The World Peace and Unification Sanctuary, also known as the Sanctuary Church, made headlines earlier this year when crown-wearing members showed up with AR-15 rifles in a “commitment ceremony.”
Since then, the small church in Newfoundland, Pennsylvania has attracted widespread attention, more recently when its current leader Rev. Hyung-jin “Sean” Moon crashed a GOP event to “bless” it.
In a new interview with Vice, Moon and his followers explained why they carry guns to build God’s kingdom on Earth.
“The Bible is very clear in showing that Christ requires us to be judges over the nation, judges of the wicked, to rule with a rod of iron,” Moon said. “Psalm 2 and Revelation 2 say that the Believers will rule with a rod of iron.”
Moon, who proclaims himself as the “Second King,” established his group based on the teachings of his father, the late Rev. Sun-myung Moon, who founded the Unification Church in 1954.
“We thank you that we would have the opportunity to be able to practice and love God and love our neighbor. From you we receive our rights of kingship and sovereignty,” Moon said in prayer at a makeshift gun range. “And Father, these are the right to bear arms that we exercise today.”
Coming from different backgrounds, followers of the Church believe that God speaks through Moon and that guns are necessary to protect their lives.
“Being able to take your own life as seriously as God takes your life is, I think, loving God and showing God ‘Yes, I appreciate this life, this gift that you’ve given me and the lives of those around me,’” one member said. “‘And I want to take your work seriously so I’m not just gonna be stopped by some crazy dude who’s trying to hurt me.’”
The Church, which critics have since dismissed as a “cult,” lives by the motto “Love God, love your neighbor.” Another member argued that carrying rifles doesn’t mean they’re bad people.
“As a Christian community, we’re not naive about what evil intent Satan has in for us,” the member said. “I think a lot of people think that because we have guns and we like guns, we’re gonna go out looking for trouble like some vigilante. There’s nothing further from the truth.”
A pair of rifles intersect in the sect’s logo, which faced a federal lawsuit from the Unification Church in late July. The Unification Church described the Sanctuary Church’s gun-centered theology as “repugnant” and a “perversion” of their beliefs.
“Sanctuary Church’s conduct is willful, deliberate (and) in bad faith,” Adam Shienvold, a Unification Church attorney, said in the suit. “Unless restrained by the court … (it) will continue to cause serious irreparable injury.”
Critics particularly slammed the Church for being insensitive about holding the controversial ceremony only few weeks after a school shooting in Florida that claimed 17 lives. Regardless, Moon’s followers believe that guns are keys to successful self-defense.
“I would just as soon be left alone,” a member said. “But if somebody’s gonna come to my house to rape and kill my children, I’m sorry, all bets are off … I mean, come on. Let’s realize that there’s evil in the world, the police can’t always be there, and in many cases like it was in Parkland, Florida they just did not do a thing about it.”
Aside from the Church’s affinity for guns, outsiders have also been curious why members wear crowns during worship. Moon explained that it’s also based on Scripture.
“I think one of the key Scriptures on God’s side is the crown that’s in Revelation 3 and 11. The Bible says ‘Let no man take thy crown’ so we see that the faithful who are overcoming with Christ are given crowns of sovereignty and royalty.”
Images via YouTube / Vice