I’m a member of a “local” Christian Science group for “young adults.” I haven’t actually attended any of their meetings, but I also haven’t bothered to have them take me off their e-mail list either. This came in my inbox today:
Dear [name of group withheld] Member,
David Fowler is working on filming short interviews with young Christian Scientists who have opted to not join a local church, or who stopped going to Sunday School, for whatever reason.
The goal is to present a video at the upcoming Church Alive Summit that will hopefully help the participants / understand and figure out better ways to support young people in the movement in the future. There’s a generation or two missing from Christian Science churches right now, and this is a chance for us to help make a difference.
If that sounds interesting and you’d like to participate, please contact David at [e-mail removed as they have enough interviewees] / mobile:withheld for privacy]. Time is of the essence since the Summit is going to be held May 3-5. David is filming the short interviews today (Friday) and next Tuesday (4/9).
If you’d like to submit a written note instead of doing a video interview that would also be great (just send David an email). It would possibly be shared on the Summit website & Facebook page, and can be anonymized if that is helpful.
Below is my response:
I am a former “young Christian Scientist.” I say “former” because I no longer self-identify with the Christian Science label. I was born and raised in a CS household, by parents who converted to the religion. I attended Sunday School (almost) every Sunday until I turned 20, and I attended and graduated from Principia College. I married a fellow Christian Scientist (we met at Principia), and for a time I lived in Boston and (occasionally) attended church at TMC.
I have found the practice of Christian Science to be detrimental to my physical and emotional well being, my relationships, and almost every aspect of my life that I have attempted to apply it to.
During my time as a Christian Scientist and since having left the religion, I have faced numerous challenges, both physical and mental. I find the oft-cited advice of “pray harder” to “know the truth” to be unhelpful and in many cases down right detrimental. I have encountered several situations where “prayer” merely postponed having the situation looked at by a medical professional, after which point much more drastic steps were needed to right the situation than would have been necessary if the problem had been addressed properly (using evidence based medicine) in the first place.
There are many of us who are disillusioned by the church’s teachings. We are quoted platitudes and any problems we face are our own fault for not praying harder, not knowing the truth enough, and not properly aligning ourselves spiritually with God. We are blamed for having common, treatable ailments, and made to feel guilty if we seek treatment outside of Christian Science. I know many people who have lost a friend or relative to a treatable diseases because they opted to seek CS “treatment” for their ailment. I don’t want to become a Christian Science death-statistic.
The idea that “trials are proof of God’s care” is dangerous. God loves you so much that he wants you to be miserable and suffer and worship him and come back for more. That’s what Job did. All you have to do is pray harder, know the Truth more and you’ll be rewarded with more camels, and more trials.
I don’t need camels, and I certainly do not need any more trials. I am not going to return to Christian Science.
2 thoughts on “I don’t need Camels”
Kat, I think you articulated your feelings really well here.
As you know, I continue to identify myself as a Christian Scientist, But my experience with this way of life has been much different from yours. Neither my mom, who found Christian Science almost 60 years ago, nor myself, have ever been what you would call “joiners.” And I think that has kept us… “sane” isn’t quite the right word… but, yeah, I think having the ability to think independently, to think for ourselves, has given us a different perspective on the teachings of Christian Science than perhaps those who feel a need to keep themselves busy within a human organization, and who feel the need to belong to a group. I think this might be one of those times when a distinction needs to be made between being “religious” and being “spiritually-minded.” The two, I have found, do not always go together.
There was something, in particular, that you quoted from David’s email that is just not feeling right to me: “There’s a generation or two missing from Christian Science churches right now, and this is a chance for us to help make a difference.” I just want to talk about that line for a moment.
There’s this – “…help make a difference.” What kind of difference are we talking about here? A difference, how? A difference, why? What is the motivation here? Is it to add numbers to the human churches? And how is that, in any way, going to make our world a better place? Our churches could be packed with people, but unless there’s healing going on there, unless there’s love and kindness and honesty and integrity – how is that going to make any positive change in our world?
And then there’s this: “There’s a generation or two missing from Christian Science churches…” Well, they may be missing from the human structures, but I’ve stumbled upon a whole new generation of Christian Scientists on the internet who have found Christian Science on their own and are using it to make the world a better place, and who could give a rat’s patootie about going to some church and being told how they should live by a bunch of fussy, rigid, judgmental folks who may have the “letter” of Christian Science, but seem to be lacking the “vital part.”
Mary Baker Eddy defined Church as “the structure of Truth and Love” – not as a humanly-made building. And she said, “The vital part, the heart and soul of Christian Science, is Love. Without this, the letter is but the dead body of Science, – pulseless, cold, inanimate.”
Karen – thanks, it took a few tries to articulate my thoughts.
I think there are a few other reasons why churches are empty, most of my CS peers are 2nd and 3rd generation CS – and have seen 2 or 3 generations of CS pain and death. We have lost people close to us from treatable illnesses which went ignored, we have felt very judged when we’ve opted to seek alternatives to radical reliance, we have met inquisition-like questioning at the slightest hint that we might visit a doctor or take our children to a pediatrician.
Another reason is that current church with has a kind of non-progressiveness and not very community focused atmosphere which is not very appealing for converts looking for a new church. There are no youth groups (there are no youth!), CS churches do not have kitchens, or community rooms. They remain isolated even among their own membership, while I regularly attended Sunday School until the day I turned 20, I rarely associated with my fellow students outside of church (the exception being during my time at Principia when my Sunday School classmate was also my roommate and the reason I was there every Sunday).
I’m all for making the world a better place, but I’d rather use kindness in my daily life – which I feel is a realistic goal – than filling seats in Christian Science churches.
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