By an Anonymous Contributor via email, shared with slight modifications to more fully protect the privacy of the contributor.
Although I never became a full member of the Christian Science Church, I would like to share my story. I appreciate this opportunity!
My introduction to Christian Science first came when I bought a used copy of Science and Health when I was around ten years-old. It was on sale at my hometown library. I loved the beautiful cover and construction of the book. I couldn’t understand its contents, so I kept it on the shelf.
Fast-forward 30 years, and my husband and I were visiting my parents. I suddenly developed a 24-hour flu. Resting in bed, I idly picked up Science and Health and read the first few pages. Although I’d been to divinity school, it had never occurred to me to simply accept God’s infinite love during an illness. I tried this, and the results were astonishing. I felt perfectly well the next day, and even went on a seven-mile hike! My illness had been severe enough to cause vomiting. Usually I would rest for two or three days after this kind of thing.
I read the rest of Science and Health and thought it was wonderful. I’m one of those people for whom Mary Baker Eddy’s writing just clicks. I started attending services at the Mother Church, and was really inspired.
I was having a really hard time connecting with church members. They didn’t have a meet-and-greet of any kind. Everyone scattered after the service, and I couldn’t figure out how folks got to know each other. I began to attend a branch church near my home, and there I had more success. The members reached out to me. Conversations consisted of standing awkwardly between the pews, but it was better than the socialization I found at the Mother Church.
After attending this branch church for several months, I wanted to explore membership, so I met formally with the Director of Membership, a kindly man who had taken me under his wing. The introductory conversation was a disaster. I thought the room was spinning.
First, he told me that people can’t be members if they choose to go the “medical route”. I’ve heard of churches disallowing certain things, but those things are rarely a positive good. Asking people to refuse medical care is more along the lines of asking people to stop being kind to their grandmothers. I was amazed.
Apropos of nothing, this director then brought up cases where Christian Scientist children died in their parents’ care, and the parents incurred criminal charges (and in some cases, convictions) because of failure to get their children adequate medical care to address preventable conditions. He took the parents’ side in this. He said: “We have our own beliefs and treatment.”
I was shocked by this statement. The People’s Temple also had their own beliefs and “treatment”, but this wouldn’t constitute a legal defense for what happened in Jonestown. Also, you really can’t be a parent unless you can understand the world around you and behave appropriately with regard to it.
I wanted to explain that these children were real, and their happiness mattered. He was a nice person, and I’m sure he would have understood this, but he didn’t appear to understand that treatment is evaluated by whether or not it works, and efficacy is determined by well-designed studies, because the child’s life is really the most important thing.
He also told me about a lesbian Christian Science teacher who came to Massachusetts to get married in 2004; an act of disobedience he called “disgusting”. Apparently, she didn’t have Church approval, and got married right under their nose. Oddly, there was no mechanism to request approval anyway, as the Christian Science Church has no involvement in marriage. This director didn’t appear to believe that Christian Science teachers can have a private life. Apparently, this (lesbian) teacher lost her certification, as did all of her students, an outcome which he tried to portray in a positive light.
This director also told me that the church would have a meeting regarding my membership request, as to whether LBBTQ+ people can join. I happen to have very short hair, but I’m married to a man. I didn’t say anything, as to say that I’m not LGBTQ+ would have been disgraceful. The whole thing was ridiculous.
He also said that people are not allowed to join the church if they smoke or drink, and he referred to someone who puts out his cigarette right before entering the church. I know the tone of this message should be as respectful as possible, but I have to confess, I struggle with this one. Refusing church membership to people who require medical care, or those with nicotine dependence, doesn’t seem helpful at all. Their philosophy of pastoral care seems to be: “Come back when you’re better!”
I stumbled out of that conversation and never went back.