house, they learn to love God instead.” By spoken and unspoken understandings, we knew what we were looking for: capable, healthy, restless, young, white people like ourselves, preferably lonely and traveling, uprooted. They might respond to our approach: “Beautiful day, isn’t it? Been traveling long? Where are you from? Have you ever met our Family? We live on a huge farm together. You should come visit us; you’re always welcome. By the way, are you hungry?”

Two Family buses, called the “Coffee-Break-Bus” and the “Elephant Bus,” were strategically located in tourist areas as recruiting centers for “hitchhikers with knapsacks.” Our teams would look for young prospects, bring them back to the bus for coffee and doughnuts, and introduce them to the Family. Our psychological approach was irresistible. Members of the Church “radiated” love and kindness to strangers. Many conscientious, open people felt obliged to respond to us on a personal and social level because we made it seem too cruel to resist.

After a full day of recruitment, reaching out to people we believed we could save, our dinners at the center consisted of more intense relating to individuals. We fed them, entertained them, and suggested to them an “amazing set of ideas that would change their lives and make them happy.” We insisted they stay with us. The success of the day was measured by how many guests “signed up” and paid for a weekend training session up on our isolated 680 acres of land, the Boonville farm.

After guests left the centers at nine-thirty at night, the house was cleaned. Moneymaking teams prepared to “blitz the bars.” Everyone else visited prospective “spiritual children,” or held trinity meetings to read “Master Speaks,” a series of tracts based on Moon’s speeches. Prayer and chanting was at eleven sharp. Anyone who had fasted, to bring more people or money in, would break that fast at midnight with soup and ice cream. By 12:30 younger Family members were in their sleeping bags, men side by side on one floor, women on the next level in strict segregation. Carpet cleaning or auto repair crews might come in at four or five o’clock after working all night.

After midnight, as center assistant, I planned menus, incorporating Boonville farm produce into rice, soup, or potato combinations for next night’s dinner. (Breakfast had been juice, coffee, oatmeal; lunch was peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, raisins, carrots, cookies.) One-thirty a.m. found me still making lists of workshop signups and fund-raising accounts, and trying to locate used clothes in the “extra clothes room” for new sisters.

By two o’clock, Jonah would either stagger in or bluster in, depending on Onni’s mood, from a staff meeting at The Gardens. Over his milkshake or a stack of gooey jelly and peanut butter sandwiches I’d prepared, I would try to guess from him the content of the meetings. I later read through a staff brother’s notebook and learned what a tight ship Onni ran. The following are quotes from Onni, as recorded in his notebook:

“If one person doubts then no good. If on staff and drop out, this creates disunity because can’t trust you. Such people are betrayers. You know heavenly secrets. If you go away, you dangerous because you know too much. You can’t zig-zag. If you fight it out, you can overcome.” (2/13/74).

“You staff have Satanic evil mouths. Have to knock off—don’t say too much. And when you talk to people, talk only about their needs, their benefits, find out what will get them in. In witnessing, if people get negative toward you, just say that we support all churches.” (2/3/74).

(And a few days later): “We never tell any lie, never give any untruth. Who accuse us of that?” (2/21/74).

“If you don’t listen to me [Onni], no way for you to be restored. Bind with Onni. Do or die for purpose. Get rid of own ego. Our own will or desires must be last.” (2/14/74).

In January Onni had given instructions to Teresa about a sister who had complained of seeing evil spirits: “Teresa, must ask Abbey honestly heart to heart, pray together. Then talk. If no good, then chase evil spirit out of her. If not we’ll send her to hospital. She should do laundry each day.”

Onni had said of a brother, a young insurance salesman noted for his spunk and independence of mind: “Never let Don drive again. I don’t like him. Smash his ego. Or put him in Heavenly jail to change his attitude!” (2/21/74).

Other provisos: “Everyone must raise hand and share experience at Family meeting. If you can’t raise hand you are living selfishly. No good.” Or: “When you go out and witness, witness to the people for Dr. Durst; they respect Ph.D. bag. But when people come into Family to stay, then you witness for Onni.” And, “No one want elderly people around for dinner because they are not needed.” (2/20/74).

Onni also made clear in staff meetings: “No German travelers for workshop; they too scientific and heady. And black people don’t fit in so well. Hard for them. Not right time in God’s providence for them. Father says if whites don’t accomplish then use blacks to shame whites in America, but not yet.”

Talking with Jonah late at night consisted of my seeking his advice about “spiritual problems” of various Family members within our household. Jonah was quick to tell me that each person just had to “fight it out.” Even physical sickness to him was “just in their heads,” was “laziness or arrogance.” By the time I got around to questions about my own concerns, he was snoring over his half-munched sandwiches, his head tilted on the sofa next to mine. Still, these squeezed-in, one-way conversations, free of obligations, were somehow priceless to me because delightful human chinks emerged in Jonah’s armor and let an occasional boyish need for mothering show through. At such unguarded times, he’d reveal to me his shortcomings of faith as well as his hidden gratitude for my effort. The last weekend I worked as his apprentice (before he pushed me up to a full-fledged group leader of weekend workshops in Boonville), he wrote me a note suggesting my endurance hadn’t gone unappreciated. His grandfatherly character, earning him the affectionate title “Gramps” by all his brothers and sisters, showed through:

Dearest Lael,

You are … Father’s small bug, powerful as any live wire, joyful, colorful as dancing fire, most precious, most needed. Heavenly Father loves you. True Parents love you. Onni and Abba love you. I love you. Thank you for your work, dedication, and support. In gratitude.

Brother Jonah.

In the mad pace of urgent accomplishment in the centers, physical health was viewed as of little concern. Sleep, especially, was viewed as an indulgence since God never slept in His efforts to save mankind. Sleep, more than food, thus came to represent the most sought-after “privilege” of a future life in the Kingdom of Heaven. The staff averaged three hours a night; newer Family would average six. Recognized but unspoken was a state of constant exhaustion in all righteous children of God. Whenever drowsiness befell a member other than between the prescribed hours of 2:00 to 5:00 a.m., the cause was attributed to evil spirits hovering on the shoulders, pulling on the hair, closing the eyelids, and otherwise attacking the insincere. And so each person had his or her own pet “disaster” to narrate about being “hit by sleep spirits” in some critical moment.

Such episodes were the most common inside joke about Family life.

Daniel’s job as an engineer trainee at an engineering company in San Francisco required total alertness. A “heavenly child” disguised in a shirt and tie, he brushed elbows with the corporate elite of America. After an unusually late Family staff meeting he planned one day to rest over lunch hour. His resting place? Curled up under his desk behind the wall divider, alarm clock set! Another time, during an executive board meeting, Daniel rested his head on his hand looking down as if scrutinizing his notes. In his dozing, he caught everybody’s rapt attention by drooling on his paper.

Staff members fell asleep in prayer frequently. While still manager of the Ideal Sandwich Company, in which the members stayed up all night baking bread to sell the next day, Evey Eden knelt next to me in prayer. As I was praying according to the petitionary outline—one ear tuned to her elder example—I heard pleas coming from Eve which weren’t written on my prayer sheet. “Heavenly Father, please give us hundreds of tuna and avocado sandwiches for tomorrow. We don’t have time to make them,” Eve breathed soundly next to me.

Yacov was often heard by his cross-country flower team praying in his sleep to find places to dump huge boxes of old flowers or to “discover industrial parks in which to sell.”

Len Foster, a flower team captain, was famous for a flower run made in his sleep. Unconscious, he jumped behind the wheel of the van, dreaming he’d let his team members off on different street corners and had to go retrieve them. After driving around for half an hour, still dreaming, he routed his way back to the coffee shop and his waiting assistant under the impression that he had collected everyone. The assistant, worried and upset, jumped into the van and asked where Len had been for so long. Len sleepily replied that he’d been picking up his crew, of course. Eye cocked to the empty van, the assistant shook Len to rude awakening. “But where are they? Where’s the crew?” With a jerk into reality, Len realized his crew was still waiting out on dark streets while he’d been driving around aimlessly in his sleep.

Mark and Jonah were notorious for falling asleep at traffic lights after all-night carpet cleaning jobs. Not until morning traffic piled up behind them, horns furiously honking, would they realize it was daylight and they’d never made it home!

Two universally sinful sleep practices included putting your head down during lectures to new guests whom you were trying to “infect with enthusiasm,” and sleeping in Family Meetings, even after taking No-Doz, five cups of coffee, and beseeching your spiritual children to poke you with pins.

But perhaps the sleep episode evoking the most opprobrium was falling asleep hunched over during group prayer meeting. At the end, when the rest of the Family stood up, there you were, one lone heap, bottoms up.

The most thrilling and dramatic days of center life were the holidays. These celebrations were fleeting moments of delight interrupting the hustle and exhaustion in the routine of street witnessing and flower selling. Four times a year—God’s Day, True Parents’ Day, Children’s Day, and World Day—we vacationed from our mission whirlwind.

I remember when 250 Family members gathered January 1, 1975, to celebrate the holiest of the four holidays, God’s Day. Signifying a time of renewal, repentance, and gratitude to God and Reverend Moon, we pledged our lives at midnight service the night before the rejoicing. Brothers and sisters gathered in formation together, each one burning in the fireplace a list of sins he had committed last year. Then facing the altar or center table, the sisters stood in hand-sewn pure white skirts and blouses, the brothers in dark suits. We bowed down three times on our knees touching the floor, our hands to our foreheads in front of True Parents’ picture. Onni and Dr. Durst in front, with white robes and gloves, set the example. I promised, reciting from memory something like this:

1. As the center of the cosmos, I will fulfill our Father’s will (purpose of creation) and the responsibility given me (for self-perfection). I will become a dutiful son (or daughter), and a child of goodness to attend our Father forever in the ideal world of creation (by) returning joy and glory to Him. This I pledge.

2. I will take upon myself completely the Will of God to give me the whole creation as my inheritance. He has given me His Word, His personality, and His heart, and is reviving me who had died, making me one with Him and His true child. To do this, our Father has persevered for 6,000 years the sacrificial way of the cross. This I pledge.

3. As a true son (or daughter), I will follow our Father’s pattern and charge bravely forward into the enemy camp until I have judged them completely with the weapons with which He has been defeating the enemy Satan for me throughout the course of history by sowing sweat for earth, tears for man, and blood for heaven, as a servant but with a father’s heart in order to restore His children and the universe, lost to Satan. This I pledge.

4. The individual, family, society, nation, world, and cosmos who are willing to attend our Father, the source of peace, happiness, freedom, and all ideals, will fulfill the ideal world of one heart in one body by restoring their original nature. To do this, I will become a true son (or daughter), returning joy and satisfaction to our Father, and as our Father’s representative, I will transfer to the creation peace, happiness, freedom and all ideals in the world of the heart. This I pledge.

5. I am proud of the one Sovereignty, proud of the one people, proud of the one land, proud of the one language and culture centered upon God, proud of becoming the child of the One True Parent, proud of the family who is to inherit one tradition, proud of being a laborer who is working to establish the one world of the heart.

I will fight with my life.

I will be responsible for accomplishing my duty and mission.

This I pledge and swear.

This I pledge and swear.

This I pledge and swear.

After the God’s Day pledge service, we squeezed trinity by trinity into every available vehicle: old tour buses, dented Dodge vans, farm trucks, sedans. The serpentine motorcade of divine but dilapidated vehicles coiled its way through the predawn streets of Oakland, Berkeley, and San Francisco. What began as a dignified procession metamorphosed after a few miles into a wild and challenging chase for the honor of driving directly behind the Lincoln Continental bearing Onni and Dr. Durst.

Fenders scraped, bumpers were occasionally grazed as Family members jockeyed to cling to that sedate lead car which seemed oblivious to the dangerous race going on behind it.

“Big Mick’s catching up on our left,” copiloted Michele. “Don’t stop singing!” she insisted, unifying the spirits of brothers and sisters in the van. Steering our bulbous ark, Yacov slammed down on the accelerator to block Mick. Bumpers screeched momentarily and Big Mick was “up the creek”; Yacov kept him from passing. In the still of night, our motorcade raced on, training for battle and celebrating the present in the eye of its own cyclone.

Between two and four in the morning, we drove through the territory Reverend Moon had assigned Onni to conquer. We stopped off at both Holy Grounds to pray and rededicated our efforts to God and the Lord of the Second Advent. (The California Holy Grounds, Lake Merrit in Oakland and Twin Peaks in San Francisco, were 2 out of 120 spots Moon had blessed around the world to herald the physical transition from hell to Heaven on Earth.)

At dawn, after the tour, the Family slept briefly in order to reenergize itself for the eating and entertainment to follow. Elder sisters had labored into the morning hours preparing mountainous quantities of Jewish and Korean dishes for voracious appetites: matzo ball soup, bagels, lox, pastrami, salami, egg rolls, cheesecake, matzo brie, yogurt, rice, kimchee, chop choi, bulgogi, cake, ice cream, candy. Fruit, cookies, sweets were stacked in layers of seven (the numerological symbol of perfection) and placed on the center table where full settings had been elaborately laid for Reverend Moon and His Bride. Onni and Dr. Durst represented Them at the celebration banquet.

Once the Kingdom of Heaven had arrived on earth, three days would be officially scheduled for each holiday, but until that time we were only allowed one day. While elder sisters frantically served generous plates of food, Family members danced, read poetry, staged mime, and sang original songs like the following:

We’re building a Kingdom
Where love and beauty abound
And truth is within everything that you see,
Just my Father and me;
My brothers and sisters are Kings and Queens,
Loving each other, forever devoted—
Oh, what a world it will be.
The morning is sunlight, the dawn lights the wings of our hearts,
We’re flying together as one Family!

Sometimes Onni surprised us with her graceful apple-juggling acts, which she had learned on the faraway streets of Korea; Onni with her flashing-eyed face, shoulder-length black hair, dressed in a flowered pink pantsuit, and blouse. Sometimes her husband, Dr. Durst, performed a dance accompanied by fiddle or piano. With his special comic grace, what he lacked in finesse was made up for in Brooklyn-Jewish chutzpah! After exuberant sharing of talents, Family members huddled together with popcorn and fruit to watch rented movies, Brother Sun, Sister Moon, Lost Horizon, Man of La Mancha, The Ten Commandments.

But always the respite was brief, and before evening we all went out to gather in new guests for dinner. Inspired by the holiday spirit, our only urgency was to expand the Family “pali-pali.”

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Actualize. A favorite cult word for service and action which allows for no negativity, no self-justification, but only continuous cheerful accomplishment of the mission.

Blessing. Moon-arranged marriage of “mature” followers who will have “perfect” children. Moon paired and married 1,800 couples in a mass wedding ceremony in Korea in 1975. He claims he can do a fine job of matching people from the way they talk, the way they smile…. Conditions are usually set before a cultist is eligible to be married, such as at least three years’ membership or the bringing in of a requisite number of “spiritual children.” On May 12, 1979, in New York City, Moon “engaged” 705 couples to be married some time in the future, many of them interracial betrothals.

Blueprint of history. Moon presents a startling view of both Biblical and secular “history.” The last third of Divine Principle reads as a political statement, if Christianity hadn’t betrayed Moon, it states, Korea wouldn’t have been divided. After the Korean War, South Korea became the strongest anti-Communist country in the world and an anti-Communist country is the necessary foundation for the new Messiah. The Moon blueprint of history calls for the world to be dominated by Moon’s leadership after a war—ideological or actual—culminating in a triumphant trinity of the U.S., Japan, and South Korea ruling the world as God’s anti-Communist empire. In this trinity of nations, Korea will lead, Japan will come next, and America will be in the “serving position.”

Center man. That individual (frequently male) who takes responsibility for the important activities of the cult in the rigid authority pyramid that prevails. In “Master Speaks” Moon has been quoted as saying that he is the cultists’ brain.

Chants. Developed to cause vibrations in the spirit world, certain special requests are repeated either out loud or silently in incantatory fashion.

The Fall. The Lucifer-motivated seduction of Eve’s spiritual body and her subsequent physical union with Adam before they were mature (spiritually perfected). All subsequent humans have been impure. Moon tells his followers he has overcome the physical temptation course for them and paid their indemnity. He wants them to follow the road to purity. Moon claims that 83 percent of Korean males and females are chaste before marriage, 63 percent of Japanese, but that in the United States the statistics are “in rags.”

The Family. Cultists refer to their communal living group by this term. It also implies the whole of mankind once restored.

Fasts. Fasting for indemnity-sacrifice is common in the Church. Water fasts extend from one to seven days.

Heavenly deception. Since every non-Moon person and thing is of the Satanic world, there is no special reason to respect non-cult rights to honest dealing. Heavenly deception ranges from use of front names in proselytizing and fund-raising to disregard of solicitation and immigration laws.

Holy days. Unification celebrates four important days in the year: God’s Day, True Parents Day, Children’s Day, and World Day. Little regard is paid to Christmas, Easter, or Jewish High Holy Days.

Indemnity. To redeem or pay back a debt to Satan for personal sins or Satanic ancestry, cultists pay indemnities by constant work, struggle, sacrifice, and obedience. The aim for each person is to arrive at “the perfection level above the growth stage.”

Jump it. The cult requires continuous hours of exertion and immediate service. One is expected to “jump it” without thinking; such response becomes part of the control pattern. However, because of this carefully created habit of instant obedience, young cultists often grow to be confident and formidable performers.

Love-bombing. Persistent psychological effort to disarm a skeptical recruit by excessive attention in order to get him or her into the cult.

Make-oneness. Constant selfless efforts to show sacrificial care for individual cult “brothers” and “sisters.” The loyalty of cult persons to each other is one of the most attractive and seductive aspects of the cult phenomenon. Its pervasive aftereffect makes it hard to detach emotionally from the cult orbit even when the cultist “comes out.”

Pledge. A ritualized 5:00a.m. service on Sundays and holidays where the cultists pledge their devotion to serve God and Moon and to fight Satan.

Prayer condition. Prayer life is important to the cultist—both in the form of solitary prayers and prayers of group supplication.

Restoration. Once you have moved through set stages and paid sufficient preset indemnities, salvation—or restoration—is won. Harsh and puritanical, Unification’s restoration appears not to emphasize God’s grace and forgiveness so much as God’s need of the cultist’s good works.

Restore the material foundation. God has chosen only the Unification Church to understand his will. All money and power ought to belong to God. The cult, therefore, is the only instrument which deserves to control everything in this Satanic world. When the cult possesses all wealth and power, God can finally control, through the cult, all he serves. The material foundation will have been restored.

Satanic. Satan has seized the world and its people in history; cultists regard the world outside their group as debased, sinful. Likewise, they look upon their pre-cult selves as pawns of Satan whose evil spirit had captured them and their lineage.

Spirit man. Moon postulates separate spiritual and physical worlds, just as in every individual there is a spiritual and a physical body. The cult spirit man grows to perfection and at the point of physical death, spirit man continues. Moon claims the superiority of the spirit world over the physical and says he alone can take charge of these spirit people.

Spiritual child. Any convert brought in by a cultist.

Subject/object. This complex transposition finds the subject (the leader) knowing God’s will, but the subject is only as good as the object (server) who responds. Men are usually in the subject position, women in the object position.

Trinity. Small subfamilies in the centers which do much of the indoctrination and disciplining.

True Parents. Reverend Sun Myung Moon and his wife, Hak Ja Han, as “perfect” humans.


Authority. With its emphasis on aggressive growth, submission to center man or Moon within the group, and arrogance toward those outside, is prescribed Unification practice. Only the cultist knows what is best for the non-cult person; the rights of the other person are submerged. In street selling, for instance, the cultist believes the purchase of a flower is the only way the buyer can grow spiritually. But typically the cultist is undisturbed that the purchaser has neither right of consent to, nor awareness of, his “restoration.” Moon cultists also appear to have been taught an underlying disregard for secular legal systems, which are seen as inferior to Church morality.

Moon and Christianity. On June 26, 1977, the multi-denominational Commission on Faith and Order of the National Council of Churches of Christ in America, after many inquiries from churches around the country and after a year of study, declared that the Unification Church of Reverend Sun Myung Moon was not a Christian church. (The Council of Churches comprises over twenty mainline Protestant, Orthodox, and Catholic denominations.) The Commission emphasized that it was not calling into question the free right of the Unification Church to exist and propagate its beliefs under the Constitution of the United States, but only its right to pose as Christian, since its doctrines of the Trinity, of Christology, of salvation and grace, and of scriptural authority deny basic elements of Christian faith. Previous evidence has suggested that Moon will repudiate Christianity when his own movement is strong enough. He has said that Christians will be the ones standing in the way of a new age and “it must be decided whether Christianity belongs to God or Satan.”

Racism. Moon’s principles appear racist. Jews, Moon says, bear a special collective sin for their repudiation of Jesus. According to a 1977 report of the Commission on Faith and Order of the National Council of Churches of Christ in America, Divine Principle blames the Jewish nation for the failure of Jesus’ mission in at least twenty citations. The report concludes that the attitude expressed “amounts to a prevailing condemnation of an entire people and results in an inevitable anti-Semitism.” In addition, the supposed “blood taint” of “fallen” non-cult people seems similar in concept to the Hitlerian obsession with the superiority of Aryan “blood.” Moon has replaced Jews, as the chosen people, with Koreans whom members worldwide are pledged to defend. Koreans are considered more chosen than other nationalities; Asians in general are exalted. In “Master Speaks” Moon declares that, seen through Oriental eyes, Western people are merciless, feelingless or emotionless. Then he asks which of the two—the Oriental or the Occidental—is closer to the way of life of God? And his young American followers shout “Oriental!”

Sexism and family life. Moon says in “Master Speaks” that the man is in the central position and declares that in Oriental countries parents would like to have the firstborn be a son, without exception. He claims that that way of thinking makes the Oriental people closer to God and buttresses that claim by citing a supposed law of creation which says that “when you die, you’d rather die with your sons protecting you than your daughters.” Moon demands in traditionally sexist terms that “when you are blessed in marriage, you women must be absolutely obedient to your husbands,” and he harks back to the patronizing Victorian concept that women, though subordinate in other ways, are at least for a transition time morally superior to men and have the obligation to keep their men pure. Very aware of the uses of flirtation in selling, Moon states in “Master Speaks” that in flower selling, it is the women who excel and that is why he sends out more women.

Moon flatly endorses the Asian extended family over the nuclear family and orders his women to be servants to parents and grandparents-in-law and to love nephews and nieces “more than you do your own children.” Cult children are ordered to be absolutely and continuously obedient to their parents who are cult members.

Sexuality. The chief sin of Unification (other than leaving it) is unendorsed sexual contact of any kind. The most severe celibacy is required. (See The Fall.) Moon says in “Master Speaks” that if cultists commit the “fallen act,” it cannot be forgiven. They will be doomed to hell. He calls unapproved sexual intercourse worse than murder and says that if a person is murdered only one person dies, but by an unendorsed sex act a cultist “kills” descendants and lineage as well. Moon says cultists must think of their chastity as more valuable, more important, than their lives. Even after marriage, couples may be separated for a prescribed number of years.

Of necessity, the cult’s communal members live as brothers and sisters in a desexualized atmosphere. Physiological changes sometimes occur. Some male cult members need to shave less often; some female members even stop menstruating.

Social outreach. Like most cults. Unification appears to have provided few social outreach programs or community services, considering how many millions of dollars have been taken from the streets of any given community. There is evidence that current projects are under way to improve that public image. But, in general, Unification is more interested in the powerful, well-off, energetic, and assertive than in the weak and needy.

Theological antecedents. Unification derives from a long Gnostic tradition, both Christian and pagan. The most interesting tenet and device of Gnostics and Moonies alike is their belief that revelation of mystical knowledge is the key to salvation. Withholding revelations is considered to be a source of power in the cult. The staff has power because it withholds secret information which will determine all cultists’ lives. The rationale given for this withholding is that Satan might invade the strategy if plans were revealed. Inside information is also carefully withheld from the visiting seeker, and the indoctrination lectures appear to be built on this useful principle.

Violence. “Master Speaks,” Moon’s lectures to his young enthusiasts, are sprinkled with violent imagery. He declares that in training he is going to cut from the cultist those parts that are not needed. He compares this to the Biblical injunction that if thine eye offend thee, thou shalt pluck it out. How literally this is to be taken, is not clear. In reference to homosexuality, he says that that habit can be eradicated by beating on them … and if that is the only remedy, it will be done.

Ford Greene

Moonwebs by Josh Freed

Crazy for God: The nightmare of cult life by Christopher Edwards

Life Among the Moonies by Deanna Durham

Boonville’s Japanese origins

Camp K, aka Maacama Hill, Unification Church recruitment camp

Mitchell was lucky – he got away from the Unification Church

My Time with the Oakland Family Moonies by Peter from New Zealand

Cult Indoctrination – and the Road to Recovery