Last Saturday I attended a retirement party for my sister Holly and brother-in-law George. They’d been officers in the Salvation Army for over 41 years.
It was quite the occasion. So many friends and colleagues attended, some coming from as far away as Canada. There were a lot of beautiful sentiments expressed, a lot of laughter, and a few tears.
I saw how much love was shown them. How much appreciation. How much kindness. After all, they’d spent four decades in service to other people. They worked hard to care for the sick, the poor, the addicted. Now, it was their time to rest, and to be recognized for their many years of service.
Watching it all, I was suddenly struck with a painful, yet liberating thought: This would NEVER happen in the Sea Org.
I thought about all the similarities between the Salvation Army and the Sea Org:
Here are the differences:
HELPING OTHERS. In the Salvation Army, they actually work hard to HELP people. They are on hand for every single disaster, ministering to those who have lost everything. They have food, water, clothing, places for people to stay. They help with grief counseling, but also with services to get people back on their feet. Scientology, on the other hand, shows up with their yellow-shirted “Volunteer Ministers”, who offer “help” in the form of Scientology “assists” which are supposed to help people deal with their trauma. That doesn’t do much when you have no home and no food.
HOME AND SALARY. When you’re an officer in the Salvation Army, you get a lovely house to live in and a salary—not much of one, I’ll grant you, but enough to live comfortably. In the Sea Org, you’re lucky if you get $30 a week “allowance”. There were many weeks we got nothing. MANY. And that’s for working 18 hour days, 7 days a week. I mean, we did have berthing. That consisted of a two-bedroom, one bathroom apartment shared by anywhere from 8 to 14 people. Such luxury.
ABILITY TO LEAVE. In the Salvation Army, if you decide you no longer want to be an officer, you can leave. Really. In the Sea Org, you sign a billion-year contract when you join. The only way you can leave is to escape like I did, or “route out standardly”, where they interrogate you to within an inch of your life and then make you sign a non-disclosure agreement. Oh, and of course, there’s the “Freeloader debt” you get saddled with, for all the training you did for “free” while in the Sea Org (never mind the slave labor). This can amount to tens of thousands of dollars. Some people pay it, in order to stay in “good standing” with Scientology. Crazy, but 100% true.
ACTUAL RETIREMENT. In the Salvation Army, you can RETIRE. You get a stipend for a home, you get a pension, and you are surrounded by loving friends who will never leave you. In the Sea Org, you NEVER retire. There’s no such thing. You work until you’re so incapacitated that you can no longer function. Then you’re put in a housing unit where nobody can see you, to live out the last days of your life. I’ve known of many people who were either so old or so sick that one day, they just weren’t around any more.
I remember going to visit one of my old roommates who had been in the Sea Org for over 40 years. She was ill and couldn’t work any more. She was living in an apartment about 10 miles from the base, with a few other sick or old Sea Org members. She was seen a couple of times a day, when she was brought food. There was no medical care. No cleaning service. Nothing. It was INCREDIBLY sad. I’d forgotten about it until I started thinking of all this.
Here’s the other thing about “retiring” from the Sea Org. When you die, you’re given a “21-year leave of absence”. Basically, you are supposed to “pick up another body”, then grow it up to 21 years of age, whereupon you resume your Sea Org duties by going to the nearest base and saying (I guess), “Hi there, I was So-and-So in my last life, and I’m here to join up again.” At that point, they look up your files and get you rolling where you left off. I know this will shock you, but I’ve never heard of anyone coming back to the Sea Org after their “leave of absence”. You’d think since the Sea Org has been in existence since the 1970s, that SOMEONE would have returned by now.
So yeah, that’s retirement Sea Org-style. Thought you should know.