Monday, December 28, 2009

Scientology: What happens in a typical church service? (5)

Yesterday I watched a really nice Christmas movie called The Preacher's Wife. Some of the movie takes place inside a Christian church and you see church services with a preacher who is inspirational and a congregation who joins in with "praise the lord" and "hallelujah", etc. As I was watching I thought about the Scientology Sunday Service and how different it is from that.

Some Scientology haters have portrayed the Scientology Sunday Service as a sham and other Scientology Church Services as window dressing.

So I thought, after seeing that movie, that I'd put in my two cents worth.

First of all, naming ceremonies, marriages and memorials are most definitely not window dressing. They are very important events and are treated that way. The Scientology ceremonies I've attended tend to be less serious than similar ceremonies I've attended in other, more traditional, churches. For example, at my mother's funeral at a very stuffy traditional church the minister talked about God all the time and my mother hardly got a mention.

I think the Scientology ceremonies are less serious because they are very much focused on the person or persons the ceremony concerns rather than on a deity. Also memorials are lighter because we know the person is coming back and so it's not such a heavy loss.

Now let's look at the Sunday Service. If you compare a Scientology Sunday Service to the one shown in "The Preacher's Wife", then the Scientology Sunday Services I've attended are very tame indeed. My take on this is that it is because Scientology is a religion of wisdom. It's main services are training people in that wisdom and then getting them to use that wisdom in their lives. It's a more analytical than emotional religion. So it follows that our Sunday Services, not being geared toward worship, would look quieter and more reserved, and because, as I said in my earlier article, most Scientologists will have been attending services most nights or days of the prior week, so they are less likely to feel the need to attend an additional service on Sunday.

As Scientology continues to expand, Sunday Service may morph into something bigger and more boisterous, or the fact that Scientology is open to people of all religions may mean that people who like a more lively service may simply continue to go to their traditional churches.

Personally I think having both the analytical side (as in Scientology) and the emotional side (as in, for example, a Baptist church) is a great combination: that way you get the best of both worlds.



Burnin' said...

Great series! The Rev. Alfreddie Johnson, an active Baptist minister AND a Scientologist (one doesn't have to give up one to be the other!), spoke last Friday at the San Francisco Church of Scientology. And he gave us his inimitable southern Baptist style, getting us involved with lots of "Amen"s and "Hallelujah"s! It was great fun, really got us participating in the communication!

Grahame said...

Hey Burnin',

I've been to a service given by Rev. Alfreddie and he really rocks!

Anonymous said...

So... let me get this right... Religon serves the purpose of putting trust and faith in a higher power beyond our control, in which we can rely on and build life upon. Why then should a service or ceremony be focused on the individual and not the higher power in question. If an individual would like, for lack of better word and please correct me if you have a better one, attention then why would one find it necessary to even conduct any type of ceremony. What is a church service to worship or praise an individual for? If an individual wants attention or praise then shouldnt that person be seeking counseling for their feelings of inadequecy?

Grahame said...

Hey Brandon,

I guess I gave you the wrong impression. Let me try to fix that.

The definition of religion that you use is rather a Western (Judeo-Christian) definition of the word. It is not the definition used by religious scholars and it is not the definition that applies to Scientology. For a discussion of how scholars define religion,
why and which definition applies to Scientology, there is a great article here: Defining Religion in a Pluralistic Society.

To get to your questions: The religious services in Scientology do not worship or praise an individual and the people involved in the service are not there to get attention.

Example: the naming ceremony. The purpose of which is to help orient the being in his new life. It introduces the child to his parents and godparents and they to him/her. The spiritual being who is occupying the baby body just recently lost the body he had before and is probably confused and upset. He was Joe Smith, age 84, and a master plumber. Who is he now? Who are these people around him? Why can't the people around understand him? What happened? The naming ceremony gently shows him where he is, who he is and who these people around him are. Hopefully this helps him become calmer and oriented to his new life. Ideally it gives him a foundation upon which to build a successful life.

Example: the wedding ceremony. The purpose is to establish agreements primarily between the couple, but also to a lesser degree with their family and friends, as to what marriage means, that they are married, what their responsibilities are, etc. Ideally this gives them the foundations upon which they can build a successful lifetime together.

I hope that answers your questions.