Like many of us, I was a miserable and angst-ridden adolescent, and the way the Church of Scientology had divided my family in half seemed like just another teenage burden. It wasn’t until I was in my early twenties that I realized with surprise that my family’s history in Scientology gave me pop culture cool points, that it was a factoid I could deploy to make me instantly more interesting to just about anyone. While occasionally useful at parties or when trying to impress dudes, talking about the church also felt like treachery against my father, still a faithful church [...]
Will is a 26-year-old guy who lives in Seattle and works in higher education. Every week, he tries to read at least one book and watch one movie. His hair has been black, blonde, blue, auburn, and mallard-colored. He’s lost around 60 pounds in the last 18 months, and his father was once nearly attacked by a tiger.
Jia: Good morning Will! Thank you for talking to me on this nice Sunday, taking time out of your day of worship.
(Will had just made it clear to me via email that he is not a virgin for religious reasons.)
Will: Haha. Actually, where I grew up — 30 miles [...]
Maya is a 26-year-old woman nearing her first year of residency in a research hospital in Washington, D.C. She comes from a large, loving Arab-American family that goes to church every Sunday and returns to the Middle East whenever possible. She met my friend Clara in first grade P.E. at their private Christian school (both of them were trying to get out of kickball).
Jia: Hello Maya!
Maya: Hey Jia. So you know I’m not like Clara, right? I have no vivid memories of consecrating my vagina to God in middle school.
J: No, I know! Variety of human experience! So you didn’t grow up thinking of sex and [...]
It’s not something I put on my CV but it’s true: I have a top-notch Scientology pedigree. My paternal grandparents got into Dianetics in the early '50s; I’ve read notes from meetings they hosted in their affluent Midwestern suburb to discuss the “new mental science” and audit one another. They were early adopters, to be sure, but from the notes their meetings sound more like a book club gatherings than outposts of a burgeoning cult. My grandfather discovered Dianetics via articles in Astounding Science Fiction, a magazine whose editor was friendly with L. Ron Hubbard and for a time a strong proponent of his ideas.
I was about the age Suri Cruise is now when I had my first session. Mickey, my first-grade teacher at the non-traditional school I attended, had announced that day that he would soon be leaving for a new job somewhere in California. All I remember now of Mickey is his warmth, and his soft, crinkly eyes and thick black beard, but the day he made his announcement, I was devastated in the way only a six-year-old can be – someone I loved was leaving me! The world had turned cruel. I trudged home to my mother, sobbing, and though I’m not sure who brought up [...]
The Economist has published an impressively thorough investigation into the books of the Catholic Church in the United States, and it doesn't stop at the $3.3 billion in sex abuse settlements, the staggeringly large annual lobbying fees to keep statutes of limitations laws in their favor, or the declining contributions of parishioners:
In the church, retirement is still largely in the gift of the bishop. Retirement plans for priests are typically set up as diocesan trusts rather than proper pension funds with structured benefits. They do not fall under the Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974, the law that establishes standards for plan trustees and remedies [...]
[image from my personal collection – I couldn’t find one with the OT t-shirt!]
Previously: Part One, Growing Up in the Church.
As a child of two Scientologist parents, a child born into a room quieted in preparation for the return of a reincarnated thetan, I grew up fluent in the Church's specialized vocabulary. As a toddler I accompanied my mother during her training at the Flag Land base in Clearwater, Florida, and at the Los Angeles center, wearing a t-shirt that read “future OT,” a bit of gobbledygook that any Scientologist worth their salt could immediately translate as indicating that I was destined to rid myself [...]
Thirty-thousand feet seems like a good altitude at which to question one's life. “I am already in motion,” I tell myself. It's a kind of progress. Shortly after my twentieth birthday I was in progress, between JFK and Heathrow, en route to Oslo.
After takeoff the girl sitting next to me smiled kindly, asking where I was headed. I told her:
“To Norway. To visit my husband.” She reached into her bag and pulled out a stack of glossy women's magazines, offering me several. They promised hot sex tips, orgasm-inducing positions, and advice on how to find a man to orgasm with. She pointed to a few with a wink. [...]
"Ever since I outed an up-and-coming evangelical leader named Jonathan Merritt on my blog on July 23, one sentence has been running through my mind: I might have destroyed his life." —If you haven't been following this particularly dramatic Chick-Fil-A-related story, this essay by Azariah Southworth will bring you up to speed. [via]