"Rob is a true reformer and a true conservative. He has been a faithful supporter of mine and I am grateful for his work." ( Stephen Harper endorsing Calgary West Conservative MP Rob Anders)
In October of 2008, Harper MP Rob Anders, told a humanitarian rights lawyer that he believes Canadian diplomacy and humanitarian work should focus on changing foreigners' language to English and their faith to Christianity.
Naturally Anders claimed that his remarks were taken out of context, but another person who was privy to the conversation, states that Kennedy-Glans was accurate in her interpretation.
Ms. Kennedy-Glans, a Calgary West constituent, said she has come forward in the middle of the election campaign because she wants fellow voters to understand his perspective. She recognizes missionary work has value, but as the founder of a volunteer agency that helps train female professionals in Muslim countries such as Nigeria and Indonesia, she believes Mr. Anders' apparent views pose a security risk to Canadians abroad.
"If anybody in the world saw or heard that the MP in my riding was saying that he thought humanitarian agencies should go out and change religions, I am at personal risk and so are the volunteers that get on the plane and go do this work," said Ms. Kennedy-Glans, founder of Calgary-based Bridges Social Development. (1)
However, there was something else that was part of Ander's defense that I found interesting: He has also been a staunch defender of liberties of Falun Gong practitioners and Tibetans, harshly decrying the actions of the Chinese government.
Falun Gong is something that is coming up a lot with the theocons lately, here and in the U.S., which I've generally dismissed, but when one of the more controversial members of our government goes on record as defending them, I thought it warranted a second look.
From their own website: The Falun Gong teachings borrow terms and concepts of Buddha school and Tao school, but it is not a religion like Buddhism and Taoism. Falun Gong does not have any religious formality or worship .... And yet all of the claims made about their conflict with the Chinese government, cite religious persecution.
So What is Falun Gong?
First off, what I've discovered is that, like Yoga, it has helped many people, by combining a spiritual and physical regimen. But what I've also discovered is that it is a very powerful political movement, that has gained a lot momentum, earning the support of many western governments.
But it has also garnered warnings about cult-like practices, stemming from the beliefs of the movement's founder Li Hongzhi, which can be found in his own writings and interviews with foreign press. For instance, he claims that the Earth is under attack from extraterrestrial aliens who are getting ready to clone and supplant the human race even as we speak. From Time magazine, May 1999:
And also from his book Zhuan Falun:
Suddenly, however, conversation veered to a topic Li has thus far broached to none but his inner circle: aliens on earth. "One type of alien looks like a human but has a nose made of a bone ... others resemble ghosts. The extraterrestrials, who arrived circa 1900, have not been idle. "Everyone thinks that scientists invent on their own," said Li, "when in fact their inspiration is manipulated by the aliens." The aliens intend to replace all humans with clones, he added. "In terms of culture and spirit, they already control men." (2)
Li's rambling dissertation, Zhuan Falun, has only added to accusations that Falun Gong is a cult. Li writes he can personally heal disease and that his followers can stop speeding cars using the powers of his teachings. He writes that the Falun Gong emblem exists in the bellies of practitioners, who can see through the celestial eyes in their foreheads. Li believes "humankind is degenerating and demons are everywhere"extraterrestrials are everywhere, too and that Africa boasts a 2-billion-year-old nuclear reactor. He also says he can fly. (3)Mythology in religion is nothing new, but he relies on a mythology of his own modern day creation. However, what warrants a second look are his remarks about homosexuality, that are not unlike those of some members of the Religious Right.
However, after being accused of being not only a cult, but a homophobic cult, Li suggests that he is actually on earth to save homosexuals:
"Is homosexuality human behavior? Heaven created man and woman. What was the purpose? To procreate future generations. A man being with a man, or a woman with a woman-it doesn't take much thought to know whether that's right or wrong. When minor things are done incorrectly, a person is said to be wrong. When major things are done incorrectly, it's a case of people no longer having the moral code of human beings, and then they are unworthy of being human…
When gods created man they prescribed standards for human behavior and living. When human beings overstep those boundaries, they are no longer called human beings, though they still assume the outer appearance of a human. So gods can't tolerate their existence and will destroy them." (4)
"Let me tell you why today's society has become how it is. It results from there not being an upright Fa to keep human beings in check. This Dafa is taught right in the most chaotic environment, at a time when no religion can save people, and where the circumstance is that no god takes interest in people anymore. The Fa is almighty. The best time periods wouldn't require such a great Fa to be taught. Only in the worst time periods can the power of the Fa manifest. There are other reasons, too."That same speech could have been given by John Hagee or Charles McVety. And yet we have a Parliamentary Falun Gong Friendship Group.
"Let me tell you, if I weren't teaching this Fa today, gods' first target of annihilation would be homosexuals. It's not me who would destroy them, but gods. ... You know that homosexuals have found legitimacy in that homosexuality was around back in the culture of ancient Greece. Yes, there was a similar phenomenon in ancient Greek culture. And do you know why ancient Greek culture is no more? Why are the ancient Greeks gone? Because they had degenerated to that extent, and so they were destroyed." (4)
I understand that it was formed in response to human rights violations imposed by the Chinese government on practitioners of Falun Gong, but for someone like Rob Anders and other, what are being dubbed 'Christian Conservatives, who have little to do with Christianity or conservatism, there is a different agenda: anti-Communism.
Falun Gong and a Holy Purpose
Tim LeHaye, one of the founders of the American Religious Right movement, recently reassured his followers that Obama was not the Antichrist. He knows this because before the end times can occur, we must first get rid of communism. Apparently this was chiseled into a stone tablet.
This brings us to the reason why end timers defend the Falun Gong movement. They pose a direct threat to Communism in China.
Banning the fastest growing religious group in modern Chinese history may be a risky move for Beijing, but letting it flourish may have been even riskier. That appears to be thinking behind a government decision Thursday to declare the 70-million strong Falun Gong religious cult illegal. The move came as protests continued in Beijing and other major cities against the arrest Wednesday of thousands of members and leaders of the group. "The government fears that Falun Gong, as a nationwide movement with more members than the Communist party, could become a lightning rod for the political frustrations of a nation undergoing traumatic social and economic changes," says TIME correspondent William Dowell. "Their belief system is a symbolic representation of the difficulties of modern life, and that could make it a very powerful force in a largely peasant population easily swayed by mysticism." (5)And:
Even more terrifying for the government is the possibility that Falun Gong could morph into a political organization, as has happened with other sects in Chinese history--most famously during the 19th century Taiping rebellion, when a martial-arts cult triggered a civil war that left more than a million dead. But so far police have found no evidence of a political conspiracy, and the official media have accused Li of being a cult leader who promotes superstition and witchcraft. (6)And:
Historically, secret societies and spiritual masters have challenged, and even toppled, Chinese dynasties, and President Jiang Zemin has stressed a need to "suppress cults and the use of religion to engage in illegal activities." (2)Rob Anders has always been a vocal opponent of China and communism in general. In 2000 he was lauded on the xtremist C-Far site, by Stephen Harper's old pal* Paul Fromm:
Wednesday night, at a Chinese New Year's celebration on Parliament Hill, he [Anders] was asked by officials of the Red Chinese Embassy to leave because he was quietly wearing a tee-shirt calling on the Communist Chinese to get out of Tibet. The shirt also proclaimed: "Stop Tiananmen tanks, forced abortions, burning books" and "Independent Indo-China, Korea, and Taiwan." (7)As an elected Member of Parliament, this is not the way to go about opposing a foreign country.
He was also the only MP to deny an honorary citizenship to Nelson Mandela, which would have had more meaning if it could have been unanimous.
I don't think that, you know, anybody would argue that if Nelson Mandela was saying, you know, 30 years ago, that you should go around with matches and necklaces and strangle people or burn them out of their homes, that is not terrorism ... "[Honouring Nelson Mendela is a] total political-correctness poster-boy thing... He was a Communist. He was a terrorist... " (8)Human rights abuses need to be challenged by any government, but is it wise to put so much support behind a political movement whose leader believes he can fly? (Stephen Harper only thinks he can walk on water) And should we not condemn their blatant homophobia? Despite the fact that it might give Jason Kenney a case of premature rapture-lation, Falun Gong's leader believes that only he can save Gays from annihilation, when no one else has even used the term.
However, there is another reason why we must proceed with caution.
The Falun Gong and Media Manipulation
Dr. Heather Kavan, a lecturer in Communication, Journalism and Marketing at Massey University, New Zealand, spent a year with the Falun Gong, to assess in part whether they were indeed a cult or as it's followers suggest an organization that promotes spiritual and moral well-being, and cures illness. Maybe it's both.
Dr. Kavan began her quest with empathy and a desire to learn why Falun Gong was banned, while she has no doubt that there are human rights violations against them, also discovered that "much of the material about Falun Gong in the Western news misleads the public."
Falun Gong, literally law wheel practice, is a new religious movement that is now illegal in China. Of all religious adherents, Falun Gong members are perhaps the most media savvy. They have despatched thousands of press releases, staged headline-generating events, maintained a strong Internet presence, and brought defamation suits against anyone who publishes unfavourable material. Consequently, Falun Gong adherents have been treated relatively kindly by the western press, who have sometimes supported their religious and political agendas.This certainly shows things in a different light.
While several studies have examined how Falun Gong, the Chinese media, and the Western media have framed and presented their material, from a practical perspective the issue of the material's accuracy is more important. Western governments' policies regarding human rights issues in China are often largely based on media reports ... (9)
So it would appear that the Chinese government is not suppressing religious beliefs, but a powerful political movement that threatens to create social unrest. Dr Kavan concludes:
Conflict with the media has been central to Falun Gong almost since its inception, for it was not the Chinese government, but journalists, writers, scientists and ex-members who first criticised Falun Gong. Li's unscientific claims and professions of divine status invited scepticism, and by mid 1996 Chinese journalists began to publish critical articles about Falun Gong's supernatural beliefs and Li's egoism. In response, Li directed members to defend the fa (his spiritual law) whenever it was attacked. The protests were large and relentless.
... In China the media are free only as far as they facilitate social stability, so when Falun Gong threatened civil unrest, media managers were quick to capitulate to their demands. For example, when 2,000 protestors surrounded Beijing Television after the station broadcast a segment about a doctoral candidate who became psychotic while practising Falun Gong, the station fired the reporter, aired an immediate sympathetic portrayal, and – to show extra goodwill – handed out 2,000 boxed lunches to the protestors.
Having learnt that such protests were fruitful, Falun Gong members were unstoppable. To prevent social unrest, Beijing authorities introduced a blackout against any negative media reports on the movement. However, not everyone was aware of the blackout, and an obscure academic magazine in Tianjin published a critique of Falun Gong by renowned physicist He Zuoxin. The article might have gone unnoticed, except that six thousand Falun Gong protestors occupied the University over three days, demanding a retraction. The editors refused, responding that scientific publications do not print retractions. The protest developed into a riot – although this appears to have happened after the riot police arrived – and up to 45 people were arrested (the numbers vary in different accounts). (9)
At the heart of the battle between the Chinese government and Falun Gong are two warring ideologies with highly committed protagonists. Both use the media as pawns. Both use the same rhetorical strategies: issuing blanket denials when accused, devising conspiracy stories, and redirecting allegations by accusing the other of the same thing. What is being played out is a conflict of intransigent beliefs. The Western media's uncritical acceptance of Falun Gong's version suggests that Li, by appealing to ideals of amelioration of suffering and freedom of religion, has produced a story that the West wants to believe. (9)
That the West WANTS to believe.
Kavan also mentions her own confrontation when news of her own story was leaked.
When the research was finished, I was quoted in a press release on new religious movements, in which I said that the FBI's definition of a potentially violent religion was so broad that several groups in New Zealand would fall into it, and cited Falun Gong as one of several examples. Falun Gong members monitor the media daily, and discovered the press release even before I did. They were offended that they were classified with other religions that they perceived to be "totally evil", and I received a phone call warning me that I would be deluged by a hundred callers from a Falun Gong email list. Several emotionally–charged phone calls followed, in which the callers demanded the press release be removed from the Internet. A member contacted me at home and relayed accusations that I was being paid large amounts of money by the Chinese government, and repeatedly said that the situation was "extremely dangerous". Each time I asked exactly what the danger was, she did not explain. (9)We need to be very careful here, because even for those who oppose communism, is the alternative really better? Maybe for Rob Anders and other extremists, but Canadians have to be diligent, especially when we already have a Parliamentary Falun Gong Friendship Group.
*In 1987 Reform Party member, Paul Fromm, arranged to have author and journalist, Peter Brimelow, speak at their convention. As reward, he was allowed to set up a table in the hall, where he distributed literature and sold memberships to his anti-immigration organization C-FAR. (10) Peter Brimelow's book Patriot Game: Canada and the Canadian Question Revisited, is said to have been one of the motivations behind the formation of the new party. After reading it, Harper and his buddy John Weissenberger, were so enthralled with the book that they bought ten copies and gave them to friends. (11)
1. MP says comments on aid, religion 'torqued': A lawyer and humanitarian says Calgary West Conservative MP Rob Anders told her he believes Canadian diplomacy and humanitarian work should focus on changing foreigners' language to English and their faith to Christianity, By The Ottawa Citizen, October 1, 2008
2. The Man with the Qi, By Jaime A. FlorCruz/Beijing; Time Magazine, May. 10, 1999
3. Spiritual Society or Evil Cult? Time magazine, July 02, 2001
4. "A Chinese Battle on U.S. Soil", By: Darah Lubman, December 23, 2001
5. Alarmed, Beijing Bans a Massive Religious Sect, By Tony Karon. Time magazine, July 21, 1999
6. Inside The Falun Gong, By Mia Turner/Beijing;Terry McCarthy/Shanghai , Time magazine, August 09, 1999
7. Calgary West MP Rob Anders deserves the thanks and appreciation of all Canadians Citizens for Foreign Aid ... . By Paul Fromm, Citizens for Foreign Aid Reform Inc. (C-FAR), February 12, 2000
8. Conservative MP Rob Anders after blocking a resolution to declare former South African president Nelson Mandela an honorary Canadian citizen, June 11, 2001. Anders also implied that South Africa was better off during Apartheid than it is today. (Hansard)
9. Falun Gong in the media: What can we believe? Views from Intelligentsia, By: Dr. heather Kavan, Massey University,
10. Of Passionate Intensity: Right-Wing Populism and the Reform Party of Canada. Author: Trevor Harrison Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1995. ISBN: 0-8020-7204-6, Pg. 48
11. Stephen Harper and the Future of Canada, by William Johnson, 2005, ISBN 0-7710 4350-3, Pg. 52