There’s been a lot of negative chatter about The Church of Scientology in the wake of the release of Alex Gibney’s new documentary “Going Clear: Scientology and the Prison of Belief.” Over the course of the the film, Gibney argues that what started as a faddish and slightly eccentric self-help movement has grown into an abusive and corrupt cult that poses a physical, mental, and financial threat to its members as well as its critics.
Gibney also notes that Tom Cruise, the star of such films as Collateral and War of the Worlds, is a Scientology member and one its most outspoken proponents.
So, as a humble film-freak, I ask a difficult, but practical question: doesn’t Tom Cruise make all the bad stuff about Scientology worth it?
For starters, critics of Scientology say that its core beliefs are a bit far-fetched. I can get that. Scientology’s founder, L. Ron Hubbard, taught his followers that humans are immortal beings whose bodies are infested with dozens, sometimes hundreds, sometimes thousands of “thetans” (the souls of aliens who were kidnapped 75 million years ago by a galactic tyrant named Xenu under the guise of a tax audit, frozen solid, flown across the galaxy, stacked around the earth’s volcanoes, and massacred in a hydrogen-bomb induced eruption) and that the only way to achieve spiritual rehabilitation is through a series of “audits,” where, for a fixed donation, a church official can identify and help exorcise the alien spirits inhabiting a participant's body by analyzing the fluctuations in current between two lightly electrified soup cans. Doesn’t really add up, does it?
Well, how’s this for “adding up,” buddy?
Six. Billion. Dollars.
That’s the number you get when you "add up" the worldwide box office gross for all twenty-nine of Tom Cruise’s films to date. Did Scientology help Tom Cruise become the world’s biggest and most beloved movie star? Did some bit of personal-actualization mumbo jumbo buried in the middle of all that sci-fi gobbledygook give him the tools necessary to transform into the high-octane thrill machine adored by moviegoers around the globe? If so, I’m sending a big ol’ salute LRH’s way because nothing makes me happier than handing over my hard earned money to watch than my man TC run around in a motorcycle jacket, screaming his head off for two and a half hours.
Sure, it might be a little irresponsible for Scientology to brainwash a man into thinking that the first step to self-improvement is getting rid of the millions-years-old space ghosts inside his body, but you can’t argue with results. We’re talking Valkylrie. We’re talking Oblivion. We’re talking over three decades of true blue blockbusters, baby! No matter how tempting it is to dismiss Scientology as nothing more than the incoherent ramblings of a psychotic old man, we can't risk throwing out the baby with the bathwater. Because this baby just so happens to be named Jack Reacher.
There's also been a bunch of hemming and hawing over the church leadership’s role in ending not one, but two of Tom Cruise’s marriages after they deemed his spouses to be “suppressive persons.” But maybe the church had those ladies pegged? Would Nicole Kidman have talked Tom out of singing on for Jack Reacher: Never Go Back, the second installment in the Jack Reacher saga that no one knew they wanted? Would Katie Holmes have poo-pooed his turn as Stacee Jaxx in Rock of Ages for being “way too out of his wheelhouse?” Forget “suppressive,” those gals might have down right killed his career.
Now, I know some viewers got their panties all in a bunch when they found out that pregnanat members of Scientology’s clergy, called Sea Org, were pressured by officials to have abortions since children are seen as distractions from the work of the church. I’m all for a woman’s right to choose, but we can’t ignore the fact that all the time she spends feeding, clothing, raising, and loving a child could be time spent getting Tom Cruise into the mental and spiritual state necessary to turn out the next Lions for Lambs. So unless that kid is coming out with womb clutching a screenplay with the same balance of action, romance, and comedy as Knight and Day in it’s tiny, bloody fist, then maybe they’re right to do everything they can to keep the ladies of Sea Org “focused up.”
And so what if the Scientology is using cheap labor and its tax-exempt status to accumulate a billion dollar fortune rather than provide services for its members? Is buying a new crotch-rocket for Tommy to tool around on in between takes of Mission: Impossible - Rogue Nation not a service to all mankind? Do we not all benefit as a society when a happy and well-rested Tom can breathe life into the character of Ethan Hunt, the man who likes to drive fast and shoot guns and wear masks, for the fifth time?
Who cares if the David Miscavige, the church’s current leader, physically beat some of the members he imprisoned in a crowded, squalid double-wide trailer? Maybe that was the flap of the butterfly’s wings resulted in Cruise’s hilariously awkward and strongly anti-semitic portrayal of Hollywood agent Les Grossman in Tropic Thunder.
And let’s quite all the hand wringing about blackmailing members to keep them from leaving the organization or running smear campaigns on those who left, shall we? Maybe they’re just afraid that these whistle blowers will give away the secret to Tommy’s mojo. And can you blame them? If I knew the recipe for the steamy and very much believable on screen romance between him and Emily Blunt, an actor twenty years his younger, in Edge of Tomorrow, I’d ruin people’s lives to keep it under wraps too!
And whose to say that Scientologists don’t have it right? Maybe I really am covered in a the souls of dead spacemen. It certainly would explain my uncontrollable need… my need… for more Tom Cruise movies!
Hell, I don’t really care how the sausage that is Tom Cruise gets made. I just want that hot, tasty sausage.