The following has been submitted by “Anonymous Guy in Ohio.”
In general, I was a very healthy child growing up in our Christian Science household, so many of the intricacies about CS’s distaste for modern medicine avoided my awareness. Never had a broken bone. No allergies. Outside of a few severe seasonal colds, I never missed school.
My parents skirted around CS expectations in a curious manner…I got the mandatory vaccinations for school, I went to the dentist regularly–including getting fillings when needed (?) but everything else was off the table.
I very much liked Christian Science growing up. I remember being disappointed as a kid to find out that it was a lay ministry, meaning that leading services wasn’t a full time job. If they would have had priests or ministers, I probably would have considered that as a career path.
I don’t know why, but in my youth I was highly susceptible to testicle torsion. This is essentially when your testicle twists backwards and circulation is cut off. Very common sports injury. Some, like me, just seem to have a predisposition for it–like some people having “bad knees”, I guess.
It starts off innocently enough. A feeling like your leg is falling asleep, except it’s high up in your groin…usually I would go for a short walk, nature would take its course, it would untwist itself, and I wouldn’t think anything of it.
Then one day shortly before my fourteenth birthday, it happened again–and this time it didn’t turn back. This is the WORST. Nausea sets in as the most sensitive part of the male body starts dying. Worst pain you’ll ever feel. If I think about it hard enough, even 25 years later, I get nauseous all over again.
After vomiting for an hour, my mom said that I needed to “get back to God” and start praying. (I was a mouthy 13 year old–aren’t we all?!)
Several hours later it was now 1am and I was writhing in pain as I vomited off the bedside. The pain was too great to walk, so running to the toilet was out of the question.
My mom decided to read “Science and Health” to me….I didn’t hear a word she said. I told her my balls hurt. She told me that it was part of puberty and “I didn’t know what boys my age were supposed to look like” when I told her I could feel the swelling in my scrotum.
Finally I punched the wall. I was out of ways to process the pain. My mom closed the book and walked out of the room, telling me to get some sleep.
I thought about going to the hospital myself, but at 13 years old, I would have to walk there. In my small town, that was definitely possible, but in my condition, not practical.
I dreamed in a red haze all night.
For the next week, I felt part of myself die inside. They both swelled up to the size of a tennis ball as they fought for circulation. I was bullied in school for “walking funny”. I’m pretty sure the Guidance office & a few teachers pulled me aside to investigate, but I was programmed not to discuss family business with them. If only I had.
Eventually, one testicle shriveled up and died.
That’s when I fell out of love with Christian Science. There’s no coming back from that.
A few years later, I got an infection “down there”–this is a common thing if you’ve had this kind of trauma in the nether regions. It was a different pain, but similar enough that I was certain the whole thing was happening again.
I already only had one testicle–was I now a Eunuch at age 16?
I demanded to go the doctor. My mom said, “We can’t, you need to pray, this is what you get for falling away from the Church.”
I told her I was going with or without her because I had a driving permit now, and I didn’t care if I got arrested for not having an adult in the car. If she took the keys, I would walk, because it wasn’t as bad as the last time. Realizing that I had her, and that a minor showing up at the hospital without their parent’s consent would probably get Children’s Services involved, she relented and agreed to go with me.
My mom refused to sit in the appointment, because the Church would be disappointed. She said she was only doing this to humor me.
The doctor was done in about 10 minutes. “Here’s an antibiotic for the infection in your right testicle. No, your left testicle is never going to grow back. We’ll schedule a follow up test, but at this point it’s more dangerous to remove your testicle than to leave it.”
I told him that he didn’t tell me anything I didn’t already suspect about my condition, but I would need him to tell my mom because she thought I was only here because I was having a growth spurt and lacked a working knowledge of puberty.
He agreed, brought her into the exam room. He minced no words. I will never forget the look on her face as he told her that I was intimately scarred for life, and there was no remedy.
“It’s okay to cry,” she told me as we got back in the car, with tears in her eyes.
“I ran out of tears a long time ago,” I said. ” All that’s left is anger now.”
By ExCS group contributor Jodi B. This is part of a series of first hand stories about vaccinations and Christian Science.
I never received childhood vaccination. I was religiously exempted by an easily obtained form in the Commonwealth of Virginia. I was protected by herd immunity my whole life and mistakenly thought it was my parents’ prayer (and later, mine), keeping me safe from measles and polio and such “out there.”
At the age of 16, I was away at Cedars Camps in Lebanon, Missouri, and there was a measles outbreak there. The State of Missouri kicked in and said “all those campers need to either be quarantined or go home and be quarantined there at home.”
I wanted to take my stand about staying proud of never having been given a shot. I wanted to go home. My parents wouldn’t let me.
The Missouri Health people came in and gave those of us who stayed, shots for the Measles. Another counselor friend of mine told me “it’s just ‘water in, water out,’ and for some reason, that helped me with my prayers on my fear of getting a measles shot.
I was so afraid I then had the actual measles and I told one of my older campers. She was probably 15 at the time. I didn’t want her to sit by me at dinner lest she get the measles from me. She was so disappointed that I would dare think she wasn’t spiritual enough to resist getting the measles.
I felt sad that I had made her feel disappointed. She sat with me anyway, in an awkward dinner. She never got the measles. I didn’t, either.
5 years later, I was about to graduate from Principia College. It was 1994. A few weeks before graduation. Word came around campus that 3 seniors might have the measles. They had never had the measles shot. There was a measles epidemic on campus. Everyone who had been vaccinated could leave campus – come and go freely. Anyone who had not been vaccinated needed to either go home and be quarantined or be quarantined on campus.
A lot of us had been vaccinated at Cedars Camps. Maybe 30 of us on a campus of maybe 600 students. Principia wrote to Cedars and obtained our vaccination records, because none of us had our own records.
I felt so proud that I could come and go off campus. So I did it just because I could, though I rarely left campus at any other time. I think my friend who had traveled to Korea and had all of her vaccinations and I drove to the store to buy donuts. Just because we could and she had a truck.
The 3 seniors were quarantined in a beautiful, well kept old house on campus that had since been needlessly neglected and then condemned, never got the measles. I was so glad those 3 students didn’t get the measles. We all graduated on time.
After becoming a mom of two elementary school boys, I subsequently left Christian Science due to mounting issues increasing in severity that were most decidedly NOT being healed in Christian Science.
We got one of my kids tested. He was found to be on the autism spectrum.
One of my sisters-in-law is a medical nurse and had a newborn son. I was scared of vaccinating my elementary school boys. She assured me that her newborn was vaccinated and would be given all shots on schedule.
She also taught me that term “herd immunity.” I had been protected by herd immunity and never by prayer.
I got my sons and me vaccinated using an alternative vaccination schedule. My boys’ schedule was set up by their brand new pediatrician. Mine was set up by the Department of Health in the Commonwealth of Virginia.
We have also gotten the flu shot every year too. We all used to get the flu every single year. We haven’t gotten it since starting to get the flu shot (except for this past year when the flu was particularly aggressive, but the shot kept people from dying even if they still got the flu after getting the shot).
I have gotten and continue to get professional help so I can be a better parent to my son on the spectrum. He is thriving now as a person unlike the traumas he was going through while on the spectrum, and attending Christian science Sunday school.
The vaccination had zero affect on either of my boys in regards to autism. And I am so grateful all 3 of us have our complete vaccinations now.
In God’s Perfect Child, Caroline Fraser writes a few sentences that carry a lot of weight in my life. In a section about Ex Christian Science authors who have published accounts of their experiences, she calls out
“the hypochondria and narcissism that are characteristic of the Christian Science way of life: when you have no way of knowing what’s wrong with you, particularly when you’re a child, you fear the worst, becoming more obsessed with your body the more you try to repress any thoughts about it. Exaggerated fears can arise from the simplest symptoms, or even from no symptoms at all.” (Fraser, 1999, p. 325)
This was me. I was plagued by fears for my health. Sometimes the fears were fleeting: “What if that’s an ingrown toenail?” The next day, I’d be fine and forget about it. Other times, fears gathered into dread that spanned weeks, months, or years: “Why is my breathing shallow? Do I have a heart condition?” Some fears were not put to rest until I left Christian Science and began medical checkups.
So I’d like to list them. Here are all the health scares I can remember having in my life as a Christian Scientist. There were more, I’m sure, now fortunately forgotten. I’ll start the list with Lyme disease because I distinctly remember, as a girl of 14, lying awake one school night, tossing and turning in fear that I had this disease, because I’d seen news reports about it.
Lyme disease appendicitis tonsillitis scabies diabetes pink eye thrombosis heart disease internal bleeding various kinds of infection an ingrown toenail a broken toe a stroke
Without knowledge of the body, I could think that I had appendicitis because I felt a pain on my left side. Without knowledge of the health care system, I could be overcome with dread at the thought of pink eye: How do I heal it? Fears common to the human experience (“Is something wrong with me? Am I going to die?”) blew up even bigger in my mind because I knew I would have to heal myself alone, with only my thoughts, with no ability to discuss what I was going through.
I’m actually a fairly healthy person, and now I realize that I always have been. The tragedy is that instead of enjoying my health, I spent decades magnifying the smallest symptoms into something disastrous. My physical health was fine; my mental health quivered and quaked and tore itself down over and over again.
Another tragedy, more difficult for me to articulate, lies in the narcissism that Fraser mentions. People in this world actually do experience diabetes, thrombosis, and other serious conditions for which a cure is challenging or nonexistent. And I think that all my crawling fears prevented me from feeling sympathy for those afflicted. It was all about me: If symptoms persisted, I was afraid. If they did not, then I could assure myself that the condition wasn’t real because disease is unreal because God didn’t make it. A person in the real world who accepted the reality of disease might learn about a condition, rally to bring awareness to it, give to a cause to find a cure, become a healthcare professional, or do something else real and practical.
I’ll conclude with a story about my life since leaving CS: Last year, I was the support person for a friend who underwent surgery. I was to take him to and from the hospital and stay with him for a week afterward. The night before surgery, my throat felt sore. Then the thought: “Oh no. What if I’ve caught the flu! What if I pass it along to him!” Thoughts spiraled; panic grew. But I went to bed anyway. As I lay there, trying to sleep, I told myself, “Let’s be realistic: I did get my flu shot two weeks ago. And now, either I have something or I don’t. Time will tell. The best thing for me to do is get plenty of rest.” I slept, and I woke up feeling fine. And the surgery went smoothly.
It’s a vulnerable existence, knowing that an illness or accident could come and knock me over at any time, and even if I did muster an army of “God-like thoughts,” it would make no difference. But unforeseen events are part of life. Frankly, it’s much, much better to accept reality than to live in ignorance and fear.
Work Cited: Fraser, C. (1999). God’s perfect child: Living and dying in the Christian Science church. New York, NY: Metropolitan Books.
This post has been submitted by an ExCS group contributor. If you have questions about vaccinations, please ask your Doctor or other healthcare professional. For more posts about Healthcare see Healthcare Resources
As someone raised in Christian Science, you may not have received recommended vaccinations as a child. This can leave you vulnerable to preventable diseases, and can also make you a carrier who could transmit these diseases to people who are unable to get vaccinated. Many ex-Christian Scientists view getting vaccinated as an important step in their recovery.
In this blog, I use the terms immunization, vaccine, and shot interchangeably. I also provide resources for the United States because that’s what I’m familiar with, but similar resources for vaccinations standard in other countries are easily found online.
Immunizations are covered at 100% by health insurance because they are classified as preventative care. So, they will not cost you anything out of pocket if you have health insurance. There are several different types of vaccines that you will need to catch up on and get in the future. There is a standard set that all children in the US should receive, there are vaccinations that adults need, and there are also vaccinations that you should get every year, like the influenza (flu) vaccine. There are also specific vaccines either recommended or required if you are traveling to certain countries. When preparing to travel out of the country, you should check the CDC website to find out which vaccinations are recommended. In some cases such as for the yellow fever vaccine, you will not be able to re-enter the US without proof that you received a particular vaccine. Don’t worry, your doctor will tell you which ones you need.
I want to tell you about my experience with vaccinations to illustrate why it is important to get them now. I got the measles at CedarS Camps, a major summer camp for Christian Scientists, when I was a small child. There have been many measles outbreaks at Christian Science camps and Principia College. Every time, the CDC comes in and shuts it down, and the children’s parents make the choice of either having their child receive the measles vaccine or going home. Unfortunately, many faithful, well-meaning, but woefully and willfully ignorant Christian Science parents expose their children to complications including pneumonia, encephalitis of the brain, and death by skipping this one vaccination.
My family moved several times when I was growing up. Every time we moved and I had to enroll in a different school, my mother had to scramble to produce notarized documentation that exempted me from vaccinations for religious reasons, which was legal in the state I grew up in. Every time, either she had to find these documents after having just moved or get new ones notarized and this always caused a scramble and an awkward delay. This happened again when I was registering for college classes and the delay caused me to miss getting in to some of the classes I needed because of the time it took to get forms notarized and physically sent to the college. I also had to deal with this awkwardness when traveling internationally for a job. So, by getting vaccinated, you can avoid situations like these for times you need to produce an up-to-date shot record.
I got caught up on childhood vaccinations in my 20’s so that I could travel internationally, even though I was still sort of a Christian Scientist then. However, I stubbornly did not get the flu vaccine every year even after getting the recommended childhood vaccinations. One year, I traveled to my home state to visit extended family and got sick while visiting. It was miserable, and I remember being sick like that several times before. When I got home, I went to the doctor and they tested me and told me that I had the flu. During my trip, I had interacted with an infant and an elderly person while visiting my extended family, and felt horrible for exposing those vulnerable populations to an easily preventable, but potentially fatal, disease. I’d also exposed two planes full of people while traveling home. I felt incredibly stupid. Now, I am proud of myself every time I get my flu shot every year.
When you go to your primary care doctor, tell them that you were not immunized as a child and that you would like to get caught up on your shots. If you are comfortable doing so, you can let them know that your parents raised you without medical care. After some initial surprise, they are usually pretty understanding and relieved that you would like to get immunized now.
First, you need to find out which shots you need. You can choose to either go ahead and get all of them, or you can request an Immunity/Vaccine/Antibody Detection test. Because you were not immunized as a child, you may have gotten some diseases and already have immunity to them and therefore do not need a vaccination for those diseases. If so, you can avoid the soreness that occurs from getting an unneccesary shot and any potential side effects. You will also learn more about your childhood by finding out which diseases you had. For example, I got chicken pox and measles as an unvaccinated child raised in Christian Science. That meant that I did not need the chicken pox vaccine. I did still need the MMR (measles, mumps & rubella) vaccine in order to get immunity to mumps & rubella. I remember having the measles, but I don’t remember having the chicken pox. It’s also good to know for your health history, and having this data on record will contribute to statistics which inform public policy.
The doctor’s office will need to draw your blood for the Antibody Detection test or refer you to a lab for bloodwork. So, you will need to wait for the results before you can find out which vaccinations you need. At your follow up appointment, you will find this out and can now decide how to proceed. (You don’t have to get this test if the additional step will be inconvenient or if it’s not covered by your health insurance.)
Here is a common list of vaccinations:
Your doctor will tell you which ones you should get based on your age, health history, risk factors, etc. Some shots need to be gotten in a series of two or three within a certain period of time, like 30 days or < 6 months. If you need a series, it’s important that you come back to get the subsequent shots within the specified time period so that the immunization will be effective. There may be some vaccinations that came about more recently that your doctor might recommend for you, like the HPV vaccine, that may not be covered by your health insurance because they have not yet been added to the CDC’s list for your age group. So there is a chance that the cost for these additional vaccines might not be fully covered by your insurance, but you can call them to check beforehand. Even if there is an out-of-pocket cost, it is a good idea to get them if you can afford to do so.
Now that you know which shots you need, you can decide on the timeline for how to get your immunizations. You can get several at once or spread them out. I personally recommend that you plan to get one vaccination per month, but it may be more convenient for you to get most of them all at once and then only return for the series shots, or spread them out to get a few at a time with your series shots. For example, military members are often given 8+ vaccinations at once. Either way you choose, it should not make a difference on the cost (free).
The nurse administering the shot will ask you where you would like it. The most common place to get a shot is in the upper part of your non-dominant arm. They may also be able to give it to you on your hip. You might want to consider which side you sleep on and get the shot on the opposite side.
You may have a choice in vaccine delivery mechanisms. Anything that can be breathed in will be more pleasant than receiving it as a shot. There are also “live” vaccines, which may not be recommended if you have small children in your household, are pregnant, or live with someone who is pregnant. You might be advised to wear long sleeves to sleep in for some period of time while the vaccine is absorbed. Your doctor or nurse will go over all of this with you and send you home with a pamphlet containing all of the information you need.
The annual flu shot is available at pharmacies for convenience and you can use your health insurance and skip the doctor’s appointment if that works better for you. A nurse at the pharmacy will administer the shots.
Be aware that there are potential side effects from vaccinations. The FDA has concluded that the benefits outweigh the downsides. Read the information you receive thoroughly. I personally experienced a swollen lymph node from the MMR vaccine. This happens in 15% of children who receive it. If you are self-aware and informed about what could happen to you as a result of getting particular vaccines, you can recognize when you are experiencing a side effect and find ways to reduce the impact of these side effects. You can also call your doctor’s office for advice on how to handle side effects if you experience them. For my swollen lymph node, I read that it helps to sleep on the opposite side so that the lymph node gets less blood flow. After I did this, the swelling went down. Even though I had this unpleasant side effect for about two weeks, I am still glad that I got that shot. Most of the time, the area where you received the shot is simply sore for a few days to a week and there are no side effects. I’ve gotten probably fifteen shots total and only had this very minor side effect with one.
Now that you have been vaccinated, you can feel good about participating in a free public health benefit and display your new shot record proudly. You will get sick less often, and can no longer be a potential carrier endangering infants, elderly, or people otherwise unable to get vaccinated with easily preventable diseases. Now you can rest assured that you won’t get a debilitating disease that is easily preventable. You will also no longer need to feel awkward about a misinformed religious exemption imposed on you by well-meaning parents. Your shot record will come in handy when you apply to live in a college dorm or for certain jobs.
Christian Science Nursing is often shrouded in mystery, here we share a 60 Minutes interview with a former CS Nurse, as well as information from CS nursing facilities about CS Nursing practices.
This post has appeared as a guest post at Emerging Gently and on Kindism.org, it is reprinted here with permission and minor edits.
I was going to write a post comparing and contrasting Christian Science Nursing with modern medical nursing until I came to the Churches own page about the topic and read what Christian Science Nursing actually entails, and my desire to write a polite analysis went out the window and I had an overwhelming desire to smash my head repeatedly into a wall.
When people outside of Christian Science think of a nurse, they’re probably envisioning someone that fits the description from the American Nurses Association
– Registered Nurses –
Perform physical exams and health histories
Provide health promotion, counseling and education
Administer medications, wound care, and numerous other personalized interventions
Interpret patient information and make critical decisions about needed actions
Coordinate care, in collaboration with a wide array of healthcare professionals
Direct and supervise care delivered by other healthcare personnel like LPNs and nurse aides
Conduct research in support of improved practice and patient outcomes
RNs practice in all healthcare settings: hospitals, nursing homes, medical offices, ambulatory care centers, community health centers, schools, and retail clinics. They also provide health care in more surprising locations such as camps, homeless shelters, prisons, sporting events and tourist destinations. (1)
To call what Christian Science Nurses do “Nursing” is incredibly misleading. The list of what Christian Science Nurses do not do looks startlingly similar to the list of what Registered nurses do. Christian Science nursing care does NOT include the following:
Making a medical diagnosis or prognosis;
Assuming responsibility for making health care decisions for the patient;
Administering medication, drugs or using medicated, herbal, or vitamin-based products and remedies;
Using and administering medically oriented techniques or technology;
Manipulation, massage, physical therapy;
Intravenous or force-feeding;
Intruding on the private relationship between the patient and the Christian Science practitioner, or between the patient and his or her family;
Several years ago, CBS TV show 60 MINUTES did a segment entitled By Faith Alone (3), discussing if Medicare should cover Christian Science nursing facilities. They interviewed a former Christian Science Nurse, Leslie Saunders (4) who shed a disturbing light on the practices taking place in the Christian Science nursing facilities:
Leslie Saunders … stopped working at Medicare-funded Christian Science facilities, agrees [Medicare should not cover CS nursing]. “Medicare pays for medical treatment under given guidelines. For Medicare to involve itself in Christian Science nursing means Medicare is trying to pay for theology,” she tells Safer. She also says the only “treatment” allowed in such facilities is praying; the rules are so strict, she says, even patients short of breath are not given oxygen. (3)
Saunders’ interview stands in stark contrast to the recent “Interview with a CS Nurse” (5) but out by the Chestnut Hill Benevolent association (6) where “Jenny Ferch shares her journey to the BA’s Christian Science Nurses Training School. Her background at Principia Upper School, working as an intern at the Mother Church, and her innate love of caring for others — all pointed her in the direction of the healing ministry of Christian Science nursing.”
I’m not sure how denying people oxygen and not administering medication or physical therapy is a “healing ministry.” Even the top Google hit for “healing ministry” — Christian Healing Ministries acknowledges and affirms that there is
“… value of the medical and counseling fields, since they too are ways in which God’s healing power is manifested.” (7)
While Official Church Policy states that Christian Scientists are “free to go to doctors or seek medical care” (8) the idea is laughable. To qualify for participation in Christian Science Nursing Facilities, people must abide by standards requiring them to radically rely on prayer for healing (9). All Christian Science Nursing Facilities have a policy that clearly states guests must rely on prayer alone.
From a Florida facilities statement about care:
“… non-medical nursing facility offering care to those who actively rely on prayer for metaphysical healing and are working with a Christian Science Journal-listed practitioner. Those who come — for help are the remnant of our Leader’s seed. They are not nominal worshippers. They have set out to preclude the Adam dream by refusing to take the medical route.” (emphasis mine, 10)
From the Chestnut Hill Benevolent Association:
2. What are the requirements for admission? You must be having treatment from a Christian Science Journal-listed practitioner on a daily basis and relying solely on Christian Science for healing. Each call is considered on an individual basis, according to the request and need, as well as the availability for admission. (11)
The idea Christian Science refuses to acknowledge any value in the medical field preferring to rely solely on prayer alone comes directly from Ms. Eddy. During the time she was working on her 300+ editions of Science and Health, it may have been safer to wait it out (12), but in 2015 the best course of action is to at least call your doctor’s office (13). Ms. Eddy’s writing on doctors, diagnosis of disease, and perspective on hygiene is not only wrong, it is deadly(14). As Ms. Eddy was the author of numerous volumes, I’ve selected a few passages from Science and Health:
On page 370 of Science and Health, Ms. Eddy writes: “A physical diagnosis of disease, since mortal mind must be the cause of all disease, tends to induce disease.”
“Whatever teaches man to have other laws and to acknowledge other powers than the divine Mind, is anti-Christian. The good that a poisonous drug seems to do is evil, for it robs man of reliance on God, omnipotent Mind and according to belief, poisons the human system.” Science and Health, p. 169-70
“It is plain that God does not employ drugs or hygiene, nor provide them for human use; else Jesus would’ve recommended and employed them in his healing… The Divine Mind never called matter medicine, and matter required a material and human belief before it could be considered as medicine. Mind is the grand creator, and there can be no power except that which is derived from Mind… Inferior and unspiritual methods of healing may try to make Mind and drugs coalesce, but the two will not mingle scientifically.” Science and Health, p. 143-4
Christian Science Nursing facilities deny people proper medical care. In September, I had a guest poster, Dr. Spock, describe the House of Horrors Christian Science Nursing Facility were his mother spent her last days (15). I highly recommend reading the entire piece, Spock describes inhumane conditions, unimaginable pain and suffering that would not be permitted in a medical facility or hospice care.
I remember a visit to the House Of Horrors early in childhood when my grandmother worked there as a Christian Science nurse. …. . The only comfort the “nurses” [were] able to offer [was] to shift pillows, offer water or juice, or read from the Bible and/or the writings of Mary Baker Eddy or other Christian Science literature. Not even an aspirin is permitted in these houses of horrors, and people often enter these facilities with advanced cancer or other serious diseases eating away at their bodies. Before Christian Scientists will acquiece even to care at a Christian Science nursing facility, they will often have suffered at home on their own with whatever ailment they’re dealing with for quite some time. Any admission of advancement of a disease is an admission of failure in your practice Christian Science, and many Christian Scientists are loathe to admit such.
For Christian Science Nursing to use nursing is incredibly misleading. Christian Science Nursing facilities should not be subsidized by tax payer money, and they should be very clear about what care at Christian Science “nursing” actually entails — no relief. Another guest post, My Mothers Turn to Medical Hospice (16) is the story of a Christian Scientist who turned to medical hospice care after being in a Christian Science facility that failed to meet her needs.
Perpetuating the farce that Christian Science facilities provides any level of skilled nursing care is damaging to the patients and their families. I am horrified that Medicare pays for Christian Science nursing. Medicare pays for medical treatment (17), the Church’s position on Christian Science nursing — and the position taken by Christian Science nursing facilities — make it clear that there are no medical treatments given, means Medicare is paying for religion. The guidelines set up by the Church as to what Christian Science Nurses can and can’t do speak volumes. There is more to nursing than shifting pillows, offering juice, arranging food in a pleasing manner and reading Science and Health.
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.
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.
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.
By Sharon, an Ex-Christian Scientist Group contributor.
I get upset and frustrated when I think of what my mother put herself and the rest of us through at the end of her life. She knew she had the cancer for years. She waited and tried to ‘heal’ it until the tumor was as big as her breast, then decided she would have it and the breast removed because it looked “like it might break open and that happened to another lady in the church and it smelled awful.”
So, she had that operation but refused any further treatment, and eventually the cancer metastasized to her spine, causing enormous pain. She was finally so disoriented that I was able to get her to the hospital. Once there, I felt like I was judged to be lacking in any sort of sense. I was told that the cancer had metastasized to her brain, and they looked at me like I was the worst daughter they ever saw that I would let my mother suffer and get all this cancer all over her with no treatment.
Knowing that my mother would have done the same thing to me as a child is no comfort. I have often thought about the fact that I know without a doubt that my mother would have let me die at the altar of Christian Science and I would have had no control over it, just as I had no control over what she did about her own illness.
By Marie. ‘Marie’ is a pseudonym. This was originally published on Emerging Gently, and it is shared here with permission.
My mom sent me back to school too soon after having chicken pox. I had come down with it during a Girl Scouts camping weekend in fourth grade. It was right after my parents separated and she was working days for the first time, so the first week of school that I was sick I had been home alone. This was highly atypical for my upbringing and in hindsight I believe she had kept this a secret from my father’s side of the family, who knew I had chicken pox but whom she did not want to ask for help from, and this created her internal stress to get me back to school.
The following Monday morning, I still had open sores all over me, but my cold symptoms had lessened and my mother had been making noise all Sunday, in Christian Science platitudes, that I was ready to go back to school the next day–I had made my demonstration and that sort of thing. I kept pleading with her that NO ONE came back in one week, you were *supposed* to stay out for two weeks when you had the chicken pox; it was not a race, there was a rule. But I was sent on my way, to walk to school alone.
I was filled with dread. I was a pariah at school because of Christian Science. I was not a cool kid to begin with; too fat, too bookish, too sincere. I did not wear my ‘cult status’ (heh, heh) well. The arrangement in the mornings was that the entire student body waited in a crowd outside the doors until the arranged time and then the doors were unlocked and we proceeded into our classrooms. It was a small school district where we all walked to and from school, even at our lunch break.
As I approached the already large crowd of students, the first few took notice of me and a murmur, then a larger thrill of reaction sped through the student body. There were no adults present. They simultaneously turned to face me as a group and backed away from me as a group, into the brick corner of the building behind them, protectively. Dozens of voices cried out, “You’re not supposed to be here! You’re sick; what are you, stupid? She’s a Christian Scientist, she doesn’t know she’s not supposed to come here with chicken pox, she’s gonna get us all sick! Get away from us! Get away from here! Go home, Christian Scientist!”
I stopped, paces away from them, in the middle of the playground, hysterical with tears, pleading with them, “I know! I told my mom!” over and over again. They would not hear me. A teacher came to open the doors and saw the scene. She waved the children inside and hustled over to me to ask, “What on earth are you DOING here? It’s only been a week! You’re still sick!” I sobbed, “I KNOW! She told me to come back!” With veiled disgust and efficiency she whisked me into the nurse’s office who quickly confirmed with the first temperature check of my life that I was still contagious, gave me a note stating I was not to return until the following Monday, and sent me on the walk home.
I marched home filled with deep fury at my mother, hyperventilating with sobs over what I had been put through. She was surprised to see me stomp through the door and slam the note down in front of her. She asked some sort of question I can’t remember, but my answer was, “No! All the students were afraid of me and yelled at me to get away, and the teachers said I shouldn’t be there and the nurse said not to come back until next Monday. Just like I TOLD you.”
I crawled into my bed and fell into an exhausted sleep, which is where I should have been in the first place, hiccuping with tears as I slowly calmed down. As I drifted off, my last awareness was my mother’s presence at my bedside, stroking my hair. “I’m sorry, honey.”
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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?