Sunday #13 – The Church of Scientology Mission of San Antonio, 244 W. Olmos Drive, San Antonio, TX
Probably due to the word “science” being included in the name, Scientology, Christian Science and Church of Religious Science are often confused and thought of being the same. Yet, they are quite different religions founded by three separate individuals – L. Ron Hubbard, Mary Baker Eddy and Ernest Holmes.
In fact, that was my first question to Mary Jo as I entered the Church of Scientology Mission of San Antonio today for the 4:30 pm service. Indeed, she told me its quite common for Scientology to be confused with the Christian Science religion.
My Preconceived Ideas of Scientology
Having never known any one that was involved in Scientology, I would have been one of those who confused Christian Science with Scientology were it not for the talk show rants of Tom Cruise, John Travolta and Kirstie Alley. From those short interviews and other articles that I’ve happened upon, my preconceived ideas about Scientology include:
- Scientology is probably a big religion on the West Coast with many Hollywood stars active in its teachings.
- I’ve heard that the religion opposes any use of psychiatrists.
- More scary is that its members supposedly pay big bucks to take the different levels of classes that lead somewhere, but I’m not sure where.
I walked into the unassuming doors to the Church of Scientology Mission, located in an old commercial strip center. I had no fear or concern, because without knowing what time services were held, I’d called the number listed on the website earlier in the week. I heard back from Mary Jo, who put me completely at ease and told me what to wear (casual clothes). She also went over the two-part service that is held each Sunday afternoon.
When I arrived, Mary Jo showed me into a room with four empty chairs. She asked what I knew about Scientology and what I wanted to know. We talked for a short while about psychiatrists and I learned that the faith is not against all psychiatrists, but many of the ones who blindly prescribe psychotropic drugs. We talked about drugs like Ambien, Lunestra, etc. and how, in her belief, they do more harm than good. She then excused herself and went to the back. With a large TV sitting in front of me, I thought that I’d next have to see some video and that perhaps I was the only one there, but in walked two other women. Now, with MaryJo, we were a total of four for this service.
Mary Jo made the announcement that Sunday Services would now begin. She stepped to the side and picked up a huge gold leaf book with many long ribbon bookmarks hanging from it. This thing was as big as the large bible carried by altar boys down the aisle of St. Mary Cathedral in Austin.
I listened closely to the sermon read from a section in this book called “Integrity.” I had to listen hard to gain much from the reading, but I did gather that Dianetics is the basis for Scientology and that it has two parts: a philosophic part and a technical one. That’s about all I can tell you in that regard. This part of the service was fairly short. I didn’t hear any music, see an offering or hear much prayer at the Church of Scientology, so if hymns aren’t your thing, it may be one religion you want to try out. However, if you need music to move you into the worship experience of God, then this probably isn’t it.
Then came the most bizarre part of the service – the Group Process. Today, “Past, Present and Future” was the topic. It’s more of an interactive part of the service. It consists of the auditor, in this case Mary Jo, who reads from this gold leaf book. Leading into this section, Mary Jo said something that I may not have heard clearly, but if I’m right, she stated that Scientology was put here to cure mental health issues.
Not sure how I feel about that statement, if I heard it right. Although I do agree that way too many physicians and mental health professionals hand out anxiety, depression and sleep-inducing drug prescriptions like they are candy. The side effects of these drugs are so rampant that they quite often create more problems than cure.
So back to this Group Process thing…
To sum it up in one word….weird. It’s kind of like 30 minutes of Simon Says, but Simon Says makes more sense to me. We were told that this group process would open our awareness and quite likely help our IQ go up. In my case, I almost felt my IQ tumble as Mary Jo instructed us to feel the floor, then touch our chair, and on and on. To give you a sense of this, let me take you through a small portion.
Leader: Now touch your right ear. Do you feel your right ear?
Leader: Good. Now touch your left ear. Do you feel your left ear?
Leader: Good. Now touch your right year. Do you feel your right ear?
This went on for 20 more times, then we’d move on to eyes, or the walls, then back to the floor and our chairs, sensing their presence each time – with each portion of this repeated 20 or more times.
Now I know why that book is so big! It’s filled with pages and pages of this Simon Says stuff.
Then after about 30 minutes of this, Mary Jo concluded the service with a prayer. Then the name of God was used once and I went away scratching my head as to why each page of this Simon Says book has a cross at the upper edges of each page. No mention of Jesus, so I don’t get the whole cross thing.
Granted, I may have missed something here, but after the service Mary Jo gave me a CD about L. Ron Hubbard, which I did watch later. Interesting man, but the whole DVD lauded every facet of his interesting life and the whole thing left me wondering about all the less than laudable parts of his life. Not that I know he had any, but we ALL have that flip side; I yearned to know his dark side details, as well.
Post Service Commentary
Met some nice people here in this, the smallest church service I’ve ever been to. However, I left in a thick fog about the whole thing. I don’t think I know much more than when I walked in, save for a bit of clarity on the whole psychiatrist bashing. I didn’t feel closer to God. I didn’t feel like anyone wanted my money or wanted me to learn more, which I sort of expected. I also didn’t feel any great personal yearning to know more, so I’ll leave that up to the rest of you. Go have a look at the website and tell me what I’m missing here. I do try to uncover the appeal of each church, but I’m not sure I’ve found the golden nugget in this one. However, it’s possible that it will be found in the writings of L. Ron Hubbard. I will get back to those and read a few; maybe it will all make sense then.
Yet, here’s the personal nugget I did find. This church is located right next to a thrift store I’ve not been to, and there are two more down the street. Yep. I’ll be coming back here!
After today, I’m thinking I need to go find out how Christian Scientists worship. Although at a party on Saturday night, someone thought I should go check out the Quakers. Can you all see me dragging my feet on the whole Islam thing? It’s not that I don’t want to go; I do! It’s just that I’m still searching for something to wear that would be considered modest in my closet. This is not easy to do!