Saturday, April 29, 2006

Church of Scientology visit

Original visit: August 2005

I’ve developed a strong interest in visiting churches over the years. I suppose the root of this desire is my lack of faith or belief in any religion. You see, my parents are atheists. So, when I was growing up, God never played a part in my life. Now that I’m older, I like to visit a church or mosque or synagogue when I pass one. Lately, I’ve been visiting the synagogue in DC’s Chinatown, or rather, China block. There’s a weekly class there with the rabbi, who provides a Kosher pizza lunch and coca cola and a lively hour of Jewish Ethics.

Last weekend, I finally mustered enough courage to visit Tom Cruise’s Church of Scientology in Dupont Circle. I called my friend Monica to join me, but she never returned my call. So, I decided that I would just go by myself. I called the day before and they told me of their weekly Sunday 11am service. So, armed with an address and curiosity, I took the metro over to Dupont. As I leapt off the escalators, I ran into Monica, who was walking her dog. She asked about my plans. I told her I was headed for the Church of Scientology.

“You’re nuts.”
“I’m late already, so I have to go.” I explained to her.
“Alright…I’ll join you…just for a few minutes.”

As we walked up the stairs, a man warily asked Monica about her dog. “Oh…he’s a service dog.” Her explanation seemed to placate him.

A lady greeted us at the lobby and welcomed us into the service. I saw about a dozen people in straw armchairs lined up in 3 or 4 rows. Moses, the preacher, was a middle-aged gentleman with a beard. He wore a shirt and tie and was standing behind the lectern. To his right was a small whiteboard on an easel. He had a magic marker in his right hand and used it to draw some diagrams. To his left was a big black and white portrait of L. Ron Hubbard, the founder of the church.

Moses was explaining some concepts about communication.

“You see, anyone can go from point A to point B, but it takes a special someone to make you really understand.”

He then discussed the difference between “Subjective” and “Objective.” Subjective would be thinking about something within yourself, whereas Objective would be thinking about something outside yourself.

“For example, if I asked you how many oranges you’ve eaten in the past month, that’s Subjective. However, if I asked you how many oranges do you see here, then that’s Objective. Also, if I point to the wall and ask you to follow me, then that’s another example. Let’s do that for a few minutes.” So, he pointed to the light and asked us to follow him. He pointed to the wood grain, the camera, the lady by the door, and the wall.

After a few minutes, a young man in the back with a gold tooth and several exquisite pieces of bling-bling raised his hand and said, “Uh…I didn’t understand any of that. Can you repeat the whole thing?”

Moses then conducted an arm-waving exercise. He moved his right arm back and forth like he was waving goodbye to someone. He in turn asked us to return his waves, but in mirror fashion. He repeated the exercise with his left arm.

When he was done, he moved on to the “touching exercise.” Before we began, he asked those who had completed this portion already to leave the room. A few people got out of their chairs and exited. The door closed behind them. Moses asked us to look around the room, find a man and “touch him.” So, each of us found a man and touched his hand. Then, “look around the room and touch a woman.” We followed his command. We repeated this process for the next few minutes until everyone was touched.

We ended the service with a prayer that L. Ron Hubbard had written years ago. It was printed in the back of the book. Appealing to a higher power, it asked that man be free of fear and persecution. Perhaps, the word God was mentioned once or twice in the prayer. But, definitely, no Jesus.

After the service, people scattered about.

I went over to the young man with the bling-bling and asked him about his silver cross. “Are you Catholic?” I inquired.

“No.” he responded.

“Then, why do you have the cross around your neck?” I pressed him.

“I thought that it would protect me. Who’s gonna rob me when I have a cross around my neck?” he explained.

Moses showed us the library, where you can sign up for classes or look at some of their many books.

We bid him farewell and left. Of all the houses of religious worship that I’ve ever visited, whether they are churches, temples, mosques or synagogues, I’ve always felt a sense of holiness whenever I’ve been inside. However, the Church of Scientology gave me no such feeling.

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To learn more about the Church of Scientology, please visit their website: