By Johnny Stringer
A court has recently ruled that five adult followers of Sun Myung Moon be returned to the custody of their parents for 30 days. Moon is a religious charlatan who uses his young disciples (called Moonier) to enrich himself. The parents of these five Moonies argued that their children had been brainwashed into joining Moon’s Unification Church, hence needed to be returned to their parents for a period of “de-programming.”
The April, 1977, issue of Reader’s Digest contains an article written by a parent whose son was successfully deprogrammed. He says that Moonier employ such tactics as depriving their recruits of proper food and rest and programming every minute of their waking houvs, so that they are “psychologically worn down until they’re brought under complete mind control and fall into a trance somewhat like an autohypnotic state where their wills aren’t their own-they belong to Moon.”
Such charges of brainwashing have been made against other cults, and it has been popular in recent years for parents to hire a “deprogrammer” who kidnaps the young cultist and takes him somewhere to deprogram him. The most popular and successful deprogrammer has been Ted Patrick, now serving a jail sentence on charges growing out of his deprogramming activities. I will not comment on the question of whether or not it is constitutional for the court to make a full-grown adult a captive of his parents because of his religious beliefs, but I believe that, apart from that question, some observations on this matter are in order.
First, we should not let the term “brainwashing” lead us to absolve the young convert of his personal responsibility for his sin. It was of his own free will that he first became involved with the Unification Church and came to be in a position which allowed the Moonier to brainwash him. If he had previously looked to God’s word and put his faith in it, his knowledge of truth would have prevented him from being susceptible to the nonsense taught by Moon. Those who permit themselves to be led into error are responsible before God and must pay the price (Matt. 15:14).
This point brings us to the matter of parental failure. The anguish which parents experience when their children join such cults is understandable. They become so terribly concerned for their children’s welfare that they hire a professional deprogrammer to kidnap their children, or they seek custody of their children through the courts. It seems to me that their concern is a wee bit late. They had about twenty years in which to influence and mold the thinking of their children, but failed to take proper advantage of it. Had they used that time to instill in the hearts of their children a love for God’s truth and devotion to it, their children would be prepared to recognize the errors of deceivers such as Moon.
I do not know what my children will do when they become adults, but their mother and I are doing our best to provide such training and guidance as will lead them to be Christians. If after the years of teaching which we provide, they still join up with some cult such as Moon’s Unification Church, we will consider them to be responsible for their own decision. It will break our hearts, but we will realize that they knew the truth, hence are without excuse for their sins. Consequently, we shall have them neither kidnapped nor legally returned to our custody for deprogramming-not after twenty years of efforts to prevent them from being led into religious error. We will have already had our opportunity with them.
The problem is that parents fail to provide their children the spiritual training they so sorely need (Eph. 6:4). As a result, their spiritually ignorant offspring are susceptible to the propaganda of such false teachers as Moon. Having thus failed to avail themselves of the twenty years they have already had to influence their children, they kidnap them or seek legal custody so that they can now have a chance to influence them away from the cult.
The religious leaders can also be blamed. It may be that the parents attended church regularly and took their children to church; but the teaching the children received from their parents and preachers did not ground them in truth and give them something in which to deeply believe. Rather than pointing them to the scriptures as the authoritative teaching by which their lives should be governed (2 Tim. 3:16-17), the parents and “pastors” probably told them that one church was as good as another and that it did not matter what one believed or practiced as long as he was honest end sincere!
Finally, it should be pointed out that those who have preached religious tolerance, proclaiming that we should not condemn other beliefs, opining that one church is as good as another and that it does not matter what we believe as long as we are sincere, have absolutely no business acting disturbed and distraught when their children become Moonier. If one church is as good as another, Moon’s Unification Church is as good as any. Yet, while some will tolerate many religious beliefs, they draw the line when it comes to such cults as Moon’s. The truth is, however, that any religion not taught in the scriptures is just as destructive to the soul as Moon’s religion is. I would just about as soon my children join the Unification Church as any other church not found in God’s word. Religious error condemns (2 Thess. 2:1012), whether it is propagated by Sun Myung Moon or by Billy Graham is immaterial.
Truth Magazine XXI: 44, p. 700
November 10, 1977