How to help someone who is leaving or has left Christian Science

How can a non-Christian Scientist, or former-Christian Scientist help someone who is leaving or has left Christian Science? We don’t have all the answers, but we do have a few suggestions.

For starters, be empathetic.

Leaving Christian Science can feel like you’re going into exile. Kindness, concern, and “being there” for your friend can make all the difference. For tips on what it means to express empathy, watch Brené Brown on Empathy.

Educate yourself about Christian Science.

Read a memoir by a former Christian Scientist; or read God’s Perfect Child, by Caroline Fraser; or read one of the blogs by former Christian Scientists. Explore this site, and if you’re an ex-Christian Scientist, share your story. 

Be aware of issues we tend to have. The short list:

Feeling that we are the only ones who have ever left Christian Science or who failed at practicing it.

Nope and nope. Online communities and support groups of former Christian Scientists are available that can be very helpful. People have written memoirs about their experiences, there are blogs and this site! 

Feeling stupid, manipulated, and ashamed for having believed in or attempted to believe in Christian Science for so long.

Reassure your friend that there is no shame in having been influenced by group belief. To trust your own understanding and experience in a way that sets you apart from a group or family can be scary and challenging. This is especially true if you were raised as a Christian Scientist.  We are social creatures, we need each other, and we can’t always see that there are other avenues to take. Christian Science in particular is constructed to keep alternative thinking out of reach. 

Common destructive emotional attitudes

  • Inability to feel honest emotions
  • Inability to name basic emotions, needs & desires
  • Inability to identify pain or injury in the body
  • Feelings of guilt at being hurt or becoming ill
  • Dealing with the lack of parental responsibility and compassion

Loss of Relationships

People who leave Christian Science often suffer the loss of relationships and the disapproval of family and friends still in Christian Science.

Healthcare is a huge issue for those who leave Christian Science.

We were often raised with very limited knowledge of the human body, and we tend to be stoic ignorers of health problems. These issues tend to be interrelated

  • Fear/terror of doctors/dentists and all things related to it.  Recommend your doctor and dentist, or offer to help your friend find one. Share positive experiences you’ve had with people in the medical profession. Help calm their fears. 
  • Procrastinating on making appointments for routine visits. This is often related to not having a primary care physician in the first place and an underlying fear of the medical environment in general. Recommend that they schedule their next annual (or twice-yearly) appointment while they are at the office. (Some offices will send a reminder card or make a courtesy call a month or two out to schedule an appointment. Dental offices regularly schedule twice-yearly cleanings six months in advance.) 
  • Ignoring or downplaying symptoms. Ask how they’re doing, and if the answer seems a little evasive ask again and show your genuine concern. How long as the problem been going on? Are you being good to yourself? (Use your best judgment, don’t interrogate.) 
  • Putting off having problems checked out.  Offer to accompany or drive your friend to the doctor or dentist’s office. Encourage them to be forthcoming when asked questions about their health history. 
  • Not knowing the basics of self-care. Christian Scientists are taught to guard their thoughts but ignore their body. Consequently, they often don’t know the basics of maintaining a healthy body, beyond simple hygiene. Feel free to direct them to resources that are available in book form or online, some specific to the needs of women or men. 
  • Discomfort and unfamiliarity with typical medical terminology. Asking simple questions about symptoms can evoke answers the CSist may not understand. Because they may feel many emotions about medical care, it may be hard for them to ask for more details about those answers. Be willing to explain (without laughter or judgement) simple medical terms the CSist might be unfamiliar with. Offer resources with definitions and examples.
  • Struggling to find the balance between the ‘hard science’ and ‘alternative’ options of non-Christian Science care. The Christian Scientist may gravitate toward fringe practices that may not have much science proving their effectiveness. They may find web sites or videos covering topics that are put forth by sources with limited credibility. This is honestly no different than non-Christian Scientist folks in our world. Be willing to discuss (again, without laughter and judgement) the theories and sources your Christian Scientist friend is considering. Help them learn what counts as a credible online source and what doesn’t. Help them learn how to research medical issues online, when they are likely incredibly overwhelmed by the process.

4 Replies to “How to help someone who is leaving or has left Christian Science”

  1. This is a great post. I look forward to the day when every member of my family leaves the christian science belief system.

  2. The last straw, so to speak, for Me, was when I visited Mount Auburn Cemetery in Cambridge.

  3. I will never forget going to a pharmacy in 1976 when I had the flu and trying to decide which of the many cold & flu meds on the shelf I would consider buying based entirely on the color and wording on the packaging.

    I was there for 20 minutes reading every one of them before the pharmacist snuck-up on me, and after telling him an abbreviated version of my story he picked Coricidin off the shelf and said that it was fairly mild, and that if it didn’t work to come back and he would give me something stronger.

    By then it had been 18 months since my last trip to church and still to that day the only drugs I knew anything about were Excedrin for headaches, Desenex for my athlete’s foot my folks tried for 17 years to faith-heal unsuccessfully, and Rolaids for heartburn.

    After that I started experimenting with over-the-counter drugs, just grab one and go, trial and error, because I was ashamed to have to tell my story again.

    It will take a few years but eventually your lack of knowledge on over the counter meds can be overcome. I am still an atheist though now 43 years after my last trip out of the church parking lot in 1974.

    I never attended Principia though I did tour the high school once back around 1972. My folks did send me to Daycroft though as well as to the AU camp in Colorado a couple of times though.

    My roommate at Daycroft in the 1971-72 school year got polio the next fall, and and one of my cabin-mates died climbing a 14,000-foot peak at the AU camp after the camp decided that they should be exempt from a Colorado law that demanded that they take emergency oxygen along when they took teenage group campers over 11,000 feet.

    I’ll bet that if you didn’t like Principia that you really wouldn’t have liked Daycroft but that is another story.

    If you need some advice on over-the-counter medicine, or my experience with the ACA don’t be afraid to PM me.

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