Knowing the democratic West to be a tolerant, pluralistic, and diverse place, Chinese authorities have sought to brand Falun Gong as contrary to these basic values. In a word, they’ve sought to cast it as “intolerant.” Several journalists have taken the bait.
The characterization is patently misleading, and rests solely upon an outsider’s uninformed interpretation of doctrine. Importantly, it’s found to be at odds with lived practice.
Consider the first of the two major issues Chinese authorities cite: an alleged intolerance of homosexuality. (We can’t help but note the irony of China’s communist rulers having until recently banned homosexuality, labeling it a mental disorder.)
With regards to sexual ethics, Falun Gong holds traditional views similar to the teachings of Buddhism or Christianity. In short, Falun Gong aims at taking attachments and desires lightly, including sexual desire, and stipulates that sexual relations should only occur in the context of monogamous, heterosexual marriage.
However, we make no attempt to impose these views on others, certainly not to non-practitioners. And, in keeping with our values of compassion and tolerance, we believe that we should treat all people equally and with kindness, even if we might not agree with what they choose to do in their personal lives.
At the same time, we never exclude anyone from joining our practice. On the contrary, we welcome everyone, regardless of their sexual orientation. Falun Gong practitioners respect the freedom of each individual to have their own unique lifestyle and have never opposed the LGBTQ community or any efforts to establish their rights.
Against Mixing of Races?
Another issue that some journalists have picked up on, prompted by Chinese state media intimations, is interracial marriage and interracial children. In one Falun Gong lecture, there is a brief passage that expressed a belief that different ethnicities—while all spiritually equal—have different, divine origins, each claiming their own heavens with which they have a corresponding relationship.
One should note that this is in fact an extremely tangential aspect of Falun Gong’s cosmology (and some journalists have misunderstood and extrapolated far beyond what could reasonably be supported). It is not part of Falun Gong’s core teachings at all, which are focused on the ethical standards of “Truth, Compassion, and Tolerance,” rather than on creation stories.
Even so, it is not as unusual as some journalists make it appear: traditional cosmologies of both Asia and the Western world frequently associated particular gods with particular communities, as in the Roman myth of their people’s descent from Aeneas, the son of the goddess Venus, as well as Romulus and Remus, the sons of the god Mars, or the ancient Chinese belief in a series of divine ancestors.
Moreover, this passage can only be understood in light of Falun Gong’s teachings about the reincarnation and the transmigration of the soul, which is not bound to any particular race or ethnicity (e.g. a person may reincarnate into a Chinese family in one lifetime, and into a white, black, or interracial family in another). Far from encouraging racism or discrimination, these teachings actually discourage it: Falun Gong’s teachings emphasize the inherent divinity of all people, and are fundamentally incompatible with racial prejudice.
Actually many Falun Gong practitioners married people of different race, and have children of mixed race after they took up the practice. Of the 14 individuals who make up the Information Center’s staff, fully 4 fall into this category. Falun Gong practitioners of all races and national origins are regarded equally in the community, associate together freely, frequently intermarry, and receive full support from their co-believers.
These two most frequently cited forms of “intolerance” end up suggesting, upon closer examination, just the opposite. Indeed, if anything, it would seem that something in Falun Gong is instead conducive to greater tolerance.