Hollywood Helpful

Last week the Clinton administration did something that religious leaders have been begging it to do for months: It got tough on religious persecution. The administration accused one of America’s major trading partners of perpetrating a “campaign of harassment” against members of a religious minority. Well, has the president finally imposed sanctions on China for persecuting Christians? Dream on. The object of the administration’s anger is not China, but Germany. And the so-called “persecuted minority” is not Christians, but members of the Church of Scientology. Why this sudden surge of conscience? The answer: Hollywood. Scientology was founded 40 years ago by the late science-fiction writer L. Ron Hubbard. The organization, which claims eight million members, is held in suspicion around the world. Newsweek writes that the church has “often been accused of brainwashing and fleecing its members.” The German government calls it “a greedy cult-like organization” in which membership can lead to financial ruin, psychological dependence—even suicide. According to Newsweek, German law allows German officials to crack down on any group that is antidemocratic. And so German Scientologists are barred from membership in the ruling Christian Democratic Party and occasionally fired from their jobs. But what really seems to have raised the ire of Hollywood is a series of German boycotts organized against American Scientology members who are also performing artists. For example, boycotts were mounted against jazz pianist Chick Corea as well as the film Mission Impossible, starring Tom Cruise, a Scientology member. Media-savvy Scientologists have enlisted members such as Cruise and his wife, actress Nicole Kidman, and actor John Travolta to draw attention to Germany’s treatment of their cult. And last month other Hollywood celebrities came to the aid of Scientologists as well: They took out full-page ads in newspapers all across America addressed to German Chancellor Helmut Kohl. The letter drew analogies between Germany’s treatment of Scientologists and its Nazi-era treatment of Jews. The letter was signed by celebrities such as Oliver Stone, Dustin Hoffman, Goldie Hawn, and Larry King. Of course, the comparison to the Nazis is absurd, and State Department spokesman Larry Burns said as much. It ought to be noted here that there’s a touch of hypocrisy in all of this. After all, the U.S. government tried for years to break the Scientology cult with lawsuits and investigations. We were doing the same things we are now angry at the Germans for doing. Well, the ad had the impact its organizers had hoped for. How Germans treat a mind-control cult has become a part of American foreign policy. What is truly outrageous is that America has another major trading partner to whom the analogy to Nazi Germany can be applied. That country is China, where millions of Christians are subject to real oppression, including imprisonment and death. But on the subject of Christian persecution our Baptist president—save for a recent mild rebuke—is silent. American Christians ought to do everything we can to break that silence. We ought to be calling the State Department and our congressmen to demand that pressure be brought to bear on countries that torture, enslave, and kill Christian believers. The persecuted church may not be able to count on Hollywood luminaries eager to support the latest trendy cause. But they ought to be able to count on you and me—their brothers and sisters in Christ.


Chuck Colson


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