Top leaders of the Religious Right, including Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) President James Merritt, were among the crows at a Jan. 19 "Inaugural Prayer Lucheon for Unity and Renewal" sponsored by an arm of the Rev. Sun Myung Moon's Unification Church.
The Washington, D.C., event was put on the The Washington Times Foundation, a non-profit group founded by Moon. The controversial Korean evangelist, who preaches that he is the new messiah sent by God to complete the failed mission of Jesus, spoke at the event and received an award for his work in support of family values, the Moon-owned Washington Times reported.
The Rev. Billy McCormack, a Christian Coalition board member and long-time Religious Right activist from Louisiana, assisted in presenting Moon with the award.
Other attendees at the event included TV preachers Jerry Falwell, Robert Schuller, Kenneth Copeland and Paul Crouch as well as Don Argue, former president of the National Association of Evangelicals. Former pop star Pat Boone provided entertainment.
Two Bush administration nominees attended the luncheon as well - Stephen Goldsmith, the former Indianapolis mayor who will promote "charitable choice" initiatives, and Attorney General John Ashcroft. Goldsmith touted the Bush plan to give churches federal funds to offer social services.
"All of us here want the government to no longer be hostile [to religion]," Goldsmith said. "This is an administration that will clear out the regulation problems, clear out the legal problems."
Observed Goldsmith, "I think that the best thing that America has to face is a person who is about to become president who truly believes in God and believes in the power of God to make the lives of people better."
Aside from Merritt, other SBC officials attending the event included Executive Committee President and Chief Executive Officer Morris H. Chapman and Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission President Richard Land. Other prominent Southern Baptists attended, among them Paul Pressler of Houston, Pastor Ed Young of Second Baptist Church in Houston, Pastor Jack Graham from Prestonwood Baptist Church near Dallas and Pastor Wiley Drake of the First Southern Baptist Church of Buena Park, Calif.
Some of the Baptist leaders later claimed they had no idea the luncheon was sponsored by Moon and were clearly embarrassed by their participation in an event advancing the agenda of the self-proclaimed new messiah.
"I was shocked to see that Sun Myung Moon was on the program and in essence the host," Chapman told the Baptist Press News Service. "I was even more surprised on the way out of the banquet hall to be given a propaganda book on the Unification Church."
Merritt noted that his invitation came from Doug Wead, an evangelical who worked in the White House under President George Bush in the early 1990s. "We knew that it was going to be an interdenominational event, but we had no idea that the luncheon was hosted by Moonies," said Merritt. He added, "I didn't even see the program until I got there. I had no idea this was the nature of the meeting. I believe this incident will teach us to be a little more judicious.
Chapman said the experience taught him to be more careful. "[It] will serve to remind evangelical Christians that the world increasingly is filled with wolves in sheep's clothing."
Moon uses events like the inaugural luncheon to increase his own prestige in the religious community. A brief report about the luncheon on the Unification church's website speaks approvingly of Moon's ability to draw a broad cross-section of religious leaders to his events, asserting that the gathering "united Christian leaders black and while, including Robert Schuller, Jerry Falwell, the leader of the Southern Baptist Convention, a representative of the Bill Graham organization, and many others."
Critics say Moon's ultimate goal is a merger of the world's religions under Moon and his elevation as the supreme head of a unified theocratic state. Moon and his wife, Hak Ja Han, in an article published in Unification News in September of 1992, declared themselves "the True Parents of all humanity" and asserted, "[W]e are the Savior, the Lord of the Second Advent, the Messiah ... [W}e must have an automatic theocracy to rule the world."
In March of 1989, U.S. News & World Report noted that Moon has stated that his aims include the "subjugation of the American government and population."
There are signs that Moon is growing weary of the resistance to his message in the United States and that he may be ready to adopt a more militant approach. Two days after the luncheon, Moon gave a sermon at Irvington, N.Y. Although the message was delivered in Korean, it was translated and notes were posted on the church website. According to the notes, Moon again stressed that Jesus failed to redeem humanity and asserted that only "Father" (Moon) can save mankind.
"A few days ago, we held the inaugural Prayer Luncheon in Washington, D.C." said Moon. "A top US official said he was busy. That was a mistake: he should have come. If Father turns his back on him that is no good. Don't be proud of your secular career. In places such as Harvard or Yale, ninety percent of the people don't know God. They're the ones who insist that God is dead. They tried to oppose Father, but ultimately they surrendered. It is time for us to march forward. Father wonders if we're qualified. As young soldiers, we should have absolute confidence to do as God asks. We should have conviction to march forward with God's sovereignty. Until now, Father worked as if God was in prison. Everyone opposed Father, but Father did not fall down."
Continued Moon, "Father is proclaiming to the world to go and receive God's sovereignty. Who is God? He is our Eternal Parents. Now, we connect to the sovereignty. True love power is there. Now, we are welcomed on all four corners of the world. There should be no boundaries. If we stick with the American way of doing things, there is no hope for America; no hope, no country, no Heaven."