Jim Lindgren has posted two nice summaries of the brouhaha over the damn funny South Park episode on Scientology. For those of you who might have missed it, it’s available online, apparently with the blessing of Parker and Stone.
In February, Rolling Stone published a lengthy article on Scientology, based in part upon substantial cooperation by the Church. The author, Janet Reitman, had “unprecedented access to its officials, social programs and key religious headquarters,” but she did not write a fluff article in exchange. She presents the facts and then allows her readers to draw their own conclusions. Overall, I think the article is a very good survey of Scientology.
Perhaps the most moving — and most telling portion of the article was the last section:
During the time I was researching this piece, I received a number of e-mails from several of the Scientologists I had interviewed. Most were still technically members of the church in good standing; privately they had grown disillusioned and have spoken about their feelings for the first time in this article. All of the young people mentioned in this story, save Natalie, are considered by the church hierarchy to be Potential Trouble Sources. But many have begun to worry they will be declared Suppressive Persons.
Their e-mails expressed their second thoughts and their fears.
“PLEASE, let me know what you will be writing in the story,” wrote one young woman. “I just want to make sure that people won’t be able to read it and figure out who I am. I know my mom will be reading.”
“The church is a big, scary deal,” wrote another. “My [initial] attitude was if this information could save just one person the money, heartache and mind-bending control, then all would be worth it. [But] I’m frightened of what could happen.”
“I’m about two seconds away from losing my whole family, and if that story comes out with my stuff in it, I will,” wrote a third. “I’m terrified. Please, please, please . . . if it’s not too late . . . help me keep my family.”
One particularly frantic e-mail arrived shortly before this story was published. It came from a young Scientologist with whom I had corresponded several times in the course of three or four months. When we first met, she spoke passionately and angrily about the impact of the church on herself and those close to her.
“Please forgive me,” she wrote. “The huge majority of things I told you were lies. Perhaps I don’t like Scientology. True. But what I do know is that I was born with the family I was born with, and I love them. Don’t ask me to tear down the foundation of their lives.” Like almost every young person mentioned in this piece, this woman was given a pseudonym to protect her identity, and her family’s. But it wasn’t enough, she decided. “This is my life . . . Accept what I tell you now for fact: I will not corroborate or back up a single thing I said.
“I’m so sorry,” she concluded. “I hope you understand that everyone I love is terribly important to me, and I am willing to look beyond their beliefs in order to keep them around. I will explain in further detail, perhaps, some other day.”