Totally boned this one… this review has been sitting in my drafts for too long! OOPS! Well, here goes.
In a not too long ago review entry I took a look at the book Going Clear HERE. This book was a rather indepth look at not only the history of Scientology and its current status but at the history and life of its creator – L Ron Hubbard. I have to admit, not only did I find this book educational and interesting but at times humourous. Especially when the author documented many questionable remarks and accomplishments shared by Hubbard to his “church” and the world at large. It was common to read about some honour he claimed only to have it follow up with… and the US army showed that he was … not there, somewhere else, absolutely unable to do such a thing. I found Going Clear to be an amazing introduction to something I had only had prior knowledge of in connection to stars and some comment about aliens…
Now the autobiography Beyond Belief by Jenna Miscavige Hill was a completely different sort of read for me. I warn you now this is a PERSONAL recount of life inside the organization that is considered under law a church starting at childhood. In the beginning you get the eyes of a child who is wanting to enjoy and please everyone. A child seeing adventure slowly moving into loneliness, confusion and coercion. Then a teenager full of questions, hormones and loneliness and finally the adult she was and then the woman she became.
I found it hard at times to remember how young Jenna was. So much occurred as she grew up and the expectations of behaviour and understanding were so out of whack with what I would consider my own children capable of that you would be shocked when the author reminded you of her age at one point or another.
As a parent the idea of following a religion or organization that demanded you leave your children behind to be raised and molded to fit a specific ideal is repugnant. Jenna and her brother were for all intents and purposes abandoned to be raised by the church… this is where I honestly had to slow down and take breaks in my reading (something I have rarely had to do with a non fiction book).
Beyond Belief allows you to see the process of indoctrination and acceptance of something that seems (to me) almost ludicrous and infantile. The author brings you along through it all… through her childhood, the lack of freedom and the lack of family… through the teenage years with confusing regulations and absolutely no soft place to land, through love and loss and romance and marriage (and a firm understanding that she had to fight for it all against belief, family and regulation) and finally to escape.
Jenna’s story is even more intriguing when you look at her maiden name – Micavige is the name of the current head of Scientology and her blood connection to the man she calls uncle. The actual level of control and manipulation due simply to who she was born as is not clear until the ending. But what is clear is that Jenna has worked hard to become what she is today… a brilliant mother, spouse and advocate.
Once you have made your way through this book please do check out her website that is run with help of other past Scientology kids… www.exscientologykids.com. There is something to be said for hearing about a community from the inside as well as the outside looking in. I think that these two books together – Going Clear and Beyond Belief are a wonderful way to get a good grasp not only on what Scientology is but on how it can keep people so enthralled.