Television, God and UFOs

Group Awaits Second Coming 23, 1998
By Jan M. Faust

Televisions in Garland, Texas, were on Channel 18 last night, but God wasn’t.

Members of a Taiwanese sect who settled in the Dallas suburb prophesied that at 12:01 a.m. God would make a divine appearance on Channel 18s everywhere, in a preview of a Second Coming scheduled for next Tuesday.

When the appointed hour passed, Heng-ming Chen, leader of the God’s Salvation Church, whose beliefs blend Buddhism, Christianity and science fiction, quietly acknowledged the no-show in a press conference.

"Even though the image doesn’t show on television, I don’t have any reason to doubt the existence of the Supreme Being, God, in this universe," Chen said to the onlookers who massed outside.

Since members of the group arrived in working-class Garland last year, they predicted an unusual millennial event, replete with television cameos, press conferences and flying saucers.

It’s the shared vision of approximately 150 people who’ve left everything behind to pursue a religion in a new land. The Taiwanese group, whose Chinese name, Chen Tao, roughly translates to "God Saves the Earth Flying Saucer Association,” has come to tell America that the end is near.

Flashbacks to Last Year

It’s almost a year ago today that members of another quasi-religious flying saucer cult snuffed themselves out in California. While Chen Tao’s claims may seem outrageous and sometimes comical, city officials and cult outreach groups are monitoring them closely to make sure they do not follow the path of the Heaven’s Gate cult.

"I don’t think they are going to commit suicide or do violence,” says James Walker, president of a Christian counter-cult group, the Watchman Fellowship. "The problem is when you’ve given yourself over totally to a religious leader, one who legislates reality for you, then you are vulnerable to how psychologically stable this person is.”

God’s Little Acres

Last June Teacher Chen, as he is called, bought his home at 3513 Ridgedale Drive with cash. Shortly thereafter more followers arrived, also buying their homes with cash, and members of the group—who always dress in white, with white cowboy hats—began to prepare "the headquarters for God’s Kingdom in Texas.”

Betty Nichols, a neighbor, recalls an early conversation with the one of the English-speaking members of the group. "I said, ‘How did you pick Garland?’ and they said that when they say it, it sounds like ‘God’s land,’ and I said, ‘Oh great, we’re on holy land!’”

But some land is holier than others, and the ground zero of holy, according to Chen, is his own home. At 10 a.m. next Tuesday, he expects God to materialize there. God will, the teachings say, take the form of Teacher Chen, and be able to split into enough Gods to greet each person individually, in the native tongue of each believer.

Beware False Prophets

What worries people outside the group is what happens now that God hasn’t appeared on TV, and later, should he not return on the 31st. There is some anxiety that individual members of the group may try to harm themselves.

In particular, there is concern for Teacher Chen, who has publicly told his followers to hold him accountable if his predictions don’t come true.

"Teacher Chen has no definite idea about the outcome,” said Richard Liu, Chen’s interpreter at a March press conference. "But he said that he would put his life into the hands of people. It is all up to people.”

Cara Harting, spokeswoman for Garland’s mayor’s office, doesn’t think group members are likely to harm themselves or anyone else. "They are a very peaceful people who value the sanctity of life. They’re vegetarians, and they have certain rituals, like they cut their vegetables a certain way so as not to harm them.”

The Associated Press contributed to this report.


To see more documents/articles regarding this group/organization/subject click here.