Monday, June 13, 2005

The Hollywood Preacher

I had gathered the impression that Hollywood had no use for outspoken religious types who like to talk about their religious beliefs and attempt to convert people over to those beliefs. After all, that is "forcing your religion down their throats."

I guess that doesn't count when it is one of their own.

Hollywood superstar Tom Cruise is getting ready to release his newest summer blockbuster movie, "War of the Worlds," on June 29. We've all seen the ads and trailers and it looks like a pretty thrilling way to spend a lazy summer afternoon.

What we have not heard (because of Hollywood's hypocrisy) is Cruise's behind-the-scenes proselytizing for his church. Cruise is a longtime member of the Church of Scientology. According to the sect's official website, we learn that "a maxim in Scientology is that only those things which one finds true for himself are true. In Scientology one learns to think for himself – it is a voyage of self-discovery."

Well, Cruise is helping people to get started on that voyage with a not-so-gentle shove. On the set of his movie (directed by Steven Spielberg), Cruise set up a tent as "a gift" to give people an "assist," which he describes as some sort of magical massage that helps and heals. But the purpose of the tent goes beyond that: actual Scientology literature is available, too, in case “someone walks in looking for a solution.”

In an interview with Spiegel News
(a German news source), Cruise spoke about his 20-year membership in the Church of Scientology. I recommend you read it - it is very eye-opening. Here is an excerpt:

SPIEGEL: We visited one of your locations near Los Angeles and were amazed to find a fully staffed tent of the Scientology organization right next to the food tents for the journalists and extras.

Cruise: What were you amazed about?

SPIEGEL: Why do you go so extremely public about your personal convictions?

Cruise: I believe in freedom of speech. I felt honored to have volunteer Scientology ministers on the set. They were helping the crew. When I'm working on a movie, I do anything I can to help the people I'm spending time with. I believe in communication.

SPIEGEL: The tent of a sect at someone's working place still seems somewhat strange to us. Mr. Spielberg, did that tent strike you as unusual?

Spielberg: I saw it as an information tent. No one was compelled to frequent it, but it was available for anybody who had an open mind and was curious about someone else's belief system.

Cruise:The volunteer Scientology ministers were there to help the sick and injured. People on the set appreciated that. I have absolutely nothing against talking about my beliefs. But I do so much more. We live in a world where people are on drugs forever. Where even children get drugged. Where crimes against humanity are so extreme that most people turn away in horror and dismay. Those are the things that I care about. I don't care what someone believes. I don't care what nationality they are. But if someone wants to get off drugs, I can help them. If someone wants to learn how to read, I can help them. If someone doesn't want to be a criminal anymore, I can give them tools that can better their life. You have no idea how many people want to know what Scientology is.

SPIEGEL: Do you see it as your job to recruit new followers for Scientology?

Cruise: I'm a helper. For instance, I myself have helped hundreds of people get off drugs. In Scientology, we have the only successful drug rehabilitation program in the world. It's called Narconon.

SPIEGEL: That's not correct. Yours is never mentioned among the recognized detox programs. Independent experts warn against it because it is rooted in pseudo science.

Cruise: You don't understand what I am saying. It's a statistically proven fact that there is only one successful drug rehabilitation program in the world. Period.

SPIEGEL: With all due respect, we doubt that. Mr. Cruise, you made studio executives, for example from Paramount, tour Scientology's "Celebrity Center" in Hollywood. Are you trying to extend Scientology's influence in Hollywood?

Cruise: I just want to help people. I want everyone to do well.
Wow, you can cut the duplicity with a knife! I wonder what would happen if a Christian movie star (are there any - maybe Gibson?) set up tents to disseminate Christian literature and Bibles on a Hollywood set? Would it be allowed? Do you think the news media make a huge deal over it? Would the ACLU allow blatant religious evangelism in the workplace?

I imagine a Christian would not be allowed to do such a thing by those various groups but when one of their own wants to toot the horn of their own cult, we have to read about it in German online newspapers!

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