Chrystal’s Story – It’s time we teach you how to pray

By Chrystal, an Ex-Christian Scientist Group contributor. Chrystal is a pseudonym, to ensure anonymity.

I remember being called in to my parents room, I might have been in third or fourth grade. I was told, “it’s time we teach you how to pray.”

My parents had me get a sheet of loose leaf paper and a pencil. They had me fold the paper in half, vertically, and list all of my faults on the left hand side. I remember the first one: “Lazy.” This was a word they had to explain to me. I only knew “lazy” as something my eye was. I didn’t know that people could be called “lazy.” They told me it meant I just lounged around all day and didn’t anything to help around the house. And I needed to change this about my personality. They told me to write “lazy” on the left side column. And then to write “diligent” on the right hand side. This is, apparently, the opposite of “lazy.”

They had me write at the top of the left hand column: “I am not:” And at the top of the right hand column, “I am:”

Then list my faults down the left hand column. I think there were approximately 11 faults I had down the left hand column. And 11 antonymns of things I should work on (heal the bad to become the good) on the right hand side. All I remember is “lazy.” So, as I read this, I would read:  “I am not lazy, I am diligent.” “I am not mean, I am nice.” “I am not ugly, I am pretty.” “I am not a liar, I am truthful.” etc. I was supposed to pray with this prayer list every day.

My parents sat on their bed, and I knelt down at the base of the bed, on my knees, using their bed as my desk. Yes, I was literally kneeling in front of them as they told me my faults.

I remember diligently “praying” with this prayer list for days, maybe weeks. Probably a few months or years later, when I pulled out my old list that was quite worn from daily use, I would just pull it out and stare at that first word and pretend to pray with this list, as I let my imagination wander. I am certain this is why I don’t remember more of it. I do remember there were now far more things to deny on the left hand side that had been added in over the years with various pencils, pens, markers…. And, still, “lazy” was right there, at the top of the list for me to deny every single day. I wonder, at what point that becomes “healed” and it can be removed from a prayer list?

5 Replies to “Chrystal’s Story – It’s time we teach you how to pray”

  1. Hmmm … I recall, way back in the early 1970’s (as George Harrison once sang ‘when grass was still green’), when I was in the first grade at my local grammar school (and not too bright or worldly, mind you) that, in one of those classic schoolyard confrontations that young boys are wont to get into, I called one of my male classmates, among other unpleasantries, “fatty” to his face. Being a rather small and scrawny bloke at the time, this fleshly endowed fellow easily jumped me and, in the process, broke my collar bone (or so I was told by my devout Christian Science parents who had apparently been shown the X-rays at the local hospital where I was subsequently taken). They immediately called a local CS practitioner, whereupon within two days or so (or less), the pain subsided, the bone was “miraculously” set back in place by itself, and the bandage was removed by an attending nurse. Healed ! All were astonished of course, hospital physicians and other medical personnel included. And all at the age of seven or so. A child star, of sorts; a celebrity. In retrospect, I guess, for awhile at least, this became my “slip on the ice in Lynn, MA ca. 1866 moment” and became, for a time, legendary within my family and my early child development. This “proved” CS worked, despite however unworthy I was for such a miracle. The only healing I can ever recall in this faith, by the way. Mind you, I NEVER saw the X-rays myself and the pain I remember experiencing COULD have been due to – what – hurt pride for getting my ass kicked by a bigger boy ? The shock of actual violent contact with another human being ? What could a seven year old possibly know ? Ahh, Tobias Wolf’s ‘This Boy’s Life’ comes to mind. To say nothing of the fact that I had instigated this event by calling the other boy a rather unpleasant name and he had reciprocated in the way that most male adolescents might naturally react to such an unwarranted, verbal assault ( uh, I didn’t tell my parents that I was the primary perpetrator in this matter, thus sidestepping the rather dicey matter of admitting guilt before the Almighty upon absolution, but hey, a trifle matter to a kid with a sore shoulder, right ?). Believing I had been unjustly attacked without provocation, Mom and Dad felt justified not only in calling down God’s benevolence to redress my affliction but also felt compelled to have the other lad expelled from school for a time with the added humiliation of a formal apology to be administered personally in front of me, my parents, and the elementary school principal. We were, after all, Christian Scientists, and NOT, most certainly, like the other riff-raff who wandered ’round this particular academy’s halls. We were BETTER than everyone else, that point was made pointedly clear (although I now believe this had more to do with our family’s ancestral social position within the community and not our particular religious affiliation). Nevertheless, Christian Science lent an added mystique to my family and our comings and goings throughout the community; we had God’s ear, WE knew HOW to pray. At least while this religion was still in vogue. After all, to our status-oriented, fashion conscious neighbors, the actress Joan Crawford was a CS; so were Ginger Rogers, Joel McCray, Jim Henson, John Denver, Alan Shepard, et al. But further and perhaps most salient to the whole experience, at least to me, was this rather one-sided, biased conclusion : God would not only forgive me of my sins and transgressions, but would positively and unequivocally heal me of them so I could, ultimately, commit more. Or, at least for awhile, so it seemed. After all, I was a Christian Scientist, a holy asshole to wit, a divine fool, and therefore I was SPECIAL (Dana Carvey’s ‘Church Lady’ from SNL comes to mind); certainly special enough to earn accomodations, deferences, pardons and so forth for my oftentimes erratic, devil-may-care behavior. Perhaps some of you have felt the same ? Goodness, this sounds more and more like a Spaulding Gray monologue. But it’s all true. Now, the $ 64,000 question : was I actually healed of a broken collar bone all those years ago ? To this very day, I don’t know. Honestly. Was Mrs. Eddy actually healed of her slip on the ice back in February of ’66 ? Gillian Gill’s biography suggests in some ways, yes, possibly, but in other ways, the final result was far more complicated. Apparently in the aftermath, she went back to some of Quimby’s remaining students and asked for help to alleviate some lingering ‘spinal discomfort’. By and by, she evidently got better and believed she had been healed through the Holy Ghost. And lived another forty-five years to tell – and write – about it. I got better, too, though undeserving little prick that I was. But God also healed King David of his afflictions and overlooked some of his more obtuse indiscretions, so there is some precedent. Not that I’m a king, mind you, nor a celebrity. As there doesn’t yet exist a Moth Radio Hour for ex-Christian Scientists to tell their stories – at least I haven’t found one yet – this forum will have to suffice. I’m, as they say, out.

  2. Hey Thomas (Tom)! Thank you for your comment. I appreciate it. I have stories of “was I healed of that affliction? I don’t know. Who can I ask? No one.” It’s uncomfortable. I hear you.

    You can find us Ex Christian Science folks on Facebook. There is a general page you can “like” and if you write the admins, they will walk you through the process of joining the other page where we all correspond daily and help everyone get through the riff raff.

    Best wishes to you. I hope to run in to you on the forum.

    – “Chrystal”

  3. Ohmygosh, prayer as a form of emotional abuse of a child is sick! I nearly cried reading that. How is teaching a kid to pray the time to point out what you see as perceived flaws in your child?!?! They called a 7-year-old lazy for not taking initiative in housework?!?! They called you mean?!?! That’s horrible! They needed to look at themselves because that list seems to better reflect their own parenting style than your innate awesomeness. The sick thing is that I’m guessing they were taught to pray in the same way.

  4. Wow – Thank you so much, Kat, for your comment. I hadn’t thought of it that way at all. Every morning, my dad read his “papers,” which was some mysterious thing he got from his first Christian Science “Teacher.” That “Teacher” was eventually kicked out of Christian Science. And my dad went through Christian Science Class Instruction again with a second (horrible) “Teacher.”

    I always felt like I had been let in on some mystery, to have my own paper to read every day.

    All this did was drill in to my head all of my “faults.”

    What i don’t understand about Christian Science’s horror is how they don’t understand not to judge. They pretend to be “Christian.” Christ Jesus taught “judge not that he be not judged,” yet Christian Scientists are the most judgemental people I have ever met. Pointing out faults left and right to innocent, good, caring, kind people.

    Thank you again for reading my blog post and for your kind and compassionate comment.

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