The Heartbreak and Rage of K. Gordon Neufeld


K. Gordon Neufeld to the right of Reverend Moon

When Gordon Neufeld asked me where he could buy Holy Candy, I learned that—in 2002—Gordon had published a book called Heartbreak and Rage, about his ten years in the Unification Church. I asked him what the heartbreak and rage of the title was about.

“I used to feel it was important for former members of cults to feel angry and hate the cult,” said Gordon. “Because otherwise you’re at risk of going back. Now I’m a little more moderate in my thinking." 

But reading a recent article in the New Republic reminded Gordon of why he was angry.

"I felt anger with Moon and with the group for manipulating me," said Gordon, "for basically being a fraud."

1982 Blessing, Madison Square Garden

"My book talks about the so called Blessing of 1982 at Madison Square Garden,” said Gordon. “This was still during the time when [Reverend Moon] would physically do it himself... He matched me up with an English woman. I got quite fond of her. The heartbreak was that I never actually lived with her.”

“She couldn’t handle the church life," said Gordon. "She finally quit the church and sent me a letter saying it’s over.  That was 1984. I persisted for two more years and then I quit as well. She married someone else.”

“One ironic twist to the story is that marriage didn’t work and she nearly talked me into rejoining the Unification Church,” said Gordon. “But by that time I had moved on… and I wanted to pursue my writing ambition.”

Gordon joined the church after graduating from the University of British Columbia with a degree in English. After leaving the church, he returned to UBC to complete an MFA in Creative Writing. Publishing his book, Heartbreak and Rage, led to unexpected events in Gordon's life. 

“The most striking effect of writing the book is that a woman who was a former member of the church read the book and wrote to me in 2005,” said Gordon. “I started corresponding with her. And I went to visit her and we decided to get married.”

Gordon won Spinetingler's Canadian Short Story contest in 2005, and he is currently writing a book of short stories about people’s experiences in different cults. In 2014, he will speak at the International Cultic Studies Association conference in Washinton DC, about the three stages of his life: before, during and after the church.

"You gradually find out who you are," said Gordon, "And you just keep working on it for the rest of your life."

You can learn more about Gordon’s writing at his website,


Sun Myung Moon with Hak Ja Han Moon during 1972 trip to Britain, before he was banned from visiting the country and 18 years before I heard of him

Since Reverend Moon’s death last month, I have learned that the “True Family” held even more secrets than I imagined.  Although I parted ways with the Unification Church many years ago, I am still intrigued by the Church's myths. Public figures are entitled to protect their secrets. But when they espouse the values of purity and eternal monogamy between couples, people can’t help but be curious to hear that these people don’t live by the values they require of others.  The Unification Church's explanation is that when Reverend Moon's family members don't follow the rules of their own theology, it is either because of God’s will or because the church membership has failed to support them adequately.

There are sites that specialize in exposing the secrets of the Unification Church, such as How Well do you Know Your Moon, and Frequently Asked Questions to Share, but—unless I speak to those involved—I'll leave the commentary to those who have. There was a recent (three hours long) question and answer session with Hyung Jin Moon, the new leader of the Church in which many of the allegations were discussed.

Reverend Hyung Jin Moon at the Hammerstein Ballroom in September

I learned about the secrecy of the Church early on.  In the week prior to joining the Unification Church, while studying their theology in the Principle Study Center in London, the identity of the organization was not revealed to me until after I decided to join.  When I went out raising funds for the church, I was asked never to mention the Unification Church and instead say I was raising money for “relief work.”  I didn't always follow this advice, and in one of my reckless moments, I went up to Janet Street Porter in Heathrow Airport and asked if she would like to give me some money for the Moonies.

“No, I would not,” was her disgusted reply.

When I started witnessing for the Unification Church, I was told never to mention the organization until necessary.  My first student of the theology, a towering young Scotsman, insisted on knowing who we were.  When I told him, he ripped the front pages out of our guest book and stormed away, copper hair flaring in the cold sunlight.

We all have secrets.  In writing my memoir, Holy Candy, I decided what to disclose simply by thinking about how it would feel to say something.  If it felt bad, I didn’t do it.  If it felt like relief, I went ahead.  Sharing a secret can make one feel more detached from it, as if it were part of a story that one no longer has to be a part of.

Picture of my wedding at Seoul Olympic Stadium

Making stories of our lives closes certain chapters, making space for the new.  The epic tale of Reverend Moon’s life—at least in the physical realm—has come to an end, but the tales that will be spun from his empire continue to evolve.  I look forward to learning what the next episode will be in the life of the Unification Church that he created.