Rev. Moon Was One Of Us
Ex-inmate of Danbury Prison Shares His Impressions
Mr. Ed Farmer of New York City spent three months in the Federal Correctional Institution in Danbury, Connecticut. There his opinion of Father and the Unification Church changed profoundly.
On January 4, 1984, he conversed over lunch with Angelika Selle of Today’s World.
I was fortunate: I only had to be in Danbury for three months. I knew I was going, and I knew Rev. Moon was there -they had it in the paper every other day. I was curious. You can’t help but be curious about someone who is known all over the world. As it turned out, I was in the cubicle right next to Rev. Moon’s, five feet away.
The Rev. Moon has a very good sense of humor. It’s hard for me to think of a person as being mean or brainwashing people with the sense of humor he has. He truly loves people. I mean, he likes being with them. He likes being kidded-he likes being teased. I never saw a mean act on his part.
He never asked for special treatment. He mopped floors and cleaned tables, and he helped other people when he was finished with his job.
I used to play pool with him. He would react just as everyone else does when they win: he loved winning. He would react just as everyone else does when they lose: no one likes losing. I am a very poor pool player, and he used to beat me all the time. Even at that, he would encourage me, saying, “Someday better!” Kami used to laugh. He was trying to say, someday I would be better at it.
I have a weight problem; so the Reverend used to sit and keep count of the laps when I ran around the track. He’d sit there and hold up his fingers-once around, twice around. I enjoyed it very much.
Only once was he deeply troubled for a while, and none of us knew what the reason was. We knew there was something wrong-you could see that he was upset. Then the story came out in the papers about the kidnapping [of Col. Pak]. For a while the Reverend had visits every day while the kidnapping was going on-legal visits. It was a serious situation, and it was a very well kept secret. The Reverend said nothing about it.
He carries his religion with him. He doesn’t need a book. Everyone feels it. It’s very evident. It’s that way with Kamiyama, too.
Otherwise, when you’d be down in spirit, he’d come along, pat you on the back, and smile and laugh. It would just give you such a warm feeling. It’s hard to pick out a specific act because the man himself is the way he is all the time. He doesn’t put on a show for anyone. He doesn’t put on a face today, or put on generosity or kindness today -and then not tomorrow. The Rev. Moon is the Rev. Moon-a very steady, ongoing force.
Prison is a very easy place to spot a phony, because you’re together 24 hours a day. No matter how good an actor a man is, his mask must slip sometime in that 24 hours. And if he’s not acting, and he’s not a phony, that shows up quickly also.
I didn’t like having to go to prison, but just having the chance to meet, talk. and be with him made it worth it. I have no regrets. His being there made the time easier, and it was a very good experience. It’s unfortunate that we had to go through that to meet, but I wouldn’t change it.
Teaching by Word and Deed
The prison has a system where you’re allowed so many dollars to spend on commissary a month. Now the Rev. Moon doesn’t bother with a lot of that stuff; he doesn’t bother with candy. But there are people there that have no money; they are literally broke. The Rev. Moon used to buy his commissary, and give it all away to people who didn’t have money and couldn’t buy anything. He would give cookies to this one, and candy to that one, fruit to this one and juice to that one.
The Rev. Moon was generous and kind to everyone, not just to me. He was willing to sit down and discuss his religion, and compare it. We sat down with a Bible, and we were taught. Now he’s the head of a church, and doesn’t have to talk to anyone, but he sat down and explained where we agreed and where we disagreed, where the similarities were and where the differences were-for hours on end.
The prison has a rule against him promoting his religion. That wasn’t the case: we came to him because we wanted to know. After having met him and joked with him and worked with him-witnessing his generosity and the things he did to help people-we suddenly saw that this man is exactly what he says he is, and that the movement he is running is exactly what the members say it is. There is nothing hidden behind it; there is nothing secret about it. It is a very simple thing and the foundation of it is love. And he is a fabulous man.
I think his religion is wherever he is. I think that man could be happy wherever he went. He carries his religion with him. He doesn’t need a book. Everyone feels it. It’s very evident. It’s that way with Kamiyama, too.
The Rev. Moon has never complained about what the government did to him. He has never accused the government of a witch hunt, mainly I think because he refuses to dignify it. They had their day in court; they got what they wanted. Whatever he is going to do, he is going to do through his attorneys from a legal point of view.
I find it almost impossible to believe the stories that they spread about him after having met him. That man would not do those things: it’s impossible. My own personal belief is that it was a witch hunt
The Politics of Injustice
There was a prisoner in the camp that owed the government $150,000 in taxes. He had no hope of paying it. He even told the government he wasn’t going to pay it. But he wasn’t even in prison for that! He was in prison for stealing securities and selling them. He never served a day in prison for the $150,000 he owed the government, and the government has never even attempted to convict him on that
Sometimes people have the habit of sitting back and saying, ”Well, it doesn’t affect me if they put him in jail.” But what happens if someone decides they don’t like Catholics’? What happens if someone decides they don’t like some other religion? No matter what religion it is that’s involved, it’ bad precedent.
With regard to the charges and conviction, I believe they were politically motivated. There are people in the IRS, all the way up to the top, that were “nothing” people. They would never have been known their whole lives until they had a chance to make a scapegoat of the Rev. Moon and so, get their names into the history books. So they sentenced Rev. Moon. The IRS regularly picks a well known person and nails him; that’s their way of getting publicity. A little everyday person-who pays attention if he’s sentenced to jail?
If there was a crime-and I’m not competent to say whether there was or not; I’m not a tax attorney-the punishment certainly didn’t fit. In fact
that punishment has never been given to anyone before for the amount involved. You have to put the amount involved in the proper perspective. You have a movement dealing with millions upon millions of dollars, and the amount in question, relatively speaking, was minuscule. Then you use this as a vehicle to put a man in jail because you’re afraid of what he’s preaching.
Jail helped the movement. That’s a hard thing to say. Authorities were hoping to crush the movement by putting the Rev. Moon in jail, but it’s worked exactly the opposite, because what they did was to make him one of the people. He’s not asking for any special favors; he does his time like a gentleman. However, he won’t have to serve the full 18 months; I think he’ll serve 12 months. I think you can get a third of your time off for good behavior.
The Image of the Church
I will tell you God’s honest truth. People have this image that the New Yorker is a dungeon like dormitory for followers of Rev. Moon, and that every day they are sent out into the streets in the cold. Yet I look around: I see people working, I see their faces, the way they are, the way they talk together. Do they look unhappy? Do they look like someone is standing over
them with a whip? No, it’s completely different. There’s no coercion; no one is being forced to attend. There’s happiness there.
As far as the followers are concerned no one forces anyone to leave his home I believe that the Rev. Moon has given people a true religion, and a cause. Parents cry because their children joined the Unification Church; the fact of the matter is, they would have left home in any event. He didn’t knock on their door and say, “Give me your children.” For a father to say, “I failed you as a father” when his children left home, for example-that’s hard. It’s a lot easier to say, “The Rev. Moon stole my children and brainwashed them.”
The media sells it-and I say “sell” because the media gets access to people who don’t really have a valid basis for what they say. It’s the media that has ”sold the bill of goods” of bad publicity. I think it’s a matter of unfair treatment. The amazing thing is that everyone assumes that if you see someone selling something on the street, he belongs to the Moonies! People are unaware of your other activities and projects; the media doesn’t give proper coverage to it.
The scientists and the religious leaders who attend conferences with the Rev. Moon-were they forced to come? People bury their head in the sand and say, ”No, the Unification Church is not a religion. It’s phony. He’s brainwashed them.” They can brainwash themselves all they want. The fact of the matter is, it isn’t so.
Anyone who really believes that all of the Reverend’s followers are there because he brainwashed and kidnapped them is a moron. It’s absurd. They go out into the street freely every day. They could leave; no one’s holding them. When they walk out that door,
they come back of their own free will. They come back because basically the church is giving them something they need. For some people it might be a sense of love or belonging. For other people it might be a more accurate and comfortable definition of what they feel inside.
If other people find their choice uncomfortable, it’s because they are insecure in their own religion. People may say that they’re Catholic, for example, because it’s a comfortable label for them, even if they haven’t gone to mass for a long time as the Catholic Church requires. The reason ”Unification Church” is an uncomfortable label is because people don’t understand it. They don’t want to open their minds to accept a different point of view or a different persuasion.
However, that is no reason to try and destroy that movement, and it’s no reason to proclaim that it’s false. You can say that you don’t understand or that you don’t believe in it, but you can’t deny someone else the right to believe in it; you can’t deny them the right to exist. Maybe that religion works for some people where no other religion could before.
If People Only Knew
The whole church is on the shoulders of one man-the Rev. Moon. How can everyone get to know him? It’s impossible. The same is true of Kami.
We used to have a contest every week as to who had the cleanest cubicle. They were down on their knees, scrubbing the floor, the two of them. They always won the contest! Now when you see something like that, when you see them helping someone else to clean their cubicle, when you see them helping other people with commissary because they don’t have the money to buy it-how can you possibly say that this man is brainwashing people? It’s absurd. He doesn’t even think on that level. He’s thinking so far above that!
If everyone suddenly came to know, to truly understand what the movement was all about, what the man is about- objections would disappear.
Exposure to the Unification movement is a matter of intellectual curiosity. That’s why we went to him and said, “Explain what it is you’re saying,” for example.
Jail helped the movement. That’s a hard thing to say. Authorities were hoping to crush the movement by putting the Rev. Moon in jail, but it’s worked exactly the opposite.
People react hysterically because they’re afraid. And they’re afraid because they don’t understand. The problem is one of understanding. Maybe the answer would be to have open houses, so to speak, in the New Yorker Hotel, or special programs to say, ”This is what we do.” I don’t know. I’m not qualified enough to say. I know that it’s probably the most misunderstood religion or movement in the country.
Some people in the prison are really hard-nosed, really skeptical. You know, it’s funny, but he has even won them over! Bill Sheppard, who is the biggest skeptic in the world-you have never met a more hard-nosed person in this life than him-he came to love the Rev. Moon.
I think that for any religion that’s going through its formative years, there’s bound to be a lot of misunderstanding about it. Established religions are nervous, thinking, “What are they trying to do?” New religions upset what they consider to be the natural order of things. I think that it basically boils down to a problem of communication.
The Unification Church has to communicate and project its image of what it’s really all about, and put to rest all the old wives’ and witches’ tales once and for all.
I believe in God absolutely. I consider the Catholic Church to be a translator or interpreter for me. I don’t always agree with its interpretations, and when that happens, I follow my own conscience. I’m not a member of the Unification movement, but I’m not afraid of it anymore. I think that anyone who’s met the Rev. Moon is no longer afraid of it anymore because they can see through his example that basically
this man is heading is a good, viable movement, which is well directed. I’m more afraid of the government not allowing him to preach than I am of what he’s preaching. And I’m not afraid of what he’s preaching. I’m not afraid of him as a preacher.
You know, I think that most people feel: ”Okay, they took their shot at the Rev. Moon. He took his medicine like a man.” And that’s the end of it. I don’t think there’s as much objection as there was. Maybe I’m wrong, but I see people suddenly saying, ”Gee, it’s not the end of the world.” They can talk rationally about the church now.
I think that when time has given proper perspective to these events, people in general-irrespective of whether they believe in the Unification movement or not-will judge Reverend Moon kindly. I think they will judge him in his proper light, and judge the actions of the government as being in serious error-as a serious miscarriage of justice. People will judge the Rev. Moon well in the future, and they’ll judge the movement well-far better than it is being judged now. It’s just going to take time.
This is reprinted from Today’s World, February, 1985