It happened at the Book Expo in Los Angeles. The woman, eager to spread the word of L. Ron Hubbard, stood before me with a smile, blocking my way. In her hand was the Scientologist’s version of the Bible, weighty and protected in plastic wrap. “You’re a professor I see,” said the woman, glancing down at my ID badge. This was before my memoir was published.
“Yes,” I answered with hesitation. Her eyes popped with so much energy I instantly wanted to bolt.
“You need to stay with me,” she went on. “Hear me out.” Her mouth shaped every syllable like she was saying the vowel sounds to a kindergartener. “You’re an important person in society because you communicate using the English language.”
Part of me wanted to sarcastically point out that everybody mingling about in that Southern California convention center no doubt was communicating like she and I were right then in English, but I was a little leery of how she might react. Instead I thanked her for pushing a copy of Dianetics on me and went on my way, ignoring her open invitation to attend a closed meeting “at the Celebrity Centre.”
Another time I was driving down a busy street and witnessed a young guy in a button down shirt and tie, riding a bicycle, get hit by a car that was speeding into a mobile home park. The cyclist’s helmet was knocked off by the impact. As for the car, it slowed but did not stop. Quickly, I parked at the curb, grabbed my cell phone and ran to help the cyclist. A young guy around his age, also dressed up and on a bike, was helping him up off the ground.
“Are you sure you should move him,” I said. “I’ll call 911.”
“No,” the uninjured guy said. “There’s no need for that. He’s fine.”
“But he should be checked out,” I argued. “He could have internal injuries.”
The young guy who’d been hit could hardly stand. He looked at me, afraid. Clearly I put a scare into him.
“No,” the uninjured one said again. He had the same amazed look I’d seen on the Scientology woman’s face when she stopped me. “God will take care of it.” And with that unbelievable line he retrieved the helmet, and insisted the boy who was struck by an old Camaro struggle to get back on his bike and pedal as fast as he could away from his own hit and run accident.
It’s hard not to pass judgment on a religion that denies medical treatment for one of its followers, denies justice for that matter. The police should’ve been called and the callous driver in that beat up car should’ve been arrested. In this country there is freedom of religion. There is the freedom to not file a police report and let a guilty person go free. There is the freedom to aggressively peddle a religion whether it’s on a bicycle or standing in the way of an unsuspecting professor’s path while she’s out browsing for books. But is it any wonder to these extremists why some of us push back?