I couldn’t bring myself to put my kids through the same crap I went through

This is Part 2 of a series of posts by Sharon, an Ex-Christian Scientist Group contributor.
Sharon's Story Header

People in our church with problems were condemned behind their backs as someone who ‘needed to straighten out their thinking.’ Ill members who disappeared out of their regular pews were ignored and never talked about again. One couple who let their daughter die of a ruptured appendix came to church the next Sunday as if nothing had happened and no one said a word about her.  It was as if she never existed.

My mother was never very sympathetic towards anyone’s illness or plain bad luck. She preached her great love, but her constant statement was ‘there certainly is something wrong with their thinking!’ Then she got old and had to use a walker, and I remember she wouldn’t go to church because of the walker.

I told her that there actually are churches where people would bring you a casserole when you had trouble like that, but of course, not the Christian Science church. To even look at someone who needed a walker or was infirm in some way was paying attention to Error; you were just to turn away and deny you saw anything. Continue reading “I couldn’t bring myself to put my kids through the same crap I went through”

Conditions under which a family could possibly bring up happy and healthy children while indoctrinating them with the tenets of Christian Science

By Marion, an Ex-Christian Scientist Group contributor.

I have wondered, are there any conditions under which a family could possibly bring up happy and healthy children while indoctrinating them with the tenets of Christian Science and living by those tenets?

Some ideas:

  1. The parents hide any failures from the children. In effect, they lie to them in the interests of not ‘contaminating the children’s thought’ because of the parents’ failures.
  2. The differences children perceive between their practices and beliefs and those of their companions are cast as ignorance on the part of the majority, and the children are taught to view that ignorance with compassion.
  3. The children are lucky in that they have no serious illnesses or accidents.
  4. The children are academically gifted, and have strong reinforcement from teachers and authority figures; they achieve recognition for accomplishments in music, spelling, mathematics and other areas.
  5. Parents are liberal in the sense that they excuse regular practices…eating well, having good hygiene and appropriate schedules as temporary accommodations to the weight of human belief.
  6. The parents are good actors, passing off as certainty what might be questionable, maintaining continuously a kindly, even temperament.

These qualifications pretty much describe my husband’s Christian Scientist family. Incongruities were treated with humor, and there were definitely exceptions made to the rule. My husband was a very effective dental researcher, while in his religious beliefs he denied the  physical evidence.

He and I were Christian Scientists while our children were growing up, and the kids went to Sunday School, but, given some ‘non-demonstrations’, we concluded that, while the truth was the truth, we weren’t good enough to demonstrate it, and they all had medical care.

“The people here are so nice.”

By an anonymous Ex-Christian Scientist Group contributor.

When my mother went into what turned out to be a diabetic coma I called 911, even though she made me promise never to call a doctor or take her to a hospital. The nurse there said her blood sugar was 800, the highest that had ever registered on her meter, and I asked, “Is that good?” The nurse looked at me oddly, told me that my mother was a diabetic, and asked me what planet I had been living on—and I realized how lacking my education had been. I was fifty years old then, and have been catching up ever since.

The first thing my mother said when she woke up in intensive care was, “The people here are so nice.” Then I said, since she had always told me she would die of fright just going over the threshold of a hospital, “Mom, you’re okay with this, right? You were dying and I didn’t want to lose you.” And she said, “It’s okay. This is a ‘suffer it to be so now’ situation. I’m not going to beat myself up because I didn’t have enough understanding. I’ll continue to study.”

And so she did—while testing her blood sugar six times a day and taking insulin on a sliding scale three times a day. She regularly kept her host of doctors appointments and even had a cornea transplant and a cataract removed to improve her eyesight, which she had mostly lost due to diabetes. I think she was okay with the doctor because she didn’t make the decision herself. In her mind she could blame it on me, and because she loved me so, and I could never do wrong, and she trusted me, she was fine.

What I learned from it was, when your parents get old, sometimes you have to jump in and make the hard choices. My mother was eighty-three. She didn’t want to do the thinking anymore. So I did it. The folks in the emergency room told me she would have died within the hour, but my call to 911 extended her life six years. That experience was one of the keystones on my way out of Christian Science.

Reshaping My Distorted Image of Doctors

By an anonymous Ex-Christian Scientist Group Contributor.

 

I went to the doctor for the first time when I was fourteen years old. Months of caring for my mother as she succumbed to untreated breast cancer forged the courage my sister and I needed to break away from our parents’ radical reliance on Christian Science for healing and venture into the world of modern medicine. This was a huge step for us. We had never been to a doctor’s office for any childhood illness or injury.

My mother meticulously sheltered us from learning anything about medicine or even the basics of how our bodies functioned, in an attempt to protect us from sickness. This left a void of information that was replaced with fear of the unknown. I had no basis for evaluating whether a symptom I was experiencing was a life threatening problem or nothing to be concerned about.

The stories that had been told by my family and Sunday School teachers about Christian Scientists that had gone to the doctor were dismissive at best. Those Christian Scientists had been too fearful to address their problems with prayer. Going to the doctor was equitable to irrational behavior. There was always the old story that was paraded out about some family member who had gone to the doctor and taken medicine that had made them even more ill.

I imagine my sister and I looked out of place in the cheery, well lit waiting room of the doctor’s office on that first visit. Two wide-eyed, terrified children, sitting alone, clinging to our parental permission slips like we were headed to an execution. My mother had recently died and I was frightened that the doctor would find that I too had some terminal illness.

Beyond the fear, though, I felt profoundly determined. We had overcome so many barriers just for this wellness exam. The choice to go to a doctor was not only challenging due to the lack exposure to medicine, but also the generational lack of information on how to navigate health insurance and medical offices. We started from square one with learning the basics: that there are different types of doctors and only some doctors are in your insurance network. As children going to the doctor alone, we needed permission slips to receive any type of medical help. My sister and I drafted the permission slips the night before our appointment, and we felt fortunate that our father was willing to sign them.

The friendly receptionist gave us several long forms to fill out about our medical history. Most of it I had to leave blank. I had no medical history and neither did most of my family members. The doctor we saw was wonderful. She had a warm personality and seemed to recognize we were frightened. She did not make a fuss over the lack of medical history. Instead, she empathetically acknowledged that it must be very scary for us to visit the doctors for the first time. We received our vaccines and a clean bill of health.

This experience was the beginning of reshaping my distorted image of doctors. I found more guidance and comfort in that one visit than in every phone call I had ever made to a Christian Science practitioner. Over the years I have found, to my surprise, that the vast majority of my primary care doctors have not made me feel awkward about my non-traditional past. The biggest issue I still struggle with is remembering to reach out to my doctors for guidance on health problems. My childhood conditioned me to trivialize my injuries and illnesses and to cope without medical help. It’s hard to remember that I no longer need to suffer in silence.