Christian Science Is Not Comfort

By Ashley, an Ex-Christian Scientist Group contributor.

I was a third generation Christian Scientist. I was all-believing and never could imagine not being a devout student. I served as Second Reader, substitute First Reader, was a Sunday School teacher, lecture committee Chair, secretary for the Board meetings, and more.

My profound challenge came at around the age of thirty. If it had been physical in nature, I have no doubt that I would have ridden it out with Christian Science treatment only, no matter what the consequences. But it wasn’t anything with physical symptoms. It was severe depression and anxiety to a level of anguish that I cannot describe. When the pain is physical, there’s only so far that can go, it has a lid on it at some point. When the anguish is mental there is no top-out level. There is no ‘thus far and no farther’ point. The suffering seemed to expand to wordless brand-new depths with each day. This mental anguish, on and on with no relief, I could not endure indefinitely. Thus began my halting and very gradual realization and wake-up call away from Christian Science.

Ten years later and after lots of help, intervention and treatments from medical psychiatry, I am able to live as a member of society again. My first big realization about Christian Science after entering the world of psychiatry and therapeutic care was how extremely cruel its basic tenets are, such as: no matter to what extent one may be suffering, one can only blame oneself. And, if you would just ‘get your thoughts right’ then you would stop suffering. Christian Science teaches that suffering is self-imposed and basically that ‘it’s your own fault,’ when you really take it down to the bottom line. The absolute opposite of ‘comfort’, though it calls itself ‘The Comforter’.

Christian Science is not comfort, it is something that is disturbingly austere, remote and unfeeling. It must be unfeeling in order to maintain the unreality of human suffering. Christian Science is among the coldest, most inhumane, compassionless, unhealthy approaches to life that has ever been foisted upon humanity. It took me much time and suffering to be able to distill that fact out and separate it from the teachings of my whole life. I hope I still have much progress to make, because I know Christian Science did damage that I will be working for the rest of my life to undo.

7 comments

  • Jenn

    Thank you so much for sharing your story. I can relate to this so much!

  • Chris

    I can appreciate the torment you went through, the mental terror. I went through it myself. I got myself involved in both branch membership, and membership with the Mother Church in my early 20’s. After about a year or so, I began to have serious questions about the religion. Reading the Bible and Science and Health every day went from an inspiring experience, eventually to a depressing one, which got worse.

    What’s so nightmarish is that, for so long, you’ve gone along believing that Christian Science is the “only” way, and that to vary your exploration of anything else, any kind of psychology, etc., is to “taint your thinking”, and to let yourself in for something truly unpleasant, which will “drive you back into Science.” It’s mind control. That’s what it really is.

    Well, what do you do if, in fact, Christian Science is what is causing your fear, depression, mental torment, etc.? Actually, the straightjacketing of your thinking and reason, as it holds you in a sort of mental bondage? You had thought Christian Science would free you from the ills of the world, when in fact IT was what was causing your unhappiness and depression. That’s a strange and nightmarish place to be. Where do you go, when what you’ve believed in for so long turns out to be the source of your nightmare? I know the feeling, as I went through it as well.

    I’m glad you were able to get help for your situation. I’m also glad we have the Internet, so people of similar experience can help each other. There was a time when none of this was possible, and Christian Scientists, former, or thinking of leaving, were pretty much on their own, possibly questioning their sanity? That’s not the case today.

    Now, with help, genuine clarity about what we’ve been through, and getting appropriate help, is possible.

    • Contributor Chrystal

      Thank you so much for this comment. I relate to Ashley’s post too, and your comment. You both put in to words feelings I have and still struggle to explain adequately. Thank you so much. The never ending anguish of the Christian Science belief system. “Keep kissing that painful cross! You’ll win the crown!” No you won’t. Kissing pain brings more pain!!!

      Leaving Christian Science – it’s so wonderfully freeing to be done with the pain, anguish, anxiety and depression. And, I am also grateful for psychiatric care and medicines!

  • Synergy

    I can totally and completely relate to your story about your serious depression! I joined the Christian Science Mother Church and a Branch Church when I was about 40 years old. I totally loved it, was sincere and devout and , later, class taught. I was also in an emotionally, sometimes physically, and property-abusive relationship with a man who’d been raised in Christian Science. I discovered that he was gas-lighting me and lying to me, as well. I wanted to go to therapy, and almost checked myself into a state mental hospital at one point, but couldn’t afford the cost. I also started questioning and theories and actual practice of Christian Science when I went to a statewide meeting conducted by someone from the Mother Church. It was when the Editor of the Christian Science Monitor had resigned — maybe in 1982? The speaker said that the discussions about this controversy must stop, and that God would take care of it. Something like that. My husband and I seemed to be the only ones in large crowd of believers, who thought this was outrageous demand, a censorship. Ten or 11 years after joining the church, I quit. One reason what that nothing in Christian Science practice, or help from practitioners, seemed to help heal the abusive marriage. Another reason was that my Christian Science teacher and his wife both burned to death in a fire less than a month after Class! I had always had doubts about the doctrine of “protection”,” that God protected Christian Scientists from harm. The fateful event to my teacher and his wife shocked me, and I wondered how other Christian Scientists would deal with it and justify this horrible death. I also figured the couple were praying their poor hearts out for healing, as they burned alive. I also had acute sinusitis for over 2 years, when I could neither smell nor taste anything at all. I finally decided to try a medical doctor. He gave me a series of antibiotics and guess what? It totally cleared up my sense of smell and taste. Regarding your depression again, I had suffered from wild mood swings, including severe depression, rage, irresponsible money habits, irritability, and sobbing for long periods. I had tried over the decades (excsept during the 10-11 years I’d been in the church) to get help from more than one psychiatrist, and countless licensed counselors, in several states. My parents had sent me to a psychologist when I was 12 or 13, but she made me worse, not better. Of course, in the 1950s, 60s and even 70s, little was known of how to help people with mental illness. At the age of 54 I moved to US city that had amazing mental health services and professionals. I was diagnosed with bipolar disorder 2 (i.e mostly depression focuses, no manic psychosis), rapid cycling variety. I’m not 73 and have been on medication ever since. I go regularly to a wonderful psychotherapist. For bipolar disorder, both modes are recommended — not medication or therapy alone. The medications sometimes are not perfect and have to be changed every so often for me, but Wow! No more extreme depressions — on a scale of -10 to 0 in the middle, and up to +10, I suffered for years and years at about -8! I thought of, and planned suicide ALL THE TIME, from the time I was about 4 years old. Now, I have been free of what’s known in the field as “suicidal thinking,” which is a symptom of bipolar and unipolar depressions.

  • dave c.

    Well said!

    I had to deprogram myself from many CS perspectives , because they were killing me spiritually. The total denial of this human life was anti-life. It led me to a self-destructive depression like you described.

    I hold onto some of the good ideas that CS gave me. But it takes a lot of work to separate the wheat from the chaff.

    I’m sorry to agree with you, but I have worked for 40 years to try and find freedom from some of the anti-life perspectives of CS. They don’t go away easily if you are raised in CS. It shapes every aspect of how you see the world.

    I keep reminding myself that God made physical creation and he loved everything He made. He kept saying, “Behold it is very good!”

    The real Jesus came to affirm and embrace human life, and to feel all of it with us. If you look hard you can find some people in any town who know the real affirming Jesus, who was a real man with a real body.

    May you find happiness and enjoy having a body!

    • Merm

      Thanks DAVE,
      I have had struggles with bipolar for years. A Psychiatrist helped me greatly.
      YES, prescription drugs.
      My bipolar, especially depression was unnoticed by a CS family member and some friends.
      I didn’t have a clue to why my moods would change from euphoria to devastation.
      I self-medicated in my adult life with alcohol or Tylenol. Neither one balanced my seratonine levels.
      I learned a lot in CS, especially that God Is Love, and realised that doctors are here to help us.
      Merm
      .

  • Jane

    I need to read this and the comments again and again. There’s so much truth being spoken here. Thank you for telling it.