Tom Cruise, whose last few movies have not reached the prestigious creative and box-office level of some of his earlier work, has just been told by Viacom's Paramount Pictures that his contract would not be renewed.
Earlier this week, HuffPo blogger and L.A. Weekly showbiz correspondent Nikki Finke went over the numbers and made the case that the non-renewal does not make economic sense.
Rather than repeat the arguments she has made, I'd like to state my belief that there are more nefarious forces at work.
These forces- played out in print, on talk shows, on entertainment programs and in the blogosphere, are those of religious intolerance.
Unlike me, Tom Cruise is a Scientologist, and quite an impassioned one. It's that passion that has gotten him into trouble.
My understanding is that Scientology takes a dim view of psychological and pharmacological therapies. Cruise's beliefs have led him to address such viewpoints in interviews and public forums.
For this he is mocked. He is laughed at for bucking conventional wisdom. The fact that he is an actor untrained in science rather than a clinician with contravening views gives pundits and late night comedians a chance to mine for chuckles and guffaws.
What's really at play here is that under their breaths, lots of folks who would view themselves as intellectually and socially tolerant about everything else- race, creeds, religious choice, sexual preferences - are dumping on Cruise for being a passionate advocate for teachings they deem as cultish ravings of a profit-centric, litigious group.
Although I am not a Scientologist, I would like to challenge some of these notions.
"Cult" charges against Scientology often stem from a cursory analysis of their beliefs about aliens, Thetans, and all that. But when I think about scriptural assertions such as the world being created in six days, the Red Sea being parted, the Immaculate Conception, heaven and hell, and magic plates that contain inscriptions of a revisiting Messiah, I wonder just what it is about Scientology that is laughable to so many who embrace or tolerate some of the other canon I have just mentioned.
Yes, there is a money-conscious component to Scientology, but Scientology is not alone. Which is the bigger "transgression"- a church that asks money from those who can afford it, or a church that holds uncountable riches in real estate and art while their believers in poorer nations starve?
And how are Scientology's financial programs different than those of church-sponsored institutions of higher learning that assess tuition, or a synogogue that charges money for a seat during Yom Kippur services?
And just what are the scornable consequences that Scientology has fostered?
That car bomb planted by Sunni insurgents in Iraq against innocent Shia?
The Crusades, Spanish Inquisition, the pogroms, the Holocaust?
The atrocities committed against Christians and animists in the Sudan?
The wars between Hindu and Buddhist in Sri Lanka?
The several decades of religious wars in Northern Ireland?
The mutual bloodshed in Lebanon?
Oh, and was it Scientologists who flew planes into the World Trade Center?
Of course not. We all know that. Scientology has never attempted to covert anyone by force. By the force of arguments that may sound implausible, but never at the point of a gun, a sword, or an invading horde of soldiers or priests.
Yes, the Church of Scientology is litigious, but when they feel their rights are violated, they fight back legally- not by Holy Wars. And as to copyright- what would a "standard" religious publisher like, say, Thomas Nelson, do if many of their works of Scriptural interpretation were scanned as PDF files and distributed over the Internet by unauthorized parties? Wouldn't they seek legal redress as well?
Some folks forget all that as we mock Scientology and its Hollywood adherents. Between the lines, otherwise tolerant people are saying between the lines.."weird religion," "dumb actor."
But in mocking adherents of any religion, you only mark yourselves as intolerant hypocrites.
I have a better idea. Let Tom Cruise make his movies, and honor his right to believe what he does. And to proclaim it proudly and loudly, if he believes that his faith calls him to do so.
It doesn't mean you have to believe what he does.