By an anonymous Ex-Christian Scientist Group contributor.
There’s a blog I really like called ‘You Are Not So Smart’. It’s also a book and there is a really interesting chapter called ‘Why Your Memories Are Mostly False’. I think the phenomenon it describes accounts for many of the Christian Science ‘healings’. Even when you leave it and no longer believe, you still harbour the memories you created from when you were inside.
This particular memory of a ‘healing’ bothered me for a long while. I was about six or seven years old and playing in the garden with a foldable metal deck chair. The chair snapped shut, with one of the sharp metal struts slicing into my thumb. The pain, and surprise, was horrible. I could not free myself at all and blood started pouring from the wound. As you might imagine I screamed my head off, the kind of scream that I now recognise as a parent means ‘drop everything and run to your kid NOW’ and that would make me practically plough through brick wall if one were in the way, without even thinking.
I vividly remember watching in disbelief as my mother slowly slowly strolled out of the house to the end of the garden where I was, while I screamed all the louder, begging her to come and free me from the chair. I was not able to understand at all why she was strolling like it was a day in the park. Of course with hindsight, I realize she was busy ‘knowing the Truth’. I was eventually freed and taken inside where my grandmother, a non-Christian Scientist, who was fairly meek and tried to avoid clashing with my mother over Christian Science, said I should see a doctor. The thumb was bleeding a fair bit around the first knuckle where the cut was, but in my memory, the pain was mostly gone now I was out of the trap.
Even at that early age, I realised my mother would want to see evidence of a Christian Science healing. That’s what happened to all the kids in the Sentinels I had read about in things like this, so I thought I would try and deliver one for her. I balled my little hand into a fist, banged the table and said, ‘No. I want God to do it.’ The bleeding stopped, the blood was washed off and there was pronounced to be no evidence of the wound at all. My grandmother was amazed (or told that she was) and ceased to try and protest about doctors. My mother put a bandage over the area anyway so as I wouldn’t be tempted to look at it and maybe reverse the healing with doubt.
This went down as Christian Science lore in my small family, the incontrovertible truth of Christian Science’s efficacy. My mother recounted it in church as a testimony, and there was much rejoicing. Over time the severity of the injury was increased; I don’t remember seeing anything other than blood but I am sure it had been ‘cut to the bone’ a few months later and doubtless ‘half hanging off’ by the time I hit adolescence.
Nevertheless, what a marvellous healing; even if Christian Science never worked again it did that time. My mother’s slow walk and my insistence on God as a physician as an innocent child all worked. Right?
Maybe, but if so why do red warning lights go off in my brain, even now, whenever I have to touch anything with a folding mechanism? Why do I still feel angry when I replay that slow walk while my hand was shut in the chair, and why did I notice for the first time last year a small livid scar near the bony part of my knuckle, exactly where I remember getting my hand trapped more than thirty years ago? An area which is pretty small on an adult but which would have bled a lot on a child though not hurt much, and then probably healed quite fast, especially if it were covered up?
As much as we want to believe otherwise, psych studies have shown that human episodic memory is incredibly inaccurate. There is no correlation at all between how vividly you remember something and how accurate that recollection is. If anything, the mind will render episodic memories so that they agree with semantic ones. Most of us grew up thinking we were Christian Science wunderkinds and were referred back to these ‘healings’ often. Especially when wavering. So it makes sense that we have memories that agree with that axiom.
Christian Science doesn’t work. But Christian Scientists are very good at creating the props to make it appear that it does. If you want to believe, the easiest person to fool is yourself.