In early September of 2012, the news reported the death of Sun Myung Moon, founder of the Unification Church, whose followers are sometimes called “Moonies”. I thought this would be a good time to post the story of my encounter with them in 1976.
Sixteen Days with the Followers of Sun Myung Moon
It was January 2nd, 1976. I was 21 years old and somewhat depressed. I was alone in the big house in Berkeley in which I lived and also housesat when Dr. C___ and her husband Professor C____ were away. I had spent the last few days with my family and was angry with them because we seemed to have so little real love for each other, or at least what love there was did not get expressed. That past year, for reasons I didn’t understand at the time, my older brother had gotten a divorce. It seemed to bother me more than it did him. And during the week with my family, there had been some exchanges between my sister and father that were less than loving. She had been talking about some suffering she had experienced. My father, whose family had lost all its wealth because of World War II, and who had been a refugee in an American camp in Austria, said “You don’t know anything about suffering.” He may have been right, but it was the manner in which he said it that bothered me, seemingly discounting anything my sister had experienced.
I felt as if people in my family could never be honest with each other. It seemed as if we were not allowed to express our anger or to disagree, especially with my father. The situation seemed hopeless.
Even though I didn’t like the way things were in my family, I still hoped to receive love from them and also expected them to fulfill most of my needs for friendship and companionship. I didn’t have many close friends and even with those friends I was afraid to be myself. In short, although it wasn’t the happiest family situation, I was dependent on my family. In a way they were my false god — I depended on them to fulfill most of my needs even though they couldn’t.
That night I received a phone call from a young man named Laurie. I had met him twice before on the street, and being naive, had given him my phone number without really getting to know him or what his motives were. I forgot about him almost immediately, but he did not forget me. As the depression weighed on me, I told myself that I should reach out to people more, and moved towards the phone, thinking of calling someone. Just then the phone rang.
“Hello,” I said.
“Hi, this is Laurie.”
“Laurie, you know. I met you at the train station a couple of months ago, remember?”
“Oh, yeah.” “Oh, no,” I thought, “This is some creep trying to bother me.” Out loud I said, “How are you?”
“I’m fine. I wanted to know if you would like to come to a dinner at my house.”
“Gosh, I really don’t want to go,” I thought. To him I said, “Well, I can’t go, I have a cold,” which was true.
“Well, look at it this way, you can either sit home and have a cold and be miserable by yourself, or you can come and have your cold with a bunch of other people and have fun,” he said.
I had to admit he had a point. Besides, all I wanted was to get away. I didn’t want to face my family problems or tell my parents how angry I was at them for the way our family had turned out. I wanted to get away and not think about anything.
So, I agreed to go to dinner and he said, “Okay, I’ll pick you up in about half an hour.”
I hung up the phone thinking, “Gee, I don’t even know this guy. I better not tell my mother, she wouldn’t be too pleased about the whole thing.”
He got there in about 45 minutes. I was a little scared, but I didn’t let it bother me. I just wanted to get out of that big, lonely house.
“What kind of place do you live in?” I asked.
“Well,” he said, “it’s just a lot of people living in one house and we all love each other and have a lot of fun together. There’s nothing like it.”
“Oh.” I felt doubtful. The whole thing sounded unreal, and besides that, I was feeling guilty for going out with someone I hardly knew.
We arrived at the house, which was located near a church on D___ Street in B_______. The porch at the entryway of the house was covered with several dozen pairs of shoes. We removed ours and entered a large room off to one side. There a girl sitting at a table was taking donations. I gave her a dollar.
There were a lot of people in the room. I especially noticed a man who seemed to be a bit older than most of the other people. He had a big smile on his face and was leading the singing. I was very impressed by him because he looked so happy.
We stood in a circle and sang for a while. I remember how childish I thought it was. There were songs like “You Are My Sunshine,” the kind you would sing at summer camp or elementary school. Then the leader, Jeremiah, told us all to sit down and we would be served our dinner, which consisted of vegetables and rice, no meat.
During the dinner people would come around and say how nice my clothes were or compliment me in some other manner. One person named Tom, who I had met before with Laurie, struck me as a little peculiar. I told him I was alone while the boss at my live-in job was away from home, and that being alone depressed me at times. “Yes,” he said, “strange things happen to you when you’re alone too much,” he said with a far-away look in his eyes. “I’m sure glad I moved in with this group.”
After dinner there was a lecture about “The Principle,” which the people who lived there evidently believed in. The speaker said, “Most people don’t use their full potential, only one part of themselves such as heart, mind, or body.” This sounded true enough to me. One idea of “The Principle” was concerned with the use of will power — if you want to change yourself, just do it. “It’s not so easy,” I thought.
I looked around to see other people’s reactions to the lecture. Some looked skeptical; others were listening with rapt attention. I guessed that the people in the latter group were already living there.
I told myself I should keep an open mind, although I doubted the ideas. One woman got up and left. I wished that I had the courage to express my skepticism so openly.
Next came a slide show picturing the group’s farm in Booneville, California. It was beautiful — green, rolling hills, cows, crops growing, etc. I had always wanted to visit a farm. During the show some pleasant music played, making the scenes seem even more lovely.
All during the evening people were paying a lot of attention to me, asking if I wanted more water, more rice, more vegetables. They would touch me or smile at me or look at me in the eyes, lovingly. All this made me feel uncomfortable.
After the slide show, people kept asking me if I would like to go up to their farm. The presence of these many people of my own age group was so inviting (and so was the farm) that it was hard to resist. I kept thinking that I should stay at home and take care of the C____s’ house, but the memory of my boredom and loneliness persuaded me to give in. Immediately I received half a dozen hugs and cries of delight. “Oh, you’ll just love it!”
They took care of everything for me. I didn’t have a sleeping bag, so they let me borrow one. I had to get some things from home, so they drove me to my house. I was really excited. I felt that I was going on an adventure. I thought about calling my mother but felt that she would not let me go, so I didn’t call. I finally got all my things together and also paid $18 to Laurie, for food and lodging during the weekend.
I left a note for the Craigs and for my parents, on the kitchen counter where I thought the C____s would see it when they got home that weekend. In the note I said I would be back Monday.
We got in a van and started our trip to Booneville. There were four people in the van — Jill, Chuck, Laurie, and myself. Jill was to be like a sister to me in the group. She seemed friendly and kind. She told me that my visit to Booneville would be an experience I would not forget.
During the trip we sang songs and someone played guitar. We each took turns singing. We also stopped once or twice for gas or food. Since it was so dark I don’t recall what the scenery was like.
One song I sang was “The Lord Is My Shepherd.” After I sang that everyone was strangely quiet. I didn’t really think about it at the time.
We finally arrived at about 11:30 pm. We stopped at a gate which had a sign reading: “New Ideal City Ranch.”
I can’t remember if someone came to unlock the gate, but at any rate we got in and drove up a dirt road to a big parking area, a flat space covered with weeds and grass. It was dark and the myriad of stars were clearly visible in the clean, fresh air.
As we started walking, I almost tripped and fell, but Laurie caught me and held my hand. I thought he was very kind but I did not trust him. We crossed a suspension bridge which wobbled and bounced as we walked across it. They told me that the leader of the camp, Noah, had designed and built the bridge. He had been an engineer at one time.
Someone held my hand the whole way. Across the bridge was an area surrounded by very bright lights. I didn’t notice much more of the surroundings because Jill and I went right up to a big house trailer and went inside. It was very dark except for a dim light near the entrance. There were people sleeping all over the floor so we had to be careful where we stepped. We finally found and empty space and put our sleeping bags down.
A girl named Leslie welcomed me and gave me a back rub. We talked a little about our parents and she said her father used to beat her. I thought that was terrible. It seemed to me that parents had entirely too much power over their children. I didn’t go to sleep for a long time, finding it difficult to breathe with my cold, wondering why I was here, and what was in store for me.
The next day we got up about 8:30, awakened by three or four girls singing, whom I did not appreciate at that hour. We put our sleeping bags on shelves and went out to do exercises. I didn’t like the idea of doing exercises in the morning, although I could see that it’s important to keep your body in shape.
After the exercises, we ate breakfast outdoors, sitting on blankets on the damp ground. Both men and women were present, as at the exercises. Then we went to an old barn, which they called the “Chicken Palace,” where the men slept at night. It was crowded. I was given a seat in the front, next to Laurie. There was a rock band with big amplifiers and the music was so loud that one had to shout to be heard. There was much singing and clapping, like an old time religious revival meeting.
After everyone was excited by the music, there was a lecture by a Dr. M___ D____, a professor at LaneyCollege in Oakland. I guess the fact that he had a doctorate and that he was a professor was supposed to impress us. The lecture was essentially the same as the one we had heard Friday.
An incredible part of the day was spent in a game called “Dodge Ball”, but not played as I had learned it as a child. There were two sides, with about 30 people on each side, in an area about 30 by 15 feet marked off by a rope. The team which had the ball would try to hit as many people on the other team as possible. Each team chanted and clapped during the entire game until they were hoarse. They chanted things like “Smash with love,” or “Jump for joy.” Meanwhile they would throw the ball viciously with the apparent intention of hurting someone. I didn’t want to be involved in this so I walked away and pretty soon Leslie followed me and asked, “What’s wrong? It’s not good to wander off by yourself.” I went back but hid among the bystanders so I wouldn’t have to play.
We had more lectures and more food which was most often something vegetarian. By Sunday afternoon I was full of propaganda and didn’t know what to think. People were telling me, “This movement is going to save the world. It’s important that we dedicate our whole lives to it.” Laurie told me, “It would be good if you could stay another week. You’re just a ‘spiritual seedling’ and if you leave now you’ll forget everything you’ve learned.” I didn’t know what to do. Even though these people seemed peculiar to me, I did enjoy being around people my own age and also being away from home in a rural setting. They finally persuaded me to stay another week. I had to call the C____s the next day and tell them I wouldn’t be home. They thought I just needed a vacation and said okay. I called my other boss (I had a part-time secretarial job in an insurance office) Mr. H___, to tell him I couldn’t come to work for the next week. I also called my parents and told them I was all right. They thought I was just camping out with friends, and I told myself the same half truth.
For that next week the daily routine went something like this: up at 8, awakened by female singers (whom I inwardly grumbled at), clean up, exercise, more clean up, breakfast, lecture, work, singing, lecture, eat lunch, more lecture, work, meditation, singing, lecture, dinner, singing, and lecture. There were some variations in the routine, such as at the Monday breakfast when people were asked to volunteer their life stories. I was too self-conscious to do it but some other people volunteered. It was interesting but quite often distressing. One person said that he had been a drug addict until he had come there but now was not using drugs. Another said that he was a homosexual but that he hoped being there would help him overcome his problem.
Sometimes instead of the lecture we would have group sessions of about five or six people. We talked about what we thought of previous lectures, what our thoughts were about God, how we could be better people. At first it all seemed idealistic, but I sensed that something was wrong. It seemed so structured and planned; there were answers for everything but they were too easy.
The only time we were allowed to be alone was during meditation hour. I was puzzled at this exception, since previously I hadn’t been allowed to wander off alone. During this hour we were supposed to pray and not talk to anyone else. I didn’t know how to pray very well but I tried anyway. I felt that God didn’t answer me in any obvious way. If he was talking to me, I couldn’t hear him. At dinner we would talk about what experiences we had during meditation. I never had anything to say and I wondered why other people had experiences such as feeling at peace or close to God. I would try to think of something to say but nothing happened that I felt I could share.
The lectures were fascinating in one respect — how humans explain reality to themselves. I wish that I still had my notes. One of the first ideas that we learned was that God had intended Adam and Eve to be the parents of a perfect human race, which at the time sounded plausible to me. But the philosophy went way beyond that into to some bizarre ideas. We were also taught that the reason for man’s fall was that Lucifer was jealous of God’s love for Adam and Eve, and wanting to share in that love, had a sexual relationship with Eve (through their spiritual bodies). So Eve was made impure, or rather the child of that relationship, Cain, was evil because their relationship was evil. Eve realized that she had done wrong and so tried to have sex with Adam as was previously intended. But since Adam and Eve were both immature, it was the wrong time to do this so they made their situation worse.
Other ideas were that Jesus failed on earth because He never had children. This is based on the idea that Jesus was the second Adam. His mission (according to our lecturers) was to find a perfect mate so the perfect family could finally be established on earth. Since no one understood Jesus, they said, He failed to find a mate and so the Holy Spirit was supposed to be His symbolic mate. According to the Moonie belief, those who believe in Christ can be rescued spiritually but not physically. They must believe in the “Lord of the Second Advent” to be saved both physically and spiritually.
To someone who has not been to one of these week-long marathons or to one who is familiar with and believes in the Bible, it may seem incredible that anyone would believe such notions. But a person who is desperate, depressed, or confused may be willing to believe anything if it gives them hope, however false. Looking back at myself and the people I met at the Moonie camp, some of the following factors were involved: a belief that one’s own religious upbringing had not given us adequate answers in how to deal with life; observing that some of the people who do practice traditional religion don’t live what they preach; a rebellious spirit — turning to a bizarre religion as a means of revenge towards parents or just as a way to show independence; and lastly, the appeal of a religion that claims to have a clear, logical answer for everything and so helps one avoid facing painful problems or the uncertain areas of life.
My own background had not prepared me to deal with a seemingly disorderly world. Part of me always believed that an all powerful God was in charge, but I didn’t have any answers when the world contradicted this. I was angry that I hadn’t been given the freedom to discover my own answers, but had only memorized someone else’s answers, without being given the reasons why or why not they were good answers. Not having thought out or knowing the reasons for my beliefs made me gullible in the face of the Moonies. This is not to say that all the beliefs I grew up with were wrong, only that I had not learned why they were good.
That Friday we had the usual well-attended lecture. Afterwards, we went out to meditate. I was praying to God (or my idea of God), “Please tell me what to do with myself. What do you want me to do for you?” I’m not sure that my prayer was really sincere — was I motivated by guilt? At any rate, nothing seemed to happen. I don’t know what I expected to happen. Perhaps to hear a Voice saying, “You must do such and such.” I felt desperate, wishing I would have some experience of God or what I imagined to be God.
As I walked down the hill at the end of the meditation period, I felt very dejected and dead inside, as if there was no hope for me to be a happy, emotionally alive human being. This was to prove to be a very dangerous attitude, making me more vulnerable to what was to occur next.
As I came to a gate in the fence which kept the cows out of the living area, I saw Laurie standing there. It looked like he had been waiting for me.
Laurie was the person who first introduced me to this group. He stayed with me whenever possible. During lectures he would hold or squeeze my hand in apparent affection. In my blindness, he felt like a father or a very dear brother. The affection was one of the subtle ways that the Moonies used to draw people into their fold. It was flattering and comforting to have a male person paying so much attention to me, especially since at the time my father was not one to openly show his affection.
On the farm no sort physical affection beyond hand-holding was ever to be seen, even though practically everyone there was unmarried and under the age of thirty. This I found somewhat unusual but passed it off as part of the “religious atmosphere”. Perhaps people’s sexuality was channeled off in other ways such as to assign an “elder” Moonie (one who’d been in the group for several years) to a “young” one of the opposite sex and use this relationship to make the “young” Moonie dependent on the group.
So I had come to see Laurie as my “spiritual father”. I also had a “spiritual mother” named Sally. This arrangement raised doubts within me but I went along with it all, perhaps in unconscious anger towards my parents.
All these feelings of dependency, need for affection, need for guidance, and others were whirling into a dramatic vortex when I saw Laurie at the gate. I also had a fantasy that perhaps he loved me and I loved him too. The situation was confused to say the least.
As I came up to the gate he looked me in the eyes and said, very seriously, “I have something to tell you.”
“Your sister just called.”
“Oh, boy!” I said delightedly. “What did she have to say?”
“She just wants you to call her back. Look, I have to talk to you about this. You know how important it is what we’re doing here.”
“U-hmm,” I said, doubtfully, but still wanting to believe it was true.
“You know that it is up to us to save the world so that everybody can love each other.”
“So, I am going to ask you to do something. You have to be very brave. You have to tell her you’re not coming home, that you want to stay here.”
I just stared at him. I didn’t know what to say.
“I think you are somebody special. You have progressed faster than almost anybody else I have seen here. That’s why I think you should stay here and give this a chance. If you leave now you will not be strong against the world and you won’t be able to help our cause.”
I was very confused. So many thoughts were running through my head — “This is crazy. Is this for real? What am I doing here?” “On the other hand,” I thought, “What if he’s right? What if we are going to save the world? What if now is the time Jesus is going to come back to earth and we are the people that will be helping Him?” Then I thought, “Okay, either this is absolute insanity or it’s something real. The worst I can do is to give it a chance. If I find out it’s not real then I can always leave.” Besides, he had flattered me by telling me how special I was, and, I thought, “Wouldn’t it be great to be a hero.” It was all very vain. I don’t believe I was thinking of God very much. I was rather thinking of all the glory and praise I would receive for being brave.
So I said, “Okay, I’ll do it.”
He was so happy! He gave me a big hug and told me I was wonderful. As we walked down the hill, he said, “Now you know what it is to be a saint.” I didn’t believe that and thought there was something wrong with the interpretation.
We went into the Chicken Palace and they were starting a big meeting before dinner. There was a lot of singing and then the lecture started. To my best recollection, the subject of the lecture was indemnity, the idea that when you do something wrong you have to pay for it. Although I don’t remember the lecture very clearly, what I do remember is that I kept wondering why I was there and whether it was real.
That night at dinner when everyone announced what they had done or felt during the meditation hour, I raised my hand. After a while one of the leaders pointed to me to talk.
“Tonight while I was meditating I prayed that God would tell me what to do in some concrete way I could understand. Well, I think he is trying to tell me that I should stay here for awhile, just to see what it’s about.” Immediately there was clapping and everyone smiling at me; some were banging on the table with their forks and knives or other items. This lasted about a minute and finally subsided. It was a bit overwhelming. The feeling of confusion was still with me — I couldn’t be sure whether this was sheer insanity or something real.
Later that night one of the leaders gave me a big hug and said, “I love you,” but somehow I didn’t believe her very much. I had just gotten through telling my spiritual mother that sometimes I resented authority very much and that I felt that way towards the leader who had hugged me. Actually, I think I was jealous of her because she seemed very chummy with the male leader of the group, Noah.
Anyway, she had never hugged me before, only after I had announced that I would stay with the group. Part of me felt that her love was conditional, the very sort of love that the Moonies would often preach against.
Sometime that weekend I called my sister. I had to have one of the people come with me to hold my hand because part of me didn’t want to make the call; I felt a little guilty and scared.
My sister’s boyfriend answered the phone. “Hello.”
“Hi, this is Cathy. How are you, Dave?”
“Where the hell have you been?” He sounded very upset.
“Well, it’s just a farm up in Mendocino county.”
His voice calmed a little. “What have you been doing?”
“Well mostly we just work around the farm. You know, cooking and cleaning and such. It’s really nice up here.”
“Why wouldn’t they let you come to the phone?”
“What do you mean?’
“We have called you three times and they said you were busy or not around.”
“Well, this is a very big place and only one telephone so it’s hard to get hold of people.”
“Hey, we really miss you. When are you coming home?”
“Well, I think I’m going to stay here for another month.”
I don’t remember what else we said but then my sister got on the phone. We said hello and then she started to cry.
“Oh, no, this is terrible,” I thought. I looked for some sympathy at the Moonie who was holding my hand, or rather so I could feel justified in what I was doing. “Hey, don’t cry, Mary. I’m okay. I’m having fun here.” At the time I didn’t really know that the farm was connected with Rev. Sun Myung Moon. They had never mentioned his name, or maybe only a few times, but I hadn’t made the connection with anything I knew about him. However, my sister had read something about him in the papers and that his organization owned a farm in Booneville. Unbeknownst to me, she had called the Booneville police and tried to find out about the farm.
“Cathy, what are you doing there?”
“I’m okay. There’s nothing wrong. I’m all right.” I didn’t like to hear her cry.
“Cathy, I don’t always show it very much, but I love you.”
“I love you, too. Hey, I’m okay. Really, I am.” To myself I said, “At least I think I am.” “I can’t explain what I’m doing here. But right now it’s very important to me. Please try to understand. Tell mom and dad not to worry.”
She was still crying when I hung up.
“Families sure like to worry,” I said to Fred, the guy who had been holding my hand during the conversation. “Well, you know how they are.” He didn’t seem very concerned, while I felt very upset. “She was crying,” I said. “It’s okay,” he said. “Just remember how important what we are doing here is.”
We went into the meeting in the Chicken Palace. I was worried about my sister but I got caught up in the lecture and put it in the back of my mind. That whole weekend I was anxious, worried, and scared almost constantly because I had to call my parents, the C____s, my other boss (Mr. H___), and also someone I was supposed to have an appointment with that coming week. I kept wondering what I was going to say to them and how they would react.
Meanwhile my cold was growing worse and it wasn’t helped much by sitting on damp ground, having to take baths in water that didn’t stay warm, and getting up at 8 a.m. to do exercises in the cold. Of course, I was senseless to put up with all of this but I didn’t complain because I thought the conditions were due to lack of money, not to any evil intent.
To add to the problems, many people were getting diarrhea, apparently from something in the water. It was very uncomfortable for a lot of us. The diarrhea may also have been from what was a change in diet. There wasn’t a lot of meat in the diet, which typically consisted of something like granola, orange juice, and fruit for breakfast; egg or tuna sandwich, lemonade, and oranges for lunch; and vegetable casserole, green beans, corn bread, salad and milk for dinner. There was also a practice of sharing food that helped spread germs. It was a regular ritual at meals to give some of your food to the person next to you. This was discontinued when the diarrhea broke out.
I think it was the following night that I had to call my parents. Sally, my so-called spiritual mother, came with me to give me “strength” and hold my hand while I was on the phone. I was really scared and I don’t know what possessed me to go through with it. I guess I wanted to feel that I could be separate from my parents and let them know somehow that I didn’t want them running my life. Anyway, Sally said I should not tell them anything specific about what I was doing or the purpose of it, because they would not understand. I had to agree with that. Even I didn’t understand what was going on, but I knew it was something I hadn’t tried before. I dialed the number and then my parents got on the phone, one on each extension. They asked how I was and sounded very worried. I told them not to worry. Then my mother said, “I have something important to talk about.”
“What’s that?” I asked.
“Well, you know your father and I are getting on in years and we have been talking for a long time about putting together a will. The thing is that we hired a lawyer to draw it up and she wants everyone in the family to come and sign it. We have an appointment in a few days and you have to be there.” (I don’t remember then if I believed this story — now it seems obvious it was just a way to get me to come home.)
“Oh, no,” I thought, “this is it. Now I have to tell them I’m not coming home.” I looked at Sally. “They want me to come home and sign a will. What should I say?” I whispered.
From the other end of the line I heard, “What’s that — what’s going on?”
“Just a minute,” I said, and turned back to Sally. “What should I say?”
“It’s up to you. You know what you want to do.”
What that meant to me was, “You know that what we are doing here is for God, so if you go home now it will mean you are betraying God — so if that’s what you want to do it’s up to you.” In other words from my point of view, I really didn’t have a choice.
“I can’t come home. I don’t know what to say to you except that what I’m doing here is very important to me. Please trust me.”
“But what about the will?”
“Don’t worry, it will work out. I won’t be away that long. We can do it when I get home.”
They were very upset. My older brother Anton got on the phone and said “You don’t know what you’re talking about. Who are you whispering to behind the phone? Is someone telling you what to say?”
Finally I hung up after telling everybody not to worry and to please trust me. I felt very queer inside. I guess it was a feeling of guilt, but I didn’t want to admit it because I was supposed to be doing what was right. Sally tried to comfort me and said I was very brave (stubborn is more like it).
That night I could not sleep at all. My cold was turning into bronchitis and the only medicine they had was cough medicine which was not effective at all. I had to sit up most of the night because when I lay down I would start to cough. I felt tortured inside, mainly because of the way I had treated my parents. I told myself that I had to stay at Booneville for my ideals, but another part of me was secretly pleased that I was upsetting my parents as a way of revenge for their imagined (or real) wrongdoings. Deep down I knew that what I had done was wrong but I could not fully admit this to myself.
Finally at about 3 a.m., I fell asleep for a little while. Of course, we were up again at 8 a.m. or so.
The next important call I had to make was to the C____s. When I talked to Dr. C____ (who was a medical doctor), I could tell she was upset but she tried not to show it. I told her I would write her a letter and try to explain why I wasn’t coming home.
Monday I had to call my boss at the insurance company, Mr. H____. He said that he would probably find somebody else to take my place since I would be away so long. I didn’t really care because I had never liked that job. I had no thought for how I might be disrupting his business or how my behavior reflected on the secretarial school that had helped me find a job with Mr. H____.
It was after making one of these calls that I had a great feeling of exhilaration, which I shared with Laurie. I later thought to myself that it was because I had told Dr. C____ very firmly but calmly that I would not be coming home for a while. Today we would call that “being assertive.” I had never before in my life been so direct about something that I thought another person would disapprove of. But why did I need a group like the Moonies to help me be assertive? Why couldn’t I do it on my own? And, was I doing it responsibly?
That morning I got assigned to a work crew for the apple orchard. While we were working, the crew was supposed to make up a song to present to the whole assembly after lunch. The song was supposed to express how happy we were on the farm and what ideal lives we would all lead eventually. I kept disagreeing with the head of the group about what we should sing. Later on I felt guilty because we were all supposed to cooperate in this thing. I told the leader and she said we all disagree at times and that is okay. I still felt she was a little irked at me anyway.
The farm work was done in a primitive manner. I wondered, “Why, if they really want to produce a lot of food, don’t they have machines to do the work we’re doing?” We had a group of six people all raking up rotten apples from under the trees. I could see a machine doing a much better job much faster. Trying to work on a song at the same time didn’t help matters either. When we had to leave for lunch, I felt like we hadn’t gotten very much work done.
Actually, the entire operation was very primitive. After one or two people had taken a shower, the hot water ran out — so we either didn’t wash or washed in cold water. There was some trouble with the one washing machine for a couple of days, so for a while nobody had any clean clothes. The roads were all muddy in the rainy weather. The “Chicken Palace”, where the men had to sleep, was heated only by wood stoves (this was January, and the temperature can get as low as 16° F or less at night). The shower that the men had to use was outdoors.
Besides all this, we were told that the drinking water had impurities in it and was partially responsible for almost everyone getting diarrhea, which I mentioned before.
After I had made phone calls to all the various people I was responsible to, I felt somewhat less anxious but still very doubtful as to whether my decision was the right one. Everyone kept telling me how brave I was and of course I loved the praise, but still felt there was something unreal about all that was happening.
I recall being told during the week that my illness was due to demons trying to get me to leave because it was a good place. During lectures when I would have a coughing spell, Sally or Laurie would tell me to chant silently to make it stop. The chanting would work for about 30 seconds and then I would start coughing again.
The lectures were somewhat of a repetition of the previous week, about Adam & Eve, Christ, and about Moses and other prophets. Also the lectures explained in detail why people in our group were the only ones who would be saved, and therefore why we must get as many members as possible. The lecturer said that those people who had followed Moses in the past were candidates for heaven, but that they couldn’t enter heaven. They had to wait for Christ, who was to save everybody both spiritually and physically. Those who did “accept Christ” were allowed to be closer to the kingdom of heaven but still could not enter it because of the supposed failure of Christ in the physical sphere (the failure to bear children). Therefore to enter completely into the kingdom of heaven, a person must “accept” the person referred to in the Bible as the Second Coming. Even people who now believe in Christ will not be saved if they do not believe in the “Lord of the Second Advent” (as the Moonies call him), for they are to be compared to the Jews who did not accept Jesus.
Thus the listeners were made to feel that this “Lord of the Second Advent” is very important and it will be a great day indeed when he arrives, for all you have to do is accept and obey him and you will be saved.
As for my own experience, I was never told directly that Rev. Moon was the Second Coming or that he had any connection with these people at all. I had heard his name mentioned a few times, but had never connected it fully with a story I had read about him in Newsweek magazine, which said that Moon taught that Christ was a failure because he did not have children.
Sometime that week, my parents called and asked if they could come visit me. I said I would have to ask the person in charge but I was sure it was okay. They asked if they could come that weekend but that was not okay with Sally. She explained that they wouldn’t understand all the lectures and dodge ball games that we did on weekends. So, on the advice of Sally (who said I should not miss the noon lecture), I told my parents that they should come on Friday at 2 p.m.
When Friday came I was very nervous and scared. Sally and Laurie kept telling me that everything would be all right. I was not to tell my parents any specifics about my activities at the farm but only that we were a community of people working together for a better world.
I attended the noon lecture as expected. At the close of the lecture we all filed out and went into the women’s trailer to eat lunch. We were still eating lunch when it came time for my parents to arrive.
Sally said I should speak to Noah, the head of the camp, before I went to see my parents. So I obediently waited in the kitchen trailer until I was called in to what I assume was Noah’s room. I noticed how different it was from the sleeping quarters of everyone else. There were three single beds, all made up, at least two comfortable chairs, and lots of space.
I was a little in awe of Noah, and tried to be agreeable with him. He commented that my parents probably had a lot of misconceptions about our group, from what they had read in the newspapers. He asked me if I had ever heard of Rev. Sun Myung Moon, and I answered that I knew vaguely of him. He asked me if I thought I had been brainwashed, if I felt forced to believe anything I had been told, and if I felt that I was being forced to stay there.
I answered “No” to all of these questions. He reminded me that I hadn’t really made a commitment to the group as yet and that if my parents were to ask what I believed I would say that I was just trying out their ideas, which was true. He told me that he would come out after a while to speak to my parents personally. I was flattered.
It was time to go. Sally met me outside the trailer. Before we walked down the road we said a prayer to help make me strong. I was to resist any demands my parents might make for me to come home because it was very important to make a commitment to God and I shouldn’t let my parents influence me.
After the prayer, we crossed the bridge and started to walk down the road to another trailer which was situated near the entrance gate to the farm. After we climbed over a rise in the road, I saw my parents walking towards us. I had an impulse to run to them but thought that Sally would frown on it. However, she said, “Why don’t you run up to them?” so I did. I met my mother first since she had been walking faster than my dad, who had rheumatoid arthritis. I gave her a big hug but tried to be on guard for her influencing me in any way. Then I saw my father. He looked pathetic, almost limping and looking like he was in great pain. I ran to him and hugged him. He was crying. I had never seen him cry before. I felt very sorry for him. I think that deep inside I felt that I had hurt him very much but I tried to deny my feelings by telling myself that he just wanted to make me feel sorry for him.
We all walked down the road to the trailer and decided to sit down at a picnic table in front of it. My father looked distressed and my mother was trying to be kind and friendly, asking Sally about herself and also talking to the other two girls that had appeared from the trailer. Also, an older woman (perhaps about 50) had joined us at the table.
We talked for a while and my father gave me a poem to read which he had written especially for me. It was a very long poem but part of it went like this:
Where did I “fail”
how did I miss to teach you
to defend the most precious of
all things to me, to you?
Did I protect you too much
so you did not feel you needed
your own armors and fangs
and teeth to grow?…
Oh, I may yet learn to talk,
to smile, to embrace,
but will YOU be there to see
the old man who finally
learned to speak the important words:
the words of love?
“What does your group do exactly?” my mother asked. Sally explained that we were just a group of people trying to work together and learn how to love each other, that most of our work together was maintaining the farm and growing food. She did not go into detail about any of the philosophy.
My mother asked if this was a Christian group. Sally answered that we do believe in Christ. Again, no details were given.
Mom said, “I’ve brought some bananas; they’re in the car.” I said, “I’ll go get them.” I ran to the car and was looking for the bananas as my mother approached. She said, “What are they teaching you here?” I answered, “It’s okay, mom, I’m having a lot of fun. There’s nothing wrong with it.”
She said to me, “Jesus is the only God. They will try to tell you He is not.”
I said, “What are you talking about? That’s silly.” (At that time I had not been in the Moonies long enough to be told that Rev. Moon is the Second Coming of Christ and that he is superior to Jesus Christ. Therefore I was puzzled by my mother’s remark. Of course, she knew more about it than I did at the time, but I was unaware of that fact.)
We went back to the table, bringing the bananas. We had been given some peanut butter sandwiches, oranges and tea, and so proceeded to eat. Noah came out after some time and sat down with us. My parents asked him some questions: “What did you do before coming here?” for example. Mom said, “Why haven’t you gotten Cathy some medicine for her cold?” “I’ll have it taken care of. I’ll personally see to it that she’s okay.” He never did anything about it except to tell someone else to take care of it. That was a clue to me that at least some of the people here were not as concerned about the welfare of others as they claimed to be. In fact, Noah always seemed like a cold, aloof person to me. He appeared to be afraid of any real contact with anyone or of being asked too many questions.
After Noah had left, mom said “I have a letter to read from Dr. C____, and she wants to talk to you about your decision to stay here. Sally looked concerned and said to my mother and me, “Let’s go into the trailer and talk about this in private”. Sally had reminded me earlier, “Pretend that you have nothing more than a slight cold and if you start to cough, suppress it.” When the three of us went into the trailer, mom said, “You look kind of pale and not well.” I said, “It’s only a slight cold,” but while continuing to talk I started to cough uncontrollably. Whenever, I would start to cough, Sally would look at me disapprovingly and my mother would ask for some medicine. Finally I was given some cough syrup that didn’t really help.
During the conversation, I tried to answer my mother in such a way as not to say anything bad about my current experiences. “I need to try this out and refuse to go home at this time.” This was difficult for me because deep down, I really wanted to please my parents. I kept looking to Sally for support. After some more discussion, my mother took out the letter from Dr. C____ and began to read it.
The letter went something like this:
We feel that your happiness is very important and that you must make your own decisions. However, since you have been employed by us, we feel that it is only fair that you return for at least one day to discuss your future. You need to decide whether you want to quit your job with us. Even if you do decide to leave our employ, you need to straighten out the office files and checkbook for the next person.
I had to agree that the points made in the letter were very reasonable, and I was struck by the fact that the C____s were willing to let me make my own choice. “Mom and dad,” I said, “I will consider this and let you know my decision before you leave this evening.”
My dad came into the trailer because it was getting cold outside. About six or eight of us were crowded around a little table in the trailer. Somebody made some hot chocolate. We talked about different things, perhaps politics or the weather. We also sang a few songs, the very idealistic ones that were common there, such as
Love, love, love, love
Love is the purpose of our lives
Love your neighbor as your brother
Love, love, love
sung to the tune of “Hey, Ho, Nobody Home”. If I recall correctly, my dad sang a song from his land of birth, Hungary, and my mother (also from Hungary) joined in. It was an enjoyable time.
The sun was beginning to set and mom said, “I’ve got to call your brother Joe to let him know when we’re getting home.” So mom and I and Sally walked up the road to the pay phone and placed the call. We met a few of my Moonie companions there and they all said hello.
After the phone call, my mother commented on how beautiful the surroundings were. The rolling hills and the cows walking about made her feel peaceful. She said “I wouldn’t mind staying in a place like this for a while.”
We walked back to the trailer near the gate, first getting a couple of boxes out of the car with things for me in them. Included in the boxes was a quilt made for me by my sister, the book “The Prophet”, some beef jerky, walnuts, and two primrose plants. When Sally saw the primroses, she asked if I would give one to a leader of the camp and the other to the women’s trailer. I agreed.
Looking back on these gifts, I believe they must have been chosen with great care. These gifts said a lot more than a lot of words could have said, namely that my family cared about me very much.
It was about time for my parents to leave. Mom asked, “Will you come home with us now to see Dr. C____, or will you wait until Monday?” I didn’t know what to answer so I consulted Sally. She said, “It’s better to wait until Monday so as not to miss the weekend activities.” So I said to mom, “I’ll come home Monday, for just one day.”
As we were about to walk to the car, Sally noticed the full moon rising over one of the hills on the farm. It was a beautiful sight, I had to admit. Sally said, “Why don’t we sing a song to it?” This was innocent enough, I thought, and wanted to show my parents how happy I was (or so I thought) by singing. I didn’t realize until later the significance of singing to the moon, perhaps being a way of worshiping Reverend Moon.
As we sang the song, a group of people were working in a nearby field, perhaps pulling weeds. My mother commented, “It’s cold and dark, and why are they working out there so late?” I said, “It’s okay, it’s not that cold, and besides they have lanterns to see with and they’re enjoying themselves.”
Finally it was time for my parents to leave, so they said “Goodbye, nice to meet you,” to everyone. They were disappointed that I wasn’t coming home with them, much more disappointed than they let on. As they drove off we waved goodbye.
We walked up the road and everyone said what nice people my parents were. I guess I was kind of glad that things seemed to have gone so well. I think we sang a song as we walked up the road.
Another weekend began. Since I had been there about two weeks I was allowed to attend some advance lectures instead of the rock band and singing reserved for newer people.
During one of the lectures, we were visited by the wife of Dr. D____, a Korean woman named Onni. The more experienced Moonies seemed to have great respect for her. Before she began her lecture she sang the song “Exodus”. Her voice was very deep and beautiful.
One thing I vaguely recall about her speech was her use, which delighted everyone, of the word “doo-da”. She said, “Some people might think that they can’t live up to the ideals put forward here, but that is doo-da. If you keep saying you can’t, you never will. It’s doo-da to think that you can’t.” I didn’t trust her very much. Even though I’d decided to try out the Moonies, not knowing they were Moonies, I had retained some cynicism. I thought Onni was an interesting person, but was not willing to believe everything she told us.
On Sunday night it was time to leave for the Bay Area. After finishing a meeting, those who were leaving were to gather our most essential belongings and group around the trucks and vans going to various Moonie houses in the Bay Area.
I got my sleeping bag, some clothes, and left almost everything else of mine in the women’s trailer. Before we were about to leave, Sally called me aside for a minute,
“Now, remember, your family loves you very much. They will try to get you to stay home. Also, this Dr. C____, do you like her a lot?”
“Yes, she’s been very good to me. I feel so guilty about doing this to her.”
“I know it’s hard, but, remember you made a promise to God. She probably wouldn’t understand, even if she’s a very good person.”
To myself I said, “What promise? I didn’t make any promise.”
I walked over to the group of vans waiting for passengers. We had to wait some time before the drivers showed up, so we sang some songs. One of the songs was in the style of 1950’s rock, with the shoo-bop-shoo-bop in the background. The words were simply
“Dana Street, Street, Street
Dana Street, Street, Street
Dana Street, Street, Street …”
and so on. One of the Moonie houses was located on Dana Street in Oakland. This was where we were headed and where I’d eaten dinner that first night on January 2nd.
Finally, Laurie showed up with Chuck. Jill, Connie and a third girl and myself got into the van with the guys. The men sat up in the front seats and the women sat on the floor in the back. One of the first things we did as we were driving along was to see which one of us could give the best lecture on Moonie philosophy. When each one had finished his turn, everyone applauded and congratulated him on how well he had done.
As usual, we sang a lot of songs, and took turns doing our favorites.
About halfway to Oakland, we stopped at a grocery store to buy food. Most of it was junk food like potato chips, dip, and ice cream. It reminded me of my childhood when a group of my friends and I would go to the candy store and buy all the stuff that we knew we shouldn’t eat a lot of. Laurie insisted that we sing a song to the grocery clerk and so we did. The clerk had a pained expression on his face. It was a crazy thing to do, but also fun.
We shared the food and when everyone had had their fill, some of us started to fall asleep, but I stayed awake. Laurie started to talk to me about how special I was and what good progress I was making. I told him I had a lot of doubts. As I recall, he told me not to worry, just to be strong.
About 11:30 p.m., we drove into Oakland, and after a short stop drove to the house. Some people were still awake; they had apparently just finished a meeting. I waited in the kitchen until they said it was okay to come upstairs. Jill and I got out our sleeping bags. She found a nightgown for me. We decided we’d get up about 6:30 a.m. She said, “When you live here, you get up that early every day.”
Before we went to bed I looked at some of the books that were in the room. One of these was “The Divine Principle,” by Rev. Sun Myung Moon. This book contains some of the philosophy of Moon and of his followers. I don’t know if this book is available to the public, but for those interested, the following book may provide some information on the Moon philosophy: “The Moon Doctrine,” by J. Isamu Yamamota, Intervarsity Press, Downers Grove, Illinois. Other books that may be helpful are “Combatting Cult Mind Control” and “Releasing the Bonds: Empowering People to Think for Themselves”, both by Steve Hassan. One caution regarding the first book by Mr. Hassan is that the Cult Awareness Network, given as a resource, went bankrupt after the book was published and was taken over by the Scientology cult. This is noted on Mr. Hassan’s website www.freedomofmind.com.
At 6:30 a.m. the alarm went off. After washing up, we went down to breakfast. That morning the leader of the group was a woman whom I’d seen before at the farm named Bonnie, who had once been a nurse. She seemed very much in command of things and was giving out each person’s assignments for the day. For example, some of the people had to go out and sell flowers or incense or simply ask for donations. She gave a pep talk about how each person could make at least $100 a day because so-and-so went out every day and made at least $200-300 a day.
After breakfast we split into smaller groups. In my group was a young man I hadn’t seen before who looked like he was about to collapse with fatigue. Laurie asked him when he had slept last. Even though it was a long time, I gathered that he was still expected to do some work that day, and that going without sleep is a good spiritual discipline.
It was time to go to see Dr. Craig. Bonnie and I went out, after a brief talk with Laurie, who urged me to “be strong,” and also a prayer. We ran all the way to the bus stop. It was early in the morning, about 7:30 a.m. In about ten minutes the bus came and we got on. I seem to recall singing songs while we were on the bus.
In downtown Berkeley we had to get off the bus to transfer. There we met Maybelle, Dr. Craig’s housekeeper. She got on the same bus we got on. I wondered what she thought of me, since I’d been away for two weeks, and what the Craigs had told her to explain my absence. I felt uncomfortable.
When we got to the Craigs’ home we all went in the back door and I said hello to the Craigs. They were just finishing breakfast. Professor Craig said, “Hello, stranger,” in his kind way. I introduced Bonnie to Dr. Craig, who was kind enough but promptly told the girl that she would have to leave while we did our business. We arranged that my mother would come and pick her up and go back to my parent’s house with her until noon, and then bring Bonnie back to the Craigs’ house.
I went into the Dr. Craig’s home office and started working on the office checkbook. I had a terrible case of bronchitis but was trying to conceal it from Dr. Craig. I insisted that I felt fine but my ruse didn’t work. She said, “After you finish working, I’ll give you an examination, and we must also have a talk about your future with us or with the Moonies, wherever you decide to go.” I agreed to talk.
So when the work was done, she listened with a stethoscope to my breathing and decided I needed some medicine. When we sat down to talk she asked, “Why did you go away?” I thought for a moment and answered something like, “Well, I was very lonely and bored here and had to get away.” She asked, “Did you know that the place where you stayed is surrounded by barbed wire fences? That doesn’t sound like a very free place to me.”
“No,” I answered, “are you sure? There were fences, but I don’t remember any barbed wire.” I don’t remember other details of the conversation, but it had planted a seed of doubt in my mind.
Soon it was time for lunch. The Craigs, Maybelle, and I sat down for the usual soup, crackers and cheese. I felt tense, but also felt that considering everything, they were being quite kind to me. Noticing that fact, I began to think how much the Craigs meant to me, and also what the Moonies meant to me. The conflict between the two forces seemed too much and I left the table because I was beginning to cry. At that moment my mother and Bonnie returned.
As I sat in the bathroom in confusion, my world felt like an incomprehensible jumble. My needs for companionship with people my own age and for affection seemed to be in direct conflict with the love I felt for my parents and the Craigs and with the need to be responsible and moral. I felt like a helpless child.
My mother knocked on the bathroom door and asked to come in. “Okay,” I mumbled. She came in and began to talk, asking, “Cathy, do you really want to go back?” I didn’t know what I wanted, but I was tired and confused and finally said, “I think I want to stay here for a while.” As I said this, Bonnie came to the door, and exclaimed, “No, you don’t mean that, do you?” I mumbled something and Bonnie said, “I’m sorry that I haven’t loved you
enough, otherwise I think you’d want to come back with me.”
I think that at that point my mother took Bonnie out with her and said they should leave me alone, and then drove Bonnie back to the Moonie house. I went to my room to sort things out in my mind.
For a while I just lay there feeling sick, physically and mentally. Then I tried to logically figure out what I should do. On the one hand, my parents were very upset, the Craigs needed me, and I felt guilty for leaving them. On the other hand, I desperately wanted the companionship of people my own age. For some reason I had not developed a healthy companionship with my own age group, as would be normal. There were painful issues I hadn’t dealt with or understood, and the Moonies provided an escape, a place where I wouldn’t have to think about those issues.
In the end, I unconsciously decided to go back – what if they were right? What if I could really be happy there? Maybe I could escape from my family – not face the problems of feeling that I and they were inadequate in some way. I could be with people my own age without the responsibility of facing my real adult problems.
After some time, about one or two hours, my mother returned. We talked for a while and she asked, “How are you feeling?” In just a few minutes, there was a knock at the back door, which was near my little bedroom off the kitchen. Bonnie had returned, along with Laurie. Mom said, “Don’t open the door.”
“It’s okay, mom,” I said. “It’s just Laurie and Bonnie,” and I opened the door. Laurie said, “I’ve got to talk to you, it’s very important.” “Don’t talk to him,” my mom said. “It’s okay, don’t worry, mom.” So I went outside with Laurie to the little gazebo which the Craigs had in their back yard.
As he talked to me his eyes had a glazed look. He urged me to return with him and Bonnie. I said I was confused and should be allowed to make up my own mind. Meanwhile my mom was at the back porch telling me not to listen to him.
After a few minutes of being exhorted by both Laurie and my mother, I said loudly to everyone, “I can’t make up my mind so I will pray about it, by myself.” Everyone agreed to this and I walked over to the patio out of range of the insistent voices. I asked God to help me know what I should do. Soon, although I didn’t know it, my prayer would be answered. After a few minutes I walked back to the group and announced that I would be going back with Laurie and Bonnie.
My mom said, “Okay, it’s up to you.” She told me later that she had put the whole matter in God’s hands, letting him handle the situation, and not trying on her own efforts to save the situation. Laurie and Bonnie were delighted. I gathered a few things including clean clothes. My mother handed me some money. I said goodbye to the Craigs. They didn’t seem overly concerned about me.
The car we were to leave in was parked uphill on a steep street near the Craigs’ house on Marin Avenue in Berkeley. Laurie could not start the car, so we had to get out and push. I’m not sure how we did that on an uphill incline, but we did get it started. Laurie yelled emphatically, “Get in!” and then he quickly jumped in and slammed his door. The door window shattered into hundreds of little pieces which scattered all over the seats and the rest of the car.
Then Laurie said, “You see, that is the devils trying to keep us from leaving.” It was then that I knew that he was crazy and from that moment on I earnestly struggled with the thought of leaving the Moonies. I was not able or willing to state right then and there that I wanted to leave. Knowing my vulnerability to persuasion, especially from Laurie, I believed they would convince me to change my mind again.
So in the car I desperately struggled with my conscience. We made a stop at the Oakland house on Dana Street. As I recall, we all got out and went inside. The three of us went upstairs. Laurie said, “We should pray – let’s go into Onni’s room.” I noticed that Onni’s room was very nicely furnished with a comfortable looking bed and a dressing table. Laurie prayed for me to be strong. When we were done he said, “Bonnie has to stay here, so two other people are going to take you to San Francisco and then back to the farm.” These were two Moonies I didn’t know well.
We drove on to San Francisco and stopped at the Moonie house there. As I got out of the car, two people standing in front of the house asked me if I were new to the group. “Yes,” I said. They showed me some magazine articles they had about Moon and some of his quotations. Then what they said next struck me as very true. “Be careful. They will try to twist your mind around. You can say one thing and they will make you believe the opposite.” As we stood there talking, a Moonie looked on apprehensively.
I went up the stairs into the house. I still felt quite sick and sat down. I asked if I could call my father. “Yes, there’s a phone near the kitchen.” As I walked in, the people said hello and were very friendly.
I dialed my dad’s work phone. I said, “I’m going back to the Moonie camp.” I could tell he was crying a little as he said, “If you ever need a ride home, anytime, just call me.” I wanted to say, “Please come now, please come now,” but somehow I wanted to get out of the situation on my own.
I went back to the hallway and sat down on the stairs in a miserable state. I must have looked miserable, too, for the girl who had been in the car on the drive to San Francisco asked if I would like some tea to make me feel better. I told her weakly that I wanted to go home. She said, “Oh, you mustn’t feel negative. You’re just sick and when you feel better you will want to stay here.” “I want to go home,” I said, more forcefully this time.
“Why don’t you just go upstairs and rest for a while,” said the girl. “I don’t want to, I want to go home. You people are crazy,” I answered.
“Yes, we are,” she said, smiling at me.
I got up and said, “I’m going home.”
Then Bob, the guy who had driven the car from Oakland, said, “Why don’t you come in here and we’ll talk about this,” showing me a room off to one side of the hallway. I was suspicious and thought, “If I’m alone with him, he’ll easily persuade me to stay.” “No thanks, I want my things and I’m leaving.”
“Now you know what you want to do. You know how important our work here is. The devils are trying to make you leave.” He continued his attempts to persuade me. It seemed that underneath his words was a feeling of fear.
We were out on the porch now. I said, “Listen, you guys say we have a free will. Well, I’m exercising my free will and if I find I’m wrong, maybe I’ll be back. If you really believe I have a free will, you have to let me go.” He finally gave up and got my things from the car.
The people that had been standing in front of the house spoke to me. I found out they were from a group called “Eclipse”, an obvious reference to their opposition to Moon. “How did you decide to leave?” they asked me. “Well, what you said really struck me, about how they can turn your mind around. It’s really true. And I’ve hurt too many people.” I thought about my dad crying, my mom, and the Craigs. As I waved goodbye, they shouted, “Stay free!”
The story didn’t end on that San Francisco street. Not only was it a miracle that I had asserted myself and stood up to the Moonies, it was also somewhat of a miracle for me just getting home from there. This was because I didn’t know the city at all, it was starting to get dark, and I was not used to independently traveling in unfamiliar to places. But the same Moonie girl who had tried to keep me from leaving had told me what bus to take to the subway station, and just as I got to the corner the appropriate bus arrived. I didn’t have change, only the money that my mom had given me that afternoon (another gift from God).
I asked someone for change and was kindly given some. The bus arrived at the subway station and my train arrived shortly thereafter. I felt like I had just escaped from a prison camp. Soon I was on the bus to the Craigs’ house. On arriving, I approached the back door, hoping they wouldn’t be angry and would accept me back. Professor Craig opened the door, and I asked him somewhat tongue-in-cheek, “Do you have any openings for a live-in secretary?” He smiled and said, “Come in.” The Craigs seemed to have no hard feelings and they were glad that I was back. I called my parents and dad said, “I’ll be right over.”
But I was not free of the Moonies yet, nor was my family.
The following day I was in bed trying to recover from my illness. My mother was visiting me in my room. There was a knock at the back door near my bedroom. It was Laurie. He asked Maybelle, who had opened the door, if he could see me. She thought he was a friend so she opened the door. My mom, hearing his voice, immediately shut my bedroom door and leaned against it. She shouted through the door “You cannot see Cathy – she’s sick. Please leave.” He kept insisting on seeing me. I still had mixed feelings about him and I yelled, “I love you, Laurie, but I can’t do what you’re doing.” He still kept insisting on talking to me and my mom kept telling him to leave. At this point, Professor Craig came into the kitchen. When he saw what was happening, he said to Laurie, “You’d better get out of here, and if you ever come back, you’d better have the police on your side.” Laurie left.
Then he began to harass my parents. They received phone calls every day. My mom received a house plant and a letter. My dad told Laurie not to call back anymore, but Laurie ignored the request.
Several days after my return, my mom thought I should meet the deprogrammer my parents had consulted during my absence. A deprogrammer is supposed to help free an indoctrinated person’s thinking through reeducation. The deprogrammer came over to the Craigs’ house with my father. I felt uncomfortable when he gave me a big hug, as if some stranger on the street had kissed me. He acted like we were close friends. My dad and I and the deprogrammer talked for a half hour or so, after which the deprogrammer decided that I was okay and was not going to run back to the Moonies. He left and wished me luck.
I don’t know enough to say whether deprogramming is a good method to bring a person out of cult thinking. My gut sense is that it uses the same tactics the cultists use, but I could be mistaken. I believe what worked for me was that there were people in my life who were allowing me to make up my own mind. I can cite several points which led me to make my decision to leave:
1) Dr. Craig’s letter, which stated that the decision to leave or stay was my own and that she and her husband wanted me to be happy.
2) The fact that my parents didn’t try to forcibly take me from the Moonie’s camp — I felt they came not to argue but to show that they were concerned.
3) My mom saying, “Okay, it’s up to you” at the back porch.
4) The people from Eclipse, who merely asked me to observe for myself whether I was being deceived.
My dad and I decided that it would be a good idea for me to leave the Craigs for a week or two so I could recuperate and perhaps also to protect me from Laurie. We felt not a little paranoid about him. We decided I would stay with my godparents for a week. [My godmother, whom I usually call my aunt, now lives in a retirement residence and has dementia]. My dad was to drive me to their house.
Dad came over and said we had to go by his house for a few minutes. So we drove to my parents’ house first. My dad got the things he needed. We were just going out the door when Laurie’s car drove up! My dad said to me, “Get back inside, I’ll take care of this.” He went out and shut the door behind him.
After five to ten minutes, dad came back in. He was pretty furious with Laurie. Dad said, “I told Laurie “I don’t get mad easily, but when I do I can be dangerous. You must never bother my wife and I or my daughter again or something bad could happen. You Moonies are like the Nazis. If you realized what you were doing you would hide in shame.” Dad continued, “After I said that to him, he told me that of all the parents he had spoken to, I was one of the ones he most respected!” Laurie never visited my parents’ house again, and he could not call them anymore because my parents got an unlisted number. However, for a long time, I feared that I might see him or some other Moonies on the street.
As I write this epilogue in 2004, it’s been about twenty-eight years now since all these events occurred. Many good changes occurred as a result – as someone has said, “God uses the things he hates to accomplish the things he loves.” In my case, it was an awakening for me to turn back to my Christian faith, to deeply examine it and make it a living reality, not just a nice thing that people do on Sundays. My family became more affectionate. We began to hug each other a lot more and I believe there was improvement in our communication. I realized that my family loved me more than I was aware of. I took part in counseling, including group therapy where I learned to be more comfortable around my peers. I still go to counseling from time to time to deal with family and personal issues.
As a result of my experience, I’m deeply interested in the Bible and it has become personal to me, partly because I believe if I had known the Bible better and studied it, I might not have been as vulnerable to the deceptions of the Moonies. [As it was, the part of the Bible I did know helped me be more skeptical of their philosophy.] Of course, they are free to believe what they want, but should not be free to deceive and manipulate people. Jesus is real to me and He has helped me heal, mostly in the area of negative thinking. I believe that the closer we are to Jesus, the less vulnerable we are to deception. One of the best ways to know Jesus is to read and study the Bible and meditate on it, and to spend time with healthy, well-balanced Christians. However, I also know each person must have the freedom to make his own choice about his beliefs, and I respect those whose beliefs differ from mine.
I’m sure that psychologists, sociologists, and theologians could have an interesting time analyzing what happened to me and why. Whether through ignorance or some wrong choices, I made my family into a god, expecting them to fulfill all my needs. My depression seems to happen when I put my hope in my family rather than the power of God to change me and to change others. People, no matter how good, will sometimes let you down. Even the best people will hurt you at times, if unintentionally. God is the only one who always wants good for us, even in bad times. If some loved one is letting you down, ask God for wisdom and the power to forgive. You may still need intensive counseling from a wise person to be able to handle serious problems.
The following oft-quoted poem, attributed to a victim of the Holocaust and found scribbled under a Star of David in a bombed house in Germany, gives some idea of the kind of faith needed when things around you seem all wrong:
I believe in the sun — even when it does not shine
I believe in love — even when it is not shown;
I believe in God — even when He does not speak.
Freedom is a precious gift. There are some situations in which a person has to be left to make his own decision, even if one feels that the person is doing something totally foolish. If we try on our own to fix the person or the situation, we take away their power to make a choice. That person will be forever at the mercy of those who would manipulate, persuade, and deceive. It takes faith to let go of another, as my mother did when she said, “Okay, it’s up to you,” not because she didn’t care but because she knew it was not in her power to change my mind. She had the faith to believe that God would somehow work through the situation to make it come out right. Dr. Craig was especially magnanimous. I don’t think many employers would be so forgiving. And I am grateful to the numerous people who prayed for me during this ordeal.
Can you and I today have the kind of faith that will “let go and let God” – not trying to manipulate circumstances to make ourselves look good, fulfill some desire, or ease our worry? I pray that each of us can trust that God is fully aware of our personal difficulties, and that despite how bad our situation looks, He has it under control.
I hope my story will help someone today understand what makes a person vulnerable to a cult, how a cult manipulates those vulnerabilities, and how the love and prayers of friends and family makes such a difference. May we all live in the freedom of forgiving and of being forgiven.