Hey Moonies — there is no free lunch
The Moonies, as they were called back in the day, were devotees of the Korean religious leader, Reverend Sun Myong Moon. They refer to themselves, today, as “Unificationists.”
When I met the Moonies in 1971, my roommate, Lol, and I were living on the second floor of a tenement on Telegraph Avenue in Oakland. I had a part time job teaching physical education classes at a private school two blocks from our apartment. Each day, as I walked to the school, I passed a large house with a sign in the window that read, Free Lunch Every Wednesday. If I had half the knowledge then that I have now, I would have known that there’s no such thing as a free lunch.
The next Wednesday, Lol and I walked to the house excited by the prospect of a free meal. We knocked on the door and were invited inside. Our timing was perfect. We arrived just in time to join them for lunch. Sitting on the floor in the living room were eight other young men and women. We sat with the others and introductions were made all around. Within five minutes, and with grumbling stomachs, we began to understand what we’d gotten ourselves into. It was not good.
Many articles appeared in newspapers and magazines that described the Moonies as a religious cult. Perhaps they were. The Moonies were definitely adherents of the Reverend Moon’s religious philosophy. Their Unification Church, however, was a moneymaking operation. One present day article describes them not in religious terms but in corporate terms as follows:
This vast and bewildering multinational could be called Moon Inc. It is a sprawling collection of churches, nonprofit foundations and for-profit holding companies whose global operations include computers and religious icons in Japan, seafood in Alaska, weapons and ginseng in Korea, huge tracts of land in South America, a university in Bridgeport, Connecticut, a recording studio and travel agency in Manhattan, a horse farm in Texas and a golf course in California.
As Lol and I sat in the circle with the Moonies, we wondered how we could escape without offending anyone. As it turned out, we were cooped up for over two hours. The first hour was an introduction to their religious views. The second was spent eating and getting to know one-another. The others, we found out, were all residents of the Moony house. We were newbies. We were low-hanging fruit. Easy pickings. Potential revenue makers.
Lunch was served where we sat on the floor. To our surprise it was vegetarian. By surprise, I mean we had hoped for some meat. Some free meat. I can’t recall what vegetarian dishes were offered but I do remember enjoying what was served. It was probably the first totally vegetarian meal I ever ate.
At the end of the meal, Lol and I politely made an excuse to leave, got up from the floor and walked to the door. One of the Moonies got up with us asked for a donation for the meal. My first thought was, but the sign said free! Lol and I had maybe 20 cents between the two of us. We turned out our pockets to show him how poor we were. He just smiled, took our change and offered a soft-spoken “We’ll see you again”.
For the next six months this same individual would knock on our door each Wednesday about dinnertime. He was very persistent. His goal was to get us to live with them in their big house, become members of the Unification Church and to contribute, financially, to Reverend Moon’s cause.
The Unification Church claimed to be Christian. Its detractors called it a cult. I called it spooky.
For more vegetarian adventures, see Randy’s “Ojai Valley Vegetarian Blog” book at CreateSpace.com