At the World Peace and Unification Sanctuary, God's kingdom on Earth can only be attained through a well armed militia. Based in Pennsylvania, this small church glories in the queasy connections between God and guns. In the wake of the Parkland massacre and other related horrors, the church has garnered intense scrutiny as a potentially damaging fringe cult. The filmmakers behind Iron Kingdom embed themselves with the group's leaders and followers to learn the truths behind their unusual worldviews.
These self-proclaimed "judges of the wicked" only recently took up arms as a means of religious expression. In December of 2017, group leader Pastor Sean Moon achieved an epiphany. The rod of iron mentioned in the Bible should be taken literally, he proposed. Thereafter, the congregation began attending blessing ceremonies with AR-15s, and bathed each sign and symbol of the church in firearm paraphernalia.
Moon's movement has its origins in Korea. It was there - several decades ago - that his father began the initial sect of the church, and soon became the target of FBI investigations and public cries of cultism.
The filmmakers speak to several members of Moon's congregation, and each assumes a note of authenticity. They scoff at the notion that they're being brainwashed. They see a world in peril - one where moral standards are in perilous decay - and they view their advocacy of the Second amendment as merely a logical extension of their faith. Love they neighbor means you must protect them at all costs.
Moon himself clearly has the markings of an eccentric showman. He wears a camouflage suit he purchased from eBay and a crown of semi-automatic shell casings, but he speaks of his church's mission in much more subdued and measured tones. He embraces the church's involvement in the political firestorms of the day, and defends himself against the charges he's currently facing from left-leaning critics.
The inner workings of the church make for an unusual, often surreal setting. Ultimately, Iron Kingdom questions Moon's motivations for suddenly aligning with the vociferous gun interests following the recent wave of high-profile mass shootings. Is he genuine in his beliefs, or are they manufactured as an incendiary device that will garner more attention to his flock?