the bogeymen in the Christian Science closet

The other morning Homeschoolers Anonymous shared a piece from Libby Anne’s blog Love Joy Feminism entitled Talking to Kids About Social Services, Part 1 I could have written the opening paragraph, but I would have replaced “homeschooling” with “Christian Science”

I grew up afraid of social services.

Social workers were something of a bogeyman in the homeschooling community, and my parents bought into it completely. In fact, in a recent conversation on the topic with my mother, she insisted that social workers today do in fact take children away from their parents for nothing more than homeschooling. That she still says this today says a lot about just how high fear of social workers was in our home when I was a child.

While my parents never went to quite the extremes Libby Anne’s did, my mother did take great care to make sure we had all of our exemption paperwork in order before school started so that it was very clear that we were to be exempt from being vaccinated because we were Christian Scientists.

In elementary school, these exemptions did not preclude us from getting vision, hearing and dental screening, as my parents and the school nurse had a sit-down together my first year of kindergarten when I had to be bribed to take the vision test. In middle and high school we were exempted from scoliosis screenings, and the school nurses were unsure what to do when we came in with problems.

Through out my childhood there was some focus on the need to demonstrate healings. Thankfully, I was a mostly healthy child, with the occasional lingering case of the sniffles, and regular dental visits found regular cavities to be filled — my parents had similar problems that they could not “handle” through prayer alone so they lightened up fairly quickly, although they were wary of turning to “drugs” to resolve the issues (local anesthetic for dental work was okay, antibiotics or pain medication for other issues was not).

The pressure for the demonstration of healing was greatest during my time at Principia, healings had to come quickly, particularly in children. As I mentioned before in my post, “just” go to a doctor

The furor with which [the Principia Administration] spoke about the necessity of demonstrating healings scared me, it approached a level of religious fanaticism mixed with a real fear that CS was in such a precarious place we had to constantly be vigilant or it would all come crashing down. I felt very uncomfortable with the ideas of healing at all cost.

The underlying message was if the healings fail, then Christian Science is failing, if Christian Science fails we will all be rounded up, vaccinated and forced to undergo medical procedures that we don’t want (this is largely bullshit, I’ve signed reams of consent-to-treatment forms since leaving Christian Science, no one has forced anything). The Mother Church’s Official Stance of the “is no church policy” and Christian Scientists “make their own decisions regarding their health care” is a complete cop-out on their part. To hear the fervent Radical Reliers talk was as if Mengele was running the CDC and Christian Scientists were being actively persecuted. On one hand, obey the law, but also lobby to have the laws changed (and get exemptions from them) whenever possible.

If Christian Science really works, why not put it to a double-blind study? Test it, prove it. Why hide in fear that the medical community might prove them wrong? Or worse, it resolve the problem through something other than radical reliance on prayer alone. Ms. Eddy’s line that “suffering is oft the divine agent in this elevation” is incredibly misleading. People should not be suffering in agony as they “work out their own salvation.”

The medical community does not feel that prayer is incompatible with medical care, why should Christian Science feel that medicine is incompatible with prayer? Ms. Eddy regularly (secretly and not-so-secretly) used doctors through out her life, and for her followers to deny the use of them for themselves is stupid, to force these beliefs on their children is cruel.

Although Libby Anne’s post deals exclusively with Social Services, I strongly feel the medical community should be viewed as an ally, not an enemy. The vast majority of the doctors, nurses and medical professionals we have interacted with have wanted to help. Terrifying children into viewing them as hostile forces (or agents of Malicious Animal Magnetism) only hinders the children from speaking up, or seeking help often when they need it the most.

The culture of radical reliance on prayer alone — the idea that “nominal worshipers” exist at all — is one of many ways Christian Science regularly fails to meet parent’s needs and miserably fails children. As a parent, I understand the terror at the idea of children being taken, but I also know the pain I feel when my child is injured or ill. As a parent it is my responsibility to make sure my children are cared for, whether that means giving them a bandaid or taking them to the ER. I refuse to let my children end up on the Victims page of C.H.I.L.D. and I will do my best not to instill the terror of the medical profession in my children.

Further Reading: