Leah Remini has just released a memoir, Troublemaker: Surviving Hollywood and Scientology, which has placed the cult and many of its famous followers back in the spotlight. Remini was interviewed by ABC for 20/20 and revealed many of the secrets that Scientologists are commanded never to make public.
Remini grew up in the cult, and the 20/20 interview gave her a chance to speak about the many different disciplines that were imposed on her and others. She left Scientology about two years ago saying that she didn’t want her daughter indoctrinated into the faith. The church has responded to her allegations saying, “Ms. Remini needs to move on with life and stop obsessively blaming others for her problems, be it her former religion or those she has worked with professionally.”
Why does Scientology attract some of Hollywood’s leading actors and actresses? According to Jenna Hill, the niece of Scientology leader David Miscavige, and others who have left the practice of Scientology, the church actually targets certain stars they think will be vulnerable to their teaching. The doctrine of the church is designed to attract and influence actors and actresses to believe that membership will help both their lives and their careers. The church points to people like Tom Cruise, John Travolta and others as proof that their doctrine is correct. The backgrounds of these stars lend to the idea that certain personalities might be targeted by the cult.
Tom Cruise’s parents divorced when he was eleven years old. At the age of fourteen he joined the Franciscan seminary thinking he would become a priest. Cruise suffered from dyslexia and school was very difficult for him. Cruise married actress Mimi Rogers in 1987. She led the actor to become a student of Scientology. Cruise credited the church with curing his dyslexia, and he soon became one of its leading members. Leah Remini spoke about the special treatment that Cruise was given by the church.
John Travolta credits Scientology for his career. Travolta was a young man, pursuing an acting career, when he was invited to a Scientology meeting. He was the youngest of six children and dropped out of high school during his junior year. He shared with the Scientology group that he was scheduled to audition for an upcoming television show. According to Laurence Wright in his book, Going Clear, the group was told to stand, point to the studio and say, ‘”We want John Travolta for the part.” At the next meeting, Travolta revealed he had been cast in the role of Vinnie Barbarino— the part that would soon make him famous. “My career immediately took off,” Travolta boasted in a church publication. “Scientology put me in the big time.”‘
Many other actors like Will and Jada Smith, Kirstie Alley, Priscilla Presley, Patrick Swayze, and the Russian dancer Mikhail Baryshnikov spent time and vast amounts of money supporting the church of Scientology. Leah Remini’s book is a concern to many in Hollywood who would like for their relationship to the church and the knowledge of its doctrines to remain secretive. Other articles point to the continued relationship the cult has with these stars because they fear the leaders will reveal personal information about them to the media. People should always question an organization or person that finds it necessary to function in the darkness, protected by secrecy.
The apostle Paul was on trial before King Agrippa in Rome, when he boldly explained his calling to Christian ministry. Jesus had spoken to him on the road to Damascus and Paul described what the heavenly voice had said: “I am sending you to open their eyes, so that they may turn from darkness to light and from the power of Satan to God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins and a place among those who are sanctified by faith in me” (Acts 26:17-18).
Many people have never had a chance to know the one true God. Cults like Scientology are appealing because they offer answers and hope in convincing ways. Movie stars with lots of fame and money lend credibility and influence. Their testimonies spread a message of darkness, moving people to sacrifice money and even their families to receive the false hope Scientology sells. John began his gospel describing Jesus. He said, “In him was life, and the life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it” (John 1:4-5). Our message is powerful and provides people a way out of the darkness. When did you last share the gospel with someone in need of salvation?
Chances are you will hear people discussing Scientology this week because it is in the news. When you find yourself in one of those conversations, pray and ask the Holy Spirit to guide your thoughts, your words, and your heart. Then, speak the truth of the gospel message with grace and kindness. It is easy to assume that all Americans have had the chance to know Jesus, but most have just heard his name and a few Bible stories. They need someone to explain and help them understand.
A lot of people are in the dark and looking for someone to care enough about them to provide some hope and some answers to their questions. Christians have overcome the darkness and our calling is like Paul’s. We have been sent to be a light in this world. Don’t hesitate to speak, remembering, “He who is in you is greater than he who is in the world” (1 John 4:4).
I wonder who Tom Cruise, John Travolta, and the others would have been if they had found Jesus instead of Scientology. Maybe we will know that answer someday. In the meantime, who do you know that is living in darkness? Remember, Jesus is the light of the world—and you are filled with that light. Pray for the opportunity to share the gospel this week.
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