I dragged my feet about jumping on to the listening-to-podcasts bandwagon. (That’s an understatement.) Friends convinced me to check some out, and while I’m still not a regular listener, I occasionally use my driving-to-work time to learn about topics I don’t typically encounter in my day-to-day life. That’s how I learned more about Scientology—a cult that doesn’t really have a huge footprint in the rural Midwest.
I learned about a woman named Spanky Taylor who was recruited by someone who promised she could make a difference in this world. Mike Rinder, who was raised in Scientology and served as their international spokesperson for decades, shared that the cult lures people in by promising they will get to help the world, one person at a time. I mean, who wouldn’t want a religion whose sales pitch is “a civilization without insanity, without criminals and without war, where the able can prosper and honest beings can have rights, and where Man is free to rise to greater heights . . .”?
What Rinder and Taylor discovered was that instead of reaching greater heights, they each experienced years of hardship, physical and mental abuse, segregation, and shame. And Rinder’s primary role was to defend the church against critics, to “intimidate, defame, harass, discredit, and effectively silence any criticism of Scientology.” They both escaped after realizing their religion was actually a lie promoted with crushing certainty. (Credit to Mike Rowe’s podcast The Way I Heard It for the phrase “crushing certainty.”)
As a Christian, I couldn’t help but think about my beliefs as I heard their former beliefs. And maybe, if you’re new to Christianity, you’re wondering if all religions are the same. (Hint: they aren’t.) While there are a gazillion differences (don’t fact-check my math) between Christianity and Scientology, what got me was all the ways the “sales pitch” about Christianity might not sound appealing. It made me consider that Christianity is the truth promoted with uncertain certainty.
See, people who believe in Jesus are absolutely certain that he is the truth and that we absolutely will spend eternity with him, where there will be no insanity or war or sadness. However, we struggle with uncertainty because the ways we are called to live here on earth aren’t comfortable. We are told to “love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you” (Matthew 5:44). We are expected to hold ourselves to God’s standard when it comes to the words we say, how we use our bodies, or how we spend our money. We are told that following Jesus will ensure some trouble in this life, because this world is full of trouble. And there’s no passage in God’s book (the Bible) that guarantees our bank accounts will be abundant or that we will always be healthy. The truth is that we might still live paycheck to paycheck, struggle with anxiety, or get illness after illness. We might believe and still be filled with doubts and questions.
But we are certain that God will not intimidate us or harass us or look down on us because of our uncertainties. Instead, he invites us: “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened [and questioning and uncertain], and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest [and certainty] for your souls” (Matthew 11:28,29).
P.S. This week Pastor Mike is talking about doubts and questions too—and how to honestly address them. Check out his message!
Linda Buxa is a writer and editor who listens to podcasts at 1.2x speed to move things along.