A Weekend With the "Moonies"
By Brian Anderson
One of the characteristics of children that I have always valued
is their readiness to take another person's word at face value.
In this respect, there is a wonderful innocence that is beautiful
to behold in small children. It is only as we grow to adulthood
that we lose that quality. Sooner or later we all must learn
that it is not safe to take everyone's word at face value. There
are many people in this world who prey upon the gullible and unsuspecting.
For me, this important lesson snapped into sharp focus in January
of 1980, when I was twenty years old. At the time I was playing
the five-string banjo in a gospel bluegrass band called Gloryland.
We had been touring the Western United States, performing concerts
primarily in small churches. During January there was some lapse
time in our schedule, so each of us took the opportunity to spend
some time at home, agreeing to reconvene in Southern California
later in the month. When my extended leave was over, I packed
up my suitcase and banjo, and found my way to the Greyhound bus
station in downtown Sacramento. While I was waiting in line for
my ticket, someone spotted the bright red letters J-E-S-U-S on
my beaten and tattered banjo case. The young man asked excitedly
if I was a Christian. When I answered that I was, he nearly pleaded
with me to attend a special dinner that he and several other Christians
were going to be enjoying together at a nearby home. I promptly
replied that I would be delighted to come. I was always looking
for an opportunity to spend time with other Christians, and after
all, couldn't I always catch another bus later that evening?
When I arrived at the designated home, I found many other young
people milling about. After what seemed like a very long time,
we finally sat down to a very simple dinner. I wondered why this
dinner had been called "special" but decided that perhaps
the host family was rather poor, and I ought to just overlook
it. Afterwards, there was something resembling a "talent
show" where everyone was expected to participate in skits
or songs. I thought all of this a bit strange, and began wondering
what kind of a situation I had gotten myself into. However, at
this point in my life I was so excited about Jesus, and so desirous
of being with other followers of Jesus, that I allowed myself
to be swept along in spite of some uneasy feelings. Finally,
toward the end of the evening the eldest man, and apparently the
leader of the group, showed some slides of what he called a "Christian
Retreat Center" located near San Francisco. He detailed
the wonderful weekend retreats that were hosted there, and exclaimed
happily that we were all in luck, for that very weekend one such
retreat had been planned. Unbeknownst to me, several of the others
in the room, had been invited to this special dinner from off
the streets of Sacramento as well. Now all of us were being urged
to come along with them to experience a wonderful Christian retreat
in the beautiful woods outside of San Francisco. I told the man
in charge that I didn't think I could come, though I would very
much like to, for I had to be in Southern California to meet my
band members very soon. Well, this individual would not take
"no" for an answer. He dialed up the leader of my band,
and personally told him that I was in good hands, and that as
soon as the weekend was over he would send me speedily on my way.
And with that, I found myself very suddenly breezing down the
highway in an old van, with eight or nine others, singing old
gospel songs at the top of our lungs.
It was a dark and rainy night; by the time we finally pulled
to a stop, I was completely disoriented, and had no idea where
we were. We piled out of the van, and were shown to our sleeping
quarters. At this point I found that I had a newfound friend
who attached himself to me for the rest of the weekend. Unknown
to me, he had been assigned to stay with me wherever I went.
I found that I could not go anywhere, including the bathroom,
without him tagging along behind me like my shadow. That first
night I found myself in a large room with wall to wall people
sprawled out in sleeping bags all over the floor. My "shadow"
asked if he could give me a back rub before going to sleep.
About six or seven hours later I awoke to someone ringing a bell
and calling us awake with a song. We were led out to an open
area, where we were led in some morning exercises. We were also
informed of some new "secret code words" that we needed
to begin using like "close in" and "warm".
I later learned that these words were used as opposites of "far
out" and "cool" and were intended to produce a
kind of bond between us.
At breakfast, everyone was served very small portions. I quickly
found out that the new members of this group were made to feel
welcome and loved as others shared their food, and gave them back
rubs and hugs.
All day long there was singing and teaching sessions. A band
replete with a drummer, electric guitarists, and vocalists nearly
lifted the roof off the building as the hundreds of voices melted
together into one. The songs were upbeat and joyful. Afterwards
a man came out and spoke for a long time without ever really making
much sense. When he was through speaking, I met in a small group
of about twelve others to discuss the lecture. The leader asked
questions of us, and if any of the new members seemed to say something
he approved of, all the others would clap wildly and say nice
things. At the end of each of these small group sessions, we
were called together into something of a huddle, and then were
made to chant, "choo choo choo, choo choo choo, choo choo
choo POW!" I had no idea why were chanting these words,
but went along with the rest. In time I would learn that this
chant referred to a train, and meant that all of us were on the
And so the day went. Singing, lecturing, small group, meal...
singing, lecturing, small group, meal... all day long, with plenty
of hugs and warm compliments to bolster our self-esteem. Once
during the day I was able to talk briefly with another young Mexican
man. We found out to our joy that both of us were born-again
Christians. By this time, we had begun to wonder just exactly
what kind of an organization this was.
The turning point came the next morning. After morning exercises
and breakfast, the speaker began telling us finally about Jesus.
He told us that Jesus was an illegitimate child because his mother
had conceived him in an act of fornication. He asserted that
Christ came to do God's will, but ultimately failed. He told
us that the cross was Christ's greatest failure. Actually what
God intended Jesus to do was to marry and bring forth perfect
children into the world, who would beget others of a perfect race.
By this time I had become extremely uncomfortable with this whole
place. I was a very new Christian, and didn't know much, but
I knew enough to know that what this man was telling us was not
what the Bible taught about my Savior. In the small group discussion
afterwards, instead of answering the way the leader wanted me
to and receiving wild applause and compliments, I told the group
that the lecturer was dead wrong about Jesus. The cross was no
failure of Christ's, but His greatest work. At the cross He had
laid down His life to save sinners. This is what all of Old Testament
history had been leading up to, as the priests of old offered
animal sacrifices year after year. Christ as the lamb of God
had come to lay down His life a ransom for many. Well, needless
to say, this didn't go over very well with the group. They just
stared at me in silence. Finally, the leader told me that I needed
to be humble enough to submit quietly to more educated men than
myself so that I might be able to learn the truth.
At this point I couldn't take much more. I broke out in tears.
I was beginning to realize that the man who had promised to get
me back to Southern California on another bus, had no intentions
of that at all. I had spent all my money on my bus ticket back
in Sacramento, and had no money to get to Southern California
after all, even if I could somehow get to a Greyhound station.
I began to panic. As I silently cried out to God to deliver
me from this evil place, Jose, the Mexican Christian I had met
the day before, suddenly found me. He told me that he was going
to get out of this place no matter what it took. I expressed
my wholehearted agreement with his resolution, but also my financial
problem. I had spent all of my money on a bus ticket that was
no longer valid, and had no financial resources to get to Southern
California where I was supposed to rendezvous with my band. We
stopped right there, with dozens of others milling around us,
held hands and prayed that God would somehow get us out of this
crazy cult we had mistakenly found ourselves in. As we prayed,
many others around us began to shout at us ordering us to stop,
but we prayed on. When we were through praying, Jose pulled out
his wallet and gave me the money I needed for a bus ticket.
The leader of our small group tried to persuade me to stay with
them in this commune, but I was adamant. I demanded that someone
drive me into town where I could catch the next bus out. By the
grace of God, my prayers were answered. I quickly found myself
in a van heading out of that scary place, and within an hour was
purchasing a one-way ticket to Southern California where I would
meet up with my bluegrass band. For many years afterward, I would
have nightmares of being abused in a fanatical cult. Needless
to say, this experience has had a lasting impact on my life.
That was my first exposure to the "Moonies" or as they
prefer to be called, "The Unification Church." Since
that time I have done some reading and research on this cult,
and found them to be extremely deceptive and dangerous. Many
of those that found themselves at that "Christian Retreat
Center" no doubt ended up joining this cult. Young people
who come out of broken homes, starved for love, will readily find
emotional needs met by all the affection, warmth and acceptance
freely offered. After a person has committed himself to the organization,
however, his life becomes filled with brainwashing propaganda
and frenzied efforts to please the founder, Reverend Moon. All
of their possessions are given over to the Church, and they spend
the majority of their days seeking ways to make money for the
Cause. The Cause turns out, however, to be a pack of deceptive
lies, bearing no resemblance to the pure gospel of Jesus Christ
revealed in Holy Scripture. I'm so grateful that I was able to
detect the lies being spoken so that I was not sucked into this
movement. I owe my deliverance and protection to God Himself.
Looking back on the whole affair, I realize that this experience
taught me a great deal about taking people at face value. I'm
sorry to say that I'm more cynical now. But I'm not sorry to say
that I am not taken in nearly as easily by deceivers either.
My weekend with the "Moonies" went a long way towards
curing me of my propensity of believing anything anyone would
tell me. I now understand that the merchandise of discernment
always comes with an expensive price tag attached.