The Reverend Sun Myung Moon ruined me for marriage.
Yes, THAT Reverend Sun Myung Moon — the founder and leader of The Unification Church — a newish neo-Christian religious movement founded by Reverend Moon in Korea in 1954 as “The Holy Spirit Association for the Unification of World Christianity.” Their tagline changed in 1994 to “Family Federation for World Peace and Unification.” Current membership estimated a few hundred thousand. Or three million. Depending on who you ask. Mostly in Korea, Japan & the United States. The Unification Church. Best known worldwide as “The Moonies.”
The Reverend Sun Myung Moon ruined me for marriage in 1982 when I was watching the news on my grandmother’s teevee.
The Reverend Sun Myung Moon was standing in Madison Square Garden surrounded by two thousand seventy-five male-female dyads, each awaiting his blessing. Each couple a spiritual match made by the Reverend Sun Myung Moon himself. The teevee news reporter said that most of these couples had never met before this day, the day they were to be married. Four thousand one hundred fifty brides and grooms standing there believing that the Reverend Moon was their spiritual matchmaker, blessed with the power to see their compatibility, their offspring, their future. Each marriage an example of the Reverend Moon’s ideal: that through what the Unification Church called “True Marriage” that all races and all nations might be unified in the Unification Church as a “Blessed Family.”
It was 1982. I was thirteen years old. Not thinking much about marriage. I mean I had just had my first experience with what überhomophobe Reverend Moon calls “the dirty relationship” of gay sex. (My first gay sex had actually just happened, a week or two before. A fleeting encounter with a British flight attendant in the Hotel Krasnopolsky in Amsterdam. But that’s prolly a story for a different time…)
In 1982, I was thirteen and, though my parents had then been married for nearly twenty years, though they would remain married for forty two years until death they did part, I was nonetheless of that first generation of kids who fully knew the unspoken alternate ending to that schoolyard tautology “First comes love, then comes marriage, then comes baby in a baby carriage…and THEN you get divorced.” I mean half of my school friends, and most of my cousins, were from what they still in those days called broken homes. Even so, I had learned the calculus of that schoolyard rhyme pretty much by heart so I knew that first comes love.
And that’s where Reverend Sun Myung Moon’s mass Madison Square Garden wedding sorta rocked my world, because that’s where Reverend Sun Myung Moon –
Did you know that’s not even his real name?
His given name is Yong Myung Moon. He changed it to Sun Myung Moon, because he saw a prophecy in his own name. He said he saw the Korean symbol for “moon” (his given surname) which means “word” or “literature.” And he saw that the character Myung, which means “bright” (and is also part of his given name). He saw that Myung combines the character for Moon with the character for Sun (which means means “fresh” or “clear”). He saw that, if you put it all together in Sun Myung Moon, it means: “The word made clear.”
But what the Reverend Sun Myung Moon’s mass-matchmaking made clear for thirteen year old me was that whole part about “first comes love” did not apply for these 2075 couples. Here it was a case of “first comes marriage.” All these happy happy people from Europe and Africa and Asia and America, they were all getting hitched just cause this Moon dude said so.
There they all were in their business suits and party dresses, racially and nationally and linguistically diverse, yet all looking almost exactly all alike. All the women had mushroomy bobs, like they were growing out a bad Dorothy Hamill cut. And all the men had that 1970s hairspray-man hair-helmet, hard part down one side, bulbous hair mass on the other.
All these male-female hair-helmets bobbing in affirmation of their certain happiness.
I remember the news talked to this one American guy. He was saying how happy he was that Reverend Sun Myung Moon had matched him with his new Korean wife, who spoke no English and who would be returning to Korea within hours. This guy didn’t know when or if he and his wife would ever see each other again because U.S. authorities didn’t see their moonie marriage as legal because they’d only met an hour before. But there they both were. Bobbing. Happy happy. Because – and this is what the guy said – “We have a TRUE MARRIAGE. No matter what the law says.”
True marriage. No matter what the law says. For the Unification Church, these interracial, interreligious and international matches made and blessed by the Reverend Sun Myung Moon symbolized the family as the hoped for solution to all earthly problems. Because, of course, Unificationists believe that war, violence, environmental degradation — you name it — all earthly problems are fruits of the fact that self interest crept into the husband-wife relationship with Eve.
Reverend Moon’s blessing ceremony is thus the most important ceremony in a Unificationist’s spiritual life for it is through such a rite that a couple is removed from the lineage of sinful humanity to thus enter into God’s blessed lineage. Only then can the blessed couple have blessed sex and make blessed babies and create their own blessed family, free from the consequences of original sin. All because of their blessed match made by the Reverend Sun Myung Moon.
But in that blessed moment in 1982, when the guy with the hairspray-man hair was saying he was so glad to be married to his wife who he just met and who didn’t speak English and who wouldn’t be allowed back in the United States anytime soon so he had no idea when or if he would ever see her again…
In that moment Reverend Moon’s blessed marriage ceremony also became a central ceremony in my life, for it was in that moment that I first called BULLSHIT on the whole marriage narrative as I knew it.
Nothing against hairspray man. No, it was just that I was a 13 year old gay kid in Reagan’s America. Marriage wasn’t in my future. This was 5 or 6 years before I even heard of a commitment ceremony. (Remember those?) And it would be still another 5 or 6 years after that before I heard anyone talking seriously about gay marriage.
But in this moment, in 1982, little gay me realized that the tautology of first comes love, then comes marriage was complete bullshit. Reverend Moon’s 2075 matched marriages were my proof. I mean, my parents never had no church wedding. Just a Justice of the Peace. And here the Reverend Sun Myung Moon with no legal authority whatsoever married 2075 couples on the spot. Marriag
e was whatever you said it was and the law was something else altogether.
All those Moonies had their wedding but weren’t legally married —
My parents WERE legally married but never had no wedding —
I just wanted more gay sex and who needs to be married for that?
When you really stop to think about it, Reverend Moon (who regularly refers to homosexuals as “dung eaters”) — the Reverend Sun Myung Moon probably advanced the movement for Marriage Equality more than any other hard right-winger in U.S. history. His 1982 Moonie-Mass-Marriage-at-Madison-Square-Garden-Spectacular first showed me (and I suspect some number of others) that true marriages, blessed marriages could defy conventions of law and of culture. Reverend Moon rewrote the marriage script, just as he rewrote his own name, to fit his personal and spiritual and political worldview.
Those 2075 Madison Square Garden Moonie Matched Marriages showed little gay me that marriage didn’t have to be “first comes love then comes marriage then comes some baby in a baby carriage.”
Not if you see a different path toward your own true love…toward your own true Marriage…toward your own Blessed Family.
And THAT is why I am so glad that the Reverend Sun Myung Moon ruined marriage for me.