Monday, November 9, 2015
Beyond Belief: My Secret Life Inside Scientology... by Jenna Miscavige Hill
I will admit that I love reading, listening to podcasts (Sword & Scale Podcast episode 50 is an AMAZING recount of Jonestown) and watching shows about cults. I'm not sure what attracts me to them, but perhaps it stems from my own upbringing in a non-denominational Christian megachurch, multiplied by 1000% of course. From the Branch Davidians, to the Manson Family, to Heaven's Gate, and The People's Temple, I just can't get enough. Scientology is my newest cult obsession.
My obsession with The Church of Scientology started when I watched the HBO documentary "Going Clear". I was immediately intrigued and decided to also read the book of the same name. It is a very good documentary and book and I suggest watching and/or reading it if you are also cult obsessed. This book has been my favorite Scientology book to date. I do have plans to read Leah Remini's new book Troublemaker: Surviving Hollywood and Scientology soon.
If you are unfamiliar with the Church of Scientology and their beliefs you can read this overview.
Jenna Miscavige Hill with co-author Lisa Pulitzer wrote Beyond Belief: My Secret Life Inside Scientology and My Harrowing Escape. Hill was a 3rd generation Scientologist and is the niece of current Church of Scientology leader David Miscavige. Her parents were also at one time high ranking church officials before they left the church. In this tell-all memoir she describes her life as a child raised in the highest ranks of the church's ministry called "The Sea Org".
I like this book because it is a first hand account of this cult with the majority of the story taking place when she was a child. A minor with no say in how she should live her life. This is a disturbing look inside the cult and what it does to children and their families.
Hill's parents joined the Sea Org when she was a toddler. Most of her childhood is absent of both her parents. They left her to fulfill their calling in the church and to be raised by other church members. Her life on "The Ranch" was day in and day out of doing hard labor with other children of high ranking Scientologists with very little to no knowledge of "the outside world". The whole experience seemed to be children in the middle of nowhere taking care of other children with very little adult supervision.
Despite her horrible and scary childhood, she stays devoted to the church and decides to become a Sea Org member herself. Flip flopping between Church bases in both California and Florida she describes her chilling and, at times, unbelievable climb up the ranks. Living in "dorms" not suitable for even an animal to inhabit, making little to no money to live on, and spending hours on end in sessions to "clear" her- aka brainwash her into their beliefs.
To me the most interesting part of the book was at the end when her and her husband (also a Sea Org member) decide to leave the church. It is amazing the horrific things the church did and said to keep them from talking to both each other and their families. It is chilling the power church officials thought they had over its members.
I highly recommend this book. It is a one of a kind glimpse into the Church of Scientology from a child/teen's point of view. Hill does a wonderful job explaining church beliefs and it really helped me understand the basis of the church's practices.
Still married to her ex-Scientologist husband and now a mother, Jenna Miscavige Hill runs a website to help support others who also want to leave the church. You can visit the site and read other ex-member stories about this horrific cult here.
I "read" this book as an audio book that was narrated by Sandy Rustin. It was engrossing and very easy to follow along. I also checked the physical book out from my library because it included personal pictures. Whichever way you decide to read this book, you won't be disappointed!