Going Clear: HBO’s Documentary on Scientology

Over the weekend, we had a free HBO/Showtime/Starz promotion with Direct TV, and you know what that means… record, record, record. We do indeed now have The Truman Show, Contact, and The Shining on our DVR list. You’re welcome.

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We also recorded the documentary Going Clear: Scientology and the Prison of Belief. We all know that HBO documentaries are top notch, and in fact this one is on pace to be HBO’s second-most-watched documentary. It has been seen by over 5.5 million people, second only to Beyonce which has been viewed by over 9 million people. Can’t compete with that, that’s for sure.

For many of us, including myself, scientology has been this non-Christian, mysterious, crazy sounding cult. I’ve never paid all that much attention to it, but I do remember when more information came out about the “levels” and how the whole thing was made up by one crazy man, and it’s all based on aliens and overlords and crazy CRAZY stuff like that. And I was all like, “woah that’s ridiculous. Who would fall for that?”

But you guys, this FILM. It’s chock-full of former scientology leaders who have since left the church and are truly, for the first time, being honest about the horrific and twisted methods and ideas that scientology is based on. They ALL talked about brain washing. They all talked about fear. They all talked about how ashamed they are now to look back at how much time they spent in it. I, for one, am so grateful they were willing to share their stories. I think the more that the truth comes out, the more people might be saved from potentially landing in the same situation.

If you have HBO (or your friend’s, brother’s, girlfriend’s, cousin does, and you have his password), I highly encourage you to watch this. You will be blown away by this cult. After watching, my husband and I talked about how sad it is that THIS is considered a “religion,” and that this monstrosity will make some people think that this is representative of all religion. Let me just say right here it is NOT. Religion, faith, belief can be SO BEAUTIFUL, and it is such a shame that a corrupt organization like this will likely turn people away from other, wonderful faith lives.

If you want to know a few details of the HBO, this Glamour article covers a few of the highlights. Again, highly encourage you to watch it, and remember that this is NOT how all “religions” work. Christian faith is a beautiful, loving family, and it hurts my heart to see people in pain the way they exhibited in this documentary.

#67 — One book a month

June: Revelations

May: Jude

April: 3 John

March: 2 John

February: 1 John

January: 2 Peter

December: 1 Peter

November: James
1:19-20 “My dear brothers, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to become angry, for man’s anger does not bring about the righteous life that God desires.”

October: Hebrews
4:12 “For the word of God is living and active.  Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints, and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart.”

September: Philemon
1:15-16 “Perhaps the reason he was separated from you for a little while was that you might have him back for good — no longer as a slave, but better than a slave, as a dear brother.”

August: Titus
2:7-8 “In everything set them an example by doing what is good.  In your teaching show integrity, seriousness and soundness of speech that cannot be condemned, so that those who oppose you may be ashamed because they have nothing bad to say about us.”

July: 2 Timothy
1:7 “For God did not give us a spirit of timidity, but a spirit of power, of love and of self-discipline.
2:11-13 “If we died with him, we will also live with him; if we endure, we will also reign with him.  If we disown him, he will also disown us; if we are faithless, he will remain faithful, for he cannot disown himself.”

June: 1 Timothy
1: 15-16 Here is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance: Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners–of whom I am the worst. But for that very reason I was shown mercy so that in me, the worst of sinners, Christ Jesus might display his unlimited patience as an example for those who would believe on him and receive eternal life.
6: 7-8 For we brought nothing into the world, and we can take nothing out of it. But if we have food and clothing, we will be content with that.

May: 2 Thessalonians
1: 6-7 God is just: He will pay back trouble to those who trouble you and give relief to you who are troubled, and to us as well. This will happen when the Lord Jesus is revealed from heaven in blazing fire with his powerful angels.

April: 1 Thessalonians
4: 11-12 Make it your ambition to lead a quiet life, to mind your own business, and to work with your hands, just as we told you, so that your daily life may win the respect of outsiders and so that you will not be dependent on anybody.
5: 16-18 Be joyful always; pray continually; give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.

March: Colossians
3:12-14 Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity.

February: Philippians
4:4-7 Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

January: Ephesians
4:2-6 Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love. Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace. There is one body and one Spirit–Just as you were called to one hope when you were called–one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.

December: Galatians
5:6 The only thing that counts is faith expressing itself through love.
5:22-23 Bu
t the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law.

Faith conversations: What does Christianity look like?

During my time in college (and since) I have really come to love discussing faith with people, both Christian and Non-Christian.  I enjoy it so much because it helps me define and strengthen my own faith.  Having several conversations over the same general topic allows me to pull the bits and pieces I agree with to form my own response to an issue.

The conversation I’ve had with a few people lately is: What does Christianity look like?

This subject is on my heart because I have known multitudes of people who claim to be Christian but do not walk the walk in any way, shape, or form.  Meanwhile, I have also known multitudes of people who do not wish to be associated with Christianity, yet live loving and giving lives, while touching the hearts of all those around them.  This is worth thinking about.

The most gregarious, frustrating, annoying Christians are the ones seen by most of society.  They yell loudly that they are faithful, yet their lives are full of the most obvious contradictions.  Now, we all sin and make mistakes, but it seems like the “Christians” that non-Christians so often site are the ones who no one would want to model after.

Because this is what Christianity often “looks like,” many people don’t want to get involved.  But there is a difference between Christianity as a faith of love, and Christianity as a human interpretation.  The human version is inevitably flawed.  I have a totally different idea of what faith looks like.

I believe the Christian faith looks like love.  It is hard for any of us to love all the time–our enemies, our friends, our spouses, the needy, the church.  So often we fail at loving.  But the people I see who look the most “Christian” to me are those who are patient with me, care about me, love other people, go out of their way to help a friend of a friend of a friend, open themselves to discussion with people they disagree with, and show patience when frustration creeps up on them.  This is what Christianity looks like to me–it looks like Jesus.  And Jesus was so much better than a man. 

So for those of you who claim to be Christian, how much do you let it rock your world?  Are you careful with it?  Sometimes I treat it like another thing on my checklist: “Home? check.  Work? check.  Faith? check.  Lunch? check…”  But I challenge all of us to consider what we look like to non-Christians.

And for those of you who haven’t bought into what we preach, I don’t blame you.  But I do encourage you to think about what is stopping you–is it that you’ve been disappointed by the Christians you’ve met?  Or by the things you’ve seen “Christians” do?  Because if it is, start looking into it for yourself.  Have conversations.  Consider your values.  Read literature.  Anything.  I know there are many of you who have an immense capacity to love, and when you become aware of how much God is loving and pursuing you through Christ, you can be filled with even more love for those around you.  Hang in there.

More On HOPE…

After writing my brief blog this morning, I have spent the day considering several aspects of my life, and how they relate to my hope. I’ve noticed that I am extremely affected by any sudden change in plans, no matter what the cause. A minor disappointment can momentarily send me into a deep sadness, which I know is an over reaction, and still continue to feel. Every time this happens, it takes me anywhere between fifteen minutes and a day to return to my normal state of mind. Why is this? Why can tiny disappointments, which should have little to no effect on my attitude, ruin my whole day?

It’s because of where I’ve placed my hope. As Christians, we are taught to put our hope in Jesus. We are told not to put our hope in the things of this world, because the things of this world are imperfect. And we always agree and yet we always fail. Even though I know my hope should be in the Lord, I can’t help but put it in earthly dead ends. These dead ends are different for everybody, and I know I have several. So I ask again…where do you put your hope? By this I mean where do you look for your fulfillment? Where do you seek approval? What are you counting on to make you happy?

I put my hope in people. My expectations of others are often unattainable, and when people inevitably fail to reach those expectations, I am disillusioned. I put my hope in my education and my job. The more education I get, the better job I can get, and the more my life will suddenly have a meaning and a purpose. I put my hope in my performance. The better I am at something (job, music, cooking…) the more successful I am, and somewhere in my life I have associated success with happiness. I put my hope in my future, saying “when I do this” and “when I get this” I will be happy, rather than looking at my life as it is right now. And worst of all, I put my hope in myself. Saying, “I’ll take care of this on my own. I can fix this.” is the most painful expectation I have.

There is so much more that I do not even notice in my life. And it is easy to see how all of these places can lead to a big old fashioned let down. What happens when a date gets canceled? A friend lets you down? A meal gets burned? A job is boring? What about when I fail? Depression.

But what happens when God let’s you down? He doesn’t. Wait, let me rephrase that, because we often feel like He does. When things go wrong in our life, we blame Him. We yell and scream when loved ones die, lose jobs, lose homes, face disappointment. But these are the times that if we really listen closely, we realize He’s there, helping us through. “‘For I know the plans I have for you,’ declares the Lord. ‘Plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.'” Jeremiah 29:11. The Lord has plans for me. This is a crazy thing to wrap my thoughts around. This is why He asks us to put our hope in HIM, because He knows what He’s doing.

As humans, we are imperfect, and so is everyone else we know. We live in a horribly messed up world. Therefore it is fairly easy to be let down by almost anything we count on. But when we find our identity in Jesus, and place our hope in His plans for our future, we have something to hold on to through all the disappointment, and rejoice in through all the happiness. I am talking about a hope that is not just a ticket into heaven, but rather a guiding light in the life we lead on earth, that is to be shared in love with those around us.

How DO we handle the homeless?

Every time I see a homeless person walking down the street, or standing on a corner, or sleeping in a doorway, I experience the same emotions–guilt, sympathy, nervousness, awkwardness–and I ask myself the same question “How am I supposed to handle this?”.  I know there isn’t a single correct answer, but it’s something I struggle with almost on a daily basis.  And every time I consider the same pros and cons:

1.  They are people too.

I had a friend who lived as a homeless person over spring break.  One of the things she said to me when she got back was, “It’s amazing how many people just pretend you don’t exist.”  And it’s true–how many times do we see someone walking toward us, and we instantly divert our attention as though we don’t see them.  Do they deserve this?  Do we have the right to treat them sub-human?  I don’t think so.

2. They could be dangerous.

I love this one because ANYONE could be dangerous.  Don’t we watch enough CSI and Law and Order to know that it’s usually the well-dressed folks with leather brief cases who are the most dangerous?  Our fear of homeless people stems from our stereotypes–we think everyone’s homeless because they’re drug addicts, so therefore they are probably on something and crazy.  This is so untrue.

3.  God loves them.

I know this is SO cheesy and silly, but what right do we have to judge other people at all?  Really, we were all created with love for a purpose, and even though we don’t know someone’s story, they still have a life that is valuable.  So we don’t get to decide what they’re worth–God does.

4. We don’t know their story.

Yes, some people are probably homeless because they’re lazy and don’t try to get work.  But others can’t get work because they’re homeless, and they are homeless due to circumstances beyond their control.  I’ve met a lot of homeless men and women within the safe walls of a rescue mission, and the majority of their stories are based on situations that simply snowballed out of their control.

So what am I “supposed” to do when someone asks me for money?  People get mad and say, “well, he’s just going to buy drugs or liquor with the money I give him” and that may be true.  But once you give it, it’s not yours to decide what he does with it.  So you give it with a hope –with a faith–that maybe it will help them get through their day.  And maybe your kindness will help them even more.  This doesn’t make it less uncomfortable or awkward (I am admittedly SO awkward in these situations) but I do know that “loving your neighbor” doesn’t just mean your friends–it means everybody, no matter how difficult it may be to accomplish.

I’ve Been Megachurched.

Until last night, I had never been to a “Megachurch,” nor a Baptist church. So I figured, let’s kill two birds with one stone and try this new Tuesday-night “contemporary worship service” I’ve heard about.

I was overwhelmed. I have never seen anything like this–the church and parking lot combined were easily bigger than most city blocks, and there were police officers directing traffic in and out, as well as volunteers waving orange glow sticks around orange cones. The church itself was massive, though I only experienced a small part of it. I walked in and found a mass of people that was nearly impossible to maneuver through. The main conference room we were in was set up with a portion of round tables (including candle-lit centerpieces) and then rows and rows of chairs. I couldn’t see them well, as they were already full, but they were there. And as I made my way to a seat that a friend of a friend had graciously saved for me, I was speachless.

Between the traffic and the musician set up, it was clear I was entering a worship concert. The front of the room housed a stage with overly-energetic musicians, cool lighting, and a bright powerpoint screen with the lyrics. I glanced around and saw that most of the people there were college and twenty-something aged. Incredible.

Though floored by my initial intake, I took a moment to catch up with my thoughts. This was nothing like any church or youth group activity I had ever been to. A Tuesday night, and here are hundreds of young people, gathered for worship, fellowship, prayer, and teaching. And although my initial reaction was a bit negative, it slowly turned into one of awe. I may not love the structure of a church this huge, or of a worship concert with musicians smack-dab in the front of everyone, but all these gimmicks brought together literally hundreds of young people. And the pastor knew the audience he had.

The pastor’s sermon was aimed directly at our age group. Speaking of sex, love, and marriage had to have been difficult (he even warned us before he began), yet he tackled it more simply and straight forward than anyone else I’ve ever heard or anything else I’ve ever read on the subject. So gimmicks aside, a really important message was being delivered to people who really needed to hear it. Awesome.

It is so encouraging to know that God is working in so many lives. That even when we don’t hear Him, see Him, even believe in Him, He finds ways to show He’s working. Last night, He showed me a lot of people who have the same ups and downs as me, and are seeking answers. A lot of people who deal with tough stuff everyday. A lot of people who have really messed up backgrounds that have led them to where they are. And a lot of people who are aiming to live beautiful, full, and Godly lives.

I was pleasantly surprised to find so much inspiration, despite my steroptypes regarding a megachurch. Another lesson for me in judging things too soon.

Religion vs. Faith

I read an interesting post the other day on what I believe to be the most clever blog out there: Stuff Christians Like.  The post was actually about being addicted to religion, which I found to be a fascinating idea.  Some posts on the blog brought up the difference between religion and faith.  One particular pdf caught my attention: http://www.journeyon.net/media/religion-and-the-gospel.pdf.  It describes the difference between “religion” and “the gospel.”  To me, the Gospel means faith.  The Gospel is the word of God and way to live life.  Religion is simply the social construct we have created to surround it.  Religion has swallowed up faith.

 

After reading that post and pdf, I started asking myself a lot of questions.  Something became very clear to me: All of my recent struggles in my faith have been due to religion.  I’ve met so many people obsessed with and even “addicted” to religion–doing the “right” thing and making sure everyone knows, going to church, leading a Bible study, quoting the Bible, you name it…so many people believe that by doing these things, they are suddenly in the right with God.  I’ve been so caught up in religion lately, trying to learn more, converse more, submerge myself in church and Christian-esque activities.  These activities aren’t bad if they have the right motivation.  But honestly, mine has not been right.  My motivation is that I feel far from God, so rather than try talking to Him, I do everything I think I’m supposed to do in order to make things right.

 

I have completely pushed my faith aside, and forgotten why it means so much to me.  In a conversation the other night, Whit nailed it right on the head.  She said, “To me, my faith is my hope.”  She probably didn’t even think of it as she said it, but I’ve been thinking of it since.  Recently, I’ve questioned a lot of aspects of my faith–I was raised in it, I’ve been taught to believe it, I’ve even discovered a lot of what I believe on my own.  But yet I wonder…what about all the people never exposed to the Gospel?  The ones who grew up in a neutral home?  Many people are interested in it, but are interested in learning about all the faiths of the world, as well.  As an educated young person, if I had never been exposed to Christianity until now, what motivation would I have to believe it?  If I had just turned out to be loving, philanthropic, happy–all without a background in faith–why would I buy in to it?  And I finally put my finger on it…hope.

 

We, as Christians, believe that the Bible is the word of God.  But what if it’s not?  What if it is just another book that religion has based itself on?  Well religion doesn’t matter as much as faith does.  Religion is man-made, faith is God-breathed.  I have faith.  I am believing in something that I cannot possibly know the full truth behind.  There is no way to know, 100% sure, that the Bible, Torah, Koran, or Tripitaka is truly divinely inspired.  Yet millions of people base their lives on these books.  And so do I.  It is more than just a book of rules to live by.  It provides hope for this life and the next. 

 

I try to follow Jesus’ guidelines in my life whenever possible, and I fail all of the time.  I go through ups and downs when I do and do not have a strong sense of faith.  I constantly contradict my beliefs with my actions.  Yet at the bottom of it all, I believe that I am loved unconditionally, and as a response to that love, I live as best I can out of joy and gratitude, rather than guilt and shame.  Feeling guilty or shameful would be so easy with the number of times we mess up in a day.  We will always have questions and doubts about our faith–it’s how we grow.  But at the root of it all, we have grace, we have love, and we have hope.