When people leave Christian Science there are five questions that pop up again and again. We can only answer these questions for ourselves. By sharing these answers, we hope to shed a little light into the murky depths of Christian Science. Find all the answers to the Five Questions on the FiveQuestions tag.
The following answers are from L, a member of the Ex-Christian Science Facebook community.
How did you get into Christian Science?
I was born into a Christian Scientist family (on my mother’s side). My sibling and cousins and I made the fourth generation. The fourth generation has now all escaped from Christian Science. Hallelujah!
Why did you stay in it for so long?
By the time I was ready to leave home for college, I had doubts. My mother told me that as soon as I finished high school, I could decide if I wanted to continue in Sunday School. I think she thought I would keep going, but the Sunday before I graduated was the last time I ever attended. So, that whole summer before I left for college, I slept late on Sunday mornings with no guilt. But four years later, after I married and moved across the state, I began, for the first time, to have health issues that didn’t go away quickly. I still didn’t want to attend church, but my husband and I sometimes went to Wednesday evening services. I struggled. I was half in and half out. Christian Science treatment wasn’t helping me, but I had no experience whatsoever with medical services, and I was away from home and family. I had no idea what to do. Radical reliance in Christian Science had been the only option I had ever had, but now I was an adult and I realized I could make choices.
What made you decide to leave?
I left for good in my late twenties with my first-ever doctor’s visit. Thankfully, that was in time for my first childbirth, in which a C-section and the NICU and modern medicine saved my baby’s and my life. I can’t stand to think about what would have been had I remained, doggedly, in Christian Science, trying to demonstrate my and my children’s way to perfection. Shudder.
I had struggled and attempted to ‘work out a problem’ in Christian Science for several years with the help of various practitioners. One visit to a family practice doctor who prescribed medication and lifestyle suggestions finally cured the problem once and for all. That was enough for me. During this period, I watched my practitioner mother treat her malignant melanoma through radical reliance on Christian Science…and die. To watch this happen, to know what was coming, to attempt to care for her without causing her to believe that my unbelief was hindering her healing, was pure torture. By the time she died, after lying six days in a coma in her home with just her immediate family caring for her (after a Christian Science nurse disappeared without a word), I hated Christian Science with a white-hot passion. Every remaining family member still in Christian Science had seen enough at that point. My mother, the strongest Christian Scientist in the family, had not been able to ‘prove’ that matter was unreal, or that there was no sensation in matter, or that pain and sickness were illusions. Every supposed healing we had had in our family up until that point was easily explained as natural bodily healing…because the body really is quite as remarkable as it is REAL. And there were many other healings that had never come at all. We all stopped pretending and faced life. We embraced humanity. And my sibling and I were traumatized and would face years of undoing the damage Christian Science had done in our lives.
Why would anyone join?
I don’t know why both of my mother’s grandmothers joined Christian Science. I can imagine the appeal back then though, in the early days of the movement, more than I can understand it now. In the nineteenth century, there was much that could not be understood about the human body and the process of illness, and much that could not be fixed medically. Today, I suppose people are attracted to the promise of goodness and light and freedom from pain and suffering. Christian Science is an illusion though. All is not perfect or good, and practitioners cannot metaphysically obliterate the very real disease processes or other ills of humanity. When mortals are confronted with unpleasant reality and turn to it for relief, Christian Science does not deliver in any way.
Did you really believe?
I think I really believed in the lessons I was taught in Sunday School and at home when I was very young. But by the time I was in middle school, I could easily see that not all of the testimonies my mother told in church on Wednesday evenings were accurate. It wasn’t hard to see either, that my supposedly ‘healed’ stomach virus lasted the same 24 hours as my best friend’s and caused the same symptoms. It wasn’t hard to see that my non-Christian Scientist friend got relief from her sore throats and headaches by turning to her pediatrician and her medicine cabinet, and I just suffered until my body healed itself. By the time I was in my late teens, I could also see that, despite my usually happy childhood, I suffered way more from health-related anxiety and phobias than my friends; and I do to this day.