This is a personal rebuttal to some websites I’ve seen from apostates recently that denigrated my religion with regard to raising children in Scientology. Here’s how I see this issue:
My parents divorced when I was an infant, back in 1953. I grew up in a series of broken homes, attended 17 schools before graduating high school in 1970, and had 3 stepmoms and 7 step-dads at various times, as well as foster parents. I can remember living in 52 different houses in 6 states as a child. My parents were alcoholics, whose lives spun out of control in the 1960’s from abuse of booze and pills. Various religions were shoved down my throat–I rebelled against them.
What I learned from my parents’ examples was that I didn’t want to be like them in the way they lived, or in the way they had treated their kids. I left home at 16 after a fistfight with my latest drunken step-father. I became an emancipated minor, living on my own while I finished high school and went to college with little help from my family. I felt I couldn’t communicate with anyone and was terminally shy, not to mention depressed. In college I became addicted to street drugs and was spiraling downward when some friends pulled me into a Scientology church and signed me up for a $25 course that, over the next three months, taught me how to communicate. For me, it was hard, slogging work. But worth it, because having that skill in communication turned my life around. In 1974 I married a woman who was and is still a Scientologist.
By the early 1980’s, after my wife’s younger sister died of a heroin overdose at age 18, and my oldest sister became a drug dealer with drug addicts for children, my wife and I were very concerned over the outcome of our kids’ education and preparation for life as adults in this society. Our fears were justified; one of their cousins (not a Scientologist) later became a pornographer, one (also obviously not a Scientologist) became a crack addict. Other cousins have spent time in jail for theft, battery, domestic abuse, and the like.
Today I have two grown daughters (who now have kids of their own), who were raised as Scientologists during the 70’s and 80’s. They are great people and we are happy to have them and their children in our lives. They didn’t ever become drug addicts, they didn’t become criminals, instead they have made reasonably happy and productive lives for themselves.
What does that mean, being “raised as Scientologists”? Does it mean we were control freaks indoctrinating them in some weird religious rites, or that we abused them in some way or tried to stifle their self-determinism? No. My wife and I raised our kids so that they would think for themselves about whatever they were doing. It means they were given a common sense moral code (“The Way to Happiness” booklet) and that we helped them understand that moral code as kids and to figure out for themselves how to apply it to their own lives so they could grow up to become happy adults. We never shoved it down their throats.
Does being raised as a Scientologist mean they never had drugs in their lives? No. But they never (as far as I know, anyway) did any street drugs. If they needed antibiotics for an infection, they got them. If they had bad menstrual cramps, they would take Mydol. It means we didn’t push them toward drugs as the first solution to their problems, and it means we weren’t drug users.
Part of our moral code is “Set a good example”. Neither of our grown daughters has had a drug or alcohol problem at any point in their lives, and I like to think part of the reason for that is the example we set as their parents. We didn’t drink often or hard (a beer once in a great while, or a glass of wine at a party), and we didn’t ever condone marijuana or other drug usage by their cousins or friends. We explained to them that drug addiction is usually a solution to a problem of some kind; alienation, an inability to communicate, or to numb some kind of pain. We presented other solutions to those problems. Our moral code also says, “Be temperate” and we were, and we taught them to be temperate.
We taught them as best we could how to communicate, and encouraged them to talk to us, and didn’t evaluate for them or tell them what they should think about things. If we didn’t like something they were doing, we’d talk about it and express our disapproval, and then validate anything they were doing that we did like. I tried as hard as I could to get them to think for themselves. Our moral code says, “Be competent”, and we taught them to be competent at whatever they set out to do, and had a lot of fun in the process. My kids were happy kids.
We didn’t have a television in the house when they were little because we didn’t like the way they acted after they would watch it; jumpy and not themselves. They did better without TV, so we got rid of it entirely despite our own feelings about it. For entertainment they learned musical instruments and would play for us; Joplin, Chopin, Beethoven, etc., and we talked and laughed a lot. We would go to movies as a family activity on the weekends, which seems very old-fashioned to me. Every year we took long vacations together driving around the country visiting relatives and seeing the sights. Despite my hectic schedule as a Scientology staff member and minister working as a member of Scientology’s Sea Organization during the 1970’s, I made time to see my kids every day, spent extra time on the weekends with them, and managed to take a three-week vacation every year. In 1981 I knew I wanted to spend even more time with my kids, so I left my Scientology staff position and focused on jobs that made good money, and on raising my kids. We moved to a little place in the country in Oregon and created something of an idyllic environment for young kids. Both of them still talk fondly of our place in the country.
We sent our girls to public schools some of the time, but the results of that were pretty poor in my estimation. For example, at the end of the 4th grade, in about 1980, we realized our oldest daughter was completely blocked on math and numbers, and not reading well at all either. She had known how to read before she started school, so this was a very real regression. What was most frightening was that she didn’t WANT to learn any more; she hated public school. Over the summer, we got her a tutor who used Scientology teaching methods (Study Technology), and she learned math and reading; a few months later she was happily reading above her grade level. We tried when school started again to put her back in public school, but after a few weeks noticed the same pattern–she was unwilling to study, wouldn’t do her homework, and hated school. When we found out exactly what she was being taught, we were appalled. In one class, the teacher had all the kids write their own epitaphs and pretend to be dead and laying in a coffin. What in God’s name does that have to do with educating a kid? So we took her out of what we considered to be an insane public school system and started home schooling her. I think this was the best thing we ever did for her–she blossomed and quickly learned anything and everything she set her mind to.
Both my daughters chose, during their teenage years, to become Scientology staff members. They did this on their own, without any coaching or advice from their parents on the subject, because they wanted to help. Conversely, they both later left staff–my oldest one got married and became pregnant and wanted to focus on raising her son, which she did. He’s a great kid, and now a teenager himself and looking to become a veterinarian when he grows up.
To put not too fine a point on it, my younger daughter was booted off staff, for various misbehavior. Obviously being a staff member wasn’t what she thought it would be when she joined up. She wasn’t up to the challenge (from my experience it is a very rewarding challenge) and so she came back to live with me. She got her life sorted out, grew up some more, got married, had twins and has focused on being a mom to them for the last ten years. She is now a Scientologist in good standing, and works with me in our own little business. She’s sane, good company, and an excellent mom. And she still plays the piano and teaches her own kids music; they don’t watch much TV either. Her kids are being raised as Scientologists–they’ve studied “The Way to Happiness” for themselves and adopted it as their own. Nobody shoved it down their throats.
Our moral code says, “Love and help children”. My wife and I did that with our kids when they were young, and continue to do that now that they are adults, loving and helping both our children and their children.
I have a third daughter I haven’t mentioned so far, much younger than the others, who is still a teenager and something of a wild child with purple hair, tattoos, piercings and plenty of attitude. That she hasn’t done drugs despite the pressure from her many non-Scientologist friends is a testament to her education and moral upbringing and her own common sense. I am keeping my fingers crossed that as she matures she will remain a Scientologist and pick up the tools it makes available to people and use them for herself as my older daughters have; such tools as the moral code I’ve mentioned and the communication skills that have been so helpful to me over the years. She’s still figuring it out for herself, and I wouldn’t have it any other way. Certainly no one is forcing her to do anything.
I’m very glad to have had the many tools that Scientologists have, relating to communication and morals. I think that using these tools is the key to helping children achieve competent and happy adulthood without falling into the many pitfalls along the way (drug abuse, violence, and criminality to name but a few). So far, it has worked very well for us.
I wish to God that I had had the tools of Scientology when I was a teenager, or that my parents had had them when I was a child. I am absolutely certain life would have been much happier and less stressful for me and for them. They might still be alive, and I might have a higher opinion of them.
Rev. Jere Matlock
Note: Here’s what my older daughter said on reading this post:
Thatâ€™s beautiful! Thanks for sharing this with me. Iâ€™ve been very lucky to have you as a father thatâ€™s for sure.
I love you!
Here’s what my younger daughter said about Scientology and Children.