Midnight came and went and … nothing.
No astral pyrotechnics, no descending chariots, no thunder from the throne.
There was just a stiff, chill wind and a thin veil of clouds over North Texas early Wednesday when Taiwanese cult leader Hon-Ming Chen emerged from his suburban temple with the greatest concession speech since boxer Roberto Duran muttered, “No mas.”
“You can now take what we have preached as nonsense,” said Chen, who led his followers to Garland to await the coming of God on March 31.
Long before God failed to appear on television as the cult leader had promised, it was evident that Chen’s prophecy had gone awry. Darkness would shroud the Earth on Tuesday, he had predicted, but it didn’t.
Instead, swarms of news people spent the sunlit day hooking up satellite broadcast trucks and planting a forest of tripods in the pavement in front of Chen’s house. The police had sealed off two blocks of the street and by dusk, residents of the neighborhood were setting up lawn chairs to watch the drama unfold.
Most of them had long since taken Chen’s preaching as nonsense and, like the media, were here to see how the cult would handle its disappointment. Would his house be turned into another Heaven’s Gate morgue? They seemed to handle it pretty well.
In fact, many didn’t even bother to watch television, accepting that God was unlikely to appear.
By 11 p.m., they had assembled in Chen’s back yard, where a gazebo shrine stood next to an octagonal deck, the landing platform for the invisible spaceship that was to bring God to Earth later this month.
By 11:30, they had abandoned all hope and filed out of the sanctuary, gathering to await the Teacher’s 12:30 a.m. news conference.
“I hope that everybody can feel a true belief in God,” he said. “Even though the image doesn’t show on television, I don’t have any reason to doubt the existence of God in the universe.”
But, he said, his prophecy was false and the cult no longer has faith in what remains of it.
“It has become insignificant to discuss whether God will show up on March 31,” he said.