People in our church with problems were condemned behind their backs as someone who ‘needed to straighten out their thinking.’ Ill members who disappeared out of their regular pews were ignored and never talked about again. One couple who let their daughter die of a ruptured appendix came to church the next Sunday as if nothing had happened and no one said a word about her. It was as if she never existed.
My mother was never very sympathetic towards anyone’s illness or plain bad luck. She preached her great love, but her constant statement was ‘there certainly is something wrong with their thinking!’ Then she got old and had to use a walker, and I remember she wouldn’t go to church because of the walker.
I told her that there actually are churches where people would bring you a casserole when you had trouble like that, but of course, not the Christian Science church. To even look at someone who needed a walker or was infirm in some way was paying attention to Error; you were just to turn away and deny you saw anything.
As a young mother, I was still very controlled by my Christian Scientist mother. I knew that I wanted to get my children vaccinated, but I was afraid to lose my mother’s approval. I didn’t have a car when they were little. My husband had to use our only car to drive back and forth to work. So I had to borrow my mother’s car and lie to her when I was going to take one of the kids to get their shots.
Mentally, my leaving Christian Science was a gradual thing. I physically attended church, and I would always worry that I should be able to do better with ‘controlling my thinking.’ But I gradually came to recognize that I couldn’t bring myself to put my kids through the same crap I went through, feeling like a freak in school because I had to walk out when they had health class, etc.
I wouldn’t let them suffer unmedicated with sore throats and fevers as I had. I couldn’t stand to have them sick without going to the doctor. I hid it all from my mother because she was so judgmental about my ‘failures’. I snuck around to get my kids’ health care and my own. However, I didn’t do much for myself because of my fear of doctors.
Then I became ill with what turned out to be gallbladder disease. I tried to use Christian Science through attack after attack over the course of a year, letting the practitioner work for me. It was resolved when my husband took me to the hospital and they performed emergency surgery. The doctor told us that the situation could not have continued much longer. I almost killed myself by ignoring a medical condition, and I endured agonizing pain.
I woke up from my life-saving surgery groggy and in pain. My mother was sitting in the room and she said, ‘This is the most ridiculous thing I have ever seen, to let a doctor cut on you. What is the matter with you? You certainly must have a problem with your thinking or this would never have happened to you.’
I left for good when I was in my thirties. I have watched every member of my immediate family die because they did not get medical treatment until it was too late, and the dysfunction of my household and my family is too long to go into here. But the residual effects of Christian Science certainly stay with us, and although I recognize it in myself, I still have problems emotionally because of it.