a little honesty, please

I think it is time for the Christian Science community to be a little more honest with themselves (and the public at large).

The Mother Church can scoff at the “false” idea that Christian Science forbids it’s followers from seeking medical care. The TMC can even let the NYTimes interview some CSPs with their blessing, and claim the “official” stance is that there is “no church protocol” mandating relying solely on prayer, but these shows of tolerance for the medical community are just that, a show.

The official TMC blurb on their website states:

It’s up to each person who practices Christian Science to choose the form of health care he or she wants. Many Christian Scientists decide to pray first about every challenge—including health issues—and find it effective. Many health care professionals today are recognizing options outside of conventional medicine. Christian Scientists recognize and respect the interests of medical professionals and don’t oppose them. We all care about the preventive and curative aspects of health care. Like all systems of healing, the track record for Christian Science isn’t perfect. But, over 80,000 Christian Science healings have been published throughout the past 140 years, including severe cases.

Many health care professionals today are recognizing options outside of conventional medicine – yes, options that can be scientifically proven and have a track record of results are likely to be adopted into mainstream medicine. Germ theory, penicillin, and antibiotics used to be “outside of conventional medicine” as well. Mainstream medicine has ways to verify and check their results. If someone dies under the care of a physician, there is an inquiry. If someone “passes on too soon” working with a CSP it is a tragedy (1). In CS there is no way of confirming an illness or verifying the healing.

While the Official Policy might be of tolerance, you don’t need to look hard to find extreme intolerance of medication/deviating from CS. The problem is deeply rooted in every aspect of Christian Science.

The problem begins at the Mother Church, which sanctions all the Official Literature, and certifies CS Practioners and makes provisions for CS Nurses. The Official Literature, Ms. Eddy’s works, is full of condemnations of the use of medicine. Everyone knows that to turn to medicine instead of Christian Science means you have failed. A Christian Scientist can not just “go to a doctor” for a solution as Ms. Eddy openly condones abandoning those who have failed to work out their own salvation.

It is no secret that Journal Listed CS Practitioners (CSP), openly discriminate against people who take medication or turn to medicine for aid. Of course every practitioner chooses which cases he or she takes depending on the specific circumstances of that case. After all, you can’t force someone to pray for someone else. Some CSPs do pray for people who are taking medication or in the hospital, but those seem to be rare/short-term situations. Journal Listed CS Nurses (CSN), like CSPs, also get to pick and choose who they treat.

There is the slightly grey-zone of CS Nursing Facilities, while not “official” TMC institutions, they are are staffed by Journal Listed CS Nurses, CS Practitioners, and people who have at least passed Primary Class Instruction. They demand radical reliance on Christian Science to be admitted. They are also open and proud that they are NOT equipped to handle medical emergencies. They are also quite happy to take Medicare/Medicade money.

Branch churches fare no better. TMC’s Church Alive is fielding questions from the Branch Churches that include “Could you give me some ideas on how a church can include those who are physically challenged?…. There’s a tendency to think that if we put in some structural aids, we might be accepting the physical difficulty, and not encouraging healing.” How is this even an issue?! Oh yeah, the person in the wheelchair decided to use a wheelchair to get to church instead of staying home in bed. Instead of welcoming the person – and let’s be honest, a fair number of Church Alive questions are about dwindling church membership/attendance, let’s make it impossible for them to participate in the “healing services” that are provided.

The membership requirements of Branch churches vary widely, although they are similar in spirit to the guidelines laid out in the Manual – all encompassing and somewhat vague. Not many Branch Churches include membership applications on their websites as they likely prefer a warm body sitting in a pew so the potential applicant can be appropriately judged. The few that I could find were the usual committed to CS, over-12, not a member of other religions, and had carefully worded sections which refrained from spelling out radical-reliance, but could easily be interpreted as such:

  • Acknowledge that seeking spiritual growth and healing also means seeking an upright, moral, law-abiding life, free from addictive substances and practices, including recreational drugs and promiscuity.
  • Have relied on Christian Science healing for at least one year.
  • WE ARE COMMITTED TO: The conscientious application of Christian Science to meet human needs, including the need for physical healing.

Christian Science inspired institutions, free of the direct control of the Mother Church, can enact whatever policies they feel are inline with CS and Ms. Eddy’s teachings.

Principia bases their policy forbidding homosexuals from attending their schools and their “right” to know about a student’s sexual preferences/activities on the Bible and Ms. Eddy’s writings on marriage (2) – they want to “uphold community standards” which apparently also involves asking questions which are none of their business. Upholding “community standards” also means excluding people who are taking medication.

Of all of the CS “inspired” schools Principia seems to be the strictest. Of all the other CS-“inspired” schools I could find (3), Principia was the most rigid about the CS policy.

The CS camps are all fairly upfront about their policies and they are fairly consistent through out: must be regular attendees of Sunday School, no medication at camp, must give the number of the family Journal Listed CSP.

  • Camps L— & K— are for children who attend the Christian Science Sunday School. Campers are expected to attend Sunday School regularly throughout the year.
  • What if my child gets homesick or doesn’t feel well?  Each camp has a Quiet Room where the children are lovingly cared for by a Camp Mother (or Camp Father) until they can resume their regular activities. The Camp Mother is a class taught student of Christian Science, who is a parent or has experience with children. Also at camp there is a Journal-listed Christian Science Practitioner, who is available to give specific prayerful treatment, and a Journal-listed Christian Science Nurse, who is also available to campers. Of course if they prefer, campers always have the option to speak with a family practitioner and we are happy to arrange a phone call for this purpose whenever needed. You will be promptly notified by the Camp Director whenever a Practitioner has been engaged or if there is any significant interruption in your child’s regular schedule. Please see the back page of the camper application for details on our Health Care Policy.

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The CS campers are minors and therefore the Camps they have to be extra careful and have parents sign waivers. The camp in Colorado is particularly careful as Colorado has State Child Care regulations. I also understand that camps for minors would have to forbid sex, drugs and alcohol anyway, as it is illegal for minors to partake in such activities and I doubt it would go over well with parents and state authorities if it was allowed.

What concerns me is the “CAMPERS MAY NOT BRING MEDICATIONS WITH THEM OR USE MEDICATIONS AT THE RANCHES” and “there is a Journal-listed Christian Science Practitioner, who is available to give specific prayerful treatment, and a Journal-listed Christian Science Nurse, who is also available to campers.” On one hand I get it, kids being given medication by someone other than their parents is a liability issue, and these camps are not going to house medically trained personnel, on the other I’m really glad that there’s a Colorado law mandating “medical care be afforded to all youth in the case of a life threatening injury or illness” (4).

The Mother Church may deny any official policies of radical reliance on prayer, and while this may be true, Ms. Eddy is quite clear that we can not serve two masters, we are either material, or we are spiritual. There is no middle ground: if a person wants to participate in Christian Science communities they must radically rely on Christian Science for healing. 

  1. Unless the person in question happens to be a child, and then there’s usually some sort of court case/inquiry.
  2. For an interesting discussion on the topic of marriage, https://community.christianscience.com/thread/3340?start=0&tstart=0
  3. The other CS-inspired schools only run K-8, they do not offer boarding, nor are the “exclusively” for CS.
  4. Unfortunately not all the camps are in Colorado.

3 thoughts on “a little honesty, please

  1. Anonymous One says:

    People “outside” have no idea what really goes on within the CS structure.

    You could write an entire blog about the CS view of sex within marriage, and how many CSs are still trying to understand Eddy’s comment that sex should only be used to create children.”

    In fact, that was very late 19th Century concept and such ideas really do date the S&H textbook as classic Victorian literature.

    That phrase always upset me because it meant that post-menopausal women were expected to abandon the pleasures of intimacy (after all, it is just mortal mind reporting on how much fun it is).

    Years ago, I heard a story about a CSP who, during sex, would just lay flat on her back and recite the Scientific Statement of Being. You know her husband (a non-CS) loved that.

  2. emerginggently says:

    Yes, TMC can say all they want that CS-ists are free to choose to seek medical attention, but they do everything else to discourage that choice. It’s their way of absolving themselves of any blame for things that will inevitably go wrong.

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