mass wedding ceremony at unification church
The Unification Church is best known for their mass wedding ceremonies, where up to thousands of members wed at once.

The assassination of former Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe on July 8th shocked the world. The alleged killer, 41-year-old Tetsuya Yamagami, used a homemade gun to kill Abe in broad daylight during a campaign stop in Nara Prefecture. 

But many were surprised when Yamagami, who is not denying his role in the murder, told investigators that the attack was not of a political nature, but personal.

He says it was revenge for the Abe government’s close relationship with a controversial South Korean church, a church that Yamagami says ruined his life and left him destitute. Some in Japan even relate to and feel sympathy for Yamagami, sending care packages and begging for prosecutorial leniency.

So what is this controversial church, and what did it do to provoke a high-profile assassination?

What is the Unification Church?

The group in question is the Unification Church. Although officially unconfirmed, it is widely believed that the church in question is the Unification Church (UC), a church founded in the 1950s in South Korea by Sun Myung Moon.

UC members believe that Moon is a messiah, and that Jesus Christ appeared to him in 1936 and tasked him with finishing His holy work. That includes forming the perfect marriage, which UC members believe Moon did with his second wife, Hak Ja Han. They’re referred to as the “True Parents” of the movement, and members are blessed in mass wedding ceremonies where they can become “True Children”.

Moon’s stated goal was uniting all the different peoples of the world under the Unification Church, typically through mass wedding ceremonies.

It is these mass wedding ceremonies that the UC is primarily known for. The Unification Church rejects the idea of romantic love prior to marriage; When he was alive, Moon would point to two members at a mass wedding ceremony and match them together as a couple. Newlywed spouses often had not met each other previously or had only corresponded via letters. In some cases, they did not even share a common language. 

Members of the church became pejoratively known as ‘Moonies’, after the group's leader.

All of this – the mass wedding ceremonies, messianic view of their leader, and requests for large donations – has led some critics to label the church a cult.

A Worldwide Movement

Although it began in Korea, the Unification Church since spread out and has branches (and political influence) in countries around the world. 

The group is active in the U.S., and a Unification Church in Pennsylvania made headlines a few years back when it held a "mass blessing ceremony" for AR-15 rifles

Following the shocking assassination of former Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, evidence has surfaced that the...

Posted by Universal Life Church Ministries on Monday, July 11, 2022

So what about the connection to Abe? Well, the UC is also quite influential in Japan, and Prime Minister Abe’s government was one of the church’s biggest political allies. It is that relationship that would ultimately lead to his assassination.

Fleecing the Flock

Despite his decision to violently assassinate a former world leader, many people in Japan found Tetsuya Yamagami’s story a sympathetic and relatable one.

Yamagami’s mother was a member of the UC, and in a letter drafted before his assassination of Abe, he detailed his experience with them and why he believes they ruined his life.

“After my mother joined the church (in the 1990s), my entire teenage years were gone, with some 100 million yen ($735,000) wasted,” the letter read. “It’s not an exaggeration to say my experience during that time has kept distorting my entire life.”

The church is well-known for its requests for exorbitant cash donations. As Moon told a group of Japanese followers in 1973, “each of you needs to restore, through paying indemnity, the sins committed by your ancestors in history.”

Sometimes they got even more creative. As one civil suit described, church-related businesses would pressure believers into purchasing overpriced products by leveraging them as a remedy against ancestral curses.

According to his uncle, Yamagami and his brother were increasingly neglected by their mother, who instead went all-in on the UC and gave away all of the family fortune – hundreds of thousands of dollars – to the Unification Church. Within months of joining the church, she apparently had donated nearly $500,000 USD to the church.

The Lost Generation

Yamagami blames the church for ruining his life and livelihood, as his family fortune was donated away by his mother and his brother committed suicide. When Yamagami tried unsuccessfully to take his own life, his mother allegedly didn’t even leave Korea to see him.

It’s a familiar story for many Japanese of a particular generation, who came of working age during a time of economic turmoil in Japan, only to see whatever family fortune they had donated to a new age religion they were forced into as children. The Japanese media has dubbed them ‘the lost generation’.

Ultimately, it appears Yamagami was seeking somewhere to place blame for his misfortune. He settled on Abe, a successful politician who had risen to power in part by courting the Unification Church to shore up votes for his campaigns. This it seems, in his mind, was unforgivable. 

The assassination has set off a discussion on the children of UC members in Japan, the neglect they felt as children, and the tough financial situation Japan’s economy and their parents’ financial contributions to the church have left them in.

As one social psychology professor in Japan stated, “if our society had paid more attention to the problems over the past few decades, [this] attack could have been prevented.”

22 comments

  1. Nicholas J Page's Avatar Nicholas J Page

    Unification church sounds like a swindle to me.are the moonies that daft enough to pay more than thousands of dollars or whatever someone is.milking the system.Why do they ask for more money.When churches rely on donations that people can afford not throw it at the church.

    1. Dr. Zerpersande's Avatar Dr. Zerpersande

      Asian version of scientology??

    2. Dr. Zerpersande's Avatar Dr. Zerpersande

      @J Page “ Unification church sounds like a swindle to me.are the moonies that daft enough to pay more than thousands of dollars or whatever someone is.”

      Just change that to… Churches sound like a swindle to me. How can believers be daft enough to pay thousands of dollars bc of whatever someone claims to be or represent?

      It’s called being religiously delusional. All believers suffer from delusions. It’s only a matter of degree.

      1. Bill Snape's Avatar Bill Snape

        I think the Moonies predicted the end of the world a few times and their followers gave away all their families possessions etc....could be wrong, but that is my memory of it back in the 70s I think...haha, not much to go on but worth looking at if you are interested...I was also under the impression they were banned in some countries. Elsewhere I also heard the guy who shot Abe was actually after someone else from the church but didn't get that chance and so shot Abe instead as he was right in front...ask yourselves how that could have happened? Security were either asleep at the wheel or complicit. Sickening, Abe was one of the good guys.

  1. Krystina S.'s Avatar Krystina S.

    So.... the difference between a religious Sect and a religious Cult is... a matter of degree. The Unification Church is definitely a Cult. As are some sects/denominations AND groups within sects (I'm looking at some groups within Catholicism, Handmaid's Tale fer sure!!) of Christianity, Buddhism and Islam, certainly. There are New Age and Spiritual(ist) and Military/ist cults and CRAZY (QAnon) cults, all of which demand their BELIEVERS "buy in" to their "System" in a personal way. We are as human beings vulnerable to Quackery and being taken in by Cults.

    1. Dr. Zerpersande's Avatar Dr. Zerpersande

      The only difference between a cult and a religion is there size of the congregation. The rattlesnake dancers in Appalachia are a cult. Actually a cult within a religion. Double the delusion.

  1. William Dusenberry's Avatar William Dusenberry

    According to Ernest Haeckel, who write the “Riddle of the Universe” there is absolutely nothing supernatural in the Universe that the human mind can comprehend.”

    Ergo, any ULC’ers, who consider the supernatural a reality — are probably “nuttier than a fruitcake” whether they’re ordained ULC ministers — or still ministers in training.

    1. Douglas Robert Spindler's Avatar Douglas Robert Spindler

      Ernest Haeckel, who write the “Riddle of the Universe” and "The Demon-Haunted World: Science as a Candle in the Dark" are both excellent books which. Amazingly they were written over a century apart and are still as relevant today as when they are written. Excellent books for Christians to read.

  1. Thomas J Herman's Avatar Thomas J Herman

    This really eye opening. Cults are springing all over and as we know predicted by John in his accounting of our times in his book of Revelations. I'm learning how hunt, to trap and dress game. I didn't learn these skills because in my youth, my time was spent on trying to break into the music scene. I played in several Top 40 cover bands and not paying attention to Christ. I'm so glad that he loves us and his parables have taught me to be a more caring and kind person. Helping others is the key to my purpose. Preparation is the key to survival. I started a blog about my issues with my past substance abuse and finding joy again in the hopes that I can inspire others. It's called steppingoutofshame.com and I speak on how living within the Bibles means have changed the way I live.

    1. Lionheart's Avatar Lionheart

      I’m glad you found a book with some things written in it that helped you to be more caring and become a kind person. The Harry Potter books also have some very good moral stories and sayings from Dumbledore if those will also help you.

      It’s really nice that people can turn to a variety of books to help them get through life. My Hindu friend found two or three books that helped him when he was going through some bad times.

      🦁❤️

    2. Richard Darwin Richards's Avatar Richard Darwin Richards

      God be praised!!! God loves you and so do we!

  1. Reverend Kurt's Avatar Reverend Kurt

    The UC is not the sole "church" that advercates dubious beliefs and practises. Look at Scientology, Hillsong,. Born Again Christians, pentacostals and hundreds of other "churches" that revolve around a prophetic leader. Is it the charisma of the cult founder or the need of the followers to be ruled? Perhaps it is our modern society where everyone is alienated from family and community. Cults give a sense of belonging/ togetherness, a unity and common purpose and a totalitarian discipline. We are the few chosen, our leader is the new messiah ,seems to be a common thread . Power and absolute control of the masses is the hallmark of these "messiah /prophets at the expense of spiritual and societal values.

    Millions of lives have been,are being, destroyed by these charamaristic despots. This is not the sole Providence of religion. Racism, as seen in the former Yugoslavia, Africa and PolPot 's Asia compares well as does politics and national identity as seen in WWII and Russia -Ukraine now. What is right and wrong here? I say it is the needs of human nature which creates the fertile ground for these festering despots to take control. To

  1. Clay Serenbetz's Avatar Clay Serenbetz

    Assassinations, sacrifices, or any other harmful activity are never acceptable and are not excusable for any reason. If you have a valid claim take your grievance to Court. Religious sects and cults have been stealing money from their adherents for millenia. For example, he Catholic Church has been fleecing its members for many centuries. An example is demanding money to dissolve marriage.

    1. Thomas J Herman's Avatar Thomas J Herman

      Remember purchased promises for entry into Heaven. If you give enough money to the Catholic Mob, they gave you a catacomb under the church

  1. Rev Mark D's Avatar Rev Mark D

    This has been going on since the early '70s when Moon first appeared. Nothing new here just swindle unless I'll see a path who has the personal ability to enlist the slave viciousness of the week. Nothing new at all. Sociopath narcissist and that is all to the story except of course that the week are always fodder for the sociopaths. It's simple evolution. "If he did not want them shorn, he would not have made them sheep."

  1. Rev Mark D's Avatar Rev Mark D

    Natural selection in action. Nothing new here.

  1. Douglas Robert Spindler's Avatar Douglas Robert Spindler

    What's the difference between a church and a cult?

    If anyone is interested in how a someone creates a cult and turns it into religion should check out Twin Flames Universe. Jeff and Shaleia Ayan started Twin Flames Universe on Facebook and YouTube. They quickly went from penniless a few years and now have become quite wealthy. The story of how Jeff and Shaleia Ayan whet from drifters in 2017 to God in 2021 is told in the Podcast Twin Flames Universe and on YouTube, Introducing the Twin Flames Universe... | Twin Flames | Full Podcast Episode https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=T4e0G8rVZqc&ab_channel=Wondery

    As of a few months ago Twin Flames Universe is still racking in the money with Jeff now claiming he is God. It appears to be working as they still have followers.

  1. William Dusenberry's Avatar William Dusenberry

    According to Ernest Haeckel, who wrote the “Riddle of the Universe” there is absolutely nothing supernatural in the Universe that the human mind can comprehend.”

    Ergo, any ULC’ers, who consider the supernatural a reality — are probably “nuttier than a fruitcake” whether they’re ordained ULC ministers — or still ministers in training.

  1. Richard Darwin Richards's Avatar Richard Darwin Richards

    Crickets from the Biden administration on this and Salman Rushdie ...

    1. Cheryl Pettijohn's Avatar Cheryl Pettijohn

      Why do you require the US to intercede in Japan's affairs?

      1. Richard Darwin Richards's Avatar Richard Darwin Richards

        Biden seems to have the answer to every other countries problems except the US.He should be able to meddle and figure this out.

  1. Rev Ned's Avatar Rev Ned

    Kinda like 45's Red Hatted MAGAts?

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