• Out of Scientology's Labyrinth

    By Karen Schless Pressley

    Tom Cruise's recent anti-psychiatry, pro-Scientology, converting-Katie-Holmes-to-Scientology media blitzes prompted me to respond to his antics with this commentary. However, writing this article is about more than that. This also marks my seventh and sixth anniversaries—seven years since I found the way out of Scientology's labyrinth July 31, 1998, and six years since I answered the door to Christ's knock and He took residence in my heart.

    When I hear Cruise's everything-is-great statements about life in Scientology, my stomach churns at the remembrance of the early 1980's when I felt the same way. Now, nearly 25 years later, the sun never sets on a day that I do not think about the Scientology-driven life I left behind, and give thanks for my new life. Now, instead of despising my moment-to-moment existence as I did during twelve years of bondage in Scientology's elite corps (the "Sea Organization"), I live free in Christ with an attitude of gratitude for God's miraculous deliverance from Scientology, and for the new life He has given me. I am thankful for the past seven years of healing, for the ongoing personal growth that comes from facing my past and learning from my mistakes, and for the God-given opportunities to build a new life as His plan for me unfolds.

    Since freed from Scientology, I rejoice in the growing number of people who had the courage to break free of Scientology's grip or leave the confines of staff life, but it has grieved me to hear about ex-members involved in angry, vindictive, or vengeful acts against Scientology. The inability to forgive the group for its spiritual betrayal and totalitarian control that appeared to ruin lives, will keep ex-members in emotional bondage. The only way I have been able to forgive and break free from their emotional and mental holds was by learning about and experiencing the ultimate forgiveness—the unconditional love offered by God who forgave me during my Scientology years, and for living like a rebel in enmity with Him. I had looked for truth in all the wrong places while walking Scientology's path to total spiritual freedom, and instead ended up on their bridge to total spiritual bondage.

    Fortunately, God caught me one night in 1998 while I was on the edge of a spiritual chasm-desperate and knowing I needed to get out of Scientology's trap but not knowing how—by reaching out His hand to me like a lifeline, washing me with peace and filling me with love. He rescued me from further ruin, and led me to new life in Him. That experience preceded my final departure from Scientology, and opened the gate to being able to find Him. His forgiving me continues to be the reason I am able to forgive others.  

    I have wondered how anyone can leave a cult and create a new, sane, freed life again without coming to know the love of Jesus Christ. To me, it seems impossible. I have learned that many former Scientologists or their families resort to de-programming to be freed from Scientology's grip and re-adjust to life again. I can say with total certainty that the only reason I have become sane again, and am able to experience life with joy and happiness again, is because of my life in Christ.

    Life as a Scientologist is about discovering one's knowledge, powers and divinity, becoming total "cause" or fully responsible and in control of life, thought, matter, energy, space, time, and form. It is no wonder why Scientology attracts celebrities, people in the arts and entertainment fields, sports, and business. People like my (former) husband and I, who desired high levels of success, are tricked into forgetting that by living through God's strength in us, we can do all things through Christ who strengthens us. We were deceived into believing that we must do everything on our own strength and knowledge—even earning our own immortality. Scientology is in the business of selling immortality, to the extent that they groom you to believe that L. Ron Hubbard's spiritual technology holds the keys to your eternity. 

    Ironically, they sell and promise of total spiritual freedom but the results are contrary: total spiritual dependence! Anyone who believes they must pay for Scientology services to go free, is dependent on humans (the counselors, the supervisors) and the ways of the Scientology world for their very freedom. A greater story has never been sold.
    It was God's Word that transformed my mind, and helped to free me from regret about my past mistakes: "If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. Old things have passed away; behold all things have become new" (2 Corinthians 5:17, NKJV).

    Now, as a national speaker in churches, conferences, and educational institutions, the most commonly asked questions of me are, why and how did you first get involved in Scientology? How could an intelligent person like you fall for Scientology's lies? Why did you give up your lifestyle and career as a fashion designer and being in the music business to sell your soul and sign a billion year contract to the Church of Scientology? What lures people, especially celebrities and artistic people, into Scientology? How did you get out and what happened after you left? Does the Church of Scientology harass or threaten you? These have all been relatively easy to answer.

    However, the most challenging-and troubling-question has actually become the catalyst that set me on the path of ministry. That question came from Christians around the country who have asked, "Can a Christian be a Scientologist at the same time?"

    Even though I was a new Christian with relatively limited experiences as a believer, I was nevertheless chagrined by this inquiry. A Christian who would even consider this a possibility could not know what they believed.

    Scientology is the antithesis to Christianity. Scientology philosophy leads followers the opposite direction of coming to know the God of the Old and New Testaments. As a Christian, stepping into Scientology's "bridge to spiritual enlightenment" is comparable to leaving the Promised Land to enter a labyrinth of spiritual wilderness that leads you to total separation from God. This place is called "light," spiritual freedom, and immortality. It is the carrot that lures seekers into the labyrinth.

    Recently, Scientology spokespeople have been using the national media to promote the statement that one can be a Christian and a Scientologist at the same time. This deception has become so troubling to me, it prompted me to respond and expose what Scientology actually teaches about Jesus Christ. After all, Colossians 2:8, (NIV), tells us, "See to it that no one takes you captive through hollow and deceptive philosophy, which depends on human tradition and the basic principles of this world rather than on Christ."

    Even though I was a new Christian when I was asked this question, (Can a Christian be a Scientologist at the same time?) — and my experiences within Christendom were limited—God showed me that my ministry was to begin with Christians within the church, not to people wanting to get out of Scientology, or people who had already gotten out, as I had originally thought. Knowing that Scientology's biggest mission field is the Christian church, I was under no delusion that I was going to solve this problem alone, but I knew God planned to use me to do something about it, and make a difference.

    I could see that Christians who asked that question did not know what they believed as Christians—and that Christianity was in trouble if its followers did not understand their own beliefs. I already knew that Christianity was Scientology's biggest mission field-people who grew up in Christian homes where parents did not model God's love or truth in the home, where church was ritualistic, and abundant life in Christ was not real. Those factors add up to a life built on sinking sand where the deceptive doctrine of Scientology could not only take hold but seem appealing to people seeking the supernatural, seeking answers to life's questions, and seeking something new-like I was years ago. 

    Scientology writings are chock full of inconsistencies about Jesus Christ. Their public relations perspective of Jesus Christ is found in What is Scientology?, a glossy, two-inch thick promotional book. In chapter 2, "The Religious Heritage of Scientology," after the sections on early religious rites and Buddhists, Jesus of Nazareth "brought new hope to man by preaching that life was not all men might hope for".1  A man is then shown on the cross with the caption, "Though crucified, the hope that Christ brought to man did not die. Instead, his death became symbolic of the triumph of the spirit over the material body and so brought a new awareness of man's true nature."

    Scientology's text represents a new age teaching, reducing Jesus to a mere symbol, and completely eliminating the truth about His personhood as God, as well as the meaning of His death, burial, and resurrection from the dead, wherein lies the true hope of man. Jesus Christ died on the cross for the sins of humankind, to reconcile man and God, as the Savior of humankind and the only way to the Father. Writers of What is Scientology? did not understand the message of the cross and failed to truthfully represent Him. An untrained Christian may not discern the false teachings of this text.

    Later teachings about Christ, (in Scientology's Class VIII course materials and a Certainty Magazine article), depict Jesus as a "figment of the imagination" and reduces Him to "just a shade above clear" on Scientology's spiritual awareness levels, about eight levels lower than their highest attainable state, OT (Operating Thetan) VIII. At OT VIII, Scientologists are told to forsake their beliefs in Christ because He is a "figment of the imagination," a whole-track implant that needs to be erased from the mind in order to proceed on their spiritual path to immortality.

    When I consider that, my blood runs cold from the thought of Christians being deceived away from God, only to follow the teachings that sprang from the heart of God's enemy thousands of years ago. Knowing this now, what would be your answer to the question: Can a Christian be a Scientologist at the same time?

    Adjusting to life after Scientology was a gargantuan task, considering the necessary and total re-adjustment to society I had to make after living in Scientology's secluded world of staff life where L. Ron Hubbard's ideas and rules shaped and controlled my life, enforced by Scientology totalitarian, quasi-militaristic management. It was as if my mind, heart, and soul had to be purged of Scientology's world view, methods of thinking, spiritual perceptions, vocabulary, lifestyle habits, and restraints, to name a few.

    Many people who leave the church of Scientology continue to use Scientology technology as well as vocabulary, out of deeply ingrained habit. However, when I left, I made the choice to leave 100 percent, and totally closed the door on using any Scientology technology or philosophy in my new life. I wanted to be 100 percent free and clear of its grip or influence on my life. God's Word addressed and solved this issue for me, in Romans 12:2 (NIV, "be transformed by the renewing of your mind.")

    For the first three years of my freedom, I chose not to pursue relationships with former Scientologists, especially other defectors like me, or vindictive dissidents who expressed vengeance against Scientology by picketing organizations or making attacks in the press or courtrooms. I knew I needed to get a life. I wanted a life unaffected by Scientology's ways, particularly negative ways. I occasionally surfed the Web to read news about Scientology, and found several Web sites with comments from former members and former staff.

    It grieved me to see the numbers of people who felt they could not speak out freely about negative experiences in Scientology. It took me two years to be able to talk about it without breaking into tears. The depth of my losses was too great—my husband of 21 years, my entire past, everyone I knew, and everything I owned. I had been indoctrinated into believing that anyone who leaves Scientology (like me) or who speaks out in public derogatorily is a suppressive person—an enemy of the church, an enemy to humankind, the worst type of individual that can exist in Scientology's eyes. If I spoke out, I would become fair game and reap repercussions from Scientology's legal and public relations arm, the Office of Special Affairs (OSA). OSA has nearly unlimited funds for lawsuits, private investigators, and powers to crush or ruin the lives of individuals who speak out. The fair game policy in Scientology is well known, thus rendering defectors relatively ineffective in exercising their freedom of speech as otherwise guaranteed by the First Amendment.

    I finally realized that the longer I stayed quiet, the longer Scientology would keep me in mental bondage. And, by staying quiet, I was under the thumb of their philosophy, rules, and threats—which made me party to their deeds! They would be the victor, and I would be the victim. 

    Though it took me some years to break out of this emotional state, I decided to claim God's promise, that if He was for me, who could be against me? I have become increasingly willing to speak out and have nothing to do with the fruitless deeds of darkness, but rather expose them.2

    It has not been easy to overcome my deep regrets about the choices I made that led me into the labyrinth of life as a Scientologist. Instead, I am grateful for that chapter of my life: My radical transformation from being in enmity with God as a Scientologist to becoming a follower of Christ and a ministry leader underlies my passion, and is the reason I wake up every morning. I have learned to conquer on God's strength rather than my own. I have learned what it means to be an overcomer in His eyes. I have learned who I am, and I know whose I am.

    As the director of Wings of Love Ministries, I will never forget my years in the music business when my former husband and I tasted success from our first hit song, "On the Wings of Love." However, in my new life in Christ, I am soaring on new wings of love: "Those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles..." (Isa. 40:31, NIV). 

    Now serving as a Mission Service Corps Volunteer under the North American Mission Board in Alpharetta, GA, I have been blessed to speak and minister at churches, seminaries, women's conferences, and youth groups across the country, exposing the teachings of Scientology and providing a Biblical response. My affiliation with Atlanta Community Ministries has teamed me with a group of evangelicals who share the love of God across the city, reaching people for Christ. With the recent publication of my story in local and national newspapers, magazines, and television shows, God has opened the doors of ministry to people yearning to break free of Scientology's grip.

    God's grace spurs me on to make the most of every waking moment in my new life, free from Scientology's deception. If you have a friend or loved one who you believe needs help, contact me.  Call (404) 841-0800, ext. 205, or e-mail me at wingsofloveministries@msn.com.

    1What is Scientology? Pg. 34-38.  Compiled by Church of Scientology International staff; copyright 1992, Bridge Publications, Los Angeles.    

    2Ephesians 5:12-13