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Front Page - Friday, October 22, 2021

Rogers column: Militant Moonies might not be the ideal new neighbor

The Rev. Hyung Jin Moon, aka Sean, has expanded his “Rod of Iron Ministries” to East Tennesse with the purchase of 200 acres in Grainger County for a “holy retreat.” - Photograph provided

The welcome mat has long been out in Nashville and Tennessee, with predictable results: Businesses and new residents have been pouring in like bees to honey.

Among the recent announcements is the Ford Motor Company’s plans for a $5.6 billion manufacturing plant north of Memphis that is expected to employ 5,700 or so people.

And in Nashville, there’s Amazon with 5,000 new jobs and Oracle with its projected 8,500 jobs on the heels of AllianceBernstein and its 1,250, and so on and so on.

All in all, net positives, despite the predictable hand-wringing by some over the tensions associated with growth.

I’m considerably less enthused about a couple of other newcomers already here or planning to be: The Daily Wire and Parler, the right-wing media company and social platform, respectively, have been captured by Nashville’s gravitational pull.

In keeping with the insect theme I used earlier, I’d compare their influx as like ants to a picnic. Or flies. Your choice.

But those two aren’t the worst. For that, I give you the Rod of Iron Ministries, a Pennsylvania-based outfit that recently bought 200 acres or so in Grainger County, just northeast of Knoxville, for a “holy retreat.”

Officially known as the World Peace and Unification Sanctuary, the group is led by the Rev. Hyung Jin Moon. He is a son of the late Sun Myung Moon, a self-proclaimed messiah and the founder of the Unification Church (aka the Moonies).

I try to be accepting of a broad range of religious expression. After all, my own beliefs don’t fall into what most would consider the mainstream Christian orthodoxy. Far be it for me to make judgments of others, lest I be judged.

And yet...

I invite you to wander around the website of the Rod of Iron Ministries. There you will find, among many strange things, a “constitution” for the so-called United States of Cheon Il Guk, the anticipated “Kingdom of God (and/or Heaven).”

It borrows liberally from our own Constitution, including a Bill of Rights available to “All genetically unmodified biological living persons.”

I’m still trying to process the meaning of that.

The constitution also provides for a house of representatives, a senate and a president, with senators to be selected by state legislators, as was originally the case in this country. The president also is to be elected not by popular vote, but by members of the House. He or she is subject, largely, to a king.

That king, who has already laid claim to the title, is the Rev. Hyung Jin Moon. Who goes, for reasons unknown to me, by “Sean.” And who wears, at times, a crown made of rifle bullets.

Rifles figure prominently in the Rod of Iron Ministries.

The Rod of Iron reference comes from various mentions in the Bible. Most biblical analysis interprets the rod to be a shepherd’s staff, or simply as a symbol of God’s authority. For this group, a rod of iron is a rifle. Specifically, it’s an AR-15, which members often carry with them to services.

The Tennessee “holy retreat,” I gather, will also include a firing range for such weapons.

Elsewhere on the website you’ll find a sympathetic account of a participant’s experience at the “rally” in Washington Jan. 6, “concerns” about the COVID vaccines, including the oft-repeated but bogus notion that they are “gene therapy,” an account about satanism and ritual child sexual abuse that claims there used to be “about 50-60 thousand human sacrifices occurring on American soil every year,” and more.

As it happens, Reverend Sean mentioned the group’s Tennessee acquisition in his recent Cheon Il Guk State of the Union address. I think.

“[T]he Providence of God has reclaimed the Chung pyung Providential Healing ministries, and currently Chung pyung Restored, on Thornhill Church Rd, in Thornhill Tennessee, representing the spirit of not fearing to walk the course of thorns and the course of the cross, is being pioneered by The 3 Generational Kingship of our True Parents.”

Perhaps Reverend Sean speaks in a code understood only by True Believers.

I’m out of insect descriptions for the Rod of Iron’s venture into Tennessee. The best I can offer is that it’s like a loopy uncle who shows up uninvited at Thanksgiving dinner. Drunk. With a gun.

Joe Rogers is a former writer for The Tennessean and editor for The New York Times. He is retired and living in Nashville. He can be reached at jrogink@gmail.com