The Pennsylvania-based church has sporadically appeared in headlines in recent years, including in a 2018 NPR piece highlighting an “armed ceremony” that featured everything from bullet-adorned crowns to AR-15-style rifles being utilized as interpretations of the Holy Bible’s “rod of iron” mention.
A new report from Vice News, out Tuesday, says the newly acquired 130-acre property in Tennessee marks the latest sign that the group is pushing for expansion. Pastor Hyung Jin Sean Moon, the son of the late Rev. Sun Myung Moon, is known for launching an offshoot of the Unification Church following his father’s death. Founded by his father, the Unification Church was known for its implementation of mass wedding ceremonies, a trait that also appears in the Rod of Iron Ministries world albeit with guns.
The original congregation has been met with years of abuse allegations, many of which centered around the original “spiritual retreat” that could soon be emulated in Tennessee. Mentioned in a recent sermon from Moon were plans for the Tennessee site—which Vice News reported was sold for $460,000—to include schools and training centers, as well as separate living cabins for men and women.
The “core values” cited by the Rod of Iron Ministries group on an official website include—among other things—“defending our family, neighbor, and God’s Kingdom through the biblical word of God and self-defense culture” and “mind-body unity through self-defense training.”
A spokesperson for the main Unification Church congregation is quoted in Tuesday’s Tess Owen report as saying the Rod of Iron sect doesn’t “represent the legacy of the late Rev. Sun Myung Moon.” For more, including info on the Rod group’s Capitol riot and MAGA connections, head here.
Also worth a deep-dive is this 2018 piece from the Southern Poverty Law Center detailing followers being asked “by the King” to take part in a ceremony during which attending with an AR-15 would be considered “a substantial ‘perfection stage’ blessing.” This more recent breakdown, again from the SPLC team, is also essential reading.