I have to admit, despite my crushes on various male movie stars, I’ve never understood just what the big deal was about Tom Cruise. I mean, yes, I watched him prance around in his underwear in Risky Business. I watched him in Top Gun, and didn’t get the double entendre in the name. I even watched him get vaguely homoerotic with Brad Pitt in Interview With a Vampire, and get all earnest with Rene Zellweger in Jerry MacGuire. I even giggled when I heard him yelling the line “Respect the cock!” in Magnolia.
I laughed, but I didn’t get turned on. Because he never did anything for me. He just always seemed to plastic to me.
But he was a major movie star, so whatever it was that I didn’t quite get, a lot of other people did. Fine. But the idea of Tom Cruise being worshiped as a god?
The Mission: Impossible star has been told he has been “chosen” to spread the word of his faith throughout the world.
And leader David Miscavige believes that in future, Cruise, 44, will be worshipped like Jesus for his work to raise awareness of the religion.
A source close to the actor, who has risen to one of the church’s top levels, said: “Tom has been told he is Scientology’s Christ-like figure.
“Like Christ, he’s been criticised for his views. But future generations will realise he was right.”
But wait a minute. What’s so strange about that?
Don’t get me wrong. I think Tom Cuise is batshit crazy. And Scientology? Well, I only just looked up the Wikipedia entry for Scientology, but even that’s enough to give me pause.
Some central tenets of Scientology:
* A person is an immortal spiritual being (termed a thetan) who possesses a mind and a body.
* The thetan has lived through many past lives and will continue to live beyond the death of the body.
* Through the Scientology process of “auditing”, one can free oneself of “engrams” and “implants” to reach the state of “Clear”, and after that, the state of “Operating Thetan”. Each state is said to represent recovering the native spiritual abilities of the individual, and to confer dramatic mental and physical benefits.
* A person is basically good, but becomes “aberrated” by moments of pain and unconsciousness in his or her life.
* What is true for you is what you have observed yourself. No beliefs should be forced as “true” on anyone. Thus, the tenets of Scientology are expected to be tested and seen to either be true or not by Scientology practitioners.
* Psychiatry and psychology are evil and abusive practices.
[Full disclosure: I’m married to a psychiatrist.] And at the upper levels of Scientology that Cruise has reached?
Among these advanced teachings, one episode revealed to those who reach OT level III has been much remarked upon: the story of Xenu and his Galactic Confederacy. Xenu (sometimes Xemu) is introduced as an alien ruler of the “Galactic Confederacy” who, 75 million years ago, brought billions of people to Earth in spacecraft resembling Douglas DC-8 airliners, stacked them around volcanoes and blew them up with hydrogen bombs. Their souls then clustered together and stuck to the bodies of the living. The alien souls continue to do this today, causing a variety of physical ill-effects in modern-day humans. Hubbard called these clustered spirits “Body Thetans,” and the advanced levels place considerable emphasis on isolating them and neutralizing their ill effects.
Scientologists have argued that the published accounts of the Xenu story and other colourful teachings are distortions of their practice, presented out of context for the purpose of ridiculing their religion. Journalists and critics of Scientology counter that the Xenu episode is part of a much wider Scientology belief that past lives on other planets are a source of negative influences on the mind and spirit in the present. Some of this has been public knowledge for decades. For instance, Hubbard’s 1958 book Have You Lived Before This Life documents past lives described by individual Scientologists during auditing sessions, including some that are reported to antedate what modern astronomy estimates as the age of the universe. Internal Scientology publications are often illustrated with pictures of spaceships and oblique references to catastrophic events that happened “75 million years ago” (i.e., the Xenu incident).
While reliable information about Scientology membership is notoriously elusive, there is little reason to doubt that most practicing Scientologists have not attained a sufficiently high level on “The Bridge” to have learned the details about Xenu and Body Thetans. Therefore, while knowledge of Xenu and Body Thetans is said to be crucial to the highest level church teachings, it cannot be regarded as a core belief of rank-and-file Scientologists.
But wait a minute. How is that any stranger than the beliefs of some mainstream religions, whether it’s beliefs about race or the end of the world? I posted a video playlist of some of the more interesting cases of “Rapture-itis” but YouTube removed the most jaw-droppingly astounding clips. Fortunately, Google Video has an entire documentary, that covers much of the same things; stuff I’ve written about before, even, and people I read about in The End of Days: Fundamentalism and the Struggle for the Temple Mount like the guy who’s drilling for oil in Israel based on what he read in Revelation (who chuckles at the idea of what would happen if he helps Israel siphon off the Middle East’s oil supply). And the guy who wrote the book. But I don’t think it included the Texas ranchers who’ve started a cattle-breeing program in Israel, in the hopes of producing a flawless red heifer. A very important red heifer.
Okay, so now we get to the part about the red heifer: it turns out that, although no religious Jew is allowed on the Temple Mount, there’s a loophole – it’s okay if he or she is first purified in the ashes of a pure red heifer. These creatures are exceedingly rare. One was born a couple of years ago, in Israel, but it soon began sprouting white hairs on its tail and was deemed insufficiently pure by the rabbinical authorities. Ah, but science found a way around the fickleness of God’s creation, and through the modern miracle of genetic engineering – and funding provided by “Christian Zionists” in America – a red heifer has been bred, and pronounced pure. As Dreher points out, the world media covered this as a joke, but in reality the red heifer is the theological and political equivalent of a suitcase nuke waiting to go off. Dreher cites Richard Landes, a professor of history at Boston University and director of the Center for Millennial Studies:
“These kinds of circumstances are exactly what people are waiting for. We could be starting a war. If this is a real red heifer, and strict Orthodox rabbis have declared her worthy of sacrifice, then a lot of Jews in Israel will take that as a sign that a new phase of history is about to begin. The Muslims are ready for jihad anyway, so if you have Jews up there doing sacrifices, talk about a red flag in front of a charging bull.”
…“’It’s entirely conceivable that this [red heifer] could trigger a new round of attempts to blow up the Dome of the Rock.’ This is something the Israeli security forces have long been vigilant against. But with their attentions drawn elsewhere by the war with the Palestinians, it’s possible that a radical group could slip the net. And it’s possible that religious extremists elements within the Israeli army could help them.”
All so they can be sucked up into the sky, sit on clouds and watch the world (and the rest of us left in it), and then spend eternity hanging out in what sounds like a bit like Neverland. I could go on, but suffice it to say that the the ranchers and the oil man aren’t any less crazy than Tom Cruise the Scientologists, and are a lot more dangerous because of their influence on U.S. foreign policy. Even Tommy and the Thetans can’t claim that, yet. But give them a couple thousand years and perhaps a president will name Tom Cruise as his favorite philosopher or personal lord and savior (or whatever the correct title is by then), Congress will open with a prayer in Tom’s name, and children will wear bracelets that say “WWTD?” (“What would Tom do?”).
Throw in John Travolta as Peter, Kirstie Alley in Mary Magdalene’s slot, and a whole host of celebrity apostles, you’re on your way. And why not? Being a non-believer today is like being strapped to the bumper of one of at least two buses being driven head-on towards each other by crazy people, longing for a collision. Does it really matter which band of crazies is behind the wheel?
After all, how different are they anyway? I said earlier that what we call mythology today was once somebody’s religion, the difference between the two being just a few thousand years. By the same token, what we call religion today was once called a cult, in its earliest stages. Maybe the difference between the two, then, is a few thousand years and a few million adherents.
I’m still rooting for the Zeus worshipers to make a comeback, but if Tom Cruise is up next for the messiah job? Well, praise Tom, I guess. Maybe I should give his movies another look.