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INTERVIEW: Dr. Mose Durst - Neil T. Duddy

Dr. Mose Durst is President of the Unification Church of Sun Myung Moon in the United States. UPDATE’s Neil Duddy interviewed Dr. Durst in Berkeley, California in December of 1981.

UPDATE: Let’s begin with some background material, Dr. Durst. Where did you grow up, what type of religious interest did you have?

DURST: I grew up in Williamsburg (Brooklyn), New York which is a very orthodox Jewish community, and my parents were nominally Jewish. My grandmother lived at home with us, and we had all the trappings of orthodoxy--the food, dietary laws, and so forth--but I don’t think the spirit of orthodoxy was there. The sense of a calling to an ethical ideal and the awareness of suffering--that the Jewish people suffered--were there. My name, Durst, meaning thirst, always awakened in me the need to find out why the Jewish people suffered. Then I realized Christians suffered, everybody suffers.

UPDATE: Were your parents European?

DURST: They came from what is now a part of Russia. I was always aware of the sufferings of the Jewish people. When I studied literature, I found that many writers had a greater sense--more than anyone else--of what life is all about. As you know, I was a professor of literature, and I was never one to espouse art for art’s sake but rather writing as a window to

the world. Writers have a deeper insight into human motivations. Later I studied some psychology and eventually, of course, the religious motivation. I think with me, as with many people, I studied aesthetics, ethics, and then religion. Ethical ideals followed upon the aesthetic ideals. Art seems to me to be a consolation to life. The artist can take the chaos and the suffering of the human experience and cast it in a form that is both beautiful and meaningful.

Later on I sought in social action and psychology to create in life a social form that would bring about the therapy or the consolation needed to solve the problem of suffering. It seemed to me that religion dealt with the psychology and the sociology of the human race with a deeper, more profound understanding of the nature of Man, the nature of being, knowing--the fundamental questions.

UPDATE: Did you practice your Jewish heritage during those pursuits.

DURST: I did when I was a graduate student. I had a fellowship to research, the third year of which I spent at Cambridge in England. While I was there I started to examine and really come to grips with what it was to be a Jew. It was my first time living outside of a Jewish environment. I had been going to the synagogue regularly; I was even the cultural director of Hillel while I was at the University of Oregon. But later I think I became more of a cultural Jew. I became interested in Eastern and Western ideas, the religious sensibility, and eventually meditation. I ultimately turned to literature as an extension of those interests.

UPDATE: Who were some of the figures in literature who influenced you?

DURST: Well, early on, people like Emerson, Thoreau, and Whitman--the transcendentalists--because they believed Man was more than just parts, there was a spirit that guided human relationships. Even people like theologian Martin Buber seemed to me to be very striking. To this day, I think Unification theology involves process, relationship. I see that as an extension of the Jewish ideal in many ways. The messianic idea of one of this world, the process of potential value within each of us being actualized through engaging relationships, both the horizontal I-thou and the vertical I-thou.

UPDATE: Do you believe that your commitment to the Unification Church has fulfilled your Jewish heritage?

DURST: I do, yes. I never understood God rationally when I was a Jew. I never understood God’s ideal for the earth, my relationship to God personally: all of those things were mysteries or certainly areas that weren’t dealt with in my experience, personally, as a Jew. I’m not saying that Judaism doesn’t address those things. I’m just saying that that was my overwhelming experience with Judaism.

UPDATE: How did you get involved with the Unification Church?

DURST: Well, I met the woman who was to become my wife. She was an early Korean missionary to the U.S.

UPDATE: When was that?

DURST: 1972. Almost 10 years ago. I met my wife through a student of mine. She knocked on my door and said "hi". Because I was interested in Oriental ideas, we chatted. I’d never heard of Rev. Moon at that time; I don’t think many people had. It didn’t mean anything to me. I studied the Unification books with a small group from the church, and I was just amazed that those people were actually living their ideals. As I studied those ideals, again they seemed a much more profound insight into God and the nature of Man than I had ever experienced before.

UPDATE: Do those ideals which first attracted you to the church still motivate you today?

DURST: Yes. Absolutely. With, I think, a deeper understanding of what they involve. Certainly I’ve been burned in the cauldron of experience, especially being in New York this last year and a half. I’ve recaptured a certain innocence. It’s a rebirth in the truest sense. In the last few years, I’ve gone through a fire of experience which is congealing my innocence. It’s like holding on to the innocence of a religious vision in an environment that attacks innocence in every area, yet preserving that innocence.

UPDATE: What are some of those ideals, in particular?

DURST: To develop God’s heart, God’s sensibility of redemptive love in every situation. When people abuse you, hurt you, nullify you, to still come back with greater love, forgiveness, compassion. To be able each day to go forth and build a God-centered world in the midst of betrayal and attack and persecution.

UPDATE: Would you sketch a little bit of the history of the Unification Church’s missions orientation? At the same time that the Unification Church was beginning to grow, there were movements in Korea that were larger and could have been what the Unification Church is today, but it’s the other way around. Why is that?

DURST: Well, as you probably know, Rev. Moon comes from a Presbyterian-converted family. At the age of 16, in the midst of prayer and meditation, he had a vision of Jesus coming to him. Jesus essentially told him that he was the one to carry on the mission--fulfilling God’s ideal on the earth.

UPDATE: Are there particulars that go along with that mission? Was it a general notice of information, or did the conversation include specific charges to Rev. Moon?

DURST: The essential one that I understand is that Rev. Moon was chosen to pray, to study, to dedicate himself in such a way that he could understand more fully what the nature of the mission was. After all, it wasn’t until many years later--after much prayer, much service--that he chose, in fact, to establish a public ministry, a church. I would see that as one of the pivotal points in his spiritual life. For example, people who seek to diminish Rev. Moon’s vision will say, "But Jesus appears to many people" which is true, he does appear to many many people. The question is, what do people do with the vision once they have experienced it? Rev. Moon took upon himself a certain seriousness by which he would try to understand more deeply God’s will, the mysteries of the Bible, the purpose of this age, his function in this age.

UPDATE: During his period of study, did Rev. Moon meet David Kim who is now President of the Unification Church seminary in Barrytown, New York?

DURST: I think that came a little bit later. Kim and his wife were one of the 36 couples who were married simultaneously by Moon in 1960 and who formed the nucleus of the church. Several of them were with Rev. Moon when the church was founded in 1954, maybe even a few years earlier. Based on Rev. Moon’s vision, with those 36 couples as the nucleus, the church then grew. Some of those couples went to Japan. My wife was also one of the early missionaries who pioneered in Japan. Several of the early missionaries who were in Japan--

David Kim, Bo Hi Pak, Ms. Kim--later came to the United States. In 1965 Rev. Moon made a worldwide tour, and in missionaries were sent out into 120 countries.

UPDATE: Have there been areas in the mission field where the church has been unusually successful? Are there other places where the cultures have not received the church?

DURST: In Japan, the United States, and Europe the church has grown very rapidly. There are difficulties in Islamic countries where you cannot openly teach the principles. We also have an underground movement in places such as the Soviet Union. The movement has also grown rapidly in Latin America and in Africa. I don’t think it has been growing rapidly in India; in Hindu or Moslem countries we have not been successful.

UPDATE: Does the Unification Church in Latin America and Africa take on a different structure than it does in the U.S. or Europe, for example?

DURST: Yes. The movement in the U.S. is only about eight years old. The pioneering church here was marked by a great deal of mobility throughout the country. For example, someone who joined in the San Francisco Bay Area often would be in a rally in Los Angeles the next week or at a rally in Ohio the next month. Consequently, there were difficulties. It caused a certain amount of exacerbation among friends, frustrations with communications. Things have changed a great deal in the last three years. Our major emphasis has been on what we call the home church. The home ideally is meant to be the place where God dwells. The family Is the core of the God-centered society. My observations in Africa and Latin America are that an entire family, rather than just an individual, responds to the message. Since those families are as mobile as individuals in the U.S., the church has not been criticized as it has been in America.

UPDATE: The Unification Church has sought legitimization, acceptance in the culture. Their applications to have the Barrytown seminary accredited have been rejected. They’ve been refused membership in the National Council of Churches. Yet the church persists in seeking to be a member of ministerial associations in areas where there are Unification Church centers. What would the benefits in establishing those relationships be?

DURST: Well, certainly there is always the problem in any religious organization to be hot, yet cool. In other words, we want to burn with a moral passion with the Holy Spirit but, on the other hand, we have to be effective if we’re really concerned to bring about change and to transform the larger society. In order to be effective, we have to use the vehicles that are already set up for relationship, communication, and transformation. Those vehicles are churches, seminary bodies, and various accrediting bodies of one sort or another. If our spirit is vital, if our insights are profound, then we can still have our impact on the larger culture. But we have to work through vehicles that are already established, and I think we’ve always wanted to do that.

UPDATE: The early members of the church, however, felt that legitimization was not a relevant question. Their attitude was, we are a grass-roots movement, we are not interested in affirming the values of religious or secular society. We are not looking to them for help. We present an alternative to those things. That kind of brassy approach to religious life was what the early ‘70s were all about. That’s how evangelical groups, the Moonies, etc., all grew. They offered change. Does the idea of wanting legitimization change all of that?

DURST: I think when you have a small group of people, the very nature of your smallness involves a great deal of informality. You can do many things without worrying about accreditation because there is nothing to accredit. In the Bay Area, when I opened up my home and it became a Unification Church, I was a professor. I just threw my check in the pot, and we used the money as we saw fit. I wasn’t even thinking of tax exemption. Later on, when many people joined the movement. we bought houses, land projects, busses, and on and on and on. We needed accountants, we needed lawyers. Once we had them, along with corporate status, we had to do things in a way that was concerned with whether people were violating our corporate rights, our religious liberties. And many many things came into play in which we needed a certain kind of credibility. When you are not significant in terms of numbers or impact or power, you don’t really need accreditation.

UPDATE: I guess you are aware that most sectarian movements have taken two or three generations to claim legitimization. The Mormon Church, for example, took several decades before they were "legitimized". Whereas some members and leaders in the Unification Church have suggested the Mormon Church as a growth model, the Unification Church is pressing for legitimization at a much faster pace. Is there a problem in communicating legitimization to members who were early participants in the church and who do not understand the interest in legitimization?

DURST: Well, there’s always an ambiguity. On the one hand, we speak with a prophetic voice from the mountain- and rooftops. On the other hand, we speak in a priestly voice in the churches and the councils. If the people lock us out of the churches, we can go to those mountain- and rooftops and talk there. But we do have something to say, and where we can say it with the greatest voice and with the greatest response, that’s where we want to be. I don’t think it’s a central concern in our movement--how do we become legitimate? Our central concern is how do we maintain our faith, and how do we communicate that faith and that spirit to the larger world? Certainly, it’s important for us to communicate with other church groups. We are not the first people to discover God, we won’t be the last. We want to learn from others, and we believe we have something to teach them as well. That’s why we’re concerned with dialog and communication. It helps us define ourselves by interacting with others who have been down this road.

UPDATE: Sometimes in their eagerness to gain support for the movement, members have acted unwisely, to the chagrin of the Unification Church leaders. Shupe and Bromley mention that in their book, Moonies in America, and I’ve also seen it happen. Do you think that if legitimization were to be achieved, those quirks would be ironed out?

DURST: I think that legitimization is just a function of being around for a certain length of time. For example, there certainly is no doctrine of deception in the church. As you know, the anti-religious literature throughout history has always fallen into a certain type, genre, typology that says, "They’ll deceive you, they’ll take advantage of you." When we were a young movement here in the Bay Area, for instance, I was inspired by a vision of Rev. Moon and a vision of God to form Creative Community Project (CCP). I wanted to reach out to professionals, professors, lawyers who were concerned about living a spiritual life. Most of those people couldn’t care less about God and certainly not a church. It wasn’t my desire to deceive anybody, it was just a vehicle I created because I felt it would serve a particular function. Later on I realized that there was no real Unification Church in the U.S. in 1972 when the CCP was founded. There were only small groups San Francisco, New York, Los Angeles, and Washington. CCP was not a front for the church; it was really the other way around!

UPDATE: Why do you think the media has fastened onto the Unification Church?

DURST: We’re a controversial story. You know, you conjure up images of mind control, brainwashing, parents, children, money. Money and religion alone are two of the hottest subjects in any culture, and with us we get both subjects coming up all the time. The media Is obviously not an instrument to communicate serious information. It’s an instrument to sensationalize and to promote certain images. The media lacks sincerity, generally speaking. We fit the stereotypes. America has never been kind to its racial or its religious minorities. With us you get a double indemnity--minority religion, minority race. Plus, the style of our religion: we’re a religion, we’re out there all the time.

UPDATE: Other religious movements have the same religious agenda as the Unification Church. Isn’t it the political platform of the church, the long-term agenda of having a one-world government that has produced the gut reaction of both the media and other critics?

DURST: There are so many elements. Obviously, our critique of Marxism throws a lot of people off guard because they think we are some sort of artificially minded group. Kill a Commie for Moon. That is not our purpose. We are making a counterproposal to Marxism, and that confuses people. I’ve been amazed at how quickly the shadow comes out when you have religious discussions with someone. In five minutes you seem to confront them with their whole worldview. When somebody meets one of us, we’re always talking about the ideals of God, the suffering of the universe. In five minutes people feel judged where they are at. Do they believe in God?, are they committed to values?, are they doing something for humanity? It seems almost inevitable. We are a sort of universal Rorschach test. I think Jesus must have evoked the same kind of thing in people. That is more and more how I see it, but you can also explain it away be saying that we are a religious minority, a racial minority.

Here is a perfect example. I was in Gloucester, Massachusetts recently. We’ve filed a lawsuit in Salem against the city of Gloucester because they have refused to allow us to use our church--a building that was Cardinal Cushing’s old villa and was used by nuns for 80 years--for our services. So I went to see the mayor. The mayor is a Jewish man whose father came from the same part of Russia that my father came from. Our families were persecuted--his father settled in Massachusetts, mine in New York. So we laughed, we spoke Yiddish, all was great. Then he said, "Why are you folks here in Gloucester?" He was doing the same thing to us that had happened to his father, and he couldn’t see the parallel. Fear, xenophobia? God knows what motivated him. We have the same thing in Napa Valley, California. We an enormous resort property, and we want to use it far less intensively than it has been used in the past 70-80 years. We have a lawsuit there also because the sheriff put huge ads in the paper--No topless, no bottomless, and no Moonies. Now, can you imagine any other religious group being treated like that?

UPDATE: What is your opinion of deprogramming?

DURST: I think it is a criminal activity. Obscene. It seems to me the hardest thing in the world is to build trusting, loving communities which are dedicated to love, to a spiritual idea. The easiest thing in the world is to corrupt multitudes. Deprogramming, which I call faith breaking, is a process that corrupts a person, it breaks their faith. It’s like going up to a young person locked in his or her room and saying, do you know your parents have a physical, loving relationship--isn’t that awful? That’s the kind of equivalent you have in deprogramming.

UPDATE: Do you think there is any difference between deprogramming and noncoercive conservatorships?

DURST: They usually work hand-in-hand. The whole business of conservatorships is an abuse of the law by the mental health association. Conservatorship conjures up an image that somebody is not in control of their mind and their personality is changed 180 degrees. They used to sleep late, smoke dope, and fornicate. Now they are up at five in the morning to pray that God would bless their locality and to help end God’s suffering. Obviously that person has changed 180 degrees. It really is a clash of worldviews, as you examine it. Some of these psychologists, like Margaret Singer who posits the idea of mind control, have a totally mechanistic worldview. Paul and Jesus would be the first ones to be snatched with a conservatorship. In fact, if you look at the story of St. Francis, his parents took him to the civil authorities to get the equivalent of a conservatorship on him. If he was living today, they probably would get it.

UPDATE: Inducements to join happen on retreats of all religious persuasions. Inducement in the sense that someone tries to get inside your mind through being with you constantly, following your conversation for an entire weekend, being with you every waking moment is a rare experience. It is probably the closest thing to the presence of God a person could anticipate. Why use that technique?

DURST: In terms of the first part of your question, I think one of the most misunderstood areas of religion is certainly the process of conversion. I think there are people who see the need of God as a weakness. Freud himself believed essentially that

the religious experience was a psychotic, debilitating one. If we are awakened to the needs, impulses, voices within, he believed that it was a sign of some sort of mental debilitation. Obviously a religious person such as myself sees that as a sign of health. Or take the Jungian point of view--the very need for religion is the sign of integration and health. If you find the soul guide, the spiritual guide, the soul friend who is willing to awaken this within you, love you as you’ve never been loved before, offer you a care, a compassion, a sacrifice that you’ve never experienced before, it’s the most profound experience in life. That isn’t easy to get--it doesn’t happen simply. If people could be awakened to God easily, the world would have been restored thousands of years ago.

It’s a very difficult process to love somebody deeply and profoundly. I think the people here in the Unification Church in the Bay Area try in a very sincere way to imitate Christ. That involves getting up at five o’clock in the morning, as I did this morning, and praying that God will open my heart to everyone I meet, and that God will allow me to feel their divine presence and bow down before that and serve that divine presence so that I can be a servant of servants. When a member of our church meets someone, they pray that they can represent the spirit of God to that person and love them as they’ve never been loved before. People are genuinely and deeply moved by that. It’s not peer-group pressure; it’s not the food--the proteins or carbohydrates. It’s truly, I believe, the spirit of God. God’s truth awakens people, leads them to a deeper understanding. The difficulty is coming back again and sustaining the vision. That seems to me to be the process we are about.

UPDATE: Sometimes parents have difficulties trying to arrange a meeting with their children, or friends have trouble meeting with Unification Church members. In the past you were open to proposal that parents could meet with their children. If there were an avenue of approach which would allow for a. smooth, non-threatening time where parents could meet their children who are in the Unification Church, what should they do?

DURST: The average member of the Unification Church is 28 years old. Nowadays most of our members are married; they have children of their own. We are entering into a new stage We’ve been around for a while, and we have our own families. The worst thing for us to do is to get between parents and their adult children because we lose either way. I would say the overwhelming number of parents of our members are either supportive or accepting of their child’s involvement with our church. A very small number are hostile or have difficulty. When there are difficulties, it’s usually because parent completely belittles the involvement of their son daughter.

DATE: I’ve spent many hours with parents who struck me as reasonable people who, although personally not persuaded by the Unification Church view, were not discrediting their child’s spiritual odyssey. Yet when they tried to arrange a meeting with their son or daughter, the Unification Church was moving that young man or woman between its properties at the most unusual moments. I know there are honest attempts by the Unification Church to provide opportunities for intimacy between parent and child. Sometimes parents take advantage of that, and that’s the last you see of your member. On the other hand, there are people who get those opportunities and honor them. What kind of arrangements can the Unification Church propose?

DURST: Where there has been difficulty, and we have sinned, it’s usually in reaction to someone who has been kidnapped, who has constantly been deceived by parents who profess the most harmless intentions. The parent is betraying and violating every faith and trust in the book. Most of the time, a person just decides to go or not to go pretty much on their own. It is true that there are members in the church who give counsel to other members whose parents have contacted them, and it can be bad counsel. They may say, "Watch out, your parents are going to kidnap you, you’d better be careful, stay with somebody." That may be bad counsel.

UPDATE: Does that counsel sometimes involve taking the person out of the threatening situation?

DURST: We never take a person anywhere. All we say is, why don’t you go here if you’re afraid of your parents? Why don’t you be with somebody else? Normally the recommendation is to go with somebody else so that if there is foul play, the other person can call the police. Most of the time it’s resolved by the member choosing by him- or herself to go or not to go. We have tried more and more to use reconciliation services like the Bay Area Interfaith Council (BAIC). We recommend to a person that he or she contact the BAIC and set up something. We have attorneys and psychiatrists who are perfectly willing to act as a mediator. But if we come in-between, it always looks like a lose-lose situation.

UPDATE: Are there other groups like the BAIC?

DURST: We have our own parents’ association, but again, people who are normally hostile to the church see that as an arm of the church.

UPDATE: So, is it traditional for the Unification Church to refer parents to other parent groups?

DURST: Normally, yes. In the Bay Area, we will ask the child--the adult child--to use the BAIC. They can suggest to their parents, for example, that they meet together with a particular Catholic priest at the Newman Center or with another local pastor.

UPDATE: When you lead someone into a spiritual experience, leading them to God, what is the basic core of your message, Dr. Durst?

DURST: Our famous three-day workshop, which has moved so many people, has as its central purpose to teach a person that God exists, that they are a child of God, and that by working together with others of a common faith they can build a God-centered world. Those are the three central purposes of the whole seminar--that one can understand God rationally, that one can experience God emotionally, and that one can feel oneself open up to infinite value, infinite love, and infinite creativity. By entering into relationship with others of a common faith, one can begin to establish the God-centered family, the God-centered society, the God-centered world. The process is called becoming a spiritual parent. You try to imitate Christ, you try to act in such a way that you love the world as God loves the world, and you care for the world as God cares for it.

UPDATE: Those are fine goals as a religious worldview. But that’s a message that every religion can give. What is distinctive in the Unification Church? Why don’t you do evangelism for Bahais instead?

DURST: On one level, of course, there is a perennial philosophy. In a sense, what I’ve said is the perennial philosophy, the divine ground upon which we stand. We must take off our shoes because all is sacred.

UPDATE: What is the particular turban that you’re wearing, though?

DURST: Okay. The Messiah is on earth and he is setting the pace. If we don’t join with him, it’s all over with. In one sense you can put it there. But, more specifically, we would say that the central ground of being is hearts, purposeful love. It’s the motivation for cognition, affection, volition, and so forth. At the ground of all being is the divine heart which suffers--God is a God who suffers and experiences suffering humanity. Our purpose in life, our mission, is to liberate God’s suffering heart and thus liberate the suffering of the world. That implies a tremendous responsibility.

UPDATE: That’s a very general approach to God, too. Those descriptions outline obligations for the future. What if you were a physician at the hospital, however, and a patient’s medical condition suggested that he better make peace with his Maker. How would you introduce that person to his Maker in those few minutes?

DURST: From our point of view, you have a life after death in which you can still grow spiritually. But what’s bound on earth is bound in heaven. If you have not lived a loving, compassionate life, at least have that shock of recognition. I would say to him even though those were his last moments, realize where he has sinned and repent of those sins, then accept God’s spirit into his heart, be reborn. Even if he were to die the next moment, that new birth would at least be with him.

UPDATE: Is that new birth associated simply with acknowledging guilt?

DURST: No, no, acknowledging guilt and also acknowledging God’s grace as the redemptive beginning for new life. But then you must be gracious. Again, from the point of view of our theology, you have to grow even as a spiritual being, and you have to follow the same principles of spiritual growth. That is, you create, in one sense, your own heaven or hell, depending upon the quality of your own spiritual life that you have created.

UPDATE: Would that involve a conversation about Rev. Moon?

DURST: Well, it would involve a conversation first about the nature of God, the nature of spiritual growth, and so forth, then about Rev. Moon as an agent of God who seeks to promote a certain ideal, a certain awareness.

UPDATE: What kind of spiritual experiences does Rev. Moon continue to have?

DURST: His spiritual experiences are very much connected with the purpose of establishing a God-centered world. His emphasis is on home church as the practical way of building God’s kingdom. Every individual has to be responsible for his home and 360 homes around him. If all of those homes are awakened to God’s love, and they are all connected, then that is God’s ideal.

UPDATE: And Rev. Moon’s spiritual experience is connected with the development of that home life?

DURST: Yes, to the dispensation of individuals and families establishing a God-centered ideal.

UPDATE: What about his conversations with Jesus? I understand they continue to be spiritual experiences that renew him. What’s taking place there? Have you had those conversations with Jesus too?

DURST: I pray about the life of Jesus, meditate upon the words of Jesus, study them, and I try to imitate his love. For me, especially, Christian love was a tremendous revolution in my life. I used to hang around Jewish intellectuals. Our one taboo subject was Jesus. So certainly the Unification movement was a real revolution, as well as a revelation, of Christian love. I try to understand what that means. I realize in Jesus the incredible redemptive quality of his love that allowed him to go beyond hatred. To me, it’s a very real thing to be able to develop that within myself by modeling myself after Jesus. That’s the kind of constant reflection I’m doing, the experiences I have, the experiences Jesus had. I imagine Rev. Moon does the same thing. That is my current relationship with Jesus as a model of redemptive love.

UPDATE: Most Unificationists pray in the name of the True Parents. That seems to imply more than physical redemption as a byproduct of Rev. Moon’s spiritual life, and at the Unification Church conference in the Bahamas, Go Hi Pak did say Rev. Moon has suffered for our sins. What does that mean?

DURST: I think he has suffered for the sins of humanity in that he has sought to take upon himself the burden of God’s suffering and the burden of the suffering of humanity. He is seeking to build a God-centered ideal and seeking to pay the indemnity of human history in his own life. Our belief is that, just as Jesus paid the indemnity for human history with his death and thus has allowed us to have spiritual salvation by believing in him, Rev. Moon comes to pay an additional indemnity so we can have not only spiritual salvation but also physical salvation.

UPDATE: Why be grafted into the physical family of Rev. Moon through the Holy Wine Ceremony? I can understand the charm of being grafted into the bloodline of a large family, but when Rev. Moon is considered the third Adam, the theological importance of that ritual is more than charm. It’s just like Romans 5; we are all grafted into Adam and then we become grafted into Jesus.

DURST: We believe Rev. Moon is building upon the foundation of Jesus and Jesus’ sacrifice. We have now entered into the phase of a physical family of God upon the earth and the new lineage, the lineage of the True Parents. Rev, and Mrs. Moon are the Parents of mankind. It’s like a new Adam, a new Eve. Thus we participate in, we partake of that new lineage.

UPDATE: Is Jesus more than an ethical model in Unification theology?

DURST: I would see Jesus as more than an ethical model. An ethical model, definitely, but one through whom the sins of mankind are redeemed, one through whom mankind achieves salvation in a very significant way. In other words, I wouldn’t belittle the spiritual salvation nor would I demean the value of Jesus as Savior of mankind, paying off the sins of human history. I suppose the reason we often talk about Rev. Moon now is that we are concerned about the current process of redemption, the urgency of the time. By binding together with the central figure of the age, we believe that we can accomplish the process of redemption now. So it’s really a question of current focus--what is our burden at the moment.

UPDATE: In a theological sense, then, would you say that there is a new dispensation, a new age that not only capitalizes on the previous work done in terms of indemnity, but supercedes the others? When you trace through The Divine Principle, you find that later biblical characters had to do greater works than those of the early patriarchs because of the accumulation of sin. Is there a superceding on all levels that comes through indemnity with the new Messiah?

DURST: I believe so. After all, ours is a liberation theology. We see the urgency of the day because we feel the burden of liberating God’s heart, liberating humanity. Service and sacrifice are the indemnifying process, and it does supercede past indemnity that has been paid off already. But since the death of Jesus, so much sin has gone down that indemnity still needs to be paid.

UPDATE: Spiritually and physically?


UPDATE: In conversations with a number of Moonists and ex-members, I’ve come across an oral tradition in the Unification Church, if I may call it that, that blends together stories about Rev. Moon and Jesus. The oral tradition is based on the idea of indemnity found in The Divine Principle. One element of that oral tradition appears in Dr. Kim’s book, Unification Thought. She suggests that the father of John the Baptist, Zechariah, is also the father of Jesus. That statement is clearly an attempt to draw a parallel, allowing for the possible indemnity between the brothers Cain and Abel and the brothers Jesus and John. Unification literature says that Jesus should have married, and the oral tradition suggests that Jesus should have married Judas’s sister--another attempt to satisfy indemnity. Furthermore, Jesus should have gone to Rome and established a political kingdom, thus realizing the goals which the Unification Church now holds for itself. Conversely, there are oral traditions about what Rev. Moon has done to accomplish indemnity by mirroring the life of Jesus. Rev. Moon is believed to have suffered for the sins of humanity during his imprisonment in North Korea. Rev. Moon is also believed to have experienced an indemnity crucifixion during the New York City crusade in Yankee Stadium where he spoke with his arms outstretched. There is the Holy Wine Ceremony which parallels the saving grace of Jesus with the saving grace of Rev. Moon. And there is the speculation that Jesus, who lives in the spirit world, is married to a woman who lives in Korea--allowing Jesus thereby to fulfill indemnity. How deep is the oral tradition in the Unification Church, Dr. Durst?

DURST: I suppose there is always a great deal of speculation on all of the topics you have mentioned. They are certainly not doctrines of the Unification Church. Rev. Moon has said that there is much that he has yet to tell us. I think the core of the principles, though, is set forth already; that is, to follow the three paths of the spiritual life--devotion, study, and service. When it comes to those speculations, to me they are just interesting questions.

To be honest with you, certain elements of faith, for me, involve those kinds of things. I don’t know if Moses struck the rock twice. I don’t know what was going on in the Garden of Eden. I do know, however, from my experience, my logic, that the central problem of the world is the misdirection of love. That’s the inside of the Unification gospel. Whether it’s Eve playing around with the serpent, I haven’t any direct knowledge. That, to me, is an article of faith. Some of the things seem reasonable to me as I speculate on what I know logically. There is, as you say, an oral tradition, a speculative tradition, a lot of stuff that people seem to talk about, but I never really get into it very much myself.

DATE: Is that tradition deep?

DURST: Yes. Lots of things are there, all kinds of things.