Being raised a Christian Scientist meant always being on guard against Mortal Mind, Mental Malpractice, Error, False Evidence Appearing Real, and a number of other “sneaky” things which could come in and attempt to “cloud our mirrors” (people are reflections of God, and clouded mirrors distort this image).
If we were not feeling well it was our fault, clearly our thoughts were not aligned properly with God’s. Our mirrior was dirty. It was not a virus (they’re not real), or a bacteria (also not real), or the vomit-inducing stomach bug, it was Mortal Mind.
We would often be “excused” from health classes, sex-ed talks, and routine health screenings at school. We did not go to doctors, or get vaccinated. I’m somewhat surprised we were “allowed” to take science classes (Biology, Chemistry, Physics, Earth Sciences, etc.), after all, this is all the Adam Dream and any day now we’ll wake up and rediscover our True Spiritual Selves.
This is one of those things you have to be raised in.
The best analogy I have is the movie The Matrix (there is no spoon!) which came out when I was in high school. My Sunday School teacher insisted we watch it, because the “parallels with Christian Science are so profound.”
In the world in which I live, the spoon is very real. It is made most useful by spooning ice cream out of the container, ideally, when no one else is watching, then I’d have to share. Sometimes, if I grab the wrong spoon, it does in fact bend, then I have to bend it back, because I have no use for twisted spoons.
I was never outspoken about the religion I was raised in. In elementary and middle school, the only other Christian Scientist at the same school as me was my sister, in high school there were a few two others, and our Sunday School class was a surprisingly large four students (many CS I knew at Prin only had one fellow student, if any).
I was very much the “hide it under a bushel” Christian Scientist.
I was quite vocal in Sunday School. I had questions about morality, sex, science, the arbitrary whims of God. I knew my Bible stories, I knew the 10 commandments backwards and forwards (quite literally, a previous teacher had made us memorize them backwards), I knew the Scientific Statement of Being (see Terms & Concepts) and could recite it along with the Sunday School Superintendent if asked. I even, on rare occasion, actually read the Bible Lesson.
A few of my friends knew about my religious views, several tried to save me. I politely declined. I didn’t (and still don’t) believe in “original sin” or the need to be “saved.” I don’t need to “find” Jesus – I don’t think I’ve misplaced him. I do have a few lovely cross pendents, but those are more fashion statements, than symbols of faith (they’re also to ward off vampires).
Being a Christian Scientist means once people know your religious orientation they ask questions. My favorite was “what if you got hit by a train?” I posed this question to a Sunday School teacher of mine who replied: “Well, you hope someone is around with a bag to pick up the pieces.”
The conversation usually went something like this:
- What if you get sick? We pray about it. What if you break your arm? We might have it set, but we’d mostly pray about it. What if you die? Then we move on to another plane of existence. What if?…What if?…What if?
- So you don’t believe in Doctors? I never had a good answer for that. Others would pull out some line about “the power of prayer” but that always felt vaguely bogus, I went to a dentist, I wore glasses and braces on my teeth. Why not go to an MD? I never got a good explanation for that one.
- So then what DO you believe? Is another question I never had a good answer for either, so I started carrying around a copy of the Tenants of Christian Science to simplify things. It didn’t make the other questions any easier, but they saw I “believed in Jesus” and that was usually enough to shut them up about my immortal soul.
On one hand, Christian Scientists spend a good deal of time defending their views, on the other they take great delight in questioning the views, choices and decisions of people who have chosen to leave.
They’re worse than the people who inquire about CS because, being Good Christian Scientists, have the Moral High Ground, and Know the Truth. The person who left is obviously inferior, they’re not spiritual enough, didn’t pray hard enough, they’re the one at fault, after all Christian Science is always the answer and is never wrong.
It starts off innocently enough, and rapidly turns into an inquisition, and it is usually centered around the children. Once children are involved they become the most important reason you could possibly have to attend a Christian Science Church.
- Why are you not taking the children to church? For some reason being lax about church attendance while not ideal, is somewhat acceptable, but once you have children you should be there every Sunday.
- Why are you taking the children to a pediatrician? Even for routine well-baby checkups to be told how amazing the kids are and how well they’re doing. This is not okay. Also, if you dare to call them and ask about their own medical history (or that of their parents) you’re given the run-around – they don’t know, what does it matter?
- Why are you not raising them in Science? Other than the overwhelming reason of WE DON’T THINK IT IS THE BEST WAY TO RAISE A CHILD!? I’m not sure what more to tell them.
Parents of Principians who have left CS don’t take kindly to hearing Principia being criticized. They enjoy pointing out that “some good” came of the college experience, and while yes, many of us have met spouses, or job and networking opportunities, I’d like to think that could/would have happened at any expensive, exclusive private college.
Parents are particularly hard on their former-CS children. Personally, I have been accused of “throwing away” the “greatest gift” my mother could have given me of a “doctor-free childhood.” Another friend’s mother lamented her “failure as a mother” because her child had chosen to leave the movement, and wondered where she “went wrong.”
The only place the mother’s in question went “wrong” is where they raised strong, independent children who were capable of thinking for themselves – and I don’t see anything “wrong” with that. It is hardly a “failure” on the part of the mother that the children chose to think – something they are encouraged to do, Ms. Eddy herself says “the time for thinkers has come” – and in that process they find that CS is no longer the right choice for them.
In may ways being free of CS is incredibly liberating. It is refreshing not to worry about the insidious creep of Mortal Mind, to worry about if one is praying the “right” way, and to wait for healings that don’t happen. The price of the freedom is often strained relationships, but true friendships weather such bumps (sitting down together to chat over ice cream with untwisted spoons helps).