Moon Over Pennsylvania
“Any politician who wants to run for president, will come to me…” (Reverend Sun Myung Moon)
“Have you ever had one of those wars where everything goes wrong” (Hawkeye Pierce)
Guns and religion run bone-deep within our religiously infused American exceptionalism, where God’s elect are authorized to seize territory, kill and enslave in fulfillment of our divine purpose. Now in 2018, a bizarre new twist to this brand of patriotism came to light in Pennsylvania, shortly after the Parkland Florida high school shooting, which soon led me toward a deep, dark rabbit hole of non-linear causality. There is nothing new in that fact that guns buttress our myth of rugged individualism, that continues to atomize, challenge and polarize community . We also know, the more powerful the weapon, the more potent the gun owner feels. It has become something like an open secret that the proliferation of guns within our society is not only profitable for arms manufacturers, it fools the disempowered into fetishizing weapons as some guarantor of safety and political agency.
And still, with all of the above in mind, the February 28th events in Newfoundland, Pennsylvania, appeared to me at least, beyond surreal. According to many mainstream multimedia reports the Sanctuary Church held a blessing and marriage-commitment ceremony which included a blessing of the congregant’s nuptials while holding up Ar-15 semi-automatic weapons. According to mainstream media reports, hundreds of eerily resolute, gun-toting worshippers arrived; including some 170 of the faithful over from South Korea along with a few from Japan. Parishioners had donned ritual vestments and gold crowns, some made from bullets. And no, I am not making this up and this piece is not a satire.
This World Peace and Unification Church, considered by some to be a sect, is an offshoot of the Unification Church founded by the late Reverend Sun Myung Moon. Pastor of the Pennsylvania congregation is the youngest of Reverend Moon’s16 children, Reverend Hyung Jin “Sean” Moon who presided over a four day ceremony of gun blessing and marriage rituals, conducted in Korean with English translation. To the outside observer, this public display of ammo-sexuality lends a whole other twist to our age old tradition of “shotgun weddings”, along with the specter of some really explosive divorce proceedings.
In this version of Christianity, AR-15 assault rifles symbolize the “rod of iron” mentioned in the apocalyptic Book of Revelations: 2:27 (King James Version) which predicts the Second Coming of Christ, “…and He shall rule them with a rod of iron; as the vessels of a potter shall be broken to slivers”. Celebrations concluded with a “Thank President Trump Dinner” held at a Best Western Hotel. Many of these holy weapons were likely purchased from Kahr Arms, a local gun manufacturer in nearby Greely owned by “Sean” Moon’s brother “Justin” Moon Kook Jin. Gun experts report that the AR-15 is popular because it is lightweight, easy to use, and without significant recoil. Aspiring celebrants who did not yet possess a rifle in time for these ceremonies, were told that they could purchase a $700 gift certificate for their weapon and this paper could be similarly blessed.
Local residents were understandably spooked by these lavishly costumed goings on. With emotions still raw from the Valentine’s Day High School massacre in Florida, their local elementary school was evacuated as a precaution. Irate parents were unimpressed by the supposed sanctity of commitment blessings which to them meant nothing more than their kids missing days of learning so that some deluded foreigners could marry their guns.
While striving to make any kind of sense as to what might really be going on with this bizarre mix of firearms, religion and Korea, I need to return to that elusive rabbit hole of non-linear causality where there are likely to be a few fractals unfolding. While this weaponized, Christian, royal-robed spectacle might be dismissed with a snicker and a shrug, the fact that nearly every major multimedia outlet ran this story is a significant indication of its importance. These admittedly bizarre ceremonies received massive media coverage at a time when tensions with North Korea have been vigorously revived under the Trump administration along with a national debate about the need for citizens to carry military grade weapons. From a systemic perspective, I suspect that the high strangeness in that Pennsylvania church is a manifestation of lies, cover-ups and covert arms deals in relation to unfinished business from the Korean War.
During World War II, Korea was occupied by Japan and then in 1945 was divided along the 38th parallel, with two occupations by the USA and the former Soviet Union, which immediately precipitated a brutal war of national re-unification. Korea remains as a kind of blind spot in the public imagination, as it served as an essential bridge to the big money machinery of total global dominance. As part of the Cold War Era, the Korean conflict was crucial in that our economy had been organized toward war, so it became necessary to re-configure these efforts in the service of perpetual warfare.The subsequent establishment of the U.S. National Security State led to our still expanding empire of bases. During the conflict which raged through 1950-1953, nearly 3.5 million lives were lost, and at least 36,516 were American, a value mostly to the defense contractors and the politicians they owned. An uneasy truce was established 1953 and the US has remained on permanent war footing. (Janine Jackson, truth-out.org, March 3, 2018)
The Korean War provided material for one of the highest-rated shows in television history. M*A*S*H (Mobile Army Surgical Hospital), which ran from 1972 and was adapted from the film, based on a novel. While this comedy/drama was an ensemble piece, revolving around key personnel during the Korean conflict, many Americans assumed it was about our Vietnam War which was escalating at that time. Often, under the cover of comedy, the dialogues questioned America’s roles the Cold War Era.
Trauma Surgeon Hawkeye Pierce:
War isn’t Hell. War is war and Hell is Hell. And, of the two, war is a lot worse.
Chaplin: How do you figure?
Hawkeye: Easy Father. Tell me, who goes to Hell?
Chaplin: Sinners, I believe.
Hawkeye: Exactly. There are no innocent bystanders in Hell. War is chock full of them; little kids, cripples, and old ladies. It fact, except for some of the brass, almost everybody is an innocent bystander.
Here, I think it is important to mention that during the Korean and Vietnam Wars the USA had conscription. Eventually, the anti-war protests grew to such numbers that the draft was abolished and we now have an all volunteer military.
Perpetual war requires a steady supply of arms, and the Reverend Sun Myung Moon, founder of Korea’s Unification Church was eager to help. Born and persecuted in North Korea, Moon eventually managed to escape to South Korea. After several previous trips, he relocated to America and quickly entered politics during the 1970s with our Vietnam War ongoing at that time. In 1982 he purchased The Washington Times, which quickly became essential reading for any political news junkie. It has since been suggested that he introduced right wing propaganda into mainstream media. Reverend Moon continued to burrow deeper into our conservative mainstream as the self-proclaimed messiah and heir to Jesus Christ with a cult of apparently zombified mass- married, followers. His close ties with the arms, and some say drug, trades in Latin America and George Herbert Walker Bush during his tenure as CIA director and Vice President and President are well documented for those willing to do the research. (James Ridgeway, Mother Jones, April 29, 2007 )
Reverend Moon died in 2012 at the age of 92 and his mission continues through family members including Sean’s ministry and Justin’s gun manufacturing company in Pennsylvania.
So now it seems that the Moon church arms complex continues to play a role in our American politics which has become an extension war. In addition to our troops in 70% of the world’s countries, we have our President needlessly revving up tensions with North Korea; a number of wars in oil rich Muslim counties, as well as our class war, together with our war on terror where we are constantly fighting enemies who are everywhere and nowhere at all. Violence is becoming increasingly normalized with multiple school and other mass-shootings as our shell-shocked culture continues to veer toward the irrational; which so clearly manifested in Pennsylvania. Given current levels of escalating hysteria, one wonders what the reaction would have been to the Sanctuary Church ceremonies if those worshippers had been Mexican, Black or Muslim?