Archive | December, 2011

A quick montage of religious happenings in the 09

13 Dec

Falun Gong, Destiny Church and the Exclusive Brethren are perhaps three of New Zealand’s most controversial religious group.
Last year, both the Destiny’s Church and the Exclusive Brethren made headlines in the New Zealand media, while news of Falun Gong practitioners made many appearances media outlets world-wide.
In November of last year, 700 followers of the Destiny Church movement pledged their allegiance to the church’s self proclaimed bishop Brian Tamaki.
After the media got hold of information regarding the covenant, TV 3 sent in an undercover reporter (a former follower of the Destiny Church) with a hidden camera and microphone.
Upon broadcasting the footage, the Destiny Church hit back and Bishop Tamaki refused to be interviewed on Campbell Live, instead sending in the church’s spokesperson Richard Lewis.
Mr Lewis said on the programme that TV3 should not have sent in an undercover informant as the church has always employed the use of an open door policy for media representatives.
“There’s a way to do things and that is not it,” he says.
He says that if it had not been for the sneaky underhanded way Campbell Live conducted the investigation, then Bishop Tamaki would have been happy to appear on the programme.
Campbell Live host, John Campbell, says that he had sent a camera crew and a reporter to the church but was turned away by security at the door.
Bishop Tamaki then urged his congregation to reject any word against Destiny Church, after a whole week of media scrutiny suggested the movement was becoming a cult.
Cultwatch’s Mark Vranovich appeared with Destiny Church’s Richard Lewis on the programme and said that the church was undoubtedly showing cult-like behaviour by asking so many people to pledge their allegiances to Bishop Tamaki.
Mr Vrankovich says Destiny church is what he would classify as an emerging mind control cult.
Church officials confirmed “several thousand” people paid $30 each to attend the ceremony, with a $60 concession for family groups.
The New Zealand Herald said that about 700 male members of the church last weekend swore a “covenant oath” of loyalty and obedience to Bishop Tamaki at the ceremony, and were given a “covenant ring” to wear on their right hands.
“A church document describes the covenant as “a solemn oath of commitment that is binding, enduring and unbreakable. You are bound to the covenant, the covenant is an irrevocable, undissolvable oath of commitment”.
“Costs didn’t stop at the door. Oath takers paid $295 – plus a $5 administration fee – for the ring symbolising their loyalty to Bishop Tamaki. Some were given the option of paying the ring off over time.”
The newspaper also estimated that 3000 attended the oath ceremony  – an audience which alone would have raised at least $90,000.
Throughout the October/November period dozens of former Destiny Church members came forward to speak of their experiences to TVNZ.
“They [the former followers] believe he has turned the church into a cult expert at extracting cash, more often than not from the people who can least afford to pay,” says TVNZ.
“As far as I can tell it’s a cult” says Auckland University’s theology professor, Doctor Phillip Culbertson. “”It certainly fits the classic definitions of a cult.”
Bishop Tamaki told TVNZ that if Destiny church is a cult then 90% of the churches in New Zealand are cults.
“God does choose men,” says Tamaki. “He puts an authority on their lives whereby he uses them in a special way.”
Tamaki told his followers that New Zealand’s government will soon be upon the shoulders of Jesus Christ.
“I predict in the next five years, by the time we hit our 10th anniversary – and I don’t say this lightly – that we will be ruling the nation.”
Tamaki says that his plans to govern the nation that is not like the governments of this world.
“It’s not a dictatorship, it’s not a democracy, it’s a theocracy.”
Mr Vrankovich says that Destiny members talk more about Tamaki than they do about Jesus Christ.
“There are no crosses inside the Destiny church, just pictures of the Tamaki family and other pastors,” he says.
Unlike the Destiny Church which employs an open door policy, the Exclusive Brethren’s policy on new membership is exactly how it sounds – exclusive.
Last year, the Exclusive Brethren found themselves back in the spotlight in New Zealand’s media after former member, Craig Hoyle, was excommunicated from his church after coming out to his family about his homosexuality.
The 20-year-old told Gay, the leading media outlet for gay New Zealanders, that his church leader prescribed hormonal suppressants to him in efforts to keep his homosexual tendancies at bay.
“I’ve had lots of people contact me. Some of them didn’t know anything about my past, and were completely shocked. So that’s been amazing, getting their reactions,” says Mr Hoyle.
Mr Hoyle appeared on 60 Minutes in early December last year to expose the Exclusive Brethren for the way he was treated upon coming out as a homosexual man.
“I think the priests are worried about me telling my story though,” he adds. “They’ve screwed up so badly in so many ways.”
He says that he was keen to share his experiences with as he thinks that the Exclusive Brethren has been behind closed doors for so long.
“And at the moment, the stuff that’s coming out about the Destiny Church that the media are making a big deal of, well the Exclusive Brethren have been doing that stuff for decades.
Mr Hoyle says that the Exclusive Brethren, like the Destiny Church, made followers agree to a convenant with the church.
“The way Destiny is getting all their men to commit to Brian Tamaki? That happened in the Exclusive Brethren a few years ago,” he says.
Although he was excommunicated from the church, Mr Hoyle says that he still believes in the message the Exclusive Brethren taught.
“It was my Christian faith that helped me get through everything that happened – without something outside of myself to believe in, I would have gone crazy! My relationship with God? I see him as a friend and confident more than anything else.”
Earlier on in July, Australia’s The Age publication published an article on the controversial Exclusive Brethren sect.
The Age says that the Exclusive Brethren are Exclusive Brethren and sects like it present enormous difficulties for secular authorities.
“They keep their members under tight control using psychological and spiritual tactics many might find offensive and which sometimes come into conflict with tenets of the law.”
The article also addresses problems that members must deal with if considering to leave the sect.
“A member who considers leaving the church must also confront the prospect of leaving his or her family and children…in most cases, leaving means never seeing your loved ones again. It means having gifts and letters returned, phones slammed down and doors shut in your face.”
“They combine in their members feelings of superiority over the rest of the population and preference in the eyes of God with a fear of wider society.”
Falun Gong, unlike the Destiny Church and the Exclusive Brethren, remains pretty much unknown to New Zealanders.
However, in China this is very much the opposite.
The Chinese government banned the Falun Gong cult on July 22, 1999, accusing the group of exploiting religion of brainwashing practitioners, cajoling money from them, and even encouraging practitioners to burn themselves in order to fulfill spiritually.
China’s internet censorship programme blocks all content about Falun Gong and those caught practicing Falun Gong are subject to be punished by law.
Xinhua, the major news outlet in China, reported in June that the use of a rehabilitation workshop had been employed for former Falun Gong practitioners.
The news outlet published many first person accounts from people who attended the rehabilitation programme.
During July of last year, the BBC website published an article found that China’s ban on the spiritual movement was working.
The mastermind behind the movement, Li Hong Zhi, told China’s Global Times that “people have realised the true essence of the cult, it’s [now] impossible for them to organise a massive activity.”
During November TV3 broadcasted Inside New Zealand’s documentary on How To Spot A Cult.
The documentary covers an array of controversial religious groups in the country.
Abuse survivors give first hand accounts of what happened to them behind closed doors.
Dr Dennis Green, who has a PHD in religious studies, says that cults are on the increase as people start looking for answers when society undergoes rapid change.
“Whenever there are people looking for answers, there are predators out there who will pray on them,” says Dr Green.
Dr Green says that it is impossible to define a cult and instead encourages for people to look at the leader of the group as they are all sociopaths.

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More reviews about Shen Yun on Yelp

13 Dec

Editor’s note: Falun Gong promotes Shen Yun performance using false advertisements. Many net friends all over the world express their feelings on the net of Yelp after watching the performance. They say the performance is advocating Falun Gong in the guise of traditional Chinese arts and warn people not be duped.

Ray T.    1/8/2011
Sunnyvale, CA

I bought tickets for this to take my Mom and wife as a treat during the holidays. From looking at all the marketing materials, I thought this would be a beautiful, authentic performance of classical Chinese dance. We were all pretty excited to see this show. Unfortunately, it should have been called “The Falun Gong Show” (pun intended) and yes, they would have been gonged well before intermission. They should have made it more clear what this was really about, a propaganda show for the Falun Gong. I wish I had read these reviews earlier because this was definitely NOT what I signed up for.

One of the central tenets of their belief is ‘Truthfulness’ which is quite ironic because they were not truthful at all in their marketing. If their goal is to educate about their beliefs and struggles, there is definitely a better way to do that than to trick people into watching this garbage with a hidden agenda. The whole vibe just felt kind of creepy and cult-like to be honest. I didn’t know much about the Falun Gong before I saw this, but now I have a negative impression of them. I would recommend staying far away from this show.
Some of the dancers were ok, but I noticed that more than a few of them had balance issues, which told me immediately that this was not the high caliber performance that they were advertising. But regardless, the direction and choreography were still horribly boring and unimaginative. The two hosts that came out to introduce each performance were awful with their tired comedy routine and cheesy schtick. Costumes were colorful, but nothing special. The bleak set design consisted of cheesy-looking images projected onto a large screen backdrop, much like a bad PowerPoint presentation. Often, they would show cheap-looking animations of the dancers flying around on the screen, and then “magically” appear “live” on stage. They overused this effect so much, I swear, I found myself wishing that it was a video game and I could pull out my game zapper and shoot them down, like in the old Nintendo “Duck Hunt,” before they reached the stage.
I think they must plant people in the audience as well because some people were applauding excitedly during some rather boring stuff. Like twirling in a circle, doing a simple cartwheel, and a monk doing the “worm.” I mean, c’mon! Really?!? It just seemed a bit peculiar. The operatic singing was horrendous, as were the religious propaganda lyrics they sang. I couldn’t wait for them to be over. I actually saw my mom turn off her hearing aid at one point.
Being presented at such prestigious venues around the world, like the Lincoln Center, and War Memorial Opera House and with tickets that range from $100-$300, I guess my expectations for a top-notch show were a bit higher. This show is more suitable for a community center for $20/ticket, free popcorn, and even then, I would probably skip it.

Now, I could almost excuse a bad show, but what really disgusts me and makes me feel cheated and lied to is that they claim to be demonstrating the beauty of classical Chinese dance, and sharing the rich history of Chinese art and culture, but instead, they preach this religious propaganda agenda crap mixed with mediocre talent. I’m extremely proud of my Chinese heritage and culture. I’m a strong advocate of human rights and freedom. But this show was a disgraceful display of Falun Gong religious propaganda being passed off as authentic, Chinese dance and culture.

I have an idea for next year’s show in which Yelp reviewers magically appear in a time machine from the Heavens and save thousands of people from making the awful mistake of wasting time and money to see this second-rate Falun Gong propaganda talent show circus. It will be called Shen Yun 2: Electric Boogaloo.

Eric B.    1/8/2011
Portland, OR

Shen Yun is a performance for and about Falun Gong.  Had the advertising been honest about this then I would not have been surprised or disappointed.  I also likely would not have paid $200 for a pair of tickets either.

My background includes training in cultural anthropology and I am a physician as well as having a diplomate in acupuncture (and have been trained in chi gong from one of the many lineages in China as part of that).  I looked forward to what was advertised as a chinese cultural extravaganza.

I learned tonight many things – for example that the Falun Gong believe in truth.  But I found their advertisements prior to the show deceptive in that it left out that 10 of the 21 performances would be directly about falung gong ideas or stories related to their oppression. So I learned that the Falun Gong advocate for the truth of their ideas and will be deceptive about it.

It is at best mediocre quality (compared to a Broadway or Vegas show), belongs in the level of a university performance for $10 or $15 sliding scale donation to support their cause – that would at least be the honest and truthful way.   If you read other reviews about how great the show is you will notice the recurring themes of the reviewers that sound like a repetition of the advertisements (which I suspect they are ): beautiful, artistic expression of feeling from the inside, the projection screen as amazing, etc. Uhm, not so much.

I had no idea that by doing Falun Gong, if you are beaten to death by the Chinese communist thugs, then the heavenly gods come down, and either resurrect you (1st version), or you fly to heaven with them (2nd version), or they bring a tidal wave to the city to scare away the thugs and then resurrect you  (3rd version)- in other words a Buddha dressed superhero flies in from heaven to protect the Falun Gong! Off to Guiana to drink some plum flavored cool aid….

What I really learned was that the Falun Gong strike me as a bizarre cult and I do not trust a word from them.  Creepy.

Joseph J.      1/6/2011
San Francisco, CA

Shen Yun has different troupes that tour throughout the US.  I had the misfortune of seeing a performance in the Midwest last year.   I say misfortune because this is all a front put up by the cult Falun Gong! 

From a musical, artistic, and costume perspective, the show was okay.

The show has a somewhat corny and very scripted narration (in English and Chinese – Mandarin.) You are lead to believe that this will be a cultural show but they use the traditional Chinese music/dance to bring their Fa-lun Gong message to you.  I didn’t pay $200+ for tickets to listen to their propaganda and the propaganda in the show isn’t even subtle.

During the intermission and after the show, they have their people videotaping audience members asking them questions about how they enjoyed the show.  The questions were scripted and contrived. What got me was they ONLY asked the white people in the audience.

Do NOT waste your money in attending this performance.

P.S. – in reading the dancer’s profiles…many have links to NTDTV (New Tang Dynasty Television).  I believe NTDTV is also another front put up by the cult Falun Gong or Falun Dafa.   So sneaky just like how Mormons say they’re Christians but they’re not.

P.P.S – Before all you Falun Gong lovers message me, I want to inform you I am NOT from mainland/Communist China.

Phil C.   1/3/2011
Bellingham, WA

What a waste of time and money! My wife and I paid $430 just to get preached to. I had no idea beforehand that this was nothing more than a Fa-lung Gong funded propaganda show. The costumes were decent in parts, horrible in others while the dancing was mediocre. The songs were horrible, they were all just Falun Dafa hymns.

Please, save yourself the expense and the time. This is not entertainment, it’s nothing more than a Falun Gong propaganda. After sitting through their “show” I can see why the Chinese Communist Party would want to put these crooks out of business and guess what? I sure hope they’re more successful in eradicating these vermin.

Kai L.     12/30/2010
Sacramento, CA

Whoa man. Not what I signed up for.
It’s the holidays and so I try to be a good Asian daughter. But since I can’t accommodate my mom’s wishes that I get married, settle down and have children in 2011, I thought I’d at least appease her and take her to see this show. She’s been dying to see it, having heard rave reviews from the Chinese radio station she listens to while driving to and from work. Plus they sent 4 fliers to our house and my mom actually said she “felt bad” about ignoring them for so long. So we shell out $100 a ticket and trek over to SF for this show.

I was born in China. I know Chinese. I used to watch Chinese soaps as a kid until I learned better. I like my culture. So I thought I’d go with an open mind. The first half was ok and that’s about as much praise as I would give it. The costumes were bright and elaborate but the dancing was meh. I want to give these dancers credit because I have been told numerous times in life that I have no eye-hand coordination so I won’t sit here and pretend to say that I could do better myself or that I could learn that much choreography because I think they do something like 22 performances in all. But I will say that nothing wowed me. Mostly it was a lot of girly prancing and twirling. People would clap for the twirling which surprised me. Would you clap for me too if I spun around in a circle because I’m pretty sure that doesn’t require too much eye-hand coordination.

And then the second half started and I was like “holy crap what is going on?” It was unabashedly full of political agendas. It made me uncomfortable. And bored. I actually zoned out for most of the second half. I took out the program and started to count down the performances the way you count down minutes during chem class. The singing… omg the singing. It was bad. Like really bad. Like when they had one singer do an encore performance despite only spotty applause, I wanted to leave.

That’s cool man. I get it. You have your own agenda to promote. I think they should have just advertised it more clearly so I could stay the hell away. And I like that they also promoted the show under the pretense of educating the world about Chinese culture. I now know that China has cherry blossoms and a persecuted minority religion. I want my $100 back.

Heidi L.  12/15/2010
San Francisco, CA


Interesting how many of the 5 star reviews are by reviewers in which this show is their sole review nor do any of them have real profiles.  It doesn’t take a genius to conclude these are sham reviews aiming to boost their overall rating.

In response to a past review, no I would not refuse to see a show because of a person or group’s religious beliefs, HOWEVER, I do take offense when I pay good money ($40 for balcony seats) to see a show in which it advertises itself as an extraordinary showcase of classical Chinese dance, only to find each cheesy segment of the show promoting a cult/religion that in no way reflects the rich history of China. 

I am a proud Chinese person.  I do not agree with many of China’s policies but I really did not expect to see folks dressed in black with the communist symbol on their backs (representative of the Chinese government) beating and killing these so-called happy Falun Gongers.  And if I wanted to sing songs worshipping some fictional god, I would go to church.  At least churches don’t try to deceive people into thinking they’re a Broadway theater.

The overt preaching of their beliefs and bashing of China is overwhelming and it took everything in me to stay the entire show.  I bought my Mom tickets as a gift and she was so excited to go, but we both left fuming.  I felt so ashamed to have spent my money on this piece of garbage and I want those 2 hours of my life back.

Even the artsy dance parts of the show were mediocre at best.  Beautiful costumes, sure, but that’s all it was.  Great colors on their clothing and great lighting, but hey, I can spin in circles and walk across the stage as well as any other girl.  I’d rather watch a bunch of old folks square dance than propaganda masked in art.  I’m fuming right now because I still feel cheated, but I’m writing this review so other people will know THE REAL TRUTH about this phony show.

Matsuo U.   12/16/2010
San Francisco, CA


in San Francisco.

Seems like the 5* reviews are generated by folks living in a cave or on the take from the political group that produces and benefits from ticket sales. Haven’t been back to see the show, just have seen the expensive bill-boards around SF and I completely agree with Heidi L.

Oh, and as far as “traditional” aspects of Chinese music …. well … an amateur  opera ( like ) singer, accompanied by a 9 foot grand piano is not what I would view as traditional Chinese music. Oh, and check out the website that states their proud proclamation:  ” Live Orchestra  – 5 thousand years in the making”. They must have some really old players, and you would think that after that length of time they would sound better.

Some local reports of the ” organization ”


Michael M.   12/31/2010
San Mateo, CA

I tried to talk my mother out of buying tickets for Shen Yun, but she just had to buy three tickets at $280 each (we are not Chinese, so it was from no need to learn about “our” culture, as some have written).

When we entered the Opera House in San Francisco on 12/29/10, my mother was asked to share a program because they were running low! Then at intermission and at the end you are barraged by interviewers from Chinese radio and television stations how you enjoyed the show. My wife and I attend many plays and music events each year; these tickets would be reasonable, located in the eighth row orchestra, for $50. I can get this close to the stage to see “Wicked” for $70 or less. The quality of the show has been accurately reviewed by the one-star reviews. I found it “interesting,” but no more than that. I did enjoy the orchestra, which really could be scaled down with the use of electronics (perhaps the ticket price would fall). Many of the dances have to do with going to heaven where there are large Chinese temples. By the end, I was tiring of heaven. As an atheist, I did not enjoy seeing, twice, good people who did not seem to mind getting murdered by the Communists as long as they got transported to that recurrent image of a yellow temple in heaven (as shown by some corny graphics on a large backdrop).

I found the non-Asian announcer in the tux to be irritating, and also his perky Asian female counterpart.

Funny that when I went to buy tickets online, the seating chart showed hardly any tickets left in the orchestra. However, being there, about one seat in four was empty in that section (I don’t know about the back or the balcony). I suspect that they get many folks like one of the other reviewers whose relatives want them to share the older Chinese culture, even with the propaganda.
Watch the little of the show that you can see on youtube. I was hoping it got better than that. It didn’t.
The bottom line is that the show is priced at least four times what it should be.  Caveat emptor.
– Mike

Julie J.  12/17/2010
Union City, CA

Not saying that parts of the show weren’t lovely, but it was hardly “spectacular” in any way.
1) Not worth the price of the tickets ( they were a gift from my sister).
2) I am sure my sister had no idea that there would be all this weird religious propaganda in the show.  Believe me…it is weird, and not in a good way.
3) Why in the heck is this at The War Memorial Opera House?  I felt like it was very misleading. I just assumed anything at the Opera House would be very high-quality and legit. Oh well, live and learn. I guess they just rent it out to the highest bidder.

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Very mixed thoughts on “Shen Yun”

13 Dec

I am really shocked today to be reporting that I was not completely thrilled with “Shen Yun.” I thought I would sing its praises today. Yes, it is BEAUTIFUL. Beyond visually stunning. The dancing and music and costumes – absolutely amazing.

But, there is a problem with it…

The problem is that there is a “Falun Dafa (Falun Gong)” agenda woven through the whole performance that is not revealed in any of the “Shen Yun Performing Arts” advertising. At all. They do give a little glimpse of their mission statement on their website, but there is nothing mentioned about “Falun Dafa”. The only reason I understand so much about this movement now is because I have done some reading about it since last night. One of the things I’ve read about this movement is that the founder promotes racism and the hatred of homosexuals. I am also reading that there are many people out there that believe that Falun Dafa is a cult. And I found this website singing the praises of “Shen Yun.” Obviously if we had known all of this, we may or may not have gone to the show. I’m not sure. Believe me, I have no problem with people expressing their beliefs. We live in a free country and you can believe and express what you want to. What I am upset about is the hidden agenda of this show. We were not given all the information regarding the show in the advertising so that Doug and I were able to make a completely informed decision whether to see this show with our daughter or not.

Doug and I brought our three year old child to this performance looking to share and enjoy traditional Chinese culture with her. I would say three-fourths of the show was mainly beautiful, traditional Chinese dance numbers. But, there were three songs sung during the show by opera singers and all the songs had a persecution-type tone to them (subtitles were being shown in English on the backdrop of the stage). And there were two dance performances that included people being persecuted by the Chinese government for practicing their beliefs (now I know Falun Dafa) – which included pretend kicking, hitting and even death. Yes, the death of a mother in front of her child for practicing her beliefs. (Oh – child was kicked and hit too.) Luckily, Briana is still too young to understand really what was going on.

So, if you decide to see this show – go with the knowledge that there is FAR more behind it than is let on. I am very, very disappointed today about all of this. That aside, the dance performances themselves were beautiful.

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