Shen Yun: Dance—with a cult message thrown in

Have you ever wondered how cults are able to recruit followers? How do cults prosper and finance their message?  

What if you helped fund a cult accidentally? 

My friends and I did.  

It was supposed to be a fun “girls night out,” but it became an interesting discussion on the methods of deception a cult can use to share their message and, quite frankly, fund a massive cult enterprise. And people could easily be led to give unknowingly. 

What is Shen Yun . . . really? 

Shen Yun is a program of talented performers, in colorful costumes, in front of a huge media screen. The media ad campaign is extensive in each host city. The ads accurately reveal what a ticket buyer will see but nothing of what they will hear. Those ads don’t explain the reason Shen Yun tours the country. 

Shen Yun, as best I can tell, represents a new-age cult of Buddhism.  

Shen Yun presents itself as a historical performance of Chinese dance. That attracts people to buy tickets, who then hear their message and support their cause. The problem is, they don’t truthfully explain their “cause” to the patrons until they are in the seats

Shen Yun is seen at reputable performing arts centers. What isn’t explained is that the venue simply leases Shen Yun the space. The program is not part of the center’s proposed calendar of performances. Why does that matter? 

Shen Yun isn’t invited to perform by these venues; they simply rent the best places to give the appearance that they are just another performing arts group. But, they are not. The venues are being placed in the difficult position of being sued for discrimination or receiving complaints from their patrons for allowing a cult to use their properties.  

Why should you care? 

Americans enjoy freedom of speech and freedom of religion. That freedom is provided for everyone, cults included. Christians who know their Bibles are probably not going to be swayed by a program like Shen Yun—but they also might not be aware that purchasing a ticket is funding a cult.  

The Falun Gong cult behind Shen Yun began in 1992 under the direction of a man named Li Hongzhi.  

Mr. Hongzhi was interviewed by Time and asked why his messages about the Falun Gong religion mattered. He answered that chaos reigned in our world today. Mr. Hongzhi said, “The biggest cause of society’s change today is that people no longer believe in orthodox religion. They go to church, but they no longer believe in God. They feel free to do anything. The second reason is that since the beginning of this century, aliens have begun to invade the human mind and its ideology and culture.”   

Wait a minute. 

Did this man just say aliens had invaded America? 

Yes, he did. 

How many of those people in that luxurious theatre understood the message behind the dance performance of Shen Yun? 

And, how many people sitting in the beautiful performance halls around the country understood the money they spent on tickets would be used to fund Mr. Hongzhi’s cult?  

According to an Insider Magazine article, Shen Yun made $22.5 million in one year, and their expenses were $7.3 million. The magazine said that the Shen Yun organization had about $75 million in total assets. 

A lot of people are funding this cult. That is why I thought it was important to speak up. 

The message of Shen Yun 

A columnist from the New Yorker wrote an article about her experience with Shen Yun. She had always heard about the group, which is based in New York, but had never attended a performance. She went home to Houston, and her dad suggested it as a fun family outing. So they went and she, like my group, was amazed to see what was presented to the crowd.  

She described one solo saying, “A man came onstage to sing a song in Chinese, which was translated on the screen behind him. ‘We follow Dafa, the Great Way,’ he began, singing about a Creator who saved mankind and made the world anew. ‘Atheism and evolution are deadly ideas. Modern trends destroy what makes us human,’ he sang.” 

At the event, we saw performances titled “The Novice Monks,” “Mortal Fate,” “Abetting the Wicked,” “Persecuted for Your Redemption,” “Taoist Destiny,” and “LiBai and His Angelic Encounter.” The program concluded with a deeply disturbing performance titled “Renewal of Heaven and Earth.” 

I wrote this blog because I think all Christians should “shun” Shen Yun. Otherwise, we are promoting a cult.  

Their mission and ours 

My friends and I snuck out a little early, and we were met by an attractive woman who asked if she could talk to us a little more about the performance. My friend explained that we were Christians and didn’t agree with the message. The woman bowed slightly to us and went in search of someone else. 

The apostle John warned the early church, “Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, for many false prophets have gone out into the world” (1 John 4:1).   

There have always been cults, and there always will be. Our mission is to recognize a cult and make others aware of the “false prophets” and their message.  

One of my favorite quotations is often attributed to John F. Kennedy or Edmund Burke, but was probably first written by John Stuart Mill. The message is important. The famous quote says, “The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.” 

I felt called to use the platform I have to tell as many people as possible about the cult behind Shen Yun. Please use whatever platforms you have to share it. The best way to “shun” Shen Yun is to make sure those expensive auditoriums are mostly empty.  

The apostle John said that “many false prophets have gone out into the world.” Then John reminded the church, “Little children, you are from God and have overcome them, for he who is in you is greater than he who is in the world” (1 John 4:4). 

The Holy Spirit will use you to share truth. We are “overcomers” because we are filled with the Spirit of Christ. 

There are a lot of talented, good kids who are followers of Shen Yun. They deserve a chance to meet Jesus. Shen Yun is already scheduled to return in 2020. Let’s start getting the word out now. They are just one of the “false prophets” in our culture, but maybe their message offers us the opportunity to share ours.  

Will you speak up when God provides the chance?