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Review: Blessed Child

The Unification Church, founded by Korean evangelist Sun Myung Moon, became massively popular in the 1970s. It reached the States and droves of new Moonies joined Moon's following. Moon presided over mass weddings, all arranged by the church. Like most Christian based groups sex, drugs and homosexuality were big sins. Blessed Child is an inside look at one family's experience within the Unification Church.

Cara Jone's parents were big within the church. Farley Jones, her father, went from atheist to devout follower and worked his way up in the church. In 1995, is was Cara's turn to get married in mass to a young Korean man she met the day of her marriage. The footage of her at this mass wedding is chilling, especially with her reflecting on her mental state at the time. Blessed Child features many home videos as it traces her disassociation from the Unification Church and the aftermath.

The documentary is framed around Cara at a storytellers event, relaying the moment she decided to leave the church. Her husband was more of a brother figure and she soon rebelled. Now in her 40s, Cara is trying to balance not being in the church but maintaining a relationship with her family. Her parents are still very much involved. One of her brothers, Bow, is gay and seems to be wrestling with the same duality that Cara is. Bow at one point wishes he wasn't gay as the church has taught him shame instead of love.

The most fascinating moments of Blessed Child come when Cara confronts her father. Farley is a kind man and clearly loves his family. When pressed on how he can stay in a religion that judges his son, he avoids the question. His face, filled with sadness, speaks to his love for his children but also speaks to the deep-seated dependence on the religion. Farley does explain why Moon became such a pivotal figure in his life but we never can fully understand how he chose his church family over his own family time and time again.

Blessed Child benefits from being made by the key players in its story. Jones is able to capture confessional moments that would otherwise be difficulty to get. One such moment is when her parents tearfully apologize for what Cara went through due to their faith in the church. However, the documentary leaves some big questions untouched. We see Cara with her brothers, all grown up now, but it is unclear how they all feel about Cara leaving the church. Moon ended up in legal trouble over tax evasion and had many other controversies including several infidelities. How did Farley and others rationalize their faith as their leader showed darker sides of himself? These questions don't get addressed and this may be due to Cara's closeness to the situation. She is able to document some personal moments in the family that an outside filmmaker would never be able to get. However, her role as a key player in this story makes it hard for her to look at the bigger picture. Still, Blessed Child offers a unique and thoughtful look at how religion can tear a family apart.


1 Comment

I just found her father's book after watching the film and have read about 2/3s of it so far. The book gives a lot of insight into why her father can't abandon the church completely, even though he's certainly distanced himself compared to his level of past involvement. It talks a lot about his struggles with the church as it changed for the worse over time and his battles with disillusionment and self doubt, as well as other practices outside the church (e.g. therapy, couples therapy, meditation) which have led him to find peace and a happy marriage over time. He seems to hold a deep-seated fear that without the structure and accountability that the church provides he will regress…

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