Passive Awareness of the Body

A series of unfortunate events at the turn of the new year led me to take up strength training two mornings a week with a personal trainer. It has been a surreal experience, I’m shocked how much I’m enjoying it, and I’m becoming incredibly aware of my body in aways I wasn’t before. I’m aware of more of it at once.

When I was in Christian Science, I was passively aware of my body. It was there, but not hugely important. When I hurt myself or was ill, I downplayed my injuries or illness — they weren’t really part of me, they didn’t need to impact my day-to-day. Anything too extreme warranted a call to a CS practitioner, who would tell me that 2+2=4 and God is Love, and I am God’s Spiritual Idea and therefore I am Perfect, so whatever I thought was wrong, was just that, an erroneous thought that needed to be fixed. The human body is really good at fixing itself, so most of the time I recovered in a reasonable amount of time, but sometimes the passive awareness (and flat-out ignoring the problems) was more problematic.

Passive awareness led to a mildly infected cuticle, it was a minor pain, nothing to worry about, until it spread down the length of the entire finger. It hurt to bend my finger, it hurt to move my hand. The nail was pushed out of place. My mother called the local CS Nurse, I soaked my hand in warm water with epsom salts and put a bandaid over the error. Eventually the puss ruptured out the side of my finger, the nail falls off, and the school nurse is horrified when I showed up one day needing a bigger bandage. A friend whose father was a doctor went with me, she’s freaked out about the infection spreading and the possible loss of the finger. I find the pain and her freaking out mildly annoying. Thanks to religious exemption laws, there wasn’t much (anything?) the school nurse could do. I got a new bandaid, the trip to the nurses office also means I get to meant out out on running the mile in PE. It was a win-win situation. Later I realized just how lucky I was it didn’t get worse.

Passive awareness leads to “walking off” the hard fall-and-slide down an icy hill. Downplaying the fact I can’t really walk properly, but I also can’t get back up the hill because it has iced over, so you may as well walk to class. Really, it hurts a bit, but it isn’t that bad. I’ve had worse, even if I can’t remember when. Get up, walk. Eventually I sort-of forget about it until you see the giant bruise in the shower, but that’s not real, neither is the pain of sitting, with the fabric of my pants pressed up against it. Ms. Eddy had her fall on the ice and found Christian Science, the least I can do is go to class. Totally ignore that MBE was in bed for a few days and claimed to be near death after her incident — she hadn’t found Christian Science yet.

 Anatomy declares man to be structural. Physiology. Man not structural continues this explanation, measuring human strength by bones and sinews, and human life by material law. Man is spiritual, individual, and eternal; material structure is mortal. Science & Health p. 173:17-21

Passive awareness of my body didn’t help things when I started birth control for the fist time. I didn’t have the language to communicate with the Planned Parenthood staff about my concerns and needs. I was terrified of becoming pregnant, and part of me thought stating the issues I had out loud would make them real. I used birth control for a year, faked okay-ness though the side effects, and promptly quit as soon as my prescription expired because I didn’t want to have to try and find a new doctor or go back and talk to the ones I’d worked with before. In my mind, on some level, I knew turning from Christian Science is what caused all these problems, if I’d prayed about it and continued to only use the barrier methods (or better yet, abstain from sex entirely, it is a distraction) it wouldn’t have been a problem. Really.

Passive awareness caught me off guard when my wisdom tooth came in awkwardly and promptly got infected. I didn’t know what was going on, I sort of knew things felt “a bit strange” and then one morning I woke up in extreme pain and realized I had to find a dentist who could do an extraction ASAP.  As if the combination of pain and dental issues wasn’t enough, the codeine they gave me to help with the pain after the procedure made me hallucinate.

Passive awareness of my body really snowballed when I got pregnant. I was suddenly very aware of different sections of my body. The way I couldn’t eat bananas or handle raw meat. The massive uncomfortable expansion of my breasts. The awkward pelvic exams. The aches and pains I didn’t realize were problems so I never spoke up about them until I ended up with an emergency c-section at 35-weeks. God is Love. 2+2=4. Fear is False Evidence Appearing Real. My terror brought this down on me.

Question. What is man?

Answer. Man is not matter; he is not made up of brain, blood, bones, and other material elements. The Scriptures inform us that man is made in the image and likeness of God. Matter isn not that likeness. The likeness of Spirit cannot be sound like Spirit. Man is spiritual and perfect; and because he is spiritual and perfect, he must be so understood in Christian Science.  Science & Health p. 475:5-12

The week in the hospital was somewhat a turning point in bodily awareness. I had to answer questions about my vision, pain levels, and any number of other things that all felt so foreign to me. It was frustrating, I couldn’t answer their questions, and when I tried to explain, I felt I wasn’t being listened to, and I felt I was losing my mind.

It has been a little over nine years since those days in the hospital. I’m still struggling with passive awareness, and appropriate responses. I can be acutely aware of the tension headache, and do nothing to alleviate it. I can be aware of the near-debilitating mensural cramps, but the thought of taking a midol or some ibuprofen is not the first thing that springs to mind.

So where does that leave me with strength training? After my first session I was incredibly aware of every last muscle that I’d used. My trainer has encouraged me to be open about any injuries, strains, and stresses, that might impact my performance and over all wellbeing. He asks how I’m doing and how the last session was. He has me rate the difficulty on a scale of 1-10 mid exercise. He makes sure things are properly aligned so I don’t hurt myself. I’m learning to speak up and ask questions. “Is my body supposed to be reacting this way?” Sometimes the answer is “yes” sometimes the answer is “you need to put your elbows down.”

I’m working on finding the words. The other day I shared that “my hip hurt” and he had questions: Was it muscular? How did it feel? etc. I looked at him blankly. Apparently “it hurts” isn’t really enough of an answer, and to further frustrate, I was unable to figure out how I had hurt it. My range of motion and ability to do the workout were not impacted, but I’ve made a mental note to take better mental notes.

I have selective bodily awareness. I can go into detail on the finer points of breast tenderness related to my mensural cycle (I’ll spare you the details), but straining a muscle? Not so much. How many aches and pains do I talk about? The ones that go away, the ones that linger? The tension headache from trying to deal with two kids and dinner, or the strained lower back muscles from carrying an upset child up the stairs? I suppose this will be an ongoing learning for both of us.

When I share these stories with my fellow ex-Christian Scientists, they nod knowingly. They also cringe because they have similar stories to share. Sometimes they share their stories too. It helps to know we weren’t the only ones. When we share these stories with outsiders, they look horrified. It is easier not to share the stories with outsiders, and sometimes we really should.

Advertisements

Why do young adults disengage with CS communities? HOW IS THIS EVEN A QUESTION!?

I recently received an email from a CS-affiliated group that was holding a local gathering/discussion forum for Christian Scientists. It read, in part:
These discussions will be exploring questions like:
  • What are ways that your Christian Science community has supported you?
  • What are some things you would like to see in your CS communities?
  • What role do organizations that serve Christian Scientists play in supporting young adult community and connections?
  • Why do young adults disengage with CS communities?

Would you have any interest in joining a discussion on these topics? [Redacted] is trying to connect with a broad audience – whether you attend church or not, there is a discussion for you!

The last question, Why do young adults disengage with CS communities? hit a nerve. A better question is how are young adults staying in CS in 2017?

If they want to know why people are leaving Christian Science they should do a quick read of this blog (or any of the other blogs), support sites, published memoirs, or skim a few pages of CHILD’s website. This is not a difficult question.

It is a little late for hand-wringing over what went wrong. The stories are horrifyingly similar: my aging parent/friend/relative is in CS and dying a horrible slow death. As a child I was denied appropriate medical care. I have life long emotional, psychological, physical scars from my CS upbringing. Take your pick, sometimes it is all of the above.

 

Straightforward & Honest

When I clicked on When A Mother Decides To Stop Cancer Treatment And Face Death I was not prepared for the onslaught of feels I was overcome with. It was another vaguely interesting article on my Facebook feed, and then a few paragraphs in I was hit with all the feels.

“We’ve always been straightforward and honest,” Lum said during an extensive interview in June. The kids “get the facts and the truth and it’s not ‘Mommy has a tummy ache.’ No, ‘Mommy has cancer.’ “

Straightforward and honest are not words I would ever use to describe Christian Science.

Using Christian Science logic, acknowledging that “mommy has cancer” would only empower mortal mind, and make the “issue” harder to overcome. Actually, you’d never get that far, because cancer would be a diagnosis, which would require going to a doctor (see all the other posts on this topic).

Christian Science wouldn’t even say “mommy has a tummy ache.” “Mommy” would be “resting” or “working with the books” or something even more vague. “Mommy” would be working to overcome something – including fear of the unknown and worst-case scenarios. In Christian Science, “Mommy” is expected to overcome or it is failure on her part.

Our society does a poor job handling the issue of death, and Christian Science adds horrible layers of shame and secrecy. I was reminded of Lucia Greenhouse’s book fathermothergod, which

touches on some of the elephants in the Christian Scientists living room: secrecy surrounding illness, the idea that Christian Science must be protected (from what, I’m still not sure), the tremendously large abstract concepts that young children are expected to understand and demonstrate. Mortal mind, error, protective work….

Reading about Greenhouse’s mother’s health challenges difficult, as was the family drama that played out around it. The line between respecting decisions — even when you disagree with them — and stepping in to intervene is a very fine. Regardless what you choose to do, you will be criticized by someone for your actions.

We are trying to be straightforward and honest with our children about medical issues, but it is difficult. When the eldest child asks “why can’t [still in CS family member] join us at the beach or keep up with us on a [moderate] hike?” we walk the fine line of respecting the family member’s choice and being honest with the child. They’re “not feeling well” (which is true), or they’re “not as young as they used to be” (also true).

My fellow former-CS and I have watched family members secretly succumb to illnesses, only seeking medical care and sharing diagnosis days before their deaths. We have watched them struggle with “situations” that, if they had been diagnosed or treated by modern medicine, could have been resolved, or mitigated. We have offered support as they refused to seek diagnosis, much less treatment. While this is their choice, and it is within their rights to do, the results are often horrible and frustrating.

For the Christian Scientists reading this (if there are any), please be honest with yourself, if a healing isn’t forthcoming, seek medical treatment. Please don’t isolate yourselves in your darkened bedrooms with your  periodicals and books. Please be honest with yourselves and your children, they want to know, they want to help.


In the Beginning

This is another one of the books that has been sitting on my desk for longer than it should have. This post contains affiliate links. Thank you for your support of kindism.org


A few times a year our Sunday School teacher would sit us down and have us open our Bibles to Genesis and we would read two accounts of the creation of man, starting with Genesis 1:

In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth.

26 And God said, Let us make man in our image, after our likeness: and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creepeth upon the earth.

27 So God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them.  Genesis 1 KJV edition, emphasis mine

Genesis 1 was the correct story of man’s creation, Genesis 2 being the myth where man was made from mud and woman from man’s rib. In Christian Science Adam never awoke from his “dream” (when God put him under to make Eve), and that is why we perceive there to be in and suffering in the world.

I never got an answer on why God didn’t wake Adam up (so much easier to blame a talking snake and a woman), and I never got a firm answer on anyone in Christian Science about what I learned (or didn’t learn) in school about biology, evolution or creation science. I was allowed to drift and be influenced by a local Christian Radio station that regularly talked about the Grand Canyon as being evidence of Noah’s flood. I’ve since become pickier about my scientific sources, and more curious about other traditions’ creation mythologies.

As part of my goals to introduce my children to other religious and mythological traditions in a non-indoctrional way came across In the Beginning: Creation Stories from Around the World by Virginia Hamilton, illustrated by Barry Moser.

I’ve started reading some of these stories with the children and we’ve been talking about them.

The first story we read was The Pea-Pod Man, Raven the Creator where man emerges out of a pea-pod and meets Raven who can transmogrify into a humanoid and make little animals, and a companion woman for man, out of clay. Death does not enter this story, but little animals (and woman) out of mud do.

We also read about Death the Creator and Quat the Creator, both stories introduce death as being caused by some sort of stupidity. In Death the Creator, it is because the God Alatangana kidnaps Death’s daughter and marries her, and Death demands one of their children.

In Quat the Creator, Quat is one of twelve brothers born from the stone-mother Quatgoro. Quat was the eldest and he made little figures out of clay and danced life into them. One of Quat’s younger brothers, Tangaro the Fool, carved little figures out of wood, danced life into them, and then lost interest and buried them, about a week later he unburied them but they were stinky and rotten, so they had to be buried again. Because of Tangaro’s actions death entered the world.

There are more wonderful stories, including (but not limited to) First Man Becomes the Devil – Ulgen the Creator, Turtle Dives to the Bottom of the Sea – Earth Starter the Creator, Spider Anase finds Something – Wulbari the Creator, The Woman Who Fell From the Sky – Divine Woman the Creator, In the Beginning – Elohim the Creator.  The Frost Giant – Imir the Creator, The Sun-God and the Dragon – God Ra the Creator, First Man, First Woman – Yahweh the Creator. 

As we read, we talk about how these ancient cultures were trying to explain everything happening around them, and answer the big questions: where did we come from, why do we die, who or what created us, what is going on in our world. We are also noticing similarities in the stories — there is a lot of mud-building and stupidity.

Some of the stories are strange and dark, which makes sense, life is strange and there are dark moments that need to be explained. Where did we come from? We emerged out of a pea-pod! We were made from earthen or little mud figures (this is a popular one). How did death enter the world? Someone was foolish and buried little wooden people. Someone was disobedient and listened to a talking snake. Someone married Death’s Daughter without his permission.

In the Beginning is a wonderful resource to explore a wide range of creation stories. I highly recommend it for children and grownups of all ages who are curious about other culture’s creation stories, and in learning how our ancestors explored the answers to life’s big questions.

Return of the Mormons Part 2: Religion, Guilt & Motherhood

For part one: Saint Kat of the Sparkling Water


Mormon Missionaries often inspire unintended lines of thinking (I’m pretty sure they never intended to push me to secular humanism) and this time was no exception. Something about the afternoon’s encounter bugged me, and it took some time to sort out why. Then I found it:

They noticed that the kids had come to the front door, and started their spiel on how Mormons honor their mothers, and how motherhood is the most important job, and they really respect that. I got the impression they were saying what they thought I wanted to hear, their religion reveres mothers, and their version of God and Jesus makes family important (or something.)

They were, intentionally or not, trying to guilt me into joining their religion because it was the best thing for my family and my children. Because, as previous missionaries have implied, if I don’t raise them properly with a relationship with Jesus, we’re going to spend an eternity separated from God. This is one of many points on which the Missionaries and I disagree.

I’m sorry Missionaries, you picked the wrong angle. My children have played a huge part in why I left Christian Science — and why I have not sought out another religious movement. From Kid1’s difficult transition into the world, to the ER trip for a sprained elbow, and any number of other incidents, I could not put myself, or my children, through the pressure to demonstrate healings that often never materialized (or that just got better with time because the human body is amazing.)

I am going to do my best to instill freethinking humanist values in them. We are striving to raise children who think for themselves on religious and ethical matters, and who are generally kind, empathetic people. I think this is a much more reasonable goal than telling them they can control the weather with their mind, or Invisible Sky Daddy Loves them (and is a completely sadistic bastard — see Job). I want my children to understand the world, and to be empowered to make truly informed decisions. I don’t see any religions offering that. Do like the Noble Eightfold path, but I see that as more of a philosophy than a religion.

Yes, motherhood is important, family is important, I can agree with those things. Yes, I take steps to make sure my family is safe, and I put our familial interests first. Yes, I’d like the best for my children (actually I’m ok with “good enough” because really, “the best” is often an unattainable goal that will only bring stress and misery and that’s not helpful for anyone).

This is one of the very few places Ms. Eddy and I can agree:  I don’t feel motherhood should be the pinnacle defining feature of women if they don’t want it to be. You know, consenting to being a mother, and the choice to become one (or not). I have a complicated relationship with motherhood, my first pregnancy nearly ended with my untimely demise, and I lost a close friend shortly after the birth of my second child because she didn’t feel I was appropriately appreciative  of my children. They’re wonderful, and I love them, but I’m not going to post that everything is sunshine and rainbows. Apparently I didn’t sugar-coat my Facebook posts with enough appreciation for the fact my then-two year old TPed the living room for her liking. I digress. I don’t know enough about Mormon theology and church structure to comment on their views, but the way these young men latched on to the motherhood trope was slightly off-putting.

I don’t want my children to be raised in a (patriarchy-heavy) belief system that thinks it is okay to push their views on everyone. Missionaries, I try to respect your views, but I disagree with them, and I don’t think you should be lobbying to have them legislated across the country (this applies to all church lobbying groups, not just Mormon ones). Please keep your opinions on what should be happening to my body, and in my bedroom, to yourself. Whatever you do, don’t even consider asking if I’m considering having more children (to their credit, these missionaries didn’t, although past ones have).

I’m not interested in joining a religion that has numerous active ex-support sites. I’m finally at a place where I can “out” myself as having grown up in CS to a select group of never-in-CS friends, where I can talk about some of these issues without bursting into tears. I’m working on building a network of ex-CS to help support those who are questioning, leaving and who have left.

Dear Missionaries, I know you think you’ve found the right path, and it may be “right” for you, but it isn’t the right one for me. Thank you for handling my criticism and rejection gracefully. Next time, I suggest you bring water, wear sunscreen and get a good hat. It is hot out there.

Five Questions

In the last month or two I’ve started being more open with some of post-Christian Science friends about my Christian Science upbringing. Often, the people I’ve shared with have been people who never knew me while I was still “in Science” — or people who were not quite aware of my background and upbringing. Everyone has been supportive, but they’ve also been baffled as to why anyone would believe in Christian Science in the first place.

This post is being done in collaboration with my fellow ex-Christian Scientist blogger at Emerging Gently. We have also posed these same questions to other ex-Christian Scientists. Their answers appear in a series of posts on The Ex-Christian Scientist*.


There have been five questions that have popped up again and again
  1. How did you get into Christian Science?
  2. Why did you stay in for so long?
  3. What made you decide to leave?
  4. Why would anyone join?
  5. Did you really believe?

I can only answer these questions for myself, but I welcome others to chime in on their experiences in the comments, or as a contributing post over at The Ex-Christian Scientist*.


How did you get into Christian Science?

Like many Christian Scientists (and members of most religions) I was born into it. My father discovered and converted to Christian Science in the mid-1960s (he was in his mid-to-late 30s), and convinced my mother (who was in her mid-to-late 20s) to convert (in the late 1970s early 1980s) as well. They were strongly in the faith when I arrived on the scene in the early 1980s.

My mother has argued I was “not raised quote in Science” and to some extent I agree, I was allowed to take biology classes in school, and got to sit through some very basic “our changing bodies” videos in elementary school. That did not prevent me from remaining relatively ignorant of human physiology and biology (the library and internet were helpful there), a very warped perspective of pain and illness, and a lasting discomfort surrounding all things medical.

Why did you stay in for so long?

When you are raised with these ideas from birth and are repeatedly told them by people that you love, trust and respect it is hard to break free from them.

Like many others, I was raised being told that Christian Science was the One True Religion, Ms. Eddy’s “time for thinkers has come” quote was great, and as long as my thought came back to CS as the OTR things were fine. After I moved out, the ingrained CS habits — not going to a doctor, “praying” about (or flat-out ignoring) problems, general ignorance of the human body/basic biology, etc. remained. Acknowledging health issues or other problems (aka “error”) gave them power and made them “real” and therefore even more difficult to “handle” in Science. My negative childhood experiences with dentists, and my mother’s very vocal anti-doctor/anti-medicine stance only reinforced my decision.

What made you decide to leave?

In retrospect I’d been drifting away for years, what really made me examine my beliefs, and their implications, was having children.

Why would anyone join?

Christian Science promises amazing results. Committee on Publications bloggers regularly run articles about healthcare and quantum physics that make Christian Science appear to be a viable alternative to modern medicine and scientific. Spoiler alert: it is not. The Church has over 100 years of “testimonies” of healing attributed to Christian Science, as many Christian Scientists do not visit doctors, and are generally ignorant of human physiology, they regularly are healed of “what appeared to be” the worst-case-scenario from Dr. Google or a concerned friend.

Did you really believe

That’s a complicated one, I’d say I believed at least some of it.

Which part? That there is an omnipotent, omnipresent, omni-everything Loving God? That I was a perfect spiritual reflection of that God? That my wellbeing, health, grades, etc. were all a reflection of how spiritually attuned I was to God? That if I listened to God I would be guided in my decision making? That the belief in sin was punished only so long as the belief lasts? That all of this is an illusion? That there was some secret higher knowledge? That if I studied “the books” hard enough…

Did I really believe that prayer could heal? On some level, yes. Recent Christian Science propaganda has latched on to the “thought impacts health” and to some extent it does, but not to the extent Christian Science would like you to believe. If you want to pick it apart from a Christian perspective, Jesus did not teach that thought impacts health, and Christian Science has set about to restore the lost art of healing the way Jesus did.

Did I really believe in the unreality of matter? I’m less sure of that one, I think that’s been one of the nagging questions that has lingered from when I first started forming questions. No one has ever given me a satisfactory answer to this question.


So where am I now?

I’m aspiring to be a humanist and generally reasonable human being. Some days I am better at this than others.

In the interest of full disclosure, it should be noted that the author of this blog is also an editor/developer of The Ex-Christian Scientist website.