From Pastor to Bastard: It’s Easy to Buy Snake Oil
25 October 2012Written by Matt Debenedictis
I could have been a Scientologist as much as anyone else; it’s really all about the odds. If your mother broke water in India it would be an easy wager that you’d end up Hindu. In my impressionable teen years, there never were any believers of the Galactic Confederacy of Xenu waiting to give personality test outside a half-stocked K-Mart in Youngstown, Ohio. So I ended up saying some magic words with tightly closed eyes outside a church. A moderately tattooed guy told me it was the way to a peaceful afterlife, one without eternal degree burns. It made sense at the time.
We all have pinpoints in our lives where improvable mystical ideas make sense. Generally it’s when shit hits the fan and the odds reveal buckets more are on their way. I highly doubt anyone has awoken chipper and cheerful saying, “My life is great! I guess alien spirits known as Thetans are what are really in control of my body. I should be doing something about that today.”
And yes, massive amounts of vitamins and constant sweating to cure a drug addiction sounds like a statement that the quirky neighbor on a sitcom would embrace, but there are those that pay Narconon, Scientology’s science-be-damned rehab facility, $30,000 for six months of a failed hang-over cure. The people paying out for such a non-treatment are in a state of desperation; usually it’s families seeking help for a relative who ended up in front of a judge who orders inpatient drug rehab.
In 2008 Patrick Desmond died from a drug overdose at the Narconon facility in Norcross, Georgia. Desmond, a former Marine, is far from the first to die while under the lack-of-care that comes from forcing ideology over well-being. The Oklahoma branch had three deaths in seven months and even more have been reported in Canada and Europe. Many died by being forced off of vital medications because Narconon is designed around, the sc-fi pimp daddy, L. Ron Hubbard’s denouncements of modern medicine.
There has been no back peddling in Scientology’s response to the death of “students.” Narconon refrains from calling people patients, as it probably would suggest scientific process and query in practice. Since the Desmond family have gained national attention with their lawsuit the Georgia branch have said they have never been an inpatient facility — despite the fact they boasted their twenty-four hour care and residency in press releases, websites, and to managers of drug courts.
Narconon is the practice of the tenants of Scientology as much as Alcoholics Anonymous is for Christianity. It doesn’t matter if the religious keywords can be masked by omittance; it’s still a process to push people to an overall belief system when they are at their weakest.
I have on my desk a bronze bottle that was used to store Holy Water in the1940s. The water it kept was thought to have the power of a god in it. This magic water could bless a child to be in a deity’s favor; it could have been used to expel a demon. Now the concept of holy water is seen as a symbolic tradition. Most will say the change in perception came from deeper understandings of the bible, but the meaning truly shifted because the fact that water is just water could no longer be denied.
I’m sure this bottle brought some hope; maybe some great moments of peace to someone feeling that life’s uncertainty needed stability, but a snake oil is still a snake oil and the tranquility of the mystical cannot survive the reality of life.
Matt DeBenedictis is a former pastor of Revolution Church. Questions and comments can be directed to email@example.com. Eyes can glance at wordsforguns.com.