passing on too soon, preventable deaths in Christian Science

I began this post a while back and then the Sandy Hook shooting happened so I held off for a while, then an acquaintance of my husband committed suicide, so I put it off even longer. While many people “pass on too soon” in this post I am not talking about shootings, accidents (which are “unknown to God” and will be a separate post later on), or suicide. In this case “preventable” deaths are ones where the individual could have sought medical treatment for a situation but opted to solely radically rely on Christian Science instead.

Christian Science has a unique view on death. Death is not the end, it is merely the beginning of a new journey. The individual is “passing on” and death provides an opportunity for the now deceased individual to grow spiritually on a different plane.

The commenters on the Don’t Give Up Now post provide some insight into this:

God does the healing and we can trust that work as effective, even if the patient moves on. It simply means their journey is continuing in a form we cannot see.  Anonymous 4:54am

And another excellent example:

Years ago, the mother of a friend passed on after being supported by a practitioner. My friend expressed discouragement to one of the nurses at the CS nursing home where her mother had been cared for. The nurse replied to the effect: “Don’t believe for one minute that your mother did not gain from her practitioner’s support and prayers. Her passing on is our concept of her leaving us, but it does not mean she did not grow spiritually and gain new views of truth.

This conversation has always stayed with me, and gave me comfort when my sister passed on too soon. I knew she was seriously studying Christian Science, and could only have made her transition (a transition to our eyes, but not to hers or God’s) knowing she was always in God’s care. Progress is a law of God. She progressed here in this earthly experience and is still progressing.  Anonymous 1:52pm

I do not know the circumstances of the Anonymous commenter’s relations passings. However, one did mention a relation who “passed on too soon” which raises red-flags.

As I see it, there are two kinds of “deaths” the preventable kind, and the unpreventable kind. This is a bit over-simplified, but so is the “passing on” logic.

Unpreventable deaths tend to come from old age, incurable/terminal illness, and accidents (although there “accidents are unknown to God” so take that for what it is worth). Preventable deaths tend to come from simple medical problems which left untreated get totally out of control.

In the case of unpreventable deaths, I am fine with the language of “passing on” and “continuing their journey.” I’ve never been dead, so I’m not sure what happens next (if anything), but I’m okay with the concept of new experience on another plane of existence.

It is when the individual “passes on too soon” that red flags begin to wave. Caroline Fraser’s article, “Suffering Children and the Christian Science Church” in The Atlantic Monthly (April, 1995), chronicles several instances of preventable deaths in children. There are also countless instances of preventable deaths in adults aswell.

I went to college with many students who had lost parents to what modern medicine calls “treatable” diseases. One of the college’s Resident Counselors died from malaria while visiting Africa. Why? She had opted not to take anti-malaria medication, or seek treatment beyond Christian Science for her condition. Of course no one at Principia ever told anyone anything beyond the fact a beloved RC had “passed on” (later sources confirmed the rampant rumor).

While the Church claims not to have an official stance on their followers seeking medical care, the flock is less forgiving. If a mature adult decides to forgo medical treatment and rely on Christian Science that is their choice, but to be bullied, pressured, cajoled and manipulated into solely relying on CS is another (the “God is testing you” nonsense fits nicely here). The culture of radical reliance on CS is quickening the “passing on” of the membership as just” going to visit a doctor is such a alien concept. You are told all you need to do is read the books and pray better, and if the healing isn’t coming it is somehow your fault, you’re not spiritual enough.