the healing ministry of Christian Science nursing

This post is also up as a guest post at Emerging Gently


I was going to write a post comparing and contrasting Christian Science Nursing with modern medical nursing until I came to the Churches own page about the topic and read what Christian Science Nursing actually entails, and my desire to write a polite analysis went out the window and I had an overwhelming desire to smash my head repeatedly into a wall.

When people outside of Christian Science think of a nurse, they’re probably envisioning someone that fits the description from the American Nurses Association


– Registered Nurses –

  • Perform physical exams and health histories
  • Provide health promotion, counseling and education
  • Administer medications, wound care, and numerous other personalized interventions
  • Interpret patient information and make critical decisions about needed actions
  • Coordinate care, in collaboration with a wide array of healthcare professionals
  • Direct and supervise care delivered by other healthcare personnel like LPNs and nurse aides
  • Conduct research in support of improved practice and patient outcomes 

RNs practice in all healthcare settings: hospitals, nursing homes, medical offices, ambulatory care centers, community health centers, schools, and retail clinics. They also provide health care in more surprising locations such as camps, homeless shelters, prisons, sporting events and tourist destinations. (1)


To call what Christian Science Nurses do “Nursing” is incredibly misleading. The list of what Christian Science Nurses do not do looks startlingly similar to the list of what Registered nurses do. Christian Science nursing care does NOT include the following:

  • Making a medical diagnosis or prognosis;
  • Assuming responsibility for making health care decisions for the patient;
  • Administering medication, drugs or using medicated, herbal, or vitamin-based products and remedies;
  • Using and administering medically oriented techniques or technology;
  • Manipulation, massage, physical therapy;
  • Intravenous or force-feeding;
  • Intruding on the private relationship between the patient and the Christian Science practitioner, or between the patient and his or her family;
  • Giving personal advice and counsel. (2)

Several years ago, CBS TV show 60 MINUTES did a segment entitled By Faith Alone (3), discussing if Medicare should cover Christian Science nursing facilities. They interviewed a former Christian Science Nurse, Leslie Saunders (4) who shed a disturbing light on the practices taking place in the Christian Science nursing facilities: 

Leslie Saunders … stopped working at Medicare-funded Christian Science facilities, agrees [Medicare should not cover CS nursing]. “Medicare pays for medical treatment under given guidelines. For Medicare to involve itself in Christian Science nursing means Medicare is trying to pay for theology,” she tells Safer. She also says the only “treatment” allowed in such facilities is praying; the rules are so strict, she says, even patients short of breath are not given oxygen. (3)

Saunders’ interview stands in stark contrast to the recent “Interview with a CS Nurse” (5) but out by the Chestnut Hill Benevolent association (6) where “Jenny Ferch shares her journey to the BA’s Christian Science Nurses Training School. Her background at Principia Upper School, working as an intern at the Mother Church, and her innate love of caring for others — all pointed her in the direction of the healing ministry of Christian Science nursing.” 

I’m not sure how denying people oxygen and not administering medication or physical therapy is a “healing ministry.” Even the top Google hit for “healing ministry” —  Christian Healing Ministries acknowledges and affirms that there is

“… value of the medical and counseling fields, since they too are ways in which God’s healing power is manifested.” (7)

While Official Church Policy states that Christian Scientists are “free to go to doctors or seek medical care” (8) the idea is laughable. To qualify for participation in Christian Science Nursing Facilities, people must abide by standards requiring them to radically rely on prayer for healing (9).  All Christian Science Nursing Facilities have a policy that clearly states guests must rely on prayer alone.

From a Florida facilities statement about care:

“… non-medical nursing facility offering care to those who actively rely on prayer for metaphysical healing and are working with a Christian Science Journal-listed practitioner. Those who come — for help are the remnant of our Leader’s seed. They are not nominal worshippers. They have set out to preclude the Adam dream by refusing to take the medical route.” (emphasis mine, 10)

From the Chestnut Hill Benevolent Association:

2. What are the requirements for admission?
You must be having treatment from a Christian Science Journal-listed practitioner on a daily basis and relying solely on Christian Science for healing. Each call is considered on an individual basis, according to the request and need, as well as the availability for admission.
(11)

The idea Christian Science refuses to acknowledge any value in the medical field preferring to rely solely on prayer alone comes directly from Ms. Eddy. During the time she was working on her 300+ editions of Science and Health, it may have been safer to wait it out (12), but in 2015 the best course of action is to at least call your doctor’s office (13). Ms. Eddy’s writing on doctors, diagnosis of disease, and perspective on hygiene is not only wrong, it is deadly (14). As Ms. Eddy was the author of numerous volumes, I’ve selected a few passages from Science and Health:

On page 370 of Science and Health, Ms. Eddy writes: “A physical diagnosis of disease, since mortal mind must be the cause of all disease, tends to induce disease.

Whatever teaches man to have other laws and to acknowledge other powers than the divine Mind, is anti-Christian. The good that a poisonous drug seems to do is evil, for it robs man of reliance on God, omnipotent Mind and according to belief, poisons the human system.Science and Health, p. 169-70

It is plain that God does not employ drugs or hygiene, nor provide them for human use; else Jesus would’ve recommended and employed them in his healing… The Divine Mind never called matter medicine, and matter required a material and human belief before it could be considered as medicine.  Mind is the grand creator, and there can be no power except that which is derived from Mind… Inferior and unspiritual methods of healing may try to make Mind and drugs coalesce, but the two will not mingle scientifically.Science and Health, p. 143-4

Christian Science Nursing facilities deny people proper medical care. In September, I had a guest poster, Dr. Spock, describe the House of Horrors Christian Science Nursing Facility were his mother spent her last days (15). I highly recommend reading the entire piece, Spock describes inhumane conditions, unimaginable pain and suffering that would not be permitted in a medical facility or hospice care.

I remember a visit to the House Of Horrors early in childhood when my grandmother worked there as a Christian Science nurse. …. . The only comfort the “nurses” [were] able to offer [was] 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. 

For Christian Science Nursing to use nursing is incredibly misleading. Christian Science Nursing facilities should not be subsidized by tax payer money, and they should be very clear about what care at Christian Science “nursing” actually entails — no relief. Another guest post, My Mothers Turn to Medical Hospice (16) is the story of a Christian Scientist who turned to medical hospice care after being in a Christian Science facility that failed to meet her needs.

Perpetuating the farce that Christian Science facilities provides any level of skilled nursing care is damaging to the patients and their families.  I am horrified that Medicare pays for Christian Science nursing. Medicare pays for medical treatment (17), the Church’s position on Christian Science nursing — and the position taken by Christian Science nursing facilities — make it clear that there are no medical treatments given, means Medicare is paying for religion. The guidelines set up by the Church as to what Christian Science Nurses can and can’t do speak volumes. There is more to nursing than shifting pillows, offering juice, arranging food in a pleasing manner and reading Science and Health.


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What I’ve been Reading: Measles, the Dead & Healthcare Access

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image via Refutations to Anti-Vaccine Memes

Christian Science: Lobbying It or Living It?

A Christian Scientists perspective on Congressional Lobbying over healthcare and exemptions for Christian Scientists. Beautifully put and well worth the read.

Adventures of the Madcap Christian Scientist

The letter of Science plentifully reaches humanity to-day, but its spirit comes only in small degrees. The vital part, the heart and soul of Christian Science, is Love. Without this, the letter is but the dead body of Science, – pulseless, cold, inanimate. – Mary Baker Eddy.

***

In the Christian Science textbook, Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures, Mary Baker Eddy defines “Church” as the “structure of Truth and Love” and says the role of Church is to rouse “the dormant understanding… to the apprehension of spiritual ideas…” 

Lately some members of the Christian Science church have been busy lobbying their politicians for exemptions for Christian Scientists from health insurance and laws regarding child neglect. And I’m sorry, but I have to ask – how is exempting Christian Scientists from health insurance laws and child neglect laws in any way going to help rouse anyone’s…

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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:

Christian Science Gaslighting

In the chapter on Christian Science Practice in Science and Health, Ms. Eddy presents an “allegory illustrative of the law of divine Mind and of the supposed laws of matter and hygiene, an allegory in which the plea of Christian Science heals the sick” which runs from p. 430 – 443 (the end of the chapter – 1). Ms. Eddy explains

  • A man is charged with having committed liver-complaint. The patient feels ill, ruminates, and the trial commences. Personal Sense is the plaintiff. Mortal Man is the defendant. False Belief is the attorney for Personal Sense. Mortal Minds, Materia Medica, Anatomy, Physiology, Hypnotism, Envy, Greed and Ingratitude, constitute the jury. The court-room is filled with interested spectators, and Judge Medicine is on the bench. (p. 430)

The trial quickly disintegrates into Ms. Eddy’s limited 19th century understanding of medicine: the witnesses, Coated Tongue, Sallow Skin, Nerve,  Mortality – Governor of the Province of Body, and Death are all called and eventually

  • Judge Medicine then proceeds to pronounce the solemn sentence of death upon the prisoner…. The prisoner is then remanded to his cell (sick-bed), and Scholastic Theology is sent for to prepare the frightened sense of Life, God, — which sense must be immortal, — for death. (p. 433).

Not all is lost!

  • Permission is obtained for a trial in the Court of Spirit, where Christian Science is allowed to appear as counsel for the unfortunate prisoner. Witnesses, judges, and jurors, who were at the previous Court of Error, are now summoned to appear before the bar of Justice and eternal Truth. (p. 434)

What happens next is esoteric Christian Science reasoning at it’s finest:

  • The plea of False Belief we deem unworthy of a hearing. Let what False Belief utters, now and forever, fall into oblivion, “unknelled, uncoffined, and unknown.” According to our statute, Material Law is a liar who cannot bear witness against Mortal Man, neither can Fear arrest Mortal Man nor can Disease cast him into prison. Our law refuses to recognize Man as sick or dying, but holds him to be forever in the image and likeness of his Maker. …  The Supreme Bench decides in favor of intelligence, that no law outside of divine Mind can punish or reward Mortal Man. Your personal jurors in the Court of Error are myths. (p.441-2 emphasis mine)

I find it interesting Ms. Eddy uses both Man and Mortal Man on p. 441-2. On p. 468 Ms. Eddy is quite clear that

  • There is no life, truth, intelligence, nor substance in matter. All is infinite Mind and its infinite manifestation, for God is All-in-all. Spirit is immortal Truth; matter is mortal error. Spirit is the real and eternal; matter is the unreal and temporal. Spirit is God, and man is His image and likeness. Therefore man is not material; he is spiritual. (emphasis mine)

By putting MORTAL MAN on trial, she is violating her own laws of man as a spiritual idea of God. In Ms. Eddy’s view Mortal Man is no more real than his complaint about his liver. Ms. Eddy’s insistence that mortal man be spared through Christian Science is in direct contradiction to her own ideas about the true Spiritual nature of mankind.

I have no desire for mortal man to pass on before his time, however, as long as he is occupying his mortal (and material) body he should take steps to look after it. Ms. Eddy never claims that mortal man will have everlasting life — that is reserved for Man as a Spiritual Idea of God. Ms. Eddy may mean well as she grants Mortal Man a reprieve, but what about the next time Mortal Man has a complaint? Will Christian Science triumph again, or will Mortal Man succumb to some other complaint (2)?

There are plenty of documented cases where Christian Science failed to “save” Mortal Man – or mortal children (3), yet Christian Scientists are gaslighted by well-meaning fellow Christian Scientists into thinking these failures are their own fault: You’re not material, you’re spiritual! There is no sensation in matter. You must not have prayed enough. You’re bitter. Your faith was shaky. Instead of questioning the religion, they question themselves and thus begins a deadly spiral of ignoring the problem, and praying for a solution.

You feel crazy, defective, and like a bit of a wreck. You turn to Christian Science even more fully in an attempt to find answers.

Gaslighting
A common form of brainwashing in which an abuser tries to falsely convince the victim that the victim is defective, for any purpose whatsoever, such as making the victim more pliable and easily controlled, or making the victim more emotional and therefore more needy and dependent. (4)

Christian Science excels at gaslighting: I was on a phone call with a CSP who was telling me that my badly twisted ankle, which was swelling up and throbbing in pain, was “unreal” and just “mortal mind.” There was more than one night I spent trying to pray about fever-induced hallucinations knowing they were only aggressive mental suggestion trying to put me off my true spiritual path. The “unreal” mountains of kleenx that littered my dorm room as I suffered from the “unreality of the flu.” I couldn’t call in sick, I had to call in because I was “working on a demonstration.” Women’s menstrual cramps were not related an ovarian cyst, PCOS or nutrient deficiency, they were God’s way of punishing them for having impure thoughts. At the end of the day all our suffering was self-induced because our thought strayed from God.

Christian Science Gaslighting
a religious form of brainwashing in which a follower of Christian Science, tries to convince the victim/patient (usually a fellow Christian Scientist or “lapsed” Christian Scientist) that the victim/patient is God’s Perfect Child and is spiritual, not material, and therefore any problems the victim claims to have are simply mortal mind, erroneous thought, or aggressive mental suggestion. The end result of this is usually the victim/patient feels like a failure as a Christian Scientist and redoubles their efforts to heal themselves by spending even more time with the Authorized Literature often to the detriment of their physical health and mental well being.

An excellent example of “Christian Science Gaslighting” comes from a CS Nurse’s response to the question of “how do i leave christian science” (5) when she states:

Screen Shot 2013-12-14 at 7.38.41 PMI have no problem with encouraging someone to see the more positive side of the issue, but the attitude that when someone can be “held back by their lack of healing” that it is okay to ONLY “continue to see them the way God really made them” is harmful on every level. Serious maladies which could/should have been remedied have been overlooked because people were taught to believe that mortal life is unreal: they believe that understanding the spiritual universe created by God results in physical healing (6).

Ms. Eddy has a fair bit to say about working out your own salvation (7), and while not standing in agreement with mortal mind may help a CSN or CSP sleep better at night, it does little for the person suffering.


End notes

  1. http://christianscience.com/read-online/science-and-health/%28chapter%29/chapter-xii-christian-science-practice#anchor.1.12
  2. It is worth noting Ms. Eddy eventually died, and her body was buried http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mary_Baker_Eddy#Death
  3. http://lizheywoodwriter.blogspot.com/, http://query.nytimes.com/gst/abstract.html?res=F20915F7345911738DDDAC0994D0405B8985F0D3, https://emergegently.wordpress.com/tag/deaths-in-christian-science/, http://query.nytimes.com/gst/abstract.html?res=FA081EFC355E12738DDDA10A94DF405B848DF1D3, https://cs.uwaterloo.ca/~shallit/Talks/cs.html, http://www.theatlantic.com/past/docs/unbound/flashbks/xsci/xscilett.htm – you can do a quick google search and turn up even more
  4. jebrown.us/Relationshop/Definitions/gaslighting.html
  5. http://time4thinkers.com/forums/topic/how-do-i-leave-christian-science-behind/
  6. http://secular.org/heywoodtestimony
  7. https://kindism.org/2013/06/02/suffering-is-oft-the-divine-agent-in-this-elevation/, see also https://kindism.org/?s=salvation&submit=Search

More reading on Gaslighting

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.

Screen Shot 2013-06-10 at 8.16.18 PMScreen Shot 2013-06-10 at 8.16.35 PM

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.

Christian Science, Health Care & the Government

I feel strongly about the separation of Church and State. I enjoy having the freedom to practice whatever I’d like, and the freedom from being forced to practice any particular religion. It makes me uncomfortable when “conservatives” with “Christian” values start lobbying Congress for laws that line up with their (Old Testament) views on morality (and women), and it makes me very uncomfortable when the Mother Church starts lobbying as well.

Christian Scientists have been lobbying the government for well over 100 years. Government documents from 1913 talk about the Maintenance of a Lobby to Influence Legislation and Christian Science is discussed on page 501 with regards to some legislation and a drug company. Since then, the Mother Church has lobbied congress to make their special brand of faith-healing legal and covered by health insurance.

I’d say the Mother Church is doing fairly well with their congressional lobbying. Their website proudly states:

Various U.S. federal, state, and private health insurance plans provide for the reimbursement of Christian Science nursing care and practitioner treatment. Additionally, 17 Christian Science nursing facilities across the country are Medicare providers, which means individuals who have Medicare Part A can receive reimbursement at those facilities. Furthermore, 23 states have “high risk” insurance plans (for individuals with pre-existing health conditions) that include among their covered benefits Christian Science practitioner and nursing care. (Note that qualifications and limits to these benefits vary by plan.)

Christian Science services qualify as tax-deductible medical expenses under Section 213(d) of the IRS code. Because of this, health savings accounts (HSAs) or flexible spending accounts (FSAs) can be used for Christian Science care.

I only see a few problems with all this, to lump CSPs, CS Nurses (as lovely as they are) and “prayer” in the same category as doctors and hospitals is ludicrous. There is also the fact that Christian Science doesn’t believe in “pre-existing conditions” – all your problems are in your head.

In S&H p. 166 Ms. Eddy reminds us:

As a man thinketh, so is he. Mind is all that feels, acts, or impedes action. Ignorant of this, or shrinking from its implied responsibility, the healing effort is made on the wrong side, and thus the conscious control over the body is lost.

A little further down she continues:

The erring human mind is inharmonious in itself. From it arises the inharmonious body. To ignore God as of little use in sickness is a mistake. Instead of thrusting Him aside in times of bodily trouble, and waiting for the hour of strength in which to acknowledge Him, we should learn that He can do all things for us in sickness as in health.

On p. 168 I find a very good argument against Christian Scientists taking government money, the government is providing man-made systems (like Medicare) and

Because man-made systems insist that man becomes sick and useless, suffers and dies, all in consonance with the laws of God, are we to believe it? Are we to believe an authority which denies God’s spiritual command relating to perfection, — an authority which Jesus proved to be false? He did the will of the Father. He healed sickness in defiance of what is called material law, but in accordance with God’s law, the law of Mind.

I understand why the Church to condones and encourage people to use Medicare funds, Christian Science care and facilities are not cheapMedicare Part A covers things like skilled nursing care, home health care, and hospice care. CS Nursing does fall into “home health care” (and in a morbid way hospice care), but I would stop short at calling them “skilled nurses.” CS nurses are polite and sometimes helpful for minor things. The ones at Principia’s Cox Cottage make an awesome grilled cheese sandwich and strawberry milkshake, but if it comes down to a life-or-death situation (or a problem beyond mild food poisoning), I’d rather have a Registered Nurse than a Christian Science one.

Personal preferences aside, the church manual made a by-law about CS Nurses in 1908, and although it was written by Ms. Eddy, it seems to directly contradict all of what she says about health:

A member of The Mother Church who represents himself or herself as a Christian Science nurse shall be one who has a demonstrable knowledge of Christian Science practice, who thoroughly understands the practical wisdom necessary in a sick room, and who can take proper care of the sick.                 (emphasis  mine)

It is Christian-Scientifically impossible for a good Christian Scientist to have any “practical wisdom” in a sick room without violating Ms. Eddy’s decree in the chapter on Physiology (p. 167):

We cannot serve two masters nor perceive divine Science with the material senses. Drugs and hygiene cannot successfully usurp the place and power of the divine source of all health and perfection. If God made man both good and evil, man must remain thus. What can improve God’s work? Again, an error in the premise must appear in the conclusion.

Time and time again we are reminded we MUST DEMONSTRATE CHRISTIAN SCIENCE. Ms. Eddy’s entire body of work rests on the myth of the DEMONSTRABILITY of Christian Science. Time and time again we are reminded that we must DEMONSTRATE Christian Science and PROVE that it works so we can lobby the government (who want to “take away” our healthcare freedoms and have us all go to the doctor occasionally) to get them to pay for our Christian Science Practitioners, and CS Nurses.

CSPs and CSNs are not governed by medical boards, nor do they get licensed by the state to practice their “healing arts.” They are overseen by some group, ostensibly Mother Church, and the entire process is vague and hard to find information on. Doctors and nurses on the other hand have years of training, licenses and certificates. If a doctor or nurse messes up badly enough, there is an inquisition. If a CSP has a client pass on too soon the situation is often entirely overlooked – unless it is a child and the case makes national headlines, in which case the CSP is suddenly no longer “journal listed” and is “not really a CSP” and they’re not “practicing CS correctly.”

Doctors and nurses are thoroughly regulated on several levels including state and federal as well as within their own associations. Do Christian Scientists want the government to step in regulate CSPs and CS Nurses as a precursor to making it acceptable for them to receive Medicare funding? Absolutely not, but they’re OK with recommending their congregation take advantage of government programs to cover the costs of dealing with problems that CS claims are unreal in the first place.