The Thanksgiving Day service is the only ‘special’ service the Christian Science church offers. The readings from the desk include the Presidential proclamation for Thanksgiving, as well as a few passages from The Bible and Science and Health. The service is then opened to the congregation for them to share ‘testimonies of healing and sharing of experiences in Christian Science.’
The following are testimonies from Ex-Christian Scientists, as they give thanks for having left Christian Science. Thank you all for your contributions!
We at The Ex-Christian Scientist offer no readings, or lengthy proclamations, merely our sincerest thanks for everyone who has contributed to our efforts. We do not advocate any one particular path but acknowledge that there are many legitimate pathways that can be personally and spiritually fulfilling.
This “Thanksgiving” (which I now observe as an Indigenous day of mourning), I’m so grateful to live in reality — having escaped from the cult of Christian Science (I was 4th generation) and its toxic, nonsense, magical thinking. Cult recovery and C-PTSD healing are a long road, especially when all my current health problems as an adult are the direct results of childhood medical and emotional neglect and abuse at the hands of my CS parents and grandparents, as well as adults at CS camp, school and boarding house, and my CS ex-spouse. But I’m so thankful now for the ability to see all that horrific abuse for what it was, to know that CS has always been pure evil, and to know it will never again have a place in any part of my life, my heart, or my body — all of which are very real. I only wish I believed in hell, because Mary Baker Eddy certainly deserves to burn for all eternity, but thankfully death and destruction are also real. I hope and pray that CS, TMC, branch churches, camps, schools, “nursing” facilities, etc. all follow her as soon as humanly possible. Amen.
There are many things I am grateful for (including the word ‘grateful’ that I am working to reclaim from Christian Science). Among the best decisions I ever made was to finally leave Christian Science after spending the first 42 years of my life swimming around in what I call the ‘Krazy Sauce’. My gratitude for having left Christian Science came clearly into focus during the COVID-19 pandemic. I can’t even begin to imagine the inner conflict I would have felt in having to deal with a pandemic that could not be denied, in the face of a faith that would have demanded that I deny it despite the public health mandates that would have demanded that I acknowledge at least some sort of “pandemic reality”. I am grateful that I effortlessly, and without even a second thought, received an entire course of the COVID-19 vaccine (I have had the initial two shots, plus two boosters). As a Christian Scientist, I would have been in the deepest mental and emotional turmoil even just getting the jab in the arm or wearing a mask. Not having to work through the cognitive dissonance that Christian Science theology imposes while dealing with the undeniable reality of a pandemic, is also something I am tremendously grateful for. I’m also grateful that I do not have to sit in idle boredom, listening to readings from the Bible and Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures anymore.
It is wonderful to be a part of this special, annual service. I am so grateful to read all the testimonies from those of us who left Christian Science. It brings me so much joy to find community with folks who have found freedom.
I feel so thankful today for having left Christian Science. My life has become amazing after realizing Christian Science was all an elaborate hoax.
I left Christian Science almost a decade ago now. I launched on a big self-healing journey: I walked away from my god, my church, my friends, my community, my still-in-CS family (thankfully I have mended fences with my family; I love them very much). After that, I walked away from my marriage. I am in a new relationship with MYSELF! I am finally doing things that make me feel happy – like writing books, and cooking good food. I wasn’t able to do those things while trapped in previous circumstances.
I am also finally taking care of my body. I have had to play “catch up” with medical care. Having had zero vaccinations growing up, I have had to go to the local Health Department where I live to get vaccines for all the things. I am so grateful to the health care folks there who can figure out my doses.
I just got my Shingles vaccine, and next week I get my first shot for Polio. I also want to say I am grateful for mundane things that symbolize that I am human and happy – I love my morning cup of black tea with vanilla creamer. I love taking my daily medicines that help control my heart rate and my migraines. I love being able to take pain relief pills when I need them.
I love being in a new relationship with someone who takes care of me when I am sick. I love being in a relationship that gives me all the affection I have been desperate for, my entire life. I get all the hugs and cuddles I ever wanted and never got. My human side is acknowledged every day, and honored for its basic needs. It’s quite fun, being human.
There are times when it’s terrible, too, though. I fight severe anxiety and depression every day. More and more, I am starting to win that battle.
I want to express one more thing I am thankful for – ice cream. I am starting to buy a new flavor every time I need to buy ice cream. I am having so much fun trying all the flavors of ice cream. There are so many – and I love most of them. It is so delightful to take pleasure in a taste. Tasting matter. Matter is real and so enjoyable. There – I said it.
I am so grateful to be finding pleasure and happiness in my life, now that I fully acknowledge that matter is actually real and tangible. Happy Thanksgiving!
It wasn’t until I left CS that I could truly heal and come into my own. I gradually moved away from CS in my early 20s. Finding a (psychological) therapist and going on appropriate medication for me was life-changing. Imagine being able to take Advil for a budding migraine and that migraine not really appear! How wonderful that an SSRI can help with the crippling anxiety that prayer was utterly ineffective against. I now have a wonderful husband, child, and career, and I know I couldn’t have done it with CS! I am so grateful!
I am so grateful for modern medicine. My father had a knee replacement this summer that has allowed him increased mobility and independence as he heals. My meds keep me healthy and sane on a daily basis. My sister and her family are able to travel around the world, because they are protected by the vaccinations and regions specific medications that their doctors were able to give them before they left. My son did not suffer any long-term complications from a head injury this fall, other than a scar on his eyelid! I am always uncomfortable, thinking about how all of these situations would have resolved if we were all still practicing Christian scientists.
As of this year I’ve been out of CS longer than I was in it. Every time I think I have it all out of my system I find another legacy of the collective make-believe that is CS. As annoying as that is, I’m grateful for the struggle to meet the world as it really is while getting to be and admit who I really am… and for benadryl.
Thank you everyone for your Thanksgiving Testimony contributions, this concludes our post. Should inspiration strike, the comment section will remain open for 30 days.
We wish you a wonderful holiday season. The ExCS Admin Team
Content Note: This article contains detailed descriptions of the symptoms and effects of a mental health condition that may be alarming to some readers. The Ex-Christian Scientist recommends that anyone who is dealing with a mental health condition seek qualified assistance and treatment.
I spent the majority of April 2003 with one foot in and one foot out of reality. I was just finishing up a three year journalism program and internship. During this time, I began feeling incredible anxiety, panic, and fear—unlike I had ever experienced before. I casually mentioned this to one of my professors, who told me to see the college’s therapist. This person was actually more like a guidance counselor than someone with the qualifications of a licensed therapist. She strongly advised me to see a doctor.
I was raised in Christian Science since birth, so the idea of visiting a physician to get a handle on this issue was completely foreign to me. Despite this, I came home from our session and decided to walk down the street to a plaza that had a walk-in medical clinic. I spent all of 10 minutes with the doctor, who barely listened to me before prescribing Paxil for anxiety and depression. Praxil is an extremely potent drug that was pulled in 2009 from distribution in the United States due to numerous lawsuits regarding tendencies for suicide, birth defects, as well as extreme withdrawal symptoms.
I took the Paxil as prescribed for a period of two weeks. During that time, I began experiencing some extreme symptoms, including hallucinations and grandiose ideas to the point of feeling omnipotent. I was already a considerable night owl due to my field of study, so my parents thought nothing of me hammering away on my computer and talking to people on the phone at all hours. They had no idea that I thought I was George W. Bush and that I considered my bedroom to be the Oval Office in the White House.
The people I was talking to at night weren’t really on the phone—I was having imaginary conversations with Abraham Lincoln, John F. Kennedy, and every single United States president that preceded George W. Bush. We were busy, so I believed, with drafting up plans to capture the world’s most wanted terrorist, Osama Bin Laden. Meanwhile, in real life, I had been sending a bombardment of emails to classmates, friends, professors, and angry sources for prior interviews and stories I had written for local papers. I thought all of them were either members of my cabinet, senators, and/or ministers heading up various departments of my government. On the evening of April 27, 2003, “we” got a lead (or so I thought) pinpointing Bin Laden’s exact location. Our plan was to use sitcom stars and celebrities as CIA agents, and to send up the space shuttle to nuke the Bin Laden using a laser beam. If you think this sounds crazy, it was.
I hadn’t slept in two whole weeks and found myself in a complete crisis on April 28, 2003, which so happened to be my mother’s birthday. I woke my brother and parents up that morning telling them that my plan to kill Bin Laden had been leaked to the press and that we were all in mortal danger. I thought I could see the U.S. Capitol and White House through my window, and advised them not to venture outside because snipers were on the roof and the Secret Service would be showing up to evacuate everyone and take us by motorcade to my aunt’s street. I thought that Air Force One was there and we would head by air to an undisclosed location.
The next thing I knew, my parents lied to me and told me that the Secret Service had a new plan to allow them to drive me to the White House—a white house, but not the actual White House. They pulled up to the local emergency room and told the doctors exactly what had happened. The next thing I knew I had passed out in a holding room. I woke up with four psychiatrists standing over me, waiting to start an interview process which I thought at the time was more of an interrogation to figure out over the course of a 72 hour psychiatric hold exactly what mental illness I had. In the end, the chief of psychiatry at the hospital delivered my parents a verdict: I had bipolar disorder.
My father, who was a staunch Christian Scientist, and my mother—who was not, were in a state of shock and denial. My dad thought that the Paxil I was taking was the culprit, and once it was flushed out of my system completely, I would be fine and could go home. Both of my parents thought there was no way I could be mentally ill, and that the psychiatrist was way off with his assessment. They had never heard the term bipolar disorder before, and so began the process of him educating them about the disease. Neither of them felt I should be surrounded by people who could become violent at a moment’s notice who were on the same ward as I was. All my parents knew about mental illness was what clinical depression was, and about people who were wired wrong committing violent crimes that made the local news.
I spent three months in a psychiatric ward getting well. During my stay, I was required to attend a special program where patients did crafts, games, and above all, group counselling—where we had to talk about our problems on a daily basis. We had to do this before transitioning to the outside, and then do the same program daily as an out patient once released, until told otherwise. It was strongly drilled into me by the head of that program that leaving it was a bad idea.
I absolutely hated the program, and wanted no part of it. My father also felt it was detrimental to me because, as taught in Christian Science, people shouldn’t rehearse a problem and give it credibility—rather than denying the lie and focusing on who man “really was” as taught by Mary Baker Eddy, and drilled into me in Sunday School. He felt that others insisting that they or I was ill was a form of malpractice against me—delaying my healing in Christian Science. So, instead of going to the program, I was driven around in the car to give me something to do. I was often taken to a Christian Science Reading Room during my recovery so dad could do metaphysical work and pick up the latest Christian Science Journal.
While this was happening, my journalism career ended up in tatters after an editor lost an article that I had written a month before it was to be published. The article was fine and contained zero inaccuracies when it was initially sent to him. When this person lost my draft, he had me write another one up; but, now I was completely out of it, and had no recollection of what I had written having been in a mental health crisis in hospital. It ended up being printed a few days after I got out. They later retracted it after I quoted a source in the article inaccurately and couldn’t produce tape or notes for back-up.
My official graduation from college happened in June 2003—before I was released from the hospital. My doctor ended up putting me on enough medication, and with chaperones to attend with me, I received my diploma and returned to the ward that night. Unfortunately, I knew that everything I had worked for years to accomplish was now up in smoke, and nobody would employ me—or so I thought at the time. Once I was released, I did fine for six months before suffering a relapse.
While I don’t blame my parents for any of this, Christian Science played a huge part in them not knowing what bipolar disorder was. None of us knew the symptoms of the disease and its undercurrent of hypo-mania that had been leading up to an inevitable crisis for approximately 10 years prior. I had crippling depression and then bursts of happiness throughout these years, and constantly slid between both poles rapidly, with zero warning but without any delusions as a child. I also always twisted mild teasing from peers into something completely different and totally out of context.
I couldn’t relate to any of my peers whatsoever. I even had my arm broken by a classmate during recess one day. It was several months before I reached high school, when the school district wouldn’t allow me to enroll in a school that these classmates wouldn’t be in so I could have a fresh start. My parents home schooled me until I found a school offering equivalent of GED to adults. During this time, the school board insisted I see a doctor and counselor because they thought I could be mentally ill and that this was the cause of my problems. My dad took me to a doctor, thinking there was nothing wrong with me at all.
At the end of the discussion, she gave him card and referral to a psychiatrist. I remember my father getting into the car, rippling the card up and telling me this was the standard brush off and a way to dump a client they didn’t want. He still prayed for years in Christian Science to fix my social problems until everything came to a head in 2003—10 years later.
I mentioned earlier that my career was in tatters. The only good thing that came from this awful experience—that still impacts me daily—was a second chance. I was in total despair one day, and reached out to a friend who asked me if there was anything I wanted to do in journalism that I hadn’t achieved, or that involved writing for magazines or newspapers. I told her that I really wanted to be a film critic. We ended up finding a lead and a site that has published my interviews, features, and reviews for over 17 years now.
This work has led to guest appearances speaking about the Academy Awards and other film-related topics for U.S. and Canadian radio and television. I would have never had this opportunity without being diagnosed as bipolar, eventually following medical treatment to the letter, and ditching Christian Science completely; and having constant care under watchful eye of a psychiatrist for over two decades now. While there were numerous missed opportunities over the course of 10 years prior to experiencing my full blown psychiatric crisis, I do not blame my father or mother for anything that I experienced. My father didn’t know any better, and he followed Mary Baker Eddy’s teachings for 60 years until his passing from terminal cancer in 2021. He believed, as I did until my crisis, that the TRUTH contained in her writings and teachings could heal any disease—including mine. When it couldn’t it devastated him.
My father was never the same afterwards, and blamed his genetics for everything I experienced with the disease. Our relationship became somewhat fractured, as he could see that the same traits within himself—with constant rapid cycles of depression, horrible temperament, and twisting of what others said. My psychiatrist believed strongly that he had an undiagnosed type of bipolar disorder, minus the delusions, for all of his adult life. While I got helped by modern medicine, he never took those steps for himself because of Christian Science. It is a fact I cannot change, and I continue to grapple with it every moment of every day.
Ask a NurseThe ExCS site has teamed with a registered nurse and paramedic with a background in healthcare education and public health. Married to a former-CS, the Nurse would like to share their experience with the healthcare system, and answer any questions former-CS may have! The Nurse will NOT get involved in diagnosing or giving medical advice, but if there are questions folks have related to going to a doctor, explaining medical terminology, how to advocate for yourself in healthcare, and so on, they might have a perspective that can help.
tl;dr To get your first polio vaccine, you’ll want to contact your doctor or your local health department for more information. Links at the bottom of the post.
HOWEVER, the assumption is adults are all vaccinated (at least for polio), so adult healthcare providers don’t routinely administer the polio vaccine, and often don’t know what to do.
Recently there’s been a case of polio reported in Rockland County New York, just north of New York City, leading to questions on how to get vaccinated. Polio is a virus that can cause paralysis, most famously in US President Franklin Roosevelt. With the advent of a vaccine however, polio has nearly been eradicated (in 2021 there were 6 reported cases worldwide). To prevent a resurgence (like in measles), vaccination is key. Typically, the vaccination schedule is a 4-dose regiment beginning at age 2 months and culminating between age 4-6 years (for unvaccinated adults it’s a 3-dose regiment).
In the United States, the Inactivated Poliovirus Vaccine (IPV) is the only polio vaccine that has been used since 2000. It is given by shot in the leg or arm, depending on the patient’s age. What this essentially means is the polio virus is injected into the person, but the virus is dead, or inactivated. As a result, there’s no risk of actually contracting polio, but the person’s body develops immunity to protect from future exposure of a live polio virus. This video series from Khan Academy is very useful in explaining polio and the vaccine in further detail: https://www.khanacademy.org/test-prep/nclex-rn/rn-infectious- diseases/rn-polio/a/what-is-polio
The risk of serious complications related to the vaccine are very low, however the complications from getting polio can be quite debilitating. As a colleague of mine once put it, “vaccines are arguably the greatest invention in human history.” They have prevented untold numbers of deaths and life-long injuries. In adults, polio can be fatal in 15-30% of patients who suffer paralytic effects. The vaccine protects against those effects.
If you grew up in a family that subscribed to a belief that medicine was unnecessary, you might not have been vaccinated. The question now is, how does one get vaccinated as an adult?The simple advice, at least in the US, is to call your doctor and get vaccinated by following the schedule on the Center’s for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) website. The schedule posted by the CDC for adults who have never been vaccinated states adults should receive 3 doses along the following timeline:
The first dose at any time
The second dose 1 to 2 months later
The third dose 6 to 12 months after the second
That said, finding somewhere to get vaccinated as an adult isn’t as straightforward as one might assume. I’ve spent the last few days calling public health departments around the United States, calling private doctors offices, urgent cares, you get the idea. I’ve also reached out to colleagues of mine, one of whom is a vaccine and infectious disease expert, to get help. Nobody has great answers for me. Getting the polio vaccine as an adult, at least in the United States, should not be this hard! The assumption is adults are all vaccinated. As a result, adult healthcare providers don’t routinely administer the polio vaccine, so don’t know what to do, and pediatricians don’t know what to tell adults…
I wanted to get this post up so you’d at least have somewhere to start, but I’m going to keep working on this question. If I get answers and can update this post, I absolutely will. In the meantime, the best advice I have is to call your local public health department and explain your situation. Below are a few links to credible resources you can share with healthcare providers.
I have noticed that with Ex Christian Scientists, we all have similarities and differences. And it all is due to the way our parents worshipped Christian Science (or not).
Some parents were super strict, like my step-mom. She was the daughter of a Christian Science Practitioner, who was also the daughter of a Christian Science Practitioner. My dad’s family, on the other hand, were much less strict in the way they worshipped.
When it was just my dad and me, he let me have honey when my throat hurt, just to soothe it. It helped me stop coughing. When he got married, that was forbidden, because it was a “material remedy.”
Other blog posts here have shared this strict attitude, too. “Elizabeth’s Story” shares when she had the measles at Principia Upper School in St. Louis, Missouri. She was miserable and couldn’t breathe. She figured out that a wet washcloth, draped over her mouth, helped her breathe. And yet, it was a material remedy, so it was snatched from her, and she was treated as if she was a criminal for even trying to have a washcloth to help her breathe when she had the freaking measles during an epidemic at her school!
My dad’s parents / my grandparents, on the other hand, took their kids to the doctor when things were rough. One of my uncles asked my grandpa a few times, “hey, dad, do you remember taking me to the doctor when I was little, for that ingrown toenail?” My grandpa remembered.
My grandpa later had surgeries for things as he got older. I am so glad he did, too, because he lived to be 100 years old, and my kids got to know him.
Whereas, my practitioner grandmother died much younger. She probably had a stroke or heart attack, though an autopsy was never performed. I am not sharing more of that story, because my family is still around, and they may read this blog some day and not be too happy if I share anything personal like that.
My dad, his dad and I all wear or wore glasses or contact lenses. Mary Baker Eddy wrote in “Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures” that “Eyes [are] spiritual discernment.” Meaning, if you understand things spiritually, you won’t need eye glasses or contact lenses. My family saw eye glasses and contact lenses as “temporary means,” like someone might use crutches for a while, until they “demonstrate over” a problem like “the belief of a sprained ankle.” It’s temporary. Whereas something like surgery is not temporary, therefore it shouldn’t be done, because that’s a material remedy.
(But, wait, wouldn’t a wet washcloth to help with breathing, or honey to help a sore throat also be temporary? It’s so confusing.)
I heard a story by an Ex Christian Scientist, that a little boy had been run over by a truck of all things. And his head had been squashed. He had so many healings about it, and the last healing he needed was to have his eyesight healed. He wore eyeglasses. His family moved at some point, and wanted to attend the local Christian Science Church. They were shunned from the church because their son wore eyeglasses. So many wonderful healings this precious child had, and they were shunned because he wore eyeglasses. This is such a completely different experience from the one where I grew up in – with a family where more than 1/2 of us wear or wore eyeglasses or contact lenses.
So, I grew up with the different ways of worshipping Christian Science – the strict and the not-so-strict.
Leaving Christian Science, I was relieved to find out about the Ex Christian Science Facebook group. People from all over the world are in the group. We all share our stories. Some are horrific – club feet that weren’t treated by a doctor (easily) when a child was small. Problems that went on for so long that a limb had to be amputated, when it might have been something easy to do from the medical perspective these days, like take insulin for diabetes.
Christian Science has left many major scars on so many of us.
Other people, like the ones I went to Sunday School with, growing up, went to doctors. They got their shots, took cough syrup, used band-aids, and still went to Christian Science church and Sunday School on Sundays.
I know in my family, we were taught that the Sabbath was every day of the week. We were supposed to think about God 100% of the time. Any time we turned our thoughts away from God, we had the superstitious belief that we would get a problem like become sick with cancer, sprain our ankle, or maybe even die. But then my Sunday School friends didn’t think like that at all. And they never seemed to be punished for not thinking that way.
When I was very little, my bio mom left my life. Later, in my teen years, my dad told me, “she never really understood Christian Science.” That’s what so many people say. I am sure my family all tells each other this about me, now, too. The funny thing is, I went through Class Instruction (this is mentioned in so many of these blog posts) and for a while, I was also a Journal-listed Practitioner. I worshipped God all the time. I “prayed without ceasing,” as is mentioned in II Thessalonians. Believe me, I understood Christian Science.
I hear stories from the other Ex Christian Scientists where they remember their Christian Science Teacher (the one who teaches Class Instruction) say, “they never really understood Christian Science” when someone “leaves the fold” [leaves Christian Science].
So all of that prelude brings me to what I wanted to blog about today –
Many of us have had similar experiences. We may not all share 100% of the same experiences, but we all share some experiences with many people.
Many of us weren’t allowed to use band-aids, or we were chastised about it. I once heard a Wednesday evening testimony about a woman who went to the drug store and saw band-aids for sale. She reached for them, as if she wanted to buy them. But then she had a change of heart. She realized that “Science and Health” says that “accidents are unknown to God.” So, if she bought the band-aids, she would be superstitious that she would have an accident that week and then need a band-aid. So she didn’t buy them. And this was a healing! She never needed a band-aid. On a kaleidoscope, let’s pretend this is pink.
Another group of us may have had some physical trauma to our leg or our foot or ankle. And have had no care for it. No wrap, no ice, no pain relief, so cast, no medicine, no crutch to support us. We probably lay in bed, maybe even feeling guilty for elevating our feet or legs to relieve some of the painful pressure. Let’s call this blue on the kaleidoscope.
Another group of us probably had heart problems, but didn’t know it until we left Christian Science and started going to doctors. I have heart problems. For me, this has shown up as being short of breath when running track in high school. I was short of breath when walking up a flight of stairs. I remember some guys moving a bed in to my house, up a flight of stairs to our bedroom. They made fun of me for being short of breath at the top of the stairs. I was mortified. I couldn’t understand why that was true for me – I was a weight lifter, I could rock climb, I took walks, I loved to canoe, ski, I was very active. But walking up a flight of stairs left me winded. Low and behold, about 10 years later, I found out I have heart problems. Back in high school, I wondered if it was asthma, so I prayed a LOT about asthma. I don’t have asthma. I have heart problems. Thank goodness for things like heart surgery and heart medicine. If I hadn’t left Christian Science, and hadn’t gone to a good cardiologist, I am positive I would have been dead by now. Let’s call heart problems red on the kaleidoscope.
Some kids, like me, weren’t allowed to have cough syrup. I had it one time when I was staying at my bio mom’s house. She had gotten me a babysitter, and the babysitter offered it to me when I wouldn’t stop coughing. (It turns out, I learned this at the age of 50!) that I have seasonal allergies. They are so bad, that every year throughout my life, I have coughed quite severely for weeks on end. And the coughing turns into either bronchitis or pneumonia. Every year of my life since I was an infant. This year, I finally started taking a swig every morning of children’s grape flavored Zyrtec during allergy seasons. And, low and behold, I didn’t cough. I didn’t get bronchitis, and I didn’t get pneumonia. Something so easy to do – a morning allergy medicine. A children’s dose at that. And I have experienced so much relief. Let’s call allergies green on the kaleidoscope. And let’s call coughing turquoise on the kaleidoscope. Bronchitis can be orange, and pneumonia can be a deep red-orange color.
There are so many kinds of trauma in life in general, like mental abuse, psychological abuse, sexual abuse, child abuse, hitting, punching, kicking. While too many Christian Scientists also subjected their kids and each other to these kinds of abuse, these aren’t specifically Christian Science related. They are real, and they are terrible. But they aren’t just a type of abuse limited to Christian Scientists. Let’s call these kinds of abuse black on the kaleidoscope. I have definitely heard of every kind of this abuse in the Ex Christian Science circles. But they didn’t happen to everyone. But they happened to a lot of people. I was particularly horrified to hear about this kind of abuse at Christian Science facilities including schools and camps. The staff at those places put on haughty “holier than thou” attitudes, then turn around and commit some of the worst atrocities I have heard of.
Here’s an interesting thing in Christian Science. Somewhere in “Science and Health” or in her Prose Works, Eddy talks about not partaking in coffee or caffeine. Many people don’t know, but she actually brewed coffee at her home so that people who did the work around her house would have some if they wanted it. My step-mom and her family took this to the extreme – they drank no coffee of course. They also never ate coffee flavored yogurt or coffee flavored ice cream. My grandfather grew up in New England, and while I forget which state it is, perhaps it’s Rhode Island, but it could just as easily be Massachusetts or Delaware too, they have coffee flavored things just as readily as they might have vanilla or chocolate flavored things. Things like milk shakes at McDonald’s. My grandfather’s favorite flavor of ice cream was coffee flavored ice cream. He offered it to my step-mom often. She consistently turned him down. Whereas when I was a little child, I ate it eagerly, knowing that it was a little bit forbidden. It made me feel like a rebel to partake in the coffee flavored yogurt. It tastes so good!
Here’s a funny thing about caffeine – I could never understand why, if chocolate also has caffeine, why it wasn’t forbidden, but coffee was. Also, I had a friend in Sunday School whose dad, as far as I know, is just as strict as my step-mom. When we became adults with fiancé’s, he made fun of my (never a Christian Scientist) boyfriend for drinking coffee, when he, himself, my Christian Science friend, drank a Mt. Dew (a soda that has more caffeine in it than Coca-Cola, as far as I understand it). Let’s call a resistance to drinking caffeine and coffee brown on the kaleidoscope.
One other thing that was common in Christian Science households growing up was emotional abuse. Telling kids they can’t feel sad, or angry, or disappointed, or frustrated. Anything that isn’t grateful, joyful or happy is not to be felt. If someone died, you have to feel happy and grateful. No grief allowed. No sadness, no tears. Let’s call this yellow on the kaleidoscope. it’s emotional abuse. It’s emotional invalidation. I once said, “I hate .” I don’t even remember what it was that I said I hated. But my dad immediately said to me, “you don’t hate anything.” My step-mom, of all people, told him that was invalidating. She got very angry at him for saying that. “Maybe she DOES hate . Don’t tell her she doesn’t!” That was quite a confusing moment for me. They disagreed about a Christian Science doctrine, as far as I could tell. She had always been the more strict person regarding Christian Science doctrine, so it was shocking when my dad said something that would be in line with strict Christian Science doctrine, and she stated the exact opposite. Usually, my step-mom would be the one to put the yellow in my kaleidoscope, but this time it was my dad and not my step-mom.
One thing I observed as I got older, while I was still enmeshed with Christian Science church and doctrine was that older Christian Scientists got fat. In the Christian Science “nursing” homes (sanatoriums), nurses love to feed their patients ice cream and milk shakes. I have started reading a book about Florence Nightingale, and feeding milk shakes to patients can be the only way to get calories into their bodies when they aren’t able to eat or consume things easily. I figured out that since we aren’t allowed to deal with our emotions in a healthy way, and we aren’t allowed to have drugs, cough syrup, shots for the flu (I got the flu every single year, growing up. It’s awful.), or any kind of thing to help us feel better, the only remedy we were allowed was food. So we all ate our emotions, our sadness, our traumas, our pain. We ate, ate, ate. It was the only drug available to us. It’s legal, and no one at the store cards you for buying food, no one judges you for having food in your house. It’s considered “normal” and “okay.” I have also noticed that a lot of us who left Christian Science have eating disorders now. That’s no fun, and it’s common. Let’s call this purple on the kaleidoscope.
Some people experienced a broken bone in Christian Science, that wasn’t set properly by a doctor, in a cast. This is awful. Leaving Christian Science, years later, the bone has set and probably isn’t properly set and causes other problems. Problems I can’t even imagine, that cause pain and suffering for the rest of the person’s life. Let’s call that white on the kaleidoscope.
There are many other things that folks have experienced in Christian Science that I haven’t personally experienced. I was able to share things here that I have experienced, that I also noticed that others who have left Christian Science have had experiences that I haven’t had, but they can share those experiences with other people. As I am typing this, I am blanking out on what those experiences are. Maybe one has popped into your head as you read this. You can assign it a color, or perhaps you’re okay if I assign it the color of green on the kaleidoscope.
So, if you take all of these colors and put them into a kaleidoscope and turn it, and look through it, you might recognize the colors in there that are familiar to you, problems you experienced in Christian Science. Perhaps you recognize the purple eating disorder, the black trauma, and the pink band-aids, but you don’t recognize the brown coffee / caffeine issue or the blue feet or leg issues, or the red heart issues. Other people might have the red heart issues, the green color of a problem I haven’t experienced, the turquoise of the allergies and the red-orange of the pneumonia, and the white of a broken bone never set properly.
Some people have lost their parent or a cherished relative or friend, at too young of an age, thanks to radical belief in Christian Science. It’s horrible to lose someone so young. I know of parents who have lost their child due to radical reliance on Christian Science and a Christian Science Practitioner saying, “you can’t go to a doctor, or the child will die, because doctors study matter, but we study Life. Studying matter brings only death. You don’t want death do you?” It’s horrifying, but this is absolutely what has happened to too many people, too many children. Dying of something that would have very likely been easily treatable by a doctor, if they had been taken sooner, rather than relying solely on Christian Science “treatment” or prayer. I don’t even know what color to assign this one. Maybe indigo. Some folks have indigo in their kaleidoscope. I have a touch of indigo from an extended family member who died in middle school.
I notice on this blog that we often get comments that say, “that’s not true, I never experienced that.” The commenter is basically saying, “you’re lying, no one in Christian Science believed that way.” It’s gas-lighting to speak this way to a survivor of trauma. Maybe they experienced trauma you didn’t experience. It doesn’t mean “no one experienced it.” It means that they experienced it, and you didn’t.
We all have at least a few of these colors on our kaleidoscope. And some of us share many of the colors, but also have other colors in our own kaleidoscope that others don’t have, and vice versa.
I hope this helps folks picture the traumas and the overlap and also the disconnect that we all can have, as survivors of Christian Science.
Please be compassionate when you comment on this blog. You may identify with many of the posts here, and other posts may seem outlandish. But, I assure you, these stories are true from the survivor’s perspective. They are every bit as true as the stories that are printed in the Christian Science periodicals like The Christian Science Sentinels, Journals and Heralds.
Thank you for reading. I wish you peace and a kaleidoscope of colors that have happy meanings instead of the meanings of trauma.
By Jeremy, an Ex-Christian Scientist group editor/writer.
Like almost any other religion, Christian Science has its own mythology: those stories that form the core of the faith’s origins, and which often serve to bind its followers together and to the faith, and to validate the faith’s claims. A central story in the anthology of Christian Science myths is what’s often referred to as the ‘Fall On The Ice In Lynn (Massachusetts)’. If you visit the city of Lynn, which is just north of Boston, you can see a memorial plaque at the location at the corner of Market Street and Oxford Street in the downtown area, where our story starts. Anyone who has grown up in, or been in Christian Science for any amount of time knows the story well. This is considered to be the central event that led directly to Mary Baker Eddy’s ‘discovery’ of Christian Science.
A foundational legend of the origins of Christian Science
On February 1, 1866, Eddy was on her way to a Temperance movement meeting in downtown Lynn. She slipped and fell on the ice-covered sidewalk and was transported unconscious to a nearby house, where a doctor was summoned to treat her.
According to Eddy’s account, her condition was beyond the ability of medical practice to help. She claimed that the attending doctor gave her only a few days to live. Somehow, she managed the strength to ask for her Bible and began a deep study of it, focusing her attention particularly on Jesus’s healing of a paralyzed man (Matthew 9:2). Miraculously, after about three days, she had an ‘immediate recovery’:
It was in Massachusetts, in February, 1866. . .that I discovered the Science of divine metaphysical healing which I afterwards named Christian Science.1
From this point on, so the story goes, Eddy sought to understand and ultimately explain this miraculous healing. She claimed an “immediate recovery” from the effects of her injury.
My immediate recovery from the effects of an injury caused by an accident, an injury that neither medicine nor surgery could reach, was the falling apple that led me to the discovery how to be well myself, and how to make others so.2
Some overlooked facts
There is no doubt that Eddy fell on the ice on a cold February evening in Lynn in 1866 and was taken unconscious to a nearby home where she was seen by a local physician. Beyond this, the story starts to take on the traits of a myth. There is fact and truth at its core, but it is shrouded in a blanket of hyperbole and exaggeration. Here are some facts that are ignored or revised in the ‘official’ Christian Science canon:
The injury Eddy suffered was not life-threatening or nearly as serious as claimed by Eddy: Eddy claimed that the attending doctor, Dr. Alvin Cushing, told her that there was no hope for her recovery and that she only had about three days more to live.3 According to Cushing’s own records, consisting of case notes he made at the time he treated Eddy, that is not true. In a sworn affidavit, Cushing, referring to his notes, directly refutes a central part of Eddy’s version of events: “I did not at any time declare, or believe, there was no hope for Mrs. Patterson’s recovery, or that she was in critical condition, and did not at any time say, or believe, that she had but three or any other limited number of days to live.” (sworn affidavit of Dr. Alvin Cushing, January 2, 1907 – Hampden County, Massachusetts).4 Eddy also was treated on at least two subsequent occasions by Cushing following her miraculous three-day recovery, as well as professional visits in August of that year.5
The ‘healing’ may not have been as quick, complete, and/or miraculous as later claimed by Eddy and her followers: just two weeksafter her fall in Lynn, Eddy also sought metaphysical treatment from Julius Dresser, a fellow student of Phineas Parkhurst Quimby. In her imploring letter to him, she expressed a feeling quite opposite of what she portrays in her own autobiographical recollection: “Two weeks ago I fell on the sidewalk . . .and was taken up for dead . . . ” She goes on to say, “The physician attending said I had taken the last step I ever should but in two days I got out of my bed alone, and will walk; but yet I confess I am frightened, and out of that nervous heat my friends are forming, spite of me, the terrible spinal affection from which I have suffered so long and hopelessly.”6 Eddy also was treated on at least three subsequent occasions by Cushing following her ‘immediate’ three-day recovery.
Eddy initiated a lawsuit against the City of Lynn in connection to the accident: it is worth noting, as one considers the veracity of Eddy’s claims of the epiphanic nature of this ‘healing’, that she began the process (later rescinded) of suing the city, claiming that the city was responsible for her injuries due to unsafe conditions in the street. In a petition presented to the city in the summer of 1866, she stated that she was seeking damages for “serious personal injuries from which she had little prospect of recovering.“7 (emphasis is mine).
Eddy didn’t cite her 1866 fall and ‘healing’ until years later: Nowhere in her published writings does Eddy describe a ‘fall on the ice’ (it only occurs in her letter to Julius Dresser). Her slim autobiography, Retrospection and Introspection, published in 1891, refers vaguely to “an injury caused by an accident.” (p. 24) She goes on to say that after her recovery she “withdrew from society about three years, — to ponder my mission, to search the Scriptures, to find the Science of Mind that should take the things of God and show them to the creature, and reveal the great curative Principle,–Diety.” (pp. 24-25) If her 1866 accident and miraculous healing had been the revelatory event that led to her ‘discovery’ of Christian Science, one would think she would have mentioned it in her early writings. But the first edition of Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures, which appeared in 1875, makes no reference to the event. Only years later, well after the establishment of her church, does she refer to a healing of an injury in 1866.
Some concluding thoughts
As one who grew up in and practiced Christian Science for 41 years, I took the story of the ‘Fall In Lynn’ as the origin point of my faith. This story was presented as the first and penultimate proof of the effectiveness of Christian Science as a healing agent. Mary Baker Eddy was near death, and she miraculously healed herself, and from that moment on she set about to putting her ‘discovery’ to words and sharing this system of healing with the world. That is the story that I and many others accepted as the whole and complete truth. It is the version that fuels the legend of Christian Science, and gives it its so-called ‘power’.
The facts presented here cast serious doubt on the veracity of Eddy’s and Christian Scientists’ claims regarding this important origin story. Sometimes, memories of events change over time, stories get embellished a bit, and smaller details get lost in the mists of one’s memory. But in this case, it appears that Eddy fashioned this story in later years to create a revelatory myth for the origin of her religion. More than a few biographers, both friendly and critical, have mentioned Eddy’s propensity for shaping the truth to suit her needs.
Many religions have a singular origin moment or series of events that spark their birth. For instance, the Mormons have the story of the tablets containing the Book of Mormon being revealed to Joseph Smith in the woods of upstate New York; for Muslims, it is the 22-year period in which Muhammad received revelations he believed to be from God, which were recorded in the Qur’an. History is replete with many other such stories. Eddy and her followers turned a winter accident that resulted in a serious, but not really life-threatening injury into a virtual raising-of-the-dead myth that led to the discovery of the ‘miraculous’ healing system known as Christian Science.
1 Eddy, Mary B. G. Retrospection and Introspection. Boston, Massachusetts: The Christian Science Board of Directors, 1892. 24. Print.