In Praise of Christian Science Practioners

I recently re-blogged MKHuggin’s piece A Warning About Christian Science Practitioners which I felt articulated many of the problems with the CS approach to physical healing. I agree that if physical healing is not happening then people should go seek whatever medical/alternative means they feel are necessary without judgement. I feel radically relying on prayer for physical healing is misguided at best, and dangerous at worst. We have been exchanging comments and I have been inspired by several more of her posts.

In the re-blog I stated:

  • Many CSPs are lovely people and are wonderful to talk to about problems, they can often help you calm down, address your fears, and work through trying times, but when it comes to life-or-death situations (infection, diabetes, cancer, unchecked growths, etc.) relying solely on someone’s “ability to heal through CS” and one’s own “understanding” is often deadly.

MKHuggins manages to articulate the topic better than I can:

  • I agree completely about what Christian Science Practitioners are best at. Reassurance, calming fears, re-framing life issues, and as such I think they are working to their strengths. I do not deny that wonderful things can happen and have, but I don’t deny it when nothing is improving either. Positivity without denial, Love without judgement, Knowing that, “every little thing is gonna be alright”

She continues in a follow-up post (Understanding Mary Baker Eddy’s “Mortal Mind” the Thumbnail Version)

  • The best use of Christian Science prayer.
    So in my eyes, removing excess fear/stress is the single best intervention any Christian Science practitioner can perform. If the total removal is not possible due to politics or something, then people need to keep working to remove or reduce its effects on the life and to keep the big picture in mind. Fear/stress is not a natural state and most men would want to reduce it, if they knew its bad effects.
    If we shrink mortal mind down to being states of fear which lower immune responses, it is still plenty troublesome. Fear needs to be faced as fear and not given all the powers in creation.

The following needs to be nailed (or more realistically taped) to Christian Science church doors all over the world:

Removing excess fear/stress is the single best intervention any Christian Science practitioner can perform. 

Providing reassurance, non-judgmental support, a positive outlook, and a reminder that it will get better is often what helps a person the most. Regardless of where it comes from, someone to provide a context to re-frame life issues, or inspire the “ah-ha!” moment that helps a person break through the fear can make a huge difference for someone who is working through a problem.

I worked with a CSP in the emotional turmoil that followed the birth of Kid1, and the subsequent pregnancy/arrival of Kid2. I wasn’t looking for some amazing physical demonstration and magical second birth experience, I needed to overcome my extreme anxiety/panic attacks which were brought on by a host of what I felt were very fears/concerns surrounding the birth of Kid1, the arrival of Kid2 and everything that entailed.

Over the course of several months and numerous e-mails we tackled the fears. Most of what we talked about was practical getting-through-the-day advice for a mother of a small child with another on the way. Much of what we talked about I already knew, but it was helpful to be reminded of again. Some of the language was Christian Science-y (she e-mailed several catchy and familiar hymns) but most of it could have applied to anyone of any religious (or secular) background, and a lot of what we discussed I have heard since from childcare professionals and teachers:

  • being outside is important
  • get the older child a doll so they can role-play with it instead of using the new baby
  • they won’t be little forever
  • make sure you have good support in place
  • take care of yourself first (this is not selfish)
  • it gets better
  • it is OKAY not to have a pintrest-perfect life, dare to be average!

Through out our e-mail exchange I was very upfront about my plans for a scheduled c-section, plans to take the follow up pain medication and plans to continue to have both children visit their pediatrician. Unlike with some members of the family, and the midwives I’d worked with previously. I never felt any judgement surrounding those decisions from my CSP. I did not just “work with a CSP” about the problems either: I talked with my doctor and her midwife at length about the upcoming birth. I talked with other women who had similar birth experiences/scheduled c-sections. I had a solid support team in place. I felt more prepared.

Sometimes you just need someone to talk to, a friend, teacher, mentor, someone who won’t judge, won’t be little, won’t make you feel less of a good person. My CSP was loving, supportive, insightful and very easy to talk to. She excelled at everything MKHuggins described as a good CSP, and the extreme anxiety attacks stopped. I still get overwhelmed sometimes, there is a lot going on in my life, but I know that even though I have left CS and become solidly agnostic/atheist, I can always call or e-mail my friend (who happens to be a CSP) and we can talk about it.

The culture of radical reliance, righteous judgement and inflexibility that has emerged from Christian Science is deadly. A few good CSPs won’t change over a centuries worth of harm, but some of them are capable of making tremendous differences in the lives of those in need.

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5 thoughts on “In Praise of Christian Science Practioners

  1. missyjbetts says:

    This is a very positive perspective on CS — one that I have never come across before. I think it can be easier for those who grew up in or once practiced a religion to find the silver lining in it; the good people and/or the genuine intentions. I think it is really important that these perspectives be talked about often because, to me, it’s not about standing up for or defending something that was once so much a part of your life, but an illustration of how people are basically good. They want to help others and they want to make a difference, no matter how strange (and in this case, sometimes dangerous) those methods can be.

    • kat @ kindism says:

      I don’t think CS is inherently bad & I think there are some aspects of it – like the tools to help handle fear, that are good and can be useful, but they are often overshadowed by the religion’s promise that you can “heal like Jesus!” It is also really easy to get caught up in the “CS KILLS!” and while I’m not going to deny that, CS has also provided the tools for people to make drastic life changes. CS is not all good or all bad, it has a heavy dose of weird, and in the end it comes down to how it is practiced. I’m no longer a CS, but I do occasionally fall back on some of the feel-good CS-platitudes because they are familiar, and sometimes helpful. “Nothing is ever lost in God’s kingdom” is the usual example, and it is very useful when a small child has run off with & hidden one’s car keys… 😉

  2. mkhuggins says:

    “When something’s lost that I can’t find, I know it’s never far from Mind” is what we still use. I think it was in a journal in the 70’s, made up by a little boy. I love it.

    Even though I can be absolutely wicked about our former fearful Leader, and love to poke at her pretensions, and have a field day pointing out her personal flaws and theoretical shortcomings, my husband’s almost unbreakable optimism about the goodness of people and life and his loving attitude when he calls someone “God’s Perfect Child” has never given me the heeby-jeeby’s about that phrase. But he is never pejorative, no matter what – except about politics, that is-

    My Mother-in-law is a different matter. She personified that judgmental ‘radical reliance’ that bugs me enough to keep on writing this journal- even after 80+ posts!

    It is ‘mortal mind’ and ‘animal magnetism’ that have me up in arms- and guess what, the religion does not even need either of those phrases /concepts to be its best. i wish there was a way the church could drop those ideas without disincorporating, but I see no hope for either happening.

    The stuff that we can learn about using “fear” as the problem instead of “mortal mind”, does not even need a belief in any kind of god.

    • kat @ kindism says:

      I think Ms. Eddy has many valid ideas, but gets a little too hung up on the “Christian” part of it and her own interesting world view. A number of her ideas, removed from their “christian” context and unique word choices (like, mortal mind & animal magnetism) work just fine.

      To Ms. Eddy’s credit it sounds so much cooler to say things like “Ancient and Modern Necromancy, alias Mesmerism and Hypnotism, Denounced” and philosophize about “Is the Universe, Including Man, Evolved by Atomic Force?” than to say “the problem is fear, the fear is not real, it is all in your head.”

      • mkhuggins says:

        I never thought of it that way. A Broadway song almost comes to mind…. I am sure there is one….. Maybe, “This is the Age of Aquarius”?
        They ought to re-frame that MBE movie Kilmer was going to do, into a Broadway musical.”Twain, Eddy and Mortal Mind” La la la…….

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