Hi everyone, welcome back to another blog post but this ones a little different…… Instead of reflecting about a random lesson I learned from the week this is much more academic. This past week we started a new mini unit on New Religious Movements, better known as cults. In class we’re looking at many different case studies throughout history and trying to analyze them from an unbiased point of view. For this blog post I would like to talk about one case study in particular that stood out to me and I had to do further research into. I would like to write about the Unification Church.
New Religious Movements (NRMs) are a slightly difficult thing to define as the matter itself can be problematic and very opinionated. What some call a cult others have as their religion. It can be very dangerous looking into cults online as opinions are extremely radicalized, as that’s exactly what an NRM is; it’s radicalization. The best way to identify an NRM is by examining the group and looking for seven key components then watching their behaviours. These components are:

  • Vulnerable followers – members are going through a rough time in their life. 
  • A soft sell – warm and welcoming community. 
  • An isolated and new reality – increased radical views. 
  • A dear leader – a charismatic person who leads the cult and inspires hope
  • An enemy – incites fear in followers of the “outside world”, strategy to keep members. 
  • Peer Pressure – the psychological use of groupthink, numbers rule out logical reasoning
  • Sociopathic Narcissist – the leader being placed on a higher pedestal, giving followers a feeling of inferiority to leader, increases obedience.

The Unification church is an NRM founded in Korea by a man called Sun Myung Moon. It was started in 1954 after he’d “received a vision telling him to complete Jesus Christ’s mission on earth”. He implied that Jesus’ mission on earth included getting married and having kids and his crucification stopped that. Moon was the messiah of this group; people believed he was the second coming of Christ placed on earth to have the perfect marriage and become the “parents of mankind”. NRM members would join and after showing loyalty for seven years Sun Myung Moon would choose the perfect spouse for them and hold mass weddings (in huge venues like sports arenas). The goal was to arrange couples (primarily mixed race) with the intent of unifying the world and becoming a “god centred family”. The unification church split off of mainstream Christianity with a different holy text that praised family and god over anything. 

After looking at the seven key components of an NRM, it’s obvious that the Unification Church has vulnerable followers (children), a soft sell (large community), a new reality (mixed race marriages), a dear leader (Moon), an enemy (the main church branches), peer pressure (basically forced to marry), and a sociopathic narcissist (believing Moon is the messiah). The Unification Church clearly fits the requirements of being an NRM but dislikes the label of cult. The members just believe they’re a part of the best religion; they love the community, by why?

When talking about NRMs people will frequently judge the followers but the scary reality is they’re normal people just like you and I. The people who chose to follow Moon were just people at a crossroads looking for answers or something to inspire hope in them. Moon, unfortunately takes advantage of them and many times ruin their lives. Followers see the unification church as an easier way to live. There are set rules, morals, and “rights and wrongs” which make life simpler and more comforting. There is a loving community that will never allow members to feel lonely. Followers feel they have a greater purpose in life and it gives them meaning that they wouldn’t have found otherwise. Lastly members of the unification church feel they have more safety within. “Knowing the truth” let’s humans feel at peace as well as having trust that your group and leader will protect you from everything. All of these components come together and make joining the church seem like a perfect way to live your life and help the world while your at it. 

No NRM will ever admit to being in a “cult” because they are simply following what they believe is the truth. There is so much psychology and manipulation involved in these groups that it makes them a nightmare to deal with, especially if things turn south.