fathermothergod: doing your part for the Cause

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


I’ve put down Dennet’s Darwin’s Dangerous Idea: Evolution and the Meanings of Life (see previous post) — an excellent read, but rather heavy — in favor of Lucia Greenhouse’s fathermothergod: My Journey Out of Christian Science — the blogger over at Emerging Gently assured me it was a “quick read” and I needed a break from deep philosophical musings.

fathermothergod is indeed a quick read, I finished it in a little over a day, and it hit all the emotional buttons. My husband found me in tears and told me I didn’t need to finish the book, I did anyway, I had to even though I knew how it was going to end. The story told in fathermothergod simultaneously validates my own experience, and gives me a preview of (and new perspective on) what I may face in the future with family members who remain steadfastly in Christian Science.

My father, much like Greenhouse’s, was a convert to Christian Science; my mother converted “out of convenience.” The father-know’s-best attitude that prevailed throughout echoed my childhood as well. Greenhouse’s father took a more extreme path with his practice of Christian Science than mine did, choosing to become a Christian Science Practitioner and then Teacher. Greenhouse’s father reminds his children on p. 59 that

you are in a sense doing your part for the Cause. There is a real need for Christian Science worldwide, and this is one way you can play a part. An important part.

The Cause of Christian Science can be quite compelling. For those who have the opportunity to participate it is seen as a “real gift” as Greenhouse’s father, my mother, and countless other Christian Scientists have said.

As a child, Christian Science was hard to explain as a religion in which I participated, but I can only being to imagine how hard it was to explain being a Christian Scientist Practitioner’s daughter. Greenhouse recounts her father’s reaction to her decision to get glasses, and how this is seen as a failing on her part, really, shouldn’t she give Christian Science a chance?

fathermothergod touches on some of the elephants in the Christian Scientists living room: secrecy surrounding illness, the idea that Christian Science must be protected (from what, I’m still not sure), the tremendously large abstract concepts that young children are expected to understand and demonstrate. Mortal mind, error, protective work. Having been raised in Christian Science, I found myself nodding knowingly when Greenhouse’s parents espouse these beliefs, I find this story quite relatable, and I feel the deepest sympathy for her non-Christian Science family members.

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

My parents sought medical care when my father’s health began to fail. It was selective and inconsistent, but I credit the medical intervention that was given with the extra ten years we had with Dad. As my mother put it once, she’d seen too many people “radically rely themselves into an early grave” and she wasn’t going to let that happen. It was difficult, his health problems started while I was still immersed in Christian Science (and attending Principia), and by the time he died, I was well on my way out.

I highly recommend fathermothergod, it demonstrates many of the concepts of Christian Science in their real-world application and not just abstract theories. fathermothergod also does an excellent example of portraying the emotional strain placed on children of Christian Scientists, as well as the relationship complexities when non-science family is involved.

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Thoughts On The End

Everyone should read this post. Yes, this is an uncomfortable topic, but it is very important, and Emerging Gently has done an excellent job handling the subject!

Emerging Gently

I’ve recently had a dialogue with a reader regarding a recent post. My friend is a Christian Scientist, while I, obviously, am not. The discussion centred somewhat around end-of-life issues, and it’s prompted me to think about this rather uncomfortable subject.

View original post 1,128 more words

what I’ve been reading: things that make me angry

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CS prays for healing at http://www.tampabay.com/news/health/linda-osmundson-casa-director-and-christian-scientist-prays-for-healing/2206547

Why does God Kill So Many Children in Idaho? at https://www.vocativ.com/culture/religion/faith-healing-deaths/?page=all

Birthing Book Linked to Death of Baby at  http://www.theragblog.com/metro-lamar-w-hankins-birthing-book-linked-to-death-of-pursley-baby-in-east-texas-cult/

Religious Freedom vs. Child Protection at http://www.csicop.org/si/show/faith_healing_religious_freedom_vs._child_protection

House of Horrors

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.


I frequently visit Victoria, British Columbia, a place that stirs a lot of memories for me, and I recently got back from a week there with family and friends. I partially grew up there, as I often spent my summers as a kid in the area with my cousins, and it was tradition at Christmas to go to my aunt and uncle’s place for a large family Christmas gathering, where I learned fast, as the youngest able-bodied cousin, to eat quickly if I wanted seconds on turkey and stuffing. I always remember the corner store where, when I was around nine or ten years old, my cousin and I spent our allowance one hot summer day on a box each of about a dozen Twinkies, on which we gorged ourselves while sitting on the store’s stoop. Before we were able to pedal all the way back home, we were throwing up in a ditch by the side of the road. The store isn’t there anymore, long ago swallowed up by condos and cookie-cutter yuppieish boutiques and coffee shops as urban development spread into the once semi-rural area where my cousins lived. Sometimes I drive by the house my cousins lived in, and try to find some of the other landmarks from my childhood summers as they occasionally emerge from the mists of my memory. Along with the fun memories of childhood, also come some darker ones. Victoria is also the place where my mother went to die in the worst pain I can imagine, in a Christian Science nursing facility. It is also where my father and I scattered her ashes at the seashore; and where, less than a year later, I scattered his. These memories burn brightly as if it were yesterday when it all happened.

Victoria is a beautiful city, and I always enjoy my visits with family and friends in the area. On the other side of the coin, it’s not always easy to be there. One ritual I always perform when I’m there is to visit the seaside park where my parents’ ashes were scattered. It’s the one place where I can physically go and “visit” them. It’s a spectacularly beautiful spot with a view over Juan de Fuca Strait towards Washington State in the USA. Dad and I chose that spot to scatter Mom’s ashes because of its beauty, and the fact that it combined, as best as possible, two places she loved: Vancouver Island (where Victoria is located), and in view of Washington State. After we scattered Mom’s ashes, Dad declared to me his desire to have his ashes scattered there as well, saying that when the time came, he “wanted to be with her”. Previously, for many years, he’d expressed a desire to have his ashes scattered in the Canadian Rockies.

Not far from where my parents’ ashes were scattered, is the place I consider to be a true House Of Horrors a.k.a. Wayside House. It’s the Christian Science nursing facility where many good Canadian (and maybe a few American and other) Christian Scientists go to suffer and often die–without even the most basic pain mitigation allowed to soften the blow. Wayside House is where my Mom died under Christian Science “care”. I’ve often driven past this place over the years, usually never stopping; trying not to give the place much more than a second thought, but this time, it was different. I drove around the block to circle back in front of the driveway into this despicable place. I pulled over to the side of the road and just sat there and looked on for a few minutes. It looked peaceful and serene at the House Of Horrors. In fact, it looked like nobody was there at all, but I knew otherwise. Beneath that serene exterior, I knew there were people in there in excruciating pain, dying of god only knows what awful diseases they chose not to have treated or even diagnosed.

I remember a visit to the House Of Horrors early in childhood when my grandmother worked there as a Christian Science nurse. I distinctly remember hearing a woman moaning in pain or some sort of discomfort from a room down the hall as I accompanied my grandmother on her rounds. I don’t remember if I asked Gram about what I heard, but I do remember it. I wonder now what sort of pain that poor woman was in. The only comfort the “nurses” would’ve been able to offer would have been to shift pillows, offer water or juice, or read from the Bible and/or the writings of Mary Baker Eddy or other Christian Science literature. Not even an aspirin is permitted in these houses of horrors, and people often enter these facilities with advanced cancer or other serious diseases eating away at their bodies. Before Christian Scientists will acquiece even to care at a Christian Science nursing facility, they will often have suffered at home on their own with whatever ailment they’re dealing with for quite some time. Any admission of advancement of a disease is an admission of failure in your practice Christian Science, and many Christian Scientists are loathe to admit such.

Thankfully, the House Of Horrors is on its last few remaining financial legs, as far as I know. Each year it manages to remain in operation amazes me. Unlike Christian Science nursing facilities in the United States, this facility receives no government funding for patient care, although it is licensed as a “private hospital” under the laws of the province of British Columbia. Canadian Medicare, unlike Medicare/Medicaid in the United States, wisely does not fund care in non-medical facilities, and I don’t know of any private insurance here that does either. If you go to this place, you’re there on your own dime and for what you get, it’s not cheap. Some financial aid is apparently available. As I settled out my parents’ estate, I begrudgingly wrote a cheque for over $1,000.00 to settle up the last payment for Mom’s so-called “care”. For her hard-earned cash, Mom got a room, a nicely made bed each morning, and nicely prepared food, which the large tumour growing in her abdomen pretty much prohibited her from eating. Her pillows were probably fluffed and shifted as needed, and she had a phone for her use. Other than that, the nurses would have only read from “the books” (the Bible and Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures), some other writings by Mary Baker Eddy, and maybe some Christian Science periodicals. Apparently, one nurse was a good piano player and sung hymns with her in the common room. They also filled Dad and I up with sunny reports of Mom’s “progress”, including one story of her “dancing” in the hallway (I’ve heard different versions of that anecdote from others, so I wonder if it’s part of some script that Christian Science nurses learn in their training). I later learned from my non-Christian Scientist cousin, who visited Mom frequently at the House of Horros, that the only progress Mom was making in her last weeks there was towards the grave, and that she appeared to be in excruciating pain most of the time. The sunshiny, rose-petaled denial that Christian Scientists retreat to in the face of serious illness is deeply maddening to me now.

The House Of Horrors survives largely on bequests, donations, and in the past by sales of its formerly extensive real estate holdings. It’s located in a high-value neighbourhood of Victoria, and once comprised several acres of open space. I’d estimate the property they sold off was probably worth a few million dollars over the years. I’m not certain how much of their endowment still exists, but several years back I remember overhearing a conversation my uncle-in-law was having (he was on their board of directors at the time), and it sounded like the money was getting thin. Like the Christian Science Church and other Christian Science affiliated organizations, the House Of Horrors is a dying corpse that survives by cannibalizing itself by selling off assets, and benefiting from the bequests of dead Christian Scientists. Fortunately, no Christian Science-related organization got any bequests from my parents’ estate–they left it all to me exclusively, and there’s no way in hell will I give one dime to a Christian Science-affiliated organization. However, if I had pre-deceased my parents, a branch church, The Mother Church, and Principia would have equally split the proceeds from their estate. It’s a good thing I’m a survivor, I guess. I’d hate to think of any of my parents’ estate helping to sustain anything connected with Christian Science, despite their own [misguided] dedication to it, especially as I think on the horrific ways their dedication to Christian Science ended up killing them. Each year, I make a gift to the Salvation Army during their Christmas Drive in quiet honour of my Dad who did the same during his lifetime.

I sat there in my car looking on at the House Of Horrors, and raised my middle finger in a quiet salute to this awful place. Through my open window, I said “fuck you!” It felt good as I drove away. Nobody, except maybe the neighbour in whose driveway I’d stopped, would have heard me, but it still felt good. I said my peace to that place. I told them what I thought of them and what they do there. It was also my “fuck you” to Christian Science. Sometimes, you just need to do things like this.

Kung fu fighting, Dancing queen Tribal spaceman and all that’s in between

68bfd84ec9a37a8d0502862dc4ad280eFrom elementary school through college one of my closest friends was a boy named William (1). We met through our local Christian Science Church — we both regularly attended Sunday School, and, for a time our younger sisters were Best Friends. One summer while William was visiting extended family, he had a nasty bicycle accident — head first into a brick wall. William wasn’t wearing a helmet.

I was never told the details of the accident, except that William had been taken to a hospital, and he was in a coma for a while. The lasting effects were a scar — hardly visible under a thick head of hair, and occasional seizures for which he may or may not have regularly taken medication (his father was not a Christian Scientist).

As the years passed, we never really talked about the accident, or the seizures. We were two carefree teens, we argued about politics — we were both incredibly politically conservative, we talked about movies — he was a huge Star Wars fan, we discussed school — we both had an interest in computers, we talked about travel — he desperately wanted to tour Europe and I’d already been there. We talked about the future, did we have one together? Probably not, but if no one else was interested, what about a back-up-plan at 30?

We dated for a few months, we liked each other, but never really made the “romantic” part work. We were friends, we cared deeply about each other, he was like a brother, and you don’t go around kissing your brother. He jokingly proposed marriage, I turned him down, I was fourteen, not ready for that kind of commitment.

Part way through high school William had a seizure. A friend told me he’d started shaking and had to be wheeled out on a stretcher. It seemed pretty serious.

We didn’t really talk about it. It was a chink in his armor, the armor of God, like the scaly hide of a crocodile — we learned about that in Sunday School. William carried on, to him it was just a flesh wound (2). Some other friends joined our group, we were the Grand Triumvirate, the Gruesome Threesome, until one of us had  a car we hung out at Wendy’s, the park. Later, it was the local bookstore and $1 Cinema.

Towards the end of high school William had a second seizure. His moods changed a bit, they got darker, he got a bit meaner towards several mutual friends.

William and I didn’t really talk about it. He graduated, lived at home, working and attending community college. We talked about Harry Potter instead. We discussed the new Lord of the Rings movie that had just come out. We debated the finer points of the Matrix. We went to my senior prom. He jokingly proposed marriage again, I turned him down, telling him to be careful what he wished for.

During this time I started dating “Philip,” he also happened to be one of Williams’ co-workers (it was a small suburb, there was a lot of overlap in social circles). Philip started complaining to William that I was “no fun” because I “refused to put out.” William told me about this and my relationship with Philip was short-lived. William dated a series of petite girls with curly/frizzy blond hair and similar sounding names. We didn’t date again, although he did nickname me “Kat the Great, Goddess of the Universe” and on at least one occasion worshiped me — for context this was after we’d been stopped by some well meaning Mormon Missionaries and they very quickly let us continue on our way.

A year later, I graduated high school and went on to Principia College. He turned 21 and started experimenting with the very forbidden alcohol. I wasn’t thrilled by his occasional drinking, but I saw the appeal — something that was so forbidden by our religion was now “legal” because of an arbitrary age change. I was at Principia, and only home on breaks. He started dating someone, I started dating someone, and we kept in touch, seeing each other when I was home from college — usually at church. Work kept him busy, he was climbing the ladder of success at a major grocery store chain, attending school nearly full time, and taking martial arts.

The last time I saw him, was Winter Break my sophomore year. He was transferring to the local university, he had so many ideas about what he wanted to do, and he wanted to share them with me. We made plans for Spring Break, I’d be home for two weeks with not much else going on. We exchanged a very awkward hug — our parents were watching — and promised to keep in touch.

It was a Sunday morning in February when I got the phone call from my sister, she was in tears. “William is dead.” I didn’t believe it. “He had a seizure and suffocated in his pillow. Do you have our Sunday School Teacher’s phone number? His sister wants to talk to her.” I found the phone number in question, rather incredulous that my mother didn’t have it on one of her many phone lists.

When I got off the phone with my sister, I called our mutual best friend “Marie” to share the news. Marie was in shock, she too was away at college and hadn’t seen William in months. I also called “Beth” — a friend with whom William had a falling out after his second seizure — who was the only one of us who managed to make it to the memorial service. When I got home for Spring Break the three of us wept together over our shared loss. Marie and I visited his small grave marker and left yellow roses, then went to Wendy’s and the local park where we all used to hangout.

Attending the local Christian Science church became nearly unbearable. His mother did her best to carry on as if nothing had happened, but something had, you could see it written across the faces of his younger siblings. It was open knowledge that William and I had been friends (and in a relationship, although the congregation had speculated it was more than it had been, in the end we were friends), one member of the congregation took it upon himself to “inform” me in the most casual way:  “did you hear that William passed on?” accompanied by flushing and giggling.

I met up with my then-boyfriend (3) over that Spring Break as well, as he drove around looking for places to make out he pulled up at the park William and I had often visited. I was too emotionally wrecked to make out in the same place William and I had picnicked and competed to see who could swing higher, so I dissolved into tears. My boyfriend was quite confused and asked what was wrong, out poured the story of my relationship with William, his death, how it never worked out, how he was still one of my best and closest friends.

My boyfriend then asked if William was still alive, would I leave him for William. I really should’ve seen this as a sign and dumped him on the spot, but our relationship held on for nearly a year. The following Summer Break Marie and I visited Williams’ grave again. As we were walking back to her car, it hit me, William treated me better than my boyfriend ever had, and we were friends. William never had to write memos (joking or not) to himself to be nice to me, he just was. Even after his seizures which clearly altered his moods, he was still nice to me. As soon as we got back to Marie’s house I called my boyfriend and dumped him.

I miss William and think about him often. I make sure my husband and children always wear their bike helmets. I randomly tear up when I hear Spice Girls songs, and have to watch Star Wars with a box of kleenx near by. I keep in touch with Beth. Marie and I had a nasty falling out (yes, Christian Science played a role). Williams’ mother remains “in Science” but his siblings have left.

I often wonder what would’ve been different if he hadn’t been in Christian Science, if he hadn’t died so young. He had so much potential.


  1. Names have been changed
  2. This was also a favorite T-shirt of his, he loved Monty Python
  3. This boyfriend https://kindism.org/2013/12/01/agape/
  4. http://youtu.be/9wfpXI5PKlw – Spice up your Life

Images via Facebook

Christian Science, the Affordable Health Care Act & Congressional Lobbying

Screen Shot 2014-03-13 at 9.33.45 AMThe Christian Science Church has a special Committee on Publication’s U.S. Federal Office:

Located in Washington, DC, this office works with U.S. Congressional, executive, and regulatory offices to help them and the public gain a more accurate understanding of Christian Science. We follow developments in health care and insurance, and we work to ensure that spiritual health care services and the public’s access to them are not adversely affected by any law.

I was always under the impression people were welcome to pray for themselves at any time — separation of Church and State, the State can’t tell me not to pray, so I’m really not sure why the Christian Science Church feels they need to be involved. The State can, and does, request that I pay taxes, our taxes go to schools, roads, public services (police, fire, etc.), and that we have insurance (car, house, etc.). Render unto Caesar and all that good stuff.

Ms. Eddy was clear that Christian Scientists follow the laws established by the State, which is interesting, because The Christian Science Committee on Publication’s U.S. Federal Office has been hard at work — again, lobbying Congress for health care exemptions — this time for an exemption to the Affordable Health Care Act. I’m NOT saying the Affordable Health Care Act is the answer, but health care in the United States is a mess, and the reforms with the ACA are a step towards at least doing something about the problem. Perhaps that is a little over-simplified, but if Christian Science prayer worked as well as the Christian Science lobbying machine we’d have a peaceful, disease-free utopia.

A few things to keep in mind:

The Christian Science Church has an EXTENSIVE ACA FAQ at http://christianscience.com/member-resources/for-churches/committee-on-publication/us-federal-office/health-care-reform/frequently-asked-questions. My FAVORITE of the FAQ:

Isn’t there a religious exemption from the ACA’s requirement to purchase health insurance?

Yes, but it applies primarily to the Amish and certain Mennonites. This is because the current exemption (on page 326 of the linked PDF) has the following requirements:

  • The individual must be a member of a religious group whose tenets and teachings establish that its members are conscientiously opposed to receiving any insurance benefits, including Social Security and Medicare benefit
  • The individual must waive all Social Security and Medicare benefit
  • The religious organization must pay for the health care and disability costs of its members.

I don’t see Christian Scientists giving up their Social Security or Medicare benefits any time soon. If anything, they actively encourage members to seek out Medicare assistance to cover the cost of treatment at Christian Science Nursing care facilities.

The EACH Act (HR1814 & S.862) should be opposed for many reasons (via CHILD)

  • It’s unenforceable. There is no way the IRS would be able to accurately determine what a person’s religious beliefs are, much less how “sincerely held” they are. Therefore, ANYONE, whether they really refuse medical care or not, will be able to say they have religious beliefs against medical care and use that as an excuse to be exempted from the Affordable Care Act’s mandate to buy health insurance. It would gut the Act.
  • Many sincere religious people object to only SOME kinds of medical treatment. Christian Scientists, for example, have broken bones set, get pre-natal and birth care, and often end up rushing to the emergency room when their prayers fail to heal them. If they are not covered by insurance, taxpayers must fill the gap.
  • Even those objecting to ALL medical intervention will still receive it when they are unable to refuse it, say, after a car accident, and taxpayers must then pay the entire cost of that care also.
  • The CBO has just released a fiscal analysis indicating that the bill could increase the number of uninsured by 500,000 persons each year and cost $1.5 billion over ten years.
  • The House bill has been pushed forward without due process, with no public hearing, no committee markup, no fiscal analysis
  • Parents who send children to religious schools are not exempt from taxes that support public schools. Religious people shouldn’t be exempt from this tax either.
  • Children in uninsured families are particularly at risk. It’s one thing for an adult to refuse medical treatment for himself, but children should be insured and therefore able to receive lifesaving care until they are old enough to decide for themselves

More from CHILD: Christian Science bills endanger children (http://childrenshealthcare.org/?page_id=2165), and statements from organizations opposing prayer-based treatment of children:

More on the Legislation in Question

More on the Christian Science Church’s efforts:

Other concerned Parties:

From the blogs:

my mother’s turn to medical hospice – B.C.D.’s story

The following post is part of the on-going “I went to the Doctor” series, which details first hand experiences of Christian Scientists and former-Christian Scientists who sought medical care or treatment outside of Christian Science. We hope that by sharing our experiences using medical care that it will help break down the stigma and fear! All posts in this series will be both categorized and tagged as “visited Doctor” and linked back to the I went to the Doctor page under the Christian Science Healthcare Guide.

Today’s post my mother’s turn to medical hospice is by former Christian Scientist B.C.D.


This is the story about my mother’s turn to medical hospice in the final weeks of her life. She is not alive to tell the story herself, but I believe she would approve my account of it here.

My mother (her name is Ruth) was a devoted, life-long Christian Scientist who practiced “radical reliance.” She would tell you that she experienced many wonderful healings in Christian Science.

In her mid-80s, Mother began experiencing worrisome symptoms that did not yield to Christian Science treatment. She worked diligently to heal the problem, and she had the help of one, and then another, Christian Science practitioner. In time, her condition worsened to the point that she could not eat, and she decided to admit herself into a Christian Science nursing facility.

Her condition deteriorated and she finally acknowledged that she was not going to “meet” the problem and that she would “pass on.” Mother was not afraid of dying, but she was disappointed in herself: She had sometimes said that “Christian Scientists should not get sick and die”; rather, she believed that when the time came to die they should demonstrate a quick and painless passing from a healthy human state to their next plane of existence. But that’s not how it worked out in her case.

The Christian Science nursing staff at the sanatorium made no adjustments to my mother’s care as her distress, exhaustion, and pain increased. They continued to place a full tray of food in front of her three times a day even though she could not keep any food down. Neither could she sleep. My brother and I smuggled some sleeping pills to her, which she was grateful to have.

One morning she telephoned begging me to transfer her to a medical hospice. Later that day, I and a social worker from the hospice accompanied an ambulance to the Christian Science nursing facility to accomplish her move. The director was at first reluctant to release her, but after discussion she was allowed to leave.

Mother was admitted to the hospice and was made comfortable in a room by a medical nurse. The attending physician came by to interview her and explain what care they would provide to ease her through the death process. Mother asked a few questions and seemed satisfied. After the physician left, she turned to me and said, “These people are so much more professional” (those are her exact words). Mother died peacefully under palliative medical care about two weeks later.

Mother remained committed to Christian Science to the end. In her view, her turn to palliative medical care in her final days was consistent with Mary Baker Eddy’s provision for relief from extreme pain as stated in “Science and Health” (p. 464). As I reflect on her experience, I am at a loss to understand how the Christian Science community can avert its eyes from the suffering of their faithful members as they go through the human death process.