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I've lived in Washington for a dozen years and as I was reading this fascinating piece by the Washington Post's Michelle Boorstein, it occurred to me that I knew next to nothing about the Unification Church. Rev. Sun Myung Moon and his church have strong ties in the area, including ownership of the Washington Times. And mention of the Unification Church, the Rev. Moon or the Moonies isn't unheard of 'round these parts. But when was the last time you read a decent story about what the church teaches? The focus of Boorstein's story is second-generation Unificationists, as the church prefers members be called. These are the "blessed children" of Moon-arranged mass weddings from decades ago, children whose parents went straight from being strangers to engaged couples after their Messiah, the Korean Moon, matched them up. Moon is now in his late 80s and some church members are wondering how the church will and should proceed. Boorstein checks in with them and tells their story, particularly in light of some recent upsets in Moon-connected businesses in the Washington area. (Various executives at the Times were let go, as were some 40 percent of the staff, and other related businesses have also been shaken.)

The article includes relevant statistical information -- church officials estimate that 7,500 of the 21,000 active Unificationists in the country are blessed children. It also includes fascinating information about the doctrine. For instance, Unificationists believe these children were born free of original sin and have a special spiritual status.

Here's a portion of the piece that shows the range of belief in practice among second generation Unificationists:

Miilhan Stephens, a 22-year-old studying food science at the University of Maryland, beamed as he talked about Moon pairing him by photograph with a young woman from Japan. Photos from the matching ceremony show him holding the hand of his fiancee, who's wearing a white dress and veil, in a Manhattan concert hall filled with couples.

By contrast, Marisa Rand, a 21-year-old art student whose Moon-matched parents divorced long ago, said the circumstance of their marriage was such a sensitive subject that it was barely mentioned when she was growing up in Cheverly. Her family no longer practices Unificationism, and she can't imagine marrying the way her parents did.

Then there's Moffitt, who represents the new, somewhat more moderate face of Unificationism. He didn't marry a stranger -- he and his wife, Kaeleigh, have known each other since they were children -- and their marriage wasn't arranged by Moon.

The two sat together in the Bowie living room with other blessed children for their weekly youth group. They discussed a book by Hyung-Jin Moon -- the Moon son leading the religious part of the movement --performed skits, ate potato chips and admired one another's clothes. Except for their biracial faces -- evidence of a theology that sees intermarriage as a cosmic way to end conflict -- and the photo of Rev. Moon on the wall, their lives are a world away from their parents'. A new way to find their spouses

The article goes on to explain that many blessed children and their parents are using Web sites for matching. Moon announced in 2001, we learn, that parents could match their own children and Boorstein explains the theology behind that announcement. The article balances some of these doctrinal points with anecdotes, including a look at one of the local arranged marriages that was successful, a couple with 35 years of marriage and five children.

It's easy to ignore, dismiss or sensationalize outlier religious groups such as the Unification Church. This article brings the church and its members into focus and, for someone like me who is largely ignorant of the Unification Church, it's welcome.

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