3 Stars – Dismaying!
Based on the best-selling expose by Lawrence Wright, Director and Narrator Alex Gibney documents a remarkable look at the insidious nature of the so-called “church” of Scientology. This is a must-watch film for anyone who wants to understand what this seductive cult is all about! The expose is told by eight former high ranking officials of the Church of Scientology, all of whom are now considered at best by the Church as discredited liars and at worst mentally ill. From the outsider’s perspective, they have opened a window on one of the most perverse movements in the world today.
The Church of Scientology began in the mind of L. Ron Hubbard. A prolific writer, he is credited by the Guinness Book of World Records as having published over 1,000 science fiction novels. His first wife recounts how he wanted to profit from his work without paying taxes, so he reinvented himself as the head of a church. After several failed attempts, what emerged is a wacky set of beliefs mixed together into a creation story of earth being the prison for disemboweled spirits from other worlds and that our “bad thoughts” were just these spirits trying to get free.
In the 1950’s, Hubbard escaped from capture by the U.S. government by hiding his new converts and himself offshore on an old ship. By the time he died in 1986 (or, as his followers claim, he gave up his body so it wouldn’t interfere with his continued study), his empire was crumbling and there wasn’t an heir apparent. To save the day, one of his teen converts (or indentured servants depending on how you look at it) took the helm and is now the head of what Gibney claims is a multi-billion dollar scam. David Miscavige emerged as the new face of the Scientology empire.
Miscavige is credited with masterminding the tight control of all aspects of the Scientology image and information. According to Gibney, the “auditing process” that is at the heart of the promised religious transformation, is really just a way for the church leaders to get to know everything they can about your private life and then use that knowledge to control your behavior, your money, and your public statements about the organization. Each of the eight members who reveal their story in this film tell how embarrassed they now are about what they have done to other peoples’ lives, and how the church used information to control their most coveted converts such as John Travolta.
Anyone suspected of becoming a problem either now or in the future was dealt with harshly, even to the point of orchestrating a divorce between Nicole Kidman and Tom Cruise out of fear that she was planting doubt in her husband’s mind. Other insiders want to know where is David Miscavige’s wife, Shelly, who seemed to have a growing concerned about the behavior of her husband. Sherry has been missing from public view for almost a decade and the party line from the church is that she is resting.
In a well-attended celebration back in the early 1990’s, Miscavige and Tom Cruise held a celebration in Los Angeles that resembled a stadium filled with thousands cheering in front of symbols resembling those from the Hitler pageants of the early 1930’s. There was an eerie similarity to the promise and falsity of the Nazi propaganda from those German rallies.
People turn to spiritual guidance out of a need for hope, help, and promise. Turning to the words of the Bible in Matthew 7:15, “Watch out for false prophets. They come to you in sheep's clothing, but inwardly they are ferocious wolves.” This documentary is one of the best dramatizations of this Biblical wisdom.
- The longing for a better self is often used against us by those who want to profit off those desires. How do you choose between those who truly help you and those who only use you?
- With films such as this what do you think will happen to the Church of Scientology?