This is part of an on-going series, for all posts in this series see the tag Chrystal’s Story.
A note from Chrystal: I was born a fourth-generation Christian Scientist, and finally left the religion when I was in my 40s. In this blog series, I will do my best to share with you my 40+ year journey. I have done my best to make the journey sequential, but it’s also themed to a large extent, and sometimes it has been necessary to take things out of sequence to share a theme.
The last straw for me to leave the second church, was this:
I had taught Sunday School there almost from the get-go. My sons were in Sunday School there. I had an intense strong belief that since the church proclaims they are a “Christian” church, that “The Holy Bible” should be taught every Sunday to the kids. I thought it made sense.
My older son had a teacher who would take photos and bring them to class. Random things. Frankly, none of the photos were worth a second glance to me. And this teacher would show photos to my son of random things and that was what Sunday School was like. He is a nice man, but I didn’t see any substance to the class.
My younger son’s teacher was a very good friend of mine – she was always one of my biggest supporters of all of my ideas to modernize our church. She is still a good friend to this day, and she has lovingly kept her mouth shut about me leaving CS, though I am certain it hurts her that I have left Christian Science. I remember her telling me how much it hurt her when her brother left. But she has been wonderfully lovingly supportive of me and never said how hurt she is by my leaving the religion. She taught my son’s class ½ time with another teacher; they alternated. My Sunday School class was the next grade up, and I sat right next to them so I knew what was going on the whole time. I remember the other teacher having the kids pray about what to draw, then draw, then cut the paper, then recycle the paper, then clean up the paper, and ok, let’s hold hands and now we will clean up. It was a moment of daycare. It wasn’t Sunday School. Neither teacher had a Bible-based education for the kids.
My final straw at that church was a Sunday School teacher’s meeting, and we all sat there and talked about rotating teachers for the new school year, and what would we like, and if you were a parent, what would you like. I spoke up and said, “I need my children to have The Bible taught to them; it’s a Christian church, teach The Bible. They aren’t stupid, they love the stories, teach The Bible. I need my kids to have teachers who teach The Bible.” A Christian Science Teacher was there and nodded along with me. She had previously taught my older son and said, “he knows his stuff.” She agreed with everything I said.
The classes were then arranged during the next few weeks, and my kids had been placed with the identical teachers. They had completely disregarded my input about my kids. I never went back to that branch church again. I honestly felt like it was a waste of my time.
I did try to attend yet another branch church, and it was my intention to join. (Apparently, “God” really had to clonk me on the head hard before I learned lessons. Or, I am fiercely loyal to a losing organization.) I walked in the door, knew people, they were so happy to see me, and there were no chairs for my kids. Their Sunday School was bursting at the seams. (They must be doing something right!) And they were too full and couldn’t find chairs for my kids. They did finally find chairs after a scramble. I think one got a rolling desk chair. That seemed kind of cool, to me, actually. But that was the first hint that we didn’t belong there – no physical room for my kids to be there.
The second clue I got was a long nasty email from one of the members there who said, “you didn’t even say ‘hi’ to me.” She went on and on. I hadn’t even seen her, and if I am the new one who walked in the door, shouldn’t she be the one to come over and greet me? A lot of the other people got that memo and caught me and talked to me and I couldn’t exactly walk around and go look at all the people. Her email was so long and so angry, that I said, “I’m not doing this again.” And I never went back to another branch church. I had finally gotten the memo that the Christian Science church experience really isn’t for me. My kids still loved Christian Science Sunday School, so I let them attend every now and then with my brothers at their church for about a year. We also started visiting other kinds of churches together. The changeable nature of all of this started to take a toll on my kids; I had also dragged them to other Christian Science churches when we were working on the VBS. It all added up and they got tired of the lack of stability. That was a rough patch, added on to the other rough patches.
Didn’t Jesus say in The Bible, “they will know you are my followers by how much you love one another” (John 13:35)? Clearly, this is a church that isn’t getting that memo.
I left branch church experience feeling completely burned out, depressed (though I didn’t have words for that because I had faithfully muted every commercial, and denied all of my “negative” emotions), disengaged, fried, and un-creative. They took the best of me and ground me completely under foot, and made sure every single door had hit me on the way out. I had successfully prayed away every single part of my personality, and I was now a walking zombie, barely able to take care of my kids. But I was blind to all of that. It took me 6 years to recognize that, because “denial is strong with our people.”
Now that I have been out of the church for a few years, I am starting to realize my ideas were NOT bad: they were just close minded people with a serious fear of any kind of change. The church is happily stuck in the 19th century, and they don’t want to budge. For a church that preaches, “Fear not, be not afraid” (Isaiah 44:8), they are the most fear-filled people I have ever known.
For about a year after leaving the Christian Science branch church experience, I knew that was the hardest thing I’d ever done in my life. I considered this experience of leaving to be “my divorce experience.” My husband (who was never a Christian Scientist and has been completely supportive of me in my spiritual journey) told me, “I expect you will need to heal for a while after this.” He was right. I am now more than 5 years out of the branch church experience, and I am finally starting to feel better.
Notes from Chrystal:
Here is a resource about emotional abuse. It is painful stuff. Please read this and get out of any relationship where you are being emotionally abused. I am still recovering from this painful experience.
Here is an informative article about anxiety and depression.
Notes from The Ex-Christian Scientist:
Unless you have formally withdrawn your membership, you are likely still counted as a member of the Mother Church, aka The First Church of Christ, Scientist, in Boston.
A quick e-mail to the Office of the Clerk, can confirm if you are still a member. If you are still a member, you can formally withdraw your membership via e-mail, or write a letter. You can reach the Church Clerk at: [email protected]
More information about withdrawing from The Mother Church can be found in our Resource Index drop down menu.