Scientology: Victimizing the less able into being spiritually disabled
Deadly Faiths – Scientology vs. Christian Science: One siphons off your life slowly while the other leaves you dead in your tracks fairly quick. Unfortunately, the Christian Post’s expert commentary featured in the Cults in Culture series in late 2011 by Gabrielle Devenish was nearly an epic fail at pointing that out.
Where is the love in Scientology?
One of the widely used taglines to promote the New Religious Movement (NRM) teachings of L. Ron Hubbard has perpetually claimed that Scientology is about “making the able more able.” A clever motto, yet it can easily be seen as a slap in the face by those who emerge from the abusive environment Scientology fosters that has been reported on extensively in recent years. Why? Because once former members become fully informed about what they have been exposed too, they often realize that Scientology lacks loving and caring.
Thus, one of the biggest concerns with Scientology and L. Ron Hubbard’s applied religious philosophy is a sordid history of first hand accounts that infers the teachings of Hubbard have a tendency to strip adherents of their capacity for empathy, compassion and love for their fellow man. A state of enlightenment making one less human is not one that makes somebody “more able.”
Additionally, prior parishioners of the Church of Scientology who are rallying to leave en masse these days quickly discover there is an endless number of testimonial accounts of former members who have spoken out about the suffering they have endured in the shadow of the Church of Scientology when it darkened their lives. Unfortunately, Christians who are looking to help shed some light into that darkness all too often fail to adequately understand just how dark Scientology can be to those on the inside. Without a proper understanding of the tactics that dangerous religious sects commonly employ on their followers, efforts at Christian outreach towards non-Christian cult members will have a tendency to miss the mark so badly they go unnoticed.
Christian Post Feature Series: Cults in Culture
A Christian view on modern day cults
A recent multipart series of articles by Christian Post (CP) Reporter Gabrielle Devenish entitled Cults in Culture featured an informative look at controversial religious groups often associated with Christianity. Quizzically, it also painted an indirect yet stark contrast between how Christian scholars approach Scientology vs. Christian Science. A contrast that deserves pause for reflection as to whether Christians perhaps feel differently about Christianity-based cults vs. non-Christian cults. Do we struggle to empathize with the suffering endured by those groups whose beliefs are widely divergent from our own?
Readers of both the Scientology and Christian Science segments in the Cults in Culture series who are familiar with cultic studies and related cult recovery practices commonly used to help victims of Scientology’s abuses were likely perplexed at the distinct differences in perspective presented in Parts 4 and 7. Part 4 of the series painted Scientology in the soft light of a NRM that can be reached mainly through the Gospel’s power of salvation. While Part 7 emphasized a hard stance against Christian Science regarding its deadly nature, then commenced to detail just how harmful that belief system can be to its followers. Kid gloves on the one hand, and a pounding fist in the other – yet both Scientology and Christian Science can destroy lives in a deadly fashion.
Although I for one thoroughly enjoyed Ms. Devenish’s series, the dichotomy in the experts’ approach to Scientology vs. Christian Science left me dumbstruck. Apparently, a dangerous NRM that inflicts deadly harm on its adherents using Christianity-based beliefs is far more shocking than another dangerous cult with equally harmful practices.
The harm in Scientology should be acknowledged in the same light as Christian Science. Granted, the harm done to followers of Scientology is typically cumulative, and slowly applied over many years. Nevertheless, there is still a worrisome history of devastated lives left behind by the Church of Scientology’s religious practices within the menacing corporate empire of churches, illusory charities and coercive front groups. A history that has been exposed by activists, absorbed by society with much consternation and reported on in recent years by a range of U.S. media outlets such as ABC News Nightline, Tampa Bay Times , The New Yorker and The Village Voice .
The heightening result of this increase in media attention in recent years, as of this Hubber’s journal entry, seems to be a blossoming collective of Scientology watchers all left hanging, and wishing for the substantial amount of harm in the organization's practices to be fully recognized by society so the abuses can finally come to an end.
Acknowledging the hidden harm in Scientology
In Cults in Culture: Scientology – A Fictional Route to Happiness (Part 4), Ms. Devenish provides a contemporary walk down memory lane for avid cultic studies readers with an array of insights offered up by Christian scholars and other apologetic experts that have not spoken out about Scientology for many years. Craig Branch, Director of the Apologetics Resource Center described the Church of Scientology as “very private and secretive.” R. Albert Mohler, Jr., President of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary was comparably quoted from a radio program (see sidebar below) as stating:
“It is a form of a mystery religion … You have to get deeper and deeper into this thing before you would actually even be told what the movement teaches and all the rest.” -- Albert Mohler, Jr., President of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary
President of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary on Scientology (2006)
Both experts make poignant remarks as to the lack of compatibility between Christianity and Scientology. However, Branch and Mohler also avoid piquant facts regarding the Church’s fraudulent methods disguised by religious-cloaking propaganda that is being used to coerce and manipulate followers into personal and financial ruin. This coercion was exposed in a recent segment of a Tampa Bay Times series that revealed Scientology’s aggressive manipulation of its members in the form of fund raising that borders on extortion of money in exchange for spiritual gains.
The CP article highlights the crucial difference between Scientology and Christianity, with Dr. James A. Beverley, professor of Christian Thought and Ethics at Tyndale University addressing the discrepancy with Christian principles versus the L. Ron Hubbard doctrine of “Man is basically good but he could not attain expression of this until now. Nobody but the individual could die for his own sins – to arrange things otherwise was to keep man in chains.” Craig Branch agreed with Beverley, that this was just one example of the “voluminous differences (between Scientology and Christianity).” Those differences are indeed vast, but the substantial harm being done to Scientologists is equally alarming as the lives being lost among Christian Scientists.
Ms. Devenish concludes with Mohler’s recommendation on how Christians should respond to Scientology:
“Calmly, on the authority of Scripture, and prayerfully, to share the Gospel. At the end of the day, there’s no other answer that we can give.” -- Albert Mohler, Jr., president of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary
Regretfully, a weak ending to a mild-mannered rose garden tour of Scientology. One which leaves this Hubber wishing she would have asked Professor Beverly on his thoughts regarding the much more troubling issues surrounding Scientology beliefs and practices, in light of his recent interest for interacting with former members of the Church of Scientology.
Contrasting the obvious harm in Christian Science
The CP article on Christian Science, Cults in Culture: Christian Science – A Deadly Religion (Part 7), was much more comprehensive on the dangerous aspects of their belief system. This segment of the series quotes Fred Miller, Director of True Light Education Ministry that holds educational courses for Christians on cults, as saying “It’s a dying religion, they’re dying out because they’re dying off.”
First hand accounts regarding Scientology abuses
By Marc Headley, former Scientology Sea Org staff member.
By Jefferson Hawkins, former Scientology Sea Org executive.
By Nancy Many, former Scientology Sea Org staff member.
By Amy Scobee, former Scientology Sea Org executive.
However, Ms. Devenish fails to highlight in her Scientology article that within the elite “Sea Org” religious order of Scientology the widespread abuses in their ecclesiastical justice can be downright vicious, coerced abortion practices can be emotionally devastating, and imprisonment of its young people represents physical torture of immeasurable harm. Furthermore, Scientology’s adamant stance against psychotherapy often renders members who do escape these abuses and other lesser offenses unable to seek the help they need.
The deadly nature of Christian Science is readily apparent due to their adamant stance against medical science, but Scientology doctrines mandate equally harmful pseudoscientific activities deceptively disguised as religious practices. As widely reported in the media, children of Christian Scientists who suffer fatal illnesses have lost their life due to being denied proper medical care. However, it has also been widely reported that children of Scientologists are routinely recruited into the “Sea Org” religious order and denied an education, subjected to regimented slave-like labor and permanently ostracized from their parents. Therefore, while Christian Science destroys the lives of children during their youth with an immediate impact, Scientology slowly destroys the lives of children for a significant portion of their lifetime if not an eternity.
Cult education is the first step of recovery – NOT salvation
While Albert Mohler’s advice on how Christians should respond to Scientology is likely soothing to those of a Christian mindset, it fails to address a key point that the Gospel is lost on those who are heavily indoctrinated into an abusive totalitarian system of beliefs until the psychological, emotional and spiritual harm done to them is properly treated. Education is a central component of the cure for assisting someone harmed by a destructive cult.
Professor Emeritus of Psychology from Stanford University on systemic evil in totalitarian groups
This key point about cult education has become integral in well-established cult recovery techniques that was initially heralded by the renowned psychologist and cultic studies pioneer Margaret Singer in her published works from as early as the 1970s. Mohler’s remark also makes for a disappointing repetition of an error whereby Christian scholars have historically fallen short when addressing non-Christian cults of dubious origin.
Fortunately, Branch somewhat redressed Mohler’s shortcomings by explaining that Christians should approach Scientologists “with knowledge, documentation, compassion, truth, and in the power of the Holy Spirit. These people are looking for answers and a ‘fix’ for their life, and often they do not realize, an answer for meaning and purpose. The Gospel is the power of salvation.”
However, even Craig Branch’s final words of wisdom on the matter fall flat in the eyes of this long time anti-cult activist who is also a Christian. The Gospel does indeed have the power of salvation for those who are open, able and seeking answers from Christian beliefs. But what about trying to help those who are suffering because their prior search for truth has led them to a place where Christian teachings fall on deaf ears? L. Ron Hubbard's advanced teachings are rife with denigration that Jesus was an imaginary figure and ominous warnings that the teachings of his followers led to dire consequences. In my experiences as an advocate working with former members looking to expose the truth about what Scientology did to them, the power of the Gospel’s salvation is typically lost on them until they see acts of kindness, compassion and unconditional love done simply because that is what Christians do as a by-product of knowing God’s love. Since loving and caring is absent in Scientology doctrines, the old adage that “actions speak louder than words” is oftentimes a prerequisite of proving the teachings of a false prophet are utterly wrong.
Establish a better understanding, then let the healing begin
Christian-based outreach through cult education, healing through professional counseling along with simple acts of compassion and caring will go a lot farther than just sharing the Gospel with those who have been harmed by an abusive organization like the Church of Scientology. Effective outreach should initially focus on helping victims of dangerous cultic influences to see their traumatic experiences in the bright sunshine of the world they have been sequestered from via oppressive indoctrination.
William Yenner - Making Sense of Post-Cult Trauma
Once former cult members fully understand what they have been exposed too, spiritual healing can begin that may or may not lead them to seeking alternative answers that can be found in the Grace of God. When survivors are still lacking that educated understanding, those who have been pressured or persuaded to accept the damaging worldview of a destructive cult may question their own judgment and be wary of adopting another viewpoint.
Regardless of where disaffected cult members may eventually seek answers to issues of faith – helping, education and healing should be the first steps of outreach that are taken. Victims of dangerous Christian-based sects are usually already receptive to the word of God. Cult awareness and recovery should be firmly in place before those who have suffered abuses in a non-Christian cult may be receptive to the same message of salvation. That is not an impossible hurdle to get around, but merely an obstacle that needs to be acknowledged rather than ignored.
“And even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing. In their case the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelievers, to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God.” -- 2 Corinthians 4:3-4 (ESV)
Cult education recommendations
Christians should first try helping our fellow man who suffers in the darkness of an oppressive belief system by trying to cure their lack of knowledge. Simply addressing the veil of darkness over a cult victim’s eyes does naught to alleviate the inner blindness that has been inflicted on them. Broader cult awareness accompanied by healing of the harms caused by physical, psychological and emotional abuse is the faster way out of the darkness that surrounds cult members.
More often than not, the knowledge that needs to be shared first with those who suffer cult abuses is not that which is found in statements of scripture or doctrine, but rather is that demonstrated in gracious, compassionate care. Salvaging the person’s well being should come before salvation for the soul, or else the light we wish those victims to see will still be lost on them.
- Church of Scientology: The Truth Rundown & follow-up reports
Scientology leader David Miscavige is the focus of this special report from the St. Petersburg Times. Former executives of the Church of the Scientology have come forward to describe a culture of intimidation and violence under David Miscavige.
- Cult of abuse and torture
Brian Seymour of Today Tonight | Recent coverage on the Debbie Cook legal proceedings regarding the alleged abuses in the executive branches of the Scientology Sea Org. From Australia's number one current affair programs.
- Scientology president's daughter slams 'toxic' church
Steve Cannane of ABC Lateline | The daughter of the president of the Church of Scientology in Australia has spoken out against the organisation describing it as toxic and accusing the church of tearing some families apart
- "Scientology" Archives - Village Voice - Runnin' Scared blog
New York News blog from editor Tony Ortega on all the latest Church of Scientology scandals, controversies and general ridiculousness.