everything is always good

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Every one of them says “how are you?” And you always have to say “good,” even if you’re not good.

 

If you say things aren’t good, they’ll wonder — aloud — why you’re placing “limits” on yourself or the situation. All things are possible through God and enough prayer.

This does not stop when you grow up.

This does not stop when you leave Christian Science.

This does not stop when they know you’ve left Christian Science — this is just proof you need Christian Science more than ever before! Because logical fallacies

So you lie and say it is “good” even when it’s not, and it becomes a habit. Everything is good.

Everything is always good*.

 

 

 

*Except when it isn’t, and it all blows up in your face. Then it is your fault for not trusting God enough and not reading the Lesson, and failing to pray and have the proper understanding.

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Christian Science Culture and Positive Peer Pressure at Principia College

Back in February, Jonny Sacramanga gave an interview about Leaving Fundamentalism. A section of the interview really jumped out at me, so I bookmarked it with every intention writing a post. In the interview, Sacramanga talks about positive peer pressure in relation to Accelerated Christian Education (ACE). On his blog, ACE is described as

a cult-like fundamentalist education system where children work individually, in silence, at isolated desks. The science curriculum emphasises Young Earth Creationism and mocks evolution. The politics curriculum teaches the views of the Christian Right.

You’re probably wondering what ACE has to do with positive peer pressure, Christian Science, and anything else I’ve written about. I can’t speak to ACE specifically, but I can speak to cult-like systems in relation to Christian Science, and more specifically the culture at Principia College and the surrounding community.

Although I was not raised with ACE or Charismatic Christian culture, I could relate to Sacramanga when he talked about his initial experiences with ACE, I found they echoed my initial experiences with Principia.

(JS) And I thought this was heaven. I felt so lucky to be surrounded only by good Christians, away from the evil and the temptations of the world. I wouldn’t have used the word ‘lucky’ at the time, because I was taught ‘luck’ came from the root word ‘Lucifer’, as in Satan.
There was quiet music playing in the background, and I was where God wanted me to be. Everyone was so polite and so friendly. I find it sinister now, because I think it was unreal, but it seemed wonderful to me then. And I felt so lucky to be learning the truth about Creation…
…because everyone else in the world was being taught these ridiculous lies about evolution, and I was one of a fortunate few who was hearing the truth about how God made the world.

I had gone to a large, public schools. My high school had over 4,000 students, with maybe four Christian Scientists in attendance (including myself and my sibling). Alcohol and drugs were a problem, and for a time there was a pushy boyfriend who wanted sex. At first, Principia was amazing, a beautiful campus (my husband mistook my high school for a prison complex), small class sizes, and everyone was a Christian Scientist. There were no odd looks that I didn’t drink, no one offered me a smoke, no one pressured me for sex (I also didn’t date any Prin guys).

(LL) It seems that many people really appreciate the absence of peer pressure and other positive aspects so that they don’t immediately realize all the crappy things being taught.

(JS) Well, there was peer pressure. I just thought of it as positive peer pressure. It was pressure to be the right kind of Christian, not to be worldly.

My father had lectured me at length about the dangers of peer pressure. My friends were pretty mild, at home the “pressure” had come from friends dragging “inexperienced” me through a sex toy shop (mostly to slut-shame, giggle and blush), offering cough/cold medicine for a hacking cold, and worrying about my eternal salvation. There was none of that at Prin. While we did get the occasional giggle from the penis-shaped pasta at Spencer’s Gifts, the strongest thing anyone offered me was a caffeinated Dr. Pepper (the horror!!), and as Christian Scientists, we didn’t need to worry about our “eternal salvation.”

(LL) How did this “godly” peer pressure play out?

(JS) Well, for me it was a big thing to be the first to the door at break times so I could hold the door for everyone on the way out…
… to show what a good servant I was.
In the last year I was there, we had morning prayer meetings for the older students, and because the church was very Charismatic (even though ACE isn’t at all), it was a big thing to show how spiritual I was by praying in tongues ecstatically and delivering prophecies.

At Principia I faced a different kind of peer pressure: the pressure to go to Sunday School, later church, on Sundays (my BFF insisted I join her Sunday School class because her teacher was “so inspiring”). The pressure to go to Tuesday morning Christian Science Org. testimony meetings. The pressure to go to Sunday night hymn sing. The pressure to read the weekly Bible Lesson. The pressure to attend Christian Science talks on campus — “professor X is such an inspiring speaker!” The pressure to participate in House Bonding Activities (often attending Sunday hymn sing or Church as a group).

Mistake House and The Chapel at Principia College, photo by Kat @ Kindism

Maybeck’s Mistake House and The Chapel at Principia College, photo by Kat @ Kindism

The biggest pressure, was to demonstrate Christian Science. This pressure didn’t come from my immediate circle of friends, as individuals we were all in different places with “our understanding” of Science, it was campus-wide. We had to demonstrate supply — usually financial so that we could continue to be enrolled (or keep a scholarship), we had to demonstrate academic success (in many cases this was tied to financial supply/scholarships), we had to demonstrate healing, and we had to demonstrate support by actively participating in Christian Science activities on campus.

Some might argue “had to” might be a bit strong, but when a faculty member can remark they “haven’t seen you in Sunday School recently” and professors can require you to go to Christian Science talks, “had to” doesn’t begin to describe it.

Your peers are standing up in Tuesdays to give testimonies of healing, your classmates work Christian Science into philosophy, religion, history, and sociology classes (possibly others as well, but these seemed to have significant crossover). The roommate that is the House Metaphysical Head, marking the Books for the House Quiet Study Rooms, and pick readings for house meetings. The roommate that is “working on” something and gets up at 6 am to read the Bible Lesson every day, because Quiet Time is for prayerfully supporting the campus, not reading the lesson (or taking a shower, or doing homework, or sleeping, or making out with your boyfriend).

Christian Science forces people to create a facade of everything is Perfect. There are no chinks in the armor of God. To admit shortcomings is to give power to mortal mind. God is working his purpose out! Fear not little flock! The “everything is Perfect” attitude penetrates the community at the deepest levels.

Then there is the darker side to it all, the side you can’t talk about because it would be admitting something less than perfection.

The roommate that calls her CS Practitioner a dozen times a day and is so paralyzed at the thought of making a decision she has to call her CSP for advice – you start to wonder if the relationship is healthy, even from a Christian Science perspective. The roommate with debilitating menstrual cramps that are so bad she can’t get out of bed two days a month — you have a class with her and are quizzed by the teacher as to her absence. The friend on a full academic scholarship who spends nights in the Science Center because she falls asleep studying (or making out with her boyfriend). The young woman who is asked to leave because the college is not equipped to handle her severe eating disorder. The couple who spent a quarter on an “Office Of Student Life Abroad” because they were “caught” having sex and were “requested” to leave. The young woman who one day stopped going to class, and suddenly, completely disappeared from campus — I’m sure someone knows what happened, but none of our mutual professors had any idea. The students who end up on “academic probation” because they dedicate themselves to their department — usually music or drama, at the peril of their other classes.

Then there are the countless students who suffer from depression, a nasty or abusive relationship, simply being overwhelmed by all the demands placed on them (or that they’ve volunteered for). The solution was usually “Have you tried reading the Lesson, or talking with your Practitioner?”

The way Christian Science culture plays out at Principia, it is impossible to seek help, medical or otherwise. You can’t talk to anyone about these problems, that would be admitting failure, opening yourself to malicious animal magnetism, aggressive mental suggestion, or a number of other unreal monsters lurking in the dorm closets, besides no one else on campus could possibly be having these problems, they’re Perfect Christian Scientists. You should be demonstrating over the problems, having remarkable healings and sharing them openly with the campus on Tuesday morning testimony meetings.

Principia offers “Confidential Counseling” through the Resident Counselors (RC) but given the gossipy atmosphere that pervades the institution, I know very few people who availed themselves of this service. I’m also unclear what exact qualifications the RCs need, beyond a “solid foundation” in Christian Science, and Christian Science isn’t all that helpful when trying to manage a house full of college students and their needs.

It took me several years before I’d developed close enough relationships before I opened up and talked with some of my friends about some of my doubts and fears regarding Christian Science, a failed relationship, Principia, etc. It was still done largely in secret. To my surprise we were struggling with similar situations, and in one case, they were even more frustrated with Principia than I was.

Like those entangled in ACE, Christian Scientists pride themselves in knowing the truth, and those who have demonstrated their way to Principia are a special group. The cult-like mindset that shuts out all non-Christian Science thought and is reinforced by the community. Sure, there may be doubters, but they largely keep their heretical thoughts to themselves. It isn’t until you get out of the entangled mindset you start to realize what seemed like positive peer pressure, was the continued indoctrination of Christian Science.


 

UPDATED: Calling your Congress People on Religious Exemptions

As a general rule, I try not to get involved in politics, but I don’t feel that religions should be exempted from anything — they should pay taxes, they should have to enroll in health care. As Jesus reminded them, render unto Caesar what is Caesar’s. Jesus also said “suffer the little children” (Matthew 19:14) but he didn’t mean from untreated osteomyelitis.

Christian Science has a long history of lobbying congress to get their way, and of carefully controlling PR pieces to put them in a positive light.

While The Mother Church and Christian Science may be more carefully controlling their story, there are other religious groups that are using legislative loopholes lobbied for by Christian Scientists. The one currently making the rounds in the news are the Followers of Christ Church, and thy are already making an impact: in May of 2011,

the Oregon state Senate voted to end legal protection granted to parents practicing religious faith healing. The legislation ends legal protection for parents who choose faith healing to the exclusion of modern medicine in treating their children’s health. (1)

I don’t think Christian Scientists — or any religious group — should have special exemptions. They should all be treated fairly under the law. Would non-religious parents who let their child die similar circumstances be held accountable under the law? Yes. Why should religious parents be held to a different standard? Either the child is healed INSTANTANEOUSLY, or the child should get medical attention. Ignorance of the law is not an excuse, ignorance of the need for medical attention should not be be not one either.

More on the Followers of Christ Church

More on Faith Healing & Legislation

What YOU CAN DO to make a difference — March 11, 2014

Dear CHILD Members and Friends,

The Christian Science church has scheduled a “national call-in day” on March 11 and is asking all members to call their federal legislators that day and urge votes for HR1814 and their bills exempting everyone with “sincerely held religious beliefs” against “medical health care” from the mandate to buy health insurance.

HR1814 has 216 co-sponsors; S.862 has 31. They are in the House Ways and Means and Senate Finance Committees but have not been scheduled for hearings. With so many co-sponsors and with this national call-in day, they may get pushed through Congress.

We urge you to contact your Congressperson and Senator in opposition to these bills either on or close to March 11. There are 177 minor children and stillborns buried in one cemetery used by the Idaho Followers of Christ. We believe that at least some of those children would have gotten medical care if their parents had been required to carry health insurance for them.

These bills will be a great burden for governments to enforce and may involve the state in unconstitutional investigation of a person’s beliefs—whether they’re really religious, whether they are sincere, and whether he objects to all medical care or just some forms of care. Maybe the state will just accept anyone’s word that he has sincere religious beliefs against some medical care, which will be financially convenient for many people to claim.

It is likely that some will claim the religious exemption to save money but later get medical care at the public’s expense. While the law provides that doing so forfeits the exemption, the provision will be hard to enforce and the cost of the medical care they get may be more than the penalty for not having insurance. Furthermore, they can claim the exemption again for the next year after forfeiting it for one year.

Please voice your opposition to HR1814 and S.862. They increase the risk to children in faith-healing sects and the cost to the state if the children do get medical care.

Sincerely, Rita Swan

UPDATE (March 10, 2014) This came out this morning!!

Dear CHILD Members and Friends:

We’ve just learned that HR1814, the bill to give everyone an exemption from buying health insurance if they have “sincerely-held religious beliefs” against medical care, will go to the House floor tomorrow under suspension of the rules. It is bypassing the House Ways and Means Committee.

Wikipedia says “suspension of the rules is a procedure generally used to quickly pass non-controversial bills [such as naming of post offices]. . . . Once a member makes a motion to “suspend the rules” and take some action, debate is limited to 40 minutes, no amendments can be offered to the motion or the underlying matter, and a 2/3 majority of Members present and voting is required to agree to the motion.”

“A suspension motion sets aside all procedural and other rules that otherwise prohibit the House from considering the measure—but the motion never mentions the specific rules that are suspended.”

This is not right. This bill is not a non-controversial bill. No fiscal impact analysis has been performed. There is obviously a cost to allowing a substantial number of people to opt out of getting health insurance. And there is the cost to the children, who are permanently harmed or lose their lives because their parents did not get health insurance for them.

The Christian Science church has scheduled a national call-in day tomorrow, so there will be thousands of Christian Scientists calling their members of Congress on March 11 just as HR1814 goes to the floor.

Please call your U.S. Congressperson and urge a vote against HR1814.

Thank you.

Rita Swan

The Legislation in Question

  1. http://www.examiner.com/article/religion-oregon-senate-rejects-faith-healing-legal-defense?fb_comment=33526101

Update: fellow former-CS blogger Emerging Gently has a great piece about this issue as well! http://emergegently.wordpress.com/2014/03/08/call-to-action/

Religious Trauma Syndrome: How Some Organized Religion Leads to Mental Health Problems

Christian Science isn’t really into the hellfire, brimstone and apocalypse, but it does manage to instill a deep distrust of doctors/medicine, and some dangerously unrealistic ideas that you can heal yourself through prayer alone — and when that fails, it means you’ve failed, so you have to pray harder… Not a healthy cycle to fall into.

AwayPoint

Religious Trauma Syndrome- AnguishAt age sixteen I began what would be a four year struggle with bulimia.  When the symptoms started, I turned in desperation to adults who knew more than I did about how to stop shameful behavior—my Bible study leader and a visiting youth minister.  “If you ask anything in faith, believing,” they said.  “It will be done.” I knew they were quoting the Word of God. We prayed together, and I went home confident that God had heard my prayers.

But my horrible compulsions didn’t go away. By the fall of my sophomore year in college, I was desperate and depressed enough that I made a suicide attempt. The problem wasn’t just the bulimia.  I was convinced by then that I was a complete spiritual failure. My college counseling department had offered to get me real help (which they later did). But to my mind, at that point, such help…

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Guest Post: Why religion makes me uncomfortable

The following is a guest post by long-time reader the Vicomte de Chagny. Yes, this is obviously a pseudonym. 


And despite the abolition
By the current inquisition
Of any intuition that they don’t choose,
When it comes to God I find I can’t believe that He designed
A human being with a mind he’s not supposed to use!

Godspell

It has been said that religion is the opiate of the masses. I’m not sure that’s as powerful or accurate a statement now as it was when Marx first said it—I think television and social media have probably taken over that title by now. But if the term “opiate” is used to describe something that is used to dull thought and ultimately control those using it with the force of addiction, calling organized religion an opiate has, even today, more than enough truth in it to make me uncomfortable.

Religion has a maddening tendency to embrace either intense scholarly thought or abject mindlessness with little to no possibility of a middle ground. Some of the greatest minds this world has ever seen were religious scholars. St Augustine. St. Ireneaus. Martin Luther. Soren Kierkegaard. C.S. Lewis. In the Dark Ages of Europe, monasteries were almost single-handedly responsible for maintaining education, literacy, science and art until the Renaissance. Churches have been the museums, concert halls, and culture centers of the world for centuries. And yet no single force in history has done more than organized religion to encourage people to simply stop thinking.

While Catholicism preserved education and enlightened thought in the Dark and Middle Ages, the Church also rationed them strictly or denied them to non-clergy altogether. Those who explored science or medicine that the Church did not sanction were often burned as witches, and there was no bigger opponent to the Gutenberg printing press than Catholicism. This desire to control or even prevent “different” thoughts continues to this day, and has pervaded almost every Western religion–including, as you might imagine, Christian Science. One of the reasons I struggled with and eventually left Christian Science was the religion’s inherent tendency to encourage only the thoughts that directly paralleled or reflected Christian Science teachings.

Here’s my favorite example of this tendency. One of the most famous texts of the Bible starts out “The Lord is my Shepherd.” Similarly, one of the most oft-sung hymns in the Christian Science Hymnal begins “Shepherd, show me how to go.” Mary Baker Eddy, who wrote that hymn, also defined “sheep” partially as “innocence…those who follow their leader.” With a shepherding God to direct them, sheep (that is, all of us) by definition do not need to think for themselves. But earlier in the same book containing that definition, on the first page in fact, Eddy writes without hesitation or apology, “The time for thinkers has come.” Can these two seemingly contradictory statements coexist? Is it really time for the unthinking sheep to start thinking? Christian Science seems to think so. I’m not so sure.

See, it is here that Christian Science falls into line with most other organized religions. In the example above, Christian Science claims to encourage active thought. Almost every Sunday School teacher and practitioner I’ve ever had has used the “time for thinkers” line to urge me to think deeply, deliberately, vigorously, about Christian Science, God and my relationship to Him, the unreality of pain and temptation, the spiritual qualities that made up my selfhood and existence, the rules of Christian Science and why they were blessings that I should “follow and rejoice,” and so on. When I thought hard about those things and came up with satisfactory insights about them, I was praised as a good CSer.

But increasingly often as I grew older and passed through Principia,  I wanted to think deeply, deliberately and vigorously about, say, how Christian Science could be a religion of love but Christian Scientists could be very unloving. Or how premarital sex could be a valid expression or reflection of divine love. Or how a school whose mission is to advance the cause of Christian Science but claims it does not teach Christian Science to its students is not being completely honest with itself. Or even how the exhortation to think should apply to all active thought without exception or discrimination (cf: the Godspell quote at the beginning of this article). All the CS authorities I spoke to, save perhaps one or two, politely but firmly informed me that I was “asking the wrong questions” at best or “listening to mortal mind/malicious animal magnetism” at worst, and that either way I needed to pray–not think, pray–to get my thought back on the right path.

In the 1999 Kevin Smith film Dogma, there is a discussion about the difference between beliefs and ideas. Rufus, the apocryphal 13th apostle (brilliantly played by Chris Rock), says that mankind got religion all wrong by “taking a good idea and building a belief system on it.” When questioned further, he explains that “I just think it’s better to have ideas. I mean, you can change an idea, changing a belief is trickier. People die for it, people kill for it.” And as noted here, people also try to blackball any thoughts that contradict it. Christian Science, for all its emphasis on the divine Idea, God’s thoughts passing to man, and the time for thinkers having arrived, is a belief system. And by encouraging thought, it actually discourages belief–which, of course, is unacceptable.

Because the conclusions of Christian Science teaching are already set in stone (to be given to us sheep by the guiding Shepherd), thinking in Christian Science is really encouraged only when it puts thought into line with those conclusions–i.e., the established doctrine and dogma of the religion. Questions and doubts are permitted, but only to push us toward predetermined answers. While I agree 110% that the time for thinkers has indeed come, I struggled for years against the Christian Science teaching that any thoughts that could potentially lead me away from compliance with and faith in Christian Science were wrong and/or sinful. And that struggle was one of the main reasons I ultimately left the religion.

As noted above, Christian Science is not the only religion that currently engages in this suppression of non-compliant thought, or has done it historically. This is one of the main reasons that contemporary organized religion makes me so uncomfortable. Many churches of varying denominations attempt to recruit/convert new members by talking their ears off about why that particular faith is right and the others are wrong, which is bad enough, but many of them also pair that lecture of faith with a siren song of belonging. Sometimes that song is an actual song, often played by a rock and roll praise band and centrally involving Jesus; sometimes it’s an invitation to fellowship with coffee and pastries; sometimes it’s the unspoken pressure to give a testimony; sometimes it’s a direct encouragement to give your life over to God; sometimes it’s all of these and more. But the underlying message is the same: do as we do, believe what we believe, fall in line with us, and you will belong; the louder you sing, the more enthusiastically you profess your belief, the more emotionally invested you become in your own salvation, the more you will be one of us. And if they’ve done their job, you won’t realize the level to which they are instructing you to stop thinking for yourself and just accept that what you’re told is The Truth, until you’ve already committed yourself to belonging with them and either actually want to stay or are just too embarrassed to leave.

I realize this description is in some ways overgeneralized. There are plenty of people who belong to different religions because they truly want to do so, and because they truly believe in the teachings of their faith of choice. There are still many great minds that embrace organized religion. And men and women of all education levels do bring great thoughtfulness to their faith–many have arrived at the great depth of their faith because they have devoted hours, days, years of active thought to the decision. (Father Tim Kavanagh, of Jan Karon‘s Mitford novels, is a tremendous fictional example of how thoughtful religion can actually work pretty well.) To say that every member of organized Western religion has been brainwashed would be a gross exaggeration. But to say that elements of groupthink, of blind and/or ecstatic acceptance that involves little or no thought, of sacrificing purposeful doubt on the altar of belonging, don’t hold a significant presence in organized Western religion today, including CS, would be just as false a statement. And as long as those elements remain as pervasive as they currently seem to me,  I will remain very uncomfortable with CS and most other organized religions.



About the Vicomte de Chagny
The Vicomte is a former Christian Scientist & Principia College graduate. He is grateful to Prin for helping him hone his critical thinking and writing skills, nurturing his natural desire to be involved in as many activities as possible, and giving him a solid foundation on which to build a CS-free life. (He occasionally appreciates the irony in that.) When not writing guest posts for Kindism.org, he writes a lot of other things under a number of other names. He likes long hot showers, ice-cold beverages, and the feeling of removing his shoes at the end of a long day – because really, everyone likes those things.

Final Generation 2

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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