My thoughts on Leaving Christian Science, 10 Stories of New Faith in Jesus Christ.
A few months ago a new book of former-CS stories came out, Lauren Hunter’s Leaving Christian Science, 10 Stories of New Faith in Jesus Christ. I watched her interview with FFCS, I read her interview with the ExCS site, and I put off getting it because Jesus Christ is in the subtitle and while I’m sure he’d be a great guy to have lunch with, we don’t have a personal relationship.
After months of putting it off, I was sent a copy by the FFCS, the former-CS community is small and we all know each other, and they were curious to know my thoughts. So a few weeks ago (or possibly months ago by the time this is published) Leaving Christian Science showed up in my mailbox.
Leaving is a slim, approachable book, of ten stories, each has a brief blurb about the person, their story, some reflection questions, a note from their pastor, and then a note from Lauren. There is a forward, some appendices, and to my surprise, kindism.org is mentioned in the resource list in Appendix C. I’m still wrapping my head around that, my blog is mentioned in a book as a resource. I digress.
The stories follow a familiar pattern, the person is born into CS, almost everyone is, most of these people are 3-4 or even more generations in. At least one has a great-relative who was taught by a student of Mary Baker Eddy. They are not novice Christian Scientists, their families are established in the religion. I also know some of the contributors, or know of them, from their contributions to Christian Way and various other former-CS spaces. As I mentioned before, the Christian Science community is small.
One by one Christian Science fails them, falling short in real-word applications, the healings don’t happen, the theological literature fails to support what Eddy wrote, they have conversations with Real Christians, I’m unsure of their denominations, but I am assured by Appendix D they follow the Nicene Creed and the Apostles Creed, as they are the “two foundational Christian creeds to summarize fundamental Christian beliefs common accepted by all branches of Christianity” (p. 153). I don’t think any of the contributors are Catholic.
And then Jesus Christ and the Gospel enter the scene, and that is when the reading got challenging for me. The inherently sinful nature of man, the need for salvation, the Bible study, the idea of living a Good Christian Life. Lives are upended, relationships are strained, everything they were raised to believe is questioned. Walking away from a religion that generations of family followed was not an easy feat. Some stories were relatable, some were challenging.
I empathized deeply with Dixie’s story of measles while at Prin.* Over a decade later, my time in Cox Cottage was thankfully short, and my situation less dire, however, the complete lack of care, and support (practical, emotional and otherwise) from the CS nurses and my professors was similar. I would not wish a Cox Cottage experience on anyone, including the most devout of practicing CS.
I did not enjoy Leaving, but I don’t think I was meant to. Many of the stories brought up uncomfortable feelings that I have needed to sit with, and made me reflect on my own journey away from CS.
Like the people interviewed, I too have left Christian Science, although I have taken a different path. I think that part is most important, the leaving, the acknowledging that Christian Science is a problematic system, for whatever reason, and taking steps to move on from there. I am glad the people interviewed have found new church communities, and the answers and comfort they were seeking on their new spiritual paths.
My story arc is different. I was raised by people who converted to CS, I don’t think we were particularly radical in our reliance, there are far more extreme stories out there, but at the same time, we were fortunate that certain situations didn’t get worse. I attended Prin College. I married a fellow-CS. I nearly died. I sought medical care. I could not raise my children in CS. I met some Mormons who encouraged me to read The Book of Mormon, but I couldn’t get into it, so I read the Bible instead and ended up becoming an aspiring secular humanist, because I don’t really like people, but I hold out some hope for them, we can do better. I also started this blog, and helped grow a community of former-Christian Scientists. So there’s that?
I would recommend Leaving to former-CS friends who have chosen a Christian path, perhaps to give to their pastors, counselors/therapists or never-CS loved ones to help them understand the journey. I would probably not suggest it as a starting point to a never-CS friend to learn more about the Christian Science experience. I am glad there are more resources available for people to learn about CS experiences and more avenues for former-CS to share.
* Cox Cottage is the CS nursing facility on the Principia College campus. ExChristianScience.com has other first hand accounts of the measles outbreaks, the stories are heartbreaking.