With the Monday death of Rev. Sun Myung Moon-—he of the mass weddings and Holy (sex) Handkerchief—-at the age of 92, the natural instinct is to start a death watch for Moon’s Unification Church and the enormous subsidy his long-ailing Washington Times receives from it. But the church is still big business in Asia and elsewhere, according to John Gorenfeld, a reporter who has covered the church.
“There is typically this cliche about the ‘twilight of the Moon’ or some other pun, and people talk about how white middle-class kids are no longer running off with the Moonies,” writes Gorenfeld, the author of the book Bad Moon Rising. “But they’re still heavily active all over places like South America.”
The question, then, is whether the Times can keep its mouth on that lucrative spigot and avoid a repeat of 2009, when the Rev. Moon’s son Preston Moon started axing Times executives. The results of that larger power struggle squeezed the Times‘s access to the church’s Asian cash supply, inciting Preston Moon to toss the sports, metro, and photography departments overboard, too. The paper was only restored in 2010, when it was sold to an ally of Rev. Moon’s for $1 and assumption of the paper’s debts.
It’s still murky who will succeed Rev. Moon and what that will mean for the Times, though Gorenfeld writes that the South Korean wing of the church was rife with in-fighting before Moon’s death. In the meantime, let’s remember Rev. Moon as he lived: telling legislators that he saved the souls of Adolf Hitler and Joseph Stalin.
Photo by the Universal Peace Foundation used under a Creative Commons license.