Chrystal’s Story: My Second Lump (Part 2)

Chrystal's Story header image

This is part of an on-going series, for all posts in this series see the tag Chrystal’s Story.


A note from Chrystal: I was born a fourth-generation Christian Scientist, and finally left the religion when I was in my 40s. In this blog series, I will do my best to share with you my 40+ year journey. I have done my best to make the journey sequential, but it’s also themed to a large extent, and sometimes it has been necessary to take things out of sequence to share a theme. 


My Second Lump (Part 2)

The following is a flashback to when I was nearing the end of my branch church membership, with a problem that had spanned more than a decade of my life:

The growing lipoma on my back was now causing so much pain to my neck, that I couldn’t straighten my head for a few days at times. And, of course, being in Christian Science, I couldn’t take Advil to even relieve the pain. I remember walking around with tears in my eyes over the amount of pain I was in, and hiding in my house. I was raised to hide in my house when I was in pain. How can a community reach out to help you, when you’re hiding in your house? I remember a Mormon woman who lived in my neighborhood, and for some reason socially, she stopped by my house and we had a little visit, and I couldn’t straighten my head up that day. She so lovingly said to me, “that looks really painful.” I assured her I was fine, that it had happened before, and I would be fine soon. I was NOT fine! I couldn’t straighten my head, I had tears in my eyes, and if I tried to move my head in any way, I would cry out in incredible pain! I remember the love in her eyes. She was genuinely concerned for my well-being, and she was only a neighbor; I know now that if I ever needed someone to help me, and I called her, I know she would be there for me, even though I wouldn’t consider us “friends.” She was my neighbor and she has genuine love in her heart for humanity.

After a decade of praying with various practitioners (including my Teacher) about the lump, I remember feeling discouraged. I was so discouraged. I would rally myself and pray again. Because Christian Scientists are supposed to “yield not to discouragement.”

Individuals are consistent who, watching and praying, can “run, and not be weary; . . .walk, and not faint,” who gain good rapidly and hold their position, or attain slowly and yield not to discouragement. God requires perfection, but not until the battle between Spirit and flesh is fought and the victory won. – “Science and Health,” p. 254

Christian Scientists are taught that “discouragement makes the problem worse, and makes it harder to heal.” So I prayed. I payed practitioners to pray. I payed my Teacher to pray.  

I would see the 2 ladies at my second branch church who had the growths on them that were more pronounced, and I didn’t want to end up like that. Mine, at least, I could hide by wearing a patterned shirt. They couldn’t hide theirs any longer, no matter how they tried. I felt so sorry for them, to not be able to hide their problem any longer. And then I would chastise myself for thinking such things. I wanted to hug them and say, “I have a lump too, but I can hide mine,” but for someone to speak up & say, “I see your problem and I want to support you and share love with you” is verboten in the Christian Science culture. Speaking up about it makes it “more real.” Because by not speaking, it’s “not real.”

Our voice is given so much power in Christian Science. Apparently, just talking can do many things – it can make lumps grow, it can cause fevers, poison ivy, infectious diseases. It can ruin vacations, it can rain fire and brimstone on a bad church member. I am positive they believe words can kill, so they won’t speak unless it is cheerful, superficial, happy nonsense. I am wondering if I believe it is this sort of thing that drives people completely insane. (Denying our very existence, to our core. How can it keep us sane and normal if we deny 100% of our humanity?)

At some point, probably a year after my wonderful success with the “Church Alive” experience, I decided it was time to get this lump removed from my shoulder, by a medical doctor. It had gone on long enough. My arm would go to sleep for 45 minutes at a time, and I couldn’t wake it up. And that didn’t feel good to me. (It scares me a lot now that I am out of Christian Science and someone pointed out that this was pushing on a nerve, and it’s a good thing I didn’t have to lose my whole arm!) I voluntarily pulled my name out of “The Christian Science Journal.” (This means I was no longer a Journal Listed Christian Science Practitioner. I wasn’t kicked out or anything; I chose to do this for my own reasons. I left on good terms and was told I could come back within 6 months if I wanted, if it was longer than that, I would have to apply from scratch again.)

Then, began the guilt. Oh, the guilt. And I had no one to talk to about it. I had to suffer with my guilt at having “failed.” I had failed to heal it. I had failed to have enough faith. I had failed to pray enough. I had failed all the Practitioners that had prayed for me over the last 5+ years.

I know all the words to victim blame myself, and I made liberal use of all of them. Then, of course, I probably entered the depression that had probably started but been bulldozed over by “Knowing the Truth” and “Getting on with things I had to do anyway.” So I dealt with depression and guilt with the only way I knew how: by denying them. For months. I think it took me about 8 months to get over the guilt, and I finally started trying to find a doctor. (At this point, I was now a Sunday School teacher at the Unity Church.)

Now, someone who grew up going to doctors, might know where to start when looking for a doctor. But this was all brand new to me. I didn’t know how to find a doctor. (The doctor who removed my first lump, wasn’t covered by our new insurance.) I didn’t know what kind of doctor I wanted. It took me many months to find one. And of course, you can’t just walk in and say, “remove this please.” They had to send me to another doctor for a sonogram to look at it. Then results had to be done up. Then I had to have a consultation. Then I had to go to the operation. I was put under for the procedure (that was my choice – because the pain of the much smaller lump had been unbearable to me, and I couldn’t go through that again). I think this was in 2011. Then I had so many follow up appointments. The lump was far bigger than I had anticipated, and than he had anticipated. I have keloids in my back with basically means, “aggressive scar tissue,” and this scar on my back continues to grow and cause me pain years later. I consider this scar to be my “scar of leaving Christian Science.” Maybe someday I will wear it proudly. At this point, I still hide it under clothing. (I know of people getting tattoos to symbolize leaving the Christian Science church. I didn’t have to get a tattoo. I have my very real scar on my material body.)

I wish that was the end of my story of leaving Christian Science. That would wrap it all up, neat and tidy. But, of course, a 44 year story and it doesn’t just end there. And it’s now 2016 as I type this.

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6 Weeks to a Quaker (the first go-round)

I grew up as a church goer, and when I don’t attend, it feels like I have a “void” in my life. So I tried a local Quaker church. It was about 10 miles away, but traffic made it take about 40 minutes to get there on a Sunday morning. I took my oldest son with me to the Meetings, and I enjoyed them immensely. Here were people who cared about the environment. One person was a beekeeper and I loved that! Several were gardeners, and some were activists or worked as volunteers either in Peace Corps or in Africa, setting up a school to teach children. I loved everything about this church. I made my homemade applesauce for potluck, and I was instantly accepted as one of these people.

After about 4 weeks of attending, I called up my family and told them, “I am a Quaker now!” I think my own family thinks I am changeable and whack-a-doo, so they took it in stride. I also called a gal from my Association who completely and lovingly supported me (she left our Association the following year & converted to Judaism), and I called our Teacher who asked me, “what’s appealing about the Quaker church?” I told her I liked sitting in the Silence, and how that brought me peace and calm for several days after in my life. After that, she told our Association (an Association is an annual meeting of the students taught by the Teacher, and guests the Teacher welcomes too) to try to meditate for 20 minutes every day.

My 6th Sunday in a row attending at The Quaker Meeting was potluck Sunday. I asked the lady next to me what it took to join the church. She told me, “well, you’re assigned some people to make sure you are spiritually growing.” I hadn’t yet felt like I was leaving Christian Science; I was just leaving the branch church, and I still wanted my own Bible and my copy of Science and Health. Her comment made me so uncomfortable, I couldn’t return to the church. I blamed the traffic. It was so far away, even though it really wasn’t; traffic just made it feel so much more far away. I started visiting other kinds of churches.

Chrystal’s Story: What’s Next?

Chrystal's Story header image

This is part of an on-going series, for all posts in this series see the tag Chrystal’s Story.


A note from Chrystal: I was born a fourth-generation Christian Scientist, and finally left the religion when I was in my 40s. In this blog series, I will do my best to share with you my 40+ year journey. I have done my best to make the journey sequential, but it’s also themed to a large extent, and sometimes it has been necessary to take things out of sequence to share a theme. 


My Second Lump. (Part 1)

After that first cyst was removed in high school, over the years I had many cysts develop in various places on my body, and melt. I got used to them. I always prayed and they always went away. I always thought they were “healed.”

Somewhere before I became a church member (early 2000s?), I started having shoulder issues. I went to a massage therapist weekly trying to get the pained muscle to loosen up. I am not sure massage worked. (I felt like such a rebel, since massage is also not allowed in Christian Science.) I started having shoulder cartilage issues. I chalked it up to being a lifetime violin player. I tried physical exercise and massage therapy and nothing worked. At some point, a lump appeared, and while I am forgetting all the specific history, I remember finally going to a dermatologist.

He said it was fatty tissue probably, and I paid him to remove it. He used only novocaine, and the procedure hurt like he was tearing my skin, though he assured me he wasn’t. It hurt so badly. The next day, the lump was back. The lump was back the next day. In my Christian Science thinking, this meant that I had clearly not healed my thought about it, thus, painful surgery was for naught. I have since deduced that there must have been 2 lumps, and the 2nd one was never removed and simply moved over to the space that was now vacant after surgery. It took me years to become ok getting it removed again. In the meantime, it grew and grew and wreaked havoc all over my whole shoulder, neck and arm area (see: My Second Lump – Part 2). And I prayed and prayed in Christian Science to no avail.

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Church Hopping

Starting in maybe 2009, I started church bouncing to other denominations. I tried a Quaker church near that 3rd branch church and went there for 6 weeks. It was just too far.

I went to a Unitarian Universalist Church, and the anti-Christian sentiment there was too strong for me. I never complained about it, but I heard other Christians complaining about it. I asked them if I could have a Christian Science Thanksgiving service there on Thanksgiving, and the ministers said, “it’s just not our mission.” And I felt shoved out. I thought it was a church that was supposed to accept all beliefs, but it wasn’t my experience when I was there. They accepted Ex Jews, Ex Catholics and Buddhists as far as I could tell, and I wasn’t any of those categories. I tried Unity next, and had a falling out that I repaired recently (3 years later) with the woman who leads the children’s education. So, Unity (an offshoot of Christian Science – you can google it https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Emma_Curtis_Hopkins , https://smile.amazon.com/Emma-Curtis-Hopkins-Forgotten-Religion/dp/0815629338?ie=UTF8&*Version*=1&*entries*=0 ) didn’t work for me either. At Unity, I learned that Christian Science is part of the “New Thought Movement,” though I know that Christian Scientists would absolutely disagree about being placed into any category like that. (Christian Scientists say they hate categories.)

Interestingly enough, the first time I walked in the door, someone pointed out someone else who had found Unity as an Ex-Christian Scientist. I introduced myself to him and he said, “Well, you know, Mary Baker Eddy’s writings are all plagiarized from Phineas Quimby.” I was horrified! My dad had written a paper at university with research by Robert Peel all about how she did not plagiarize (this paper can be found in the Mary Baker Eddy Library archives: http://www.marybakereddylibrary.org/about/contact/research-questions/). After my dad’s death, I have learned the truth: yes, she did. Absolutely. (And I went through heartbreak that my dad had been completely fooled by Robert Peel all those years ago.) The whole “divinely authorized” thing is completely bogus. Sorry to break it to any CS folks reading this, but there are documented resources. Quimby’s own writings for side-by-side comparison can be found cheaply on Amazon. https://smile.amazon.com/Quimby-Manuscripts-Phineas-Parkhurst-ebook/dp/B00O0AFXOY?ie=UTF8&keywords=phineas%20quimby&qid=1464963913&ref_=sr_1_2&sr=8-2

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Time for me to take this “going to doctors thing” a bit more seriously…

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Earache Story (Part 2)

A few years after leaving branch church membership, I wasn’t feeling well. I may have had the flu or bronchitis brought on by allergies that got worse every year (though I never knew they were allergies; I just knew it was what I called in my head “seasonal issues”); they were starting to come twice a year now instead of once a year, and were getting prolonged for weeks. My son who had the ear issues from years before (remember the painful ear that never drained the next day?), also wasn’t feeling well. He did not want to go to the doctor with me, but I felt it was the right idea. So I made him go with me. We were both so scared. But we went anyway. The doctor diagnosed both of us with bronchitis, and gave us a prescription for antibiotics. Then she looked at my son and said, “does anything else hurt?” He said, “my ear hurts sometimes.” She pulled out the thing they use to look in ears, and saw something in there that didn’t belong. She showed me. She tried to get it out, but it made him scream in pain.

She said, “we need to get that out of there.” She said it was resting on his ear drum, so every time they barely touched it, it hurt him terribly. So she said, “we need to put him under so we can get it out of there.” Oh my gosh, I was so scared. I mean: really scared.

I thought they were basically telling me, “we are going to kill your son, when would you like to make the appointment for?” It took a whole lot of faith to be ok with this appointment, and to trust that he would wake up after having been “put under.”

I cannot emphasize enough how scared I was about it. I made the appointment for like 2 days later and did my best not to live with a high heart rate and panic mode the whole time. I took him to the hospital, having followed instructions about food and such. They told him the sleeping gas would “smell like smelly shoes.” And he laughed. When they put the mask on his face, he shoved it away so hard and started yelling at them and yelling for me. I went into panic mode to save my son, and they had to usher me out of the room. I was a complete wreck. About 11 minutes later, they came to get me, and told me it had all been done in under 2 minutes, and he was waking up now. I was so relieved! He was fine!! They showed me what had been in his ear: it had been a very small pirate coin from a toy pirate set (https://www.amazon.com/PLAYMOBIL%C2%AE-5135-PLAYMOBIL-Pirates-Ship/dp/B004P5O8MM ). My husband (who is a magician), joked, “he is the first person to actually take a coin out of his ear!” We still have that coin in a surgical container around here somewhere.

Around that point, I also started going to a dermatologist for skin issues I have always had. I have keloids on my shoulders. I have some moles on my back that are pretty big, thanks to “not believing in sun block.”  I also have acne, and have had acne since 4th grade. I was never allowed to use benzoyl peroxide. That was completely forbidden. The amount of teasing “why don’t you take care of that, it’s so easy!” And my stubborn sense that “no, if I do that, it won’t be healed! I have to heal it!” Is such a bunch of silliness. Why let a child be tortured for decades when a solution is so easy? Now that I am over 40 years old, almost 45, I have discovered Noxema and benzoyl peroxide. Wow. What a miracle cure! (And I keep forgetting to use it! #NoThankYouChristianScience)

I had prayed and prayed about the lipoma on my back. It had come back immediately after that first surgery, and it was not being healed in Christian Science. This was such a big struggle for me. I fervently felt like “God must want me to have this, so it’s not being healed, so it is here so that I can grow spiritually and heal it.” And at some point, after having worked with so many practitioners and also my Teacher on this issue for years, I finally decided to walk away from branch church membership and walk towards “going to doctors.”

Chrystal’s Story: The Last Straw – Part 1

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This is part of an on-going series, for all posts in this series see the tag Chrystal’s Story.


A note from Chrystal: I was born a fourth-generation Christian Scientist, and finally left the religion when I was in my 40s. In this blog series, I will do my best to share with you my 40+ year journey. I have done my best to make the journey sequential, but it’s also themed to a large extent, and sometimes it has been necessary to take things out of sequence to share a theme. 


The Last Straw (Part 1)

Leaving my first branch church

A gal who had been raised in a Bible Belt kind of church had a toddler son. It was coming up on Easter Sunday, and she wanted an Easter Egg hunt for her son, because her neighbors were elderly and she didn’t have anyone else she knew who had kids, so she thought it would be fun for the kids at church. I know “The Manual of The Mother Church” by Mary Baker Eddy specifically states, “no special celebrations at Easter,” and I knew the members would hate the idea. I thought really fast, because I was proceeding from a place of “let’s let our member who converted to Christian Science feel loved and accepted,” and I said, “let’s call the daycare place next door, and see if we can use their playground for our Easter Egg Hunt on Easter Sunday!” This gal loved the idea. I wasn’t going to be in town, but I arranged for all of it to happen. Then, I gave the announcement to the First Reader.

The Sunday before Easter, I had just finished teaching Sunday School, and the Second Reader came storming down the stairs to me in Sunday School — she was angry. Whew! My students hadn’t all been picked up yet by their parents. This church member started to berate me and tell me off, with complete disregard to my students. She couldn’t believe that as Second Reader, she had to hear about this from the announcement! How dare I come up with having an Easter Egg Hunt at church!

I couldn’t get a word in edgewise for at least 7 minutes. She knew how to talk without breathing and I couldn’t interrupt her to say, “it wasn’t my idea! It was this other person’s idea, and I moved it over to the daycare so it wouldn’t be on church grounds!” I couldn’t believe how furious she was with me for this thing that I had tried to arrange so our own member could feel loved.

As this church member friend berated me in front of my Sunday School kids, I realized, “oh my gosh, she won’t let me speak to say ‘it’s not even my idea,’ and “it has come to this in the church: people think: ‘that idea is SO BAD, it MUST be Chrystal’s.’”

As it turned out, the parents had the Easter Egg hunt in our own parking lot (remember – I was out of town), and several moms griped to me about how terrible it was. I had arranged for the daycare playground next door, and they chose our own dirty parking lot with litter and gravel among the Easter Eggs. Way to celebrate Jesus Christ’s resurrection. (This church has a bus stop at the edge of the property, and I have seen cigarette butts in the parking lot too. It wouldn’t surprise me if there were also cigarette butts among the Easter Eggs!)

I remember lying awake in bed with that drama playing in my head over and over and over. It was the middle of the night, and I pictured the story of Daniel in the Lion’s Den. I got out of bed with my husband sleeping right there, and my boys sleeping in their rooms down the hall. I knelt down next to my bed and prayed. I had never knelt down on my knees, folded my hands and prayed. But I knelt down the way I thought Daniel might have done every day, and I prayed. I prayed as hard as I could pray. I cried and cried, and I prayed and prayed. I remember suddenly having a vision of “a new heaven and a new church,” (a clever variation on Revelation 21:1) and I knew everything would be ok.

I withdrew my name from membership 2 days later. (I had planned to withdraw 3 days later, but I got a phone call from another member berating me for something else, so I resigned immediately after that phone call. It had all gone on long enough.) Stupid me, I went to another branch church and joined them the following Sunday. (I told them “your branch is closer to my house, so I am just switching.” It was closer to my home, but that wasn’t completely why I was switching.)


Notes from Chrystal:

Here is a resource about emotional abuse. It is painful stuff. Please read this and get out of any relationship where you are being emotionally abused. I am still recovering from this painful experience.

Here is an informative article about anxiety and depression.


Notes from The Ex-Christian Scientist:

Unless you have formally withdrawn your membership, you are likely still counted as a member of the Mother Church, aka The First Church of Christ, Scientist, in Boston.

A quick e-mail to the Office of the Clerk, can confirm if you are still a member. If you are still a member, you can formally withdraw your membership via e-mail, or write a letter. You can reach the Church Clerk at: [email protected]

More information about withdrawing from The Mother Church can be found in our Resource Index drop down menu.

Happy Father’s Day, Part 1: It’s Just Matter

The following musings on Father’s Day are by ExCS Group Member and Contributor Chrystal. This is part 1 of 3, part 2 will be shared on Wednesday, June 21, 2017.


It being Father’s Day and all, I would love to tell you about my dad. He was the most kind man I have ever known. He died a few years ago. I think about him all the time. I just woke up from a dream where I was visiting him and we were being goofy together. I enjoy seeing him in my dreams and I wake up from them feeling wistful.

This mini (3 part) blog series is a small peek into his life.

My dad was the oldest of 4 siblings. His mom converted to Christian Science, which is what his dad was. Both of my dad’s parents lived through “The Great Depression.” Grandma was a hoarder and very negative. Grandpa was an inventor and an amazing mathematician. My Grandpa made friends everywhere he went. He is in his 9th decade now, and all of his friends are dead. My dad also made friends everywhere he went. When I was a child, I remember my dad introducing me to what felt like practically the whole town. He knew everyone and they all loved him. He was so kind and funny. How could anyone not like him and want to be friends with him?

My dad collected comic books. All of them. He kept them very well packaged under his bed, in a box, in plastic sleeves. I guess at some point, his mom decided they were “junk,” so, despite her hoarding tendencies, she threw them all out. My dad set about collecting them again, and never got over the fact that she had thrown them out. They were valuable. His collection eventually paid for his first home, and then his second home.

My dad’s biggest hobby was photography. He loved it. He carried that camera everywhere – all the time. He was never without it. If my dad didn’t earn straight A’s in school, his mom took away his camera for a minimum of a week at a time, which felt like absolute torture to him.

Grandma always had a leg problem. She fell while traveling one year, and went to a doctor to deal with it. That shocked our whole family – that the Christian Science matriarch of our family went to a doctor. She had problems with that leg for the rest of her life. At the time, I was told that she eventually died because she fell out of bed & couldn’t walk. She was rushed to the emergency room and died like 48 hours later. (I later learned that it’s likely she had a stroke. This makes sense because as she lay in the hospital dying, she couldn’t speak.)

Grandpa wore contact lenses, and I remember the judgement he and Grandma had for themselves – they both drank decaf coffee at McDonalds and Grandpa wore the contact lenses. As a result, both thought they weren’t great Christian Scientists. Though both served the church as much as they could, their whole lives. Grandma dutifully arranged flowers for the church every Sunday. And Grandpa still ushers, though he is in his 90s and has had a few surgeries and STILL feels guilty for not being “a perfect Christian Scientist.”

Obviously, I am blogging on this web forum, so I am an Ex Christian Scientist. It breaks my heart to see my grandpa feeling “less than.” He is a kind, intelligent, thoughtful, generous gentleman. I would love to help him find his way out of Christian Science. He feels like a failure. But – he’s NOT. He in no way resembles a failure. He’s an amazing person, loved by so many people. (Happy Father’s Day, Grandpa, I love you so much, and my kids love you so much too.)

I would love to see my grandpa break away from the guilt he feels about drinking decaf coffee and the various surgeries he has had over the years due to “not being a good enough Christian Scientist,” but he is in his 9th decade, and I can’t change his whole life now. His friends are there at the church, his security is there, he knows how to drive (yes, drive!) to the church… That seems cruel to me, to get him to leave the church.

Well, back to my dad. He went through Christian Science nurse’s training. Having spent a few years training to be a Christian Science nurse, then actually being one, my dad’s biggest fear was to get put in a Christian Science nursing facility. In his experience, “no one ever left them alive.” Later, my dad was completely terrified of being put in a nursing facility. Not just a Christian Science one.

At one point, while working as a nurse in training, he was asked to clean a dead body. My dad was horrified and very scared to do this. He called up his Christian Science Teacher (who was eventually kicked out of the church due to cruelty), and she said to him, “it’s just matter.” This spoke to my dad somehow. And my dad was able to go clean up this dead body. Over the years, my dad was very good at cleaning up bodily fluids and dead animals on the road and things. It always made him deeply sad to see a rabbit or cat or dog on the road that had been run over, but he would promptly clean it up to save neighbor kids from seeing the animal bloody and dead on the street.

I remember being a little girl, and waiting too long to use the bathroom. I peed all over the floor in the bathroom. I completely missed the toilet. My dad quietly cleaned it all up. It has been probably 40+ years since that happened, and I still think about that. My dad never once yelled at me. He was the kindest man I’ve known. After my dad died, I realized that my dad’s dad is also one of the kindest men I have known. I wish both of them had been able to marry a kind woman.

In my dad’s case, he married two women who were both cruel. Thankfully, my bio mom had the good sense to leave. But my step-mom – everything I have ever told anyone about what she does and how she treats me, looks at me with shock. They are shocked at how cruel she was. I don’t want to go into all of it here. Christian Science women and Christian Science moms, it’s crazy how many stories I have heard of cruel Christian Science moms. It’s heart-breaking.

But, these posts are about my dad.

(To Be Continued.)

A Poem – for Mother’s Day

Christian Science Church and Reflection, Boston, Massachusetts

A Poem
By B.L.

Mom’s religion is more important than me
She’d rather die than be
Treated for cancer with medical care
She puts her life in the hands of prayer
She’d rather die than change her mind
I stand by to watch and find
Her suffering in pain more every day
Slowly failing and wasting away
Less I can say and more that I can’t
Ignoring the room’s elephant
It’s hard to explain to you
Why her health is such taboo
Here I am, my mom is dead
Questions unanswered and things left unsaid
Feeling abandoned and betrayed
Wishing I meant more and my mom had stayed


Image by Rizka (Own work) [CC BY-SA 4.0], via Wikimedia Commons

Chrystal’s Story: On Recycling and Medicine

Chrystal's Story header image

This is part of an on-going series, for all posts in this series see the tag Chrystal’s Story.


A note from Chrystal: I was born a fourth-generation Christian Scientist, and finally left the religion when I was in my 40s. In this blog series, I will do my best to share with you my 40+ year journey. I have done my best to make the journey sequential, but it’s also themed to a large extent, and sometimes it has been necessary to take things out of sequence to share a theme. 


Why don’t Christian Scientists recycle? Oh yeah: Because “matter isn’t real.”

I wish all of my ideas had gone over so well. (For clarification: I was a member at one (very small) local branch church, eventually left my membership, and then I joined another (very large) local branch church.

At the first church, with permission from The Board, I bought recycle bins, and I put them around the church. And no one used them. I also was the maid at the church, and emptied the trash and took the recycling home. People threw trash in the recycling and recycling into the trash. Constantly. It was such a battle. The bins were right next to each other, and their actions showed blatant disrespect. I couldn’t believe the constant disrespect.

At my second branch church, I remember church members laughing at me when I suggested people should bring their own water bottles to church and use the water fountain, and we should stop buying the plastic water bottles. I remember one man taking the paper off of his water bottle, rolling it up, and feeding it back into the water bottle. And he laughed about it. I remember fuming about it. That moment is seared into my memory.

I tried to make our ultra boring bulletin boards lively: I added color and made gorgeous flyers. No one seemed to care or notice.

I took my Sunday School kids outside to sit under trees. My students LOVED it. We would go for walks in the woods and have wonderful talks about trees, nature, goodness, the universe. Everything. (I don’t understand why other teachers didn’t do this too? Is it because trees are made up of matter?)

I remember wanting us to have hymn sings more regularly instead of just at Christmas time. I wanted us to have potlucks, and dinners, and fun events. I knew we should want to attract families to our church. “Let’s have a free event for the neighbors and get a moon bounce!” Idea after idea was shot down. Everything was shot down. It was so incredibly discouraging. I wanted us to have a hymn sing to learn the new hymns from the Supplement so we would be comfortable and sing them during regular services. I wanted the kids from our Sunday School who played instruments to feel invited to come up & play for us. I wanted us to give money to the students to attend Christian Science camps. I wanted us to paint the walls with murals and do so many things.

I remember crying and crying because my ideas were rejected over and over and over. I was so despondent. I didn’t feel like we should do all of my ideas, but it was so discouraging to constantly be berated for my ideas. I was getting yelled at more and more, and people were starting to call me on the phone to tell me they had heard of my latest idea and how terrible it was, and they had to chime in and tell me what a terrible idea I had. I was crying more and more frequently at home. I thought I should bear this cross, I should actually “kiss the cross” so I could “wake to know a world more bright.” (“Poems” by Mary Baker Eddy, p. 12) The crosses got more heavy and more burdensome. They never became lighter and easier to bear. My husband saw me crying more often in our bedroom over church activities. At one point, he told me, “church is a volunteer activity, if it’s not fun, why do it?” I was so removed from understanding this as a concept, that it felt like he had literally spoken Greek to me. I kept running his sentence through my head for months after that: “If it’s not fun, why do it?”

At one point, my first church wanted to do our annual lecture. (As required in “The Manual of The Mother Church” by Mary Baker Eddy.) The next town over from the church has a big Spanish population. I tried to convince the members that we should have a local Spanish lecturer come and give a Spanish lecture and have it be at the library, which is incredibly central to where the Spanish people live and hang out. You might have thought I had talked about dropping a bomb on the church and destroying everything. Everyone hated the idea. I mean, they really hated it. They told me that the Spanish population could hire their own lecturer if they wanted one. I felt like if the Spanish people had probably never heard of Christian Science then we could help them know about it. But I was of course out voted. And we moved forward with our lecture and had our standard English lecture. And it was attended by all the usual people – folks from the area Christian Science churches who all lecture-hop and attend each other’s lectures. Who were we trying to serve? Ourselves? We clearly weren’t interested in serving our neighbors.

My second branch church wanted to completely remodel their building. The whole Sunday School needed a face lift. I know members don’t like to spend money, and I was asked to come up with a plan for “what can we do.” I came up with a whole plan, within 24 hours (which I thought was pretty darn impressive; I worked really hard on that plan and got it to the Sunday School Superintendent right away). It had 3 tiers to it. Tier one was: “high impact, low cost or no cost.” Tier two was: high impact, some cost. Tier three was: high impact, high cost. I figured they could pick things from the different tiers (some things on the list were “1) Rearrange the furniture. 2) I have a ton of my own artwork we can hang on all the walls. A higher end (expensive) idea was: “get a baby grand piano and arrange the entire Sunday School around it, and have classes with couches”).

How many ideas do you think they did on the list? How long do you think it took them? Well, they did take me up on the offer to hang my paintings. The Superintendant took all my paintings, put them on the floor around the Sunday School, and the students voted for their favorites by tossing post it notes on the paintings. Then, they basically hung up all of the paintings around the Sunday School.

About 6 months later, they pulled down all of the paintings, barely packaged them, and returned them to me. I was appalled they did not ask me to come and remove my own artwork. They had taken down my artwork, and put them in a cold, damp storage room, and then called me to say: “how can we get these to you?” Disrespect. Again. I had been away for a week when that happened. I had zero warning, and I was gone, and they took down the paintings without even informing me that they had been considering it.

Not only was I never thanked for that list; it was never even acknowledged. As far as I know, they never did any of the other items, and they probably will never do anything other than paint the inside of the Sunday School, which they last did when I was a kid there probably 30 years ago.



Christian Science and Medicine do not mix

One other thing at my second branch church (and among most branch churches, I believe), was a continual conversation about “should we allow people who are currently on medicine to join the church?”

This church membership whined and complained all the time about the low membership numbers (when they also proudly wore the badge of “the largest Christian Science church in the state.”) They complained that they were all getting older and “no young people are members.” (I was RIGHT THERE – ½ the age of the majority of their membership, and I was a Journal-listed Practitioner. But apparently, I didn’t count. They wanted “young people.” I constantly heard the phrase, “If we only had more healings!”

We had 2 gals who had grown up in Sunday School, wanting to join the church. One had lifelong epilepsy and was on a medicine to control it after years of nothing to help her. I grew up with her, and one time I witnessed her turn around and around and suddenly fall to pavement. I had no idea what “epilepsy” was, and I was so afraid she was hurt, and I had no clue how to respond to this seizure. It was scary to me. (I wonder if another child in another faith community would have been educated that this person had epilepsy, and since she’s your friend, you might be told what to do in the event of a seizure, so you don’t witness her falling on hard pavement and hitting her head? Well, she and I were raised in Christian Science and we were indoctrinated that “it isn’t real; it’s not a part of her, so ignore it.”)

The other young gal who wanted to join the church had also grown up in Christian Science and was barely over ½ my age. She was on medicine for maybe depression or anxiety, or some other mental issue that was never told to me clearly (because to name any problem makes it “more real”). They both loved the church and wanted to join as church members. These gals’ parents were members of the church, and the daughters wanted to join too.

The membership refused to vote to let them join the church. I was an outspoken person saying, “they should be able to join! We want members. We want young members. These two gals love this church, let them join!” And I had a small handful of people who agreed with me, but wouldn’t speak up about it. There was one incredibly angry and vocal man (who had once held a prestigious position at a big news organization) who was opposed to them joining the church. The venomous words that came out of his mouth shocked everyone. And yet, he “won” the argument. Time after time, he showed up at every meeting and spoke with such force and anger. At one point he said, “maybe I should leave the church then!” And everyone sat silent. I was thinking, “yes! Leave! Good riddance, Mr. Big Shot Attitude man!” (Why is it that the angry argument always wins at the Christian Science church? Jesus said: “By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another.” – John 13: 35 (By the way, this is right after the story where Jesus washed the feet of his disciples, and told the disciples that “the servant is not greater than his lord” – John 13:16.)

John 13:

 

 

Jesus Washes the Disciples’ Feet

 

So when he had washed their feet, and taken his garments, and sat down again, he said unto them, Know ye what I have done to you? Ye call me, Master, and, Lord: and ye say well; for so I am. If I then, the Lord and the Master, have washed your feet, ye also ought to wash one another’s feet. For I have given you an example, that ye also should do as I have done to you. Verily, verily, I say unto you, A servant is not greater than his lord; neither one that is sent greater than he that sent him. If ye know these things, blessed are ye if ye do them.

 

 

A New Command I Give You 

 

 

Jesus saith, Now is the Son of man glorified, and God is glorified in him; and God shall glorify him in himself, and straightway shall he glorify him. Little children, yet a little while I am with you. A new commandment I give unto you, that ye love one another; even as I have loved you, that ye also love one another. By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another.

 

The members never let these two kind gals join the church. My patience with the membership started wearing thin when they wouldn’t fight for the right of these two girls to join the church they had grown up in and sincerely loved, simply because they were on medicine for long term problems they had. Their being on medicine wasn’t anyone’s business, anyway! It certainly wasn’t any of my business that they were on medicine. Who cares? They are good people and deserve to be loved and cherished and appreciated for their wonderful qualities.

Chrystal’s Story – Going Crazy At Branch Church

Chrystal's Story header image

This is part of an on-going series, for all posts in this series see the tag Chrystal’s Story.


A note from Chrystal: I was born a fourth-generation Christian Scientist, and finally left the religion when I was in my 40s. In this blog series, I will do my best to share with you my 40+ year journey. I have done my best to make the journey sequential, but it’s also themed to a large extent, and sometimes it has been necessary to take things out of sequence to share a theme. 


Earache Story (Part 1)

One evening, my younger son had an earache when he was a toddler. He had them every now and then. One of my brothers used to get those too, but my step mom taught me that “at some point he just outgrew those.” She told me that after the pain of an earache is gone, it drains out, and they are “healed.” My son had probably several of those – a painful ear that drained out the next day, and then was “healed.” I called a Practitioner one time because his ear hurt. It was late at night, and I sat in my rocking chair, holding my precious toddler, and trying to “keep my thought calm.” He kept putting his finger in his ear and screaming. I could barely hear the practitioner talking to me on the phone over the screams of my son. After a while, my son calmed down and went to sleep. I never saw drainage, and thought, “well, that’s just a healing in a different way.” (This story continues, but it comes up – after I left the branch church as a member. This story is “to be continued.” See: Earache Story – Part 2)

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My “crazy” ideas, and the best events I have ever orchestrated in my life.

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As my boys grew up, I became more and more involved in Christian Science branch church work. I organized the annual lecture for our church, I created a dedication ceremony for our new building from scratch. I bought a new dress and gotten my hair done for the occasion, and baked 2 enormous, beautiful cakes. I expected 100 people to attend, and I think we got less than 30 people; to say “I was disappointed” would be a gross understatement.

At the time, I was on the church board. When I was on the board, a gal we all knew who had been a long time member wrote to us and said something like, “I am gay. You didn’t knowingly choose someone to be a gay SS teacher, and I am giving you the opportunity to ask me to leave.” While the whole LBGTQ idea is anti Christian Science historically, we as a church board, were actually quite progressive. We wrote her an easy letter saying, “We love you for who you are. We didn’t even need to discuss this or vote on it. We invite you to participate in this church now and any time in the future in any capacity that you would like.” She felt so incredibly loved by our letter. She had truly expected to be booted out of the church. We absolutely accepted her. I felt like I was working on bringing the branch church into the future.  (That member wasn’t there much longer. She moved away, moved back, joined a different branch church, then left that one too. I feel like there are layers upon layers in each of our stories, and none of us discuss them with each other. Each of us on our own little island.)

While this branch church was progressive when it came to loving a member who was gay, that church was ultra traditional, in that it didn’t allow memorial services or weddings in it. (Why would we need a funeral or memorial service when we don’t believe in death? The person didn’t die. They just “sailed in a boat and went over the horizon!” Why would we commemorate something that never happened?) This same church also only used to let Readers read only from the actual books (“The (KJV) Holy Bible,” and “Science and Health” by Mary Baker Eddy). But now that church allows even A.A. Meetings in the building, memorial services, HOA meetings, and if a Reader wants to read from their electronic device, they are welcome to do that too. It’s a fairly progressive church. They even allow memorial services there now too, though they are called, “Celebration of Life,” and look a whole lot like a regular church service with a small “testimony” time, when people can share memories of the deceased.

When my youngest son was in Kindergarten, I started up a Vacation Bible School (VBS) for Christian Science children. A friend of mine and I ran that for a few years. It was a wonderfully progressive thing to do with the children. One hour per week of Sunday School to learn “The Bible,” with kids not even showing up ½ the time didn’t feel like enough. So having a solid week of VBS for kids in the summer felt like a great idea. I went to almost a dozen local branch churches and recruited Sunday School teachers, students and volunteers to come from those places to be a part of our VBS.

You might be surprised to learn that at first, so many church members blasted me about this (can you imagine someone who professes to be a vocal part of a church they think is “The highest form of Christianity,” arguing with someone who wants to teach the children “The Holy Bible” in church?

Too many members actually said, “is that even allowed in our church?”

Seriously? (They were referring to the idea of having a camp for a week, from an insurance perspective. The insurance people thought the people who called to check were completely daft. They said: “you want to teach a Bible camp at your church? It’s your building, and that is a church activity, of COURSE your insurance policy covers it!”)

It was totally bizarre to me that Christian Scientists would wonder if we could teach The Bible to kids on days other than Sunday. They felt the only time to teach kids about The Bible was for that 1 hour every Sunday, and a VBS is just something that is simply not done at a Christian Science Church. I pointed out that we would be teaching The Bible to our children. I pointed out that The Manual of The Mother Church says, “The Sabbath children should be taught the 10 Commandments, the Beatitudes, and The Lord’s Prayer.” I pointed out that Christian Science teaches us that “the sabbath is every day; not just Sunday.”

“The first lessons of the children should be the Ten Commandments (Exodus 20: 3-18), The Lord’s Prayer, and its Spiritual Interpretation by Mary Baker G. Eddy (Matt. 6: 9-14), Sermon on the Mount (Matt. 5: 3-11).”

 

The Manual of The Mother Church by Mary Baker Eddy, Article XVIII. Section 11.

I was shocked at how much explaining I had to do to convince people that this was an ok thing to do, and that it would be a good idea. I had passion for this project, and it kept me full of energy to keep pushing for it. I found it interesting that the people who had been my biggest resistance eventually became my biggest supporters.

Parents loved it! They donated money to cover all the costs like snacks, crafts, paper, etc. It was really a nice experience for the kids. That was one of two times when I felt completely supported in one of my “crazy” ideas for the church.

Another crazy idea I had, was to run with an article I saw in The Christian Science Journal, called “Church Alive.” The Journal called on all branch churches to run with the theme “Church Alive” and do an event the weekend of Annual Meeting (the weekend before the first Monday in June). I had an instant vision of what it would look like. It was a beautiful vision, and I thought, “let’s do it! The Mother Church asks us to do this; let’s do it! It will be wonderful!”  (Yeah, I’m crazy like that.)

Well, I brought it up to the members at my branch church. This branch church is proud for being the “largest branch church in the state.” (Most of the members do not come to meetings, and don’t show up for church services and haven’t in YEARS and need to be removed from the rolls. But the church seems to love the prestige of being “the largest branch church” so they keep the rolls stacked like that. That feels deceptive to me, but, that’s another story for another blog post.)

Well, I got so much push back on it. The board took forever. The article had come out in the fall, maybe in October. I had until June. To me, this was plenty of time. I had planned my entire wedding in 5 months, I could easily do this.

The decision finally came in late March: “Yes! Go for it!”

I remember rolling my eyes and thinking, “finally!”

After the decision came, I kept getting a lot of people saying “it’s too short of a time line! We can’t do it!”

I wanted to scream, “if you all had said ‘yes’ earlier, it wouldn’t be that short of a time line! Remember Jesus getting across the sea in that boat instantaneously? Christian Science teaches that ‘time is limitation.’ Stop believing in time!” But I just had to keep my mouth shut and let them grumble and show them we could do it & it would be fabulous.

TIME. Mortal measurements; limits, in which are summed up all human acts, thoughts, beliefs, opinions, knowledge; matter; error; that which begins before, and continues after, what is termed death, until the mortal disappears and spiritual perfection appears.

 

Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures by Mary Baker Eddy, p. 595

I wrote to all the people I knew at all the area churches – there were about a dozen within our tri-state area. I got so much response! I had meetings at our branch church. Together with all the volunteers from the area churches, we found speakers, workshop leaders, 200 attendees, and we catered lunch including vegan options for everyone. The entire lunch experience went flawlessly, which is really saying something. People marveled at the wonderful lunch experience, which still strikes me as funny.

We hired a musician from Boston to come and do a performance during the day, and we also gave him the opportunity to do a well-attended concert the night before. The day of our “Church Alive” conference, this musician sang “Siyahamba” with my very young son on stage, showing everyone how easy it is to sing the new hymns. (There is an incredible amount of resistance in the membership to sing from the new Hymnal Supplement. Also “Siyahamba” is one of the coolest spiritual songs ever, and I think it has become the hymn of the current generation of Christian Science kids.)

The whole event was to take place the Saturday before Annual Meeting (Annual Meeting is in Boston every year, on the first Monday in June). We saw the brand new community center that we were renting for the event for the first time the Thursday before that. I found out that day, that they had audio-visual capabilities. I developed a whole powerpoint, musical videos, and slide shows and everything after I found out the audio-visual capabilities. I also figured out how to stream a video of The Board of Directors talking to our audience through the audio-visual equipment. I had never done anything like that before. I figured out all of that in 2 days.

It was amazing, if I do say so myself. I consider the entire event to be one of my best shining moments in my life. To recap: I pulled together a team of volunteers and an amazing conference attended by about 200 people in the span of less than 3 months, and I did all of the amazing audio-visual in just 2 days. We not only stayed in budget, we also made a bit of money on the endeavor. I think that’s pretty darn cool.

The one thing that went completely askew was the one time in the group when I had to sadly “let them learn the hard way.” We had 2 choices for our keynote speaker. We could go with a very forward thinking Christian Science Teacher and Lecturer from another state (we had the money to fly her in) who is incredibly creative, or we could go with a local practitioner everyone knew who had started up 2 branch churches from scratch. The second woman had been a Sunday School teacher of mine, and everyone loves her. She’s wonderful and intelligent and kind and funny. However, she is not dynamic, and she is not a public speaker or a lecturer.

I have a leadership quality that lets the group decide, and then I get behind the decision. I don’t cause waves or hard feelings by saying, “you’re wrong here, you’re choosing the wrong option.” I pushed a little, but they were very set on having this local woman be the speaker. So, we had the local speaker come. She sat down during her keynote presentation. She read her speech from her own handwritten notes. Her speech was in no way dynamic, and it was very hard to listen to. Apparently, it had a lot of really great ideas and points in it (I couldn’t hear it from my seat in the back, but people who heard it & wrote on the comment cards, said she had a lot of great things to say). And almost every single feedback form we got for the day had high marks in every single area, except that the key note address was “not dynamic” and “hard to listen to.” That was the only failure of the day. I am not sure if I would push more next time, but it was interesting to observe this group do that to themselves.  They chose a “known” over a better alternative that was “unknown,” even though their group leader had passionately and lovingly told them which option would be the better option. They just couldn’t trust or have faith in the idea. And it made me feel sad for them.