Part 3 & 4: Nothing Has Gone Right, God’s Law is never wrong

This is part of a series of posts on God’s Perfect Child: Living and Dying in the Christian Science Church by Caroline Fraser. For all posts on this topic, see the tag God’s Perfect Child

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Part 3: Nothing has Gone Right

Part 3, is entitled “Nothing has Gone Right Since 1910”: Christian Science After Death. Starting on page 170 and continuing through page 257, this section has eleven sub-sections and a ream of photographs.

Having grown up in Christian Science, I had heard about some of the incidents discussed, they all happened well before my time (this chapter discusses just after Ms. Eddy’s death up until the mid-1970s). As I heard them, they were more apocryphal tales than historical events bolstered by research and footnotes. Even with this background knowledge, there were still some sections that made me wonder if I was reading an article from The Onion. This section also covers a number of topics that I knew very little about, several of which I will touch on.

The Telephone in the Tomb

Augusta Stetson suggested to the press that the Board of Directors had posted a guard to make sure Ms. Eddy didn’t rise from the dead. Others thought the guard was there to welcome their Dear Leader back. Eventually a church spokesperson was forced to make a statement that Christian Scientists “do not look for her return to this world” (GPC 172).

Nothing Succeeds Like Supply

This is something I’ve never been quite able to wrap my head around, for all that matter is unreal, the accumulation of material wealth is a “demonstration” — God is supplying! “The expectation of perfect wealth, along with perfect health, follows from Eddy’s teachings about a perfect world” (GPC 191). Wealth and material accumulation is “an expression of spiritual riches” (GPC 193).

Masochism & Radical Reliance in Hollywood

The most notable example is of Carol Channing — preforming with a broken arm, high fever, in a wheel chair, in a neck brace, and while suffering from allergic reactions to her hair dye, all the while glorifying and romanticizing the image of Christian Scientists “never missing a day of work” (GPC 213-4). Fraser says Channing’s endurance “verges on masochism.” I agree, there is a strong masochistic streak that runs through the Christian Science community, Ms. Eddy reminds us that we are suffering because we want to be, because we have not yet aligned our thought properly with God, it is our failing to do so that is causing our suffering. We must put up a good fight and emerge from our battle with error victorious.

Drama, Suppression & the Church

  •  The Board actively attempted to suppress Edwin Franden Dakin’s book on Ms. Eddy — their attempts backfired. As one reviewer wrote “The total effect of his work is sympathetic; it is the facts that alienate us….” (GPC 219). Christian Scientists put out a “threefold attempt” to stop the book — attempting to stop the publication, when that failed, visiting libraries and bookstores, and letters to every newspaper or magazine that reviewed it. They threatened boycotts, and it is clear that the campaign was organized by the top levels of The Mother Church (GPC. 222-3).
  • “The Paul Revere” pamphlets – really esoteric stuff that only Christian Scientists cared about that caused more schisms in the church. Bickering and finger pointing about the power structure and how much individuality branch churches should be allowed. A number of people are excommunicated and some form unauthorized groups to carry on what they feel Ms. Eddy’s “discovery” actually entails. One such example is  the Kappeler Institute
  • The unauthorized works of Arthur Corey. Corey published Christian Science Class Instruction and Behind the Scenes with the Metaphysicians, with the intention of making Christian Science more accessible. Corey was one of the few Christian Scientists to acknowledge the dangers posed to children, and was “particularly scathing about those who pressed on with Christian Science treatment even when it became painfully absurd and absurdly painful” (GPC 237). Corey also spoke out about Ms. Eddy’s own use of medicine and eyeglasses, and pointed out the illogic of accepting dental care, but not medical care.
  • The Kerry Letters – A series of letters written by Reginald Kerry charging the church with corruption. The letters get quite heated, charges of immoral behavior of the Board. The letters are not currently available online. The Kerry Letters were the impetus for the Church to run several editorials in the Christian Science Monitor and religious periodicals, that homosexuality was immoral and could be healed through Christian Science, soon after, periodicals began to run testimonies by those claiming to be “healed” of impure desires (GPC 255).

This chapter was quite an eye-opener and a very firm reminder that the Christian Science Church, for all it’s “divine inspiration” is run by humans, with their own agendas, bickering and infighting. It was like picking up a log and seeing all the little creepy crawlies underneath scurrying away from the light, and there are many creepy crawlies that the Church would prefer to remain hidden. Fraser notes the Church set itself up for failure as it forbids Christian Scientists to write, debate, or discuss the Church and its teachings. There are no ways to air grievances, or seek guidance. The disgruntled have no official channels so they make their own.

Part 4: “God’s Law”

Part 4, is entitled “God’s Law”: Christian Science Goes to Court. Starting on page 261 and continuing through page 339, this section has only seven sub-sections.

This was a particularly challenging section for me to read, more than once, I found I had to put the book down and come back later, the atrocities committed while practicing Christian Science are numerous, and many of the stories echoed experiences I’ve heard from friends and fellow former-CS.

While all of God’s Perfect Child makes people face uncomfortable truths about Christian Science, Part Four made me particularly uncomfortable as it dealt with the (lack of) treatment of children, and the “treatment” meted out in Christian Science Sanatoriums — where Christian Science Nurses provide care.

Christian Science vs. the American Medical Association

The American Medical Association and Christian Science both got their start in the mid-1800s. The AMA focused on public health policy, rooting out quacks, and promoting medicine based on scientific criteria (allopathic medicine). Early on, several Christian Science Practitioners were tried for manslaughter (or murder) following the death of their patients. The CSPs cases were often dismissed because there was no ability to conclusively prove that medical science could’ve saved the patient’s life, and that CSPs had not committed any criminal act because they were preforming a religious, not medical service (GPC 262).

Consistent Legislative Action

Starting in the late 1800s, Christian Scientists rallied and pressured legislatures to pass statutes exempting Christian Scientists from medical licensing requirements. This went smoothly until modern medicine began to out-heal Christian Science in key areas: namely serious illness and contagious disease. Deaths in the general population began to decline, and Christian Scientists continued to die (GPC 270). Christian Scientists argued that “children died under medical care as often, if not more often than, children under Christian Science care” and in 1902 this came across as a reasonable defense (GPC 271).

Christian Scientists have successfully lobbied for exemption from criminal and civil child abuse laws in Arizona, for fees of CSPs and CS Nurses to be deducted as medical expenses, and religious exemptions from immunizations (GPC 274). The Church has gone as far as to publish booklets for each state with lists of exemptions.

Christian Scientists also lobbied insurance companies, gaining much needed “recognition” — now it is not just a religion to be protected by the first amendment, it is now a “proven” and “effective” healthcare system — proven by the Church’s own claims as published in the Church’s own periodicals (GPC 275-6).

Child Cases

This was a particularly difficult section for me to read as it discusses children and Christian Science, starting with a focus on Rita Swan and the formation of C.H.I.L.D. it is a gut wrenching read.

This section also touches on measles outbreaks at Principia College, as well as polio outbreaks at  the Daycroft School, in Greenwich Ct, a diphtheria outbreak at a Christian Science camp in Colorado (GPC 303), as well as several other heart wrenching stories of children suffered greatly as their parents chose to rely on Christian Science for healing.

The  Fruitage & C.S. Nursing

The rest of Part IV reads like an anti-Fruitage (the Fruitage is the last chapter of Science and Health recounting the amazing healings people had), it is a very difficult read and it touches on topics ranging from gas lighting (why CS Parents opt not to seek medical care), to Christian Science Nursing. Fraser interviews people and recounts experiences from a wide range of people who were all directly and negatively impacted by Christian Science “treatment.”

I was going to try and talk further about Chapter Four, but I can’t bring myself to go back through it right now. It really speaks for itself — and speaks volumes about Christian Science as an alternative health care method.

Extra reading


I am/you are, God’s Perfect Child

One of my goals for this year is to read my way through a stack of books that have been sitting on my desk for months now. They are about atheism, religion, philosophy, science, social issues, parenting, and a few works of fiction. We’ll see how far I get.

If you are only going to read one book about Christian Science, I highly recommend God’s Perfect Child: Living and Dying in the Christian Science Church by Caroline FraserI was initially going to read through  God’s Perfect Child in a few weeks and just make it one post, but I found it to be a very challenging read for me (I’ve had to put it down several times and walk away for a few days), and so densely packed with information that it deserved more coverage.

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I first came across God’s Perfect Child in the very early 2000s, as a high school senior, or possibly freshman at Principia. I acquired my copy from local used bookstore where it was tucked away in the corner with all the other religion-related volumes, next to several trade editions of Science and Health (the ugly red/green one) – they always had at least two or three copies and my mother often picked up a stack for $3 each to leave by the front door to hand out to people along with their housewife-based-pyramid-scheme samples.

I read it with skepticism, at that time I was still heavily involved in Christian Science, attending Sunday School regularly, and was either in the process of applying to or already at Principia College. I undoubtedly left the book laying out around the house, but if my parents noticed it, they never said anything to me about it.

I dismissed most of the book as part of the no true Christian Scientist fallacy (similar to the no true Scotsman) and reasoned that it couldn’t be Christian Science that was at fault — it was divinely authorized! There were documented healings! It worked! It had to be the people practicing it wrong, besides, no true Christian Scientist would do whatever irrational thing that was happening. I’ve since learned that Christian Science adherents come in a range from Die Hard Committed to Incredibly Pragmatic, thankfully my parents — who were converts — were more pragmatic than some and less committed than others.

It has been several years since I read God’s Perfect Child, in those years I’ve graduated Principia, moved out, married a fellow Christian Scientist (now fellow atheist), struggled with my faith, realized it is not the right path for me, started this blog, and now I think it is time to go back to God’s Perfect Child with a different perspective.

It is worth noting, Fraser’s organizational style mirrors Dakin biography: there are parts I – VI. divided into subsections for easier reference, as well as an extensive glossary, and end notes that run for pages. Fraser also includes an extensive selected and annotated bibliography for those who seek to research the topics further. While Dakin focuses specifically on Ms. Eddy, Fraser’s book goes well beyond the Beloved Leader’s history and talks more about the Church, and consequences of following Ms. Eddy’s teachings.

The preface of God’s Perfect Child starts with a scene that was immediately relateable to me, and Sunday School students across the country. She begins by describing how in Sunday school, where we were taught

There is No Spot Where God Is Not. God was Everywhere and Everything, Omnipotent Supreme, Father-Mother, All-in-All, and we were His image and likeness. God was All. Matter was nothing. …. The table and chairs and the carpet and the knees looked real, but they weren’t. They weren’t even there. They were matter, and matter was Error, and Error did not exist. (GPC p.5)

Only in Sunday School we used is, God is Everywhere… we are His image and likeness. Matter is nothing. Emerging Gently calls it “mental gymnastics” and by the age of five I’d mastered it and could recite it all back like a pro. Even with a 20+ year age gap, Fraser’s Sunday School experience mirrored mine so closely it was eerie — I never had the car sickness issues, but I did have regular rounds of common cold which would leave trails of keenx unreal behind me.

We also had a young man who attended my Sunday School die, not quite as dramatically — no one showed up at his parents house in protest, but it still sent ripples of discontent through the Sunday School and several of his friends and family (myself included) have since left Christian Science.

Fraser goes on to discuss, albeit briefly, Ms. Eddy background and those she influenced, touching on the New Thought and New Age movements, moving on to cover the rise of Christian Science, and a quick summary of services and church activities – most notably the lack there of, and the lack of diversity as well.

Fraser hits rather close to home as she describes something I’ve seen played out again and again, both at the church I attended growing up, and over and over again at Principia.

Christian Scientists are otherworldly, in the sense of being intensely emotionally invested in an unseen world of perfection, and emotionally disassociated from the realities of this world. [Christian] Scientists are smilers, happy-talkers, positive thinkers, and they simply refuse to allow the realities of the world, its tragedies and disasters, to penetrate. …. nothing can touch the Scientist who clears his mind of fear. Thus, for Scientists, there is nothing to fear but fear itself. (GPC, p. 19)

The fourth section of the Preface is entitled I Tip My Hat, acknowledges Ms. Eddy has inspired “intense reactions” and goes on to remind readers that the Church has done an excellent job of keeping apologist literature at the forefront  and successfully lobbied to maintain protective legislation. Fraser rightly argues that the information the Church has left out should be made available, and more should be done to show how they have seriously eroded the rights of children to equal protection under the law.

Fraser makes it quite clear that while Christian Scientists are welcome to believe what ever they’d like, but they need to have their actions taken to task. I agree, Christian Science has a lot to answer for and it should not be allowed to hide behind its polite middle class respectability any longer.

Knowing what I know now, and having read Dakin’s biography, I look forward to re-reading God’s Perfect Child with a fresh perspective.

Further Reading

measles at Prin 1989 (follow-up)

From my e-mail, a follow-up corroboration of measles at Prin 1989:

That is about how I remember it, though I don’t remember a whole lot. This a really good account.
When I was first transferred to the middle school wing, I remember they tricked me and said I’d only be there for a night. Then they didn’t let me leave and shortly afterward they decided that no one was allowed to leave their rooms there – maybe because they were mixing people with colds with people with measles and were hoping to avoid cross-contamination? It didn’t last.
I also remember that damn clapper on the TV and how every time someone coughed it would turn off.
Also the milkshakes. They went through the trash to see who wasn’t drinking theirs. If you didn’t have the appetite for a milkshake you were getting sicker and went to campus house.
I remember very little about campus house. Except I can corroborate the no baths thing. I must have worn the same underwear for days. Gross.
Oh, and remember how kids could get vaccinated so they could leave campus? Except I swear they vaccinated kids who had been in the quarantine wing and had clearly been exposed. I want to say [students name redacted] got double measles from it.

And an additional note from the original guest poster:
I suspect I only had a cold and they put me in the the measles area. Because I was fine for a long time before I got really sick… Though I could also have been in denial.

Additional information about measles and the dangers of not vaccinating

Additional information about the Principia Measles outbreaks (both 1985 and 1989)

Additional information about Christian Science and measles

1989 Measles at Principia Upper School – a first hand account

The following guest post is a a first hand account of the 1989 measles outbreak at the Principia Upper School.

What were your experiences with CS nursing while at Prin during the measles outbreak? How did they diagnose it since they’re trained to see disease as unreal & contagion as just as unreal?

This measles epidemic hit at the beginning of my first year at Principia Upper School, in fall of 1989.  I was fifteen and it was the first time I had attended a boarding school or been away from my family. The student population was almost entirely unvaccinated due to Christian Science beliefs. The first quarter, I was paired with another sophomore named A___. She was a most unusual combination of kind, unconcerned with appearances, and popular. And she was totally into CS, or appeared to be on the outside. A tranquil understanding of the philosophy, is how I would describe it, although it sounds strange to say it that way now as ex-CS but that is how I remember perceiving her. A___ tells me “I’m not going to get sick, you’re not going to get sick”, and I was like huh? cause it really seems like we’re all getting sick but you seem so sure about it. So that kind of worked and I remember thinking, ok, of course we’re not going to get sick.

Then one Sunday after church A___ laid down and didn’t get back up, just laid there with her eyes closed, skin blotching up, listening to CS tapes. I was scared. Still nobody said anything, but frequently housemoms, the women employed by Principia to live in the dorms with us, one per wing, and act as our guardians, would walk by and look in the door at A___ without comment to either of us. Eventually a housemom came and took A___ away. The dorm got really quiet. Lots of kids came down with it the same weekend that A___ did. I’m happy to presume I felt this way for my own reasons, but I definitely felt that I was expected not to get it, in the same way I would be expected not to sneak off campus or expected not to skip my homework.

The housemoms never said “measles”, only the kids spoke of it– “some kids have measles”, “this one has it now”, “so and so’s roommate was gone when she came back from practice.” But no one in the administration talked about it. They would just tell you reassuringly that they were “taking good care of” your roommate (anyone who got spots disappeared shortly thereafter). The housemoms did not say anything about your symptoms, they would just appear at your bedside after you’d been down for the count for a few hours to a day, and they’d say ‘Come with me, honey. Is there anything you want to bring?’ There was no communication from administration otherwise.

As the epidemic started up, they put students who showed measles symptoms in Campus House, which was a separate residence on campus for students sick enough to need care from a CS nurse. That filled up quickly, with a combination of students who had measles symptoms as well as kids in there for other reasons. They were not segregated. Next, they started putting sick kids in the middle school quarters of each dorm. There were no middle school boarders at the time and those attached quarters had been locked and empty. Soon they were full.

At that point, they expanded the quarantined area to include, in each dorm, the entire wing leading to the middle school quarters. This is a couple dozen rooms per dorm we’re talking, on top of all the rest. They relocated the remaining non-afflicted students living in those wings to other, now empty, beds belonging to students who had been moved into quarantine. It was just like, ‘take your clothes and shoes and go live in this other kid’s room, we’re putting a measles-ridden student in your bed/room now.’ They had a big sheet NAILED OVER THE DOORWAY to the “quarantined” wing of the dorm. And in the girls dorm anyway, that was the wing straight in front of you when you entered– the view from the windowed housemom station, the communication hub of the dorm. It was very strange to see things in this state of affairs after growing up in a first-world country.

The campus was quarantined; no day students were allowed on campus and no boarders allowed off, but this was not enacted until the school was instructed to by authorities. There was a “quarantined” tape across the school’s front driveway/entrance and it was on the local news. We sat and watched the news until the housemoms caught us.

A day or two after A___ fell ill, they came for me. I really was shocked to have gotten sick. Nobody said anything or said I had measles, they just brought me to a room in the middle school quarters. It felt unreal. Everybody else there was sicker than me so I just made my deductions about what was coming by looking at them. Okay, looks like I’m gonna have a heavy cold, be covered in rough red bumps and lumps that itch, and have glassy eyes and stare at the wall and drink milkshakes.

God, how those women resented making us those milkshakes. You know who is the absolute Worst group of people in the entire world to have care for a bunch of sick children? Christian Scientists. They were feeding us milkshakes with raw eggs snuck into in them because they thought it was a good source of extra calories, I guess. But isn’t that a terrible idea? To feed uncooked, possibly salmonella-carrying eggs to children whose immune systems are fighting off the measles with no medical help? That seems like a terrible idea to me, I don’t know.

There was so much inexplicable conflict and tension over feeding us. For the most part, we couldn’t eat real food because the insides of our throats were coated with measles pustules and we couldn’t swallow. So like, aren’t you actually getting off the hook here because you don’t have to cook us anything? But I guess if we could’ve eaten real food they could’ve utilized the cafeteria menu and wouldn’t have had to do ANYTHING except sit around judging us for being sick. In any case, I don’t care WHAT you give me to suck on because I am half dead. If a milkshake is such a pain in the ass then just pour me a glass of milk or whatever, who cares. I don’t even want your milkshake that’s served with resentment. You’re the nut jobs who are panicking about getting enough calories into us while simultaneously pretending we’re not almost dying of measles.

It was like being cared for by twelve resentful stepparents or something. It was all local CS nurses and practitioners and local CS mothers/wives. They did almost nothing for us. We didn’t get bathed because we couldn’t stand and they never suggested that we do so with help. I think I went about eight days without bathing. They didn’t even wash our hair, mine was oily from the roots out about four inches.

There were no thermometers anywhere on campus although the sick all had raging fevers. There were no medications or medicated products of any kind offered. I would be staggering up and down the hall to the bathroom clearly in need of assistance, in full view of the kitchen where they all congregated, and they pretended not to see. The CS nurses and other helpers didn’t go down to the rooms much actually, where the sicker kids were. They hung out in the living room with the less sick and read CS literature out loud, etc. (We were not allowed to watch anything on television that was deemed a distraction from our healing process.) Observing this healthier crowd in the living room was what had given me my initial, and as it turned out, extremely optimistic perception of what having measles was going to be like. If someone started coughing uncontrollably in one of the rooms the women would look at each other knowingly and sort of roll their eyes and sigh like “what an incompetent, I guess one of has to go sit with them and read to them.” Teachers would come by and visit sometimes, which was a bright spot, and regularly I would notice a CS nurse or one of the other congregated CSers peeping in my door. But this didn’t offer much other than a sense that someone would probably notice within a few minutes if I got to where I couldn’t breathe at all or I fell or something.

The school administration “strongly encouraged” our families to use (and pay) local practitioners instead of our family practitioners, which even back then in my almost eternal naivete, I knew was a bad idea motivated by a desire to fund the local practitioners who were going to be asked to help out locally with the milkshakes and the ignoring and such. So I didn’t even have communication with my practitioner-since-birth. (Not that I really felt that attached to her, as you can imagine.) Instead I was assigned this cold local practitioner who tired of my through-the-night phone calls when I got a horrible ear infection near the end of my measles. She was like “isn’t there someone THERE who can help you?” and I was like (some shy fifteen year old’s version of) “NO of course there is no one here I can find to help me, why else do you think I would call you four times between 2 and 4 AM in panicked agony when you clearly don’t even LIKE me?”

I wish I had a photo of myself. Eyes hopelessly glued shut with pus at all times, red measles so dense and scaly they only died out around the eyes, where the skin turned deathly white. I remember thinking I looked like one of the performers in makeup for the Broadway show CATS, which was popular at the time. Like a leopard, and then the crazy-looking dirty hair sticking out in all directions around my face. But the fever-induced hallucinations were the worst. They came any time I had to do anything for myself or try to reason at all. The strongest impression I retained from the whole experience was once when I was trying to alternately walk and crawl down the hall to the bathroom and the hallway was growing in length like that scene from the end of the movie ‘Poltergeist’. I remember it as having taken about five minutes for me to progress down the hall to the bathroom. Several years later when we had middle school boarders at the school again (that started back up in fall 1991 when I was a senior) I walked down to the now-unlocked wing and was startled to realize that the room I had stayed in was only three doors down from the bathroom.

I also remember standing in the dark little dorm room and staring at myself in the mirror (though I had been instructed not to look at “the material picture”) seeing myself swaying slightly, and thinking, how can I be this sick, all of us this sick, and everyone is acting normal? They’re not even being NICE to us! And I was shocked that my parents didn’t fly out. Most other kids had at least one parent or another visit at some point. Or maybe not most, I don’t know. They did discourage parents from coming, no surprise there. My parents took the ‘out’.

So, I’ve been quarantined with the rest of the sickos for a while now, and my symptoms have greatly worsened. I haven’t breathed through my nose in days and it’s now gotten to where I can’t breathe through my mouth either because I’m literally drowning in mucus. It also happens that I have extremely chapped and cracked lips which are covered in dried blood, but I’m unaware of that because I’m delirious with fever and also because the state of my lips is very low on my priority list. To the appearance-obsessed CS crowd taking care of us, perhaps my bloody lips were the most offensive symptom I was presenting.

Anyway, in the absence of any sort of real caregiving, I determine that a great way to stay alive would be to CRAWL to the bathroom, wet a washcloth with hot water, and hold it to my mouth and breathe through it so that it would melt the mucus enough that I could cough some up and swallow some down and be able to breathe for maybe ten minutes. So I do this repeatedly, and no one seems to notice, until this one lady who I will refer to as megabitch to protect her identity and also because she was a megabitch, decides to “help”. She finds me laying under the sinks in the bathroom, takes my life-giving washcloth away, says, “honey that’s not going to help your lips” and guides me back to my room.

Well, I have no idea what has just happened. It makes no sense to me, but I am very sick and confused and I kind of realize that. There’s nothing else to do but crawl back to the bathroom again once the choking starts back up. I settle back in bed with my temporarily hot washcloth and she appears again, wordlessly snatches it away and leaves without a glance, or she would have seen me desperately trying to explain how much I needed the washcloth and what I had to go through to get it since no help was forthcoming. All this lady can see is chapped lips, she is actually pretending I am not dying of pneumonia in front of her.

The next time she flounces into my room to snatch away my washcloth (where did this vigilant oversight come from all of a sudden?) I gather my wits and make a desperate attempt to communicate with her to please not take away my washcloth and to explain to her why I need it, but the wrong words come out. My fever-addled brain is picking nonsense words. I hear them and I know they are not the words I meant to say but I can’t fix it. I start to cry. I’m so thirsty. I can’t get enough air, I haven’t for hours now. She leans down over me looking straight into my eyes with the sanctimonious perfume of CS-ery just wafting off of her, and says “You DON’T need to rely on material objects for comfort! How about some Vaseline?”

How does a reasoning person utter that sentence and not hear how completely insane it is?

When she went for my washcloth this time, I clung to it and kicked her right in the shins. That’s why you shouldn’t deny fever-reducing drugs to fifteen year olds (or anyone.) I was so delirious. I felt I was fighting for my life. In retrospect, I’m pretty sure I actually was fighting for my life. But I was an obedient and easily intimidated kid, and I had never behaved like that with an authority figure.

The absolute nadir of my measles adventure came a few days later. I had been staying in the same room in the middle school quarters from the time I was originally removed from my normal assigned dorm room. I got sick near the height of the epidemic; the last to get sick were in the makeshift dorm wings. As the first to get sick (mostly at Campus House and a few in the middle school quarter) began to recover, Prin was hot hot hot to get those makeshift sick wings returned to normal dormitory use (the ones with the sheets hanging in the archways) because there’s absolutely no way that was kosher in terms of meeting the conditions of the quarantine. With that in mind, they divided us up into either Very Sick or Almost Dying so that they could move the Almost Dying kids over to Campus House where they’d be in a separate building that was actually intended for caring for sick students, and they could then consolidate the Very Sick kids all back into the Middle School quarters of each dorm, where there was an actual door they could lock and put the quarantine sign on. So it’s not that this was a bad idea.

They tell me to get my stuff together and they are going to drive me over to Campus House. Folks, I do not know why this was my breaking point but it was. I mean this fever I had was FANTASTIC, unquestionably it was in the 103-106* range because I was hallucinating and convulsing, and it had gone on for days with no medication or hydration. Anyway, I lost my damn mind. I cried hysterically. I refused to go to Campus House. “I’m getting better! I’m fine! I feel great!” I had absolutely no voice, of course, okay? Not even a whisper. Nothing. Just the horrible, wet, racking cough punctuating everything.

I break away from my caregivers’ grasp, lock myself in the nurse’s station and begin desperately calling each of my parents in turn, collect, because I think that I can tell my parents to tell Prin not to move me to Campus House. Number one, the operator cannot hear me. It takes several attempts before I successfully communicate with one. But even when the operator puts a call goes through, my parents can’t hear me either and hang up. Start over. Try other parent. Same problem. Through all this there is a crowd of CS nurses & housemoms knocking on the door trying to reason with me. High drama. Finally I luck out with a compassionate (and especially acute-of-hearing) phone operator who attempts to slightly explain the phone call, and Mom figures it out. “Elizabeth?? Is that you??” and she lets me freak out for a while, and then convinces me to go to Campus House. So I did.

The first exchange I had upon arriving at Campus House was with a certain CS Teacher (CSB’s) wife who was helping out during the epidemic. She asked me if I “should really be eating that Popsicle, dear?” I was overweight, and so shocked at her remark that I did not have the presence of mind to point out that 1. none of you are tracking or communicating to each other what any of us are eating, so really? Really, lady? and 2. I have measles IN MY THROAT. That’s how much measles I have. ALL I’ve eaten for the last ten days is popsicles and milkshakes! And nothing. Mostly nothing. Also, surely you’re not suggesting that these material popsicles can influence my weight? Because if you ARE suggesting that, then this entire measles epidemic is a complete hypocrisy! I mean, you’d basically be torturing children under a bullsh*t premise! Hahahahah!!! Crazy!

In closing, and although it is also a compliment I actually say this to emphasize how horribly the measles thing was handled, I loved Prin. I had a great time, I have lots of fond memories, and other than this instance and a few other WTF conversational exchanges with administration, I have no complaints, so this is not a “Prin sucked” thing. This is someone who had a largely positive Prin experience saying that the measles epidemic was a fiasco, and that CSers actually have no business caring for the very ill (and particularly the underaged) unless they are there only for spiritual support and are working in conjunction with actual nurses who know what the hell they are doing and how to treat the sick with a modicum of compassion. Prin mismanaged it, and the CS nursing staff & local support team mistreated and neglected us. Really badly.

My roommate A___ made it through the measles epidemic but died shortly after graduation. She came down with a respiratory illness while she was studying in Europe, and she didn’t go to the doctor. Her flatmates found her unresponsive and brought her in, and she died in the hospital. I’ve pondered this over the years because many of us had lasting effects from the measles. I have somewhat chronic strep throat due to scarring in my throat from the measles. Several of my friends reported that they had chronic chest coughs well into their college years (4-6 years on).

Elizabeth was a 4th generation Christian Scientist and attended Principia Upper School for three years. She boarded on the Upper School campus during the 1989 outbreak.

To contact Elizabeth, please e-mail excsmemoir (at) gmail (dot) com, subject: “Elizabeth’s measles story”

Edited 2/3/2015 to protect privacy and fix a few typos.

Commentary on Ms. Eddy’s “Christ and Christmas”

While I had heard about Ms. Eddy’s Christ and Christmas poem growing up, I didn’t read it until just recently, when I came across MJSmith’s analyses of it on The Ark of Truth Mother’s Hood. I am more acquainted with Ms. Eddy’s hymn/poem Christmas Morn as it regularly made an appearance at Christmas Hymn Sings, along with the generically Christian  Joy to the World.

MJSmith makes some interesting observations and draws some interesting conclusions from the poem and illustrations, so I decided to find a copy and see for myself. Christ and Christmas is not in our personal collection, but Google Books and have copies available online.

I was never much for poetry analysis (my high school English teachers will agree), and I’m sure if I attempted to analyzing Christ and Christmas it would devolve into a study in esoteric minutia and I would likely come to all the wrong conclusions.

I will leave the musings and analysis to MJSmith and the Discover of New Christian Science, Rolf Witzsche. Below is the full text of the poem, a YouTube video of Wizsche’s “New Christian Science: Christ & Christmas,” and links to MJSmith’s analyses.
A quick note: There is much criticism of Christian Scientists by Christian Scientists about the “right” and “wrong” ways to practice, as well as selective/intentional ignorance about certain aspects of the religion. I feel that these things which may be preceived as controversial should be made more broadly available so that people can judge for themselves — and I’m sure it will make for interesting conversation around the dinner table.

Continue reading

Back To the Batcave, Chickenhawks!

The following is a guest post by long-time reader and fellow former-Christian Scientist Dr. Spock. For more , please visit the Guest Posts & Contributors tab at the top of the page.

Some readers may be aware that the Committee on Publication (COP) folks–they’re the public relations army of the Christian Science Church–have been working to get themselves “out there” in the media. They write numerous op-eds, some are/were contributors to features like the “On Faith” section of the Washington Post, some blog on Huffington Post, and on-line editions of local newspapers, and most of them also keep their own blogs. Most of them write in what I like to call “stealth mode”–not making many, if any, direct references to Christian Science or Mary Baker Eddy. Most of these puff pieces deal with “lifestyle” issues, interwoven with a spirituality element. On a certain level, I think it’s a deviously ingenious strategy, but it’s very deceptive. Wolves in sheep’s clothing. You think you’re reading a nice fluffy piece about spirituality, feel-good stuff, but underlying it is a theology that has maimed and killed many, and caused many more to suffer from terrible traumas and mental illness. Most of us who’ve grown up in Christian Science are survivors of at least child neglect (due to lack of medical care), and in some cases outright abuse. I and a few others who’ve been through the mental meat-grinder of Christian Science and managed to survive sometimes take it as a bit of a personal mission to expose this strategy, and offer opposing views on what the COP would like to put out there as the public face of Christian Science.

Such was my attempt to do this by commenting on this blog post by Keith Wommack, COP for Texas, in the on-line edition of the Houston Chronicle. It’s a nice puff piece, quite representative of what the COP crew is putting out these days, although he does actually mention Christian Science by name–once only. Gone are the obligatory quotes from Mary Baker Eddy, Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures, and biographical sketch (usually a re-telling of the infamous “fall on the ice in Lynn, Massachusetts” in 1866) that used to be guaranteed hallmarks of any media release from the COP.

Wommack positions Christian Science as “alternative health care”, which is what the Church has trying very hard to brand Christian Science as for several years now. I took it upon myself to offer an opposing point of view. I think I was respectful, and not too hardball–not as hardball as I could have been. I’ll let you be the judge. Here’s the comment I submitted:

“I don’t disagree with Mr. Wommack that thoughts and powerful emotions such as love can have an effect on the body, and certainly one’s mental health. But, can they cure cancer, diabetes, or parkinson’s disease? No, I highly doubt it. However, Wommack implies that it can indeed cure serious diseases, as does his religion, Christian Science, which espouses radical reliance solely on prayer for healing of physical ailments. Walking down this faith path is potentially dangerous, and many have done so with tragic consequences not only for themselves but also others, particularly children, entrusted to their care. I also dispute the assertion here of the woman’s condition of Parkinson’s disease: it takes more in-depth testing than what Wommack describes here to come up with a firm diagnosis. I’d like to see more proof before I accept his assertion. To quote Carl Sagan, ‘Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence.'”

My comment wasn’t posted. Neither was a comment by an acquaintance of mine who’s also a former Christian Scientist. This has happened to other acquaintances when they’ve attempted to post opposing comments to other “columns” by Wommack in the on-line edition of the Chronicle. This was my first time commenting on one of his “columns” (Wommack characterizes himself as a “syndicated columnist”, a claim I believe to be a stretch on credibility, if not an outright lie). I would not be deterred. I wrote an e-mail to the features editor, asking for an explanation, and pasting the text of my comment. No response. My acquaintance did the same thing. No response either (as far as I know). Three weeks later, I sent a follow-up e-mail asking again for a response and clarification on the comments policy. This time, I got a reply. Here it is:

“I sent your email on to the writer of this blog. This is a reader blog that we do not edit. Therefore, the writer of the blog will need to respond and/or activate your comment.”

It was signed by the Executive Producer/Director, Digital Content. I replied back stating that I was under the impression that this was a “column” rather than a blog, and that it should be clarified for readers that this is a blog that the Chronicle doesn’t have editorial control, and also that readers should know that comments are moderated by the writer. This is all very misleading. I can’t help but feel like this plays directly into the hands of what the COP wants. Get out there, make Christian Science look acceptable, like “alternative” health care, which is something that is very popular nowadays, fly in there under the radar. However, if people really knew the truth about Christian Science, they’d run away fast. It is a killer.

If the Christian Scientists want to be out there in the public forum, they need to grow thicker skins and be willing to entertain opposing views and entertain tough questions. They usually do not. Former Chair of the Christian Science Board of Directors, Virginia Harris, appeared on Larry King Live several years ago. Now, almost all guests on that show fielded call-in questions from viewers. Harris did not. Christian Scientists have a pattern of either avoiding tough questions, and/or answering their critics by attacking the critics personally. I’ve seen this time and time again. For example, I’ve heard Rita Swan, a former Christian Scientist who’s an activist for child welfare characterized as a shrill woman who transfers her anger at herself and her failings as a Christian Scientist vis a vis the death of her own child under Christian Science care to the Church and to Christian Science. To the true blue Christian Scientist, Christian Science is infallible. When Christian Science fails, as it inevitably does, the victim gets the blame. Their “understanding” wasn’t right, or they let “animal magnetism” control their thought, or some other BS explanation like that. I guess when you’re trying to defend the indefensible, you will try to avoid the tough questions as much as you can.

My message to the Christian Scientists is simple: answer the tough questions; entertain the opposing views and be willing to intelligently and respectfully counter them (without personal attacks on the critic–that’s just a chickensh*t cop-out), or shut the hell up and crawl back to Boston. Be up-front with who you are and what you’re representing–quit with the stealth mode. Quit sugar-coating it and stealthily going around like lifestyle/spirituality writers. Fly your Christian Science flag proudly! But, be ready for the response. Don’t be a chickenhawk.

About Mr. Spock
Mr. Spock is a highly logical man frustratingly lost in a sea of illogical humanity. He is a former Christian Scientist who saw the light and realized there is not one shred of logic to be found in Christian Science. He is a graduate of Principia College. When not toiling away for the “man” at his day job, he can be found paddling in his kayak on a lake, crashing through the woods on his mountain bike, or hurtling down snow-covered mounain slopes in the winter (on skis). He also enjoys a quality beer on a hot day, and intelligent conversation. He revels in the reality of matter, the wonders of REAL science and evidence-based medicine, and is slowly learning to embrace the wide spectrum of human emotions that Christian Science once denied him. Sometimes, he finds himself crying for no apparent reason…

renew a focus on our primary resources for spiritual growth – shut down the questioning

It seems the “Circle of faith” community at is closing down. While I never spent much time there, I did enjoy the idea that The Mother Church would permit “open idalogue among Christian Scientists, their fellow Christians, and people of other faith traditions.”
Screen Shot 2014-07-16 at 2.58.00 PMThe reason given?

we feel this is an opportunity to pause with some of our online activities and renew a focus on our primary resources for spiritual growth — our Pastor: the Holy Bible and Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures by Mary Baker Eddy.

Fear not little flock, the Circle of Faith blogs will remain up — you’re still welcome to comment there, but the discussion boards? Those will be gone as of August 2014.

Screen Shot 2014-07-16 at 2.57.49 PMIn skimming through them earlier, I found some great “conversations” including

And gems like this:

Understanding illusory nature of matter is essential and indispensable for Christian Science. An idea of unreality of matter is not a new one. It is as old as Hinduism, or at least 4000 years old. Hindu religion teaches that material world is an illusion – Maya, a dream of mind based on sensory perception. Buddha 500 years earlier than Jesus also taught about the nature of material world. To Western thought unreality of matter can be explained from subject-object frame of reference. If we look at the tree from one side and then change our subjective position, the tree will remain the same even in case subjective picture has changed. The tree can be dry from one side and wet from the other. It can have more branches on visible side, but lack branches on the other. Based on subjective perception, can we say that the tree is dry or wet? Can we count all branches just looking at the tree from one side? What subjective picture of mind can we create on the basis of our sensual perception?

They go on at some length and then conclude:

To understand all miracles of Jesus, it is crucial to realize that not only “matter” is unreal and subjective, but the whole world is unreal. It seems a very radical idea and a far stretch . But consider the fact that the “world” depends on self and its subjectivity. The world can be one for one conscious self identity and different for the other. There is a world of a schizophrenic and a world of a saint. The world of the same tree is different whether it is a botanist who looks at the tree, or a tree chopper. The world can contain all sorts of projections, attachments, fears and beliefs, which are not real. So, if the world is unreal, what is real? God is real, Spirit is real. God is much bigger than any world our perception and imagination can grasp. And Spirit belongs God, comes from God and returns to God. Spirit is permanent and immovable in the world. There is only one Law Spirit obeys before God. It is described in the words of Jesus, “Give to God what is God’s.”

With all these delightful variations, interpretations, and legitimate questioning of what Ms. Eddy’s claims, it is no wonder that they’re closing down the forums and limiting comments to CSP-authorized posts.

I highly recommend checking out the forums before they’re closed in August!