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The Apostate

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On August 19, 2009, Tommy Davis, the chief spokesperson for the Church of Scientology International, received a letter from the film director and screenwriter Paul Haggis. “For ten months now I have been writing to ask you to make a public statement denouncing the actions of the Church of Scientology of San Diego,” Haggis wrote. Before the 2008 elections, a staff member at Scientology’s San Diego church had signed its name to an online petition supporting Proposition 8, which asserted that the State of California should sanction marriage only “between a man and a woman.” The proposition passed. As Haggis saw it, the San Diego church’s “public sponsorship of Proposition 8, which succeeded in taking away the civil rights of gay and lesbian citizens of California—rights that were granted them by the Supreme Court of our state—is a stain on the integrity of our organization and a stain on us personally. Our public association with that hate-filled legislation shames us.” Haggis wrote, “Silence is consent, Tommy. I refuse to consent.” He concluded, “I hereby resign my membership in the Church of Scientology.”

Haggis was prominent in both Scientology and Hollywood, two communities that often converge. Although he is less famous than certain other Scientologists, such as Tom Cruise and John Travolta, he had been in the organization for nearly thirty-five years. Haggis wrote the screenplay for “Million Dollar Baby,” which won the Oscar for Best Picture in 2004, and he wrote and directed “Crash,” which won Best Picture the next year—the only time in Academy history that that has happened.

Davis, too, is part of Hollywood society; his mother is Anne Archer, who starred in “Fatal Attraction” and “Patriot Games,” among other films. Before becoming Scientology’s spokesperson, Davis was a senior vice-president of the church’s Celebrity Centre International network.

In previous correspondence with Davis, Haggis had demanded that the church publicly renounce Proposition 8. “I feel strongly about this for a number of reasons,” he wrote. “You and I both know there has been a hidden anti-gay sentiment in the church for a long time. I have been shocked on too many occasions to hear Scientologists make derogatory remarks about gay people, and then quote L.R.H. in their defense.” The initials stand for L. Ron Hubbard, the founder of Scientology, whose extensive writings and lectures form the church’s scripture. Haggis related a story about Katy, the youngest of three daughters from his first marriage, who lost the friendship of a fellow-Scientologist after revealing that she was gay. The friend began warning others, “Katy is ‘1.1.’ ” The number refers to a sliding Tone Scale of emotional states that Hubbard published in a 1951 book, “The Science of Survival.” A person classified “1.1” was, Hubbard said, “Covertly Hostile”—“the most dangerous and wicked level”—and he noted that people in this state engaged in such things as casual sex, sadism, and homosexual activity. Hubbard’s Tone Scale, Haggis wrote, equated “homosexuality with being a pervert.” (Such remarks don’t appear in recent editions of the book.)

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In his resignation letter, Haggis explained to Davis that, for the first time, he had explored outside perspectives on Scientology. He had read a recent exposé in a Florida newspaper, the St. Petersburg Times, which reported, among other things, that senior executives in the church had been subjecting other Scientologists to physical violence. Haggis said that he felt “dumbstruck and horrified,” adding, “Tommy, if only a fraction of these accusations are true, we are talking about serious, indefensible human and civil-rights violations.”

Online, Haggis came across an appearance that Davis had made on CNN, in May, 2008. The anchor John Roberts asked Davis about the church’s policy of “disconnection,” in which members are encouraged to separate themselves from friends or family members who criticize Scientology. Davis responded, “There’s no such thing as disconnection as you’re characterizing it. And certainly we have to understand—”

“Well, what is disconnection?” Roberts interjected.

“Scientology is a new religion,” Davis continued. “The majority of Scientologists in the world, they’re first generation. So their family members aren’t going to be Scientologists. . . . So, certainly, someone who is a Scientologist is going to respect their family members’ beliefs—”

“Well, what is disconnection?” Roberts said again.

“—and we consider family to be a building block of any society, so anything that’s characterized as disconnection or this kind of thing, it’s just not true. There isn’t any such policy.”

In his resignation letter, Haggis said, “We all know this policy exists. I didn’t have to search for verification—I didn’t have to look any further than my own home.” Haggis reminded Davis that, a few years earlier, his wife had been ordered to disconnect from her parents “because of something absolutely trivial they supposedly did twenty-five years ago when they resigned from the church. . . . Although it caused her terrible personal pain, my wife broke off all contact with them.” Haggis continued, “To see you lie so easily, I am afraid I had to ask myself: what else are you lying about?”

Haggis forwarded his resignation to more than twenty Scientologist friends, including Anne Archer, John Travolta, and Sky Dayton, the founder of EarthLink. “I felt if I sent it to my friends they’d be as horrified as I was, and they’d ask questions as well,” he says. “That turned out to be largely not the case. They were horrified that I’d send a letter like that.”

Tommy Davis told me, “People started calling me, saying, ‘What’s this letter Paul sent you?’ ” The resignation letter had not circulated widely, but if it became public it would likely cause problems for the church. The St. Petersburg Times exposé had inspired a fresh series of hostile reports on Scientology, which has long been portrayed in the media as a cult. And, given that some well-known Scientologist actors were rumored to be closeted homosexuals, Haggis’s letter raised awkward questions about the church’s attitude toward homosexuality. Most important, Haggis wasn’t an obscure dissident; he was a celebrity, and the church, from its inception, has depended on celebrities to lend it prestige. In the past, Haggis had defended the religion; in 1997, he wrote a letter of protest after a French court ruled that a Scientology official was culpable in the suicide of a man who fell into debt after paying for church courses. “If this decision carries it sets a terrible precedent, in which no priest or minister will ever feel comfortable offering help and advice to those whose souls are tortured,” Haggis wrote. To Haggis’s friends, his resignation from the Church of Scientology felt like a very public act of betrayal. They were surprised, angry, and confused. “ ‘Destroy the letter, resign quietly’—that’s what they all wanted,” Haggis says.

Last March, I met Haggis in New York. He was in the editing phase of his latest movie, “The Next Three Days,” a thriller starring Russell Crowe, in an office in SoHo. He sat next to a window with drawn shades, as his younger sister Jo Francis, the film’s editor, showed him a round of cuts. Haggis wore jeans and a black T-shirt. He is bald, with a trim blond beard, pale-blue eyes, and a nose that was broken in a schoolyard fight. He always has several projects going at once, and there was a barely contained feeling of frenzy. He glanced repeatedly at his watch.

Haggis, who is fifty-seven, was preparing for two events later that week: a preview screening in New York and a trip to Haiti. He began doing charitable work in Haiti well before the 2010 earthquake, and he has raised millions of dollars for that country. He told me that he was planning to buy ten acres of land in Port-au-Prince for a new school, which he hoped to have open in the fall. (In fact, the school—the first to offer free secondary education to children from the city’s slums—opened in October.) In Hollywood, he is renowned for his ability to solicit money. The actor Ben Stiller, who has accompanied Haggis to Haiti, recalls that Haggis once raised four and a half million dollars in two hours.

While watching the edits, Haggis fielded calls from a plastic surgeon who was planning to go on the trip, and from a priest in Haiti, Father Rick Frechette, whose organization is the main beneficiary of Haggis’s charity. “Father Rick is a lot like me—a cynical optimist,” Haggis told me. He also said of himself, “I’m a deeply broken person, and broken institutions fascinate me.”

Haggis’s producing partner, Michael Nozik, says, “Paul likes to be contrarian. If everyone is moving left, he’ll feel the need to move right.” The actor Josh Brolin, who appeared in Haggis’s film “In the Valley of Elah” (2007), told me that Haggis “does things in extremes.” Haggis is an outspoken promoter of social justice, in the manner of Hollywood activists like Sean Penn and George Clooney. The actress Maria Bello describes him as self-deprecating and sarcastic, but also deeply compassionate. She recalls being with him in Haiti shortly after the earthquake; he was standing in the bed of a pickup truck, “with a cigarette hanging out of his mouth and a big smile on his face, and absolutely no fear.” Though Haggis is passionate about his work, he can be cool toward those who are closest to him. Lauren Haggis, the second daughter from his first marriage, said that he never connected with his children. “He’s emotionally not there,” she says. “That’s funny, because his scripts are full of emotion.”

In the editing room, Haggis felt the need for a cigarette, so we walked outside. He is ashamed of this habit, especially given that, in 2003, while directing “Crash,” he had a heart attack. After Haggis had emergency surgery, his doctor told him that it would be four or five months before he could work again: “It would be too much strain on your heart.” He replied, “Let me ask you how much stress you think I might be under as I’m sitting at home while another director is finishing my fucking film!” The doctor relented, but demanded that a nurse be on the set to monitor Haggis’s vital signs. Since then, Haggis has tried repeatedly to quit smoking. He had stopped before shooting “The Next Three Days,” but Russell Crowe was smoking, and that did him in. “There’s always a good excuse,” he admitted. Before his heart attack, he said, “I thought I was invincible.” He added, “I still do.”

Haggis had not spoken publicly about his resignation from Scientology. As we stood in a chill wind on Sixth Avenue, he was obviously uncomfortable discussing it, but he is a storyteller, and he eventually launched into a narrative.

Haggis wasn’t proud of his early years. “I was a bad kid,” he said. “I didn’t kill anybody. Not that I didn’t try.” He was born in 1953, and grew up in London, Ontario, a manufacturing town midway between Toronto and Detroit. His father, Ted, had a construction company there, which specialized in pouring concrete. His mother, Mary, a Catholic, sent Paul and his two younger sisters, Kathy and Jo, to Mass on Sundays—until she spotted their priest driving an expensive car. “God wants me to have a Cadillac,” the priest explained. Mary responded, “Then God doesn’t want us in your church anymore.”

Haggis decided at an early age to be a writer, and he made his own comic books. But he was such a poor student that his parents sent him to a strict boarding school, where the students were assigned cadet drills. He preferred to sit in his room reading Ramparts, the radical magazine from America—the place he longed to be. He committed repeated infractions, but he learned to pick locks so that he could sneak into the prefect’s office and eliminate his demerits.

After a year of this, his parents transferred him to a progressive boys’ school in Bracebridge, Ontario, where there was very little system to subvert. Haggis grew his curly blond hair to his shoulders. He discovered a mentor in his art teacher, Max Allen, who was politically radical and gay. Flouting Ontario’s strict censorship laws, Allen opened a theatre in Toronto that showed banned films; Haggis volunteered at the box office.

Haggis got caught forging a check, and he soon left school. He was drifting, hanging out with hippies and drug dealers. Two friends died from overdoses. “I had a gun pointed in my face a couple of times,” he recalls. He attended art school briefly, then quit; after taking some film classes at a community college, he dropped out of that as well. He began working in construction full time for his father. He also was the manager of a hundred-seat theatre that his father had created in an abandoned church. On Saturday nights, he set up a movie screen onstage, introducing himself and other film buffs to the works of Bergman, Hitchcock, and the French New Wave. He was so affected by Michelangelo Antonioni’s “Blow-Up” that in 1974 he decided to move to England, in order to become a fashion photographer, like the hero of the movie. That lasted less than a year.

Back in London, Ontario, he fell in love with Diane Gettas, a nurse, and they began sharing a one-bedroom apartment. He was starting to get his life together, but he was haunted by something that his grandfather had said to him on his deathbed. “He was a janitor in a bowling alley,” Haggis told me. “He had left England because of some scandal we don’t know about. He died when I was twelve or thirteen. He looked terrible. He turned to me and said, ‘I’ve wasted my life. Don’t waste yours.’ ”

One day in 1975, when he was twenty-two, Haggis was walking to a record store. When he arrived at the corner of Dundas and Waterloo Streets, a young man pressed a book into his hands. “You have a mind,” the man said. “This is the owner’s manual.” The man, whose name was Jim Logan, added, “Give me two dollars.” The book was “Dianetics: The Modern Science of Mental Health,” by L. Ron Hubbard, which was published in 1950. By the time Haggis began reading it, “Dianetics” had sold about two and a half million copies. Today, according to the church, that figure has reached more than twenty-one million.

Haggis opened the book and saw a page stamped with the words “Church of Scientology.”

“Take me there,” Haggis said to Logan.

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The Nanarene Way of Essenic Studies and re-create the Roman Empire.  Ecclesiastically, historicist interpretations see Revelation as teaching that the Church would expand, despite persecution, until it "conquered" the whole world--but, in the process, would gradually evolve into an apostate system within which true Christians would be a persecuted minority. The apostate Church is associated with the symbols of the "Mother of Harlots" and with "Babylon". It is seen as an "Antichrist system" which exists for much of history, rather than expecting a single "Antichrist" in the last days, as futurist interpretations do.  According to historicist interpretations, the second coming of Christ occurs about the time that a partly-reunited Europe starts to wage war against Israel. This view is held mainly by conservative Protestant Christians. The exact constitution of this confederacy differs between interpretations: in some it is mainly composed of Eastern European countries, notably Russia; in others, Western European; some include England, while others suggest that England and former Commonwealth nations will oppose the confederacy. In all historicist interpretations, Christ defeats this confederacy, rescues Israel from certain destruction, judges apostate Christianity and vindicates the true believers, and sets up a kingdom on earth.  The earliest Christian writers adopted a historicist viewpoint, though at such an early date the distinction between historicist and futurist views was less......

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Christian Dress and Adornment

...who, like Jezebel, painted their eyes and decked themselves with ornaments to entice men to commit adultery with them (Ezek 23). In this allegory again we find cosmetics and ornaments associated with seduction, adultery, apostasy, and divine punishment. Jeremiah also uses the allegory of a seductive woman dressed in scarlet, with painted eyes and decked with jewelry, to represent the politically abandoned Israel, who is vainly trying to attract her former idolatrous allies (Jer 4:30). Here again cosmetics and jewelry are used to seduce men into adulterous acts. The prophetic portrayal of apostate Israel as an adulterous woman bedecked, bejeweled, and whoring after heathen gods recurs in John the Revelator’s description of the great harlot "arrayed in purple and scarlet, and bedecked with gold and jewels and pearls" (Rev 17:4). This impure woman, who represents the end-time apostate religious-political power, lures the inhabitants of the earth to commit spiritual fornication with her. By contrast, the bride of Christ, who represents the church, is attired modestly in pure and fine linen without outward ornaments (Rev 19:7-8). In both the Old and New Testaments we have found a consistent pattern of the use of colorful cosmetics, glittering jewelry, and eye-catching clothes to accomplish seductive purposes. Such a pattern implicitly reveals God’s condemnation of their use. What is taught implicitly through negative examples is reiterated positively by the two great......

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