I was watching this BBC documentary on the cult of Scientology, where I heard the story of Michael Henderson, a man who was one of the early members who recently grew disillusioned and left the church.
One of the practices of Scientology is “disconnection,” where followers of the cult stop communicating with family members who are antagonistic to the church. The members of Henderson’s family who are still in the cult refuse to speak with Michael or with his dying father. About nine minutes into the video, Henderson says, on the brink of tears:
It’s difficult to describe how a man of 76 years whose proudest accomplishment in life is his six children… They won’t speak to him.
It’s sick to see how manipulative Scientologists can be, twisting and breaking the ties of family for their own ends.
Of course, Scientology is hardly the first religion to do this.
One of the staples of the missionary stories my mother has told me is of people being disowned from their families for converting Christianity. People are persecuted for leaving Hinduism and Islam, and even for converting from the Catholic version of Christianity to a Protestant version of Christianity.
Last night in church, an evangelist from Ambassador Baptist College gave an illustration of a man who was rebelling against his parents’ religion. One day, he heard some noise in his house as he was preparing to leave for work in the morning, and went to investigate. It was his mother, praying. She was pleading with God, saying “I’ve already had one son go away from you, and I can’t bear to lose another one. Please, bring him back to you, Lord. And if he won’t repent and come back to you, Lord, I want you to kill him.”
That is sick. It is wrong.
And yet the evangelist was praising her for this! Because it worked. After a near-death experience, the man returned to Christianity. The preacher called this twisting of the familial bond “calling sin what it is.”
I cannot bring myself to praise any religion that would make a mother wish death upon her own child rather than see him choose a different path.
If your religion demands that you cut off ties with your family merely because they disagree with you, you should cut off ties with the religion instead.