the new Missionaries & Santa

The other evening as I was preparing dinner, three young women knocked on our door. They introduced themselves as the “new missionaries” in town and wanted to “share a message” with us. I politely declined, wished them a good evening and closed the door. They looked mildly surprised, but took my rejection well.

Kid2, who was with me when I opened the door, had questions: what message, why did they want to share it, why did I say no thanks.

How does one explain missionaries to a child?

As it is nearing Christmas, I used an analogy that they might relate to. Kid2 does not believe in Santa, and we’ve had numerous conversations about that, so I decided to start from there.

So the first question was why were they going door to door to share a message?

“It would be like if you believed in Santa so much you wanted to tell everyone so you went door to door to share that. You feel everyone should believe in Santa so they can get lots of presents, because if they don’t believe in Santa they won’t get anything.”

Kid2’s brow wrinkled in confusion. Clearly this was not about Santa.

So what message are they sharing?

They’re most likely talking about the story of Jesus. You know, the baby from the Nativity play, and the man who was on the cross in the Mission we visited last summer.

Yes. Looks confused. Why do they want to share that?

Some people believe very strongly, that stories that in the Bible actually happened, and they have based their entire world view off of them. They feel they have to go tell everyone about this, so other people can make people change to their way of thinking.

Why didn’t you want to talk to them?

I have a different world view than they do. I know about Jesus, and I’ve read the Bible, and I don’t agree with their world view, and that’s okay. We can politely disagree with people, and we don’t have to talk to people who randomly knock on our door about religion, it is also time to get started on dinner.

*****

Kid2 took it at that and I’m sure we’ll have more opportunities for these conversations as time goes on, particularly around the holidays, as Kid2 has proudly informed their class that “Santa does not visit our house because we do not have a chimney!” and Kid1 has proclaimed “I don’t believe in Santa, I believe in Mommy!”

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Mommy, what is church?

We were driving somewhere and Kid1 spoke up from the backseat: “Mommy, what is church?”

While I’ve done a lot of reading (see relevant book list below) on how to talk to the children about religious issues, I still felt caught off guard by the question. They like to ask these questions in the car when I can’t escape or easily change the topic — last time it was “how many gods do we have?

Kid1 continued “Grandma goes to church.”

Yes, I acknowledged, both grandmas, and other extended family, go to church. I left out that they go to Christian Science churches, “church” can be generic for now.

“Why do people go to church?” Kid1 was not going to let this drop. “We don’t go to church.”

“No-oh-o,” Kid2 agreed. “We no go to church. No.”

The questions hung in the car. The children were silent, waiting for answers.

A church is a group of people who gather together, usually on Sunday mornings, to hear a lecture about their perspectives on god. I started.

“Do you believe in god?” asked Kid1. “Why do people go to church?”

“No god!” piped up Kid2 from the backseat.

No, I continued. I do not believe in a god… People go to church for a number of reasons, often is is because the are seeking community with people who share the same views as themselves. 

“Why don’t we go to church?” asked Kid1.

We enjoy doing other things on Sunday morning, I replied,  and we find our sense of community elsewhere. 

This seemed to satisfy them.

“No church,” Kid2 said.

Kid1 agreed.


Related Reading

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Related posts

Return of the Mormons Part 1: Saint Kat of the Sparkling Water

Long time readers know I have a long and complicated history of relationships with Mormon Missionaries. They are one of the reasons I stopped calling myself “sort of Christian” and embraced Secular Humanism, they were one of the early influences of this blog, and in some ways, their optimistic faith reminds me a little of me when I was still deep in Christian Science.

A fresh set of missionaries came by recently, young, optimistic, and unprepared for an opinionated woman (who also happened to be a mother). It was the middle of a sweltering heatwave and they were overdressed in black pants, and long sleeves. 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 got a polite lecture on Old Testament morality, human sacrifice and Paul, and why I’m now a Secular Humanist. I politely explained we obviously had come to very different conclusions from reading the Bible, and no thank you, I don’t need any extra assistance. I tried to keep it short, I didn’t want to completely lose my cool in front of the kids. Polite as ever, they thanked me for my time, went on their way in the sweltering heat.

The kids and I left to run errands, and the missionaries were a few houses up the street. I pulled over and offered them some bottled sparkling water, I don’t know why, it felt like the right thing to do. They were very appreciative. One told me I was “a saint,” I told them I wouldn’t take it quite that far, I’m just trying to be a decent human being, and really it was hot out. We may have drastic differences in theology, but they’re still people and on a day with temperatures soaring over 100*F, people walking around in the heat need water.

Equality at Prin, Vague Repression for All!

This is a follow up on https://kindism.org/2014/11/18/new-policies-on-homosexuality-at-principia-college/  If anyone would like to share an extended piece about their thoughts about, or experiences with Principia’s policies (beyond a brief comment), please be in touch! I welcome guest posts!


The TL;DR version Gays can now openly attend Principia, and the Administration has shifted their focus to combat the very vague threat of sensuality. What does that mean? Equal opportunity oppression for all!

Screen Shot 2014-11-18 at 6.07.52 PMGood news for the dozens (maybe hundreds) of Christian Scientists and Principia alumni, the Principia Board of Trustees has FINALLY decided that

All students, faculty, and staff shall be perceived, welcomed, loved, and supported as spiritual ideas. They are expected to honor the community standards of moral and spiritual purity in relationships.

In terms of practices at Principia regarding admissions, community standards for living in the Principia community, and employment at Principia, we are directing the administration to establish consistent rules and regulations for students, faculty, and staff, regardless of sexual orientation. (emphasis mine)

So people who are gay can attend Principia. Alumni donors who were holding out because of draconian, repressive policies about homosexuality can now freely give with a somewhat clear conscious (the policies are still repressive and draconian, but now they theoretically apply to everyone more equally). Some people feel this is too little, too late, and that the Trustees should apologize for their past discriminatory actions, but as that seems unlikely to happen.

It seems unlikely Principia cares what I think — I’m no longer a Christian Scientist and I was never a major financial donor (I paid off my loans and was done contributing), but here are my thoughts on this mess.

Principia, you’re not serving the cause of anything but yourself. You are using Christian Science to oppress, repress, manipulate and thoroughly wreck hundreds of students lives. Christian Science does not need your help with this, it does a perfectly good job of that on it’s own, if anything you take the warped aspects of the religion to new and terrifying levels. I provide now a few excerpts from the Trustee-provided Question and Answer page:

  • Principia continually encourages the members of the community to turn to our Pastor, the Bible and Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures, for a deeper and more spiritual understanding of all aspects of life, including love, identity, and relationships.

Those are the last books you should be turning to for relationship advice. The teachings of Science and Health are detrimental to healthy relationships, both with one’s self, and others. The idea that that turning to the material body for pleasure only results in pain, and that sex should be reserved for procreation only (and only when you’re married, if you really must), really fucks up people’s ideas about what should and shouldn’t be happening in a relationship. Instead of offering positive messages about sex and teaching about consent, anything remotely sexual (or “sensual” as Principia prefers to call it) is shamed, shunned, vilified, and Must Be Avoided.

  • What is Principia doing to address sensuality?
    Principia remains dedicated to removing the intrusion and distraction of sensuality within our community.

So we’ve moved from discriminating against homosexuality to “addressing” sensuality. Apparently it is a distracting intrusion. Just so we’re all clear on what the problem is, I’ve included a screen shot of what Google has defined sensuality as, it is worth noting sensuality was most popularly used in the early 1800s, my how far Prin has come.

Webster’s lists Sensuality’s antonyms as “abstinence, asceticism, sobriety, temperance.” I’d say this is a bit heavy and open vague interpretation by the Thought Police.

What is wrong with sensuality? It distracts from one’s relationship with God, reminding them that they’re mortal, and that opens them to the Christian Science Trinity of Doom: Sin, Disease and Death.

  • We will continue to focus on spirituality and true self-worth while maintaining our commitment to engage the community on issues such as pornography and sexual relations outside of marriage. We invite your support to lift thought to a higher view of God’s man.

True self-worth” oh please. I knew many women (myself included) longing to feel “content” because we were lacking a boyfriend. We would read, and re-read the Chapter on Marriage, which has “wonderful thoughts” on how you must be “whole” before you enter into a relationship. How do you become whole? By aligning your thoughts more closely with God and immersing yourself in the Books. This becomes a self-perpetuating cycle, because you’re clearly never going to be whole enough, and you feel ashamed that you’re failing at it. You’re never going to ascend, you’re never going to align your thought closely enough with God, you will eventually fall prey to malicious animal magnetism, and the unholy trinity of doom. Christian Science is lousy at true self-worth.

If you choose to watch porn, please make sure it is ethically sourced (and if you’re in a relationship, don’t lie to your partner about it. If you don’t like porn, don’t watch it). Sexual relations out side of marriage? What does that matter to Principia? As an adult of legal consenting age, who I choose to have sex with, and when I chose to have sex with them is NONE OF THEIR BUSINESS.

Many of the problems with sex and relationships comes from a lack of open communication between partners, and to some extent, community support. Creating a culture where sex is shamed, feared, to even be discussed is unhealthy and damaging. The Defeating Dragons blog has many, many excellent posts about this, the Prin Trustees could learn a lot from it.

  • How does this directive affect public displays of affection?
    Every Principian is subject to Principia Policy 22’s requirement for good social conduct. Specific standards will be developed by the administration in order to provide consistent rules and regulations.

I looked up Policy 22 on page 236 of Education at Principia, on p. 236 it states

All activities taking place on the campus or within the school or college community, whether they occur as part of the organized work or as extracurricular phases of the school or college life, shall be permitted to exist only to the extent they are consistent with the purpose and policies of The Principia.

Maybe I got the wrong policy, or maybe the Trustees just pulled something out of Ed at Prin. It is worth noting Policy 22 is also cited on an old admissions check-list stating

A student may be considered for suspension for any behavior deemed “loose social conduct”(Policy 22 of Purpose and Policies of The Principia, pp. 227–236, in Education at The Principia). A pattern of disregard for lesser school rules could also result in disciplinary suspension.

Policy 22 is nice and vague. It can be read just about any way the Office of Student Life, or the Board of Trustees wants. It can apply to just about every situation, and I’m fairly sure I wasn’t even aware of what the policy was until I looked it up, which leaves me wondering if the average Principia student has any idea of what they’ve really signed up for — my guess is probably not.

  • We expect all public actions to be considerate of others. The expectation of pure, genuine, and respectful displays of affection will apply equally to all community members. (emphasis mine)

What exactly qualifies as “pure, genuine, and respectful displays of affection”? Who decides? At the college, they are adults of legal consenting age, who cares if they choose to hold hands or kiss in the Concourse? What business is it of anyone’s other than their own? Really, at the end of the day, WHO CARES!?

Clearly someone at Principia cares, someone narrow minded and puritanical, someone who wants to police thoughts to make sure they’re pure and their motives are right. After all, it only takes a little bit of malicious animal magnetism (as unreal as it may be) to ruin everything. All it takes is a single thought out of line with God and everything is ruined. Error will simply overwhelm and they’ll fall victim to the Christian Science Trinity of Doom: Sin, Disease and Death.

And now I have a few questions for the Trustees, and I’m sure I’ll have more when they release more Q&A sheets:

  • Why does Principia feel the need to concern itself with the personal lives of students? — I understand there are legal issues with underage boarders at the Upper School, so some involvement is necessary (I have other problems with this), but at the College?
  • Why does Principia feel the need to know a student’s sexual orientation?
  • How is someone’s sexual orientation determined?
  • Why does any of this matter to the Principia? Why are they so hung up on sex?
  • What is Principia afraid of?

Principia has decided to stop discriminating against homosexuals, and while they should be applauded for that, I strongly suspect they will arbitrarily enforce these policies, causing heartache and misery for dozens of students.

I have heard the argument that people choose to attend Principia. They choose to pay upwards of  $37k a year for their educations. No one has to remain at Principia, there are many, many other colleges out there, most of which have more progressive policies. On one hand, Principia’s policies are draconian and oppressive, on the other, you can choose not to attend.

  • This argument is lovely, but it ignores naive high school students who really do think they can abide by the Principia Code of Conduct (or think it won’t actually be as restrictive as it is). People also attend Principia because their parents/grandparents/relatives went, because it is the only Christian Science college in the world, and to some people (see naive high schooler comment) that makes a difference.
  • No one has to remain at Principia, is a similarly lovely argument, during my time there we were on a quarter system (that was later changed over to semesters after I left), most schools are on the semester system, so transferring credits was a nightmare. I know several people who spent far longer than 4-6 years in college because they needed to make up extra credits that never transferred properly from Prin. I also know people who never got their transcripts properly forwarded to their new colleges/universities which made transferring credits rather difficult. Prin also refused to release the transcripts of at least one person because they were “behind” on their student debt — being enrolled as a student elsewhere would’ve enabled them to put off payment of loans.

It may be too late for those of us who did attend and were hurt by those policies, and I hope that Principia continues to strive to do better, because let’s face it, they have a long way to go.

At the college they may “all be adults” but they’re also “adults” who have chosen to live by a highly regulated set of “moral” guidelines — and they can be “requested” to leave if they fail to abide by them. The vague, open-ended nature of the Questions and Answers leaves me wondering if instead of granting homosexual students rights, instead they are going to simply oppress all students further.

Congratulations Prin, you’ve joined the 21st century and are allowing homosexuals the right to be just as oppressed as everyone else at Prin. Now can you alter your fundamentally flawed stance on medicine? Or would that not serve the Cause?

Some thoughts on “Why I Am Not A Christian Scientist” by Rev. Evans

Some highlights from and thoughts on “Why I Am Not A Christian Scientist” By Rev. William Evans, D. D. Director Bible Course, The Moody Bible Institute of Chicago. Full text available from Archive.org, full link below.


I appreciate that Rev. Evans opens with the well-acknowledged (at least in former-CS circles) fact that

  • The Christian Scientist is forbidden to read books that speak against that cult; he is told he must not argue with any one, even those who are of the closest kinship, if they manifest opposition to the teachings of Christian Science; the doubts that arise in his mind must not be expressed to any one save his teacher; individual thinking and opinion is discouraged; in point of fact, the only books he is encouraged to read are those which are sent out by the Christian Science publishing house in Boston. (p. 4-5, emphasis mine)

Rev. Evans lists several reasons for why he is not a Christian Scientist, several of these are well-worn arguments:

  1. I AM NOT A CHRISTIAN SCIENTIST BECAUSE CHRISTIAN SCIENCE IS NOT SCIENTIFIC. — yes, yes, we know.
  2. I AM NOT A CHRISTIAN SCIENTIST BECAUSE CHRISTIAN SCIENCE IS NOT CHRISTIAN. — the arguments he uses are interesting, and if you’re concerned about the Christian (or lack of Christian) points in Christian Science, this section is well worth reading.
  3. I AM NOT A CHRISTIAN SCIENTIST BECAUSE OF ITS WRONG ATTITUDE TOWARDS THE BIBLE. — clearly the Rev. Evan’s audience is God-fearing Protestants, I’m sure he’d find my attitude towards the bible “wrong” as well.
  4. I AM NOT A CHRISTIAN SCIENTIST BECAUSE CHRISTIAN SCIENCE IS A FOE TO THE HOME. — this is an argument I have not heard before, and the one I will focus on.

In this fourth example, “Christian Science is a foe to the home” Rev. Evans cites two examples: the first being a family with an invalid sister — in the Loving Christian Family, the brothers help her, but in a Christian Science setting the poor woman is suffering under a false belief and it is her own doing.

  • Let Christian Science enter that home, and it asserts at once that the sister is not sick — she is suffering from a delusion. She is, therefore, to blame, and all these tender ministries of love are changed into the acidities of criticism and rebuke, silent, if not expressed.

Rev. Evans should probably stop here. The blame-the-sick-person trope is played out time and time again in Christian Science communities: nominal worshipers are not welcome, gas-lighting under the guise of “helping them know the truth” is common. There may be lip-service as to the “right use of temporary means” but Ms. Eddy is also clear that these “temporary means” usually bring about more suffering before the patient comes around to realizing that Christian Science is the One True Solution.

The second part of “foe to the home” argument is Rev. Evan’s decidedly 1900s privileged male views on marriage and motherhood. I have rather mixed feelings about this. I am both married and a mother, and I find myself disagreeing with both Rev. Evans and Ms. Eddy’s perspectives on both (although I agree slightly more with Ms. Eddy). Rev. Evans begins on p. 31, and starts by liberally quoting Science and Health, before moving on to Ms. Eddy’s less often read work, Miscellaneous Writings.

Christian Science Virtually Denies the Need and 
Dignity of Marriage and Motherhood. 

"Did God at first create man unaided — that is, Adam, — 
but afterwards require the union of the two sexes in order 
to create the rest of the human family? No!" (S. & //., 
pp. 531, 532, 1909). "Generation does not rest on sexual 
basis at all" according to Christian Science. 

"To abolish marriage at this period and maintain mor- 
ality and generation would put Ingenuity to ludicrous 
shifts; yet this is possible In Science, (meaning, of course, 
Christian Science), although it is today problematic." 

Being totally wrong about where babies come from aside, I’m going to stop Rev. Evans here, and remind him of what Ms. Eddy says in Science and Health, about the formation of mortals, which, to be fair to the good Rev. gets quite convoluted quite quickly. Ms. Eddy is not trying to abolish marriage — at least not yet.

"In Miscellaneous Writings, p. 288, the question is asked, 
'Is marriage nearer right than celibacy?' The answer is 
given, 'Human knowledge inculcates that it is, but Chris- 
tian Science indicates that it is not.' " 

For the curious, the full passage from p. 288-9:

Is marriage nearer right than celibacy?

Human knowledge inculcates that it is, while Science indicates that it is not. But to force the consciousness of scientific being before it is understood is impossible, and believing otherwise would prevent scientific demonstration. To reckon the universal cost and gain, as well as thine own, is right in every state and stage of being. The selfish rôle of a martyr is the shift of a dishonest mind, nothing short of self-seeking; and real suffering would stop the farce.

All partnerships are formed on agreements to certain compacts: each party voluntarily surrenders independent action to act as a whole and per agreement. This fact should be duly considered when by the marriage contract two are made one, and, according to the divine precept, “they twain shall be one flesh.” Oneness in spirit is Science, compatible with home and heaven. Neither divine justice nor human equity has divorced two minds in one.

I can see where Rev. Evans is drawing his conclusions, but I read this as more of a cautious warning from a thrice-married, twice-widowed woman: be careful what you’re getting yourself into. Evans’ continues:

These statements show where Christian Science stands 
with regard to the question of marriage. It shows that in 
the mind of the Christian Scientist celibacy, or the unmarried 
state, is nearer right than the married state. It is true that 
Christian Science does not openly forbid marriage, but who- 
ever heard of a marriage taking place in a Christian Science 
church, and performed by Christian Science readers or 
ministers? Such facts as these ought to make those of us 
who have the moral welfare of our nation at heart pause 
and think, if not shudder!

I’m sure Rev. Evans has read 1 Corinthians, that’s a requirement to be a Reverend right? Ms. Eddy’s view of marriage and children is not unlike that of Paul, in 1 Corinthians 7: verses 8-9, and again in verses 25-40.

Now to the unmarried and the widows I say: It is good for them to stay unmarried, as I do. But if they cannot control themselves, they should marry, for it is better to marry than to burn with passion. (1 Corinthians 7:8-9).

There seems to be a bit of suffer it to be so now in both Ms. Eddy and Paul’s perspective. Both see marriage as distraction from the spiritual path, but if you must be with a woman (or man), and you must have children (although Ms. Eddy seems unclear on where babies come from… Generation does not rest on sexual basis at all), being married is the appropriate way to go about it.

I’m not sure what choosing not to be married has to do with “the moral welfare of our nation” — the unmarried Christian Scientists are choosing a life of celibacy, I see this as no different than monks or nuns opting to devote their lives to God, but instead of being cloistered away in a monastery, these Christian Scientists are going about their day-to-day lives.

The good Rev. Evans then moves on to Ms. Eddy’s perspective on Motherhood. I’m going to start with saying I’m not sure I’d take Ms. Eddy’s advice on marriage (even if she was married three times), where babies come from, or how they come into the world, but I also take issue with the Rev. Evan’s perspective:

Motherhood is not, according to Christian Science, the 
highest badge of womanhood. In Miscellaneous Writings, 
p. 289, we have these words: "Human nature has be- 
stowed on a wife the right to become a mother, but if the 
wife esteems not this a privilege . . . she may win a 
higher." What is that higher? ... to become a wife 
and not a mother? Thus motherhood is to be avoided; it 
is to be put in the category of that which is below a 
woman's highest and noblest function. This is the Chris- 
tian Science idea of the marriage relation. May we be pre- 
served from such a doctrine as this! It reminds us of the 
heresy foretold by the apostle concerning those who are led 
captive by silly women, and who forbid to marry.

-- emphasis mine -

To follow Rev. Evan’s logical interpretation of Ms. Eddy’s work: remaining celibate is the highest honor, but if you must settle, than be married but don’t have children. I think what Rev. Evan’s finds most problematic is Ms. Eddy’s thought that people, including women, have a choice: a woman can choose to become a mother or not.

The larger context of Ms. Eddy’s quote makes this slightly more clear:

Rights that are bargained away must not be retaken by the contractors, except by mutual consent. Human nature has bestowed on a wife the right to become a mother; but if the wife esteems not this privilege, by mutual consent, exalted and increased affections, she may win a higher. Science touches the conjugal question on the basis of a bill of rights. Can the bill of conjugal rights be fairly stated by a magistrate, or by a minister? Mutual interests and affections are the spirit of these rights, and they should be consulted, augmented, and allowed to rise to the spiritual altitude whence they can choose only good.

Mutual consent must be a foreign concept to Rev. Evans. I’m fairly sure Ms. Eddy is not referring to fun-sexy-time when she talks about “exalted and increased affections,” and while “allowed to rise to the spiritual altitude whence they can choose only good” does not mean Neotantra, the emphasis here is mutual, both parties must want it — regardless of what “it” is, and regardless of how much it may differ from what Rev. Evans’ thinks.

Reverend William Evans, your male privilege is showing, and while this may not have been a problem in 191.”?, I take issue with it now. What people mutually consent to do within (or without) the bonds of marriage is really none of your business.

However, as this is 191.”?, the Rev. feels entitled to weigh in on another hot-button topic that continues to have charged internet debates today: is motherhood a woman’s highest calling? (click on that embedded link, I dare you).

Ms. Eddy and the dear Rev. clearly diverge on the question is motherhood a woman’s highest calling? Rev. Evans seems to think that motherhood is a woman’s highest calling, while Ms. Eddy seems to feel woman should at least be able to consider an alternativehigher calling — an uninterrupted Relationship with God. Ms. Eddy already feels that sex, alcohol, matter, etc. all distract from this relationship, so clearly children belong on this list as well. I’m fairly certain the Reverend is Protestant, as the Catholic church has no problem with men (and women) devoting their lives to God.

I disagree with Ms. Eddy about what a woman’s highest calling being to have a Relationship with God, and I disagree with Rev. Evan as well. Both are problematic at best.

Rev. Evans does not seem to know when to quit: his arguments against Christian Science stem from a fundamentally flawed notion that his version of Christianity is correct (it isn’t), and he needs to re-read Paul and re-examine his interpretations of Ms. Eddy’s views on marriage. The most solid argument he makes is that of the siblings, as so many of us have seen the blame-the-sufferer trope is played out again and again.


More by Rev. William Evans, D.D., Director, Bible Course, Moody Bible Institute of Chicago

Links of interest & Further Reading

Zombies, Children & Religion: gruesome and very frightening affairs

We recently received the following e-mail from Kid1’s teacher:

IMPORTANT NOTICE: I am suggesting that you avoid downtown this Saturday. The now annual Zombie Walk Contest and Race is happening throughout most of the day and into the night. It is a gruesome and very frightening affair for young children. I do not want these awful images living in your children, or coming into the classroom.

Young children trust that the world is true. They take fairy tales to heart in a real way recognizing archetypal truths. A child can be told that something is pretend, then parrot that back to the adult. The truth for them is more that everything they encounter is real and they are in some way part of the encountered things or events.

Please shield your children from this zombie nonsense while they are so young, receptive and imitative.

The last sentence of the e-mail really stood out to me:

Please shield your children from this zombie nonsense while they are so young, receptive and imitative.

You could easily replace zombie with any number of things, as it is not just fairy tales that children take to heart in very real ways. They are quite observant little creatures and you should be mindful of the behavior you are modeling as well as what you say.

The idea of shielding children is not new, they’ve popped up time and time again in parenting books, and in Science and Health, Ms. Eddy reminds us that “children should be allowed to remain children in knowledge (Science & Health, p. 140). If Ms. Eddy was writing the e-mail today, she would likely replace zombie with the Christian Science Trinity of Doom — sin, disease and death — because really, isn’t that what Halloween is all about?*

I am not going to expose my children to the Christian (or Christian Science) notion of sin. The idea that without God they are nothing is harmful, the idea they are born sinners is ridiculous, the complex dogma that has grown around the mythology of a 2000 year old Jewish carpenter who may or may not have existed, and that has been translated and reinterpreted numerous times is not something I plan to expose my children to until they are old enough to realize it is a story, just like the stories of Zeus and Hera in Greek mythology, or the numerous other stories explaining creation.

Disease is a tricky one, there is a line between exposing children to things they are not ready for, and acknowledging that they are not feeling well. I am not going to tell my children about the Ebola outbreak in Africa (that would worry them unnecessarily), but I will comfort them when they are congested and can’t sleep well at night. When the children have questions, I will do my best to answer them in an age-appropriate way: Kid1 saw a photo of some men in hazmat suits cleaning up after some ebola victims and asked what was going on. My husband explained the men were wearing “special suits, like firemen wear” and they were “helping people” — both of these things were true, and Kid1 was satisfied with the answer. I’m sure my answers will change as they grow older, by then I hope to have gained more insight into how to answer difficult questions.

Ms. Eddy goes out of her way to emphasize the unreality of death. There are nearly 100 references to death in Science and Health, and she includes a definition of it in the Glossary. On p. 531, she defines death, as

An illusion, for there is no death; the unreal and untrue; the opposite of God, or Life.

Ms. Eddy goes on to rail about matter, unreality and the flesh, and I lose interest. Ms. Eddy and I live in two very different worlds: Ms. Eddy has returned to the universe, and I am still here. The children have asked a few questions about death, and I have tried to be honest with them. No, [the deceased] is not coming back. We will only see them again in photographs (and possibly on video), we will always have our memories of them, and we can honor their memories by living a full life.

When they are a little older, I will share with them the piece from NPR’s All things Considered: Planning Ahead Can Make a Difference in the End that talks about why you want a physicist to speak at your funeral. I will also share with them the piece by Rev. Michael Dowd, Death: Sacred, Necessary, Real, which beautifully touches on the theme of the positive role of death in the Universe without being creepy.

Young children trust that the world is true.

The children have already been exposed to “zommies” — they’ve watched my husband play Minecraft, but those are very different than zombies walking down Main Street, SmallTown USA. They know the zommies in Minecraft aren’t real, that would be silly, the world is not made of pixelated bricks!

image via http://www.planetminecraft.com/project/zombie-arena-1244230/

This zombie is OBVIOUSLY NOT going to be walking down the street any time soon.  image via http://www.planetminecraft.com/project/zombie-arena-1244230/

Why do they know these things? Mommy and Daddy told them so, and they’ve seen for themselves — they don’t look like Minecraft characters. There is the grey zone, with things like Santa Claus, and angels — I’m still sorting out how to deal with those, but I feel quite strongly that I will not pile upon my children the burden of nonsense that sin, disease, and death are somehow their fault. I will not fill their nightmares with images of zombies, the false idea that sin brings sickness, or the confusing mental gymnastics required to pretend to comprehend unreality of matter.

 

* I’m being sarcastic there. I don’t have any problems with Halloween, but I do feel it can be a Bit Too Much for small children so we stick with very low-key celebrations.