In front of pictures of her ascended brothers and grandmothers in the offices of FFWPU International, Sun Jin Moon spoke to Today's World candidly about her life and career path. Her husband In Sup Moon was with her and he also offered his personal insights.
What was it like growing up in such a large family?
Well, you can see the wide age range in our family.(1) My closest sister is a lot older than I am, and my next younger sister is almost five years younger than me. I grew up with three brothers just above me, and Young Jin and Hyung Jin below me. I basically grew up with my brothers. I played in the mud and played many kinds of not-so-girly games. I often think I come off as not very feminine—I kind of grew up a tomboy! I didn’t see so much of my sisters growing up, as we were so different in age. Basically all my memories are of my brothers—from Heung Jin oppa who would take the younger ones to 7 Eleven for iced Slurpees, beef jerky, and sweets to Hyun Jin oppa who would play Risk and other board games, to Kook Jin oppa and Dungeons and Dragons with Young Jin and all. My early years were spent mostly playing with Kwon Jin oppa, who was a year ahead of me. In all the years, I remember spending the most time with Hyung. We have always been close. He was the light in my life then, and forever will be. But we all had a lot of fun together; growing up, they are my fondest memories.
Do you remember the kinds of things you liked to do when you were little?
Oh, we just played all over East Garden, in the woods, outside, in nature, like Tarzan in the wild. I watched and played with my brothers doing martial arts, sports, skateboarding, swimming, playing computer and board games, learning about cars and playing fort with the couch cushions. In many ways, it was not a very girlish upbringing. But I didn’t really notice because we had a lot of fun!
Could I ask you something about school?
I think that is good, because many people don’t understand how we grew up, and sum up a perception from only a few selected snapshots or moments in public. I think it is important for people to know that we grew up like everyone else. We’ve all had struggles, persecution and growing periods that define our lives today, with the slight difference of living it in the public eye 24/7.
Were you singled out by your classmates?
Actually, more than my own experience, I saw all my elder brothers and sisters go through not only racism at that time but classmates in our school in the 70s and 80s really persecuted and bullied us for being Father’s children, saying things like “Your dad’s a cult leader.” Especially when Father went to Danbury, it was, “Your dad’s in jail!” I saw the struggle and persecution my brothers and sisters all got. And in high school it only got tougher, dealing with the unreceptive peers and one’s own adolescence. We all struggled together with that as a family and to this day there is that eternal familial bond and willingness to be there for each other in need. But now it is even more treasured as we share and celebrate the joy, unconditional love and compassion each family member bestows. Everything gets better with time and maturity. The understanding and a sense of family support is even greater as we have all been able to realize the gift of having each other to share this precious journey of life. We’ve survived because we had each other as family; that is the greatest blessing.
In Sup Park: Just to give some context, from my observations coming into the family: You start to realize the heaviness for a child growing up in that environment. You know, we all had the luxury of privacy, to be able to make mistakes, to learn from our mistakes and to grow through our mistakes—and without other people judging those mistakes. But the True Family was wide open. You’re living with an audience, and there is so much expectation. So even as a young child, you inherit that real and tangible spiritual burden and then you have to move forward. When I think about the overall situation, it’s much more difficult for an individual.
Sun Jin Moon: Yes, and comparing who does more or less, or went through more or less, is not the main focus. Everybody is doing the best that they can and we all grow at different paces and through different experiences, it is not about who has it better or worse; there is no judgment. When you think about it, we are all brothers and sisters in this church and the worldwide foundation is so huge now—I don’t know everything about you and you don't know everything about our family; it takes a process of communicating and of trying to figure things out, everybody struggles but I believe that no matter what everyone can also succeed. I like the quote, “What is personal is general.”— (I think that one was by Carl Rogers(2) )—or what the Dalai lama remarked, “There are many cultural differences but more similarities. Look into what is universal—across cultures.” We can also look at what is universal among our blessed families with True Father and True Mother as all our real or adopted parents and feel the ultimate inspiration of Father’s words, “We must be all one united blessed family under God.” Father always sees the world through God’s eyes, not just the personal, individual, race or cultural differences or similarities — he sees no limits to love, or the potential we can all have in creating and living as one family under God. All families have their struggles and victories, but as long as we carry the heart to wish the best for all and to remember our blessings, we can have harmony and the strength to persevere and become better.
Members were around your home a lot; that must have not been easy. Looking back now in your thirties, what are your feelings about those who joined and followed your parents?
You only know your experience, what you learned and were taught, and the lens through which you view the world is limited by that conception. When the first-generation members joined the movement, they followed Father because they found the truth that inspired their lives. Those early members were truly pioneers to join the church and have faith like that, and to carry that conviction in their lives no matter what. For them to join they also had to receive persecution—“You’re joining a cult?” and “We have to deprogram these Moonie people!”
So you all had tremendous obstacles to overcome as the first generation in order to substantiate your faith. And I am sure none would say that came overnight. There were many developmental levels you had to master to get to this stage; workshops, church community building, MFT, witnessing, working in the nonprofit global outreach organizations. I am always grateful to the members because you pioneered whole-heartedly and thus built this amazing foundation. [Ms. Moon is on the verge of tears] With your love, faith, and dedication, from Father’s first congregation in Busan, which toiled to build a house for God out of discarded cardboard boxes, to the worldwide foundation we are moved by today, this movement is a testament to what is possible when people come together as one family under God, living for the sake of others by sheer conviction and personal dedication to create a better world. The church and all the generations, the first and second and the continued lineage, must cherish that remarkable start and work to cultivate a better future. We must honor, cherish and commit our hearts to do justice to that astounding altruistic investment. We must always strive to be better, to do more, to be more and to honor and accomplish more of that vision that our parents and elders have given their lives for. In doing so, you are able to then honor your life and your children’s and eventually you "pay it forward" to the world. That is the gift and power of each blessed individual and family that we are of one lineage.
But I also feel for our second generation… Their course has been no easy task either. I know many blessed children because I grew up with them. So many have struggled with their faith and lives; but when I see them today they are all truly special hearts and souls and that have overcome so many difficult obstacles and carry not only filial love but a global conscience of love. There is so much talent, aptitude and gifts each second gen is blessed with that also needs to be treasured. Being of the second generation ourselves, in our family, we’ve seen the amazing work True Parents have done. When the first-generation members joined, they were going out to do God’s work. Father said to have faith in God—God will take care of your children. Everyone pioneered; all over the world people were going on missions. No one was going to say they weren’t going to do it, because Father and Mother had done it themselves. In a way, I think many of the second-generation members, like us, also have that “missing hole” from not having had their parents around enough.
When I see this—and also how we were raised as second generation, and more specifically as True children (which added another layer of complexity) who received peer persecution and pressure from outside as not only members of a "cult" but as direct descendants of the founder, it was tough, because kids can be very cruel. It was also a chaotic juggling act because we were strictly taught the Principle at home and at the same time given the mission to excel and thrive to be "the best" in the liberal school system or prospective field of study or sport. It was tough to deal with all these issues as a child.
At that time, the Principle was taught in a very black and white way: good and evil, Adam and Eve, Satan, the Fall! For a child born into the church, it is scary stuff to digest. There was an outside world of satanic evils and the inside world of unattainable godly expectations. It seemed that this teaching catered to the first generation who had to condition themselves in order to cut off from the world of sin. But to the kids growing up without all the sin and suffering in their past, it was a lot of information to process and balance.
When you choose to join the movement, you understand the principle of true love, true life and true lineage. Because you had been out there in the world, you’d had your hearts broken; you’d seen a lot of negative things. There were many people from broken homes who went through a lot of struggles before they found the Principle and True Parents, and were able to change their lives. But growing up as second gen and not having those traumatic fallen experiences as a reference, we could not fully understand the significance of Father’s teaching. I’ll be the first to admit I could not grasp all the concepts fully, but as I am older and, I hope, a bit wiser, I can say with confidence and from my own experience that it is the one main message to get through to kids; because true love is the most precious gift we have in life. I’m just so happy to see the younger BCs getting blessed and grasping the significance of it all.
I can only share and speak of my own experience of what worked and what didn’t. Likewise, every person has their own unique memories of what was best. You can look at the church in those days and say this was not right and that was not right, but you can also look at the same imperfect situation and see it from the viewpoint that we were all so blessed to have so many members of our first generation stay married; the children were not traumatized by their parents’ divorce or fallen nature. We saw parents live for something higher than their own lives, or their own livelihood, or material gain. As children, we saw them live for the service of the world and for that vision. Of course when I was young, and a normal, angst-ridden teen, I felt I could not take it and the stress was horrible. I was not able to see past my own pain.
But when I look back at my life after all the milestones, I only have tremendous gratitude toward everyone that believed in something other than just themselves and actually created this whole worldwide family, which is doing such incredible ground-breaking work! It is truly amazing. I cannot say I have lost anything; I can only say that I have received so much and must apologize for my immaturity. You have all given me so much hope, faith and goodness, and because of that, I am blessed with a true love and true life. And I hope one day I can do whatever I can to offer them back.
1. Hak Ja Han Moon gave birth to her first child (Ye Jin) in January 1961 and to her last (Jeong Jin) in June 1982, by which time Ye Jin was also a mother. Sun Jin was born in 1976. She is the fifth youngest of the children of Rev. Sun Myung Moon and Dr. Hak Ja Han Moon.
2. Carl R. Rogers (1902–1987), a founder of the humanistic psychology movement