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Tuesday, June 19, 2007

“Month of Sundays”—Now with Scientology!

posted by on June 19 at 14:37 PM

We neglected to include the Church of Scientology in our “Month of Sundays” feature package. Since we don’t want anyone—least of all the lawsuit-happy Church of Scientology—to get impression that L. Ron’s cult isn’t a “real” religion, we accepted a reader’s kind offer to attend a Church of Scientology service and write it up for us.

32. Church of Scientology

601 Aurora Avenue N.

Seattle, WA 98109

Tel: 206-284-0604

I blow past the little “reception” desk, hoping to look like I know where I’m going. Quickly busted, I’m soon on a guided tour of the place.

The church is small and better suited for a family dentist office. There’s the small reception area/bookstore. There’s a hallway with large glossy posters of the Church of Scientology’s new building, currently under renovation. The young woman showing me around tells me they’re very excited about the new digs and I can see why. It’s beautiful and it’s huge. A monumental step up from this place.

Before I know it, she’s led me into a small room with only a desk and an extra chair for a one-on-one conversation. Shit. I imagine that this is where everything is going to unravel. Either she’ll smell a rat and send me packing, or I’ll go home with the entire L. Ron Hubbard library. Neither occurs. She just wants to know a little more about me and if I have any questions. I ask if this is Mr. Hubbard here, pointing to a large, black and white photo above her desk. It is. Mr. Hubbard smiles at me intelligently, like he’s trying to figure me out. Thankfully, I’m saved from further questions because it’s time for Sunday Service.

The service room is extremely small, so any anonymity I’d hoped for is gone. As I enter the room I find myself repeating my lies to the minister, a young, handsome man with a fashionable mint green neck tie. He welcomes me and I take my seat.

The service itself basically consists of us reading aloud The Creed of the Church of Scientology and the Prayer for Total Freedom. I find both to be almost totally logical, even agreeable. At their core, both speak of recognizing and protecting basic human rights and liberties. A young man a few seats away nods and says “Awesome.”

The minister thanks us for coming and I’m left with two impressions: First, that it’s a shame about all the wacky aspects of Scientology (the origin of humans on Earth for one thing), because if it were a religion based solely on the simple fundamentals I’ve heard in this little Sunday session, I might actually be able to get behind it—and second, that if I were an actual believer, I’d feel pretty ripped off by such a short, elementary service. JACK HOLLENBACH

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Why were we deprived of the estimable Mr. Mudede's review of a church service? I suspect a Marxist such as he would have an opinion of such things...

Posted by Sunday Sal | June 19, 2007 3:05 PM

He did have one:

28. First African Methodist
Episcopal Church
1522 14th Ave
Sunday services: 7:30 am, 11 am

FAME, the oldest black church in Seattle, began its second service this Sunday with music from the choir. The entire church clapped and danced to this wonderful music, which refreshed the soul, and ended only when all in the choir and congregation felt that the spirit of the music had ended.

After the music (the best part of any black service), new visitors were asked to stand. About 11 people stood and the pastor's assistant welcomed them to FAME. After the visitors sat down again, announcements were made: people who had died, people who were about to die, people celebrating birthdays, people graduating from this or that school, people who had gone on trips to this or that church conference. There were so many announcements.

The sermon that followed the announcements, and another inspirational performance by the choir, was not original but was relevant to African-American realties: facing and overcoming the challenges of life, family, work, and so on. At one point, the preacher, Reverend Anderson, made us turn to the person sitting next to us and ask: "How do you do it? How do you make it through the day, through all of the difficulties?" I asked the portly man next to me this question, and he, too, asked me the question. We did not provide answers because we were not asked to do that. Altogether, the sermon, like the service, was pleasant but a bit too long for my tastes. CHARLES MUDEDE

Posted by Levislade | June 19, 2007 4:00 PM

Oh. I must have missed that.

How embarrassing. I will never post to Slog again.

Posted by Stupid Sal | June 19, 2007 4:21 PM

You guys also neglected the mormons and jehovah's witnesses, both of which would have made for some bitchin' reads when seen through the eyes of The Stranger writers. :D

Posted by Ann | June 19, 2007 4:53 PM

I used to live in Clearwater, FL, home of Scientology's world headquarters. Downtown is downright creepy, what with all the L. Ron drones walking about, but I did meet some rather nice people who were members of 'the church.' Jack is right, on the surface, what they teach makes sense and seems plausible - when they start talking about spaceships and hooking people up to e-meters is about the time that they lose me.

Posted by Steve | June 19, 2007 5:57 PM

I used to live in Clearwater, FL, home of Scientology's world headquarters. Downtown is downright creepy, what with all the L. Ron drones walking about, but I did meet some rather nice people who were members of 'the church.' Jack is right, on the surface, what they teach makes sense and seems plausible - when they start talking about spaceships and hooking people up to e-meters is about the time that they lose me.

Posted by Steve | June 19, 2007 5:58 PM

Obviously, I can't follow directions... sorry for the dual comment.

Posted by Steve | June 19, 2007 6:00 PM

I've always wanted to do a flash mob of a about 100 people doing a peregrinación (Spanish Catholic saint's parade) -with Hubbard as the Patron Saint- to a Scientology church some Sunday. Incense, people crawling on their knees, chanting, holy water, and someone leading it all with a huge painting of L. Ron in a golden frame.

Posted by JakeLunden | June 19, 2007 9:57 PM

The problem with all religions is that on the surface they are all quite nice, even inspirational, but when groups of believers start getting into the nitty-gritty of doctrinal meaning and group power structures develop enough to drive common sense and basic decency into the background... then things *always* get ugly.

The things that scientologists believe are no more unlikely or idiotic than the things that a Catholic or a Jew or a JW believe... but try telling them that and they'll freak right out. And anyway, if the obvious surface stuff that makes up a religion is *good*... what do you want all the other crap that goes with it for?

Posted by Alice | June 20, 2007 12:37 AM

Not to turn this into a religious debate, but Alice, I think it's a little unfair to say Scientology is equatable to Christianity or the Jewish beliefs. I'm not to keen on JW, however. Any religion established by a single individual gets a thumbs down in my book.

I'm agnostic myself. However, I was Christian for a long enough time to realize that their traditions and beliefs are more than just a crackpot- they have real personal and spiritual meaning to these people. They weren't sucked into their beliefs, they chose to believe 'em.

That's the key difference, to me.

Posted by Clayton | June 20, 2007 8:29 AM

i didn't go to a service, but i did go to see one of the Church of Scientology's videos in DC. It was...well, it was an experience.

my foray into the world of scientology begins on a warm, clear night outside the Cosi in dupont circle in Washington, DC. i met up with my friend s., we were running just a little behind schedule. my roommate was supposed to join us but she was incommunicado, so we decided to venture into the scientology building without her. (i must say--the building they have is *gorgeous.* I'm jealous. we finagled a small tour out of them later in the evening, but i wish we could have seen more than just the first floor. its just beautiful). s. and i approach the front desk, there are people milling about in suits and pastel skirts from the 80's. we go to the info desk, say hello, we're here to see the 8 o'clock film. the woman looks at us a little shocked, and then excited, gets on the phone, says, "moses, we have some people here who want to see the movie. get it set up." and we're led into a lower-level bookstore-ish area...which leads into a small home theater with 9 wicker seats lined up in 3 tier-levels in a tiny room with giant screen and padded walls. yes, padded walls. please wait one moment, we're told, someone else wants to join us as well to see the movie. at this point my roommate calls and says she's on her way, so we get the scientologists to pause the movie till she shows up. then we file in, take our seats, the room gets dark, and we begin. its a 25 minute film. it starts out seemingly high budget (if you've ever been to disney world, mgm studios they have a ride called "star tours" that is like a...i dunno, a roller-coaster type ride that never leaves the ground. you sit in a room and the seats rumble and move in sync with the action on the giant movie screen, so you feel like you're flying through asteroid fields and such...this is what the movie starts out like, only without the seats moving). i'm not sure why we started out in an asteroid field. perhaps that's later explained in a different video. (perhaps when they let you into their inner-circle and give you the secrets about the alien Xenu). Basically, the first 20 minutes of the video is spent explaining the general structure of the organization is structured, they showed us picture upon picture of all their million-dollar estates and yachts (yes, they have an official yacht). the narrorator talked about dianetics, the "spiritual psychology" of sorts that scientology is based on, and about L. Ron Hubbard, the founder, who perfected dianetics (you can read about it in one of his books, buy one, read it, see what you think about it). Told us that the us govt. is conspiring to brainwash us and was out to get hubbard because he had figured out a way to circumvent their brainwashing techniques with dianetics, which shows us the real state of our minds...unlike the psychiatrists (who have "cush government jobs")who are getting rich off the govt. and the "stone-age" ideas behind psychology, dianetics is a way to go back to the root of all your problems and approach them in a way that will clear your mind of the problematic attachment you have to them. for example--say you hate apples. so much it pains you to think about them. you'd sit down with an "auditor" (you can read about auditing, or learn to become one, in one of the books in the bookstore. check it out, see what you think about it), and the auditor will help you think back and determine the first time you interacted with an apple and hated it. supposedly, if you go back to that time enough, you'll eventually let go of the negative attachment and be able to think about apples without being pained at the thought. (they were adamant this is NOT psychology or simply behavioral conditioning a la pavlov's dog...which i asked about, cuz that's what it seemed to ME). so the video covered dianetics, and auditing (wouldn't tell us what it is exactly, but we can pick up a book and tell them what we think about it). The video interviewed scientologists to give us an idea as to what it has done for them, including kirstie alley and john travolta, who both proclaim scientology "changed [their] life" and they "wouldn't be where they are today without scientology."

so the first 20 minutes of the video were rather laughable and a little tongue in least, in our eyes. it was a bit ridiculous, a little creepy, but whatever, not so bad...the last five minutes got interesting...the narrorator stands in a room, and the camera starts to zoom in on him as he starts to talk in a very serious, matter-of-fact tone...telling us that what scientology teaches is truth...but hey, you don't have to walk out of this theater and ever mention scientology'd be stupid (no joke, he said this), but you could do could also walk out of that room and jump off a bridge...or blow your brains out (again, he said this. seriously.)...or you could check out scientology. "barbaric" judeo-christian religions tell you what to believe and how to live...scientology merely encourages you to buy a book, read about it, and tell them what you think about it...and if you're smart, that's what you'll do, otherwise you'll spend trillions of years in misery (they were vague as to where/how/why you'd spend literally trillions of years in a miserable existance). We sat in this little home theater and our jaws dropped to the floor. We had been respectful up until this point cuz some random guy was watching the video with us...but at this point we were all gasping and trying hard to contain laughter verging on fear. the video took an incredibly creepy turn the last five minutes. the film went off the screen...and we sat in pitch black darkness cuz apparently the scientologists had forgotten we were in there. we sat in stunned silence. then the random guy took out his lighter and helped us find the door.

after the video s. and i went out into the bookstore and found moses--the guy who initially showed us into the theater. we had questions. so what IS dianetics, *exactly*? what is auditing? isn't it like psychology? does it have a basis in eastern philosophy? when did hubbard die? has anyone critiqued and written opposing theories within dianetics? where are the other researchers? aren't there any? who's continuing his work since he died? is there a social justice aspect? My roomie milled around a bit behind us but then said she was leaving. the video had really freaked her out. so she left, s. and i stayed...and ended up staying for another hour and a half. when we exhausted our questions on moses we moved on to a younger guy about our age named jack. he was more charismatic, he showed us the eletricity machine they use (i can't really explain the purpose, but we got to play with it), he gave us a tour of the basement area called the "purification room" (its really a sauna, they do some kind of sweat/toxins thing to clear your body...all for a flat rate of just $1,500), we got to see the L. Ron Hubbard executive office (each scientology building has an office set up as sort of a shrine to hubbard that no one can use, but you can walk through and see replicas of actual notes hubbard wrote, whoo). jack was *very* excited to show us the executive office, he was practically peeing his pants telling us about the african masks on the walls and the special machines along the wall. jack wasn't even working that night--he had come in for a meeting--but since we were so interested and since he LOVES showing people around, he stayed an extra hour or so to give us a tour and answer our questions. which s. and i kept coming up with.

Posted by Jay Johnson | June 20, 2007 11:25 AM

I took courses in Scientology/Dianetics in Clearwater, FL for just a few months, because, it was all I could afford. After those courses, the rates go into the upper hundreds to over a grand. It does cost money to practice/learn Scientology/Dianetics. Interesting, some of it seemed creepy at first, after taking a couple courses, didn't seem so creepy after all.
I actually enjoyed the courses, and can say, yeah, they did help me. For the most part, the people at the Mission I took courses at, were guenuinely friendly and interesting people.
The thing itself, Scientology/Dianetics, I have no problem with, but there are, and this was my experience, some people in the religion that have corrupted the thing, and have left me quite honestly, alone. Oh well.
Meantime, I never was approached by anyone in Scientology about spaceships, those oddities I've read about, written by others. I stayed with Scientologists who'd been in for 30+ years, and yes, they were zealous and always promoting Scientology, but not once did anyone divulge information about spaceships in Scientology.
This is what I know. This was my experience.

Posted by Susan | June 20, 2007 4:09 PM

PS I forgot to write the reason I mentioned all the above!! You have to read in the Dianetics book, about what LRH writes about gays. God, here I went on about the spaceships and forgot the most important thing of all!!! Read it!!!

Posted by Susan | June 20, 2007 4:13 PM

I've had straight men hit on me from time to time. Believe me, I'm no queen or am I "girlish." I find that if they know you're gay and you DON'T try to hit on them, THEY are the initiators. I've turned most of them down because straight men are boring in bed. They are selfish and only interested in getting THEIR rocks off.

When they've spent the night in my bed (bad weather, late hours, etc.), I don't touch them...they reach out to me and try to start some shit. Once, I woke up and the guy had my legs up and was about to screw me! I pushed him off me and kicked his ass out of bed. He mumbled something about "being asleep."

While I was in the army, I was hit on by several lonely straight dudes. They even got jealous when I befriended other guys (I hear this is common in all-male invironments). I thought it quite odd at the time.

IMO, gay men are dynamite in bed and KNOW sex. Sometimes, it's like playing football or erotic wrestling, with all the 'extras.'

Posted by O.P. | June 20, 2007 5:06 PM

The so-called church of scientology started out as a non-religious scientific movement until the FDA seized their phony e-meters for fraud and then suddenly they were re-born as a religion and wrapped themselves in the First Amendment. It's all a matter of public record in the federal courts, go look it up. Also, it is a matter of record in the court system in Pinellas County that several officials of the Church faked a traffic accident to defeat the then Mayor of Clearwater who had doubts about the Church. I doubt is any of the brain dead movie stars who promote this fraud have ever looked into the origiin of their latest fad.

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