Robert Stein 1924-2014

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Monday, September 03, 2012

Moonstruck: Life with a Cult

When I moved to bucolic upstate New York in the 1980s, my nearest neighbors were the followers of the Rev. Sun Myung Moon, the “messiah” who died yesterday at the age of 82.

It was like living next to a colony of the socially inept--with firearms.

Early on, a jeep drove up to our boundary line with a man who introduced himself as Security Director of the Unification Church, saying he hoped his target practice was not disturbing us. (Actually, it had sounded like World War II with automatic weapons and mortar shells.)

“I’d like to be a good neighbor and say no,” I told him, “but it does. A lot.”

He must have had similar responses from others nearby. The weapons noises abated, but life with “the Moonies” never stopped being interesting.

Remembered now for mass weddings of couples who had never met each other, Rev. Moon was a South Korean minister who mingled apocalyptic religion with business acumen to build a commercial empire interwoven with political influence that ultimately led to conviction for tax fraud and conspiracy to obstruct justice and 18 months in prison, where he drew kitchen duty.

Those years of living next to his seminary were, to put it mildly, bizarre. Our mutual home town was a hamlet on the Hudson with another estate that had housed the Rev. Moon’s polar opposite, the recently deceased man of letters Gore Vidal, who wrote about what seemed to be “the good old days when politicians poured God over everything like ketchup.”

Moon self-destructed and Vidal was obviously not prophetic, but their legacies are still with us in the massive pseudo-religious effort to control the 2012 election.

When I finally left my beloved home on the Hudson, it was bought by a Hollywood agent who had earned the money to pay for it by representing Michael Moore.

I often wondered how the new neighbors got along.




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