A crucial test of a new religion is whether it transfers to the next generation after its founder’s demise, and with the death of the Rev Sun Myung Moon at 92, the prospects for his Unification church – or “Moonies” – look poor. More significant is the future of the lesser known side of this self-proclaimed messiah: his international business empire and his secretive influence on US conservative politics.
Considering Moon’s documented history of extreme rightwing theocratic politics, antisemitism, constant rumours of sexual improprieties, his US imprisonment in 1982 for tax evasion, and, for Christians, an offensively blasphemous theology, it is difficult to understand how he was tolerated, even welcomed, by US presidents, politicians, clergymen and academics in America, Japan and Britain.
The answer might be hypocrisy – and Moon’s money. But where did the billions come from? The ultimate source still defies scrutiny, although he was at one time backed by two Japanese billionaires, both self-proclaimed fascists, and there were rumours of financing by the Korean CIA. As early as 1978 Moon’s nefarious activities were described in a congressional report, but his preposterous career and outrageous pronouncements continued. Here was a man who could not only truly testify to America’s freedom of religion, but also that there, almost anything was possible under religion’s name.