Church Government

I was fascinated by a documentary on HBO last night that was based on the book by Lawrence Wright entitled Going Clear regarding the Church of Scientology.  L. Ron Hubbard the author of the bestseller Dianetics and the creator of a religion… was a complex individual.  The HBO piece went in to some detail regarding his charismatic appeal to his followers and his profound talent in creating a story that countless people have adopted as their faith reality. As I listened to the beginning of the program I was amazed at how rationale it appeared for the beginning disciple.  People were initially drawn to the precepts of Scientology by their desire to better themselves through a process termed auditing whereby they held on to two cans connected to a machine called an E-meter which measures electrical resistance that was described in the show as, “About a third of a lie detector,” where the needle registered emotional reaction to questions posed to them by a church sanctioned auditor.  The psychological proposition is that when the needle indicates a troubling thought in the person being audited that by repeatedly addressing that thought the needle indicates less resistance and subsequently the deleterious thought is finally cleared from the individual.  The goal of this laborious process is going clear or free from negative thoughts that are holding the person being audited back from success in either their personal or professional life.  It should be noted that this unusual process has some similarities to Freudian theory and talk therapy. Former Scientology followers mentioned during the film that what they had joined for the simple reasons of becoming more positive successful individuals and that over the years the religion revealed it’s deeper intentions to be what they would have never bought into if they had known the whole story at the beginning. One of the more bizarre, and not that unusual to more mainstream religions (at least metaphorically), was the formation of a prison camp that people who had fell out of favor with the leadership of the church were sent to for punishment.  This was an area that members were forced to work, according to the documentary, for thirty hours on and three hours off in the most menial labor conditions including scrubbing public restrooms with a toothbrush. Former members also told of their family and friends being forced to disconnect from them when they left the church.  This church edict was a requirement for loyal church members. The accounts became even more strange when former members of the leadership recounted that they were placed in two trailers with bars on the doors and windows and when the leader of the movement told them that they were going to play musical chairs that they fought and scratched to not be the one who did not have a chair when the music stopped…meaning they would have to leave what was termed “the hole”. About this time you are thinking… not in my church…I would not be so foolish as to have my faith walk be subsumed by a mind controlling dictatorial leader in the name of faith.  I would simply say that the process of letting someone do your thinking for you is insidious and could creep upon you while you are otherwise occupied.  For many years I have sought churches that are governed by a board of the church’s members.  No one has all of the answers and to allow yourself to believe that is the start of a long road that ends in a dead end.  If a church leader is making you uncomfortable or singling you out for criticism, especially public criticism, you are in something less than the journey of faith that Christ spoke of. Strong faith leaders welcome the oversight of their congregation and the solid strength of a cloud of witness.  “Power corrupts and ultimate power corrupts ultimately”.

2 responses

  1. I just heard about this documentary the other day and hope to be able to see it soon.

    1. It is interesting and informative.

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