IN THE SHADOW OF THE MOONS: My Life in the Reverend Sun Myung Moon's Family

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IN THE SHADOW OF THE MOONS: My Life in the Reverend Sun Myung Moon's Family. By Nansook Hong. Little, Brown. 236 pp. $23.

Forty years ago, the Rev. Sun Myung Moon was a pauper in what was then one of the poorest nations on Earth. Today he has a global business empire worth billions. A number of world leaders, including George Bush, Edward Heath and Mikhail Gorbachev, have at one time or another found themselves on his payroll or beholden to his financial backing. He has been linked to the Japanese Yakuza (criminal syndicates) and the Korean Central Intelligence Agency. In the eighties he and his church helped the FBI spy on left-wing college students in the United States and played a role in supplying the Nicaraguan contras. He owns the Washington Times (other than the Wall Street Journal, the largest overtly conservative daily newspaper in the United States), and it is said he controls a hundred votes in the Japanese Diet. He is blindly followed by many thousands around the world. He is, he claims, the chosen messenger of God.

There is so much to be written about Sun Myung Moon and his Unification Church. His stow is truly one of the century's most mysterious and interesting, part Jim Jones and part Rupert Murdoch, part Jimmy Swaggart and part James Bond. It is a story that encompasses cold war politics, pre-World War II colonialism and a postwar generation's general sense of uncertainty. It also has a touch of tragedy, whether it be the political tragedy of a nation unable to see through Moon's ties to the shady international world of anticommunism or the personal tragedy of thousands of mostly young people who gave their possessions and independence to such an obvious charlatan. One day someone will write a great book about Moon and the Unification Church--yet books like Kathleen Lowney's Passport to Heaven, John Biermans's case study The Odyssey of New Religious Movements and George Chryssides's The Advent of Sun Myung Moon focus on theological and cult aspects and leave the interesting story, the political side, untouched. Unfortunately, In the Shadow of the Moons, Nansook Hong's tell-all about life in the Moon family, isn't up to that challenge either. It should, however, bring about Moon's final fall from grace in the eyes of those who have supported and defended him.

If In the Shadow of the Moons does indeed mark the end of Moon as a legitimate figure, it will not be because of his nefarious political connections, questionable business operations or religious hypocrisy. In a fitting tribute to Moon's adopted home, the and of Kenneth Starr, Moon's final fall will come about through sex. Being the messiah has never been easy.

Nansook Hong is recently divorced from Moon's eldest son and onetime heir apparent, Hyo Jin Moon, and her book is essentially the gossipy tale of her life as a daughter-in-law with the first family of God. While not so welt written, In the Shadow of the Moons is nonetheless an entertaining treatment of religious hypocrisy, told like a Jerry Springer show on paper. In that sense, it has it all: sex, tax evasion, miscarriage, money laundering, cocaine, infidelity, abortion, physical abuse, sexual abuse, incest. And buried in this soap opera, is a message that has also made headlines in the Age of Monica: The biggest lechers of all are often the moralizers who want to tell you what not to do in the bedroom.

No one has tried harder to lay claim to the purity mantle than Reverend Moon. His published speeches are awash with references to the sexual impurity of his religious and political enemies (often recounted in startling, Kenneth Starr-like detail). Theologically, Moon seems obsessed with sex, seeing divine prominence in the phallus-shaped countries (Korea, Israel and Japan are of obvious importance) and basing his teachings on a supposed fall from grace that came when Eve had sexual intercourse with Satan in the Garden of Eden, for which church members must show penance by abstaining from sex for three years after marriage. …