The Placebo Effect

By Jeremy, an Ex-Christian Scientist group editor/writer.

If you spend any amount of time in or around Christian Science and read the published output of the Christian Science Church (through its periodicals and its spokespeople), you’re bound to come across discussion of the placebo effect (otherwise known as placebo response). It is frequently used as a gateway to insert Christian Science into the discussion of more credible alternative health care modalities (some of which actually submit themselves to scientific study), or even the discussion of scientifically-based medical treatment itself. Continue reading “The Placebo Effect”

I’m grateful for proper medical care

By Jeremy, an Ex-Christian Scientist group editor/writer.

Last summer, I experienced an infection in one of my feet. It likely happened while I was cleaning up an area outside of my workplace while wearing flip-flops, and I pricked my foot with something. Within a day, my foot had become quite painful and slightly swollen. I initially thought I had either badly bruised it or suffered a hairline fracture of a bone–it was more of a dull pain initially, so I wasn’t overly concerned or motivated to seek immediate attention–figuring if it persisted another day or so, I’d get it checked out. Later that day however, the pain suddenly became significantly more sharp and intense, my foot turned purplish-red, the swelling increased, and the redness began to move up my leg. At that point, I had the good sense to go to the emergency room as soon as I could.

I was quickly put on a course of liquid antibiotics, which I stayed on for a week–necessitating daily trips to the out-patient clinic at the hospital for injections. This was followed by a 10-day course of antibiotic pills. When the infection failed to clear, another 10-day course of antibiotics was prescribed. When I was initially in the hospital, I was informed that it was a serious infection, and if I had been diabetic I’d have possibly lost the foot, hence the reason I was asked a few times by different people if I was diabetic. A later consultation with my own doctor confirmed that it was likely a strep infection.

While the infection cleared after 25 days of antibiotic treatment, the lasting effects took much longer. The bacteria did significant tissue damage, and I experienced swelling in my foot for the rest of the summer. Even now, a year later, that foot still slightly swells up occasionally and feels slightly tender near the origin point of the infection.

I think back on how I might have handled this situation had I still been in Christian Science, and I shudder with fear at the thought of what might have been. Likely, I would have been extremely frightened at the symptoms, deeply afraid of what it might be; too afraid to really do something about it. I’d have sought the ‘help’ of a Christian Science practitioner and tried to ‘pray it away’. I’d likely have eventually sought out medical treatment, but much later than I actually did, and possibly after much more harm had been done. It’s entirely possible I could have ended up losing my foot, or worse yet, if the infection spread throughout my body, I might have lost my life. Who knows? These are all thoughts that pass through my mind as I think about this experience in that context.

Christian Science causes people to stick their heads in the sand when faced with serious physical issues. My own father, when his health began to decline, even said to me once when I suggested that maybe he should see a doctor, “I’m afraid of what they might tell me…” So, he suffered and eventually died of yes, a scary heart condition, but one that could have been successfully treated and managed. When I went to the emergency room with my infected foot, the doctors matter-of-factly looked at the symptoms, figured out what was happening, and started treatment. My fear was allayed when I knew what it was–an infection; an infection that, while serious, was easily treatable.

Reliance on Christian Science for one’s health care is a dangerous game of Russian Roulette. Sure, you might get by for awhile if nothing serious happens. I did for 41 years. However, when the bullet chamber is loaded, and you’re not prepared and don’t take proper action, the consequences can be serious. My Dad took his chances, and it killed him–slowly and painfully. Fortunately when I was faced with my loaded bullet chamber, I took action, sought proper treatment, and I still have two healthy feet to walk on.

Why I’m doing this

My final departure from Christian Science began six years ago, when my Mom unexpectedly became ill and died, all within the span of about three months. She died in excruciating pain with a large tumour in her abdomen, all the while refusing any sort of medical intervention–not even pain abatement. She died in a Christian Science nursing facility before I was able to fly cross-country to see her. Later the same year, my Dad succumbed to untreated heart failure which had been going on for an estimated 5 – 7 years. During that time, he was in constant pain and discomfort and suffered two massive strokes at the end, which sent him into an irreversible state of dementia which often rendered him unable to recognize people (including myself) that he knew well. I was at his side during his last days. I will not share the same fate as my parents.

Watching this graphic proof of the complete failure of Christian Science in my own family was one of the last nails in the coffin for my belief in it. It was the final of many proofs to me that Christian Science is 100% false in each and every claim it makes of an ability to heal. Many a Christian Scientist will try to tell you that healing is not what it’s all about, but mark my words, it is one of the most central aspects of Christian Science practice. Why else do Christian Scientists aggressively lobby for legal protections for their ‘healing’ practice? Why does the Church tout its 80,000-plus ‘verified’ healings?

I do this because I want people to know what Christian Science is really all about. I want people to know that it does not work, that it is completely fallacious in its claims, and it can and has done some incredible damage to many people, and it has destroyed families. It took mine away from me in the worst possible way. In the end, I was unable to do much to help or save my parents. For so many years, I was so deeply immersed in the Christian Science ‘Krazy Sauce’, I couldn’t see how fallacious it really was, and I failed to see how serious my own parents’ health problems really were. By helping to build and maintain this website and speak out when I can, I hope to help others, and if I can convince even one person to walk away from Christian Science, it will be worth all of my efforts.

Jeremy

Content Editor & Writer,
The Ex-Christian Scientist

Myths & Legends: The ‘Fall On The Ice’

By Jeremy, an Ex-Christian Scientist group editor/writer.

Like almost any other religion, Christian Science has its own mythology: those stories that form the core of the faith’s origins, and which often serve to bind its followers together and to the faith, and to validate the faith’s claims. A central story in the anthology of Christian Science myths is what’s often referred to as the ‘Fall On The Ice In Lynn (Massachusetts)’. If you visit the city of Lynn, which is just north of Boston, you can see a memorial plaque at the location at the corner of Market Street and Oxford Street in the downtown area, where our story starts. Anyone who has grown up in, or been in Christian Science for any amount of time knows the story well. This is considered to be the central event that led directly to Mary Baker Eddy’s ‘discovery’ of Christian Science.

A foundational legend of the origins of Christian Science

On February 1, 1866, Eddy was on her way to a Temperance movement meeting in downtown Lynn. She slipped and fell on the ice-covered sidewalk and was transported unconscious to a nearby house, where a doctor was summoned to treat her.

According to Eddy’s account, her condition was beyond the ability of medical practice to help. She claimed that the attending doctor gave her only a few days to live. Somehow, she managed the strength to ask for her Bible and began a deep study of it, focusing her attention particularly on Jesus’s healing of a paralyzed man (Matthew 9:2). Miraculously, after about three days, she had an ‘immediate recovery’:

It was in Massachusetts, in February, 1866. . .that I discovered the Science of divine metaphysical healing which I afterwards named Christian Science.1

From this point on, so the story goes, Eddy sought to understand and ultimately explain this miraculous healing. She claimed an “immediate recovery” from the effects of her injury.

My immediate recovery from the effects of an injury caused by an accident, an injury that neither medicine nor surgery could reach, was the falling apple that led me to the discovery how to be well myself, and how to make others so.2

Some overlooked facts

There is no doubt that Eddy fell on the ice on a cold February evening in Lynn in 1866 and was taken unconscious to a nearby home where she was seen by a local physician. Beyond this, the story starts to take on the traits of a myth. There is fact and truth at its core, but it is shrouded in a blanket of hyperbole and exaggeration. Here are some facts that are ignored or revised in the ‘official’ Christian Science canon:

  1. The injury Eddy suffered was not life-threatening or nearly as serious as claimed by Eddy: Eddy claimed that the attending doctor, Dr. Alvin Cushing, told her that there was no hope for her recovery and that she only had about three days more to live.3 According to Cushing’s own records, consisting of case notes he made at the time he treated Eddy, that is not true. In a sworn affidavit, Cushing, referring to his notes, directly refutes a central part of Eddy’s version of events: “I did not at any time declare, or believe, there was no hope for Mrs. Patterson’s recovery, or that she was in critical condition, and did not at any time say, or believe, that she had but three or any other limited number of days to live.” (sworn affidavit of Dr. Alvin Cushing, January 2, 1907 – Hampden County, Massachusetts).4 Eddy also was treated on at least two subsequent occasions by Cushing following her miraculous three-day recovery, as well as professional visits in August of that year.5
  2. The ‘healing’ may not have been as quick, complete, and/or miraculous as later claimed by Eddy and her followers: just two weeks after her fall in Lynn, Eddy also sought metaphysical treatment from Julius Dresser, a fellow student of Phineas Parkhurst Quimby. In her imploring letter to him, she expressed a feeling quite opposite of what she portrays in her own autobiographical recollection: “Two weeks ago I fell on the sidewalk . . .and was taken up for dead . . . ” She goes on to say, “The physician attending said I had taken the last step I ever should but in two days I got out of my bed alone, and will walk; but yet I confess I am frightened, and out of that nervous heat my friends are forming, spite of me, the terrible spinal affection from which I have suffered so long and hopelessly.”6 Eddy also was treated on at least three subsequent occasions by Cushing following her immediate’ three-day recovery.
  3. Eddy initiated a lawsuit against the City of Lynn in connection to the accident: it is worth noting, as one considers the veracity of Eddy’s claims of the epiphanic nature of this ‘healing’, that she began the process (later rescinded) of suing the city, claiming that the city was responsible for her injuries due to unsafe conditions in the street. In a petition presented to the city in the summer of 1866, she stated that she was seeking damages for “serious personal injuries from which she had little prospect of recovering.7 (emphasis is mine).
  4. Eddy didn’t cite her 1866 fall and healing until years later: Nowhere in her published writings does Eddy describe afall on the ice’ (it only occurs in her letter to Julius Dresser). Her slim autobiography, Retrospection and Introspection, published in 1891, refers vaguely to “an injury caused by an accident.” (p. 24) She goes on to say that after her recovery she “withdrew from society about three years, — to ponder my mission, to search the Scriptures, to find the Science of Mind that should take the things of God and show them to the creature, and reveal the great curative Principle,–Diety.” (pp. 24-25) If her 1866 accident and miraculous healing had been the revelatory event that led to her discovery of Christian Science, one would think she would have mentioned it in her early writings. But the first edition of Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures, which appeared in 1875, makes no reference to the event. Only years later, well after the establishment of her church, does she refer to a healing of an injury in 1866. 

Some concluding thoughts

As one who grew up in and practiced Christian Science for 41 years, I took the story of the ‘Fall In Lynn’ as the origin point of my faith. This story was presented as the first and penultimate proof of the effectiveness of Christian Science as a healing agent. Mary Baker Eddy was near death, and she miraculously healed herself, and from that moment on she set about to putting her ‘discovery’ to words and sharing this system of healing with the world. That is the story that I and many others accepted as the whole and complete truth. It is the version that fuels the legend of Christian Science, and gives it its so-called ‘power’.

The facts presented here cast serious doubt on the veracity of Eddy’s and Christian Scientists’ claims regarding this important origin story. Sometimes, memories of events change over time, stories get embellished a bit, and smaller details get lost in the mists of ones memory. But in this case, it appears that Eddy fashioned this story in later years to create a revelatory myth for the origin of her religion. More than a few biographers, both friendly and critical, have mentioned Eddy’s propensity for shaping the truth to suit her needs.

Many religions have a singular origin moment or series of events that spark their birth. For instance, the Mormons have the story of the tablets containing the Book of Mormon being revealed to Joseph Smith in the woods of upstate New York; for Muslims, it is the 22-year period in which Muhammad received revelations he believed to be from God, which were recorded in the Qur’an. History is replete with many other such stories. Eddy and her followers turned a winter accident that resulted in a serious, but not really life-threatening injury into a virtual raisingofthedead myth that led to the discovery of the ‘miraculous’ healing system known as Christian Science.


Footnotes:

1 Eddy, Mary B. G. Retrospection and Introspection. Boston, Massachusetts: The Christian Science Board of Directors, 1892. 24. Print.

2 Ibid.

3 Gill, Gillian. Mary Baker Eddy. Cambridge, Massachusetts: Perseus Books, 1998. 162. Print.

4 Milmine, Georgine. The Life of Mary Baker G. Eddy: and the History of Christian Science. New York, New York: Doubleday, Page & Company, 1909. 84-86. Print.

5 Ibid.

6 Gill, p. 158.

7 Ibid.


 

Related Links:

Mary Baker Eddy (Wikipedia article).

Christian Science (Wikipedia article).

 

I was the beneficiary of dumb luck.

By Jeremy, an Ex-Christian Scientist Group contributor.

None of us who grew up in loving homes with parents who cared deeply about us ever wants to admit that perhaps our parents didn’t do everything right, and perhaps, just perhaps, they neglected their duty to properly care for us in some very terrible ways, even if they had no malicious intent, and genuinely thought they were doing the best for us. Such is the case with me as I recall some of my early brushes with childhood illness.

I remember two instances when I was in first, and then second grades, where I suffered at length from a painful, hacking cough, and I was home sick from school for around a week or two each time. Since my parents were Christian Scientists, I was not taken to the doctor, so I was never diagnosed, although I now suspect it was either bronchitis, pneumonia, or most likely pertussis. No relief other than prayer, hot lemonade, and the singing of Christian Science hymns was offered. Fortunately, I recovered. In later years, my dad confided to me that he and Mom had been concerned enough about my condition to seriously consider taking me to a doctor. In retrospect, I wish they had. I may not have suffered as I did, as simple antibiotics may have cleared things up quickly.

I also recall several bouts with excruciatingly painful earaches between the ages of approximately six until around ten years of age. I was never taken to a doctor, where the pain could have been quickly abated and the infection properly treated with antibiotics. No, I was made to listen to a Christian Science practitioner, who tried to assure me that as ‘God’s perfect child’, the earache was an unreal ‘illusion’, or some such esoteric Christian Science crap.

I consider myself extremely fortunate to have survived my childhood with, as far as I can tell, few if any lasting physical effects directly attributable to lack of proper medical care. While the devout Christian Scientist would say I was ‘protected’, I think I was just the beneficiary of dumb luck.

About a year ago, I related these childhood experiences to a friend of mine who is a retired trauma counselor. She is a survivor of childhood abuse, and is also a cancer survivor. When I told her that I had never seen a doctor as a child, even for these conditions, she was shocked. She bluntly told me, “You were neglected.” I had to let that sink in for a while. While I realized my parents had no malicious intent, and my friend emphasized that, the glaring fact was that they neglected to give me the physical care I needed at the time. Most of us who grew up in Christian Science were neglected in exactly the same way. We’re all survivors, and in some cases, damn lucky to still be alive.

My Departure (Jeremy)

By Jeremy, an Ex-Christian Scientist Group contributor.

The best way I’ve been able to describe my departure from Christian Science is as ‘death by a thousand cuts’. In a sense, it’s a process that evolved over my lifetime up until I made my final break. I was born into Christian Science and was third-generation on both sides of my family. Throughout my childhood, and into my adult years, I always had questions, always harboured doubts about Christian Science. I even briefly left in my late teens, but returned by the time I was 20. All the while, I desperately wanted to ‘make it work’, and it was that desire that kept me ‘in’ for so long.

Continue reading “My Departure (Jeremy)”