Moon's U.S. Tour 2001
Stirring lyrics, bluesy gospel guitar music and inspiring words from local and touring clergy are setting the stage for the Rev. Sun Myung Moon as the South Korean religious leader conducts a whirlwind U.S. tour.
The charismatic founder of the Unification Church is visiting 50 states in 50 days to promote strengthened families, racial and religious unity and world peace. He spoke in Columbus Monday; today's stop is Seattle.
The tour was inspired by the Million Family March in October, organized by Louis Farrakhan, head of the Nation of Islam. Moon promoted and helped to sponsor the march.
His goals are reflected in the church's new name; since 1997, it's been the Family Federation for World Peace and Unification.
Speaking at the Hilton Columbus at Easton Town Center, Moon asked his racially and religiously mixed audience to examine racial attitudes that have lasted for centuries.
"Would Columbus have been credited with discovering this continent had the people who greeted him been Anglo-Saxon whites?"
He also asked whether his religious teachings might have been more readily received in this country if he were white.
Moon often deviated from his printed text, asking the crowd of 1,200, "Don't you think this is more exciting than my reading the prepared speech?"
Some might have found his impromptu quips, delivered in the style of comedian Buddy Hackett, refreshing -- or confusing. Moon usually spoke in Korean via an interpreter, but sometimes abruptly shifted to heavily accented English.
A lengthy exchange with the audience about lineage might have embarrassed some who could hear it because of his graphic sexual references, but overall, the audience seemed open to his message.
Lineage is a key element in Moon's idealized family structure. He emphasizes the value of a family with a mother and a father.
Not all in his entourage agree.
"That doesn't work for the black community, because we have so many single-parent families headed by wonderful mothers," said the Rev. Hycel B. Taylor, a Columbus native who is senior pastor at Second Baptist Church in Evanston, Ill. Taylor, who is traveling with Moon, is executive director of the United Federation of Churches, a national group creating programs to strengthen families and communities.
Family composition isn't the only thing that has made Moon a lightning rod for criticism since 1954, when he founded his church.
"There's a lot of controversy over Rev. Moon's ... having proclaimed himself a messiah," Taylor said.
If enough people concentrated on the family, unity and peace efforts, however, the messianic question wouldn't be an issue, he said.
Questions also have been raised about Moon's indoctrination of followers and his financial dealings. In the 1980s, he was imprisoned for 13 months for income-tax evasion.
Taylor, who calls himself an inside critic, said it's appropriate to question, citing the biblical admonition, "Beware of false prophets."
Some audience members said they came to hear Moon merely because he was in Columbus. Many, but not all, knew his major themes.
"I like the commitment to the family and the global unification, but I'm still just discovering, starting to read about his principles," said Tina Ray of the West Side.
The Rev. John K. Mwamba, pastor at Ohio Family Church, a Unification church on Indianola Avenue, echoed Moon's message, saying, "I believe the road to peace has to start with the family."
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