Mark Oppenheimer regrets that “we just keep reading about Tom Cruise” instead of understanding what it is “like to be embedded in the minority culture of small-town Scientology”:
It would be very hard to write a book about a Scientology community from the inside. No academic is likely to get the story. To get his research proposal past an institutional review board, a social scientist or other scholar would have to promise to identify himself to his subjects, to the Scientologists—who would of course then refuse to cooperate. And many newspapers, like my own, The New York Times, forbid reporters to gather news under false pretenses (restaurant critics are exempt). I would not be allowed to join the Scientology center down the street under the pretense that I was just a curious soul, then write a series of articles about it.
So who could? Perhaps a reporter from a scrappy alt-weekly newspaper, or from a college paper, or from a web ’zine. I hope that someone reads these words and heeds the call. Because until someone does, we are going to get more stories about Scientology in Hollywood and in Florida. And while I love a juicy story about the pope in Rome, I also realize that the church, the real church, is not just there, but everywhere.