As midnight approached on March 24, 1998, the residents of Garland tuned in to channel 18 to await God's television debut. If the predictions of new resident/cult leader Hon-Ming Chen proved accurate, the Lord would interrupt regularly scheduled programming at 12:01 a.m. to announce his impending descent on the Dallas suburb in a flying saucer.
After performing a series of arcane rituals in his backyard, Chen's disciples, known stateside as God's Salvation Church, filed inside to receive their holy orders. The 24th became the 25th and the mass of journalists, policemen and residents gathered on Ridgedale Drive fell silent, fixed their eyes on the screen and waited ...
This was not the first time UFOs and religion mingled in Texas. In the bright new future of mid-century America, science had begun to usurp the role of religion, and a savvy crew of regional quacks, con-men and would-be saviors began to give stale theologies a sci-fi makeover in an attempt to ensure relevance.
Yes, Brothers and Sisters, Earth was a failed science fair experiment and the contaminated planet was about to be disinfected like a petri dish in an autoclave. As the the new millennium dawned, the disenfranchised no longer needed to dream about escaping their miserable hometowns. They could become an initiate and leave the planet entirely.
To mark the 16th anniversary of the day God didn't show up on television in Garland, we've put together this short list of UFO religions that appeared in Texas during the latter half of the 20th century. Some burned themselves up in the atmosphere, some fizzled out quietly, but a few hearty mutants made it through the year 2000 unscathed and continue to offer salvation to anyone willing to come up with the membership fees.