World Magazine published a curious non-denial denial from Ron Godwin regarding his participation with Rev. Sun Myung Moon and his Unification Church cult. Dave Swavely, reporting for World, asked Godwin about a series of Moon sermons that appeared to appoint Godwin as his disciple and collaborator. Swavely printed his lawyerly and non-responsive answer:
Godwin told me he only worked at the Times and with “hundreds of other professionals at the paper. …I was never a member of Moon’s church, nor was I ever a spokesperson for Moon himself. Moon often made claims about various nonchurch employees at the paper that were totally false.”
I followed up with Swavely to check whether Godwin had said anything further (editors sometimes cut good quotes after reporters submit their stories), though the reporter confirmed that the magazine printed all of Godwin’s statement. Let’s evaluate it.
Godwin worked with “hundreds of other professionals at the paper.”
Well, yes, he did, but he was Moon’s senior vice president and one of his most important American employees. To claim that he was just one of hundreds looks like an attempt to underplay his significant and high-profile position in the Moonie business universe. Godwin had almost unchecked autonomy to run Moon’s many businesses, not just the newspaper. A 2008 Forbes book excerpt described Godwin’s role:
Godwin became an ambassador for the Washington Times and a roving efficiency expert for the giant constellation of Moon’s enterprises in real estate, hotels and restaurants. He swooped in on Moon-owned operations to analyze productivity and suggest ways to squeeze profits, he says. He got to know all of Moon’s children and attended their birthday parties. His budget was prodigious. For a 4,000-guest Washington Times banquet, Godwin rented the Great Hall of the People, the giant edifice on the western edge of Tiananmen Square.
Godwin’s attempt to hide within a mass of Times employees is like Payton Manning saying he’s just one of scores of athletes who work for the Denver Broncos. Yes, but mainly, no.
“I was never a member of Moon’s church.”
This was never the claim, so it’s a denial that misses the point. Moon’s attraction to Godwin was that he appeared to be a member in good standing within the evangelical world, so he was perfectly placed to infiltrate that world and revive the “dead” Christian church to be consistent with Moonie beliefs. As detailed in this earlier post, Godwin’s history with Falwell and the Moral Majority perfectly positioned him to infiltrate Moon’s three main targets of church, politics and education.
Although Godwin was never an official member, Moon treated him as an insider, and was pleasantly surprised when Godwin showed up at to listen to Moon preach one Sunday morning in April 1993. For all the times that Moon publicly declared that Godwin was a supporter, disciple and collaborator, why didn’t Godwin either correct Moon or resign and return to work for Falwell, who would have taken him back immediately?
“I was never a spokesman for Moon himself.”
This is another carefully focused denial of a claim that wasn’t made. Moon had his own personal spokesman, but Godwin was declared to be a general spokesman for the church in the sense that he was going to be sent to the evangelical world as the cult’s representative. This was a publicly announced role, and one that Godwin enthusiastically embraced in public, if we are to believe the church’s official account of Moon’s meetings. One event stands out, and is worth quoting directly from the church’s transcript, including the material in braces where the transcriptionists describes the events of this meeting from January 1992. The quote starts with Moon directly addressing Godwin and two other supposedly evangelical preachers.
You will be like the three disciples of Jesus. Each one of you will put your self in Jesus’ position and multiply three disciples of your own. Then your number will grow to a team of twelve. With twelve people of your character and determination, at this level, you will be invincible. Your catch phrase will be the that American Christianity needs resurrection more than revival. Let us resurrect American Christianity. It is crucial to the survival of this nation and the world….
[At this point, Dr. Grant, Dr. Sills and Dr. Godwin stood up and grasped their hands together, holding them high. Father waded through several rows of members to himself grasp the clasped hands of the three, making four.]
Though Godwin wasn’t a spokesman, he was one of Moon’s inner circle of disciples. That’s much better.
“Moon often made claims about various nonchurch employees at the paper that were totally false.”
Given that almost everything that Moon taught was false, this is probably true, but it doesn’t mean that he sometimes told the truth about Ron Godwin. As I’ve documented, Moon thought that Godwin was with him, calling him a collaborator, and Godwin acted in ways that confirmed his devotion to Moon in front of Moon’s own people. Godwin’s later role in engineering the transfer of millions of dollars to bail out the bankrupt Liberty University in the 1990s also seems to confirm that Moon was correct in thinking he could trust Godwin to look after his interests in influencing and reviving the American church.
Should Godwin wish to issue a more precise denial, the following questions might be worth considering:
- Why didn’t you resign when you saw Moon treating you as his great hope to influence the Christian church?
- Why did you help facilitate Moon giving money to Falwell when you knew he wanted you to help him infiltrate and influence Christian higher education?
- Why did you raise and join hands with Moon when he asked you to revive the church?
- Why did you attend Moon’s Sunday sermon in April 1993 rather than attend a Christian church? If your job required you to attend such services, why didn’t you resign?
- Do you think Moon’s organization is a cult? If so, when did you come to that conclusion?
- Do you think Moon is a false teacher? Is so, when did you come to that conclusion?
- Is it legitimate for us to worry that your apparent lack of discernment in the 1990s is being reflected in Liberty’s embrace of people like Benny Hinn and Glenn Beck now?