Moonie is a pejorative term sometimes used to refer to members of the Unification Church. This is derived from the name of the church's founder Sun Myung Moon, and was first used in 1974 by the American media. Church members have used the word "Moonie", including: Moon himself, President of the Unification Theological Seminary David Kim, and Moon's aide and president of The Little Angels Children's Folk Ballet of Korea Bo Hi Pak. In the 1980s and 1990s the Unification Church of the United States undertook an extensive public relations campaign against the use of the word by the news media. In commentary on the term and its usage, scholars have noted it is both a popular colloquial term, and one that has negative connotations. In his 2000 book Mystics and Messiahs, Philip Jenkins discussed the term's usage, and likened it to "smear words" associated with other religions; giving examples of Shaker, Methodist, and Mormon. Journalistic authorities, including the New York Times and Reuters, now discourage its use in news reporting.
The word "Moonie" is derived from the name of Sun Myung Moon, the founder and leader of the Unification Church. The 2002 edition of The World Book Dictionary does not note a negative connotation, defining it simply as: "a follower of Sun Myung Moon"; nor does the 1999 edition of the Webster's II New College Dictionary, which defines it as "a member of the Unification Church established and headed by Sun Myung Moon." The 2009 Random House Dictionary states the word is offensive, and the 2009 Compact Oxford English Dictionary defines it as derogatory in nature. The Dictionary of the Modern Politics of Japan describes it as a colloquial term to refer to a member of the Unification Church.
The New Partridge Dictionary of Slang and Unconventional English (2005), The Concise New Partridge Dictionary of Slang and Unconventional English (2007), and The Routledge Dictionary of Modern American Slang and Unconventional English (2008) give a secondary meaning as "any blind, unthinking, unquestioning follower of a philosophy."
The word "Moonie" is also a family name in the United Kingdom. The town of Moonie, Queensland in Australia was founded in 1840. In more recent times it has also been used to refer to fans of the anime character Sailor Moon. See also: Moonie (disambiguation).
The word "Moonie" was first used by the American news media in the 1970s when Sun Myung Moon moved to the United States and came into public notice through a series of public speeches he gave, including at Madison Square Garden in New York City in 1974 and Yankee Stadium and the grounds of the Washington Monument in 1976. It became prevalent and was used by both critics of the Unification Church and church members themselves. It is found as a loanword in other languages, including French, German, Spanish, and Portuguese.
The word "Moonie" used within the Unification Church itself and by church members in public as a self-designation. During the 1970s and 1980s, it was used by members "as a badge of honor". In 1978, Sun Myung Moon declared: "In two and a half years the word 'Moonie' shall become an honorable name and we will have demonstrations and victory celebrations from coast to coast." In 1979, church members could be seen on subways in New York displaying t-shirts that read: "I'm a Moonie and I love it". Religious scholar Anson Shupe notes that "on many occasions" he heard "David Kim, President of the Unification Theological Seminary, refer to 'Moonie theology,' the 'Moonie lifestyle,' and so forth matter-of-factly". The principal aide to Sun Myung Moon, Bo Hi Pak, was quoted by Carlton Sherwood in his book Inquisition: The Persecution and Prosecution of the Reverend Sun Myung Moon as declaring to the United States Congress: "I am a proud Korean – a proud 'Moonie' – and a dedicated anti-Communist and I intend to remain so the rest of my life."
During the United States v. Sun Myung Moon in 1982, federal prosecutors argued that the word "Moonie" be banned during the jury selection process because they said it was considered "a negative term," and prejudicial in nature. Defense counsel for Sun Myung Moon instead asserted use of the word in the jury selection process was necessary to identify the Unification Church and to question jurors about possible prejudice. The court denied the prosecution's request, and ruled that the term was appropriately "descriptive." Judge Gerard L. Goettel instructed the jury that the case involved the Unification Church, Sun Myung Moon, and his followers, whom the judge stated were "sometimes referred to as Moonies." That same year a report sponsored in part by Auburn University, P. Nelson Reid and Paul D. Starr noted: "In informal interviews with U.C. members have indicated that they do not consider the term 'Moonie' derogatory."
Reaction by church members
In 1984, The Washington Post noted: "Members of the Unification Church resent references to them as 'Moonies'", and quoted one church member who said "Even in quotation marks, it's derogatory". In 1985, the president of the Unification Church of the United States, Mose Durst said: "In one year, we moved from being a pariah to being part of the mainstream. People recognized that Reverend Moon was abused for his religious beliefs and they rallied around. You rarely hear the word 'Moonie' anymore. We're 'Unificationists.'"
The Unification Church hired civil rights activist Ralph Abernathy to equate the word "Moonie" with the word "nigger". Abernathy was also the vice president of the Unification Church-affiliated American Freedom Coalition, and served on boards of directors for two other related organizations. IN 1989 the San Francisco Chronicle, reported that church members preferred to be called "Unificationists." The Washington Post reported that "Unification Church members are being advised no longer to accept the designation of 'Moonie,' and to declare any such nomenclature as indicative of a prejudiced view of the church." In 1989 the Chicago Tribune was picketed after referring to members of the Unification Church as Moonies. Sun Myung Moon directed minister and civil rights leader James Bevel to form a protest by religious officials against the Chicago Tribune because of the newspaper's use of the word. Bevel handed out fliers at the protest which said: "Are the Moonies our new niggers?"
Unification Church official Michael Jenkins (who later became president of the Unification Church of the United States) commented in 1989 on his views of why the Unification Church was shifting its public stance regarding use of the word: "Why, after so many years, should we now be taking such a stand to eliminate the term 'Moonie?' For me, it is a sign that the American Unification Church has come of age. We can no longer allow our founder, our members, and allies to be dehumanized and unfairly discriminated against. ... We are now entering a period of our history where our Church development and family orientation are strong enough that we can turn our attention toward ending the widespread misunderstanding about our founder and the Unification movement." In 1990, a position paper sent from the Unification Church to The Fresno Bee said: "We will fight gratuitous use of the 'Moonie' or 'cult' pejoratives. We will call journalists on every instance of unprofessional reporting. We intend to stop distortions plagiarized from file clippings which propagate from story to story like a computer virus." In 1992 the Unification Church-affiliated organization Professors World Peace Academy asserted use of the word "Moonie" was akin to that of the word "nigger". Unification Church member Kristopher Esplin told Reuters what is normally done if the word is seen in media sources: "If it's printed in newspapers, we will respond, write to the editor, that sort of thing." On an October 6, 1994 broadcast of Nightline, host Ted Koppel stated: "On last night's program ...I used the term 'Moonies'. This is a label which members of the Reverend Sun Myung Moon's Unification Church find demeaning and offensive, and I'd like to apologize for its use."
In a 1996 article for The Independent about a talk former Prime Minister Edward Heath gave at a Unification Church sponsored conference, Andrew Brown commented: "The term 'Moonie' has entered the language as meaning a brainwashed, bright-eyed zombie." Brown also quoted William Shaw, a broadcaster who was presenting the Cult Fiction series on BBC Radio Five Live: "Most Moonies embrace a morality which would make them acceptable in the most genteel Anglican social circle."
In a 2004 interview with The New York Times, playwright Tony Kushner used the term "Moonies" to refer to religious converts who lacked "spiritual liveliness or freedom of thought". The 2004 book Can I Know What to Believe? (written for high school students) asks: "When I say the word Moonies, what do you think of? Because Moonies aren't as prevalent in our society today as they were several years ago ... some might mentioned the mass weddings performed by Sun Myung Moon. Others might mention the group's fund-raising efforts through flower selling." In 2005 the New York Times published (as a part of their series "Modern Love") the testimony of former Unification Church member Renee Watabe about her arranged marriage in which her husband was selected for her by Moon. Watabe said about her former religious affiliation: "We 'Moonies' were willing to sacrifice personal choice to spin gold out of the raw silk of ourselves, to help create world harmony through family harmony."
In 2009 The Daily Telegraph suggested that the Manchester City football club be nicknamed "The Blue Moonies" for their "evangelical zeal." In 2010 National Public Radio reported that young members of the Unification Church "bristle at the term 'Moonie'", while USA Today reported that "the folks who follow Rev. Sun Myung Moon (also known, to their dislike, as the Moonies)." In 2010 The New York Times noted that the word “Moonie“ was being used in Washington D.C. to denote that someone was a “swooning loyalist.” The Denver Post reported that supporters of conservative congressional candidate Dan Maes were being called "Maes moonies" for their "almost cultish" devotion to him.
British sociologist Eileen Barker titled her 1984 book, which was based on seven years of first-person study of members of the Unification Church in the United States and Great Britain and has been influential in the field of the sociology of religion, The Making of a Moonie: Choice or Brainwashing?. In the 1995 book America's Alternative Religions, published by the State University of New York Press, Baker wrote: "Although they prefer to be called Unificationists, they are referred to in the media and popularly known as 'Moonies'." In the same book, sociologists Anson Shupe and David Bromley, both noted for their studies of new religious movements, also use the word Moonies to refer to members of the Unification Church. In his 1998 book Religion, Mobilization, and Social Action, Shupe notes that Barker, Bromley, and he himself had used the term in other publications, "and meant no offense". In his 2000 book Mystics and Messiahs, Philip Jenkins likens the term to "smear words such as Shaker, Methodist, Mormon". Jenkins mentions use of the word in book titles including Life among the Moonies and Escape from the Moonies, and comments: "These titles further illustrate how the derogatory term 'Moonie' became a standard for members of this denomination, in a way that would have been inconceivable for any of the insulting epithets that could be applied to, say, Catholics or Jews."
A 1992 study by Jeffrey E. Pfeifer of the University of Virginia on "The Psychological Framing of Cults" found that 75.51% (74 of 98) of participating individuals were familiar with the word "Moonies". Dr Pfeifer sums up his findings by saying:
- Subjects were asked to read a description of a young man who joins a group and is exposed to its indoctrination process. Depending on the condition, subjects were led to believe that the group was either the Moonies, the Marines, or the Catholic Church. Except for the group label, in all three conditions the description of the indoctrination process was identical. Subjects were then asked to evaluate both the group's indoctrination techniques and the individual who joined the group, and to complete a questionnaire regarding their general knowledge of cults. Results indicate that subject ratings are significantly affected by the group label and that general knowledge regarding cults is based primarily on indirect sources.
Rosalind Millam's 2002 book Anti-Discriminatory Practice notes that "Its followers are better known as Moonies"; the entry on the Unification Church in the book is titled: "Unification Church (Moonies)". In its entry on "Unification Church", the 2002 edition of The New York Times Manual of Style and Usage advised: "Unification Church is appropriate in all references to the Holy Spirit Association for the Unification of World Christianity, which was founded by the Rev. Sun Myung Moon. Do not use the disparaging Moonie(s)". Reuters, in its handbook for journalists, says: "'Moonie' is a pejorative term for members of the Unification Church. We should not use it in copy and avoid it when possible in direct quotations."
- Cultural appropriation
- Jesus freak
- Reclaimed word
- Unification Church
- Unification Church of the United States
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|Look up Moonie in Wiktionary, the free dictionary.|
- Moonie in Urban Dictionary.
- International Conferences for Clergy, Questions And Answers, answer at Unification Church website about term Moonies
- An essay on the use of the term Moonie by a Unification Church member