Every September 18th I think about it. Posters plastered all over New York City, with Father’s face and the words, “September 18th Could Be Your Re-Birthday.” We had just joined the Church that summer, Father was speaking at Madison Square Garden on September 18th, and it was our job to make sure the Garden was packed.
People would look at us strangely as we handed out pamphlets along Fifth Avenue. “Come hear a great man speak,” we’d offer, as we stuffed a picture of Father into the hands of passersby. “September 18th could be your re-birthday,” we’d practically sing as we stopped people as they walked down the block. They all looked at us as if we had two heads. Or were completely insane.
For years people thought I was insane because I was a Moonie. Back then I had people scream at me, laugh at me, fight with me, and offer to pray for me. And for years people have thought I must also be insane when I claim that there were good things about being a Moonie. That yes, this many years later I can and will call it a cult, but I steadfastly believe that I got a few good things from my years in that cult.
Sure there was insanity. Sure there were problems and upsetting events. Absolutely stuff happened to and around me that I wish hadn’t, and absolutely I was taught things that were not good for me to learn and that were not true. But there were also wonderful moments and wonderful learnings – that helped mold me into the person that I am today, and that I appreciate.
The Church taught (and teaches) about the oneness of mankind and that all people are loved by God. It taught me to accept and love others, to see everyone as my brother and sister, to be open to differences and to different ways of life and different points of view. Well, as long as the different points of view didn’t contradict the Truth I knew in the Church. My determination to bring joy to all my hardworking brothers and sisters in the Church taught me to have a joyful outlook, to find ways to make others laugh and smile, and to look for the good even in moments of not-so-good.
Being laughed at and teased for being a Moonie taught me to be willing to be different and to stand up for what I believe, even if other people think I’m wrong (or insane). And all of it, I firmly believe, either taught me to have a huge, loving heart, or at least reinforced my huge, loving heart. I learned to love people, and I love to love people. I learned, as we sang in a Holy Song, to “greet all men with a loving heart and speak the truth with a clear voice.” Recently someone I knew from back then reached out to me, and told me that he uses those lines from the song in all his emails. I think those lines encapsulate the good things I got from being a Moonie.
I don’t know if I’d choose to do it all again if I had the choice. I do know that there are memories that make me smile, and that being a Moonie for eight years of my childhood helped make me who I am. And that some of that is very, very good.