Final Generation CS

Not too long ago the Mad Cap Christian Scientist talked about being a “Second Generation Geologist,” pointing out that

A person can’t just inherit an expertise in geology – you have to do your own work, and put in your own study of it to be able to make the claim that you’re a geologist.

She was drawing a parallel with Christian Science, because this notion of inheriting expertise makes no sense:

This holds true for any science, really –  including Christian Science.  Just because one’s grandparents or great-grandparents called themselves Christian Scientists doesn’t make one an expert in Christian Science, or the best practitioner of it.  I mean… well… calling yourself a “third generation Christian Scientist”  makes about as much sense, really, as calling yourself a “third generation geologist” –  right?

Most of my friends from Principia were at least second generation Christian Scientists, many were third generation. Some even traced their lineage back through people who had actually worked with Mary Baker Eddy or had a relative who had taken Primary Class Instruction with someone who had been taught by someone who had actually been taught by Ms. Eddy. It got a little ridiculous. (1)

For many of my Christian Science friends, they are also the final generation of Christian Scientists (at least in their branch of the family tree). Our parents and grandparents joined in Christian Science’s heyday in the early 1900s, when modern medicine was in it’s infancy and prayer (or carefully ignoring the problem) often worked just as well (and often less painfully) than seeking medical treatment.

For those of us in the “Final Generation” of CS, we have seen family and friends suffer agonizing deaths (2), preventable deaths, crippling injuries, and fear of being ostracized from their beloved community for daring to seek medical treatment.

We have been judged harshly for our failings. We are reminded over and over our demonstrations are not good enough, we lack spiritual understanding. We need to pray more. We must reexamine our motives, recommit to the cause. As the sewing the reaping and all that good stuff.

If after seventeen years of Sunday School and struggling to learn, we are still “unprepared,” I’m not sure it is we who are at fault. There has been discussion about the “transition” from Sunday School to Church and how many young people are failing to make it. Many of us are also unwilling to commit to Primary Class Instruction, unable to demonstrate over even a “simple” physical malady, and prefer to turn to modern medicine for solutions. I’m fairly certain it isn’t the fault of the people, but the inflexibility of the Church.

We grew up reading the weekly Bible Lessons, occasionally attending Wednesday evening services, and with our butts firmly planted in our seats nearly every Sunday in Sunday School. Yes, we asked questions, challenged views, and wanted answers. We were told to sit down, and be quiet. Apparently we had to go over the ten commandments again (3).

The beautiful thing about sticking people in Church is that there is no time for questions, it is “individual study” all week long and then you are read the same passages that you’ve been reading all week. In church people are expected to continue their spiritual growth unassisted by anything except the Bible and Science & Health. They are expected to set aside quiet time for CS study. I’ve done my share of “delving into the books” for answers and aside from a few nuggets of wisdom I usually come up empty handed.

I’ve since come to the conclusion they didn’t have the answers any more than I did. They didn’t want to admit it, they were Grown-Ups, and I can totally see why they didn’t want to admit they didn’t have a clue any more than we did. I suppose I’m a Grown-Up now too (4), and I openly admit, I haven’t got a clue how Christian Science is supposed to work.

I know sometimes people claim to have experienced things they “can’t explain” as anything other than a healing, and I know that sometimes when I’ve turned to “prayer” I’ve managed to work through several mental challenges, but for physical challenges it failed completely. I have never met anyone who could “heal like Jesus” did, or any CSP who capable of instantaneous results.

For a religion that supposedly is open to all earnest seekers of Truth, why do so many of us fall so short of the promised miraculous healing that Divine Mind is supposed to bestow upon us? This Divine Life, Truth, Love, Soul, Spirit, Mind, and Principal supposedly make up a truly Awesome God who loves us, no matter what we do, also seems to regularly drop the ball in the healing department… but it isn’t God’s fault, it’s never God’s fault (5), we are the one’s who need to work to realize our perfection.

Further reading:

  1. This phenomenon also applied to Principia. There were Third Generation Principians,  Life-time Principians (people who had gone K-college), people who were related to people who had helped Mary Kimball Morgan in the early years, and people whose entire extended family had attended/worked for Prin in some capacity as well. It felt sort of inbred.
  2. See Emerging Gently’s “death in my family” tag if you have any doubts
  3. I used to have them memorized backwards. I can still recall 6 out of 10 on a moments notice.
  4. I have kids, responsibilities, and can no longer sneak into a Sunday School class, so I guess that makes me a Grown-Up.
  5. God is always Perfect and Loving and Kind… not sure which version of the Bible Ms. Eddy was reading, but my KJV differs a bit in that aspect of God.

17 thoughts on “Final Generation CS

  1. Bill Sweet says:

    You sound on track about the generational analogy.

    I guess I was fortunate that my first exposure to Christian Scientists involved less conservative ones. Yes, I know the conservative ones. I happen to draw out and or they drew me out the more liberal and adaptable students of Christian Science.

    One of the advantages to having a religion also be scientific is that applying the Science to the Christ should theoretically (and it hasn’t worked out too well) balance zealous emotional diehard beliefs governing a person. But most Christian Science opt out of the issues pertaining to science as Science. If there was as much Science as Religion in Church, Christian Science would be in better shape and have more respect. Maybe not respect from too many other religions, but from thinkers.

    I must be lucky. This judgmental business, as for example visiting a doctor, I never experienced.

    • kat @ kindism says:

      So you’re a convert? How long ago did you convert and why? I’m always curious to know what draws people to CS. Most of the people I’ve met have been born into it.

      • Bill Sweet says:


        My mother was teaching when a substitute teacher met her and invited her to a lecture. Mother went to the lecture with my sister at our local Christian Science Church. Mother didn’t understand a thing, but she felt the love in the room and respected the lecturer as he was from Yale University.

        In awhile I got interested and met with a practitioner for the first time. He was Fred Roberts, M.D. He had an incurable illness which when he was cured, he decided to become a healer in Christian Science. Dr. Roberts kept his medical license while also being a practitioner.

        What attracted me was not the healing stuff. I was attracted to the attempts in Christian Science to combine religion and science.

  2. Karen Molenaar Terrell says:

    Kat – your posts always make me think – and that is a good thing! 🙂

    I feel really blest to have been raised by a non-religious dad and a mom who was an independent-thinking “free spirit” and found Christian Science on her own in her twenties. Our family friends as I was growing up came from pretty much every background – atheists, Jews, Catholics, Protestants, Buddhists (my dad was/is a well-known mountaineer and had climbed and met friends all over the world), as well as CSists. I think this enabled me to see from the outside, as well as the inside, of CS. Both my parents encouraged me to question stuff, to just not blindly accept what anyone told me. That was really helpful. I’m really grateful for my up-bringing – grateful to have been surrounded by scientific thinkers and adventurers as I was growing up – and grateful to have experienced and witnessed the healings found in Christian Science practice, too.

    Now and then my mom brought us to doctors as I was growing up – and this was never a big guilt-laden deal or anything – but I also witnessed an instantaneous healing of doctor-diagnosed mastoiditus as a youngster, and have experienced healings of a puffed-up hand (one of the markers for rheumatoid arthritis showed up in a blood test), what my optometrist identified as melanoma on my eyelid (he took a picture of it, showed it to me, sent me to a specialist – who, after getting out stronger and stronger magnifying lenses, could find no trace of it), and the natural birth of my son after I’d been wheeled down to an operating room and was about to be sliced open for a c-section (the medical staff seemed blown away by this – just as they were about to slice me open, they all started saying “Push! Push!” and my son was born! One of the nurses was crying – she said she’d never been able to see a baby born naturally before and it was beautiful. When I asked my mid-wife what had happened that allowed my baby to be born naturally, she said “We don’t know.”).

    Do I go to doctors sometimes? Yep – the healings I shared in the paragraph above all were witnessed by doctors, because I’d gone to doctors for help. Did I take my sons to doctors as they were growing-up? Yesiree, bub. No biggy. I did what common sense led me to do. I am not hostile to medical science. My brother-in-law’s an anesthesiologist, my sister-in-law’s a recovery room nurse, my niece just graduated from medical school, my nephew is just entering medical school – I have huge respect for all of them.

    But, speaking for myself, time and again I’ve experienced healings through my practice of Christian Science before medical science could do anything to help me. And when I talk about my practice of CS I’m not talking about willing myself to be healed, or doing weird chants, or funny dances or anything – I’m not even talking about reading the right passages in the Bible or CS writings – I’m just talking about the practice of getting my thoughts into harmony with the unchanging, constant, power of Love. Knowing myself as the image and likeness of perfect Love – and recognizing all of Creation as that, too.

    That’s all. 🙂

        • kat @ kindism says:

          In some ways I feel CS could learn a lot from Catholicism, they have costumes and ceremony and art and history… although the current Pope is working on getting rid of some of it – mostly the costumes & ceremony… and I applaud the attempts at reform, but at the same time the services are much more engaging… and some of the bigger churches offer coffee and donuts.

  3. Bruce Dale says:

    Mad Cap’s point that you can’t “inherit an expertise in geology” is a good one, but let’s follow that analogy a little further. I have a colleague whose grandfather was a geologist, and when she was a child the grandfather would take her on field trips to collect rocks and learn about geology. Consequently, she “inherited” a love of geology (but not an expertise), and she later majored in it in college. Now, I can assure you that in college she did not use the same textbooks that her grandfather learned from when he was in school. Christian Scientists, on the other hand, are restricted to a textbook that was written in the 19th century, and they are enjoined by the Manual of the Mother Church from exploring unauthorized literature or what it terms, “obnoxious books.” Christian Scientists (especially the young ones) who are not afraid to explore beyond what the church allows get a clearer picture of what Christian Science is, and that insight often moves them to become part of the “final generation.”

    • kat @ kindism says:

      I found I was “free to explore” as long as my answers came back the “right” ones – that CS is THE RELIGION, once I started questioning and my answers led me away from both the Bible and CS then it was all over.

  4. emerginggently says:

    Great post–so descriptive of my own experience. I was the last generation in my family, being the third generation. Mad Cap’s geology analogy is a bit flawed, at least for me. To echo Bruce Dale’s comment, I will offer my own experience: my Dad was an architect, and as a kid, I spent a lot of time sitting beside him in his home office watching him put together drawings for buildings that I later saw come to fruition. I inherited a love of good architecture and a critical eye. However, I did not inherit his desire to become an architect. Yes, you do inherit things from your parents, and if your CS “pedigree” is strong, one would expect some of it to rub off, so that IS a factor and I believe a strong one. However, it is your own work or lack thereof, that dictates how far you go and how well you do.

  5. mkhuggins says:

    The 2nd gen geologist idea is cute, but it doesn’t hold up as a metaphor.

    Even if the child of a Baptist is not baptized until they can consciously regard JC as their lord and savior, they grew up with all the Baptist teachings and attitudes that set them up to do so, just as Catholic children do- and Christian Science children do too.

    Even if you never join the mother church, unless you consciously throw off the less effective attitudes you imbibed as a child, they may, and probably will, continue to influence you in unexpected ways.

    It seems to be only a CS thing to count generations. Children born to the 400th generation of Catholics (or whatever the number is, no one knows) are called “cradle Catholics” and are regarded has being more Catholic, for not having outside influences such as converts had. Other churches never counted generations either, except the Quakers. If I were a Quaker (My gt grandfather left the society of friends) I would be the 23th generation since the days of George Fox, the founder, whom my mom’s paternal family knew and followed, for the entire 20 generations or so, before Quaker churches emptied out almost completely.

    But since CSers aren’t supposed to count, I find this counting generations thing a silly pride. It most certainly developed after the death of the founder. I know it annoyed me when I first heard it. If you listen to the lecturers of the lecture board, and I do, more than one of them claim the numbers of gens their family has been in the church. It is the pride in the voice as they say it that annoys me; it makes them sound like they know better than converts.

    Mapcap’s mom was an adult convert. She never imbibed the early teachings from parents and Sunday school since birth and neither did Madcap. So Madcap has a great attitude, but it would actually fit the Unity Church profile better than the CS profile- as MBE decreed she wanted her church to be. Is Madcap class taught? Perhaps she has not tested her philosophy in a CS class, or a place like Principia? Her ideas are great and I believe she is probably 98% loving and upbeat except when asleep, but not very CS according to the CS authorities in my life.

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