Freedom from Christian Science and a Path out of Anxiety

By Karen, submitted via email. Karen is a pseudonym. For more information about how to share your story, please visit https://exchristianscience.com/about-2/share-your-story/


In my decades as a Christian Scientist, I read Science and Health all the way through at least three times. I even tried to do what one of my mother’s friends did: read the entire book in one week (seven hundred pages in seven days). Yet in all my readings, my favorite chapter was always the one set apart from the rest of the book: the final chapter, “Fruitage.” I loved the personal narratives, which I could latch on to so much more easily than the formal prose. I loved the healings; one of my favorites was from the Civil War veteran who was healed of a broken jaw from taking a log in the face when sawing wood. Yet, as I grew into my thirties, I felt increasingly that I was at the same place many of the “Fruitage” writers were. I was ailing, hurting, discouraged, lost, and wondering what it was all about. I yearned for relief. I had been a student of Christian Science all my life, yet I was in the place of these people who discovered Christian Science. Darkly, I began to think of myself as a reverse Christian Scientist. What did that mean for me? Would I ever find healing?

After I left Christian Science and, awkwardly, entered medial care, I began to accumulate testimonies of my own kind. I found freedom, redemption, healing, comfort—concepts embraced by Christian Scientists—in the sphere of modern medicine.
Of all these, freedom is the one that means most to me. I spent fourteen years living in fear of heart disease. The symptoms began in 2001: My heart would race and beat fiercely. My chest would ache. My breathing would become shallow, my hands would tingle, and I would feel light-headed. I knew very little about my body, but I knew enough to be convinced I had a heart problem. (I want to note here that these symptoms can be serious, so definitely learn about them and get yourself checked out by a doctor if you experience them.)

Thus began over a decade of suffering. I experienced these symptoms with varying degrees of frequency and extremity. Thus began prayer, reading, and calls to four different practitioners over the years: calls in the early hours of the morning sometimes, sometimes calls when I was too afraid to even speak. The practitioners were patient and kind. One of them assured me, “Your heart is strong.” That helped me.
After the first two years, the spells lessened. But they never left. The fear never left. It often brought me to tears. I stopped driving on highways, and I approached bridges with trepidation. I was afraid of having an attack, losing control of my car, and harming myself or others. I dreaded being alone in my house (something I typically enjoyed) because I might have a fit and die with nobody to help me. I was even scared in long lines at the grocery store or at stoplights, lest I collapse and hold up people’s progress.

When I left Christian Science and started medical care, I anxiously awaited my first physical: What will they find? I did feel some reassurance that I would finally receive proper care, but I dreaded the inevitable looks of concern, the tests, the diagnosis.
My dread turned to relief. Since my start with medical care in 2015, I’ve had various tests, some as part of regular doctors’ visits and some stemming from two urgent care visits. Among those tests, I’ve had two EKGs, neither of which caused any concern.
My heart is fine. They say I have an occasional murmur, so I take the doctors’ advice to
avoid caffeine, to exercise and eat well, and to cope with stress. My heart really is strong, or at least it’s mostly normal. Now I know that with an assurance I never had before. (Even if I had a problem, I would now be in the care of professionals. And I wouldn’t be alone: Heart trouble is experienced by many people around the world; it’s part of the human condition, and we make the best of it that we can.)

What, then, were all these symptoms that I felt? I still had episodes of shallow breathing. I asked my primary care physician about it. Her first question was, “Do you feel a lot of stress in your life?” She asked about anxiety—a term I’d never heard spoken except in the context of nervousness, like I-am-so-anxious-about-my-math-test. This lovely, perceptive physician referred me to mental health services, where I found a therapist that illuminated my world. She explained anxiety to me. She recommended two books to me (see the resources below). The books introduced me to the nature of panic attacks. I remember sitting on a chair in my bedroom,
my mind blown wide open as I went down a checklist of panic attack symptoms. This changed my life.

Since autumn 2016, I have had four panic attacks. They are horrible, and at some point I always end up thinking I am going to die. (There’s still progress to be made!) But I hold on to the thought: This is probably a panic attack. I ride it out with the tools I have been given from therapy and books. I can enjoy being alone again. Waiting in lines or at stoplights is a normal experience again. And I’ve been driving on highways more. I’ve had many victories. I have freedom. The contributors to “Fruitage” in Science and Health sometimes remarked that they were grateful beyond words for Christian Science. I am grateful beyond words for leaving it.

Resources

And many more! Look around for what fits you best.

Chrystal’s Story: New Beliefs

Chrystal's Story header image

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


New Beliefs

I have decided to completely start from scratch with my own spiritual belief system. It’s kind of fun, to see what I believe in. It reminds me of the end of the book series, “The Hunger Games.” The final book, “Mockingjay,” has Peeta asking “real or not real?” and his friends reply and tell him what is real or not real. He starts to realize the memories that are not real have a “sparkly quality to them.” I am asking myself lately: “real or not real?” And I know I love The Sky, and I love Nature. So at the moment, my beliefs are simply, “Mother Earth, Father Sky.” I am enjoying understanding the winter and summer solstices. My kids and I agreed we don’t need to celebrate Christmas anymore, and we will celebrate Yule instead. Look it up. It’s a beautiful holiday with rich and meaningful traditions.

My kids took some time to get out of the Christian Science mindset. My older son still struggled with it for a year after I left. Early in 2016, he told me something to which I replied, “that’s a Christian Science thought,” and he was pretty upset with me that I would dare try to change his thinking. I had to remember to quietly be Quaker, and not try to guide him, but let him come to his own conclusions, and support him in Clearness as he ponders and finds his own sense of truth. He has changed his thinking on that issue, and has found a more reasonable sense of things. In the summer of 2016, he went to Quaker camp for the first time and loved it so much! He now considers himself to be an Ex Christian Scientist and also a Quaker. I am glad he had the space, mentally, to sort through everything and make his own choices about what to believe.

When I wrote this blog, my younger son still believed in God. It brought him a sense of comfort, and I am fine with that. He also wrote a little prayer type song that includes the words: “flying spaghetti monster” and also “god.” We sing it at bedtime. As I edit this blog and get it ready for publishing, I don’t know what his belief is about whether a god exists or not, and I am okay with that. It’s up to him and what brings him comfort. 

I love being a mom to these two boys. If they get sick, I don’t yell at them or tell them “it’s your fault that you’re sick!” and I don’t force them to sit in their room with books and make them read and find their own healing. Sometimes we use a children’s over the counter medicine (or even cough drops, imagine that). I have also found that humidifiers solve a lot of problems in the winter months, and my sons and I go to doctors regularly now.

All three of us are now immunized too. That was a whole other thing I had to navigate to decide if it was dangerous or practical or what. I learned about “herd mentality,” and realized we had always been safe from diseases because the majority of the time, we were surrounded by immunized folks. Real science. Christian Science didn’t protect us. Medical science is real science, using the real scientific method.

By the way, I was caught in not one, but 2 measles outbreaks at Christian Science facilities growing up. This sort of thing wouldn’t happen if everyone was immunized. See Penn and Teller’s YouTube video (warning: salty language) on the topic of why people should immunize their kids. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RfdZTZQvuCo 

My son broke his arm

One day at school, my younger son tripped on a tree root and broke his arm. I was now a Quaker, and I had recently changed the “in case of emergency care card” for him, and removed all the Christian Scientists, and put on some of my Quaker Friends, and of course my husband. My son went to the hospital in an ambulance, and my husband met them there. (I was at work, and my husband took care of all of it.) I remember crying and crying, because I didn’t want my son to have a broken arm, but then I was so relieved that he had been taken directly to a hospital and was being given excellent care for his broken bones, and hadn’t been picked up by a Christian Scientist who would be “quietly praying with him” until I went to pick him up. My son received excellent care the whole time, and eventually had to have surgery on one of the bones that wasn’t healing at all.

I am so grateful to be out of Christian Science. I have finally found happiness and goodness and peace in my heart. I love my neighbors, and have found true friendships – not only with Quaker women, but with other women too, neighbors and moms at my sons’ schools. It’s wonderful what happens when a person removes judgement from their heart and stops thinking they are better than everyone else!

Leaving Christian Science has been a huge step towards getting rid of my depression and anxiety. Real therapy has helped me so much too! (Even therapy is verboten in Christian Science, the way I was taught. Talking about our problems just makes them more real, right?) I know now that it was Christian Science that brought on my deep depression and high anxiety. I am finally recovering my creative self and I am finally healing, thanks to real science and a good trauma therapist, and with the loving, patient and kind support of my Quaker Friends. I am also completely grateful to have found amazing, kind, compassionate, empathetic people on our Ex Christian Science Facebook group. We all shared so many of the the same experiences growing up, and validate each other, so we can heal – for real – from the problems inflicted on all of us (in varying degrees), by the teachings of Mary Baker Eddy, and the way generations have started arbitrarily interpreted those teachings to inflict real harm and calling it “love.”

Nowadays, I go to doctors a lot, to get issues fixed that had no care for the 40+ years of my life. I am getting physical therapy on my shoulder, and the doctor told me recently, “most people don’t heal as quickly as you are, you’re doing exceptionally well!” I was very recently put on an anti depression / anti anxiety medicine and I hear myself laughing easily. I feel like myself again! It’s been a long time since I felt happy. (A friend of mine posted his version of a part of my story here – about my depression. https://emergegently.wordpress.com/2016/09/21/orange-juice-makes-me-happy/ )

I need to get it on my calendar to get my second mammogram soon, as I had my first one only last year after leaving my Mother Church membership. Also, I need to get to a neurologist and get checked for the concussions I had over the years that I never got checked out for, and I’m working through memory issues so many times per day. Untreated concussions have left what may probably be lasting damage on me. I talk with so many other Ex Christian Science folks, and I got off easy with the challenges I struggled with and still struggle with. I am so glad I got out before my kids grew up all the way, too, so they can be saved from so much of the junk I had to go through.

So many people have asked me to share my story. It’s not a quick story, and I am glad to have had this blog series as a platform. It has been incredibly cathartic to write about this experience and share with others so they can know what a dangerous belief system Christian Science is. My journey isn’t over. I expect I will mentally grow more, and post more things in the future.

I am so grateful to have left Christian Science.

Chrystal’s Story: The Year I Left Christian Science

Chrystal's Story header image

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


A Wedding at Principia During my Reunion Weekend

A few years ago, I went to my brother’s wedding weekend at Principia College’s Chapel (it’s a beautiful campus, with buildings designed by nationally renowned architect, Bernard Maybeck. See: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ICioQ12vTo0 ). We were there for several days. It happened to also be my class reunion that weekend. The way Principia does their reunions, they do two classes at the same time, and then every 5 years above that, two more classes go for their reunion too, all the way to the 1920s or so. Potentially, it could be 100s and 100s of people showing up, of all ages. (Like: 2000, 2001, 1995, 1996, 1985, 1986, 1975, 1976…) I showed up for my reunion, and it was also for the students who were a class ahead of me. I would not have attended the reunion, except that it was my brother’s wedding that weekend too, so I figured, “why not, I’ll go 1 day early and catch some of my reunion.” No one, and I mean that literally, no one else from my class or the class ahead of me showed up for our reunion. Zero. I was the only one. And even I wouldn’t have been there (despite it being my 20th reunion), if my brother hadn’t been getting married in the Chapel that weekend, and I really love my brother. (Can you imagine it’s your 20th college reunion and NO ONE shows up except you?  #Awkward )

On Sunday morning, after the wedding, we all agreed we would attend the Chapel service. It was super hard to sit through. I remember the days when I was a Practitioner and I would love to hear “The inspired word of The Bible” and “correlative passages from Science and Health,” but this day at the Principia Chapel just felt tedious (no matter how much I love that Chapel as a building  and I love looking at the architecture). The organ felt too loud and blasty, the Readings were tremendously long, the solos always grate at my ears. I realized I no longer fit in this sort of church experience at all. I was so glad it was only an hour and I was so glad when it was over!

I have now been in the Quaker Meeting as a member for almost 2 years, and my beliefs continue to mold and change, and I love that I have complete freedom and support from my Quaker Friends to be Me. They love me for who I am, and they support me 100% as my beliefs change. I feel completely accepted and loved and cherished. I finally have friends, and I don’t feel like “I am better than anyone.” I feel at peace and equal with everyone. I have a Friend who was incarcerated for a minor offense. And it is good for me to learn his challenges, so I can be educated.

Quaker Women

I have many Friends who are women, and we go out to lunch. We laugh, we cry, we share everything. I can share absolutely anything, and they empathize with me. They support me. They bring me food if I need help, and I take them food when they need help. We mail each other cards that say, “I love you and I am thinking of you.”

I got a card from one of my new good Friends, a year after my dad died. I opened it, read the compassionate note, and just cried and cried. It was so loving of her to remember my dad’s death and send me a compassionate card a full year after his death. I never received cards from Christian Scientists upon my dad’s death, but the Quaker Friends sent me multiple cards. I had barely walked in the door at the Quaker Meeting, and a few short months later, my dad got really sick and died. The doctor had given him a clean bill of health (other than the Parkinson’s) just a month before. 

 

He had predicted my dad could easily live another 10 years. Then, he was gone within a month. My new Quaker Friends mailed me cards and attended our Memorial service in my dad’s Christian Science church (the one I mentioned that never used to allow memorial services or weddings). That church has had a couple of memorial services now, which I think is wonderful and appropriate. Both members died way too young. (What kind of church doesn’t love its members enough to honor important moments in their members’ lives?)

At my dad’s memorial service, the church was so filled – there were so many people standing at the back, and the foyer doors were opened, and the whole entry way area was completely filled, and people even had to stand on the stairs going down down to the Sunday School. That’s the last time I set foot in a Christian Science church. I don’t know if it will be my last, but it was amusing (or sad?) to see it filled to the absolute brim. I think there was only a handful of Christian Science church members there at that service. All the rest of the people attending were friends, family, neighbors, and my Quaker Friends who had never even met my dad.

Feeling Real Grief

After my dad died, I was grief-stricken. He was the only parent I had who had been with me and cared for me my whole life. Everyone else in my life had come and gone, or come in later. My dad meant the world to me. Christian Science teaches us we can’t grieve, because death isn’t real. 

My emotions were so squashed for so many years, though, that I couldn’t help but grieve. Two friends who had left Christian Science suggested that I go to therapy for grief. This was a radical concept to me. I was afraid, and it is against Christian Science. I can’t explain what I was afraid of, but it was definitely not an idea that I was comfortable with.  

I knew that in Christian Science, I had always been taught that to counteract grief and depression, it’s necessary to sit down and write “gratefuls.” I challenged myself to write 100 things I was grateful for, and I figured it would heal my grief over my dad. I sat down and without stopping for any breaks, I easily wrote 112 things I was grateful for. I decided that was enough things, and I put my pen down. My mood hadn’t changed. I was still as depressed and grief-stricken as ever. I decided it was time to get real counseling. I didn’t want to futz around, so I did a search for a high rated female counselor, covered by my insurance. I went in, told her I was grieving over my dad, and we began weekly counseling sessions. She was a phenomenal person. She sat by me and helped me figure out my next path. It turned out that she helped me realize Christian Science was no longer a path that worked for me. She helped me gain courage to tell my family, to tell The Mother Church, and to leave my Christian Science Teacher.

Becoming an Ex Christian Scientist

Meanwhile, the two friends who had suggested that I go to counseling and I were talking more and more about our experiences growing up in Christian Science. We had many parallels, and it was incredibly validating to realize we had so many of the same traumas and experiences. It was almost eery. One of my friends did a search for “Ex Christian Science” and came across this blog and the Facebook group. We all joined very quickly, and found a whole new set of friends. This set of friends have been the most validating group of people I have ever known.

I have learned wonderful words – a whole vocabulary that was denied me in my Christian Science upbringing. I had learned big words like “equipoise,” “extemporaneous,” “perspicacity,” “necromancy,” “self-immolation,” but didn’t know practical words like “boundary,” and “narcissist,” “anxiety,” “immunizations.”  

I have healed and changed so much in the last two years since my dad died. It’s quite remarkable. I am finally finding happiness for real, and I’m able to express an appropriate amount of anger or sadness instead of constantly being on the verge of stifled tears that won’t stay stifled any more. I am a much more emotionally balanced and healthy human being. I no longer struggle thinking “that’s not a part of me, I better heal it, or someone will judge me, and I will be yelled at.” I feel centered and calm. I am a much better mom, spouse, friend, co-worker. My life is so much better than it was when I was a Journal-listed Practitioner – the goal I had wanted to have my whole life.

#MeToo

Please know: the following may contain triggers for many people reading.

The following post is by an Anonymous contributor.


This whole #MeToo hashtag on social media (the Movement was started by Tarana Burke) has hit home for me and for so many of my friends – male, female, trans…

Like just about every other woman I know, I have also worked in hostile work environments, been catcalled, assaulted, raped.

Please know: the following may contain triggers for many people reading.

That time I was assaulted at Principia College

I have heard so many stories of female students being assaulted, raped, treated inappropriately by staff members / faculty / professors. This is my story, with specific details left out, because even though I am anonymous, I still am not ready to share specific details with anyone.

When I was a student at Principia College, I had an attempted date rape. I had previously slept with him, but didn’t want to this time. #NoMeansNo Just because I wanted sugar in my tea last time doesn’t mean I want sugar in my tea this time.

He came to my room and was quite insistent. I had been asleep in my bed. At Principia, it was against the rules to lock your doors, therefore doors didn’t even have locks! So, I couldn’t lock him out of my room, even though I was trying to sleep and didn’t want visitors.

He got in to my bed, and I was pinned against the wall. I told him “no” so many times. He kept coming at me, with a smile on his face. I pushed him away. This person is much larger than I am, and I was genuinely getting afraid. I kept pushing him, telling him, “no” and he kept thinking I didn’t mean it, and that he could convince me if he kept coming at me and smiling that smile I will never be able to forget.

He did finally leave, but I had been so scared. After I was sure he was gone, I went outside my room. Two women I knew were out in the hallway, so I told them what had happened, and I just started crying. They sat with me and just listened. I think one may have very gently hugged me. They didn’t quite know what to say, but they just sat with me and let me feel the sadness and fear. I knew these two by name, and had chatted over the years with both of them maybe once. But I was so grateful they were there when I needed someone to just be safe for me to be with and help me through this pain.

I never turned him in. I figured since we had “been together” before, I would be blamed and nothing would come of it. (This is over 20 years ago.)

A few months later, he was dating someone else. I have no idea what happened, but the administration came to me and said his most recent girlfriend had mentioned my name in relation to him.

The Dean of Students set up an appointment with me and asked me for my story. I told her. The Dean also mentioned that a few other gals on campus had been named, and they were going to interview them. I didn’t learn their names, or who they were. But there were at least 4 of us, from what I could gather. Each with our own story.

He was kicked out. Principia did the right thing by kicking him out.

More than a decade later, a sibling of mine was about to graduate from the college. I was very happy for them, and our family all went to the graduation weekend.

Guess who was back on campus. About to graduate with my sibling. Go ahead, guess.

It was him. This man.

I spent the whole weekend hiding behind pillars, and ducking. I figured out where he sat in the dining room and then carefully figured out a completely other place for me to go hide during meals in the dining room. The whole weekend should have been a happy occasion. For me: it was One Large Trigger. I had to be on high alert the entire weekend.

I told one of my parents, “look, if I suddenly disengage from our group and go hide behind a pillar or a tree or start running, just know that it’s because I saw the guy who attempted to rape me when I was a student here, and I can’t handle seeing him. By the way, he keeps trying to friend me on Facebook and I feel completely stalked by this guy in the cyber world.”

My parent’s response was completely devoid of empathy and compassion.

It was a typical Christian Science response:

“It’s been 20+ years, don’t you think he has changed by now?”

I was told to forgive the accuser.

There was no, “I’m so sorry that happened to you back then! Oh my gosh!” There was no, “Oh wow, that’s not okay that this whole weekend has to be ruined for you, Principia seriously screwed this up, didn’t they?”

I mean, nothing kind to me as a person. The comment was all about the other person. And how they had probably “changed by now.” And that I should “know the truth about the assaulter and forgive him.”

One of my other siblings walked in to the room, and heard what I was talking about with our parent. I said something specific about this person, and my sibling replied, “oh yeah, I met him today.” I don’t remember any empathetic comment about my experience. I do feel like my sibling was sad that I had to deal with it this weekend during graduation, but I don’t remember empathy about the previous attempted rape situation. Just: “I met him today.”

Our family had gotten 2 assigned seats-tickets to graduation, and had a bunch of “back of the auditorium un-assigned seats-tickets” to the graduation. I wanted to sit in the back, and stay hidden so I could just enjoy graduation and not have to be on high alert.

My family insisted I sit with the nearly front row seats for graduation, and you-know-who walked right by me after walking the stage, and sat down too close for my comfort, along with the other graduates. I acquiesced and sat up front. Again, no empathy from this parent, and my boundaries were not respected to help me feel more secure and peaceful.

If you’re a practicing Christian Scientist, you’re not allowed to have any sort of negative emotions. None: no fear, no anger, no sorrow. Nothing negative. They don’t even have the word, “anxiety” in Christian Science. If there is no word for it, it doesn’t exist.

That’s my FIRST #MeToo in a Christian Science setting.


That time I was assaulted in a Christian Science Reading Room

Note: If that story triggered you at all, I would like to caution you NOT to read this next story.

This next story – since it was someone whose name I don’t even know, and no one knows him from the Christian Science community, as far as I know, I can include details I haven’t even told my husband.


I spent a few days a week working in a Reading Room in a very busy city. Another 70 year old woman (who I will refer to as “Collins”) took care of it most of the week, and I filled in on the other days. It is and open full time with regular business hours and staffed only by one woman at a time. (Is this a good idea to you?)

This was not one of those Reading Rooms where it’s open like 1 or 2 hours per week only. This one paid the staff a salary wage, and kept it open full time with regular hours.

I will tell this story in order of the timeline, but it’s not how I learned it. I didn’t learn this first part until after it was all over.

Collins had a regular homeless visitor who came in. He seemed like a regular person, but he was homeless. The previous Reading Room full time attendant had been a man, and he welcomed the homeless in and encouraged them to come in. He went on to work in Boston at The Mother Church.

This visitor would come in and ask about King Solomon. He had a “little boy” look about him. It was a facade he could put on easily, to make himself seem innocent and harmless.

He was getting more and more bold with Collins. He came in every few weeks. He was a regular. One time, he actually stroked her breast. She chalked it up to, “oh, it was accidental, he didn’t do that on purpose.”

The next week, I was walking up to the Reading Room door to arrive a few minutes before my shift started. This person I had never seen before was standing there, staring at the hours on the door, waiting for it to open. I didn’t know what to do. I was obligated to open it. I have to say I wanted to turn around and go to the coffee shop on the corner and wait it out. But I didn’t want to “get in trouble” by not opening on time.

I went up to the door, with my key, and he asked me if it was open. I said, “it will open in 10 minutes.” He nodded and left.

I opened the door about 10-15 minutes later. He came in about an hour after that.

He puttered around in the study room, then came over to me and said, “do you have anything on King Solomon?” It felt like a genuine request. I went to the study room to get a Bible.

I leaned over to get the Bible off the shelf, and he stroked the back of my butt in a specific way that terrified me (this is not something my husband would even do, believe me). As he stroked it, he said, “soft.” And then I heard the distinct sound of a belt buckle being opened.

I had the Bible in my hand at that point. I whirled around, and held the Bible up, threateningly. I marched to the door, gestured widely with my arm with the Bible in it, and said loudly and boldly, “Get out! You are not welcome here ever again!” I was outside the door, holding it open with the Bible gesturing him to leave.

He walked out very calmly, as if he had done nothing wrong.

I called the people who wrote my paychecks. I told them. I said I was sorry, but I didn’t think I could stay open and sell any Christian Science Monitors that day. (Seriously, I felt bad about that, and actually apologized. We usually sold 2-3 Christian Science Monitors every day.)

I called Collins, and she told me the story of him stroking her breast a week or two before that.

Reader: Please know this: people who are apt to do this sort of thing get more and more bold. That’s what they do! I have verified this with my psychiatrist and therapist. Yes: people get more and more bold.

I called my husband. He told me to lock up the Reading Room and come right home.

I called back the paycheck writers and told them I was going home. I was so shaken up, I could barely speak, I was crying. I was a complete mess.

When I got home, my husband started telling me I needed to report this to the police. The Christian Scientist in me said I needed to forgive this man, and “see that it’s not a part of him.” If I didn’t see it as part of him, then he would be healed of this sin, and it would be “as if it was never a part of him, because he was healed.” And so I felt obligated to fervently pray to see him as pure and innocent. (What about ME!)

I prayed this way: “He is God’s perfect child, he is innocent, this is not a part of him. God made him kind and loving. He is not capable of hurting someone, because God didn’t give that to him. Since God didn’t give it to him, bad stuff can’t exist, it’s not a part of him. He didn’t harm me, because I am God’s perfect child too, I can feel safe and protected. I was safe. I wasn’t harmed. I am ok. I am still God’s perfect child. God loves me. God loves him. He can’t harm anyone. He can’t harm me. I am safe. All is well…” blah blah blah blah blah. For hours, days and months I prayed this way.

My husband tried to convince me to go to the police about this. After 2-3 hours of him telling me this is what I should do, he said, “what if he tries to do this to a female who works in a nearby store?” I didn’t want to have another woman subjected to something so horrible or probably worse; so that’s what convinced me to call the police.

I called the police. They told me to come in the next day and talk with a detective. A Christian Science church member lady I trust kept my kids for the hours we had to go back downtown. My husband accompanied me. First, we went to the police station. Then, they sent a detective out to meet me at the Reading Room.

Thankfully, it was a woman detective. I showed her the Reading Room. I told her what happened. I acted all of it out for her. She was very kind and compassionate and smart. I felt safe talking with her.

Collins also told the detective what had happened to her.

The detective was full of compassion and empathy. She was also very surprised that I hadn’t called the police right away. That bothered her immensely. At some point a few days later, it occurred to me that women are supposed to call the police immediately when this happens – that this is a NORMAL and HEALTHY response – to call the police! I realized how bad of an idea it was that Christian Science had conditioned me to do the exact wrong thing! This wrong thing could endanger another woman. This was a key turning point for me in leaving Christian Science.

I still have issues going to that major metropolitan city. I don’t mind going with my kids and with friends and tourists. But I don’t seek out opportunities to go there. Recently, I tried to meet a friend there. She was over an hour late to meet me, and I started to panic. I headed back home without ever seeing her. She apologized profusely. But it made me realize that despite the fact that it’s now been years, I still cannot be there alone.


Both of these instances happened in Christian Science settings, and neither of these times were not the first time I was assaulted, attacked, raped, anything. I had been raped three times already before my experience at Principia College, and I knew how to get away. There is a “look” rapists get in their eye, and I learned to recognize it, defend myself and keep defending until they go away. Rapists want an easy target. They do NOT want someone who will fight back and be difficult. Thanks to me learning this THE HARD WAY, I haven’t had a rape since.

Rapists want an easy target. They do NOT want someone who will fight back and be difficult.

It took me years to be able to tell my Christian Science family members about these instances. I only told them recently, in fact, about the one at Principia. They still don’t know about the one at the Reading Room.

I recently realized that a few of my siblings were friends with the person who assaulted me at Principia. I called them all on a multi-person phone call, so we could all talk to each other at the same time. I told them briefly that this person had harmed me, and that a group of us women students had told our stories to the Dean of Students and he was kicked out. I asked my siblings to please block this person on social media. My siblings blocked him. They didn’t even question me about it. They were very kind to me and were not devoid of empathy. They just blocked him and then told me they love me and support me. I felt so grateful for their compassion and support. My siblings are wonderful people and I appreciate them so much.

After the assault at the Reading Room, I yelled at myself about not being able to forgive this person. I also yelled at myself about not feeling safe in the metropolitan city. David and Goliath assured me that I was safe, that’s what I had learned from a young age. “The story of David and Goliath teaches us that we can take down a bully or someone of power if we just believe in God enough! Trust that!” I yelled at myself constantly for not feeling safe.

As Doctor Phil might say: “How is that working for you?”

Well, it didn’t. I am so grateful for good, solid therapy, psychiatric care, and specific medicines.

Did you know that talking about our fears actually makes them have less power over us? Christian Science teaches people NOT to talk about their fears, because then they won’t have power! This is yet another way that Christian Science teaches us the exact wrong thing to do. This makes the human condition worse instead of better!

I hope that with all of these #MeToo posts on social media, that our society is waking up and that good men will learn to advocate for women. That they will learn to say, “not cool, man,” when they see coworkers sharing dirty photos of their wives, or catcalling women, or discussing lewd things in locker rooms.

Men allies: Teach other men to be classy. Be an ally to marginalized people – including transgender people, black people, Native American people, Asian people, dwarves, disabled, elderly, everyone!

I hope that school systems will begin to teach empathy in schools. I think learning empathy is a necessary skill to help humanity rise up and become something better. Empathy is the best way for women to not have to share something like #MeToo in future generations.

Thank you for reading my story.


Last note: Collins died about a year after my assault in the Reading Room. She died a very sudden death, at a Christian Science Nursing Facility. Her husband had died at the same facility a few months before Collins did, after suffering for years. As far as I know, despite losing both of her parents while in Christian Science nursing homes, their daughter is still a Christian Scientist who works for “The Cause,” in a public way.

Chrystal’s Story: On Recycling and Medicine

Chrystal's Story header image

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


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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



Christian Science and Medicine do not mix

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

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

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

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

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

John 13:

 

 

Jesus Washes the Disciples’ Feet

 

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

 

 

A New Command I Give You 

 

 

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

 

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

I was crying from relief, not fear.

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


I had my first panic attack at the age of 28. It came on out of the blue, in the middle of the afternoon on a Thursday at work. I drove myself to the hospital thinking I was having a heart attack. I had never been admitted to a hospital before. Once the intake nurse took my blood pressure and determined that I wasn’t dying, she hooked me up to IV and I laid there quietly for about an hour.

A doctor came in, and she was exactly my age. She told me that what had happened to me was not ‘nothing.’ It was a cardiac event, but it was brought on by anxiety, not heart disease. She guessed, correctly, that I was about 30, single, and working in a demanding job where it was hard to keep my work/life balance. She said she saw women in exactly the same condition at least once a week.

I began crying immediately, which didn’t surprise her, until I told her that I was crying from relief, not fear. It felt like after thirty years of striving to look and be perfect, I was convulsing under the pressure, and here was someone telling me that it was normal to feel that way, that it was okay, and that she would help. I could walk out of the hospital and things could never be the same again. I didn’t have to just say, “Hallelujah, I’ve been healed!” and move on. I could acknowledge the challenge as both physical and mental, and use all the resources available—therapy, medication, self-care—to manage and ultimately overcome this.

The doctor prescribed me some anti anxiety medication. I took it several times in the next year or so, maybe before a big meeting when I felt myself getting anxious.  At some point I threw the rest away and haven’t needed it since.