The following is a collection of contributions from members of the Ex-Christian Scientist collective about the impact Christian Science has had on relationships.
Not quite twenty years ago, my marriage ended. He and I were both devout Christian Scientists. We were very involved in the Principia community, and our kids were at Prin College and Upper School. My then-husband had a very bad temper, and eventually I summoned all my courage and went to the local woman’s shelter for guidance and help. I felt like such a scofflaw for relying on outside help, but I was losing my mind. God bless that shelter and all its angels. I learned so much, and it was such a blessing, and that was the first crack in the Christian Science armor, when I learned that it’s okay to be a human being.
One day, a woman friend called to ask why I hadn’t been in church. She’d been a good friend, and her husband was well-loved at Prin. It seemed right to lay my soul bare, so I told her the truth: I told her that my husband was abusive. My friend went silent. I thought she’d hung up on me. After a moment, she said, “My husband is just like yours.” Two more times, I confided in women friends with Prin-employed husbands, and both times, they hung their heads and said, “My husband is also abusive.”
Christian Science’s teachings can create the perfect breeding ground for abuse of all kinds, because the Christian Science way of thinking, if there is someone abusive in the home, is that the abuser’s behavior is the victim’s responsibility to ‘un-see’. This is a completely wrong and unproductive guilt created by Christian Science dogma on top of the abuse by the spouse or parent.
Abuse and dysfunction in the home is definitely not unique to Christian Science; it can happen in any family, group or culture. But Christian Science is a culture deeply tied to shame, denial, and secrets. This applies to health, sexuality, mental health, emotions— everything. We are strong for having survived, for moving forward, and for breaking the cycle.
A dedicated Christian Scientist doesn’t need an outside influence in order to feel guilty about not having a healing quickly or about resorting to ‘materia medica.’ We are programmed to feel that way from the time we enter Sunday School, if not before. Christian Science is never to blame, it is always the individual’s lack of understanding.
This site offers support resources to help individuals negotiate a transition in a manner that best fits their needs and convictions. We do not advocate any one particular path but acknowledge that there are many legitimate pathways that can be personally and spiritually fulfilling.
7 Replies to “Christian Science is a culture deeply tied to shame, denial, and secrets.”
I’m very sorry to read what has happened to you. Three generations of the maternal side of my family practiced CS. In my family, there was no history of physical, mental or sexual abuse. When I was in middle school as a joke I was told that someone was going to break into my home and rape me. I was so upset that I came home in tears and was very upset believing the story. My mother and grandmother prayed about the situation, however my mother went to the school the next day and reported it to the principal and stated that if someone did show up at the house or did tried to break into the house, police would be called and charges of trespassing or breaking and entering would be filed.
Even though both of them prayed about the situation, they still believed humanly that action needed to be taken against wrong doers. In many situations, both is needed.
My grandmother considered reporting it to the police first but back in the mid 1970’s, nothing would have been done until something happened which is basically what she was told when in another incident a couple of years earlier she reported a man who had exposed himself to me while I was walking down the block.
My grandmother was a strong believer that incidences like domestic violence or sexual abuse or other sex type crimes should be reported to law enforcement as no one had the right to do these things to people. Domestic violence was much more hidden back then (especially in middle income families) so I don’t know if she ever called the police about domestic violence.
Growing up in Christian Science gave me a wharped since of reality. I blamed myself for everything wrong in my life. Christian Science taught me that if I overcame my false beliefs (the true world) then I would be free from the evil which does not truly exist. Everything will be perfect if I just stop believing evil exists.
My father was an alcoholic and abuser. He did not work and retained complete control over my families thoughts and feelings. He lied to himself through his belief in Christian Science. He used it as an excuse to behave badly. Since this world is not true then my actions are not real. Whatever I do, does not matter because it is not truly happening.
As a fifth and sixth grader, I had terrible acne. I repeatedly begged my mother, a Christian Scientist, to please take me to a dermatologist because I was being teased at school and called “dirty”. She told me that my acne was caused by my thoughts and it was my fault.
Christian Science is killing my family. My paternal grandfather died at age 52 of pernicious anemia, a condition that is easily treated, but he chose to try to pray it away instead, and of course, it didn’t work.
My maternal grandmother (Methodist) also had pernicious anemia, but hers was treated with monthly injections of vitamin B12, and she lived to be almost 91.
Dad’s brother, my Uncle G., died of epilepsy because he stopped taking his meds and chose to rely on Christian Science instead, and the untreated seizures of course eventually killed him.
My maternal grandmother died horribly and painfully of un-treated breast cancer because of her staunch Christian Science beliefs. Dad saved all of her letters to him, and it’s absolutely heart-breaking to read about the pain and suffering she was going through because she refused to seek treatment. In one letter, not long before her death, she describes how she finally had to go to a doctor to get some relief from the awful pain, and how she begged my then-still living Uncle G., who was caring for her, not to tell the other church ladies that she had been to a doctor, indicative of the tremendous and terrible peer pressure that CS’ers exert on each other. They, of course, see it as “group support” , but peer pressure is what it really is.
My late step-mother, also CS, died of untreated dementia, after having been cared for by Dad, largely un-assisted, for 8 years. Christian Science didn’t save her either.
My only sibling, my late half-sister, L., also C S, died of breast cancer because she waited too late to have a breast lump examined and treated, also thinking that she could pray it away.
Dad was always so secretive about the family health history, a history that I had a right to know about, and now I know why. CS’s don’t want to discuss the failures of their ‘faith’, and get quite defensive about it when the subject is raised in conversation.
When I was cleaning out my half-sister’s house, the house she inherited from Dad when he died, there was a large bookcase full of copies of practically every book on Christian Science that had ever been written. I wanted so badly to pile them up in the back yard, pour gasoline on them and have a bonfire, but was afraid the neighbors would call the cops if I did. So, I had the clean-out crew bag them all up and take them to the local dump where they belonged.
My Mom and Dad split up when I was just a few months old, largely because of Dad’s Christian Science beliefs that clashed with Mom’s Catholic beliefs. I never did thank Mom for sparing me from being raised a Christian Scientist. before she passed away, which I deeply regret. The cult of Christian Science is now 5 generations deep in my late father’s family and 5 generations deep in my late step-mother’s family, and with no end in sight.
FYI – there is a Facebook group of former CS, https://exchristianscience.com/index/community-support/ex-christian-scientists-on-facebook/ has more information.
All of these stories are heart-breaking. There have also been extremely abusive paternal folks in my family’s history.
And – the acne. I have struggled with acne for 30+ years. Now that I am a few years out of the christian science belief system, I am finally going to a dermatologist regularly and getting medical help for it. I was always told it was my own fault, also, because I didn’t see god clearly enough. Even when I was a Journal-listed christian science practitioner, I still didn’t see god clearly enough. Wow. What BUNK.
My bugaboo is glasses, which I use occasionally and aren’t a big deal to me. My CS oppressors like to tell me that I have a problem with ‘not seeing the perfect man’. Hoookay, but the Dalai Lama wears glasses. So does Oprah. I don’t see any correlation with one’s thinking and glasses. Or maybe using glasses is a good thing. Who’s to say?
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