Christian Science Gaslighting

In the chapter on Christian Science Practice in Science and Health, Ms. Eddy presents an “allegory illustrative of the law of divine Mind and of the supposed laws of matter and hygiene, an allegory in which the plea of Christian Science heals the sick” which runs from p. 430 – 443 (the end of the chapter – 1). Ms. Eddy explains

  • A man is charged with having committed liver-complaint. The patient feels ill, ruminates, and the trial commences. Personal Sense is the plaintiff. Mortal Man is the defendant. False Belief is the attorney for Personal Sense. Mortal Minds, Materia Medica, Anatomy, Physiology, Hypnotism, Envy, Greed and Ingratitude, constitute the jury. The court-room is filled with interested spectators, and Judge Medicine is on the bench. (p. 430)

The trial quickly disintegrates into Ms. Eddy’s limited 19th century understanding of medicine: the witnesses, Coated Tongue, Sallow Skin, Nerve,  Mortality – Governor of the Province of Body, and Death are all called and eventually

  • Judge Medicine then proceeds to pronounce the solemn sentence of death upon the prisoner…. The prisoner is then remanded to his cell (sick-bed), and Scholastic Theology is sent for to prepare the frightened sense of Life, God, — which sense must be immortal, — for death. (p. 433).

Not all is lost!

  • Permission is obtained for a trial in the Court of Spirit, where Christian Science is allowed to appear as counsel for the unfortunate prisoner. Witnesses, judges, and jurors, who were at the previous Court of Error, are now summoned to appear before the bar of Justice and eternal Truth. (p. 434)

What happens next is esoteric Christian Science reasoning at it’s finest:

  • The plea of False Belief we deem unworthy of a hearing. Let what False Belief utters, now and forever, fall into oblivion, “unknelled, uncoffined, and unknown.” According to our statute, Material Law is a liar who cannot bear witness against Mortal Man, neither can Fear arrest Mortal Man nor can Disease cast him into prison. Our law refuses to recognize Man as sick or dying, but holds him to be forever in the image and likeness of his Maker. …  The Supreme Bench decides in favor of intelligence, that no law outside of divine Mind can punish or reward Mortal Man. Your personal jurors in the Court of Error are myths. (p.441-2 emphasis mine)

I find it interesting Ms. Eddy uses both Man and Mortal Man on p. 441-2. On p. 468 Ms. Eddy is quite clear that

  • There is no life, truth, intelligence, nor substance in matter. All is infinite Mind and its infinite manifestation, for God is All-in-all. Spirit is immortal Truth; matter is mortal error. Spirit is the real and eternal; matter is the unreal and temporal. Spirit is God, and man is His image and likeness. Therefore man is not material; he is spiritual. (emphasis mine)

By putting MORTAL MAN on trial, she is violating her own laws of man as a spiritual idea of God. In Ms. Eddy’s view Mortal Man is no more real than his complaint about his liver. Ms. Eddy’s insistence that mortal man be spared through Christian Science is in direct contradiction to her own ideas about the true Spiritual nature of mankind.

I have no desire for mortal man to pass on before his time, however, as long as he is occupying his mortal (and material) body he should take steps to look after it. Ms. Eddy never claims that mortal man will have everlasting life — that is reserved for Man as a Spiritual Idea of God. Ms. Eddy may mean well as she grants Mortal Man a reprieve, but what about the next time Mortal Man has a complaint? Will Christian Science triumph again, or will Mortal Man succumb to some other complaint (2)?

There are plenty of documented cases where Christian Science failed to “save” Mortal Man – or mortal children (3), yet Christian Scientists are gaslighted by well-meaning fellow Christian Scientists into thinking these failures are their own fault: You’re not material, you’re spiritual! There is no sensation in matter. You must not have prayed enough. You’re bitter. Your faith was shaky. Instead of questioning the religion, they question themselves and thus begins a deadly spiral of ignoring the problem, and praying for a solution.

You feel crazy, defective, and like a bit of a wreck. You turn to Christian Science even more fully in an attempt to find answers.

Gaslighting
A common form of brainwashing in which an abuser tries to falsely convince the victim that the victim is defective, for any purpose whatsoever, such as making the victim more pliable and easily controlled, or making the victim more emotional and therefore more needy and dependent. (4)

Christian Science excels at gaslighting: I was on a phone call with a CSP who was telling me that my badly twisted ankle, which was swelling up and throbbing in pain, was “unreal” and just “mortal mind.” There was more than one night I spent trying to pray about fever-induced hallucinations knowing they were only aggressive mental suggestion trying to put me off my true spiritual path. The “unreal” mountains of kleenx that littered my dorm room as I suffered from the “unreality of the flu.” I couldn’t call in sick, I had to call in because I was “working on a demonstration.” Women’s menstrual cramps were not related an ovarian cyst, PCOS or nutrient deficiency, they were God’s way of punishing them for having impure thoughts. At the end of the day all our suffering was self-induced because our thought strayed from God.

Christian Science Gaslighting
a religious form of brainwashing in which a follower of Christian Science, tries to convince the victim/patient (usually a fellow Christian Scientist or “lapsed” Christian Scientist) that the victim/patient is God’s Perfect Child and is spiritual, not material, and therefore any problems the victim claims to have are simply mortal mind, erroneous thought, or aggressive mental suggestion. The end result of this is usually the victim/patient feels like a failure as a Christian Scientist and redoubles their efforts to heal themselves by spending even more time with the Authorized Literature often to the detriment of their physical health and mental well being.

An excellent example of “Christian Science Gaslighting” comes from a CS Nurse’s response to the question of “how do i leave christian science” (5) when she states:

Screen Shot 2013-12-14 at 7.38.41 PMI have no problem with encouraging someone to see the more positive side of the issue, but the attitude that when someone can be “held back by their lack of healing” that it is okay to ONLY “continue to see them the way God really made them” is harmful on every level. Serious maladies which could/should have been remedied have been overlooked because people were taught to believe that mortal life is unreal: they believe that understanding the spiritual universe created by God results in physical healing (6).

Ms. Eddy has a fair bit to say about working out your own salvation (7), and while not standing in agreement with mortal mind may help a CSN or CSP sleep better at night, it does little for the person suffering.


End notes

  1. http://christianscience.com/read-online/science-and-health/%28chapter%29/chapter-xii-christian-science-practice#anchor.1.12
  2. It is worth noting Ms. Eddy eventually died, and her body was buried http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mary_Baker_Eddy#Death
  3. http://lizheywoodwriter.blogspot.com/, http://query.nytimes.com/gst/abstract.html?res=F20915F7345911738DDDAC0994D0405B8985F0D3, https://emergegently.wordpress.com/tag/deaths-in-christian-science/, http://query.nytimes.com/gst/abstract.html?res=FA081EFC355E12738DDDA10A94DF405B848DF1D3, https://cs.uwaterloo.ca/~shallit/Talks/cs.html, http://www.theatlantic.com/past/docs/unbound/flashbks/xsci/xscilett.htm – you can do a quick google search and turn up even more
  4. jebrown.us/Relationshop/Definitions/gaslighting.html
  5. http://time4thinkers.com/forums/topic/how-do-i-leave-christian-science-behind/
  6. http://secular.org/heywoodtestimony
  7. http://kindism.org/2013/06/02/suffering-is-oft-the-divine-agent-in-this-elevation/, see also http://kindism.org/?s=salvation&submit=Search

More reading on Gaslighting

  • http://thestir.cafemom.com/love_sex/159299/10_signs_your_man_is
  • http://www.urbandictionary.com/define.php?term=gaslighting
  • http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gaslighting

This post originally appeared at kindism.org, it has been republished here with permission.

Happy Father’s Day, Part 3: My dad’s final chapter

The following musings on Father’s Day are by ExCS Group Member and Contributor Chrystal. This is part 3 of 3.


As my dad’s condition got worse and worse, he stayed at home. For decades. He did his best. He kept a happy attitude. I think it was the last 2 or 3 days of his life that he finally lost his chipper attitude and gave up. Before that, for decades of horrendous Parkinson’s Disease ravaging his body, my dad kept his cheerful attitude. He was patient. He couldn’t speak, and most people didn’t have the patience to try to listen to him. I was always incredibly grateful when someone kind would actually sit and listen to him. Parkinson’s Disease is a disease that freezes up your body. It stops the throat from being able to swallow, the voice from being able to speak, the hand from doing something simple like brushing teeth or putting clothes on and off frequently (like for using the toilet). My dad could barely speak above a whisper. Each word was either strung together because he finally got the strength to speak it all, and we couldn’t understand, or it was one painfully forced out word at a time. Even in this condition, my dad still told jokes. Thankfully, for most of my life, he told the same jokes, so he would only need to refer to a word or two and we would know which joke it was that he was telling. My dad never deserved ANY of this.

While he was at home “being taken care of” by his wife, his hands turned black from dirt and lack of being washed. His teeth started to fall out from lack of good oral hygiene. (Remember, he couldn’t brush his own teeth anymore.) He couldn’t always make it to the bathroom and needed help most of the time once he was in there. So he often had a “potty jar” near him. (A large jug that laundry detergent comes in.) This was too often taken away from him, because his wife thought it was disgusting. It wasn’t until just a few months before he died that he got a real commode, and someone was hired to clean it out every morning.

My dad’s feet turned black from pacing the floor. His feet were so dirty. I never thought about it, and I didn’t live at home at the time. I was out of college and on my own. I came back for visits, but didn’t think much about all of it. My dad never complained. He was much too nice to complain. But he was being subjected to elder abuse. His wife hired Christian Science Nurses to come in to help. You know what sort of help they gave? They did the dishes. They emptied and loaded the dishwasher. Maybe they got my dad dressed, but I am not sure. They would come in for maybe an hour, 3 times a week. That was it. They were nice people. But were they actually doing any nursing? NO!

I remember my dad hiring a Practitioner to pray. She wasn’t listed in the Christian Science Journal, but was probably working towards that. She agreed to take his case even though he was on medicine. She was nice enough. Her bills were dutifully paid. My dad kept getting worse. (That Practitioner died too young a few years later, after losing her mobility and ending up in a wheelchair looking very frail.) The Christian Science Nurses were dutifully paid. My dad kept getting worse. My dad called other practitioners, even ones who were listed in the Christian Science Journal. My dad kept getting worse. He was on a full array of medicines. He kept getting worse. Every practitioner blamed my dad for his condition.

I remember coming home and seeing my dad’s filthy dirty glasses. I would clean them, and he would mouth, “thank you.” He loved that. A family member saw my dad at a family gathering with his black hands, and got a washcloth to wash his hands off. My dad mouthed “thank you” to this kind family member. Where was my dad’s wife during these things? Ignoring him. She has a never ending “to do list,” and takes daily hour long “prayer walks.” She did everything she could to avoid taking care of my dad. She hired people to come in. If she had to take care of him, she yelled at him constantly. I have yet to ever see a kind bone in her body appear. Oh yeah, that’s right, Mary Baker Eddy says that we aren’t made up of bones, therefore bones don’t exist.

I went to my dad’s house regularly during what turned into the last year of his life. I have never been trained in any way to take care of someone. I was a Christian Scientist at the time. I did my best, because I loved my dad. Another Christian Scientist came in every morning. We were having some sort of (mediocre) care for my dad around the clock at this point in his life. My dad was now struggling with Alzheimer’s and hallucinations. He needed to be watched so he wouldn’t hurt himself, mostly. He fell down all the time. He kept forgetting to use his walker and would launch himself across the room and fall. His falls shook the house consistently.

My dad also started having seizures. At one point, his breathing stopped. I was there at the home with the other person – a Christian Scientist who was hired to take care of him. My dad’s lips started to turn blue. I was basically hitting him and yelling at him saying, “Dad! Dad! Dad! Breathe! Dad! Breathe! Please, Dad! Breathe!” I was getting super upset. I yelled at the other woman to “Dial 911!” I hollered at her over and over. She laughed and laughed. She thought it was hilarious. She thought all of this was a joke. I was panicking and crying and screaming to get my dad to breathe and she was standing over there, laughing and laughing. Oh, I was also holding him up with my arms, because he would have fallen on the floor if I had let go. That’s why I couldn’t call 911, and desperately needed her to do it. My dad did eventually wake up from this seizure. I made a huge stink about this to his wife, and told her we could no longer give him the care he needed. He needed better care, he needed around the clock medical care at that point. He needed to go in to a care facility.

She and I both knew very clearly how much he never wanted to go to a care facility. So, she did what she did best; she controlled the information she gave to him. She was going away for a weekend to a Christian Science Retreat. She told him that she was going to put him in a senior care facility an hour away, and she would come get him in a week. My dad fought the idea, but eventually acquiesced.

After a few days, she visited him. He begged her to take him home. At this point, she had decided this would be his permanent arrangement. She told him in one way or another, “oh, you’re here for now,” or she avoided the topic all together: “I’ll be back next week.” My dad would try to speak as she left the room, “I want to go home,” and she would act like she hadn’t heard him. Finally, after a month of these shenanigans, she made it clear he wasn’t coming home. My dad stopped eating. He nearly starved to death. He was so dehydrated. His tongue was shriveled up, it was so dry. One of his arms was horribly swollen and scary looking. The facility rushed him to a hospital. The hospital staff said he would die within 48 hours.

At this point, it became apparent that we had to tell his dad and my dad’s siblings that my dad might die soon. They all rallied and came to visit him. To say their goodbyes. Because of the amazing medical care, my dad got better. His wife was so excited to see him drinking water. I sat there, seething at her, for having put him in this position. I had no clue what to do about any of it. But he was clearly getting horrendous care at this so called “senior care facility.” My dad drank water and drank water. He was so thirsty. He was released back to the senior care facility. His family came to visit him there. We all thought he would be okay. She thought that him drinking water was a healing. Because, of course it was. No mention of the IVs in his arm giving him fluids and sustenance over night and the medical nurse stationed at the doorway 24/7.

Within a month, my dad was on hospice. He’d made a few more trips to the Emergency Room for either pneumonia, dehydration or starvation. He had a very bad fall and cracked his head open. This required many stitches. I have since learned that when a person has a very bad fall, they may lose the ability to do basic things, like eating. It may not happen that same day, but within a few days, it may be clear that they don’t know how to eat. So people in a good care facility watch to see if someone who has had a fall, is still able to feed themselves. My dad forgot how to eat. No one noticed. He was living an hour away in a senior “care” home. His wife visited him once a weekend, for maybe a few hours at a time. The staff kept such horrendous records that they had no clue that he would go 3 days at a time with no food or water.

My dad was put on hospice. Hospice is actually a wonderful thing for people to be put on. It’s completely paid for by the state. There are no bills that come. Often, hospice buys the person a brand new bed. The bed is made to be as comfortable as possible. Nurses and doctors come and go and check on the person all day long. They read charts and administer pain killer including morphine. They listen to the patient and they will even play games with them. My dad made friends with his hospice nurses. My dad taught his hospice nurses to play Poker. The nurse looked at my dad, as he lay there, on the floor (to keep him from falling), and said, “he says I’m doing it wrong, don’t you?” And my dad smiled with his eyes. He had that happy glint in his eyes, the glint of laughter, even when he was on hospice care and had less than a week to live.

The previous summer, the doctor had given him a clean bill of health, saying he was going to live another 10 years. That was late one summer. By Christmas, my dad was in hospice and died before he saw the New Year.

Through it all, he always hoped to be healed through Christian Science. The last time he interacted with someone was with me. He was in pain, and on hospice treatment. I asked him, “do you want pain medication?” and he shook his head, “no.” I could see in his eyes that he was STILL hoping for a Christian Science Healing of the Parkinson’s Disease he had lived with for 25+ years. He was put on morphine the next morning. He was still a few years away from being 70, and he died.

After he died, I hit heavy grief. Of all the things that had happened to me through the course of my life as a Christian Scientist, this was the final straw that propelled me out of Christian Science completely. My kind, amazing, wonderful, sweet, friend-to-everyone, creative Dad died. His wife and I were talking about 1 month after he died. She was surprised that I was grieving his death. I seethed inside, that she had no pain about his death at all. She just went on with her life, glad to be done with the burden. She brags that she never shed a tear for either of her parents’ death, nor for my dad’s death. The woman is a stepford wife robot. She thinks she is loving and proclaims herself to be so. But all I see is cruelty.

In her surprise, she asked me why I was still grieving my dad’s death (only weeks later) and why was I so mad at Christian Science? I told her, “if ANYONE deserved a healing, it would have been my kind and amazing dad!” I choked out those words, I could hardly speak from the pain of it.

Her response?

She said, “Don’t you think if he had read more Christian Science literature that he would have been healed?”

Victim Blaming. That is clear victim blaming. You can read about Victim Blaming Here and more about it here. Christian Scientists are champions of victim blaming. If a person hasn’t received a healing through Christian Science Treatment, it’s their own fault for “not understanding it enough.” A Quaker Friend of mine who is also a doctor calls this, “the blame theory of disease,” so it’s not just a Christian Science thing.

To my dad:

You didn’t deserve any of this. You didn’t cause ANY of this. None of it was your fault. You were trampled by a horrible mom, then married two women who also trampled you horribly because you were denied therapy to help you understand your own pain growing up in such a horribly unsupportive home. You never deserved to be controlled or abused. If I had known then what I know now (after years of my own real psychotherapy to heal my own grief, anxiety, depression, ADHD), I would have turned your case over to a state agency. They would have inspected your home decades ago and taken you away from that abusive situation.

 

You cleaned up after me when I was a child. You were always kind to me. Above all, you taught me what kindness is, and through this example, I could see clearly what kindness isn’t. Thank you. I love you forever.

After my dad died, about 2 evenings later, I was watching the sunset, and thinking about my dad as I stood there, crying. I felt as if he came to me. I know some people will say I sound crazy, but I’m not the only person who has stories to share like this. If this was my imagination soothing me, so be it. It felt like my dad came to visit me. He was so excited. He was once again the happy man he was when he was between wives, and it was just the two of us living together. He was running around, with his healthy legs, and goofy grin. He was so excited to meet all these amazing historical people in the afterlife. He was talking with all of them and learning their stories. I feel strongly that my dad is now living the happy life he always wanted to – meeting interesting people, and listening to their fascinating stories. I feel like my dad is finally happy, eager, enjoying life. What he found too little of in this material life, I feel he has gained in the afterlife. I still miss him terribly, but I am glad to fervently feel that he is finally happy now.

Now, I’m off to call my dad’s dad and wish him a “Happy Father’s Day!” I am glad that he turned to medical care when he needed it. As a result, my kids have gotten to know him and he is still around to visit with and talk with. He is the last grandparent my kids have, and they love him so much.

Happy Father’s Day, Part 2: Living with Parkinson’s Disease

The following musings on Father’s Day are by ExCS Group Member and Contributor Chrystal. This is part 2 of 3, part 3 will be shared on Sunday, June 25, 2017.


My dad’s first wife was never ready to be a mom. After she potty trained me (her only child), she left. She has appeared a few times in my life over the last 40+ years, but she has been mostly missing my whole life. My dad and I lived in subsidized housing for years. Then, he met his second wife, who earned a respectable income as a teacher several states away. My dad and I moved. As a child, I felt like she threw away probably all of our possessions except maybe my dad’s typewriter, a lamp his brother had made him, and my dad’s bed. As far as I know, none of my possessions moved with us to this new location. Well, except my favorite stuffed animal, which was later stolen by my bio mom “to remember me by.” (I found it in her possession 10 years later, horribly dirty, ruined and mangled, having been carelessly treated.)

One of the weirdest things I have observed with Christian Science is the control of information. In a future blog, I will talk about severe neck pain I endured as an adult, and how I hid in my house, forbidding anyone to visit me, essentially. It’s a common thing in Christian Science to keep knowledge secret. If you don’t speak out loud what a problem is, then the problem won’t be made more real. So, for god’s sake, keep your mouth shut about anything important. If you tell someone something good, they will naturally feel jealous (what control Christian Scientists think they have over other people’s emotions!), and that makes them break The 10th Commandment, and that will bring “Malicious Animal Magnetism” to your good thing, so it will be destroyed. If you tell them something bad, they will not be able to help you at all, and you have just voiced that a seeming problem might exist, and by breathing words into it, it’s now completely real, and harder to heal.

Listening to Christian Scientists give their Wednesday evening “testimonies,” is quite interesting. They sound quite a lot like this –

“I had the supposed belief of what might have been a cold. [Note: no symptoms.] I prayed to feel God surrounding me. I felt God’s presence open up to me as I read ScienceAndHealthWithKeyToTheScripturesByOurBelovedLeaderMaryBakerEddy. I knew clearly this idea of a cold could never be a part of ME! Because I am God’s Perfect Child, I am made in God’s Pure Reflection. There is no spot where God is not. I knew I was fully healed in that moment. And then, several days later, the symptoms released completely. iAmSoGratefulForChristianScience.”

My dad’s second wife was one of the most controlling people I have ever met. One thing she controls with an iron fist is “information.” If she wanted to tell a secret in front of my dad, she would say it in a secret “language” that he couldn’t understand. It’s similar to Pig Latin, but it’s not Pig Latin. We could teach this stupid language to our friends. It’s supposed to just be a little secret code that kids talk to each other in. It shouldn’t be used to abuse someone by keeping information from them. This is one example of her sense to control. My dad and I could both write upside down, backwards in cursive. Guess what. She couldn’t read it. My dad and I would write little notes about Christmas surprises. Well, she couldn’t read it, so that was banned. But this ban didn’t keep her from using her secret language. She spoke it faster and faster over time, knowing my dad couldn’t understand it if she spoke as fast as she could go. My dad objected when she did this, but she steamrolled over him as if she was more important than he was. Her whole intention to do this sort of thing was to inform her kids of something and have my dad stay completely in the dark on the issue.

My dad’s wife wouldn’t let him use the bathroom in the house to pass a bowel movement. I wish I was exaggerating. I remember my dad running in to whatever place we had just driven to, to go use the bathroom. She said, “you make a mess at home, so you’re not allowed to use the bathroom.” My dad was forbidden to use the bathroom in his own home. Holding toxins in is a horrible thing to subject someone’s body too. Toxins are meant to be released, not held in. (He knew how to clean up the “it’s just matter!” Why not just ask him to clean up after himself?)

It is my feeling that this directly contributed to my dad contracting  Early Onset Parkinson’s Disease that probably started in his mid 40s. At first he tried to treat it with only Christian Science.  

After a few years of trying Christian Science – in earnest – my dad was getting worse. His wife mentioned to their practitioner, “his thumb is still trembling.” Her less than compassionate response was, “he is still dealing with that?” She was exasperated that HE hadn’t healed it yet. Yeah. That’s because Christian Science doesn’t heal. At all. Let alone the fact that as the Practitioner, it’s HER JOB to heal him. Because if HE could do it, he wouldn’t have called her in the first place!

My dad and his siblings were raised in Christian Science (and left it, thank goodness). Two of his siblings and their spouses called my parents when they learned he was struggling with Parkinson’s and that it was becoming worse and worse.

At this point, he was now realizing his all time worst fear – he was in a Christian Science Nursing home. He needed full time care. The disease he lived with every day, had become rapidly worse, thanks to having no medical intervention at all. My understanding is that with early medication, the disease could have been radically slowed. My dad went from a fully capable person running his own business, traveling, speaking on TV, being in the news a lot, reporting on important topics of the day, to, within 2 years, becoming incapable of brushing his teeth and needing to wear diapers. He couldn’t do anything on his own any more. Parkinson’s Disease completely ruined his life. I wouldn’t wish that on anyone. Especially not my loving, kind, caring dad, creative, incredibly smart and funny dad.

My dad’s siblings and their spouses strong-armed my dad and his wife to make my dad go the medical route. My dad was in his 40s and had young children who needed their dad, not an invalid in a nursing home. So, my dad went the medical route. Being a Christian Science family, this was hidden as best it could for a long long time. Over time, my dad’s body froze again, and the Christian Science Church they were long time members at eventually kicked him out of the two activities he loved to do – being a Sunday School Teacher and being an usher at the door.

Because my dad’s comic book collection had been thrown out decades earlier, and he had been raised by a fear-filled hoarder that had survived the Great Depression, my dad was also somewhat of a packrat. He was able to keep it organized until Parkinson’s hit him, though. You might think that someone living with Parkinson’s Disease would be treated kindly and supportively by their spouse. At least most of the time.

However, at one point, when my dad had been dealing with Parkinson’s for more than 10 years and had rare moments when he could see and move clearly and clean up after himself, his wife said to him: “after you die, we are throwing all of this away!” My dad told her, “that’s a really mean thing to say.” He rarely spoke up to her. He rarely griped about her. He was far too kind. He did sometimes tell me that she was just awful and overly mean. This breaks my heart. He never dreamed of leaving her, and out of some sort of weird obligation, or more likely, “look at me, I am such a good person I won’t leave him and will take care of him,” she never left him either. The next blog post will share how “well” she “took care of him.”

Eventually, my dad’s (second) Christian Science Teacher told him not to come back to Association. He was too “distracting.” My study of The Holy Bible says that Jesus called the woman To him. The woman who was bowing down – he called her TO HIM. He didn’t say, “go away, you’re a distraction.”

And He was teaching in one of the synagogues on the sabbath. And, behold, there was a woman who had a spirit of infirmity eighteen years, and was bowed together, and could in no way lift herself up. And when Jesus saw her, He called her to Him, and said unto her, Woman, thou art loosed from thine infirmity. And He laid His hands on her; and immediately she was made straight, and glorified God.

Luke 13: 10-13

My dad’s Christian Science Teacher did other horrible things, and one of these days I am sure I will get off my duff and write a letter to the Christian Science Board of Education and tell them what this clod did to my dad personally, and what inappropriate comments I heard him say in a Christian Science lecture all those years ago. I haven’t yet, but one of these days.

Chrystal’s Story – Becoming a Christian Science Practitioner

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. 


I found a Christian Science Teacher up in Canada and almost went through Class Instruction with him. He called me suddenly out of the blue. I had a mouth full of peanut butter, but I felt I should take the call, since it was my soon-to-be Teacher. We laughed together that I had a mouth full of peanut butter. He said he was being led not to teach Class any more, so I couldn’t go through Class with him that summer as I had planned. Time to continue searching for a Teacher…

Mary Baker Eddy wrote something about a net we must get through. I felt as if the net had been thrown, for sure, and I was supposed to ‘get through it’; rather than listen to the Universe shouting at me,“get out of that religion! Save yourself while you still can!” So, I marched on, trying to find another Teacher.

“Students who are ready for this step should beware the net that is craftily laid and cunningly concealed to prevent their advancement in this direction.” 
The First Church of Christ, Scientist and Miscellany by Mary Baker Eddy, p. 241.

 

I went to our annual trek to a Christian Science camp that summer; we had gone for two decades or more throughout my life; and I met a Teacher there. I went through Class with her the next year. On the first day of Class Instruction, my Teacher said to all of us in what was probably the second sentence out of her mouth on day one: “I have never had a class full of so many people having such animal magnetism to get through in order to be here.” I knew that I had jumped through hoops and all sorts of things in order to be there. But, it turned out that everyone else had too. Of course, all those road blocks and things I had to hurdle to get there, was probably The Universe telling me, “don’t do it!” And in Christian Science, I was taught, “kiss those crosses! Then you’ll get the crown!” I was just getting started with too many crosses to come.

The last day of Class Instruction (a two-week course taught so that people are able to become Christian Science Practitioners and they feel they can ‘heal any ailment’), my Teacher sat me down alone and told me I needed to “heal this emotionalism.” She told me I was too emotional. In Christian Science, we are allowed to feel joy, happiness, and gratitude. Nothing else, as far as I can tell, is acceptable. I grew up without words for my own emotions. I stifled my emotions to the best of my ability, and my emotions only grew stronger and stronger as a result, because they were squashed instead of identified and moved through. It is exhausting to constantly squash your own emotions and not have words to express how you’re feeling. The more you deny a human part of yourself like emotions, the more pronounced they become, and they are harder to stifle. I would have outbursts, cry for reasons I couldn’t identify, I felt like a failure and I beat myself up constantly for not “thinking only good thoughts from God.”

A few years after Class Instruction, I became a bona-fide Journal-isted Christian Science Practitioner. Then, I set my sights on becoming a Christian Science Teacher. The way things work in Christian Science, everything is completely secret. The only people who knew I had gone to Class Instruction were my step mom, my dad, and my husband. I didn’t even tell my kids. (Though they were very young anyway, one was out of diapers by then and the other was still in diapers.) Then, when I was working towards becoming a Journal-listed Practitioner, I didn’t tell anyone. I applied, and it took them 18 months to accept me. It was the weirdest thing. I think they lost my application, because when I hadn’t heard from them in 12 months and finally called them up to say, “how is my application proceeding?” They said, “oh, for getting re-listed in the Journal?” I said, “no, I was never listed yet.” That surprised them, then they proceeded on my application. It took another few months after that for my listing to appear. Another hoop for me to jump through? Another cross to kiss? Another message from ‘The Universe’ saying: “don’t do it!”?  Who knows.

When I went through the approval process, I was interviewed by someone; another Christian Science Teacher. At one point, she told me, “if a child case goes on for more than three days, be sure to give them the opportunity to go to a doctor if they want to. We don’t want any more deaths. Parents need to take care of their children.” I tried to prepare myself to tell people “go see a doctor” if need be. That was a hard thing to be prepared to do. (Going to a doctor is so completely opposite from what we learn in Christian Science, though more modern Christian Scientists may say the opposite to your face, but behind your back, they would nod in agreement with what I said.)

I had that come up a few times in my head–preparing myself to tell people to go to a doctor. I never did point anyone toward a doctor, but I came close a few times. (A Christian Science nurse at a local sanatorium suggested that my dad go to a doctor, and it made my step-mom angry–for years–that she would dare suggest such a thing.) Historically, there is a very strong vibe in the Christian Science legacy “we don’t go to doctors!” And it is such a strong viewpoint! Christian Scientists generally don’t immunize their kids. They may or may not go get a broken bone set They don’t take vitamins. They don’t even believe in germs! They call it ‘germ theory’. (Do YOU call it ‘germ theory’? Who outside of people from the 18th century calls it ‘germ theory’?) We are taught to definitely wash and stay clean. (Mary Baker Eddy even mentions that we should not even use flannel to heal. Flannel of all things. Christian Scientists interpret this to mean: ‘no material remedies’.) But that’s about it. No sanitizing if you fall down and get a cut. Even band-aids are frowned upon, as if even those are acknowledging that we have blood in our bodies. A snide comment is often made like, “this is just to cover it up so I won’t see it and believe that this cut is real.” One time, I actually heard a testimony at Wednesday evening service about a woman who overcame the suggestion to buy band-aids at the grocery store because that might suggest that she might get cut in the future, and she didn’t believe in getting cut accidentally. (Christian Scientists don’t believe in accidents, either: “Accidents are unknown to God.” Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures, p. 424.)

Meanwhile, I was seriously committed to my branch church. A Journal-listed Christian Science Practitioner can have no other job, no other source of income, and I had worked hard not to have any other employment (I had quit a few home-based businesses that did bring in reliable income). I never made any money as a Practitioner. In fact, I lost money. I bought a computer so I could have Concord (a computer program that is a concordance to The Bible, and other books by Mary Baker Eddy, and the Christian Science Hymnal) installed on it. Concord is expensive. Computers are expensive. I paid money to fly every year for my Association, hotels, meals, and extra days in the hotel because unlike most Teachers who have Association in one day and students can fly in and out on the same day, my Teacher had it span three whole days. It starts Friday night and ends Sunday afternoon. I bought at least two new sets of very expensive Lesson Books (one was the new vivella set that I really loved), and I subscribed to ALL of the periodicals, and the full text Quarterly, and I had subscriptions to CSMonitor.com, eBibleLesson.com, and myBibleLesson.com. Things add up. I believe that the membership’s wallets are one of the reasons the church stays in business. Did you know that each Board of Directors Member makes $200,000/year now? They come up with endless things for members to spend money on, and as a Practitioner, I felt obligated to buy everything. My husband’s salary paid for everything. I sure as hell didn’t make any money from people who would call me at all hours and never pay the bill. I had three or four patients who did reliably pay their bills to me. Other than that, it was like pulling teeth, and I was supposed to be gracious about their non-payment.

I had so many people badger me about why they shouldn’t need to pay someone for prayer. And I didn’t feel at liberty to enlighten them and say, “I’m not allowed to have any other job, don’t you want me to be able to give food to my family and have a roof over my head? Don’t you value the work I do for you?” I did witness what I thought were healings at the time. I don’t feel like I had any serious cases come to me. I had a bronchitis case, and a first degree burn case, and I had some other dog cases.

I had one person call me a lot who clearly had mental issues, but she wasn’t calling me as a Practitioner. She called me to help her because I was a church member who was home all the time and we lived near each other. She wanted me to drive her to a Christian Science nursing home that takes care of mental patients, several states away. I would have done it, too, and done her laundry and cleaned her house and taken care of her pets, but she was so nasty and refused to pay me anything, so even though I would stand in her bedroom, I was paying as little mental attention to her as possible. She did have another Practitioner working for her also, and would jerk me around telling me to pray for her, stop praying for her, no pray again, STOP praying…it was exhausting so I just didn’t pray for her any more anyway, and just wanted to help her pack her clothes so we could take her to the mental wing at a Christian Science Sanatorium. She got quite upset at me when I stopped letting her jerk me around anymore, and she finally dismissed me. I didn’t need to be abused by church members who weren’t even paying me.

I had another patient who called me every 20 minutes around the clock, with a four hour window in the middle of the night when she wouldn’t call. She would never tell me her last name or where she lived. I had a baby boy who also didn’t sleep through the night, and this woman was abusing me and refusing to let me even bill her. I finally dismissed her and blocked her calls. It took me a long time to stop feeling guilty for blocking her calls, but it was abuse, and I couldn’t take it and be a good mom. So, I chose to be a good mom.

One of my cases was maybe a sprained ankle, and I had cases for a cold or other small things. I never got cases where someone was “on the verge of dying and needed a radical healing right now!” I did have one elderly man come to me for prayer, and I think he has a strong fighting spirit now too. It’s been a number of years since I was a praying Journal listed practitioner, but he is now bed-ridden. I don’t think he ever had a healing while I worked for him. But his wife paid me dutifully, and she and I had worked together with their insurance company to get her reimbursed for paying me. That was interesting. The insurance policy covered it, but no one knew how to mark it in a code. Christian Science Practitioners don’t have billing codes. It took maybe 18 months of back and forth with the insurance company to get her reimbursed for a bill that was less than $200.

Elizabeth’s Story: Everything is always in its right place

This is Part of Elizabeth’s story about ‘Believing Christian Science’.


It’s 1993, and I’m nineteen years old. I am a Christian Scientist–something that is very important to me. I live with my family, and I’m driving to my college class. I am looking at the road ahead of me, and the familiar traffic light is green, which it never is, and I’m pleasantly surprised but sure it will turn red before I get to it. For some reason there is plenty of time today; I’m at the intersection and it’s just turned yellow. I maintain my speed just under the limit of 50 mph. I’m not wearing my seat belt.

Everything is always in its right place.

I see the black car then. It had been stopped at the intersection, but it starts to turn in front of me. “Why is he turning, what is he doing?” I stomp on the brakes but this won’t happen, I will not be in a car accident, God will stop this, and I scream “ahhhhhhhOOH” as I’m thrown forward and my head cracks the windshield, but I don’t even realize what has happened to me until afterwards, at that instant, all I know is impact, a jerk, a smack!

When I wake I look in the rearview mirror and see my forehead growing visibly, all purply-blue and rounded like a china doll’s forehead, with one scary wet reddish mark in the middle, off-center to the left. My vision is affected, trails stream behind everything I look at. Now I am aware that my knees hurt. My ribs hurt. It feels like my body is coming back to life from somewhere far away. Continue reading “Elizabeth’s Story: Everything is always in its right place”

Are Christian Scientists free to choose medical care or not?

By Bruce, an Ex-Christian Scientist group writer.

A number of child death cases in the 1980s and 90s involving Christian Scientists, exposed The Mother Church, Christian Science practitioners, and Christian Science nurses to the potential of criminal and/or civil liability for the deaths of children under their care and/or treatment. The Church subsequently published a policy to make it clear that it is an individual member’s decision whether to use medical treatment:

It’s up to each person who practices Christian Science to choose the form of health care he or she wants.1

This policy is frequently repeated by the Church’s Committees on Publication (media relations contacts) in columns, blogs, and editorials. Indeed, The New York Times reported in 2010 that, “Christian Science leaders have recently found a new tolerance for medical care. For more than a year, leaders say, they have been encouraging members to see a physician if they feel it is necessary.”2

Free to choose, or forced to ‘radically rely’?

This represents a dramatic change from the ‘radical-reliance’* culture I and many others were raised in–a culture that strongly discouraged any mixing of medicine with Christian Science. But unfortunately, this new policy is not always honored in practice. Most Christian Science institutions—including schools, summer camps, and nursing facilities—discourage, limit, or prohibit medical treatment.

For example, nowhere does Principia College (a school for Christian Scientists) have a policy acknowledging an individual’s right to choose the form of health care they want. In fact, Principia is explicit that:

Members of the faculty, staff, and student body will be expected to rely on Christian Science for healing” (Policy 4).3

However, they make a ‘compassionate’ exception for short-term use of medicine:

In certain circumstances, temporary use of doctor-prescribed medicine is compassionately regarded (see Science and Health, p. 444: 7-10). Under such circumstances, the college will try to find a way to help a student complete as much of the current term’s academic work as possible . . .4

Principia’s compassion has its limits, however:

Students who rely on medicine beyond one semester will be asked to temporarily withdraw until such usage is discontinued. A withdrawal is not a suspension and does not negatively affect the student’s record.5

So, Principia will show a student the door if they employ medical treatment beyond one semester. They are quick to add however, that such action is not a ‘suspension’ (i.e., not disciplinary), although it probably feels like it for the student who is forced to leave.

And how about faculty and staff? Let’s say a middle-aged professor chooses to seek medical care for a health issue they have struggled with unsuccessfully using Christian Science. If they require medication long-term, is their situation ‘compassionately regarded’? Or, will they lose their job?

Christian Science nursing facilities are even less flexible than Principia. The Commission for Accreditation of Christian Science Nursing Organizations/Facilities is adamant that medical treatment of any kind is not to be allowed:

Patients in Christian Science nursing facilities have chosen to rely on prayer for healing while receiving practical, physical care from Christian Science nurses, without the use of medicine, medical techniques, therapy, or procedures.6

Their policy requires a patient to have made the choice to rely exclusively on prayer when being admitted to a facility. But what if a patient changes her choice sometime after being admitted? Is it okay to take pain medication if pain becomes unbearable? Their answer is “no”, and consequently, many elderly Christian Scientists die in great pain in Christian Science nursing facilities—notwithstanding the fact that Mary Baker Eddy made provision for medical relief from extreme pain in Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures (p. 464).

When my mother was in pain at a Christian Science nursing facility, we were put into the bizarre position of having to smuggle pills to her. Some days later, she called me in tears–imploring me to transfer her to a medical hospice. I was able to arrange the move, where she later died under compassionate palliative care.

My mother made a choice to change the form of health care she wanted. But, she was in full possession of her mental faculties. What about patients who suffer from dementia, don’t realize they can choose to leave, or are dissuaded by an assertive Christian Science practitioner; or are children and cannot choose for themselves?

In 1993, the Church severed its official ties with Christian Science nursing facilities, which are now organizationally independent, and independently accredited. Principia has also always asserted that it is ‘unaffiliated’ with The First Church of Christ, Scientist. However, there is little doubt that the Christian Science Board of Directors could ask these institutions to fully implement its policy on this issue and they would comply.

To come into compliance, Principia would need to change its policy to make it clear that a student is free to choose the form of health care they want, and if it is medical care they will be allowed to complete their studies and graduate. Christian Science nursing facilities can comply by informing incoming patients in writing of their right to choose to move to a medical facility at any time, with no questions asked and no explanation needed.

Until such changes are made at these various Christian Science-affiliated institutions, the Church cannot honestly claim that Christian Scientists are completely free to choose the form of health care they want. The cultural and peer pressure to rely only on Christian Science for health care is extremely strong. The freedom exists on paper, but not so much in practice.


Notes:

* This term arises from this statement from Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures: “Only through radical reliance on Truth can scientific healing power be realized.” (p. 167).

Footnotes:

1What is Christian Science? [Relationship with Western Medicine].” Christian Science. The Christian Science Board of Directors. n.d. Web. 24 Jan. 2016.

2 Vitello, Paul. “Christian Science Church Seeks Truce With Modern Medicine.” New York Times. 23 Mar. 2010. Web. 24 Jan. 2016.

3Purpose and Policies.” The Principia. The Principia. 22 Oct. 1944 (Modified: 30 Nov. 1962, and 26 Oct. 1983). Web. 24 Jan. 2016.

4Spiritual Reliance.” Principia College (2015 – 2016 Catalog). The Principia. n.d. Web. 25 Jan. 2016.

5 Ibid.

6Christian Science Nursing is spiritually based healthcare.” The Commission. The Commission for Accreditation of Christian Science Nursing Organizations/Facilities, Inc. n.d. Web. 24 Jan. 2016.

Christian Scientists are ignorant about sickness and its development.

The following is a collection of contributions from members of the Ex-Christian Science collective about how illness and death are ‘handled’ in Christian Science.

Christian Scientists are ignorant about sickness and its development. They have no idea how to interpret their symptoms and instead of getting medical advice they blame themselves for creating the problem with their incorrect thinking.

– Anonymous


This is the dark side of all mentalities that insist on seeking alternatives to basic medical care: it’s all well and good when you’re young and healthy, but eventually you get old or have health problems and end up suffering horribly.

– Hilary


Growing up, our family went to the orthodontist and dentist regularly, but we weren’t allowed to use Novocaine and I suffered through several fillings without it. We also went to the eye doctor to have eye exams and wore glasses, but never had vaccinations or went to the doctor for life-threatening illnesses. It really doesn’t make any sense, but a brainwashed Christian Scientist doesn’t see it that way.

– Anonymous



I lost both my parents relatively early in life to very treatable illnesses, and my oldest sisters who are both devout Christian Scientists have had a tough go of it. One had breast cancer and the other had colon cancer, and I don’t think The Mother Church will let her be a Practitioner now, so it is the end of her life-long dream. They both waited until they were on death’s door before seeking medical treatment at the urging of their children. After receiving medical treatment they both said later that they felt bad that they just did not continue to pray, and said that they felt pressured to seek medical help. I think I am resigning myself to watch them die messy deaths before their time, just like my parents.

– Anonymous


I will never understand how it is that when someone loses a loved one under Christian Science care, especially a child, it doesn’t occur to them that in 99% of the cases the individual would have survived with medical care. I have several friends who are examples of this. In my mind, it is what makes Christian Science a cult.

– Stacey


When I was 22, a hernia provided a very difficult challenge for me. Being a third generation Christian Scientist, I went to a practitioner. In those days, before long distance healing, I went to his office once a week and listened, and was told to have no fear. He kept telling me I was healed and not to be afraid. I resumed activities.

The hernia strangulated while I was at work, and I went into the hospital as an emergency case. It was quite an experience. I learned how to take a pill for the first time and a lot of other good things. Thinking about it now, I don’t remember hearing of many, if any, hernia healings. Do you?

– Anonymous

1989 Measles at Principia Upper School: Elizabeth’s Story

The following is by Elizabeth, an Ex-Christian Scientist Group contributor, and was originally published as a guest post at Kindism.org on February 1, 2015. It is reprinted with permission, and has been slightly modified for The Ex-Christian Scientist.


Did Principia hide conditions from authorities during the fall 1989 Upper School measles outbreak? What were your experiences with Christian Science nursing while at Prin during the measles outbreak? How did they diagnose it, since they’re trained to see disease and contagion as unreal?


This measles epidemic hit at the beginning of my first year at Principia Upper School, in fall of 1989.  I was fifteen, and it was the first time I had attended a boarding school or been away from my family. The student population was almost entirely unvaccinated due to Christian Science beliefs. The first quarter, I was paired with another sophomore named A___. She was a most unusual combination of kind, unconcerned with appearances, and popular. And she was totally into Christian Science, or appeared to be on the outside. A tranquil understanding of the philosophy, is how I would describe it, although it sounds strange to say it that way now as ex-Christian Scientist, but that is how I remember perceiving her. A___ tells me, “I’m not going to get sick, you’re not going to get sick.” That kind of worked, and I remember thinking, “ok, of course we’re not going to get sick.”

Then one Sunday after church, A___ laid down and didn’t get back up. She just laid there with her eyes closed, skin blotching up, listening to Christian Science tapes. I was scared. Still, nobody said anything, but frequently housemoms–the women employed by Principia to live in the dorms with us, one per wing, and act as our guardians, would walk by and look in the door at A___ without comment to either of us. Eventually a housemom came and took A___ away. The dorm got really quiet. Lots of kids came down with it the same weekend that A___ did. I’m happy to presume I felt this way for my own reasons, but I definitely felt that I was expected not to get it, in the same way I would be expected not to sneak off campus or expected not to skip my homework.

The housemoms never said ‘measles’, only the kids spoke of it: “some kids have measles”, “this one has it now”, or “so and so’s roommate was gone when she came back from practice.” But no one in the administration talked about it. They would just tell you reassuringly that they were “taking good care of” your roommate (anyone who got spots disappeared shortly thereafter). The housemoms did not say anything about your symptoms, they would just appear at your bedside after you’d been down for the count for a few hours to a day, and they’d say, “Come with me, honey. Is there anything you want to bring?” There was no communication from the administration otherwise. Continue reading “1989 Measles at Principia Upper School: Elizabeth’s Story”

My eyesight was on the line!

By Jenny, an Ex-Christian Scientist Group Contributor.

When I was in my final year at Principia College, I developed some kind of eye infection. I went to the emergency room secretly, but was still somehow found out by a Christian Science nurse who interrogated me about why I was there. When I refused to tell her, she called my house mom and the dean of students. They each spent an hour or so interrogating me, trying to get me to tell them why I was at the hospital.

The crux of the issue for them was not my well-being or health or whether my eye problem was contagious, but whether I had been given a prescription. They told me that if I didn’t tell them they would have to make me move to Cox Cottage or possibly kick me out. I told them it was my body, my choice, and that I felt it was confidential.

We eventually reached a truce when I told them that if it would make them feel better I would be more than happy to lie to them and tell them that I was not taking a prescription. It was one of the single weirdest experiences of my life. My eyesight was on the line! What would have happened if I had been less sure of my decision or more concerned about public perception or what my parents would say if I was asked to leave?

I am grateful for her kindness and pragmatism.

By Stacey, an Ex-Christian Scientist Group contributor.

My mom calls a Christian Science practitioner daily. She serves as my mother’s therapist. Fortunately, the CSP is a woman of reason and has encouraged my mom to not be so upset by this or that.

My mom has never met this woman, as she lives several states away. Of course, my mom credits every medically treated recovery her non-Christian Scientist family has—and that is everyone in the family—to her practitioner’s ‘work’! We don’t argue with her. Since the CSP serves more as a therapist/friend and is a very practical person, she is willing to help my mom no matter what the situation.

My mom was in the hospital a couple of years ago and in the ICU for the first few days. We didn’t think she was going to make it, but the treatment she was getting in the ICU pulled her through. When she was moved to a regular room in the hospital and able to think more clearly, she called her practitioner who supported her by praying for mankind, not for my mom specifically. My mom considers her recovery from this very serious issue a Christian Science healing and gives credit to the practitioner.

I don’t think her practitioner would ever admit to helping a patient who is on meds. My sister and I called the CSP at one point to let her know that my mom vitally needed her daily meds and to encourage my mom not to give them up. We believe that the practitioner did do this at our request. She probably didn’t know our mom was on meds until we told her. I am grateful for her kindness and pragmatism.