Christian Science, Health Care & the Government

I feel strongly about the separation of Church and State. I enjoy having the freedom to practice whatever I’d like, and the freedom from being forced to practice any particular religion. It makes me uncomfortable when “conservatives” with “Christian” values start lobbying Congress for laws that line up with their (Old Testament) views on morality (and women), and it makes me very uncomfortable when the Mother Church starts lobbying as well.

Christian Scientists have been lobbying the government for well over 100 years. Government documents from 1913 talk about the Maintenance of a Lobby to Influence Legislation and Christian Science is discussed on page 501 with regards to some legislation and a drug company. Since then, the Mother Church has lobbied congress to make their special brand of faith-healing legal and covered by health insurance.

I’d say the Mother Church is doing fairly well with their congressional lobbying. Their website proudly states:

Various U.S. federal, state, and private health insurance plans provide for the reimbursement of Christian Science nursing care and practitioner treatment. Additionally, 17 Christian Science nursing facilities across the country are Medicare providers, which means individuals who have Medicare Part A can receive reimbursement at those facilities. Furthermore, 23 states have “high risk” insurance plans (for individuals with pre-existing health conditions) that include among their covered benefits Christian Science practitioner and nursing care. (Note that qualifications and limits to these benefits vary by plan.)

Christian Science services qualify as tax-deductible medical expenses under Section 213(d) of the IRS code. Because of this, health savings accounts (HSAs) or flexible spending accounts (FSAs) can be used for Christian Science care.

I only see a few problems with all this, to lump CSPs, CS Nurses (as lovely as they are) and “prayer” in the same category as doctors and hospitals is ludicrous. There is also the fact that Christian Science doesn’t believe in “pre-existing conditions” – all your problems are in your head.

In S&H p. 166 Ms. Eddy reminds us:

As a man thinketh, so is he. Mind is all that feels, acts, or impedes action. Ignorant of this, or shrinking from its implied responsibility, the healing effort is made on the wrong side, and thus the conscious control over the body is lost.

A little further down she continues:

The erring human mind is inharmonious in itself. From it arises the inharmonious body. To ignore God as of little use in sickness is a mistake. Instead of thrusting Him aside in times of bodily trouble, and waiting for the hour of strength in which to acknowledge Him, we should learn that He can do all things for us in sickness as in health.

On p. 168 I find a very good argument against Christian Scientists taking government money, the government is providing man-made systems (like Medicare) and

Because man-made systems insist that man becomes sick and useless, suffers and dies, all in consonance with the laws of God, are we to believe it? Are we to believe an authority which denies God’s spiritual command relating to perfection, — an authority which Jesus proved to be false? He did the will of the Father. He healed sickness in defiance of what is called material law, but in accordance with God’s law, the law of Mind.

I understand why the Church to condones and encourage people to use Medicare funds, Christian Science care and facilities are not cheapMedicare Part A covers things like skilled nursing care, home health care, and hospice care. CS Nursing does fall into “home health care” (and in a morbid way hospice care), but I would stop short at calling them “skilled nurses.” CS nurses are polite and sometimes helpful for minor things. The ones at Principia’s Cox Cottage make an awesome grilled cheese sandwich and strawberry milkshake, but if it comes down to a life-or-death situation (or a problem beyond mild food poisoning), I’d rather have a Registered Nurse than a Christian Science one.

Personal preferences aside, the church manual made a by-law about CS Nurses in 1908, and although it was written by Ms. Eddy, it seems to directly contradict all of what she says about health:

A member of The Mother Church who represents himself or herself as a Christian Science nurse shall be one who has a demonstrable knowledge of Christian Science practice, who thoroughly understands the practical wisdom necessary in a sick room, and who can take proper care of the sick.                 (emphasis  mine)

It is Christian-Scientifically impossible for a good Christian Scientist to have any “practical wisdom” in a sick room without violating Ms. Eddy’s decree in the chapter on Physiology (p. 167):

We cannot serve two masters nor perceive divine Science with the material senses. Drugs and hygiene cannot successfully usurp the place and power of the divine source of all health and perfection. If God made man both good and evil, man must remain thus. What can improve God’s work? Again, an error in the premise must appear in the conclusion.

Time and time again we are reminded we MUST DEMONSTRATE CHRISTIAN SCIENCE. Ms. Eddy’s entire body of work rests on the myth of the DEMONSTRABILITY of Christian Science. Time and time again we are reminded that we must DEMONSTRATE Christian Science and PROVE that it works so we can lobby the government (who want to “take away” our healthcare freedoms and have us all go to the doctor occasionally) to get them to pay for our Christian Science Practitioners, and CS Nurses.

CSPs and CSNs are not governed by medical boards, nor do they get licensed by the state to practice their “healing arts.” They are overseen by some group, ostensibly Mother Church, and the entire process is vague and hard to find information on. Doctors and nurses on the other hand have years of training, licenses and certificates. If a doctor or nurse messes up badly enough, there is an inquisition. If a CSP has a client pass on too soon the situation is often entirely overlooked – unless it is a child and the case makes national headlines, in which case the CSP is suddenly no longer “journal listed” and is “not really a CSP” and they’re not “practicing CS correctly.”

Doctors and nurses are thoroughly regulated on several levels including state and federal as well as within their own associations. Do Christian Scientists want the government to step in regulate CSPs and CS Nurses as a precursor to making it acceptable for them to receive Medicare funding? Absolutely not, but they’re OK with recommending their congregation take advantage of government programs to cover the costs of dealing with problems that CS claims are unreal in the first place.

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