What a beautiful conclusion to your story. I am so glad you wrote this piece. If you haven't already, you should read Upon This Rock, an essay by John Jeremiah Sullivan on his experience at a Christian rock festival. At the end he had this to say about the people he met:
But mostly I thought of Darius, Jake, Josh, Bub, Ritter, and Pee Wee, whom I doubted I'd ever see again, whom I'd come to love, and who loved God-for it's true, I would have said it even if Darius hadn't asked me to, it may be the truest thing I will have written here: They were crazy, and they loved God-and I thought about the unimpeachable dignity of that, which I never was capable of. Knowing it isn't true doesn't mean you would be strong enough to believe if it were.
I'm saddened by how easily discourse on the web (even the corners of it I love!) quickly dissolves into mocking people for believing in 'sky fairies', etc. I hope we can all follow your example and be a bit more respectful to each other.
@White Rabbit That incoherent statement brought to you by a Feminist Liberation Theology Loving Catholic-With-A-Question-Mark. Yes. That's right. The church that can sometimes be all OUTSIDERS NOOOOO AND has its fair share of DV-style abuse. IN COMBINATION. IT IS A COLLECTIVE PENANCE TWO-FER UP IN HERE.
Goddamn. Now I am depressed.
(I am looking at you, Cardinal Ratzinger)
(Who I obvs. have trouble calling Pope Benedict.)
I'm sad for two reasons: 1) This series is apparently over, and 2) your name isn't actually Stella, which I guess I missed in the previous entries. I love that name.
Thanks for sharing. This was enlightening.
My admiration and respect for this series are well-documented, but I just wanted to say again how much this series affected me. It absolutely changed my perception of Scientology and its adherents, and in a very positive way.
I am also a deep admirer of your writing style. Your tone and narrative style were instrumental in opening my mind. Also, I am a Seattle girl, too, and a downtown one at that, and username at the gmail and all that.
I think this was my favorite line of today's postscript, because I think it beautifully summarizes the gentle, compassionate tone of the entire series:
I want to be something small that lodges in their memory, a positive engram perhaps, so that if they ever decide the church isn’t for them they won’t feel like their only option is to return to a world that rejects them.
As someone who probably would have made fun of Scientologists before this series, I think you've done a very good job of presenting a case for doing the exact opposite. I'm a bit sad that this is the last installment.
"And I believe it only makes things worse — a group that feels it's being persecuted will only turn more deeply inward and become even more distrustful of outsiders. Anyone who doesn't support the church thus becomes its enemy, and this only tears more families apart and leave those members who already have doubts about the church all the more isolated."
This is exactly how domestic violence works too! Thank you so much for a refreshing, informative, and compassionate series!
I hate the idea that my mother — who joined the church out of principles stronger than many of us possess, and then showed enormous personal courage in leaving the organization to build a new life for herself and her family — should feel embarrassed to share her history.
I really, truly have appreciated every word in this series, and I loved hearing from you and your mom in the comments. You two are amazing ladies! And I love that I started reading out of curiosity and ended up invested in your idea that we can respect people's need for order amongst the chaos, as well as respectfully offer them help in finding ordering methods that aren't exploitative if they want it.
@Stella Forstner Hubbard was always adamant that his "tech" not be improved, altered, adapted, etc., maintaining that only "standard tech." gets results. This is so contrary to the evolution of scientific knowledge, that it astounds me that we all bought into it as long as we did. But then, most Scientologists weren't exactly trained in scientific inquiry! Anyway, as it turns out, this is also a very effective way to create a cult, as it eventually turns the founder's writings into "religious dogma" that cannot be questioned. "Squirreling" is made up verb to describe messing around with something. In the early days, practitioners of Dianetics would get creative with the techniques, and it would be roundly criticized, as not "Standard Tech." To a degree, this is sensible; When you are teaching something, you want the trainees to really understand and not pull off some goofy move, especially if you are dealing with someone's pysche. But this morphed, over the years, to an absolute refusal to accept any evolution of technique, other than that mandated by Hubbard, and one could not criticize, at all. So those who leave the group, and maintain that some aspects of Scientology are fine, whereas others are absolute idiocy, are "Squirrels."
@Stella Forstner thanks, for this and also for your comment down-thread that Scientology members are asked to spy on those who stray. That makes a lot more sense than what I was imagining, i.e., P.I.s in fedoras and trench coats.
The only thing I dislike about this series is that it is not longer. And also that it is not in a book format. Seriously, I could read about this for days.