Five Questions: A’s Answers


When people leave Christian Science there are five questions that pop up again and again. We can only answer these questions for ourselves. By sharing these answers, we hope to shed a little light into the murky depths of Christian Science. Find all the answers to the Five Questions on the FiveQuestions tag.

The following answers are from A, a member of the Ex-Christian Science Facebook community.


How did you get into Christian Science?

I was born into it.

Why did you stay in it for so long?

I am a ‘parent pleaser’. Adherence to Christian Science made my parents happy, and it took until I was about 25 to openly admit that I wasn’t practicing it, and that I didn’t want to pretend I was anymore.

What made you decide to leave?

As I became an adult the culture of the church bothered me more and more, beyond just the dogma. It was narrow minded, ‘tunnel visioned’, and often just uninspiring. The culture really seemed to discourage human feelings and normal stages of development. There were wonderful things about it that I consider part of my spiritual and personal development–the ability to listen to instinct (still small voice); the power of Love, Truth, and goodness; for example. There are many more aspects that are just wishful, hopelessly ignorant, outdated, and fear-based. As I grew older, the idea that all these people, many of them privileged and well educated, were following the ‘teachings’ of this clearly unstable 19th century woman became more shocking to me.

Why would anyone join?
Virtually everyone I’ve ever known in the church was born into it. I don’t think there is much meaningful conversion happening beyond the occasional person who marries into it, and it sounds like they are doing outreach in Africa that seems to be effective. It certainly isn’t for the fellowship, as in my experience Christian Scientists are generally pretty snobby and aloof, and the church communities not particularly welcoming beyond the surface. I think the demographics intersect with upper middle class white culture, especially in New England, which is ‘play by the rules’ and somewhat conformist. Add to that the fact that some people get drawn into networks of camp, school, Prin, etc. and either don’t realize how insulated they are or feel afraid of being isolated from what they know.
Did you really believe? 

I’m really not sure. I probably did for some time, as an elementary age kid, as much as I was capable of it. I really wanted to, and my Mom really wanted me to, and I respected her very much growing up so I believed what she told me. I also had one beloved practitioner who is still one of my favorite people. But the overwhelming feeling is one of wanting to be seen as good by those whose approval I wanted, more than anything else. There was always the message “if you would just read the lesson every day, you wouldn’t have such and such a problem.”

I still think of Christian Science phrases and concepts often as they become relevant in something I’m experiencing. There are pieces of it–like certain wonderful hymns–that are very comforting and beautiful still. There are many other pieces that are just laughably insane and I can’t believe I went along with it into adulthood. I feel strongly that you can take what is useful to you and move past the rest, and be better off for it. The fear of acknowledging physical evidence, and inability to take charge of what is happening in your body, and be informed is just crazy. I feel so sorry for people who are trapped in that, and remember the helplessness of it–the feeling of, “I am having this problem because there is something wrong with my thought–what is it?!? How do I know to stop doing it?! There must be something!” No…sometimes a cold is just a cold. Take a nap and some sudafed and let it pass. Looking back on the time I wasted worrying about that, makes me grateful that I was able to move on and that my family supported me, or at least didn’t fight me, in doing so.


If you would like to contribute your experiences to The Ex-Christian Scientist, you can email us at [email protected]

Childhood fascination with medicine & desire to fit in

The following is a collection of contributions from members of the Ex-Christian Science collective about childhood health and safety issues they faced growing up in Christian Science. 

 

Once I was at a friend’s house, and the mom handed me a Flintstones vitamin at dinner and I FREAKED. OUT. I jumped out of my seat and ran to hand it back to her with a breathless “I’maChristianScientist!” She looked at me so confused and said, “It’s just a vitamin.” And I launched into a mangled six-year-old’s explanation of Christian Science. I feel like they didn’t have me over again after that.

– Elizabeth


The problem with not being allowed to have something that everyone else in the general population takes for granted, and more so being told it is wrong, is that it leads to trying it anyway and sometimes in the wrong way. I was very curious about medicine and actually went so far as to steal a little tin of Bayer Aspirin. I locked my little brother and myself in the bathroom and made him try one first. Of course they tasted bitter and horrible and we spat them out. To this day I don’t remember how I disposed of them. Worse was stealing a bottle of pills from a drugstore in the days when many drugs were on the shelf. I waited until my grandfather was in another aisle and whipped it into my pocket. They were tiny brown pills, god knows what. I took them to school and told my friends I had to take them. I was desperate to fit in.

– Tessa



Until now, only my wife has known this embarrassing truth: at age 37 when I was first properly under the care of a doctor and was put on a few month-to-month prescriptions, I switched to Target pharmacy because they had red prescription bottles, and I had them all arranged artfully on my bedside table.

– Anonymous



When I was six or seven, I got a pre-made Easter basket, and deep inside was a bottle of ‘Vaseline medicated lotion.’ Do you remember how it used to say that? I can’t imagine what the ‘medication’ was; anyway it was instantly my most prized, secret possession until my dad caught me showing it off to my cousin and made a huge scene and took it away. My non-Christian Scientist cousin must have thought we were complete nitwits.

– Anonymous

Someone introduced Mother to a CSP

This is Part 1 of a series of posts by Sharon, an Ex-Christian Scientist Group contributor.
Sharon's Story Header

I envy those folks who say they grew up in a Christian Science household, but their parents were warm and nurturing. I was not that fortunate.

I was raised in the Christian Science church by a mother who converted to Christian Science shortly after my birth. I grew up in the middle of the polio epidemic and I remember my classmates lining up for the first inoculations of the salk vaccine while I waited in the classroom. I was legally exempted from any medical testing, any health classes and any discussions surrounding health or the human body. I was required to leave the classroom if such a discussion started. I felt like a freak.

I never was allowed to discuss any problem or any illness with my family. The reply to me was just to ‘know the truth’ and ‘straighten up your thinking’ and I would get over it. Christian Science talks about being loving, but spending my childhood experiencing terrible sore throats, fevers, and tonsils so swollen I couldn’t swallow, while all the time being told I wasn’t sick and to get up and go to school was not loving. Being forced to go to school sick—and if I threw up and my mother was called, she would be angry when she picked me up—was not loving.

Whenever I read about a child dying under the care of a Christian Science practitioner I know that I would have been there too, except for pure dumb luck, because my mother definitely would have let me die. I spent the early part of my adulthood mentally berating myself because I was unable to have all these so-called healings and thinking that it was because I just wasn’t a good enough Christian Scientist. Continue reading “Someone introduced Mother to a CSP”

Lucy’s Story

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

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


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

Continue reading “Lucy’s Story”

I blame a belief system that tells parents that doctors make things worse.

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

When I was born, I had two things. I had a condition called congenital talipes equinovarus, or ‘clubfoot’. I also had a pair of kind, loving parents who happened to be Christian Scientists. Christian Science is a fringe religion that rejects all doctors and medical care, and my parents were fervent believers.

I was born at a hospital, so I imagine that there must have been at least one doctor who saw my deformed feet and offered medical treatment. I don’t know what the doctor said, but I know that my parents refused treatment for me. Instead, they took me home and started praying. And praying. And praying. Prayer, as far as they knew, was the most effective treatment for the ‘illusion’ of deformity. My parents loved me, and they were determined to ‘know the truth’ about my feet until my feet reflected that truth.

I’m amazed that I learned to walk, given how radically deformed my feet were. My feet were turned sideways, toward each other, with the soles facing each other. When I started walking, the soles of my feet didn’t touch the ground at all. I was walking on what should have been the sides and tops of my feet. I fell down a lot.

For three years, my parents watched their little boy toddle around on his sideways feet. Their church told them that my feet would be healed, if only they were pray hard enough. I can only imagine how agonizing it must have been for them to pray and pray for a healing that never came. I wonder if maybe they blamed themselves for their failure to heal.

Eventually, around my fourth birthday, my parents decided to take me to a children’s hospital. The surgeons cut me open, severed and reattached my tendons, and moved some bones around. After the surgery, I spent a couple of months in a pair of full leg casts and a tiny wheelchair. The casts came off sometime around my fifth birthday. I graduated to leg braces and crutches, and eventually to normal everyday shoes.

As an ex-Christian Scientist looking back on my childhood, I always thought that, regarding my feet, I’d gotten off relatively lucky. Sure, my parents had delayed medical intervention for three years, but I did get help eventually. The surgeons did a great job, considering what they had to work with. I’ll never have a full range of motion in my feet, and I’ll certainly never be Fred Astaire, but I can walk and run like a normal person. Most people who see me don’t know that there’s anything wrong with me. What more could a guy with clubfoot ask for?

My rude awakening came one day when I was in my late twenties. I was spending the day walking around a museum with a friend of mine, and after a few hours, I asked my friend to stop for a minute so I could flex my sore feet. I explained that my feet get sore really easily, and I mentioned that I was born with clubfoot.

“Really?” she said. “I was born with clubfoot too!”

“Oh, cool!” I said. “I’ve never met anyone else like me! Do your feet get sore too?”

“No,” she said. “Right after I was born, I had braces, and the braces fixed my feet. I don’t have any lingering effects.”

It was a shock. As soon as I got home, I went to the internet, and learned that my friend’s experience was typical. I had thought that my feet were the best that modern medicine could give to a child with clubfoot. Now I realized that there had been a window of opportunity during which my feet could have been made normal with braces—completely, utterly normal—and that my parents had missed this opportunity.

I love my parents. They made a really bad decision, but I don’t blame them. I blame Christian Science. I blame a belief system that tells parents that suffering isn’t real, that doctors make things worse, and that the best way to help their child is to deny that he has any problems. I blame a belief system that leaves a young boy to teach himself to walk on sideways feet.