The mid-to-late 1990s must have been a pretty boffo time to be a Republican who didn’t exactly fit the party’s traditional born-again spiritual mold. A flurry of messy affairs and divorces among Newt Gingrich’s supposedly pro-family congressional majority had forced the party to back away from its constant invocations of their deep godly roots, and Bob Dole ran a surprisingly classy presidential campaign in which he barely even hinted he was on a mission from Christ himself. Of course, even the early days of the George W. Bush campaign clearly showed things were about to change. The man who listed Jesus as his greatest influence “because he changed my heart” unabashedly courted the religious right, and he’s since used Sept. 11 as an excuse for even further ramping up his blatant religious preferences. Now, in the aftermath of Alabama Supreme Court Chief Justice Roy Moore’s Ten Commandments debacle, there must be a wave of panic sweeping over the young neocons who want to stay loyal to the GOP but like thinking outside the spiritual box. Luckily, such Republicans have a powerful role model in their movement’s own leadership, and it doesn’t get much more outside the box than him. Ladies and gentlemen, I give you the Reverend Sun Myung Moon!
Moon is the head of the Unification Church, an international religious organization that preaches worldwide conversion, arranged marriage, total submission and the abolition of all languages except Korean. Moon’s Moonies gained their first major political exposure by orchestrating a fast in support of Richard Nixon during Watergate. Moon, who saw a godless China as the greatest obstacle to worldwide conversion, apparently felt American conservatives were ideal allies against the common communist enemy. American conservatives welcomed the money and manpower Moon offered, although they understandably wanted to keep him somewhat behind the scenes.
Still, many of you might recognize Rev. Moon. If you’re a Delaware prison inmate, maybe you remember him from his days doing time next to you for tax evasion. If you’re a Holocaust survivor, maybe you remember him from his statement that your suffering was part of God’s punishment to the Jewish people for rejecting Christ. Like Bush, Moore and John Ashcroft, Moon believes he can speak directly to Christ on a daily basis. But those old fogeys do it by praying — Moon, who makes no secret of his literally messianic aspirations, knows he just needs to look into the mirror. How refreshing!
Maybe most importantly, if you’re a conservative news patron, you probably know Moon as the founder of the Washington Times, Ronald Reagan’s openly stated “favorite newspaper” and the earliest powerhouse of the now-dominant conservative media. Moon staffed many of the paper’s key positions with lackeys from his own church, including Times president Bo Hi Pak, a man known not just for his undying allegiance to the man who claims to be Christ reincarnate, but also for his funneling of cash to Nicaraguan contras after the United States discontinued its illegal covert funding of the terrorist group.
Although the Times boasts a considerable readership, it doesn’t compare to the stranglehold Moon has over the media in his native South Korea. There, Moon is an unavoidably powerful media magnate, like Ted Turner if Ted were a reactionary, delusional conservative who claims to be God, or like Rupert Murdoch if Rupert Murdoch were — well, exactly like he is now, except more open about it. And Korean. Who says the GOP has a strained relationship with cult leaders of color?
Moon’s Korean newspapers regularly quote his Washington Times without disclosing that it is both owned by Moon and widely regarded stateside as disreputable and inflammatory. That way, even though most Americans hopefully know not to trust the Times, one of the most volatile regions in the world is given a portrait of American views explicitly designed by a cult leader to exacerbate conflict between North and South Korea. Transnationalism’s a bitch, huh?
So Moon’s clearly a problem, but how connected is he really to the Republican Party? Well, he’s a major contributor to scores of conservative think tanks, including ones that aided the presidential campaigns of Reagan and both Bushes. The Heritage Foundation has even employed a good number of top-ranking Moonies. The elder Bush has, since his retirement, given a number of speeches at Moon’s organizations, for which he received thousands of dollars in payment. Moon and Daddy Bush are apparently quite chummy — the two have been photographed together more often than Ashton Kutcher and (the reader should insert the up-to-date Kutcher girlfriend here — I really don’t follow that kind of thing).
Admittedly, there’s no smoking gun that would suggest Moon is behind the scenes, explicitly making policy in the Bush White House. Of course, there’s no smoking gun that would suggest that Global Crossing or Halliburton are making decisions in the Bush White House either — there’s just a trail of money to the corporations, just like there’s a trail of money to Moon. What’s undeniable is Moon has been sinking millions of his own money into the conservative cause — both in contributions and by bankrolling the money-losing Times — for decades. It’s hard to imagine that one would continue that kind of investment for so long without a payoff.
So if you’re a young Republican with a passion for blaspheming, don’t despair. Roy Moore may be able to get on TV more than Moon, but as long as the Unification Church leader has a checkbook, there will always be plenty of leaders in your party willing to hypocritically look away as Moon defiles the Christian legacy they claim to celebrate. And hey, if you follow him, maybe it’ll help you land a job at the Times.
Eli Swiney ‘04 is best known at The Herald as the writer of the defunct but long-standing comic strip “Pornucopia.”