The Persistence of Inadequate Ideas

What about Pentecostal Scientology? It was in the news this morning. I’ll bet L. Ron Hubbard never anticipated that combination, but he and his ilk shouldn’t be surprised. After all, Scientology is but one of the synthetic, or to use a term Catherine Albanese has used (A Republic of Mind and Spirit: A History of American Metaphysical Religion) to describe popular religious habits, combinative groups or cults that take their cues from various metaphysical teaching traditions and teachings. I certainly am not surprised that some of Hubbard’s practical teachings would be snatched up in order to help people through their problems. In saying that, I recognize the motivation of “Pentecostal Scientologists” to ease pain, solve problems, and make life better — practical goals not only for the religions — most broadly construed to include everything from the world’s great religious traditions to the most obscure and recent metaphysical cults or sects.

Nothing surprises us anymore. But the advent and more recent recognition of Pentecostal Scientology reminds me of some persistent verities:

(1) People continue to seek help; whatever is therapeutic holds a primary place in past and present;

(2) People in pain and need tend not to discriminate rationally or theologically — what works, sells;

(3) People need to hear and know truth consistent with ultimate truth, which we Christians in our orthodoxy must not only be able to explain but to demonstrate — and that involves the capacity to meet needs. That should help us to focus our prayer and preparation.

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