Chrystal’s Story: The Last Straw – Part 1

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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 (Part 1)

Leaving my first branch church

A gal who had been raised in a Bible Belt kind of church had a toddler son. It was coming up on Easter Sunday, and she wanted an Easter Egg hunt for her son, because her neighbors were elderly and she didn’t have anyone else she knew who had kids, so she thought it would be fun for the kids at church. I know “The Manual of The Mother Church” by Mary Baker Eddy specifically states, “no special celebrations at Easter,” and I knew the members would hate the idea. I thought really fast, because I was proceeding from a place of “let’s let our member who converted to Christian Science feel loved and accepted,” and I said, “let’s call the daycare place next door, and see if we can use their playground for our Easter Egg Hunt on Easter Sunday!” This gal loved the idea. I wasn’t going to be in town, but I arranged for all of it to happen. Then, I gave the announcement to the First Reader.

The Sunday before Easter, I had just finished teaching Sunday School, and the Second Reader came storming down the stairs to me in Sunday School — she was angry. Whew! My students hadn’t all been picked up yet by their parents. This church member started to berate me and tell me off, with complete disregard to my students. She couldn’t believe that as Second Reader, she had to hear about this from the announcement! How dare I come up with having an Easter Egg Hunt at church!

I couldn’t get a word in edgewise for at least 7 minutes. She knew how to talk without breathing and I couldn’t interrupt her to say, “it wasn’t my idea! It was this other person’s idea, and I moved it over to the daycare so it wouldn’t be on church grounds!” I couldn’t believe how furious she was with me for this thing that I had tried to arrange so our own member could feel loved.

As this church member friend berated me in front of my Sunday School kids, I realized, “oh my gosh, she won’t let me speak to say ‘it’s not even my idea,’ and “it has come to this in the church: people think: ‘that idea is SO BAD, it MUST be Chrystal’s.’”

As it turned out, the parents had the Easter Egg hunt in our own parking lot (remember – I was out of town), and several moms griped to me about how terrible it was. I had arranged for the daycare playground next door, and they chose our own dirty parking lot with litter and gravel among the Easter Eggs. Way to celebrate Jesus Christ’s resurrection. (This church has a bus stop at the edge of the property, and I have seen cigarette butts in the parking lot too. It wouldn’t surprise me if there were also cigarette butts among the Easter Eggs!)

I remember lying awake in bed with that drama playing in my head over and over and over. It was the middle of the night, and I pictured the story of Daniel in the Lion’s Den. I got out of bed with my husband sleeping right there, and my boys sleeping in their rooms down the hall. I knelt down next to my bed and prayed. I had never knelt down on my knees, folded my hands and prayed. But I knelt down the way I thought Daniel might have done every day, and I prayed. I prayed as hard as I could pray. I cried and cried, and I prayed and prayed. I remember suddenly having a vision of “a new heaven and a new church,” (a clever variation on Revelation 21:1) and I knew everything would be ok.

I withdrew my name from membership 2 days later. (I had planned to withdraw 3 days later, but I got a phone call from another member berating me for something else, so I resigned immediately after that phone call. It had all gone on long enough.) Stupid me, I went to another branch church and joined them the following Sunday. (I told them “your branch is closer to my house, so I am just switching.” It was closer to my home, but that wasn’t completely why I was switching.)


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.

Chrystal’s Story: On Recycling and Medicine

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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.

Chrystal’s Story – Going Crazy At Branch Church

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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. 


Earache Story (Part 1)

One evening, my younger son had an earache when he was a toddler. He had them every now and then. One of my brothers used to get those too, but my step mom taught me that “at some point he just outgrew those.” She told me that after the pain of an earache is gone, it drains out, and they are “healed.” My son had probably several of those – a painful ear that drained out the next day, and then was “healed.” I called a Practitioner one time because his ear hurt. It was late at night, and I sat in my rocking chair, holding my precious toddler, and trying to “keep my thought calm.” He kept putting his finger in his ear and screaming. I could barely hear the practitioner talking to me on the phone over the screams of my son. After a while, my son calmed down and went to sleep. I never saw drainage, and thought, “well, that’s just a healing in a different way.” (This story continues, but it comes up – after I left the branch church as a member. This story is “to be continued.” See: Earache Story – Part 2)

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My “crazy” ideas, and the best events I have ever orchestrated in my life.

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As my boys grew up, I became more and more involved in Christian Science branch church work. I organized the annual lecture for our church, I created a dedication ceremony for our new building from scratch. I bought a new dress and gotten my hair done for the occasion, and baked 2 enormous, beautiful cakes. I expected 100 people to attend, and I think we got less than 30 people; to say “I was disappointed” would be a gross understatement.

At the time, I was on the church board. When I was on the board, a gal we all knew who had been a long time member wrote to us and said something like, “I am gay. You didn’t knowingly choose someone to be a gay SS teacher, and I am giving you the opportunity to ask me to leave.” While the whole LBGTQ idea is anti Christian Science historically, we as a church board, were actually quite progressive. We wrote her an easy letter saying, “We love you for who you are. We didn’t even need to discuss this or vote on it. We invite you to participate in this church now and any time in the future in any capacity that you would like.” She felt so incredibly loved by our letter. She had truly expected to be booted out of the church. We absolutely accepted her. I felt like I was working on bringing the branch church into the future.  (That member wasn’t there much longer. She moved away, moved back, joined a different branch church, then left that one too. I feel like there are layers upon layers in each of our stories, and none of us discuss them with each other. Each of us on our own little island.)

While this branch church was progressive when it came to loving a member who was gay, that church was ultra traditional, in that it didn’t allow memorial services or weddings in it. (Why would we need a funeral or memorial service when we don’t believe in death? The person didn’t die. They just “sailed in a boat and went over the horizon!” Why would we commemorate something that never happened?) This same church also only used to let Readers read only from the actual books (“The (KJV) Holy Bible,” and “Science and Health” by Mary Baker Eddy). But now that church allows even A.A. Meetings in the building, memorial services, HOA meetings, and if a Reader wants to read from their electronic device, they are welcome to do that too. It’s a fairly progressive church. They even allow memorial services there now too, though they are called, “Celebration of Life,” and look a whole lot like a regular church service with a small “testimony” time, when people can share memories of the deceased.

When my youngest son was in Kindergarten, I started up a Vacation Bible School (VBS) for Christian Science children. A friend of mine and I ran that for a few years. It was a wonderfully progressive thing to do with the children. One hour per week of Sunday School to learn “The Bible,” with kids not even showing up ½ the time didn’t feel like enough. So having a solid week of VBS for kids in the summer felt like a great idea. I went to almost a dozen local branch churches and recruited Sunday School teachers, students and volunteers to come from those places to be a part of our VBS.

You might be surprised to learn that at first, so many church members blasted me about this (can you imagine someone who professes to be a vocal part of a church they think is “The highest form of Christianity,” arguing with someone who wants to teach the children “The Holy Bible” in church?

Too many members actually said, “is that even allowed in our church?”

Seriously? (They were referring to the idea of having a camp for a week, from an insurance perspective. The insurance people thought the people who called to check were completely daft. They said: “you want to teach a Bible camp at your church? It’s your building, and that is a church activity, of COURSE your insurance policy covers it!”)

It was totally bizarre to me that Christian Scientists would wonder if we could teach The Bible to kids on days other than Sunday. They felt the only time to teach kids about The Bible was for that 1 hour every Sunday, and a VBS is just something that is simply not done at a Christian Science Church. I pointed out that we would be teaching The Bible to our children. I pointed out that The Manual of The Mother Church says, “The Sabbath children should be taught the 10 Commandments, the Beatitudes, and The Lord’s Prayer.” I pointed out that Christian Science teaches us that “the sabbath is every day; not just Sunday.”

“The first lessons of the children should be the Ten Commandments (Exodus 20: 3-18), The Lord’s Prayer, and its Spiritual Interpretation by Mary Baker G. Eddy (Matt. 6: 9-14), Sermon on the Mount (Matt. 5: 3-11).”

 

The Manual of The Mother Church by Mary Baker Eddy, Article XVIII. Section 11.

I was shocked at how much explaining I had to do to convince people that this was an ok thing to do, and that it would be a good idea. I had passion for this project, and it kept me full of energy to keep pushing for it. I found it interesting that the people who had been my biggest resistance eventually became my biggest supporters.

Parents loved it! They donated money to cover all the costs like snacks, crafts, paper, etc. It was really a nice experience for the kids. That was one of two times when I felt completely supported in one of my “crazy” ideas for the church.

Another crazy idea I had, was to run with an article I saw in The Christian Science Journal, called “Church Alive.” The Journal called on all branch churches to run with the theme “Church Alive” and do an event the weekend of Annual Meeting (the weekend before the first Monday in June). I had an instant vision of what it would look like. It was a beautiful vision, and I thought, “let’s do it! The Mother Church asks us to do this; let’s do it! It will be wonderful!”  (Yeah, I’m crazy like that.)

Well, I brought it up to the members at my branch church. This branch church is proud for being the “largest branch church in the state.” (Most of the members do not come to meetings, and don’t show up for church services and haven’t in YEARS and need to be removed from the rolls. But the church seems to love the prestige of being “the largest branch church” so they keep the rolls stacked like that. That feels deceptive to me, but, that’s another story for another blog post.)

Well, I got so much push back on it. The board took forever. The article had come out in the fall, maybe in October. I had until June. To me, this was plenty of time. I had planned my entire wedding in 5 months, I could easily do this.

The decision finally came in late March: “Yes! Go for it!”

I remember rolling my eyes and thinking, “finally!”

After the decision came, I kept getting a lot of people saying “it’s too short of a time line! We can’t do it!”

I wanted to scream, “if you all had said ‘yes’ earlier, it wouldn’t be that short of a time line! Remember Jesus getting across the sea in that boat instantaneously? Christian Science teaches that ‘time is limitation.’ Stop believing in time!” But I just had to keep my mouth shut and let them grumble and show them we could do it & it would be fabulous.

TIME. Mortal measurements; limits, in which are summed up all human acts, thoughts, beliefs, opinions, knowledge; matter; error; that which begins before, and continues after, what is termed death, until the mortal disappears and spiritual perfection appears.

 

Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures by Mary Baker Eddy, p. 595

I wrote to all the people I knew at all the area churches – there were about a dozen within our tri-state area. I got so much response! I had meetings at our branch church. Together with all the volunteers from the area churches, we found speakers, workshop leaders, 200 attendees, and we catered lunch including vegan options for everyone. The entire lunch experience went flawlessly, which is really saying something. People marveled at the wonderful lunch experience, which still strikes me as funny.

We hired a musician from Boston to come and do a performance during the day, and we also gave him the opportunity to do a well-attended concert the night before. The day of our “Church Alive” conference, this musician sang “Siyahamba” with my very young son on stage, showing everyone how easy it is to sing the new hymns. (There is an incredible amount of resistance in the membership to sing from the new Hymnal Supplement. Also “Siyahamba” is one of the coolest spiritual songs ever, and I think it has become the hymn of the current generation of Christian Science kids.)

The whole event was to take place the Saturday before Annual Meeting (Annual Meeting is in Boston every year, on the first Monday in June). We saw the brand new community center that we were renting for the event for the first time the Thursday before that. I found out that day, that they had audio-visual capabilities. I developed a whole powerpoint, musical videos, and slide shows and everything after I found out the audio-visual capabilities. I also figured out how to stream a video of The Board of Directors talking to our audience through the audio-visual equipment. I had never done anything like that before. I figured out all of that in 2 days.

It was amazing, if I do say so myself. I consider the entire event to be one of my best shining moments in my life. To recap: I pulled together a team of volunteers and an amazing conference attended by about 200 people in the span of less than 3 months, and I did all of the amazing audio-visual in just 2 days. We not only stayed in budget, we also made a bit of money on the endeavor. I think that’s pretty darn cool.

The one thing that went completely askew was the one time in the group when I had to sadly “let them learn the hard way.” We had 2 choices for our keynote speaker. We could go with a very forward thinking Christian Science Teacher and Lecturer from another state (we had the money to fly her in) who is incredibly creative, or we could go with a local practitioner everyone knew who had started up 2 branch churches from scratch. The second woman had been a Sunday School teacher of mine, and everyone loves her. She’s wonderful and intelligent and kind and funny. However, she is not dynamic, and she is not a public speaker or a lecturer.

I have a leadership quality that lets the group decide, and then I get behind the decision. I don’t cause waves or hard feelings by saying, “you’re wrong here, you’re choosing the wrong option.” I pushed a little, but they were very set on having this local woman be the speaker. So, we had the local speaker come. She sat down during her keynote presentation. She read her speech from her own handwritten notes. Her speech was in no way dynamic, and it was very hard to listen to. Apparently, it had a lot of really great ideas and points in it (I couldn’t hear it from my seat in the back, but people who heard it & wrote on the comment cards, said she had a lot of great things to say). And almost every single feedback form we got for the day had high marks in every single area, except that the key note address was “not dynamic” and “hard to listen to.” That was the only failure of the day. I am not sure if I would push more next time, but it was interesting to observe this group do that to themselves.  They chose a “known” over a better alternative that was “unknown,” even though their group leader had passionately and lovingly told them which option would be the better option. They just couldn’t trust or have faith in the idea. And it made me feel sad for them.  

Chrystal’s Story – Becoming a Christian Science Practitioner

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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. 


I found a Christian Science Teacher up in Canada and almost went through Class Instruction with him. He called me suddenly out of the blue. I had a mouth full of peanut butter, but I felt I should take the call, since it was my soon-to-be Teacher. We laughed together that I had a mouth full of peanut butter. He said he was being led not to teach Class any more, so I couldn’t go through Class with him that summer as I had planned. Time to continue searching for a Teacher…

Mary Baker Eddy wrote something about a net we must get through. I felt as if the net had been thrown, for sure, and I was supposed to ‘get through it’; rather than listen to the Universe shouting at me,“get out of that religion! Save yourself while you still can!” So, I marched on, trying to find another Teacher.

“Students who are ready for this step should beware the net that is craftily laid and cunningly concealed to prevent their advancement in this direction.” 
The First Church of Christ, Scientist and Miscellany by Mary Baker Eddy, p. 241.

 

I went to our annual trek to a Christian Science camp that summer; we had gone for two decades or more throughout my life; and I met a Teacher there. I went through Class with her the next year. On the first day of Class Instruction, my Teacher said to all of us in what was probably the second sentence out of her mouth on day one: “I have never had a class full of so many people having such animal magnetism to get through in order to be here.” I knew that I had jumped through hoops and all sorts of things in order to be there. But, it turned out that everyone else had too. Of course, all those road blocks and things I had to hurdle to get there, was probably The Universe telling me, “don’t do it!” And in Christian Science, I was taught, “kiss those crosses! Then you’ll get the crown!” I was just getting started with too many crosses to come.

The last day of Class Instruction (a two-week course taught so that people are able to become Christian Science Practitioners and they feel they can ‘heal any ailment’), my Teacher sat me down alone and told me I needed to “heal this emotionalism.” She told me I was too emotional. In Christian Science, we are allowed to feel joy, happiness, and gratitude. Nothing else, as far as I can tell, is acceptable. I grew up without words for my own emotions. I stifled my emotions to the best of my ability, and my emotions only grew stronger and stronger as a result, because they were squashed instead of identified and moved through. It is exhausting to constantly squash your own emotions and not have words to express how you’re feeling. The more you deny a human part of yourself like emotions, the more pronounced they become, and they are harder to stifle. I would have outbursts, cry for reasons I couldn’t identify, I felt like a failure and I beat myself up constantly for not “thinking only good thoughts from God.”

A few years after Class Instruction, I became a bona-fide Journal-isted Christian Science Practitioner. Then, I set my sights on becoming a Christian Science Teacher. The way things work in Christian Science, everything is completely secret. The only people who knew I had gone to Class Instruction were my step mom, my dad, and my husband. I didn’t even tell my kids. (Though they were very young anyway, one was out of diapers by then and the other was still in diapers.) Then, when I was working towards becoming a Journal-listed Practitioner, I didn’t tell anyone. I applied, and it took them 18 months to accept me. It was the weirdest thing. I think they lost my application, because when I hadn’t heard from them in 12 months and finally called them up to say, “how is my application proceeding?” They said, “oh, for getting re-listed in the Journal?” I said, “no, I was never listed yet.” That surprised them, then they proceeded on my application. It took another few months after that for my listing to appear. Another hoop for me to jump through? Another cross to kiss? Another message from ‘The Universe’ saying: “don’t do it!”?  Who knows.

When I went through the approval process, I was interviewed by someone; another Christian Science Teacher. At one point, she told me, “if a child case goes on for more than three days, be sure to give them the opportunity to go to a doctor if they want to. We don’t want any more deaths. Parents need to take care of their children.” I tried to prepare myself to tell people “go see a doctor” if need be. That was a hard thing to be prepared to do. (Going to a doctor is so completely opposite from what we learn in Christian Science, though more modern Christian Scientists may say the opposite to your face, but behind your back, they would nod in agreement with what I said.)

I had that come up a few times in my head–preparing myself to tell people to go to a doctor. I never did point anyone toward a doctor, but I came close a few times. (A Christian Science nurse at a local sanatorium suggested that my dad go to a doctor, and it made my step-mom angry–for years–that she would dare suggest such a thing.) Historically, there is a very strong vibe in the Christian Science legacy “we don’t go to doctors!” And it is such a strong viewpoint! Christian Scientists generally don’t immunize their kids. They may or may not go get a broken bone set They don’t take vitamins. They don’t even believe in germs! They call it ‘germ theory’. (Do YOU call it ‘germ theory’? Who outside of people from the 18th century calls it ‘germ theory’?) We are taught to definitely wash and stay clean. (Mary Baker Eddy even mentions that we should not even use flannel to heal. Flannel of all things. Christian Scientists interpret this to mean: ‘no material remedies’.) But that’s about it. No sanitizing if you fall down and get a cut. Even band-aids are frowned upon, as if even those are acknowledging that we have blood in our bodies. A snide comment is often made like, “this is just to cover it up so I won’t see it and believe that this cut is real.” One time, I actually heard a testimony at Wednesday evening service about a woman who overcame the suggestion to buy band-aids at the grocery store because that might suggest that she might get cut in the future, and she didn’t believe in getting cut accidentally. (Christian Scientists don’t believe in accidents, either: “Accidents are unknown to God.” Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures, p. 424.)

Meanwhile, I was seriously committed to my branch church. A Journal-listed Christian Science Practitioner can have no other job, no other source of income, and I had worked hard not to have any other employment (I had quit a few home-based businesses that did bring in reliable income). I never made any money as a Practitioner. In fact, I lost money. I bought a computer so I could have Concord (a computer program that is a concordance to The Bible, and other books by Mary Baker Eddy, and the Christian Science Hymnal) installed on it. Concord is expensive. Computers are expensive. I paid money to fly every year for my Association, hotels, meals, and extra days in the hotel because unlike most Teachers who have Association in one day and students can fly in and out on the same day, my Teacher had it span three whole days. It starts Friday night and ends Sunday afternoon. I bought at least two new sets of very expensive Lesson Books (one was the new vivella set that I really loved), and I subscribed to ALL of the periodicals, and the full text Quarterly, and I had subscriptions to CSMonitor.com, eBibleLesson.com, and myBibleLesson.com. Things add up. I believe that the membership’s wallets are one of the reasons the church stays in business. Did you know that each Board of Directors Member makes $200,000/year now? They come up with endless things for members to spend money on, and as a Practitioner, I felt obligated to buy everything. My husband’s salary paid for everything. I sure as hell didn’t make any money from people who would call me at all hours and never pay the bill. I had three or four patients who did reliably pay their bills to me. Other than that, it was like pulling teeth, and I was supposed to be gracious about their non-payment.

I had so many people badger me about why they shouldn’t need to pay someone for prayer. And I didn’t feel at liberty to enlighten them and say, “I’m not allowed to have any other job, don’t you want me to be able to give food to my family and have a roof over my head? Don’t you value the work I do for you?” I did witness what I thought were healings at the time. I don’t feel like I had any serious cases come to me. I had a bronchitis case, and a first degree burn case, and I had some other dog cases.

I had one person call me a lot who clearly had mental issues, but she wasn’t calling me as a Practitioner. She called me to help her because I was a church member who was home all the time and we lived near each other. She wanted me to drive her to a Christian Science nursing home that takes care of mental patients, several states away. I would have done it, too, and done her laundry and cleaned her house and taken care of her pets, but she was so nasty and refused to pay me anything, so even though I would stand in her bedroom, I was paying as little mental attention to her as possible. She did have another Practitioner working for her also, and would jerk me around telling me to pray for her, stop praying for her, no pray again, STOP praying…it was exhausting so I just didn’t pray for her any more anyway, and just wanted to help her pack her clothes so we could take her to the mental wing at a Christian Science Sanatorium. She got quite upset at me when I stopped letting her jerk me around anymore, and she finally dismissed me. I didn’t need to be abused by church members who weren’t even paying me.

I had another patient who called me every 20 minutes around the clock, with a four hour window in the middle of the night when she wouldn’t call. She would never tell me her last name or where she lived. I had a baby boy who also didn’t sleep through the night, and this woman was abusing me and refusing to let me even bill her. I finally dismissed her and blocked her calls. It took me a long time to stop feeling guilty for blocking her calls, but it was abuse, and I couldn’t take it and be a good mom. So, I chose to be a good mom.

One of my cases was maybe a sprained ankle, and I had cases for a cold or other small things. I never got cases where someone was “on the verge of dying and needed a radical healing right now!” I did have one elderly man come to me for prayer, and I think he has a strong fighting spirit now too. It’s been a number of years since I was a praying Journal listed practitioner, but he is now bed-ridden. I don’t think he ever had a healing while I worked for him. But his wife paid me dutifully, and she and I had worked together with their insurance company to get her reimbursed for paying me. That was interesting. The insurance policy covered it, but no one knew how to mark it in a code. Christian Science Practitioners don’t have billing codes. It took maybe 18 months of back and forth with the insurance company to get her reimbursed for a bill that was less than $200.

Chrystal’s Story – I felt called by God to Practitioner Work

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. 


After high school, I attended Community College for 2 years, since I couldn’t afford to go away to school for 4 years; but could only afford 2 years. One day, randomly, a classmate called me and someone else and asked us if we would like to go with him to a Quaker Meeting. I was so excited! I could finally attend a Quaker Meeting! I said, “there are those in our area? You FOUND one?” Yep; he had found one probably 40 minutes away from our school. We all dressed in drab colors the best we could, and went to the Quaker Meeting. I was happily surprised to arrive and see one of the attendees wearing a bright Hawaiian shirt. I thought that was pretty fun. It was a classic building – a Meeting House. And I loved it very much. I loved everything about this building. I sat before the service started, and thumbed through the hymnal. At one point, I read in the hymnal something like, “if you find a hymn in here that doesn’t speak to your heart, understand that it may bless your neighbor and be glad it’s in here to help your neighbor.” To me, this summarizes one of the very best things about the Quaker Faith: how to truly love all of your neighbors. I kept this idea in my heart and memory for a long long time after I read that.

“We encourage you to approach singing from this book with the same openness to the Spirit as members of the Music Selection Working Group did. Our emphasis throughout this process has been on inclusion, rather than exclusion. Thus, the theological concepts, language use, and kinds of music are as varied as are Friends’ beliefs and practices. Each person will find much to speak to his or her condition, and each will probably find some songs that are incompatible with a strongly held belief or emotion. … If you are troubled by some text, as yourself how each of these songs might meet a spiritual need of another person in your meeting, thus enriching the meeting community as a whole. If you sing from this hymnal in the same spirit of love and caring for one another as was practiced in its creation, it will bring joy to you and your meeting.”  

Worship in Song – A Friends Hymnal © 1996 Friends General Conference

My second year at community college, I became friends with T.S., who was Quaker! We were best friends for about a year. She was incredibly smart and respected by the teachers at the school. I really enjoyed her friendship.

After 2 years at the community college, I went away to college in another state. You know the one. Principia College in Elsah, IL. It’s the only college for Christian Scientists. My family had visited it during summer vacation after fourth grade. It has a cool building called, “The School of Nations.” We peeked in the windows since the building was locked. Every room is decked out to look like a different country. Every single room is accurate, down to the ceiling details, window styles, chairs, desks or tables… everything makes you feel like you’re in a foreign country. India’s ceiling is incredibly ornate – chiseled wood. Japan is incredibly simple and feels very “zen.” England feels like you’re taking a class from William Shakespeare. There are probably a dozen different rooms representing as many countries. I fell in love with those rooms and knew I wanted to go to Principia College. I never looked at or applied to any other colleges. My family was so proud of me for going there. I wish I could say I loved Principia. I am still processing everything that happened while I was at Principia. I am sure that at some point, it will become another blog post for this site, but I’m not ready yet. One thing I have observed is that most or all the people I know who have graduated from there with a B.A. can’t find a decent job with decent pay after graduation.

My step-mom’s mom (a long time Christian Science Practitioner) died while I was a student at Principia. She was really young, but not knowing ages in Christian Science, I don’t know how old she was. I just know she was really young and healthy. I was devastated by her early death. (She probably had a heart attack then she fell down a flight of stairs; but of course, there was no autopsy. I figured out recently that she was probably about 70 years old.) It took me 11 years of grief to get over her death. Christian Science teaches us that death isn’t real; so I learned to “see her in the wild violets she loved so much, see her in the Christmas cookies she used to bake…”  In Christian Science, we are taught that “death isn’t real,” and thus, I felt tremendous guilt and self-loathing about the fact that I mourned her death. How can you mourn someone who isn’t dead? Well, I deeply grieved her loss for a long long time. So, in addition to being deeply sad, I was also mad at myself for being sad.

After graduation, I stayed in Elsah, IL for 2 more years before returning to my home state. I fell away from Christian Science. I started doing my own church services, alone, in my living room. I played music and spent time in nature, watching eagles, raccoons, deer, and the myriad other wildlife that lives in Elsah, IL.

When I came back to my home state, I realized the only time I saw my whole family was when they all went to church on Sunday together and then lunch afterwards. So, I started attending church regularly. I enjoyed dressing up in nice clothes on Sunday and felt like I was showing off or something. Most of my peers had left the church at that point, but I was still there, and I felt like that must mean something.

I met a Quaker man at my job, and we went on 3 dates. He surprised me early in the “getting to know each other” spot and phase. He said: “I have always said, ‘if I wasn’t a Quaker, I would be a Christian Scientist.’” I would have absolutely converted to the Quaker faith for him. We had a great time together, I thought. We rode on his motorcycle, we went canoeing, we watched movies, we had great conversations. Then, he didn’t call me any more. I was surprised and sad by the sudden change of heart from him. I really did think he was a match for me. A year later, I found out that he got engaged to someone else soon after we stopped seeing each other, and that was devastating to me. But, life marches on.

Maybe another year after that, I met a non-religious man (who also happened to be a magician, just like my dad had been), we fell in love, got married and became parents when I was around the age of 30. That is when I really got committed to Christian Science. The first Mother’s Day I got to have as a mom, that’s the day I joined my local branch church. I was so excited! The Sunday School students I had grown up with took me out to lunch. Everyone was really happy for me. One was already a branch church member, and I can’t remember if the other one was too at that point, but she definitely became one.

With my new renewed commitment to Christian Science, I quickly became a Sunday School teacher, volunteered in the Reading Room, and started going to Bible workshops run by a local Christian Scientist who was also a Bible scholar. (This Bible scholar later died too young, of some unknown illness. Her widowed husband is a Journal listed practitioner, who later married another Journal listed practitioner.)

My two boys were still in diapers, and suddenly, out of nowhere, a neighbor came to me and asked me to heal her of AIDS. I talked with her about David and Goliath (because knowing the David and Goliath story would absolutely cure AIDS, right?), and started praying for her.

David and Goliath – I Samuel 17: 45-47
David said to the Philistine, “You come against me with sword and spear and javelin, but I come against you in the name of the Lord Almighty, the God of the armies of Israel, whom you have defied. This day the Lord will deliver you into my hands, and I’ll strike you down and cut off your head. This very day I will give the carcasses of the Philistine army to the birds and the wild animals, and the whole world will know that there is a God in Israel. All those gathered here will know that it is not by sword or spear that the Lord saves; for the battle is the Lord’s, and he will give all of you into our hands.”

At this point, I felt called by God to do the Practitioner work that I had always thought I would do.  I laughed that God took me right to the top – something incredibly scary – the opposite of “easy,” and I felt I could do this (Game of opposites champion – right here!). At some point, it became clear to me that this person didn’t believe that I could heal her, so I turned her over to a Christian Science Teacher in our area. I hadn’t even been through Christian Science Class Instruction yet!

Someone else called me and asked me to pray for her to get an apartment. And she got one the next day – a beautifully perfect apartment. Then, she asked me to pray for her ankles, and they improved. And then someone else called me to pray for her dog who had just come back from the vet and wasn’t doing well. I laughed at that one too, because I really am not a dog person. I thought “God sure has a sense of humor!” (The dog never got better just with my prayer; that dog went back to the vet again and again, and had serious issues. I don’t know the rest of the story; the lady stopped calling me.) (What is it with the consistent pattern that Christian Scientists take their pets to the vet, but won’t take their children to doctors? Because they care more for their pets than their children? Or vice versa? )

Soon, I started interviewing Christian Science Teachers. I met with the local one that I had turned the AIDS case over to, and really liked her, but wanted to meet with other Teachers too. A good friend of mine recommended her Teacher to me, and I met with her, too. This Teacher had gone through Christian Science nurses training with my dad, and they had lost touch so many years ago. I called her to help me pray about a lost kitchen gadget, and we found it! (That’s considered a healing! It proves Christian Science works!) I was at my dad’s house, so I put them on the phone with each other, and they enjoyed catching up. My dad said to her, “I have enjoyed watching the initials after your name change over the years, and I am glad you’re a Teacher now!” This Teacher said to me, “I have never had to have a student put their practitioner cases on hold in order to go through Class Instruction!”

I didn’t go through Class Instruction with her though, because I was the only one to sign up that summer, and Teachers are forbidden to only teach 1 student in a Class.

So I went on with my search to find my Teacher.

Chrystal’s Story – My First Lump

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. 


Quaker note: Some time in probably fourth grade, I learned about the Quaker Faith: “The Religious Society of Friends.” I remember opening my eyes wide and staring at the history book, and reading their beliefs, and thinking, “I wish they were still around, I would definitely be Quaker! That fits me to a ‘T!’” And I think it was at that point that I realized, “if I wasn’t a Christian Scientist, I would be Quaker.”

My sophomore year in high school, I had a lump develop on my face. The growth had actually been there since 4th grade. You can see it in all my school photos from 4th grade on. And my sophomore year in high school, it got bigger. It took up ½ of my cheek. I was, frankly, quite pretty, and I had this growth on my face that was distracting. And, being a Christian Scientist, I couldn’t go get this simple thing taken care of medically.

It had appeared on my face some time in fourth grade. My bio mom had disappeared some time during the spring of third grade. At first, it was a small white spot. Sort of looked like a pimple. I also developed acne in fourth grade. Red spots, white spots, black heads. And this one thing on my face too. A growth. It was a cyst. If I had been crying tears, it would have landed on my cheek and been where this cyst was. It stayed there. I remember going to a playground with my family one time. I was probably in fifth grade or sixth grade at the time. Well aware that I had this thing on my face, trying hard always to forget it. I couldn’t see it, though everyone else sure could. I wasn’t allowed to wear even skin tone makeup to cover it. It was a white spot surrounded by a growing lump. The white spot was always the same size. The lump got gradually bigger over the years. I figured we prayed about it, and eventually it would go away. I was told story after story about girls and boys who had prayed their acne away. My step-mom had had acne for a long long time and probably thought she was comforting me when she said, “I didn’t have self confidence, and I didn’t gain that until I got married. And once I got married, my acne went away!” She was trying to tell me to spontaneously heal any confidence issues I had. Frankly, I had been beaten down so much, where the heck was I supposed to build self-confidence? No one ever told me when I did well in something. I certainly heard about every time I had done something wrong. Any time I did succeed in something, the “glory went to God.” Everything good was “expressing God,” and everything bad was “not Chrystal, it’s error [a mistake], and needs to be called attention to and rebuked. Remember Jesus yelling at the money changers in the Bible? The money exchange people at the temple? And Jesus running around kicking over all the tables? If something is wrong, it needs to be strongly rebuked. If something is right, it was rarely acknowledged. And I was supposed to miraculously find self-confidence in there somewhere.

I went to the playground one time. I think it was a large family gathering, and at this point in my life, I was starting to have little cousins (I was always the oldest grand child, the oldest sibling, the oldest cousin). So we all had a big family picnic at a park or playground. I remember standing by a bunch of monkey bars. I remember my uncle reaching to my face and trying brush the “tear” off my cheek. (The cyst.) As he reached over he said, “have you been crying?” I said, “no,” and ducked. He did manage to brush my cheek. I hadn’t known what he was going to do. This is a kind and gentle man. He didn’t mean any harm. He was trying to take care of his niece. But it startled me, and it made me feel embarrassed that this thing was so visible and made me look like I was crying. All the time. After that, it was really clear that it looked like a teardrop. So, of course now it was time to heal my grief over losing my mom. I wasn’t given any tools or therapy or anything. Anything other than, “heal your grief, grief isn’t real, find something to be grateful for, find the good,” was basically against Christian Science. How does a fourth grader heal grief over losing a mom who lied and then rejected her and ultimately stole her favorite toy? Well, the teardrop shaped cyst stayed on my face. And everyone in my family reminded me that I was still grieving my bio mom. Lovely.

So, even when I wasn’t thinking about her, I would suddenly see my reflection in the mirror or some random person would ask me, “what’s that on your cheek?” And I would get embarrassed and make up random words. “I don’t know,” “I don’t talk about it,” “it’s nothing, don’t worry about it,” “It means I am sad for losing my mom.” And none of these answers were good enough. I didn’t know why it persisted, and yet it did. I was taught it persisted because I was sad for losing my mom and I had no self-confidence.

My bio mom came back in my life when I was 15 years old. I went to visit her – she lived far away now. She of course saw the lump on my face, and mentioned it. When I got home, I lied to my parents. I told them that my bio mom wanted it removed surgically. I knew inside me, that I wanted it removed. My bio mom had asked if I had considered having that done. Well, yes, I had, considering at least once a week I ran into someone who asked me why I hadn’t already done that. So I leaped at the chance of the fact that my bio mom had mentioned both the lump and surgery, and stretched it to say, “she said she wants it removed.” My step-mom helped find a cosmetic surgeon. Wow. A cosmetic surgeon! He was a good looking man who sat in his chair very oddly. I have never seen a man or anyone sit in a chair like that. He had his butt on the chair, and pulled his knees all the way up to his shoulders, and had his hands on his knees. It was completely bizarre. Like he was showing off his private area through his pants. I was taught very strictly to sit like a lady for the one hour of mostly silence on Wednesday nights at church. I had to sit incredibly uncomfortably and keep my knees stick tight, so no one could look up my skirt. And here was a doctor, of course wearing pants, holding his legs up and completely (what is called now) “man spreading” in the most bizarre way.

We looked through his cosmetic book of procedures he had done. He had not removed any lumps from anyone that I could see. But he had helped with acne, and some other surgical procedures, removal of fat and such. And we didn’t know where else to go. Plus, he had that cool word as a title – “Cosmetic.” I knew he would make me look beautiful. And normal. I had no doubts.

The following week, I went to the surgery. I was awake for the whole procedure. There was a lady nurse working right along with him. They put novocaine all around the lump, he cut it open right at the white tear spot, and proceeded to scoop out all of the cyst material. The first moment after they opened the cyst, it spurted on the nurse lady’s hair, and she was startled. I felt incredibly sorry for her, but I had been instructed not to talk. So I lay as still as I could and witnessed them taking this horrible thing off my face.

After it was over, I had a gray stitches that were supposed to melt into my skin. They did. It looked really strange for a while. I was going to the beach that weekend with a bunch of church “friends.” (I put that in quotes because I never felt accepted by these people, always felt like an outsider, and never thought of them as friends.) And I was told not to put makeup on my stitches to hide anything. I was told to wear sunscreen, also something Christian Scientists really didn’t believe in. (Seriously.) How can the sun harm us if the sun is something good? We know what the sun represents. It represents love, and warmth, life and light. It represents energy and nourishment. So since none of those qualities can harm us, the sun can’t harm us. So I had no sunscreen or sunblock on my scar, and I put some makeup on anyway, to hide the dark gray stitches that were now surrounding my scar. We also did not do any follow-up care with the doctor. Everything in that regard turned out fine. Thank goodness.

About a week after the procedure, my step-mom and her mom, who was a Christian Science Practitioner, said to each other that they noticed the cyst was growing back. They didn’t tell me this until years later. They both prayed about it, apparently, figuring that if they prayed and I didn’t know about it, it could be healed. If I learned about it, I would get afraid and then it would grow back again to be healed for real at a future time. They never told me they saw it growing back. But they prayed and said it went back away. My guess is it was swollen from surgery. And the swelling went down.

It was such a relief to have this horrible tear thing off my face! And, now my bio mom was sort of back in my life. At least we could write each other letters and things. So, I guess on some level everyone decided it was all healed because I didn’t have to grieve for her any more.


Chrystal is the pseudonym for one of our Ex-Christian Scientist bloggers. She was born into Christian Science and had a lifelong dream of one day being a Christian Science practitioner, which she achieved. In ‘the practice’, all she found was ‘Crosses’ and no ‘Crowns’. Chrystal finally found a sense of peace when she turned her back on Christian Science and walked away. Her family is still in the religion, and she uses the pseudonym to protect their anonymity.

Chrystal’s Story – My background: Raised by a Christian Science Nurse

Chrystal's Story header image

This is the first 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. 


My parents met at a Christian Science nursing home, during nurses training. My mom dropped out a few days before graduation, but my dad graduated and went on to become a Christian Science nurse. Christian Science nurses basically clean up after people. They know how to bleach a bathtub. They know how to feed people and love to give ice cream to patients who are in their long term care. They know how to shower people, how to change sheets, how to fold sheets and put them in the closet with no seams showing, how to make beds even if a person is still in the bed. They know how to put on band-aids. Christian Science nurses do very basic, practical care. They can also wash a wound and bandage it; sometimes with clever solutions to hiding things no one wants to have to see.

When I was an infant, I came down with a cold that wouldn’t go away. By that point, my biological mom had left Christian Science (more than a decade later, my dad told me, “she never really understood Christian Science, that’s why she left”), and she begged my dad to take me to a doctor. So they took me to a doctor. This person operated out of what was basically a two-story townhouse. He had one medical nurse, and he said, “she has pneumonia; I can’t do anything for her, and she will be lucky if she survives for a week.” He basically said I was going to die. The doctor put me on a bed in a room there and left me there alone. My dad called a Christian Science practitioner. An hour later, the medical nurse came to feed me, and I was completely healed, somehow. I was told my whole life that “if it wasn’t for Christian Science, you would be dead.” After all, a doctor had medically diagnosed me with pneumonia and given me a death sentence, and I was still alive. I am just now realizing what a fighting spirit I have. I remember choking on a pit when I was a little baby who could sit up but not crawl yet. I remember it. I swallowed the pit and blacked out. I remember praying in the only way a baby can: “I don’t want to die and make these people [my parents] sad.” And then I woke up, and the pit had gone down my throat. I am willing to bet that I heard the doctor give me 1 week to live and my fighting spirit said, “No! I will NOT die!” And I fought. I am only guessing that this must be what happened. Or perhaps it was a wrong diagnosis. Who knows. I have no one I can ask about this.

My parents divorced when I was a toddler. When I was maybe six years-old, I spent a weekend at my mom’s house. I was coughing, and she gave me cherry cough syrup. It’s the only time in my life I have ever had that. It was such an exciting thing to be able to have cough syrup! All of my friends knew about it and got to use it, but it was forbidden in my Christian Science home with my dad. My dad, being a Christian Science nurse, would give me non medicinal remedies, though. He would give me honey mixed with lemon who I was coughing. I always liked that. It tasted good!

My dad married my step-mom before I turned 10. My step-mom was a much more radical Christian Scientist than my dad was. My step-mom’s mother was a Journal-listed Christian Science practitioner. One time I was coughing, and I went to the fridge to mix up some honey and lemon juice for myself. My step-mom caught me and immediately put an end to that practice. I wasn’t able to do that unless I was ‘sneaking’ it (both of my parents were home all the time, so it was hard to sneak it, and that was frustrating). She put a stop to a lot of the things my dad used to do with me and for me. I knew honey and lemon juice didn’t have medicine in it, and I couldn’t understand her strong standpoint about such a small issue.

Over the years, my dad tended to cuts and things I had. One time, I got a ring stuck on my finger, and my dad calmly cut it off my finger. I was always grateful he could keep a cool head about him and tend to my needs.

One of my dad’s favorite Mary Baker Eddy quotes was, “The time for thinkers has come.” I think it’s on page one in Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures. Another thing he loved to say was, “what are the first four words of the Bible? … In the beginning God.” He was always reminding me to “go back to God.” Basically, “start with God at the beginning of everything.” I loved both of these phrases of his. To me, those words were synonymous with my dad. I also remember asking my dad many times about “that quote with the bones and blood.” My dad would cheerfully tell me the quote any time I asked – I loved that he had it memorized and could call it up any time I asked. I loved this quote so much.

Question. — What is man?

Answer. — Man is not matter; he is not made up of brain, blood, bones, and other material elements.”
– Science and Health, p. 475: 5

I don’t know if it’s my dad who instilled being a rebel in me (believe me, he was incredibly rebellious; he was a creative type who loved inventions), or if it was Christian Science. But I got the memo loud and clear, “we’re not like other people! Be yourself! Be different! Rebel against the world!” I loved every moment of being the outsider, except when I didn’t, as in: I never had any friends.

My dad loved to do magic tricks, and said, “good magicians do it to entertain; bad magicians do it to deceive people. We don’t think in Christian Science that it’s good to deceive people, so we’re not supposed to do magic. But I don’t do it to deceive people.” And he would show me magic tricks. If you’re into magic at all, he loved to do ‘The French Drop’. He did it all the time. (See: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EZ0C2wh5IyE )  He also loved to talk about card tricks and cards in general, but he never did any card tricks. He said “card games are mostly luck, and Christian Scientists don’t believe in luck.” So I was never allowed to play with cards while growing up. My dad would show me magic tricks and make me guess how they were done. Most of the time, I was able to guess several different solutions for how they were done. Sometimes I got the solutions correct. He would always tell me how it was done. He had no intention to deceive me, and he wanted that to be clear.

Growing up in the Christian Science Sunday School, I was the snobby kid who knew all the answers. I remember sitting in Sunday School with all of my classmates over the years, and champing at the bit because no one else would answer questions. “Are sin, disease and death real?” My brain would yell, “NO!”, but my classmates would sit there. I loved being a ‘know it all’. I basically knew that the opposite of the apparent ‘right’ answer was actually the correct answer. So Sunday School, for me, was an ‘opposites game’. You just said the opposite of whatever it was, and it was correct. I thought this was great fun. I never understood why my Christian Science Sunday School classmates didn’t like Sunday School. I loved the weekly topic they all hated the most: ‘Ancient and Modern Necromancy alias Mesmerism and Hypnotism Denounced’. I thought it was fun to look up the words and denounce each one of these big words. That was super fun, too. Who of the kids at school knew what these words meant, besides the obvious one, hypnotism?

My dad loved to tell me the story, “one time, there was a hypnotist on stage, trying to hypnotize people, and failing completely.” I could never remember if my dad was there in the audience, or if someone had told him, like a story that someone knew who knew someone else who knew someone else who was there kind of thing. “Finally, the hypnotist said, ‘will the Christian Scientist please leave the room?’” And the man (was it my dad? Was it someone else?) left, and the hypnotist was finally able to hypnotize the person. I loved that story. Being a rebellious type, it was awesome to think, “wow, we could keep a hypnotist from doing their job, because hypnotism isn’t real! That is SO COOL!”

My step-mom, being more radical in Christian Science than my dad, pushed  ‘Gratitude Lists’ on me and later on my siblings. Christian Science children who grew up in the 1970s may remember the cassette tape, Good for Us. There is a story in it about a girl who is healed of being sick by writing a list of things she is grateful for. I thought of this girl every single time I was sent to my room to write up a list of ‘Gratefuls’. Somewhere in the back of my head, I knew that at some point in my life, I would try to come up with a list of 100 ‘Gratefuls’. I finally did this too, after my dad died. But that’s a story for a future post. Every night, I had to come up with three things I was grateful for, in addition to my family and my ‘good day’. It was ritualistic, and after a while, it was too easy to do without much thought.

“Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect.” – Matthew 5:48 

This is said like a mantra in the Christian Science faith. It is taken literally. This I believe, is the source of so much of the problems in Christian Science. First off, anyone can look at themselves and see what they perceive as imperfections. Then begins the prayer to remove the problem, then begins the self-loathing when the ‘imperfection’ is still there. Also, church members love to point out who is imperfect and in what way. This is the epitome of judgement, and is the opposite of loving. Can you imagine walking around your whole life, and have only your imperfections pointed out, no matter how small, and told “this is what love looks like,” and encouragement and kind words are too rare? This is the world I grew up in.

“When you’re busy judging, you’re not busy loving.” – I saw this on a church billboard one time. It has stuck with me ever since. 

There is a Christian Science book for kids called Filled Up Full. This book talks about a rabbit that can only think rabbit thoughts, a kitten that can only think kitten thoughts, and a child that can only think good thoughts from God. Any thought that enters your head “that is not a good thought from God,” is not your thought. It is a way to learn to deny any negativity that is in your thinking. It feels like a wonderful way to deny our humanity, to deny any negative emotion or feeling that “is not a good thought from God.” It helps you learn to emote only love, gratitude, joy. And, after a while, it becomes exhausting to only ooze good and have no outlet for frustration, anger, grief, or sadness. Perhaps this is why so much of what church members ooze is judgement; lots of judgement. If they aren’t judging other church members, they certainly judge themselves. I remember hearing my Christian Science practitioner-grandmother in the kitchen calling herself horrible names when she messed up something minor in the kitchen. I was shocked. This woman was the most kind and loving woman I’d ever known. But she treated herself so horribly. I couldn’t believe her unkindness to her own amazing self for something so minor. It made me very sad.

I distinctly remember being asked a question in Sunday School, to which I gave some amazing answer. And my Sunday School teacher looked at me and said, “that’s exactly what a practitioner would say!” I remember the look of awe on his face. I sat there, feeling very proud, and knew that’s what I wanted to be when I grew up, and that I would be good at it. My bio-mom’s grandmother was a Christian Science practitioner. My dad’s parents were Christian Scientists. My dad’s mom had converted from being a Methodist to Christian Science. My step-mom’s parents were Christian Scientists, and my step-mom’s mother had been a Christian Science practitioner and so was her dad (as in: my step-mom’s grandfather was a practitioner too). I grew up with two grandmothers who were practitioners, both of whom lived until I was beyond age 20. I grew up thinking, “when I grow up, that’s the ultimate thing to be–a Christian Science practitioner!”


Chrystal is the pseudonym for one of our Ex Christian Scientist bloggers. She was born into Christian Science and had a lifelong dream of one day being a Christian Science practitioner, which she achieved. In ‘the practice’, all she found was ‘Crosses’ and no ‘Crowns’. Chrystal finally found a sense of peace when she turned her back on Christian Science and walked away. Her family is still in the religion, and she uses the pseudonym to protect their anonymity.

Chrystal’s Story – It’s time we teach you how to pray

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

I remember being called in to my parents room, I might have been in third or fourth grade. I was told, “it’s time we teach you how to pray.”

My parents had me get a sheet of loose leaf paper and a pencil. They had me fold the paper in half, vertically, and list all of my faults on the left hand side. I remember the first one: “Lazy.” This was a word they had to explain to me. I only knew “lazy” as something my eye was. I didn’t know that people could be called “lazy.” They told me it meant I just lounged around all day and didn’t anything to help around the house. And I needed to change this about my personality. They told me to write “lazy” on the left side column. And then to write “diligent” on the right hand side. This is, apparently, the opposite of “lazy.”

They had me write at the top of the left hand column: “I am not:” And at the top of the right hand column, “I am:”

Then list my faults down the left hand column. I think there were approximately 11 faults I had down the left hand column. And 11 antonymns of things I should work on (heal the bad to become the good) on the right hand side. All I remember is “lazy.” So, as I read this, I would read:  “I am not lazy, I am diligent.” “I am not mean, I am nice.” “I am not ugly, I am pretty.” “I am not a liar, I am truthful.” etc. I was supposed to pray with this prayer list every day.

My parents sat on their bed, and I knelt down at the base of the bed, on my knees, using their bed as my desk. Yes, I was literally kneeling in front of them as they told me my faults.

I remember diligently “praying” with this prayer list for days, maybe weeks. Probably a few months or years later, when I pulled out my old list that was quite worn from daily use, I would just pull it out and stare at that first word and pretend to pray with this list, as I let my imagination wander. I am certain this is why I don’t remember more of it. I do remember there were now far more things to deny on the left hand side that had been added in over the years with various pencils, pens, markers…. And, still, “lazy” was right there, at the top of the list for me to deny every single day. I wonder, at what point that becomes “healed” and it can be removed from a prayer list?