SUMMARY OF CHEN TAO'S 3/31/98 PRESS CONFERENCE
God Descends on Garland in the form of Chen and Humanity.
By James K. Walker
GARLAND, Tex - At 10:00 a.m. on March 31,998, Hon-Ming Chen, leader
of Chen Tao (True Way, also called God's Salvation Church) told over 100
media representatives, scores of police, and about fifty of his assembled
followers that God had indeed descended on the Garland, Texas as he had
predicted. Rather than coming down on a flying saucer, however, Chen now
claimed that God was present in the form of all individuals who could begin
to realize they deity based on Chen's teachings (see Chen
Chen then gave a demonstration to prove his own deity. He stared
directly into the sun for several moments and then turned to reporters,
explaining that a mere mortal would have been blinded. Some reporters seemed
less than impressed, one noticing that Chen was blinking profusely after
the divine demonstration. Through his interpreter, Richard Liu, Chen
blamed the mass media for ridiculing him and failing to accurately portray
his messages. He told the reporters that they have a divine responsibility
to begin accurately broadcasting his message.
This may be difficult for reporters because Chen's message seems to
constantly change. Chen had predicted that God would appear in a
flying saucer on March 31. In a March 12 interview, I specially asked
Chen, "If a flying saucer does not come on March 31st, does Teacher Chen
recommend that his followers disregard him and no longer follow his teachings?"
Through his interpreter he answered, "Yes, of course. This is very reasonable.
We have been very reasonable in our teaching" (see 3/12/98
Press Conference Transcript).
Today, however, when I reminded Chen about his commitment, his interpreter
denied he had ever made this claim. Liu said that they had predicted
that only God was coming today, not a flying saucer. He said, "I'm sorry,
I'm sorry, you still have the wrong idea, You still have the misrepresentation.
We have never said the flying saucer - the space ship - is coming down
to the earth now!" (tape on file).
Chen had also apparently forgotten his statement to reporters that his
prophecies should be considered "nonsense." Chen said this after God failed
to appear as promised on channel 18 shortly after midnight on March 24.
Chen must have had another change of heart. He used today's press
conference as an opportunity to redefine and justify his failed predictions
and releasing some new ones as well.
No Repeat of Heaven's Gate
Garland officials had the neighborhood under heavy security perhaps
fearing a repeat of the Heaven's Gate mass suicide. It was almost
exactly one year ago when 39 followers of another UFO cult, Heaven's Gate,
committed mass suicide in Rancho Santa Fe, California. Police and city
officials did all in their power to prepare for and prevent a similar disaster
today. Paramedics and an ambulance stood by and police barricaded
all side streets allowing only news media with event passes, public safety
officials, and Ridgedale Drive residents access to block.
There was to be no suicide. Chen predicted a coming tragedy but not
for his followers. Scores of television cameras and microphones recorded
Chen's warning of nuclear Armageddon next year. Reading from a prepared
statement, Chen also warned of the dangers of eating meat saying that when
non-vegetarians dreamed, the same fish, chickens and cattle they had eaten
would visit them demanding their lives back. In another bizarre twist,
Chen added that people in America could now expect inanimate objects to
come alive including TVs refrigerators, bed, blankets, shoes, and houses
(see Chen Tao's 3/31/98 Press Release).
Goodbye Garland - Hello Great Lakes
Chen announced that tomorrow (April 1, 1998) he and nine followers are
going to the Great Lakes area (he would not specify where) to seek out
a new training ground to prepare his followers before the coming tribulation
in 1999. By May 10 all of his followers are expected to leave the
Dallas suburb of Garland and move north. Chen Tao had been attracted
to the Dallas suburb because to them Garland sounded like "God's Land."
One of his neighbors told Chen that they would miss him and his followers.
The press conference ended on a dramatic note when Chen offered to be
stoned or crucified. For weeks Chen had been saying that he would be willing
to suffer the death penalty from his own follower or the general public
should his March 31 prophecy fail.
The police must have been briefed on this announcement because at this
point in the press conference a half dozen Garland police officers surrounded
Chen in a semicircle. Teacher Chen then made the announcement that the
crowd, until 11:20 (about ten minutes), either crucify or stone him.
The media, his followers, and his next-door neighbors of course had
no desire to cast stones; they were probably just relieved to witness a
peaceful ending to another false prophecy. Besides relief they may
have also felt some amazement, because the power of a cult leader to manipulate
the minds of his followers is remarkable. This power was graphically
demonstrated near the close of the press conference. When asked if
they would continue to follow Teacher Chen, every Chen Tao member in sight
indicated they would by raising their hands in unison.