Mommy, what is church?

We were driving somewhere and Kid1 spoke up from the backseat: “Mommy, what is church?”

While I’ve done a lot of reading (see relevant book list below) on how to talk to the children about religious issues, I still felt caught off guard by the question. They like to ask these questions in the car when I can’t escape or easily change the topic — last time it was “how many gods do we have?

Kid1 continued “Grandma goes to church.”

Yes, I acknowledged, both grandmas, and other extended family, go to church. I left out that they go to Christian Science churches, “church” can be generic for now.

“Why do people go to church?” Kid1 was not going to let this drop. “We don’t go to church.”

“No-oh-o,” Kid2 agreed. “We no go to church. No.”

The questions hung in the car. The children were silent, waiting for answers.

A church is a group of people who gather together, usually on Sunday mornings, to hear a lecture about their perspectives on god. I started.

“Do you believe in god?” asked Kid1. “Why do people go to church?”

“No god!” piped up Kid2 from the backseat.

No, I continued. I do not believe in a god… People go to church for a number of reasons, often is is because the are seeking community with people who share the same views as themselves. 

“Why don’t we go to church?” asked Kid1.

We enjoy doing other things on Sunday morning, I replied,  and we find our sense of community elsewhere. 

This seemed to satisfy them.

“No church,” Kid2 said.

Kid1 agreed.


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Straightforward & Honest

When I clicked on When A Mother Decides To Stop Cancer Treatment And Face Death I was not prepared for the onslaught of feels I was overcome with. It was another vaguely interesting article on my Facebook feed, and then a few paragraphs in I was hit with all the feels.

“We’ve always been straightforward and honest,” Lum said during an extensive interview in June. The kids “get the facts and the truth and it’s not ‘Mommy has a tummy ache.’ No, ‘Mommy has cancer.’ “

Straightforward and honest are not words I would ever use to describe Christian Science.

Using Christian Science logic, acknowledging that “mommy has cancer” would only empower mortal mind, and make the “issue” harder to overcome. Actually, you’d never get that far, because cancer would be a diagnosis, which would require going to a doctor (see all the other posts on this topic).

Christian Science wouldn’t even say “mommy has a tummy ache.” “Mommy” would be “resting” or “working with the books” or something even more vague. “Mommy” would be working to overcome something – including fear of the unknown and worst-case scenarios. In Christian Science, “Mommy” is expected to overcome or it is failure on her part.

Our society does a poor job handling the issue of death, and Christian Science adds horrible layers of shame and secrecy. I was reminded of Lucia Greenhouse’s book fathermothergod, which

touches on some of the elephants in the Christian Scientists living room: secrecy surrounding illness, the idea that Christian Science must be protected (from what, I’m still not sure), the tremendously large abstract concepts that young children are expected to understand and demonstrate. Mortal mind, error, protective work….

Reading about Greenhouse’s mother’s health challenges difficult, as was the family drama that played out around it. The line between respecting decisions — even when you disagree with them — and stepping in to intervene is a very fine. Regardless what you choose to do, you will be criticized by someone for your actions.

We are trying to be straightforward and honest with our children about medical issues, but it is difficult. When the eldest child asks “why can’t [still in CS family member] join us at the beach or keep up with us on a [moderate] hike?” we walk the fine line of respecting the family member’s choice and being honest with the child. They’re “not feeling well” (which is true), or they’re “not as young as they used to be” (also true).

My fellow former-CS and I have watched family members secretly succumb to illnesses, only seeking medical care and sharing diagnosis days before their deaths. We have watched them struggle with “situations” that, if they had been diagnosed or treated by modern medicine, could have been resolved, or mitigated. We have offered support as they refused to seek diagnosis, much less treatment. While this is their choice, and it is within their rights to do, the results are often horrible and frustrating.

For the Christian Scientists reading this (if there are any), please be honest with yourself, if a healing isn’t forthcoming, seek medical treatment. Please don’t isolate yourselves in your darkened bedrooms with your  periodicals and books. Please be honest with yourselves and your children, they want to know, they want to help.


“that’s not Christian Science” – yes, it is, this is how it is practiced

In case you missed it, Parade had an interview with Ellen — “Ellen DeGeneres Talks Feelings, Fun and Finding Dory” in which Ellen discussed her Christian Science upbringing, describing her childhood upbringing as:

… a very conservative home. My father was a first reader in the Christian Science Church, which is similar to being a preacher. There was no drinking, smoking or cursing. I didn’t see deep emotion from my parents. It was all very polite and very surface. I never knew how anybody was feeling. Because of that religion everything was fine all the time.

While her comments resonated with many in the ex-Chrsitain Science community, a member of the Committee on Publication, took it upon themselves to write a letter to the editor — not of, Parade, where the piece had been run, but to waxahachietx.com — simply titled On DeGeneres comments the author hauls out the tried-and-tried-again protest of “that’s not how Christian Science is practiced!” 

Maybe that’s not how you practice it, but shutting down Ellen and invalidating her experience does not help.

Reading Ellen’s experience reminded me of the book Filled Up Full, where children are filled up full with thoughts from God, so there is no room for mad or bad thoughts. I don’t know if Ellen ever read Filled Up Full — it was published in 1974, but it was quite prevalent in church childcare rooms, Sunday School, and children’s bookcases at home.

Is perhaps Filled Up Full an oversimplification of Christian Science? Yes, it is aimed at children, but it also hits on an attitude seen through out the religion, children should be happy and behave. Everything is fine because you won’t allow any other thoughts in, you’re standing Porter at the Door, only God thoughts are allowed.

Thank you Ellen for speaking up and sharing your story.

 

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musings on the material world & death – Eddy & Steiner’s perspectives

Before I dive into Lecture Four: Devachan, I want to pause and contemplate how Eddy and Steiner talk about the material world, and death. I am only three lectures into Steiner’s work, so my views on this could change as I learn more about Steiner’s perspectives.

Through out Science and Health, the material world is intrinsically linked with sin, disease/sickness and death*. Invoking Jesus, Eddy writes: “He came teaching and showing men how to destroy sin, sickness, and death” (Science & Health 6:27-28).

Every supposed pleasure in sin will furnish more than its equivalent of pain, until belief in material life and sin is destroyed. To reach heaven, the harmony of being, we must understand the divine Principle of being. [emphasis added]

For Eddy, the material (including, but not limited to, sin, pleasure, and husbands) are a distraction from God.  She enumerates five erroneous postulates (S&H p. 91-92) reflecting on how  “the denial of material selfhood aids the discernment of man’s spiritual and eternal individuality, and destroys the erroneous knowledge gained from matter or through what are termed the material senses(emphasis added).

Eddy is really big on the unreality of matter, the denial of the material world, and how, eventually, we will recognize that we are spiritual beings… which sounds like a special level of hell all on it’s own.

I am not as well versed in Steiner as I am in Eddy, and I’m sure my ideas will develop further as I work my way through his lectures. I find Steiner’s perspective differently difficult, but simultaneously easier to relate to on a metaphorical level as he acknowledges the physical aspects of the human experience.

Steiner’s vision of man is multi-faceted, with a physical form, and spiritual elements, in stark contrast to Eddy’s man is a spiritual idea of God (nothing more/less). Steiner acknowledges the physical/material world, as well as other worlds. For Eddy, there is only the spiritual, the rest is an erroneous lie.

Death gets complicated for Steiner, as the soul then goes to a purgatory-esque state, kamaloka, before it can be reborn. In this purgatory, it has to overcome the desires it experienced during its physical experience. Steiner does seem to be passing some judgment on the souls here similar to Eddy’s admonishment that “a great sacrifice of material things must precede this advanced spiritual understanding” (S&H p. 16) — but this is worked out after the death of the physical body, and before rebirth.

Steiner points out living a less-material life will cut back on this struggle in kamaloka, but as far as I can tell, Steiner falls short of lumping acknowledgement of the material body/world with sin, disease and death. The experience in the physical realm are something to be learned from, and worked through, as 1/3 of them will be carried forth into the next life — I could be totally wrong on Steiner’s views of this, but that’s what I read it to be.

In both cases, the departed individual has to do some “working out” of the problems they dealt with in their previous life. For Steiner, the person then goes on to be reincarnated (?) — I’m unclear on the exact process, while Eddy’s departed continues to “work out” whatever the issue is until they reach a totally clear understanding, and they “become as the angels” (which sounds pretty dull).


*The sin, disease and death combination appears 14 times through Science & Health, and sin, sickness and death appears together 55 times. Science & Health as a searchable PDF can be found: http://christiansciencemedia.org/files/2010/03/Science-and-Health-with-Key-to-the-Scriptures.pdf