The Rev. Sun Myung Moon urged an enthusiastic crowd of supporters in Baltimore last night to go forth and multiply.
In a sermon delivered in Korean and translated into English, Moon, 81, told more than 300 people that having children is the best way to serve God, more important even than the much-vaunted virtue of love.
Moon, the leader of the Unification Church, spoke at a revival at Brown's Memorial Baptist Church in the 3200 block of W. Belvedere Ave., his 32nd stop in a 51-day tour of the country. The event began at 5 p.m. with an hour of music, followed by five or six speakers who praised Moon. About 7:20 p.m., after a video detailing his accomplishments around the world, Moon walked to the podium amid a burst of applause.
In the past, Moon has declared himself a messiah who has come to unite all religions. Some have called his church a cult, but his supporters said last night that he is a man of God and compared him to Gandhi and the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.
Moon's audience cheered him on, even when he ventured into controversial territory. They applauded enthusiastically when he denounced lesbianism and homosexuality and encouraged wives to bear their husbands lots of babies. He said that he has 14 children, eliciting more applause.
"When you raise a child, that is the most precious thing a woman can do under the sun," Moon said. "That's the way you will deserve praise from your husband that yes, you did your mission."
He said that after raising children, a woman is "entitled to go to heaven."
Organizers describe Moon's national tour as an interfaith revival to encourage strong family values. It is part of an effort by the American Clergy Leadership Conference - a Unification Church affiliate - to build an interfaith and interracial religious coalition. The tour began Feb. 25 in New York.
Moon ran into some trouble this month in Detroit after two Baptist pastors took offense when they were listed as event sponsors and urged people to stay away.
But last night, Moon seemed to draw only praise.
One supporter was Mary Beth Sodus, 40. "I think his message was right on the money in terms of the importance of family and the importance of marriage being a sacrament," said Sodus.
She said that she has been participating in a Moon-sponsored dating service for the past 18 months in hopes of meeting a husband and one day having children.
The one thing she had some trouble with, Sodus said, were Moon's comments on homosexuality.
"I'm not here to hate anybody," she said.