An afternoon with the Scientologists


My best friend from high school and three of her friends were in town last weekend, and I was absolutely determined to show them a good time. So I shepherded the four of them onto the Metro and we headed for Dupont, where adventures abound if you’re willing to keep an open mind. It was with this attitude that we passed the Church of Scientology, and, luckily, they were offering free personality tests and guided tours. It sounded like a pretty sweet deal. Who doesn’t like free things from an organization that’s well known for being controversial? We approached the ornate wooden doors and entered without knowing it would be another three hours until we would manage to escape.

Two seconds after crossing the threshold, a man introduced himself to us in a friendly manner. He proceeded to tell us he knew we were coming, because a colleague of his had seen us entering the building. We were being watched and it was too late to make a run for it. I felt uneasy. After all, when people hear the name “Scientology” it’s almost always accompanied by a mental picture of a possessed Tom Cruise along with Xenu and his alien pals.

A blonde woman led us downstairs to the basement and gave us packets of 200 true or false questions which would reveal the true nature of our personalities. She then popped in a DVD that showed little kids talking about human rights. For the next half-hour, we sat on plush wicker couches filling in little bubbles while some child on the television tried to convince me that all humans had certain inalienable rights, including the “right to play” and the “right to move.”

While the results were processed, I picked up a hefty textbook that I’m assuming covered all the bases of Scientology, from the beliefs and practices to the story of L. Ron Hubbard’s life. Its format was pretty similar to that of a 5th grade religion textbook, with pictures of exuberant people holding candles and climbing mountains. Scientologists seem like happy people. There were also illustrated pictures of L. Ron throughout the book: L. Ron riding a horse, L. Ron running through the jungles of Guam. The pictures, along with the massive textbook, lead me to believe that he went all over the world becoming a veritable fountain of wisdom.

Meanwhile, two of my friends got their results back. They weren’t too encouraging. Apparently, they needed to work on their “stability,” “relationships” and “communication ability.” I assumed mine would be similar. When I was called in to “discuss” my results, however, they turned out to be stable, which is surprising, considering I think myself more insane than my friends. Nevertheless, the lady and I ended up having a nice 20-minute conversation about everything from my very impressive results to my relationship status to how Scientologists had some success proselytizing in Iraq. Of course, at the end, she suggested that I look into buying Dianetics (the Bible of Scientology) and made it clear that even though I’m a total winner at life, I could still use Scientology to improve even more. I told her I’d look into it.

Just before we left she asked us to stay a bit longer. My friends and I ended up watching some more riveting DVDs on Dianetics and the evils of psychiatry for about another 45 minutes. Apparently psychiatry is a “pseudo-science” to be abhorred and avoided at all costs because it ruins lives.

My friends and I began to get antsy as we watched the DVDs. The wicker chairs were starting to give us pains in our backs, and the videos were getting increasingly creepy. We excused ourselves and booked it out of there. My friends were pretty sore about the whole experience, but I think that’s just because they got test scores that told them they were crazy. I posted my test results on my fridge. The Scientologists think I’m normal, and that’s all the vindication I need at the end of the day.

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