THE TAKE AWAY
Scientology and Christianity
Works vs. Relationship
By Kersley Fitzgerald
Dev and I have recently discovered Leah Remini's show on A&E about Scientology, Leah Remini: Scientology and the Aftermath. Leah is an actress, most notably known as Kevin James's wife on King of Queens. Her mother joined Scientology when Leah was nine, and Leah followed. She and her family left the church in 2013 after becoming disillusioned with the disconnect between L. Ron Hubbard's purported goal for the religion and the implementation by its current leader, David Miscavige. In the short series, she travels the country with Mike Rinder, the former international spokesman, talking with others who have left Scientology and letting them share their experiences.
After binge-watching the entire season over the course of a week (yeah, that's "binge watching" for us), I found it easy to take their words and experiences and compare them to my own faith. There are some subtle but distinct differences, however.
The Nature of Man
Scientology teaches that people are a "thetan," apparently similar to our concept of a soul. Thetans are immortal spirit beings that are trapped by matter, energy, space, and time, and are reincarnated into new forms. Scientologists go through "audits" — extensive questioning or interrogation sessions — to remove their connection to their physical form and their memories so they can be independent of the matter, energy, space, and time that hold them back.
For the Christian, this sounds quite a bit like Gnosticism. Gnosticism is and old Greek philosophy that the physical is evil and the spiritual is good. It's led to such lovely false teachings as Docetism, Apollinarianism, Ebionism, and Eutychianism, which all insist Jesus cannot be fully man and fully God. The Bible, on the other hand, teaches that Jesus was, indeed, fully God and fully man (John 20:28; Romans 1:2-4), that He was resurrected with a physical body (John 20:26-27), and that we will be, as well (1 Corinthians 15:42-53). The physicality of the universe needs to be redeemed, not shed.
In Scientology, salvation is restoring the thetans to their original form. Since thetans originally were omniscient, they became bored. So they hid some knowledge from themselves, resulting in a series of universes that have been ever more physical and caused increasing amounts of pain to themselves and others. Salvation is rejecting harmful actions and returning to the natural good of the original thetan state. This is done through auditing, which brings people to a better understanding of their thetan-ness and clears them of pesky memories, wounds, and sins.
This is classic works-based salvation, which is the standard in the world. In order to be free from harm and sin, Scientologists have to work at it. Hard. And pay a lot of money. The basis of Christian salvation is that there is no way we can ever earn it, work for it, or in any other way get it on our own. We are inherently evil, and the only we can be saved is through ransom paid by Someone who is fully good. Introspection does play a role. Before we are saved, bringing up memories and wounds show us how incapable we are of being good and saving ourselves, and shows us the need for outside intervention. After salvation, introspection reminds us how much we need the Holy Spirit as a constant in our lives in order to properly respond to the great gift Jesus has given us.
Because people are non-physical thetans — spirit-beings — attempting to escape the physical world, families are not important in Scientology. Those in the Sea Org (the highest leadership) are not allowed to have children, and if a woman gets pregnant, she is highly pressured to have an abortion. People who leave Scientology are quietly shunned; those who then speak out against Scientology are "disconnected." All Scientologists, no matter what the relationship, are required to cut the person off and treat him or her like an enemy. The only exception would be if they were instructed to publicly harass the apostate. Among all the criminal and questionable practices of Scientology, it is disconnection that Leah and Mike seem to have the hardest time with. Leah's family left with her, but when Mike left, he left his wife, kids, brother, and mother. When he began speaking out against Scientology, his then-ex-wife and daughter wrote vicious letters and gave interviews, claiming he had been abusive and that his arguments against the church were lies. Amazingly, he stays near the Scientology headquarters in Clearwater, FL, in hopes that someone from his family will leave and seek him out for help.
The Bible does say that belief in Christ will divide families (Matthew 10:34-37). And it does say that if someone from the church is in unrepentant sin, they should be removed from fellowship. But since Adam and Eve, the family has been the core unit where children are raised and trained, and adults are sanctified. If someone is expelled from the church (Matthew 18:15-17), it doesn't mean they're shunned; they are to be treated "as a sinner" which means with love, grace, and patience (Matthew 18:17; 5:43-48). If a spouse leaves the church, the believing spouse is to remain (1 Corinthians 7:12-16). Children are to have respect for the parents (Ephesians 6:1-3) and care for them in their old age no matter what their faith (1 Timothy 5:3-4, 8). And the Bible speaks strongly against giving false testimony, to include perjury and slander (Exodus 20:16).
In Scientology, the grand goal is to bring people into Scientology so they can be freed from their physical universe through audits. There is a great camaraderie and sense of purpose. Those outside the church are both enemies and future converts. Those inside the church are fellow workers. The church itself is to be defended at all costs. Abuses and corporal punishments by the leader are accepted meekly in the belief the victim must have done something wrong. And as soon as someone approaches the higher levels of thetan, the curriculum is rewritten and added to.
In Christianity, our purpose is to glorify and worship our Creator. It's not about us. In submitting to God and valuing Him, we are most blessed. His discipline is guidance by a loving father, not a despot. He truly loves us. He doesn't need our money; He doesn't use our money as a way for us to buy salvation, but just as a tool to train our hearts. Like Scientologists, we see those outside our faith as lost, and even sometimes enemies, but we're still called to respond in love at all times.
Scientology is interesting because it's like an accelerated example of humanity's attempt to save itself, and there are some things that are appealing about it. As humans, we long to know, concretely, that we are on the right path. That we are on the way to salvation, and we are doing the right thing according to the grand authority. That's the whole point of legalism. With Scientology, you can be assured that if you spend hundreds of thousands of dollars on books, classes, and auditing over the course of forty years to climb "The Bridge" to completion. Bearing in mind that periodically throughout your climb, "new material" will be discovered and you'll have to reaccomplish all the levels from that point.
Even with that, it sounds so much simpler and more straight-forward than Christianity. But that's because Christianity isn't a religion. It's not a class. It's not a contest. It's a relationship with the Creator-God who loves us. Who wants us to see Him as our Father. And who offers real salvation and love.
Image Credit: janet lackey; "scientology"; Creative Commons
Tags: Biblical-Truth | Controversial-Issues | Current-Issues | False-Teaching | Other-Religions
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