Surreal morning conversations at the play yard

I’m starting to think I need more coffee before I do the school run.

(me) Today is Thursday, right?

(a dad at the school play yard) Yeah, it’s Friends, and Steinfield tonight, remember when we used to do that?

Not really, I wasn’t allowed to watch TV. I occasionally snuck some on Wednesday nights while my parents were at church.

There is so much going on with that sentence.

*grapples with the obvious age difference between us and my parental TV restrictions*

Your parents had TV restrictions?

Yeah, that’s why I watched it when they were at church.

Your parents really liked Jesus?

Not exactly.

*raised eyebrows*

They were Christian Scientists.

We’re taking the kids to Boston for the weekend to show them the Mother Church.

Don’t forget to take them to the Mary Baker Eddy Library for the Betterment of Humanity. Just be careful you don’t catch anything. They don’t vaccinate.

As a community aren’t we supposedly believe that too. *wink*

On one hand it was refreshing to not have to explain what Christian Science was (one of the mothers is convinced I should get in touch with Katie Homles), on the other, it was an all together too surreal conversation.



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.

Parenting Beyond Our Past: A Resource Guide

Very glad to have found this resource guide! I’ve already read How To Talk So Kids Will Listen and Listen so Kids Will Talk and Siblings Without Rivalry and found them to be helpful. Look forward to exploring the other things listed as well!

Homeschoolers Anonymous

Simple Things

Photo Credit: Darcy Anne

“Train up a child in the way he should go……”

I have yet to meet a religious homeschooler who can’t finish that scripture from memory. If you’re like me, you grew up in a very authoritarian, punitive family environment. Punishment and pain, both physical and emotional, were believed to be the best means to teach a child “the way he should go”. Spanking and instant, cheerful obedience to authority were the norm, with many other kinds of punishments used as retribution for a child’s wrong-doing. Parents were the ultimate authority, and children had no choice but to obey or be punished, sometimes very harshly. I honestly didn’t know there were any other ways to parent. Either you spanked and “trained” your children, or you let them run wild and that meant you didn’t love them.

We were the generation influenced by “child training” teachers like the

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What I’ve been reading: Faith Healing & Court Scrutiny

California Mystery Worship Three: Matter is Mortal Error

An outsiders account of a Christian Science Service. Very insightful.

The Thoughtful Pastor

Mary Baker Eddy's seminar work“Matter is mortal error.” I’m seeking to understand this phrase after attending worship at First Church of Christ, Scientist, in Thousand Oaks, CA.

I arrived early, accompanying the friend of a friend who serves as summer vocalist. I had the opportunity to observe the two lay readers, the organist and the vocalist, all female, put final touches on the 10 am service.

I sat in the small, unadorned worship center, which would seat 100 comfortably, and thumbed through the hymnal, noting that two of the songs for the day were not in the hymnal. I saw no other song book available. Although I was eventually greeted by an usher, the only person who spoke with me while I sat there, she did not offer a different hymn book or an order of service

I finally went to the back of the worship area and found a hymnal supplement. I asked…

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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: