His ideas were insane and his vast influence dangerous, but viewed as performance art, his mass weddings of thousands of international strangers at basketball arenas must be appreciated. Via the Los Angeles Times:
The Rev. Sun Myung Moon, the self-proclaimed Messiah from South Korea who led the Unification Church, one of the most controversial religious movements to sweep America in the 1970s, has died. He was 92. At the height of his popularity, he claimed 5 million members worldwide…followers [who] were mocked as “Moonies.”
Moon offered an unorthodox message that blended calls for world peace with an unusual interpretation of Christianity, strains of Confucianism and a strident anti-communism. He was famous for presiding over mass marriage ceremonies.
What also made Moon unusual was a multinational corporate vision that made him a millionaire many times over. He owned vast tracts of land in the U.S. and South America, as well as dozens of enterprises, including a ballet company, a university, a gun manufacturer, a seafood operation and several media organizations, most notably the conservative Washington Times newspaper.
The short, balding immigrant evangelist was not charismatic in the usual sense. He spoke poor English and gave few interviews. His sermons, delivered through interpreters, rambled on for hours and often exhorted followers against using “love organs” in promiscuous behavior or homosexual relationships. His ideas often seemed bizarre: He believed in numerology, proposed building a highway around the world and for a while embraced a Zimbabwean man as the reincarnation of a son who had died in an accident.
Followers were expected to live communally under austere conditions, although the church later moved away from group living as members matured and started their own families. Each member also was expected to raise money for the church, often by peddling flowers or other innocuous items at airports and shopping malls.
He courted the powerful with surprising success, at one time counting among his friends and allies Christian right leader Jerry Falwell, who defended Moon when he was tried and later convicted in the U.S. on charges of tax evasion; the Nation of Islam’s Louis Farrakhan, who shared pulpits with him; and former President George H.W. Bush, who appeared at Unification Church-affiliated events in the U.S. and abroad.