If someone were to draw a diagram of what a day looks like at Flag—the Scientology religion’s spiritual headquarters in Clearwater, Florida—it would show a lot of arrows indicating people. Arrows flowing into Flag, arrows heading out. If you color-coded arrows for Scientologists or non-Scientologists, there would be a multi-hued mix. If the drawing encompassed days, weeks and months, the number of arrows heading in both directions would become indistinguishable in a blur of activity.
But however clever or artful the creator of this design, a few things would be hard to describe. For example, why are people flocking to Flag? What did they do when they got there? What did they take with them when they left?
Tens of thousands of people came to Flag over 2016. For each, the answers to those questions are as varied as the people themselves. For Scientologists, their journey involves their own spiritual development as they ascend what’s known in Scientology as the “Bridge to Total Freedom.”
However, in recent years, Flag has assumed an additional role. People of all faiths come to Church facilities, seeking solutions to problems that are causing the ruination of society. The issues include drugs, human rights abuses, psychiatric harm, prison recidivism, immorality and unethical behavior, illiteracy and the inability of many communities to cope with disasters.
Scientology, the only major new religion to be founded in the 20th century—and now expand in the 21st—has answers to both sides of the equation. Minds and spirits can be healed and people can rise to abilities they could never have conceived before.
Equally available at Flag are solutions to civilization’s corrosive challenges. How do you solve drug addiction, for example? Scientology has answers to drug use—and to many other obstacles to mankind’s flourishing.
2016 has been a boom year at the Scientology spiritual headquarters because Flag offers hope at so many levels. Take something called the Charity Coalition. The Tampa Bay area has scores of worthy nonprofit groups trying to fix what’s wrong in the community. But there was little way for groups to gain experience and knowledge from each other.
So, a little over two years ago, civic activists got an idea: form an organization of organizations, a united coalition to marshal the forces of good to overcome the bad. Those activists were Scientologists, and knocking down society’s problems is something that Scientologists do.
By the second annual celebration, in October 2016, more than 200 organizations were on board. Something was being done—and that something was doing a better job of salvaging mankind.
In 2015, Scientology opened six buildings in downtown Clearwater—headquarters for major humanitarian programs sponsored by the Church. In every one of the new headquarters, plans are being drawn, strategies conceived, work done.
That work has achieved results. Crime is down in Clearwater areas that once were regarded as unsafe. Drug use is being countered by the best possible weapon: education. Teams of Volunteer Ministers fan out across Tampa Bay to do everything from cleaning up distressed neighborhoods to offering helping hands in a dozen other ways. Scientologists contribute more than 200,000 hours a year in volunteer work for the community.
Clearwater has become a great city, in no small measure due to the collaborative efforts of a diverse association of people who want to make a difference, ranging from the police, the city administration, religious, charitable, educational and cultural organizations.
In an interview, Scientology ecclesiastical leader David Miscavige expressed his vision for Clearwater and the role the Church can play. “The goal of Scientology,” he said, “is a thriving, prosperous and free civilization, from the global level right down to every individual. Our spiritual home is right here in the very center of downtown.
“We will contribute in every way we can to make Clearwater a model for all cities,” he continued. “The Church of Scientology is committed to strengthening the community. We will partner with all other groups and individuals to deal with and overcome social problems. The Church can only flourish and prosper in Clearwater if the City itself is equally successful.”
For Scientology, 2016 ramped up the tasks of making the Church and City partners in a great undertaking. Welcome to what awaits in 2017.