Dr. Martin Luther King and Scientology - A Comparison
This open letter was posted to the alt.religion.scientology newsgroup on April 23, 1999.
The following is a letter I wrote to give to my revenge-picketer, Craig, who is black (his original nickname was "Tall Black Guy"), and who has brought up the issue of race more than once during my conversations with him.
I have been hoping to give this to him, but I haven't seen him in person since I wrote it (in mid-February). (Where have you been, Craig? I miss you!)
I've heard from various Scientologists that sometimes, Usenet posts concerning them are printed out and given to them (I believe Robin in Mountain View, for one, said that). I'm hoping this will make it to Craig that way.
Whether or not it does, though, I think it raises some good questions for all Scientologists. I hope that most Scientologists, regardless of skin color or heritage, share my admiration for Dr. King.
I was poking around on the net this evening and came across some pages on Dr. Martin Luther King. You've brought up the issue of race a few times while picketing at my home, and I don't know whether you share my admiration for Dr. King, but it occurred to me that you might, and I was inspired to write this letter.
I hope you'll consider it a sincere and honest attempt at communication, rather than evidence of covert hostility. I've been fortunate enough to have a little bit of open and genuine communication with other Scientologists (or at least, it seemed that way to me), and I'd really like to have a more constructive dialog with you than we seem to manage during pickets.
I certainly don't mean to imply any kind of parity between Dr. King's work and my own activism; the differences far outnumber the similarities. He was trying to put an end to racism and apartheid, which threatened many lives, including his own, and had done so for centuries. I am merely trying to end a handful of Scientology's practices, not Scientology itself; my own life is not threatened by Scientology (although some of my friends fear otherwise); and Scientology has had a much shorter lifespan than racism.
Nevertheless, I do consider myself an activist, working to end what I perceive to be injustice. While my actions will always be insignificant compared to his, and the injustices that concern me are not as farreaching as those that concerned him, I nevertheless consider Dr. King an example, and I strive to apply his principles, and to improve my behavior and my heart by emulating him.
The first work of Dr. King's that I looked at today on the net was his Letter from the Birmingham Jail. (The URL I was using was http://www.stanford.edu/group/King/Docs/birmingham.html).
Right away, the first paragraph caught my eye: he says, "Seldom, if ever, do I pause to answer criticism of my work and ideas. ... But since I feel that you are men of genuine goodwill and your criticisms are sincerely set forth, I would like to answer your statement in what I hope will be patient and reasonable terms. "
I heartily wish that Scientology's management would consider adopting this attitude!
It provokes a number of questions for me:
Have you ever met a critic of Scientology who you think is of genuine goodwill? If not, can you imagine someone who was - someone who wished Scientology no ill, but was troubled by a few aspects of Scientology's behavior?
My impression is that Scientology usually overreacts to public criticism, but perhaps I'm wrong. Can you point me to any examples of Scientology responding to criticism in patient and reasonable terms?
Do you think there's any organization that should be off-limits to criticism? If so, why? And if so, if some of that organization's imperfections begin to genuinely alarm people, how should they go about correcting those imperfections?
A bit later, Dr. King writes, "Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly affects all indirectly."
Do you agree with that? I don't know how you feel about Scientology's CCHR group, but most Scientologists I've spoken with support it, so I'll proceed as if you do too. (Feel free to correct me if I'm wrong.) CCHR members conduct protests similar to mine (only much larger and somewhat nastier - I understand "Psychiatry kills" is a common CCHR slogan, while I do not believe that "Scientology kills" and for that reason I don't have a Scn Kills t-shirt). I think it's a safe bet that most members of CCHR have not personally experienced psychiatric abuse.
Similarly, some whites were active in the abolition movement and the later civil rights movement, even though they never personally suffered slavery or discrimination. Also, like many men, Frederick Douglass was a strong supporter of women's rights.
Do you think it's a good thing, a bad thing, or neither, for individuals to try to correct problems even when those problems don't directly affect them?
Dr. King then responds directly to the ministers' criticism:
"You deplore the demonstrations that are presently taking place in Birmingham. But I am sorry that your statement did not express a similar concern for the conditions that brought the demonstrations into being. I am sure that each of you would want to go beyond the superficial social analyst who looks merely at effects, and does not grapple with underlying causes. I would not hesitate to say that it is unfortunate that so-called demonstrations are taking place in Birmingham at this time, but I would say in more emphatic terms that it is even more unfortunate that the white power structure of this city left the Negro community with no other alternative.
"In any nonviolent campaign there are four basic steps: 1) Collection of the facts to determine whether injustices are alive. 2) Negotiation. 3) Self-purification and 4) Direct action."
While I hadn't read Dr. King's letter before today, I had gone through these four steps - although I didn't try direct negotiation until after I'd participated in direct action through picketing. ("Negotiation" seems like an odd word to me, anyway; it's not like I have power to negotiate anything, other than my personal choice to continue picketing, and I've never met a Scientologist who was in a high enough position of power to do anything about my requests, anyway.)
Unfortunately, when I did try negotiation - or let me use the term I prefer, "dialog" - I was met with silence. I've delivered letters and e-mail to a variety of Scientology representatives, at least three of whom were OSA and therefore (I believe) directly hatted to interact with the public, answer questions, and handle criticism; but the only responses I've gotten have been to actual pickets. I've sent requests for information to firstname.lastname@example.org (including one forwarded to Gail Armstrong, on her suggestion) and gotten no substantial information back, despite promises that it would be forthcoming. I've been happy to talk with any Scientologist who approached me (even those who have been nasty about it), but there's been no genuine dialog.
If sincere attempts at dialog are met with silence, what would you suggest a concerned outsider such as myself do, if not picket?
As to the first paragraph quoted just above, have you considered the underlying causes of the pickets? Have you confronted the honest reactions of non-Scientologists to those of Scientology's actions which are unethical or illegal? Many of Scientology's actions, such as the attempt to unilaterally remove the alt.religion.scientology newsgroup in 1995, go against Scientology's own creed. This strikes me as a classic example of the overt-motivator sequence - of Scientology pulling it in. Do you also see it that way? Can you see it that way? Do you think any of Scientology's actions in recent years have been unethical, or illegal, or have been seen as such by those they've affected? If so, how else do you expect outsiders to react?
Considerably later, Dr. King discusses civil disobedience. With the exception of those who have distributed copyrighted materials (which, as it turns out, may not have been under copyright any longer - are you familiar with the evidence that Scientology lost those copyrights years ago?), Scientology critics are not prone to civil disobedience. In general, we take pains to obey the law when we picket, and speaking for myself, I don't believe I've ever broken the law when picketing or otherwise protesting Scientology's actions.
However, the same cannot be said for Scientology representatives. Leaving aside for the moment Scientology's ugly history of libelling and framing its critics (such as Casey Hill, Gabe Cazares, and Paulette Cooper, all instances which have been proven either in court or by Scientology's own documents), Scientology representatives seem quite willing to break the law. Scientologists have counter-picketed in San Jose and Salt Lake City, both cities that have laws against residential picketing. Scientology representatives have trespassed on the property of Scientology critics and their families (Grady Ward, Bob Minton, and Gregg Hagglund's parents.) Dr. King writes, "One who breaks an unjust law must do it openly, lovingly, (not hatefully as the white mothers did in New Orleans when they were seen on television screaming "nigger, nigger, nigger") and with a willingness to accept the penalty. I submit that an individual who breaks a law that conscience tells him is unjust, and willingly accepts the penalty by staying in jail to arouse the conscience of the community over its injustice, is in reality expressing the very highest respect for law. " This is not the behavior Scientology representatives are showing when they counter-picket, though - instead, when the police are called, they run.
Do you agree with Dr. King's position on civil disobedience? If not, what are your disagreements? Do the illegal actions of Scientology representatives reflect your own convictions about civil disobedience and obeying the law?
Further down, Dr. King writes, "But despite these notable exceptions I must honestly reiterate that I have been disappointed with the church. I do not say that as one of those negative critics who can always find something wrong with the church. I say it as a minister of the gospel, who loves the church; who was nurtured in its bosom; who has been sustained by its spiritual blessings and who will remain true to it as long as the cord of life shall lengthen. " Some of the Scientologists I've spoken with feel it's wrong to ever criticize Scientology, because it's done so much good. I, on the other hand, feel that everything that is not perfect SHOULD be criticized, for otherwise the imperfections will never be improved. Here is an example of Dr. King criticizing something he loves dearly, and possibly identifies with more strongly than anything else in his life.
Do you think it's good or bad to criticize something you value? Why?
The other document I looked at was Dr. King's sermon called "Loving Your Enemies." (http://www.stanford.edu/group/King/Docs/Volumes/Volume4/571117.002-Loving_Your_Enemies.htm)
(I should point out that I don't consider ANYONE my enemy; I strive to love everyone, and considering someone my enemy makes it harder for me to think of him or her in a loving way. As I wrote in a song years ago, "I have no enemies if I declare them friends.")
Before I even got past the title, I wondered about how you, as a Scientologist, react to this. Do you try to love your enemies, or do you think that it's better not to? Do you think that Scientology's actions toward its perceived enemies demonstrate love or something else? (I actually am serious with this question - it seems possible to me that a Scientologist might view attacking an enemy as a form of tough love, or something.)
Dr. King says that the way to start loving your enemy is by looking at yourself - to recognize that sometimes people hate you for no good reason, but sometimes the animosity comes from something you've done. (I think that last part fits well with Scientology thought - although I don't know whether the first part does.) He points out how it's true of organizations and institutions and movements, not just individuals - for example, he says that one of the reasons communism (the enemy of democracy) exists is because of democracy's failings: "The success of communism in the world today is due to the failure of democracy to live up to the noble ideals and principles inherent in its system."
So my first question is, do you think Scientology has taken a look within to see whether the criticism is due to its own actions?
And my second question is, can you suggest a way that I can improve my own behavior so that Scientology sees me as less of an enemy? I have looked within myself to try to find the behavior that would be most considerate of the Scientologists I meet when I picket, which is why I don't reveal information about the upper levels to pre-clears, or try to get people to blow; but perhaps there's more I could be doing.
Dr. King goes on to say that "A second thing that an individual must do in seeking to love his enemy is to discover the element of good in his enemy, and everytime you begin to hate that person and think of hating that person, realize that there is some good there and look at those good points which will over-balance the bad points."
I confess I don't do very well on this point with Scientology as an organization, although I think I tend to do fairly well on it with individual Scientologists. As I hope I've told you, I'm genuinely fond of you, and of Ben, and of Jeff Quiros and Bill Campbell and some of the Scientologists I've encountered only briefly - Cheryl and Michelle and Josh. Stridenta and Nasty Mark are a bit more of a challenge for me, but I do have genuine affection for them, too (it's just easier to feel it when we're apart <grin>).
Based on the evidence I've seen, I'm not convinced that Scientology's really doing any good; but I do sincerely feel that, since you value it, and I am fond of you (and Ben and Jeff and Bill and so on), I'd like for Scientology to continue and thrive, because it's important to you, and it would sadden me to see you lose something that's that important to you.
I'm curious, though, about you - can you find any good in me? Can you find any good in the actions of a bunch of individuals trying to stop those of Scientology's actions which are unethical?
Next, Dr. King says, "Another way that you love your enemy is this: When the opportunity presents itself for you to defeat your enemy, that is the time which you must not do it. There will come a time, in many instances, when the person who hates you most, the person who has misused you most, the person who has gossiped about you most, the person who has spread false rumors about you most, there will come a time when you will have an opportunity to defeat that person. It might be in terms of a recommendation for a job; it might be in terms of helping that person to make some move in life. That's the time you must not do it. That is the meaning of love. In the final analysis, love is not this sentimental something that we talk about. It's not merely an emotional something. Love is creative, understanding goodwill for all men. It is the refusal to defeat any individual. When you rise to the level of love, of its great beauty and power, you seek only to defeat evil systems. Individuals who happen to be caught up in that system, you love, but you seek to defeat the system."
I like to think that my choices to try to show respect for Scientologists (not discussing upper levels with those who haven't reached them, etc.) reflect this position somewhat. I do strive to love the individual Scientologists I encounter, including those who have stalked me and libelled me. It's the system that encourages stalking and libelling and framing critics, and sometimes harms Scientologists themselves - it's that that I want to stop, and then only the parts of it that are clearly harmful. (Some people argue that auditing itself is harmful; I'm not entirely convinced, and so I am not trying to put an end to auditing, or auditor training. I would, however, like to see more informed consent.)
What do you think about Dr. King's statement on choosing not to defeat your enemy - in terms of critics' (or maybe just my) approach to Scientology, and Scientology's approach to critics, and just in general?
Dr. King says, "I think the first reason that we should love our enemies, and I think this was at the very center of Jesus' thinking, is this: that hate for hate only intensifies the existence of hate and evil in the universe. If I hit you and you hit me and I hit you back and you hit me back and go on, you see, that goes on ad infinitum. [tapping on pulpit] It just never ends. Somewhere somebody must have a little sense, and that's the strong person. The strong person is the person who can cut off the chain of hate, the chain of evil."
Do you agree with this statement? If so, how do you feel about Scientology's retaliatory approach to criticism? Do you think that if Scientology began acting more benevolent and magnanimous and forgiving, it might actually improve Scientology's public image? (I'm asking a lot of yes-or-no questions, but hopefully it's obvious that I'm interested in WHY you agree or disagree - I'd like to understand how you feel, and what you think.)
Dr. King continues, "There's another reason why you should love your enemies, and that is because hate distorts the personality of the hater. We usually think of what hate does for the individual hated or the individuals hated or the groups hated. But it is even more tragic, it is even more ruinous and injurious to the individual who hates. You just begin hating somebody, and you will begin to do irrational things. ... There is nothing more tragic than to see an individual whose heart is filled with hate. He comes to the point that he becomes a pathological case. ... For the person who hates, the beautiful becomes ugly and the ugly becomes beautiful. For the person who hates, the good becomes bad and the bad becomes good. For the person who hates, the true becomes false and the false becomes true. That's what hate does. "
What do you think about this? Do you think that, by defining Scientology's critics as "enemies", Scientology encourages hatred of its critics? Do you think Scientology as an organization, and individual Scientology representatives, act irrationally toward critics? It's my personal experience that most critics don't hate Scientologists - on the contrary, we are concerned for their welfare. At least that's my own perspective. But I'm interested in knowing your experience and your perspective. Do you think critics hate Scientologists? Why do you think what you do? Do you think critics have a hatred that makes them act irrational?
If anyone on either side is suffering from hatred, what can we do to heal that?
Do you think Scientology and CCHR encourage hatred against psychiatrists?
The last reason Dr. King gives for loving our enemies is this: "love has within it a redemptive power. And there is a power there that eventually transforms individuals. That's why Jesus says, "Love your enemies." Because if you hate your enemies, you have no way to redeem and to transform your enemies."
Now speaking only for myself, I don't feel that the Scientologists I've met need redemption, although I occasionally worry if some of them will ever regret their behavior. I know some former Scientologists did things while in Scientology that they later regretted deeply, and I imagine some current Scientologists have had similar thoughts. (Of course, not all Scientologists are engaged in attacks on critics or fellow Scientologists; I'm speaking here of those who are.) I genuinely believe that most Scientologists were drawn to Scientology by the good in their hearts - out of a desire to help people, including themselves, and to make the world a better place. I wonder if people who joined Scientology to do good ever find themselves attacking others and then wonder if that action is consistent with making the world a better place.
But I'm curious about your take on Dr. King's statement. Do you think the power of love can transform critics? Do you think Scientology as an organization, and individual Scientology representatives, act in loving ways toward critics? Do you think they should?
Dr. King also says, "There's something about love that builds up and is creative. There is something about hate that tears down and is destructive. So love your enemies."
If I'm not mistaken, Scientology defines good as that which creates, and bad as that which destroys. Do you agree with Dr. King about hate being destructive?
What do you think about the Fair Game policy, which says that enemies of Scientology may be destroyed? (I know Scientology says it was cancelled in 1968, but Scientology argued in court in the 70s and 80s that it was a core belief of Scientology. I also think Scientology's actions show that it's still being followed. Even if it has been cancelled, what do you think about the fact that it ever WAS policy? What do you think about LRH's exhortation to use lawsuits to harass people, and "If possible, of course, ruin him utterly"?)
Dr. King goes on to talk about oppression, and the three possible responses to it: "One of them is to rise up against their oppressors with physical violence and corroding hatred. But oh this isn't the way. For the danger and the weakness of this method is its futility. Violence creates many more social problems than it solves. ... Another way is to acquiesce and to give in, to resign yourself to the oppression. ... But that too isn't the way because non-cooperation with evil is as much a moral obligation as is cooperation with good.
"But there is another way. And that is to organize mass non-violent resistance based on the principle of love. ... We must discover the power of love, the power, the redemptive power of love. And when we discover that we will be able to make of this old world a new world. We will be able to make men better. Love is the only way."
Now, I don't believe that Scientologists suffer much oppression in the US; we have a strong tradition of religious freedom, and Scientology is clearly a powerful organization, demonstrating its power especially in the courts. I'm not aware of any Scientologist in the US ever losing a job or a dwelling, or suffering physical injury, because of being a Scientologist (except for Scientologists who have suffered at the hands of Scientology itself, by being declared or otherwise punished by Scientology). I know the situation is somewhat more discriminatory in Germany, although again, I'm not aware of any Scientologist ever suffering physical injury because of being a Scientologist, even in Germany.
However, I'm aware of the possibility that some Scientologists may feel oppressed. If this is true, how do you feel about Dr. King's position that the way to overcome oppression is through non-violent resistance based on love? Do you think Scientologists demonstrate love in their reaction to oppression? If not, how do you think they could?
There is evidence that Scientology critics and Scientologists practicing Scientology outside the church have been oppressed. Do you think critics' pickets and other actions demonstrate non-violent resistance based on love? If not, how do you think critics' actions could better demonstrate love?
I really hope you'll take the time to consider these questions and let me know what your thoughts are. Please feel free to email me at email@example.com, or send me a reply through the US mail, or to simply talk with me next time we see each other.
Thanks for taking the time to read this. Whether you believe me or not, I wish you well.
This page was last updated on May 8, 1999.