Rejecting The “M” Word: The Death of An Epithet

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Dec. 30, 1989 by Reverend Michael Jenkins

Dr James Baughman, president of the Unification Church in America, has issued a statement to the effect that the term “Moonie” as a public label for the Unification Church and it’s members is not acceptable. “Moonie Church,” and “Moonie” must be replaced with “Unification Church” and “Unificationist” respectively.

Why, after so many years, take a stand to eliminate `the term “Moonie?” It is a sign that the American Unification Church has come of age. We can no longer allow our founder, members, and allies to be dehumanised and discriminated against.

Church development and family orientation are strong enough that we can focus on ending the widespread public misunderstanding about Reverend Moon and the Unification movement. Distortions and misrepresentations must be brought into the light and corrected. Bigotry must lose it’s voice.

We see similarities between our detractors and the sorts of people who fought against Dr Martin Luther King, Jr., and the civil rights movement, and against Jewish people in Germany and later in America.

The terms “African-American” and “black” have emerged as self-promoted cultural identity labels and have been accepted by the general public and the media. Likewise, Unificationists are now identifying themselves, rather than allowing definition by others. Epithets have usually been dropped when those being abused reach a state of social strength and maturity. The Unification Church, I believe, is now at such a point.

A Legacy of Hate

I’ve always been proud of my membership of the Unification Church. I have never liked being called a “Moonie.” Members of the Unification Church suffer continually from the hate generated by the two-syllable word, “Moonie.”

Richard Buessing, then the director of the Unification Church in Ohio, recalls how in 1978 the Columbus church was regularly the object of harassment and acts of violence. Every week – and sometimes nightly – religious bigots would scream ‘Moonie” from their passing car and then throw rocks through the windows of the church centre.

In Accord, New York, at a church summer camp, the Ku Klux Klan would likewise drive by and harass camp counsellors and children, yelling “Moonie! Moonie!” with voices full of hate. When a suspicious fire burnt the dining hall to the ground, Unification Church members were stunned by the power of the word to choke-off a person’s ability to think or communicate.

Church members have been deride as “Moonies,” then mobbed and severely beaten. In New York City a woman seven-months-pregnant was beaten and sent to hospitable. What provoked the attack? A person’s hatred for the “Moonies.” Tragically, members have been cursed as “Moonies” and murdered in the course of their public church duties.

In the early 80s, the US government claimed that Rev. Moon owed $7,300 in back taxes. As he was being prosecuted, convicted, and imprisoned, church members began explaining to ministers throughout America how their government was abusing its powers to deny religious liberty and human rights. Most of the thousands of ministers who allied themselves with the Unification movement on this issue began to experience the pain of persecution as they were called “Moonie-lovers” and “Moonies.”

Nearly 90% of these ministers are African American, who could identify with Reverend Moon because of their historical suffering. By standing up for religious liberty and racial equality in Rev. Moon’s case, they once again felt the stinging lash of prejudice, only this time conveyed through the word, “Moonie.”

Rev.A.I. Dunlap of Mt Olive A.M.E. Church in Chicago said: “It’s very clear why Rev. Moon is smeared. Those who have the most power in this country are very uneasy about anyone who has the ability to unite the masses. When Dr King started bringing races together he was then threat to the status quo and from then on he was opposed.”

Dr Jackie Roberts of Chicago’s St. Jude Tabernacle said, “When I began to work with Rev. Moon I too began to be labelled, “Moonie.” From the very beginning it was a painful reminder of being called, “nigger.”

What Motivates?

Calling the Washington Times a “Moonie” paper or labelling an American Leadership Conference as a Moonie conference is similar to calling Howard University a “nigger” school or B’Nai’ B’Rith a “kike” organisation.

Why are individuals and groups labelled and smeared in the first place?

Around the country, editors are more-and more realising that the use of the term “Moonie” is the result of ignorance or misunderstanding based on false information, racial prejudice against non-whites, and religious bigotry.

Isn’t it time to end character assassination by association?

Isn’t it time to put the “Moonie” epithet to rest?

Rev. Michael Jenkins is a former President of FFWPU USA.
Excerpted from “Currents: A Journal of Unificationist Thought and Culture”, 1989.

Notes for news men and women about pejorative term “Moonie”