Some Christian congregations, particularly in lower income, urban areas, are turning to the Church of Scientology for support and assistance, according to a CNN report (October 31). Pastors interviewed say that when it comes to religion, they still preach the basics of Christianity. But when it comes to practicing the faith, they borrow resources from Scientology. According to published reports, Scientology has been recently diversifying its outreach to include other religions. Clergy say they are not put off by programs with ties to the controversial church.
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 these “theological hybrids.” “I’m looking for solutions, and the people that I help, they don’t ask me who L. Ron Hubbard is,” said McLaughlin, who works with addicts. Kennedy, McLaughlin and other Christian clergy — no one can say how many — claim they 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” — founder L. Ron Hubbard’s 64-page, self-described “common sense guide to better living. In the book‘s emphasis on maintaining a temperate lifestyle, Kennedy found a message he believed could help his predominantly African-American church living in an environment of poverty and crime. Kennedy now uses “The Way to Happiness” as a how-to supplement to his sermons and believes it is easier to understand and clearer to follow than the Bible.
Kennedy adds that Scientology’s values might contradict Christianity in some ways, but such criticism from other pastors has not been enough to discourage him. He insists that he has witnessed the changes at his center, which offers free tutoring based on Hubbard’s “study tech” philosophies. Kennedy’s daughter, Jimirra, is one of the instructors. She said she considers herself a “Pentecostal Scientologist“– a claim that worries anti-cultists who see it as a deliberate attempt at blurring the lines between Scientology and mainstream faiths.
Meanwhile, McLaughlin trained at Narconon, the church’s drug treatment program, and brought the techniques back to his community to launch “First Step Faith Step,” a program that combines Hubbard’s methods with the teachings of Christianity. He claims a 70- to 80-percent rehabilitation success rate. The Church of Scientology would not comment about the Hubbard-based programs.