We've received so many of your notes regarding this bizarre story that we just had to address it. Maybe it's because so many people check CNN.com so frequently. The story, headlined "Some Christian pastors embrace Scientology," is fairly shallow and shabby in its lack of proper definitions. Reader Jason had this to say about the story:
The reporter seems to frame this as a mixing of theology -- "theological hybrid" -- but most of the quotes --and there are a lot of them, to the reporter's credit -- are about just using some of the philosophies to help affect changes in peoples lives with the Gospel. I am curious to know about Ross' religious beliefs and would like to know what kinds of criticism "other pastors" offer.
Ross is, according to CNN, a "court-certified Scientology expert," whatever that means, and is quoted warning that "mainstream acceptance makes it easier for the Scientologists to achieve their ultimate goal -- new recruits." It's a scary world we live in, isn't it?
Here's the heart of the story. In typical television journalism fashion, the potential reach of Scientology is unbounded and could even be in, heaven forbid, your own community!
The Rev. Charles Kennedy, of the Glorious Church of God in Christ, a Pentecostal church in Tampa, Florida, and the Rev. James McLaughlin, of the Wayman Chapel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Houston, Texas, are among the theological hybrids.
... Kennedy, McLaughlin and a handful of other Christian church leaders -- no one can say how many -- are finding answers to their communities' needs in Scientology's social programs.
For Kennedy, it began two years ago when he attended a meeting at the Church of Scientology's spiritual headquarters in Clearwater, Florida. He was introduced to a book called "The Way to Happiness" -- Hubbard's 64-page, self-described "common sense guide to better living."
In the book, which lays out ways to maintain a temperate lifestyle, Kennedy found a message he believed could help lift his predominantly lower income African-American congregation. He said the book's 21 principles help them with their struggle in an urban environment where there is too much crime and addiction and too little opportunity.
Kennedy knew that before he could introduce any Scientology-related text to his congregation, he would have to prove that it did not contradict his Christian beliefs. And so, he found Scripture to match each of the 21 principles.
What are published reports and what does "other religions and ethnic groups" mean?
And there are more questions. What are social programs and "temperate lifestyles"? How do church leaders see Hubbard's book as better than the millions of other self-help books out there? Do the members of a church become part of Scientology automatically, or do they have to be admitted individually?
These and many other questions come up in a story like this, and considering that the reporters on this story only found a couple of examples, I question whether this is very significant as a trend.
The reporters' reliance on Ross gets out of hand, and it's fairly clear that the piece is less about exploring how inner-city churches are looking to Scientology for help and more about scaring people into believing that churches are adopting cult-like practices.