With Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes‘ divorce being finalized, Scientology has really been in the spotlight recently. There are allegations that the Church sent people to follow Katie, that she divorced Tom to keep their daughter Suri safe from the ‘security checks’ that begin when a child reaches the age of six, and that Katie herself was auditioned by the Church for the role of Tom’s wife, among maaaaany other rumors too numerous to mention. So what’s the point of all this? We’ll never know what’s really going on, so why are we speculating? I’ll tell you why: because Scientology is effing crazy and one of the greatest pleasures of human beings is watching other human beings engage in irrational behavior. It’s sort of like schadenfreude, except we don’t necessarily want them to fail, we just want to watch what happens, Bravo-style. We spend so much time thinking that celebrities are better and smarter and richer and hotter and more talented than us, that it’s thrilling to watch them do things that make absolutely no sense.
So honestly — what is it about Scientology? That’s the real question, here. I get why the Church of Scientology seeks out celebrities; they need prestige, credibility, and visibility to disseminate their message, and those are three things that celebrites have in spades. But what does Scientology have to offer in return? Pretty much every rational person I’ve ever spoken to considers Scientology to be a perverse mix of a joke and a cult, so why are people like Jason Lee, Leah Remini, Jenna Elfman, and Juliette Lewis publicly speaking out on its behalf? What are they getting out of it?
I have only one firsthand experience with Scientology, but it’s defined all my future interactions with it. I grew up in Oregon and went to a private school that was small enough that my awkward, gangly self was deemed sufficiently athletic to make the junior varsity basketball team. We had a mix of home and away games, and one of these away games was at Delphian, a Scientology boarding school in rural Oregon where John Travolta‘s son was rumored to be a student. As the bus pulled to a stop, a school official got on the bus to make a few announcements. We assumed she was getting on to welcome us to the school and give us directions to the basketball court, but instead she warned us against snooping around while we were on-campus. I can’t recall the exact wording of the whole warning, but the phrase “don’t try to steal our secrets” has stuck with me ever since. Why did an adult feel was necessary to threaten a bus full of teenagers like that? And then when we got to the basketball court itself — built as a dome so that no evil energies could hide and collect in the corners — I remember being scared and a little exhilarated that there were adults in the world who were this fearful and irrational.