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.

If I would only know the Truth about my sight, I would not need glasses

By Tessa, an Ex-Christian Scientist Group Contributor. Tessa is a pseudonym, to ensure anonymity.

 

I guess the first and possibly the biggest way that Christian Science negatively affected my life was that I was born nearsighted, and because we never saw a doctor, no one acknowledged this until I was about ten. A teacher saw me squinting and asked me if I needed glasses. I said no, that it was the light coming from the window. She moved me around the classroom, and I blamed the board, the colour of the chalk, everything. Finally, she told me to go to the nurse and I told her I wasn’t allowed.

The teacher must have called my parents, because my mother immediately got our practitioner on the phone. This began about three years of me being told that if I would only know the Truth about my sight, I would not need glasses. There were many phone calls with the practitioner, even lengthy typed letters that I would skim and hide in the garbage when my mother wasn’t around. I remember distinctly how angry I felt reading the letters or listening to her soft voice droning on the phone. I did not want to work at a healing, I just wanted to have glasses so I could see. I knew in my very soul that prayer did not work for me and desperately wished I could get this point across to my relentlessly CS parents.

The other day, I came across a journal entry from when I was fourteen years old. In it, I wrote that after much begging my parents were going to let me get glasses. It had been a decade of blurred vision and headaches before they agreed. I had spent my life to that point afraid to look up, embarrassed to not recognize someone calling my name. I fell behind in certain subjects where the writing on the board was key to successful grades (math and science, for instance). Worse, there were things I was excellent at that I had to give up because of it. I was told by the music teacher that I had an excellent ear and played violin very well. She made me first violin in the orchestra. The problem was that I couldn’t see the music, and it wasn’t long before I fell behind and dropped out. I was a very good actress, but I couldn’t see the Director or follow cues or any of the things one would need to function properly on stage. To everyone’s dismay, I dropped out of acting as well.

I’d developed a complex in which I would start things, but not finish them because I was so sure of failure. I understand that adversity can push a person to greater heights. I wish I could say that that was the case with me, but it was not. My huge lack of coping skills led to very low self-esteem. I felt invisible and lived constantly in a fantasy world of my own instead of reaching out to the world around me. Long after I had left Christian Science behind, I began to realize that I never reached for the stars growing up because I could not see, so I was too afraid. I am still working on changing that.

Christian Science is a culture deeply tied to shame, denial, and secrets.

The following is a collection of contributions from members of the Ex-Christian Scientist collective about the impact Christian Science has had on relationships.


Not quite twenty years ago, my marriage ended. He and I were both devout Christian Scientists. We were very involved in the Principia community, and our kids were at Prin College and Upper School. My then-husband had a very bad temper, and eventually I summoned all my courage and went to the local woman’s shelter for guidance and help. I felt like such a scofflaw for relying on outside help, but I was losing my mind. God bless that shelter and all its angels. I learned so much, and it was such a blessing, and that was the first crack in the Christian Science armor, when I learned that it’s okay to be a human being.

One day, a woman friend called to ask why I hadn’t been in church. She’d been a good friend, and her husband was well-loved at Prin. It seemed right to lay my soul bare, so I told her the truth: I told her that my husband was abusive. My friend went silent. I thought she’d hung up on me. After a moment, she said, “My husband is just like yours.” Two more times, I confided in women friends with Prin-employed husbands, and both times, they hung their heads and said, “My husband is also abusive.”

– Anne


Christian Science’s teachings can create the perfect breeding ground for abuse of all kinds, because the Christian Science way of thinking, if there is someone abusive in the home, is that the abuser’s behavior is the victim’s responsibility to ‘un-see’. This is a completely wrong and unproductive guilt created by Christian Science dogma on top of the abuse by the spouse or parent.

Abuse and dysfunction in the home is definitely not unique to Christian Science; it can happen in any family, group or culture. But Christian Science is a culture deeply tied to shame, denial, and secrets. This applies to health, sexuality, mental health, emotions— everything. We are strong for having survived, for moving forward, and for breaking the cycle.

– Abigail


A dedicated Christian Scientist doesn’t need an outside influence in order to feel guilty about not having a healing quickly or about resorting to ‘materia medica.’ We are programmed to feel that way from the time we enter Sunday School, if not before. Christian Science is never to blame, it is always the individual’s lack of understanding.

– Stacey

Lucy’s Story

PLEASE NOTE: The following post contains content that may make some readers uncomfortable. 

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


My husband and I both grew up in Christian Science families. We first met at Principia Upper School and then attended Prin college together. He has always been more spiritual and I’ve always been more practical, so when both of his parents died early from treatable diseases he really dug into Christian Science as a way to try and find healing from his grief, which he didn’t think he was supposed to feel. But at some point, probably a few years ago, I began to realize that as much as I really wanted it to be true and work it made NO sense to me. I began to get into science… you know, actual science!

Continue reading “Lucy’s Story”

Rachel’s Story

PLEASE NOTE: The following post contains content that may make some readers uncomfortable. 

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


I was a fifth generation Christian Scientist. Having grown up in a family involved with Christian Science for multiple generations, I can see patterns now, passed down through family stories; patterns from the very first family members to join Christian Science. The things that happened to me in my childhood were probably going to happen to me regardless. But the incidents would not have been handled in the manner that they were if not for the fact that our family were Christian Scientists.

I was sick so much as a kid with diseases I was not vaccinated against. I had every kind of measles that you can have, and the mumps. The ear infections were horrible and one of my most prominent memories of childhood. I don’t think my mom knew what an ear infection was. My dad did insist that I have the polio vaccine—I’m so grateful for that. And no one ever made me feel guilty for being sick, or berated me. Christian Science taught me how to do that all by myself. Continue reading “Rachel’s Story”

My mother did not tell me about menstruation.

The following is a collection of contributions from members of the Ex-Christian Scientist collective about menstruation.

My mother did not tell me about menstruation. She seemed incredibly embarrassed by the whole thing, which could have just been generational. The thing was, they did teach the girls about menstruation in public school. They taught them all about the body, but they taught it in health class AND I WAS NOT ALLOWED TO ATTEND.

One day, I was playing with a girlfriend from school when she started talking about periods. I couldn’t believe that what she was telling me was true; it was too shocking to be believable and I said she was lying. I suddenly found myself being dragged by the arm into my parents’ bathroom, where she opened the cupboard under the sink and pulled out a big blue box of Kotex pads. In those days, there was nothing on the box to illustrate the connection between the thick white pad and its use, but I had to agree that it might be possible. Soon other girls’ stories at school caught my ear, and after somehow finding and reading a health pamphlet, I had to admit it was true.

There was no way I could ask my mother about it. Some girls told horror stories, things like waking up at a sleepover drenched in blood. By this point, I was terrified and started to pray to know the Truth that I was God’s perfect child and no harm could come to me. I decided that a period was Error and I could beat it through prayerful work, so I prayed desperately night and day for me to escape this fate. Big thanks to Mum and Mary Baker Eddy for causing me years of teenage fear and distress on this one.

– Tessa



I suffered through hundreds of hours of menstrual cramps throughout my life. I can’t count the days of school and work that I missed due to extreme pain. When I was teaching at a school where all the staff were Christian Scientists, I went to the Assistant Headmistress to tell her I needed to go home since I was in pain. She told me that the best way to get rid of cramps was to have a baby. Lordy, Lordy, Lordy! I was stunned when I made the eventual discovery that taking medication gave me immediate relief.

When the subject of her children no longer following Christian Science comes up, my mother tells the story of my wonderful healing of cramps after calling the practitioner. Of course, the ‘healing’ came hours later, and only lasted for a few weeks before returning….

– Stacey

We went to the park

By an anonymous Ex-Christian Scientist Group contributor.

I was chatting with a woman in line at the bakery this morning. She got her grandson a sticky roll and hot chocolate and was expecting him to behave in church. I got my children something similar, and we went to a nearby park.

I sat and watched the kids play, occasionally coming back to check in with me, and to eat a few more bites of their pastries. When they tired of climbing, swinging and sliding, we went for a walk along the trails through the protected nature area adjacent the play area.

As we walked, I thought back to the little boy and his grandmother who were heading off to church. I remembered all the Sundays growing up, where I had wanted to sleep in, but instead we were hurried off to church, a twenty minute drive, and we often had to get there early so my parents could usher, or my mother could mind the childcare room.

Almost every Sunday from birth until I turned 20 (the magical age we were ‘allowed’ to attend with the main congregation), I was at church, either in the childcare room (until I turned three or four), and then in Sunday School. I did slack off a bit on Sunday School attendance when I was at Principia, but in my defense, being at Prin was like always being at Sunday School.

Christian Science was all around us, selected readings at house meetings, inspirational post-its on the bathroom mirrors, roommates who read the lesson, friends who attended the Christian Science Org. meetings on Tuesday mornings, and professors, practitioners, and lecturers who gave talks in the evenings about how Christian Science inspired them. Attendance, while optional, was recommended, and your absence was often commented upon.

Some days I liked Sunday School. It was one of the few places I could be ‘normal’. No one looked at me because I was weird for not visiting a doctor, or because I decided not to drink, experiment with drugs, or have premarital sex. I was free to talk about my understanding of God and Ms. Eddy’s seven synonyms and how they could apply to my life without being looked at like I was a freak.

Some days this felt more sincere than others, some days I felt I believed it, and some days I felt like I was parroting the party line, memorizing and regurgitating information. I had a lot of questions for my Sunday School teachers, I was eager to learn more, I wanted to know how Christian Science worked, I wanted answers.

I spent a fair bit of time ‘chatting’ with the Sunday School Superintendent (that sounds much more official than it was) about how I was ‘interfering’ with others’ spiritual growth and my questions were ‘not appropriate’. Sunday School teachers tried to put me off, by telling me I’d have to wait and take Class Instruction and all would be revealed, but I never made it that far as I was never ‘led to the right teacher’.

The best part were the Thanksgiving Day services. We all got to sit in the main auditorium; everyone, even the little kids (little kids being about six and up, the childcare was usually quite full those days). We would read the President’s Thanksgiving Proclamation which always included something about pilgrims, and then the most random people would stand up and talk at length until the reader had to say “THANK YOU” in a super firm tone and an usher had to come take away the microphone. It was like the Oscars of Christian Science testimonies.

When I made the non-optional transition to church at the age of 20, I hated it. There was no time for discussion, or questioning. You sit and are read the same lesson you have (theoretically) been reading all week. Christian Science church services are not fun, they fail at being interesting, they don’t engage the audience, and they’re tedious.

To the consternation of my mother, my children are not going to experience any of these things. As an adult, I do plenty of things I dislike that I have to do. Church attendance is not one of them, and forcing my children to attend Sunday School isn’t either.

She was considered barely manageable because she occasionally asked questions

By an anonymous Ex-Christian Scientist Group contributor.

There was only one other occasional Christian Scientist kid who came to my church, a girl called Sean. Sean was unpopular amongst the old ladies who taught Sunday School as she was considered barely manageable. This was because she occasionally asked questions and preferred to talk about what she had seen on TV and which pop stars she liked instead of listening to them.

One day, one of the old ladies in the main service had a heart attack, and Sean and I were whisked outside so quickly our feet barely touched the ground, where we were made to sit on a wall by the entrance to the church. Our parents and the Sunday school leaders were abjectly horrified that we would see the ambulance that they had called, or the ambulance men ‘doing things’, and wanted us out of the way.

We saw the paramedics arrive and take one of those heart electrocution things inside with a stretcher. Sean didn’t know what it was, but I was proud of myself that I could tell her as I had seen it on TV. She seemed very interested that such a thing existed. I concurred that it was extremely cool all the things that medicine on TV dramas could do, especially as Christian Science didn’t appear to be able to do anything, evidenced by the fact that one of their number appeared to have actually died during a service and none of their colleagues could think of doing anything other than calling the emergency services.

We were then rushed back inside and quarantined back in the Sunday School room. This is because the medics were going to carry Mrs. X out and we were to be saved the traumatic sight of human beings giving another human being basic care. Mrs. X’s fate was never alluded to, or her identity. Other than by trying to work out who it had been like a game of geriatric ‘Guess Who,’ the following week we were never to know. Was she in a better place? I suspected in my heart of hearts that if she never had to go back to that awful stultifying church again, she probably was.

But it was obvious it had scared all the adults badly, and none of them appeared to be getting any comfort from their beliefs.

I just believed what they told me. Because I was a kid!

By an anonymous Ex-Christian Scientist Group contributor.

The Christian Scientists I grew up around all pretty much disappeared the moment my mother drowned in her own bed of a mysterious lung condition after a long period of radical reliance. I can’t say I ever really missed them, though a ‘sorry’ would have been nice.

Some of the people from her church came to the funeral. They avoided me for as much of it as they could, and left as soon as it finished. I never saw or heard from any of them ever again, despite the fact I had known all of them for years, I was a teenager, and they all knew I was then left on my own.

I had tried to stage a sort of adolescent intervention in my mother’s Christian Science treatment. Her best friend was also a Christian Science practitioner, and a fairly big lifelong contributor towards my mother’s reliance on ‘Science’. My mother looked on her as a sort of contemporary Mary Baker Eddy. Of some indeterminate late age, she was a bustling dynamo of a woman who arrived in the middle of a situation, then strode around setting everyone straight and bullying them into ‘Divine Mind’ for their own good. The idea of criticising this woman was almost tantamount to blasphemy, so I was surprised that I would be granted an audience about the issue with my mother present. I stupidly thought it was because we were actually going to talk about my mother’s failing health and devise a plan for managing it.

This meeting with them—where I wanted it to be agreed that she needed to see a doctor—dawned, and I went down from my bedroom with suddenly sweating palms and hammering heart, and this woman just ran rings around me and made me feel about two inches tall. She turned all my carefully planned arguments back at me and by the end of it I wasn’t even sure if the sky was blue and grass green. To cap it off, it was implied that the lack of a healing might be due to my negative thinking. Actually to really cap it off, she finished up with explaining that our family’s poverty was down to my laziness in not applying Christian Science better and that I was now ‘in charge of the finances’ and that she expected to see results from me because it was unfair that my mother had to deal with a physical healing and a situational one while I did nothing. I left meekly agreeing that I would and feeling terrible at my own selfishness. For every day after that until my mother’s death, I felt our poverty and her ill health was my fault. I was thirteen.

I sometimes wonder what I would say to her, or them, now. I would like to give them a piece of my mind, to be honest. I had an absolutely horrible time growing up in Christian Science, and none of it was my fault. I just believed what they told me. Because I was a kid!

There was another group of friends that that my mother had made comparatively very recently through an evening class, who all turned out to the funeral and the wake and all showered me with offers of help if I needed. It was actually the first time I began to understand that people who weren’t in Christian Science were generally a lot nicer and more human than people who were.

I felt I had no right to mourn because my father had just ‘passed away’

By an anonymous Ex-Christian Scientist Group Contributor.

 

A year ago I started an Master in Fine Arts program in creative writing. I’d left Christian Science officially two years before. My first workshopped article was a piece I had written on all the wonderful strangers who had helped me with car trouble. The piece was meant to be inspirational and uplifting. It had a very happy ending. I did mention in the piece that my father had died and I felt lost when it came to taking care of my car because he had been a mechanic and always looked out for me in this way. I was twenty-five when he died a grisly death of untreated colon cancer under Christian Science care.

When I was having my piece workshopped the teacher asked me why I felt it was necessary to have a happy ending. He told me I was completely wrapped up in magical thinking and that I needed to dig deeper in order to have a story and not a string of anecdotes. Essentially he told me my whole life was an anecdote and not a story. I was shattered. I told him there was no point in not having a happy ending. Who would want to hear or read about things that aren’t resolved in a harmonious way?

Then he told me that although the appearance of my story was happy, it was clear to him that underneath I was suffering greatly from unresolved grief due to my father’s death. My father’s death was three decades past, which added to my shock about this teacher’s statement. It was a very uncomfortable discussion for me because I had shut Dad off after he died, always believing I had no right to mourn because my father had just ‘passed away’ and nothing had really happened to him, according to my religion. I have since written a chapter about my fathers death, and the writing was therapy for me. The guy was correct; I was—perhaps still am—a mess.

I left the session in internal chaos, realizing I had nothing to write about because I had always been taught by Christian Science that my life should be treated like a testimony at church, with the final words being: “I am so grateful for Christian Science.” Over the next few days I realized I needed to look completely differently at my past, to revisit these experiences I had shut away and put aside with Christian Science. The whole conversation was a revelation. Now I see that everything about Christian Science is anecdotal, and there is a big difference between anecdotes and stories.

My thesis has ended up being about my journey away from Christian Science, and through writing it I am discovering truths about myself, my upbringing, and the difference between what I think now and how I thought when I was a gung-ho Christian Scientist.

I don’t believe I knew just what I thought about all that until I wrote it down. Writing is therapy. It really helps