the Unattainable perfect and clear comprehension of the living Spirit

For my Christian Science readers, I’m going to remind you of a harsh fact: Christian Scientsts die, just like everybody else. No where does Ms. Eddy claim that Christian Science will cause the MATERIAL BODY to live forever, it is Spiritual Man that is immortal.

Expressing shock and grief at someone’s passing is natural. What is not natural is the way Christian Science refuses to knowledge a person’s illness, and the death. People have friends, associates, and family who are outside the sphere of Christian Science who care deeply about the individual who passed on. They should know about a persons passing. They may want to help in some way — bringing food, making a financial donation to help offset expenses, sending a card or flowers or a few words of condolence.

The levels of secrecy surrounding illness and death in Christian Science is infuriating and saddening. People want to help. People want to know. I’ve heard the “for the privacy of the family” argument dragged out time and time again. The Principia Purpose alumni magazine has stopped running their Lovingly Remembered column citing “for the privacy of the families.”(1)

Withholding the information that a loved one has passed will not bring their material body back. Not divulging the cause of death will not make them any less dead. Christian Scientists may deny the existence of a material world, but attempting to submerge yourself in the idealistic world of Spirit will not save you from the material plane in which you are currently dwelling. You may strive to “live in the Absolute” but until you have ascended into Heaven and are as the Angels you’d better take care of the material body, regardless of how “unreal” you find it to be.

You probably take your car to a mechanic when it doesn’t work, you take it for regular smog/emissions tests as the government requires to operate it. If you have a dog or cat, you likely take them for their required rabies vaccinations, and have probably had it spayed or neutered. You feed yourself, you clothe yourself, you shelter yourself, so why not take yourself to a doctor?

Ms. Eddy herself reminds us in Science and Health on p. 388

… it would be foolish to venture beyond our present understanding, foolish to stop eating until we gain perfection and a clear comprehension of the living Spirit. In that perfect day of understanding, we shall neither eat to live nor live to eat.

The Discoverer and Founder of Christian Science, Ms. Eddy herself, never achieved this perfect and clear comprehension of the living Spirit.

Science and Health may be full of flowery language about immortality, and the perfection of Man as God’s Perfect Child, but at the end of the day, Christian Scientists shed the mortal coil just like everyone else. The biggest difference is often Christian Scientists spend weeks, months, or even years suffering unnecessarily because they refuse to to acknowledge they have a problem (that would give the problem “power”), often one that could easily be fixed by speaking with a medical professional.

I find myself in agreement with Nancy Niblack Baxter, author of Open the Doors of the Temple: The Survival of Christian Science in the Twenty-first Century:

Did Mrs. Eddy intend her followers to pursue physical healing through her methods forever, even when it was not bringing results? To die for it? It is my strong belief that by 1890 she came to be aware of the trap her church members could fall into, to say nothing of the lawsuits, so by the turn of the century, and as she finalized the revelation, she allowed for escapes in the case spiritual healing did not bring results. (page 49)

While I am not in total agreement with Ms. Baxters conclusions, I don’t think anyone should experienced prolonged suffering in the name of any religion, Christian Science included.

Christian Scientists, you, like everyone else, will one day die, however, you can choose to accept the advances in medical practices and technology, which may prolong both the quantity and quality of your life, or you may continue to rely solely on God. I’ve tired both, go with modern medicine, your doctor won’t mind if you pray, but your CSP might object if you take medication.


Other reading of possible interest:

  1. Speculation as to the reasons why abound, including that the Purpose was data-mined for a study that Christian Scientists die sooner than their non-CS peers. http://articles.chicagotribune.com/1989-09-24/news/8901150766_1_christian-scientists-principia-college-christian-science
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Steiner’s Verses: Mother Earth, Father Sun

The sing-song voice of Kid1 floated into the kitchen:

Give thanks to the Mother Earth.
Give thanks to the Father Sun.

These lines were repeated a few times, and then there was a crash of blocks as they moved on to something else. I asked Kid1 about the song later and was told “we sing at school” before they ran off to do other things.

The first two lines floated around in my head for several days until I got around to asking at Kid1’s school. The blessing is one of Rudolph Steiner‘s and is recited before snack and meal time.

The complete verse is

Give thanks to the Mother Earth.
Give thanks to the Father Sun.
Give thanks to the plants in the garden,
Where the Mother and Father are One.

Given Steiner’s views on Christ, angels with flaming swords, and seasonal rituals, I can’t say I’m too surprised by the simple verse citing Mother Earth and Father sun, and I find it to be one of the milder things that Steiner introduces. Some of Steiner’s ideas on Anthroposophy (1) are hard for me to wrap my mind around, and some of the criticisms leveled against Steiner and the Waldorf movement (2) are rather unsettling.

Although I am still learning about Steiner’s more unique ideas (3), I think the simple snack time verse is sweet, and sends an appropriate message. I prefer it to the Omni-everything Mother-Father God (OMFG) that Ms. Eddy endorses.

Unlike the OMFG, Mother Earth and Father Sun are solid concepts that are easily understood. Mother Earth is all around us, Father Sun is in the sky shining down on us. You can walk around and enjoy the earth/nature, you can feel the warmth of the sun shining down on you.

Mother Earth and Father Sun are not a perfect analogy, but the concepts have been around for centuries. Mother Earth (and Mother Nature), is a common metaphorical expression for the Earth and its biosphere as a giver and sustainer of life. Mother Earth is also recognized as a deity in various cultures  – Gaia, Terra and Pachamama to list a few (4). Similarly Father Sun and predominately male Solar Deities can also be found in numerous cultures and traditions – ex: Helios, Apollo, Sol, and Tonatiuh (5).

Being thankful for the plants in the garden where the Mother and the Father are One is also conceptually solid. Without the earth to plant seeds in, and without the sun (yay for photosynthesis) there would be nothing in the garden to eat – although if you want to be strictly technical without the Earth we wouldn’t be here to begin with and there would just be space and other stuff orbiting the Sun.

Screen Shot 2014-01-07 at 8.52.33 PMTo me, Steiner’s underlying message is that the earth, sun and garden are things that should be cherished. Although it is hard imagine how one would love and care for the sun (other than appropriate seasonal festivities celebrating its return), appreciating the Earth and garden are easier. This appreciation of the material world, and acknowledgement of spiritual elements within it (6), are the opposite of Ms. Eddy’s stance that the material world is unreal.

For Ms. Eddy the earth is a preparatory school in need of improvement (7). Her “science” is one of the Science of Being, and her focus is on abstract concepts that require a fair bit of what fellow former-CS blogger Emerging Gently often refers to as “mental gymnastics.” In the land of OMFG, at the end of the day, we are Spiritual, not material, so while Christian Scientists pray to know the unreality of a bitterly cold Boston winter, the waldorf-minded individuals layer on their woolies.

Steiner, even with his quirks, did start one of the first sustainable agriculture movements. From wikipedia (6)

Methods unique to the biodynamic approach include its treatment of animals, crops, and soil as a single system; an emphasis from its beginnings on local production and distribution systems; its use of traditional and development of new local breeds and varieties; and the use of an astrological sowing and planting calendar.

Christian Science is very egocentric, it is all about the persons personal relationship with OMFG, often at the cost of all else. To my knowledge, Ms. Eddy never ventures far from the topic of her Science of Being and the OMFG relationship. The closest she gets to discussing agriculture is to make sheep/shepherd metaphors, and Principia’s motto “As the sowing, the reaping” drives home the point:

It’s a simple equation. What we receive is in direct proportion to what we give. Principians are encouraged and expected to give their all in every activity—academic, athletic, artistic, social, and spiritual. (8)

Academics, athletics, art, making the social rounds, and prayer aren’t going to feed anyone. Unless someone is actually out there sowing and reaping people are going to starve. Being a “fisher of men” (9) is all well and good, but unless someone is practicing sustainable fishing habits there won’t be much to eat in the long run. This is trivial in Ms. Eddy’s immaterial world, as she is the woman in the Apocalypse and soon we will all be as angels in Heaven (10), any suffering we have now (bonds of marriage included), must be tolerated until then.

These problems, which are unreal to Ms. Eddy, are issues that Steiner addresses, and while some of his mystical methods are questionable (11), no difference in beneficial outcomes has been scientifically established between certified biodynamic agricultural techniques and similar organic and integrated farming practices (6).

At the end of the day, I find Steiner’s simple verse, about Mother Earth and Father Sun to be far more pleasant than Ms. Eddy’s grandiose reinterpretation of the Lord’s Prayer (12).

Our Father which art in heaven,
Our Father-Mother God, all-harmonious,

Hallowed be Thy name.
Adorable One.

Thy kingdom come.
Thy kingdom is come; Thou art ever-present.

Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven.
Enable us to know, — as in heaven, so on earth, —
God is omnipotent, supreme.

Give us this day our daily bread;
Give us grace for to-day; feed the famished affections;

And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors.
And Love is reflected in love;

And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil;
And God leadeth us not into temptation, but delivereth
us from sin, disease, and death.

For Thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, forever.
For God is infinite, all-power, all Life, Truth, Love,
over all, and All.

From Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures
by Mary Baker Eddy, pp. 16–17

There is no need for grandiose kingdoms, or power and glory forever. Go take a walk. Enjoy your garden.


Image credit: screen shot from A Child’s Book of Blessings via GoogleBooks

  1. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Anthroposophy
  2. https://sites.google.com/site/waldorfwatch/table-of-contents – I need to research this more, it brings up interesting questions
  3. Let’s face it, Steiner was influenced by 18th and 19th century German philosophers and writers, including but not limited to Nietzsche, GoetheSchopenhauerJean Paul, and Hegel*
  4. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mother_Earth
  5. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Solar_deity
  6. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Biodynamic_agriculture
  7. S&H p. 486 “Earth’s preparatory school must be improved to the utmost.”
  8. http://www.principiacollege.edu/about-principia-college/christian-science
  9. http://www.biblegateway.com/verse/en/Matthew%204%3A19
  10. S&H p. 56 discusses the matter some, it is also mentioned a few other places
  11. including burying ground quartz stuffed into the horn of a cow, which are said to harvest “cosmic forces in the soil” http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Biodynamic_agriculture
  12. http://christianscience.com/bible-lessons/related-information/for-church-services/the-lord-s-prayer

*as was Ms. Eddy, but that is a post for another day

Further reading:

what I’ve been reading: this post will make you happy!

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And the most exciting news so far this month! MKHuggins is back!

Final Generation 2

I was inspired by the comments on the previous post to share a little more about my background. Everyone says they were “encouraged to explore and question,” my father (selectively) encouraged my exploring and questioning. I did a lot of exploring and questioning, which is of the lovely, and often problematic, things about Christian Science: on one hand people are “free to explore and question” on the other hand, people’s experiences can vary widely to the point I wonder if we were all practicing the same religion.

I was raised by people who converted to Christian Science. Sometimes I think converts are the most dangerous type of CS, because it is new and exciting and anything is possible.

Although my family was not Catholic (I think they tended towards Episcopalian – at least some of the extended family still does), my father attend private Catholic schools as a boy, and found/converted to Christian Science in the mid-to-late 1960s.

The story, as my father told it, goes a little like this: he was having vague, nondescript health problems (probably stress and other life-style induced issues) and went to the family doctor, the doctor told him nothing was wrong, and that he should consult with his priest – perhaps something was weighing on his mind. My father then went to the family priest, and after a conversation, the priest recommended he go to his doctor. At this point, my father decided to look outside both the medicine of the day, and the religion he was familiar with, and found Christian Science. The details of exactly how he came to CS are vague, but he credits CS with healing him of drinking and a several-pack-a-day smoking habit. My father went through class instruction in 1970.

My mother was raised in a relaxed northern-European protestant tradition (religious around Easter, Christmas, the appropriate King Cake parties/activities around Lent), and converted to Christian Science around the time she married my father, because it “was easier than attending two different churches.” My mother went through class instruction, probably in the late 70s, or early 80s.

As a child, I was permitted unlimited access to the family bookshelves which housed a variety of fiction and non-fiction/historical works. I was actively encouraged to read, as questions, and explore my relationship with God. My father and I used to go for walks after dinner, we would talk about religion (not just Christian Science), history, school, my plans for the future, my friends, travel, etc.

I regularly frequented bookstores and picked up books on a wide range of topics, the only one that were truly frowned upon was Interview with a Vampire by Anne Rice, as that was “dangerous” and “occult nonsense” yet they tolerated my dabbling with a Celtic Magic book as “just a phase.” Interestingly, they didn’t blink an eye when I brought home heavy reading about memory manipulation, a pseudo-scientific book about Atlantis, dystopian fiction, or my phase of obsessively reading novels with heavy medical undertones (The Best Little Girl in the World, and Coma which proceeded to give me nightmares and instill a deep terror of the medical community).

Most of my friends outside of Sunday School were of the Bible-thumping hellfire-and-brimstone “have you been saved?” variety of Christianity. At least one of them fell to their knees, pulling me with them, to “pray for” my “eternal salvation.” I compromised and we exchanged books to read. After she read a few passages of Science & Health, and was assured that I did “believe in Jesus” she let up a little bit.

I was also friends with a few Catholics, there was one in particular who regularly joined me sitting in the library as an opt-out from the school taught “sex-ed” program (mostly showing scary photos of “sexually transmitted diseases”). He also “gave up Catholicism for Lent” and we often commiserated about our religious baggage.

Most of the time I got into trouble for questioning things was in Sunday School. I questioned why God punished the Egyptians, I questioned what made the Tribes of Israel so special, I questioned if Jesus really had to die. I questioned the stories, I questioned the interpretation, I questioned “the appearance of evil” even if nothing “evil” was happening – someone might think something was happening, I questioned the entire Jesus story, I questioned why healing didn’t always work, I questioned the authority of the Sunday School teacher, and later I questioned why I should be there at all.

In retrospect, I am amazed I came out of my childhood as unscathed as I did. I didn’t break any bones, or sustain many long-lasting injuries. I had the chickenpox, I wretched an ankle or two, I fell off my bike/scooter/roller skates a few times, but over all I escaped with only a few lasting scars, and a crippling fear of dentistry.

At an early age I had an accident in which I broke some teeth. This required extensive reconstructive work, and many, many hours in a dental chair. My mother had, initially, emphasized that “we are Christian Scientists” and we “don’t need” local anesthetic, antibiotics, or post-work pain relief. She later changed her stance to “we use local anesthetic to make the dentist more comfortable.” She never changed her mind on antibiotics, or post-work pain relief (1).

I tried very hard from a very young age to overcome my fear of dentistry. The fluoride made me gag and puke, the dentist never seemed to believe that I was REALLY FEELING PAIN when they were drilling (even with local anesthetic it has since been determined by a more responsible dentist and better x-rays, that yes, some of my teeth have more roots/nerves), and somehow, no matter how hard I “worked to know the truth” my teeth never managed to heal themselves.

Of course, nothing was ever wrong with them to begin with, which didn’t help things any either.

My mother dragged us to the dentist twice a year. When I asked her why, she explained it was “routine maintenance” and that “teeth are important.” When I then asked why we didn’t visit doctors, she explained “doctors only want to use you as a pincushion and poison you.” As opposed to the sadistic dentists I was seeing every six months who only wanted to drill out my molars.

My fellow CS didn’t ever say much about dental work, probably because they were doing it too, or because it wasn’t noticeable. What was noticeable was when one of my friends grandfather’s died suddenly because his appendix burst, and when another older gentleman at the church had a mild stroke. The older gentleman had previously been a bastion of the church community, a sort of church elder, looked up to, and was aspiring to be a full-time CSP. He went from a pillar of church life, to semi-ostracized as he lurched around the building, mumbling, no one was quite sure what to make of it. He didn’t die, he wasn’t getting better, he was in a state of CS-purgatory. This purgatory lasted for about six months, after which point he passed away. His wife then left the church and hasn’t set foot inside since.

What was also noticeable is how they treated the children with disabilities, they were not labeled autistic (although I suspect that’s what the problem was) they were simply termed “out of control.” Clearly the mother was at fault for not raising the child properly. This may have also been a generational/regional bias, I don’t know what happened to the child, or his parents.

There was also the young man (and very close friend of mine) who, having sustained a severe head/brain injury as a child, had infrequent, severe seizures. He passed away while I was at Principia, and upon my return to church, I was “informed” by a former Sunday School teacher that my friend was “no longer with us” followed by flushing very red, and giggling in a rather embarrassed manner. My friends passing was never really talked about ever again, not in Sunday School, not at church, not at home, not ever. Christian Scientists don’t deal well with death. His mother still attends the church, but his younger siblings no longer participate in CS. Among the CS community, it is as if he never existed, our mutual-non-CS friends and I exchange remembrances usually around his birthday.

In Christian Science, we may all “read the same textbooks” and we may all agree that “2+2=4” and “God is Love” but the outcome for healing varies so wildly that I don’t feel that the term “science” can be applied. To hand the average person off the street (or even a multi-generation CS) a copy of Science and Health and then expect them to read, understand and work miracles is unrealistic and to promote such ideas is dangerous.

I took a lab science class while at Principia and we were required to keep a record of our experiments using the scientific method, our hypothesis, testing, results, etc. were all neatly block printed so we could go over our results. Every now and again my team’s results varied wildly from the class and we were able to go back and find where we deviated from the norm. In Christian Science there is no record of what was done, there is no way to double check work, there is no one to check your work, there are not others working on the same experiment with you, the results are not peer-reviewed before they are published. It is conveniently individualized so that if (or rather when) the person fails to heal themselves using Christian Science the blame rests entirely upon them and their lack of understanding.

Many people have said the way they practice CS does not exclude visiting doctors, and that not all CS they have interacted with have been radical. Many people have claimed to have amazing, occasionally doctor-documented, healing experiences, I’m happy for them. That was not my experience.

I watched my father struggle for years with increasingly debilitating strokes, high blood pressure, congestive heart failure and one functioning kidney. I watched my mother alternate between radical reliance on God, pseudo science from the internet, a radical lifestyle and diet makeover and the doctor-advised/prescribed “western medicine” in an attempt to prolong my father’s life. My father held on ten years longer than any one really expected, with my mother cursing the doctors who were “trying to poison him!” in an attempt from keeping his blood pressure from skyrocketing out of control.

Would he have fared better on a strictly western-medicine regimen? I can’t shake the feeling that my parent’s toxic attitude towards the medical community was more harmful than helpful when it came to dealing with my father’s situation. It did not matter that my father had been a Christian Scientist longer than many of the doctors had been alive, they’d been to medical school, and my parents had gone to them (albeit begrudgingly, and at least once with the threat of social services being called,) seeking help.

After Kid1 was born, my mother had the audacity to passively blame the cause of my pregnancy complications on my diet, and choice of going to the hospital (2). My husband unloaded on her, when the head of high-risk obstetrics and one of the best doctors in the county looks at the charts and lab results and can’t tell you what the problem was, much less what caused it, glibly saying “you needed to eat more vegetables” (when you were lucky to eat anything at all for 12 weeks) is asinine.

As a parent, I can not, in good conscience raise my children in Christian Science. I will not deny them regular health checkups, and I will call their pediatricians office if I have any concerns. When they get older, I will not be vague about my own medical history, or health problems that may arise, sheltering a small child from a problem is one thing, withholding information that a parent’s passing is imminent from a grown child in their twenties or early thirties is another matter all together. I will not send them to school congested and feverish (even if they insist on going), and I will make sure they are vaccinated, because whooping cough is miserable. I will not read them Travis talks with God, which tells children they’re not really hurt, God loves them, I will take practical steps: an ice pack, a Popsicle, a call to the pediatrician’s office, or a trip to the ER.

Mary Baker Eddy encourages us to think and question. I’ve read the Mother Church Authorized literature, I’ve read my share of “obnoxious” literature, and I’m pretty sure the Mother Church would call this blog “obnoxious” as well. I’ve worked with CSPs, and there are several that I respect deeply. I have successfully used CS techniques to overcome problems, and out of habit (sometimes to my detriment) I turn to CS ideas to work through situations.

Christian Science does not have to be deadly, but all too often I’ve seen even the most moderate of CS, when faced with health, or other challenges, take a turn for the radical and deny they have any issue what so ever. I do not ever want to go down that path.


  1. You don’t need anything after your wisdom tooth comes out! That’s what ice packs are for. The second time I had a wisdom tooth removed, I was no longer living at home, and I did take something for the pain. I had a horrifying allergic reaction and very vivid hallucinations all night. It would’ve been nice to have some idea about such allergies before they crept up on me in the middle of the night.
  2. My mother also taught me that you also only go to a hospital to die. Between that, the pregnancy issues and reading Coma while a naive middle school student, my first-ever hospital experience was even more anxiety-laden than it needed to be. My mother had several friends who had died of cancer (conveniently while in a hospital). She blamed the doctors (and later the individuals poor dietary choices), apparently if you eat healthy and avoid doctors you’ll never get cancer. That said, I strongly recommend reading The Emperor of All Maladies: A Biography of Cancer.

break the neck hypnotic beliefs and animal magnetism

I recently received an e-mail inviting me to “watch and pray” with a local CS group:

Join us for the really rewarding spiritual experience of “keeping watch”.

Jesus expected his disciples to watch with him, Mrs Eddy had her household watch sometimes 3 days straight without sleep.

It will be a continuous prayer from sunset to sunrise, being so clear in thought as to break the neck hypnotic beliefs and animal magnetism so that divine Truth can pour in.

The hypnotic belief we are correcting is the claim that sex-trafficking is the largest growing economy in the world today.

Our central watch is: “Women are not sex-toys!”

We watch —- sunset to —- Sunrise at —–. Please join us in person if you can, or Hangout in if you’re too far away.

Let’s rejoice together that:

The Mind or intelligence of production names the female gender last in the ascending order of creation.

I’m not sure what the group hopes to accomplish by staying up all night praying about sex-trafficking. I can’t remember the last time I voluntarily stayed up all night, there were a few times in college, but that was usually accidental, I lost track of time and then suddenly the sun came up as I walked across the campus.

On one hand, I am slightly shocked that a CS group is taking on this task, on the other, this is typical of Christian Scientists, why make meaningful change when you can stay home and pray about it? If your thoughts are clear enough you can “break the neck hypnotic beliefs and animal magnetism” and “divine Truth can pour in.”

Right.

I agree people are not sex-toys. I strongly believe people should have autonomy over their bodies. People should not be trafficked for sex, or other questionable undertakings.

This may shock some people, but I strongly feel that WOMEN ARE PEOPLE, and TRAFFICKING PEOPLE (yes, that includes men, women, LGBTQ, children, etc.) AND LIMITING THEIR AUTONOMY IS WRONG. Praying about problems is great, but there comes a time when you need to stop praying and start doing.

There is not nearly enough DOING in Christian Science (unless you’re talking about congressional lobbying to shield themselves from litigation, there’s more than enough of that happening). There is a lot of sitting and prayerfully knowing the truth, reading the lesson, studying the books. If all good Christian Scientists spent a third of the time DOING GOOD IN THEIR COMMUNITY instead of reading and studying the books and maintaining an air of superior aloofness I’m fairly certain that Christian Science would be thriving today.

So want to make a difference by doing something other than praying about it?

a little honesty, please

I think it is time for the Christian Science community to be a little more honest with themselves (and the public at large).

The Mother Church can scoff at the “false” idea that Christian Science forbids it’s followers from seeking medical care. The TMC can even let the NYTimes interview some CSPs with their blessing, and claim the “official” stance is that there is “no church protocol” mandating relying solely on prayer, but these shows of tolerance for the medical community are just that, a show.

The official TMC blurb on their website states:

It’s up to each person who practices Christian Science to choose the form of health care he or she wants. Many Christian Scientists decide to pray first about every challenge—including health issues—and find it effective. Many health care professionals today are recognizing options outside of conventional medicine. Christian Scientists recognize and respect the interests of medical professionals and don’t oppose them. We all care about the preventive and curative aspects of health care. Like all systems of healing, the track record for Christian Science isn’t perfect. But, over 80,000 Christian Science healings have been published throughout the past 140 years, including severe cases.

Many health care professionals today are recognizing options outside of conventional medicine – yes, options that can be scientifically proven and have a track record of results are likely to be adopted into mainstream medicine. Germ theory, penicillin, and antibiotics used to be “outside of conventional medicine” as well. Mainstream medicine has ways to verify and check their results. If someone dies under the care of a physician, there is an inquiry. If someone “passes on too soon” working with a CSP it is a tragedy (1). In CS there is no way of confirming an illness or verifying the healing.

While the Official Policy might be of tolerance, you don’t need to look hard to find extreme intolerance of medication/deviating from CS. The problem is deeply rooted in every aspect of Christian Science.

The problem begins at the Mother Church, which sanctions all the Official Literature, and certifies CS Practioners and makes provisions for CS Nurses. The Official Literature, Ms. Eddy’s works, is full of condemnations of the use of medicine. Everyone knows that to turn to medicine instead of Christian Science means you have failed. A Christian Scientist can not just “go to a doctor” for a solution as Ms. Eddy openly condones abandoning those who have failed to work out their own salvation.

It is no secret that Journal Listed CS Practitioners (CSP), openly discriminate against people who take medication or turn to medicine for aid. Of course every practitioner chooses which cases he or she takes depending on the specific circumstances of that case. After all, you can’t force someone to pray for someone else. Some CSPs do pray for people who are taking medication or in the hospital, but those seem to be rare/short-term situations. Journal Listed CS Nurses (CSN), like CSPs, also get to pick and choose who they treat.

There is the slightly grey-zone of CS Nursing Facilities, while not “official” TMC institutions, they are are staffed by Journal Listed CS Nurses, CS Practitioners, and people who have at least passed Primary Class Instruction. They demand radical reliance on Christian Science to be admitted. They are also open and proud that they are NOT equipped to handle medical emergencies. They are also quite happy to take Medicare/Medicade money.

Branch churches fare no better. TMC’s Church Alive is fielding questions from the Branch Churches that include “Could you give me some ideas on how a church can include those who are physically challenged?…. There’s a tendency to think that if we put in some structural aids, we might be accepting the physical difficulty, and not encouraging healing.” How is this even an issue?! Oh yeah, the person in the wheelchair decided to use a wheelchair to get to church instead of staying home in bed. Instead of welcoming the person – and let’s be honest, a fair number of Church Alive questions are about dwindling church membership/attendance, let’s make it impossible for them to participate in the “healing services” that are provided.

The membership requirements of Branch churches vary widely, although they are similar in spirit to the guidelines laid out in the Manual – all encompassing and somewhat vague. Not many Branch Churches include membership applications on their websites as they likely prefer a warm body sitting in a pew so the potential applicant can be appropriately judged. The few that I could find were the usual committed to CS, over-12, not a member of other religions, and had carefully worded sections which refrained from spelling out radical-reliance, but could easily be interpreted as such:

  • Acknowledge that seeking spiritual growth and healing also means seeking an upright, moral, law-abiding life, free from addictive substances and practices, including recreational drugs and promiscuity.
  • Have relied on Christian Science healing for at least one year.
  • WE ARE COMMITTED TO: The conscientious application of Christian Science to meet human needs, including the need for physical healing.

Christian Science inspired institutions, free of the direct control of the Mother Church, can enact whatever policies they feel are inline with CS and Ms. Eddy’s teachings.

Principia bases their policy forbidding homosexuals from attending their schools and their “right” to know about a student’s sexual preferences/activities on the Bible and Ms. Eddy’s writings on marriage (2) – they want to “uphold community standards” which apparently also involves asking questions which are none of their business. Upholding “community standards” also means excluding people who are taking medication.

Of all of the CS “inspired” schools Principia seems to be the strictest. Of all the other CS-“inspired” schools I could find (3), Principia was the most rigid about the CS policy.

The CS camps are all fairly upfront about their policies and they are fairly consistent through out: must be regular attendees of Sunday School, no medication at camp, must give the number of the family Journal Listed CSP.

  • Camps L— & K— are for children who attend the Christian Science Sunday School. Campers are expected to attend Sunday School regularly throughout the year.
  • What if my child gets homesick or doesn’t feel well?  Each camp has a Quiet Room where the children are lovingly cared for by a Camp Mother (or Camp Father) until they can resume their regular activities. The Camp Mother is a class taught student of Christian Science, who is a parent or has experience with children. Also at camp there is a Journal-listed Christian Science Practitioner, who is available to give specific prayerful treatment, and a Journal-listed Christian Science Nurse, who is also available to campers. Of course if they prefer, campers always have the option to speak with a family practitioner and we are happy to arrange a phone call for this purpose whenever needed. You will be promptly notified by the Camp Director whenever a Practitioner has been engaged or if there is any significant interruption in your child’s regular schedule. Please see the back page of the camper application for details on our Health Care Policy.

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The CS campers are minors and therefore the Camps they have to be extra careful and have parents sign waivers. The camp in Colorado is particularly careful as Colorado has State Child Care regulations. I also understand that camps for minors would have to forbid sex, drugs and alcohol anyway, as it is illegal for minors to partake in such activities and I doubt it would go over well with parents and state authorities if it was allowed.

What concerns me is the “CAMPERS MAY NOT BRING MEDICATIONS WITH THEM OR USE MEDICATIONS AT THE RANCHES” and “there is a Journal-listed Christian Science Practitioner, who is available to give specific prayerful treatment, and a Journal-listed Christian Science Nurse, who is also available to campers.” On one hand I get it, kids being given medication by someone other than their parents is a liability issue, and these camps are not going to house medically trained personnel, on the other I’m really glad that there’s a Colorado law mandating “medical care be afforded to all youth in the case of a life threatening injury or illness” (4).

The Mother Church may deny any official policies of radical reliance on prayer, and while this may be true, Ms. Eddy is quite clear that we can not serve two masters, we are either material, or we are spiritual. There is no middle ground: if a person wants to participate in Christian Science communities they must radically rely on Christian Science for healing. 


  1. Unless the person in question happens to be a child, and then there’s usually some sort of court case/inquiry.
  2. For an interesting discussion on the topic of marriage, https://community.christianscience.com/thread/3340?start=0&tstart=0
  3. The other CS-inspired schools only run K-8, they do not offer boarding, nor are the “exclusively” for CS.
  4. Unfortunately not all the camps are in Colorado.

supernatural & highly abstract hygiene

I follow a number of blogs written by both practicing and former Christian Scientists. I try to find ones that are inspiring, thought provoking, different, well-researched, and relatively new to the scene. There are lots of interesting CS and former-CS bloggers out there.

The other day, LebensFreude-Heilung (for the English, visit Vitality and Healing) posted a photo from Miscellaneous Writings, along with:

Metaphysical hygiene – “a priceless sense of the dear Father’s loving-kindness” (Mary Baker Eddy) – is the cornerstone for health.

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Geistige Hygiene – “das unschätzbare Gefühl von des lieben Vaters liebvoller Güte” (Mary Baker Eddy) – ist der Eckstein für Gesundheit.

First I was curious about the translation. Geistige does not literally translate into metaphysical, it translates into mental, intellectual, or Spiritual with the root of the word, Geist, meaning mind, spirit or ghost (depending on context).

The Mirriam-Webster Dictionary defines metaphysical as “supernatural” and “highly abstract” but I suppose if you’re combating Mortal Mind/aggressive mental suggestion (which is fairly unique), you need a highly specialized method to deal with them.

I find myself preferring the German translation, somehow, I find the idea of intellectual hygiene less off-putting. It could be interpreted as intellectual honesty, being honest with yourself and those around you about your methods, proceeding in an ethical manner. Checking your work, citing your sources, using the scientific method.

Spiritual hygiene is a bit odder, but I can see how it could work. I think things like adhering to the Golden Rule and being kind everyone, would be part of keeping one’s Spiritual Self “clean.”

As the only truly in-focus part of the text in the photo was metaphysical hygiene, I decided I should try and find the rest of the text. I did a bit of searching and found it was from Miscellaneous Writings p. 240, and the quote in the picture was part of a larger article entitled “I’ve Got Cold” starting on p. 239.

The article, “I’ve Got Cold” is a rather odd one. The writer, I’m assuming Ms. Eddy, witnesses:

The description of the young woman, “red nose, suffused eyes, cough, and tired look” are all things Ms. Eddy has said in the past are unreal – why is she listing the symptoms now? When people call their CSP they are intentionally vague as mentioning symptoms will only give them credibility and strengthen the false hold they have on the person!

While it is all very well and good to say “I have not got cold.” the reality is the symptoms that were described by Ms. Eddy herself, the red nose, suffused eyes, cough and tired look, say otherwise. While it is nice to think that simply saying “I’m not sick” is simply going to cure all that ails you and through that

I remember someone once told me that all healings are/were instantaneous. They then attempted to explain that the “instant” that I “knew the Truth” the healing would occur. I guess I’ve never known the right Truth because I’ve never seen the physical healings that Ms. Eddy promised.

In the middle of all of this interesting logic I found a gem of wisdom. Taken out of the rest of the context (which is fine, because that’s what makes up so much of CS anyway), it is actually fairly decent advice:

We don’t tell Kid1 and Kid2 that “you will get cold” we tell them “you will wear a jacket.” We try not to blow danger out of proportion, while instilling common-sense things like, “look both ways when you cross the street.” We do our best not to tell them they will fall, or be hurt, while reminding them to be careful, and wash their hands before meals. If they climb up too high in a tree, we try to be there to talk them down, not just pluck them from the branches.

The article rambles a bit more and then there is this interesting tidbit:

I don’t think children naturally love God, I think, that to some extent, they naturally want to please their parents. If they see their parents “love God” then they are likely to follow. Similarly when they see their parents passions, appetites, pride and selfishness they pick up on that as well. Sweeping generalization time, but little kids usually want to make their parents happy, proud and to be reminded that they are loved. They mimic their parents actions (Kid1 enjoys using a large block as an “ipod” and Kid2 loves to help vacuum clean), so yes, parents should be careful what they do and say around their children – but I would’ve thought that is a given regardless of religious theory.

I happen to agree with the next line:

Teach the children early self-government, and teach them nothing that is wrong.

I’m fairly sure Ms. Eddy and I will disagree about what qualifies as “wrong” – I for example am not going to introduce my children to the concept of “mortal mind” and I am going to tell them it is acceptable to take medication. I have no intention of introducing them to Christian Science until they are older, and even then, I plan on introducing it as a religion, sort of like Catholicism, or Buddhism: it is interesting, it has something to offer, for some people it is the right path, but it is not one I would recommend.

Ms. Eddy then plunges headlong into an example that I find difficult to follow:

I agree, the physical is “easier” to heal, but I’m fairly sure my “easy” solution is at odds with what Ms. Eddy has in mind. I don’t think that the flu is caused by a “moral malady” the fact-check peer-reviewed science which I believe in shows it is a virus, not mortal mind which causes it. I agree, I am not sick: my immune is fighting an epic battle against an invader, so perhaps I should rest and properly take care of myself so that it has the best chance of success.

Thinking good thoughts and proclaiming the Truth is not a substitute for proper medical care, and modern hygiene practices. Practice metaphysical hygiene and be honest with yourself about what is going on. Acknowledging sickness is not empowering it, it is empowering you to realize you need to take action to rid yourself of the malady. If it is raining you take an umbrella (or other appropriate rain gear), if you have a nasty cold you get rest.