The Words of the Fleisher Family
Sun Myung Moon lying in state – October 25, 2012
I write down these thoughts because they are still fresh in my head and because I know that in the future there is going to be a natural propensity for Unificationists to look at True Father's life through the lens of unbridled glorification. While there is nothing wrong with celebrating the greatness of Father's life, I'm worried that people might start imagining that Father floated two inches off the ground with a serene look on his face, and spouted pithy quotes in an ethereal voice. I worry that when people who are raised on this kind of a diet suddenly realize that he wasn't like this, that their faith might be crushed. So, this is written for those future people, that hopefully my recollections of Father's life can help them understand that Sun Myung Moon wasn't just the Messiah, but that he was the Human Messiah.
I should be clear that I am a simple lay member of the church, that I am relatively young, and that I only observed Father when he was already relatively old (the first time I met Father was in 1993 when I was 14 and Father was 73). I did not have special access or a close relationship with Father. These are just the observations of a very imperfect disciple who counts among his most precious memories the times when he could sit and observe the Messiah.
Father was the most amazing person I have ever met; he had the broadest mind, the deepest heart, and the strongest will of anyone I've ever seen. Even though I'm not an extremely 'spiritually open' person, whenever I had the chance to meet Father, there was a special feeling I sensed about him which I don't think any text or film footage can really convey. It is my conviction that Father was a man with a perfected heart, and I think that if everyone had that same type of heart that we would be living right now in the Kingdom of Heaven. But Father was not infallible. He made mistakes in business and in organizational choices, he was sometimes overly trusting and was thus easily lied to. He demanded a lot from himself and pushed himself hard, and did the same with those around him. Father often set extreme goals and set extremely short deadlines to get them done. If he heard bad news or that those goals weren't accomplished, he would often respond by pushing himself and those around him harder. As a result, he often heard only positive reports from his disciples.
I once heard a very prominent church official explain to me that when Father would tell him what to do, this leader would never ask Father his advice on how to get it done. This was because Father would always tell him not to find an easy way out, but to work hard and win a substantial victory for God. Because this leader felt it would be impossible to win the 'substantial' victory that Father wanted, he would instead devise a way to win a 'symbolic' victory, go out and do that, and then report the victory to Father after it was all done. In his own words he said that "Father accepts what we can accomplish, even if it's not all he wanted." So better to not ask how to do it, but do something and then report it as a victory afterwards. He gave as an example a campaign which Father pushed to get 144,000 Christian ministers to place Family Federation flags in their churches. The leader said he would do it, but realized that it was impossible with the time and manpower he had. So, he printed up 144,000 calendars which had the Family Federation flag printed on the back, and mailed them out. He then reported this 'great victory' to Father, if not with all the details.
Of course this sort of thing had perverse consequences. Father didn't want 144,000 ministers to get a free calendar, he wanted a substantial foundation of Christians who could receive him and work with him to build God's Kingdom. Instead, blood and sweat was expended on a meaningless goal, and what Father really wanted wasn't done. Often, upon hearing of this sort of 'great victory', Father would then want to expand on it and would set out another, even more ambitious goal that built on the assumed past success. This is how campaigns such as the 360,000 couples blessing, were followed by the 3.6 million couples blessing, onto the 36 million couples blessing, and then onto the 360 million couples blessing. In the end, people were being reported as being "blessed" if they were given a piece of candy on which holy wine had been sprinkled. Massive amounts of effort and money went into these hollow, "symbolic" victories, with nothing to show for them.
This is not an indictment of Father's sincerity or intentions, but it shows how a man of perfected heart could make mistakes. As Father got older into his late 70's and by nature became less physically able to be actively involved in events, this happened more and more often. It led, in the 1990's and 2000's to a general stagnation of the church in America, as more manpower was moved towards these illusory campaigns and away from activity such as witnessing.
A lot of the responsibility for this type behavior of course lays on the feet of church leaders who weren't honest to Father. But the responsibility for choosing those leaders is Father's alone. It is obvious to me that Father keenly felt that God was suffering because of this fallen world, and desperately wanted to save the world in his lifetime. Father wanted people who would work as tirelessly towards those same goals that he himself sacrificed so much to achieve. If there were two people, one who said that the goal was impossible and one that said it wasn't, he would fire the former and promote the latter. This intense desire to save the world in his lifetime led to the promotion of yes-men who would tell him what he wanted to hear, even if it wasn't reality. The heart was willing, intensely sincere, but it led to practical mistakes.
It also led to a lot more pain when the bubble was popped. A translator for Father told me that the most depressed he ever saw him was after the failure of the Family Party, a political party launched to promote social issues in Korea sometime in the late 2000's. The Korean electoral system was such that even if a political party didn't get enough votes in a single district to win an electoral seat, if they won a certain percentage of overall votes across the entire nation (I think 10%) then they would win electoral seats based on proportional representation. The hope was that the Family Party would win enough overall votes to get at least one seat. But on election day, the results weren't even close.
This was a failure that couldn't be hidden, and I think it must have genuinely hurt and saddened Father to see how little influence he could have on the world that he desperately wanted to save. According to my translator friend though, Father didn't turn around and rip into those who had failed, but instead consoled them and tried to encourage them and tell them not to give up their efforts to help Korea.
It's important to not overstate these sorts of organizational dysfunctions. Real things did get done during this time period, and a lot of real people had their lives forever improved through Father's efforts. People don't give their lives to a cause cheaply, especially not to a new religion which opens them to persecution and ostracism by their society. And yet a lot of people devoted their lives to following Father's way of life at that time. I include myself in this number. Did Father make mistakes? Absolutely, but the very fact that Father's movement continued is evidence that the successes were greater.
Another point which I think it's easy for Unificationists to forget is that Father's abilities were affected by age. I had the opportunity to go to East Garden several times towards the very end of Father's life, when he was in his late 80's and early 90's. Father still had his legendary stamina and could hold marathon Hoon Dok Hae sessions lasting over 10 hours, but it was undeniable that he was suffering both a physical and a mental deterioration. Physically, his legs were very weak and he would need to be helped to walk to and from his seat. Mentally, he couldn't give the lucid, penetrating speeches that I remembered from my youth. Mostly he commented (sometimes at great length stretching into hours) on the Hoon Dok Hae reading. However, a big part of what he would say was rambling and occasionally nonsensical. Not every time was like this, but sometimes it was. I never saw evidence that Father was suffering from dementia (he wasn't 'out of it', he responded to questions fine and on-point, etc.), but he was diminished in his capacity to both formulate and express his thoughts compared to when he was a younger man.
And yet, Father really gave all he had of himself in these meetings. During the summer, the glass doors at the sides of East Garden would be open and I would often stand outside only a few feet away from where Father was sitting. I could see in his eyes how tired he was, but he kept pushing himself, trying to love us and teach us, even when he wasn't really able to any more. Even when he couldn't walk without great pain, he would still stand or walk or dance when making an important point. I remember one day he announced that he wanted to give out all the clothes in his closet to the audience (I still have the sweater I got). The clothes were all tagged with numbers and the numbers were put into a large bowl. Father walked down the aisles with the bowl, letting everyone pick a number. As he got close to me, I had an urge to touch him just to so that I could tell my kids that I had. Thinking fast, I leaned my head forward hoping that as I was picking up my number I would brush my head against him. Instead I practically head-butted Father, stopping him in his tracks. I heard him grunt and he paused for a second. With his face very close to mine, I could see once again that very the act of walking was painful for him (and I definitely hadn't helped ease his pain). But he had on a determined look and he moved forward again, making sure that everyone got a ticket.
Naturally as he got older, Father's temper hardened a bit and I believe he could see that we in the audience weren't really resonating with what he said, which would upset him and he would scold us strongly. The UCI split in 2009-2010 in particular hurt him deeply, especially the insinuations from Hyun Jin Nim that he was senile or being controlled by others. During this period, Father very easily got upset during Hoon Dok Hae. But even when he was at his most cantankerous, his intense heartistic desire to liberate God always shone through, at least in my mind. I remember one incident where Father scolded the Americans in the audience for a really long time, criticizing American attitudes and habits to the point where I got really annoyed. If he was ragging on America so much, I thought, why didn't he just leave? Then he told the Koreans in the audience to stand up. Father told them to promise that they would work harder, sacrifice themselves more, to save this great country of America. I was blown away; under all that scolding wasn't a heart of superiority but one of a parent wanting his children to do better.
And at the end of the day, even though Father made mistakes, and grew old, and had uniqueness in his character that hurt as well as helped him, that heart was always there. Sun Myung Moon was the Human Messiah. He was a human being and had a unique personality, with uniquenesses and differences that made him who he was. But most of all he had a heart that, to my estimation, has to be what God's heart is like.
That heart, and the standard and actions that sprang forth from it, are the root from which the Kingdom of Heaven will come about. He really was the True Father, the man who accomplished his portion of responsibility and became the first facet of God's physical self on Earth. It does him and us a disservice, I feel, to try gloss over his humanity. After all, Father always insisted that we had to engraft our lineage, follow in his footsteps and become messiahs ourselves. I have to believe that the Kingdom of Heaven isn't created when only one person achieves perfection of heart -- that's only the Kingdom of the Individual. The Kingdom of Heaven comes about when everyone, with their own uniquenesses and differences, achieves that perfection and come together united. Let's not forget that Father was not God, flawless and totally comprehensive, but also not forget that Father was the True Son of God, a perfected root. In remembering that, I feel we do justice to his legacy and also give ourselves hope of following him into our God-given birthright.