Cult claims God will appear in a flying saucer--and on TV

CNN broadcast transcript March 19, 1998
From Correspondent Charles Zewe

GARLAND, Texas (CNN) -- A Taiwanese cult leader who claims he fathered Jesus 2,000 years ago and now talks to God through a ring on his finger has brought his followers into this Dallas suburb to await God's appearance in a flying saucer.

The 150 members of God's Salvation Church, who dress all in white, from their sneakers to their cowboy hats, sold everything back home in Taiwan and moved to Garland because they say it sounds like "God's land." In anticipation of God's arrival on Earth, the cultists have built what they say is a spacecraft using five radial tires, some plywood and a few lampposts.

They also have prepared a shrine with fruit, cola and crackers, and they spend their time in prayer to get ready for the end of the month, when they claim God will show up at 3513 Ridgedale Drive to save mankind from nuclear war. "God is coming to the Earth to save all living beings on the Earth," said Richard Liu, a member of God's Salvation Church.

The cult's leader, Hon-Ming Chen, known to members as Teacher Chen, is a 41-year-old former social sciences professor. He is often accompanied by two youngsters he says are the reincarnations of Jesus and Buddha. Chen believes that God will first appear on Channel 18 on television sets worldwide at midnight on March 24. In the Dallas area that means the Home Shopping Channel will get bumped by the Almighty.

Chen also says that on March 31 at 10 a.m., God will take the form of a human being. And, who would that be? That would be Chen himself. The cult leader says that if God does not show up on March 31, he and his followers will not commit suicide, like the 39 members of the Heaven's Gate cult did a year ago. "God prohibits us from hurting even an ant," Liu said. However, Chen says that if God does not show up in Garland, he will make himself available for stoning or crucifixion -- and his followers will be free to pack up and go home. And, he adds, everyone will be able to regard the cult's beliefs as nonsense. Religious experts say the Salvation Church, whose members include doctors, engineers and teachers, is typical of the kind of religious groups that spring up at the end of a century. "They are comfortable with technology as a means through which spiritual powers can work," said Lonnie Kliever, a professor at Southern Methodist University.

A neighbor says she does not mind having the sect next door. "They are not loud. They keep up their places nice. We could use more neighbors like them," said Bonnie Nichols.


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