By Jenny, an Ex-Christian Scientist Group contributor.
When I was in my final year at Principia College, I developed some kind of eye infection. I went to the emergency room secretly, but was still somehow found out by a Christian Science nurse who interrogated me about why I was there. When I refused to tell her, she called my house mom and the dean of students. They each spent an hour or so interrogating me, trying to get me to tell them why I was at the hospital.
The crux of the issue for them was not my well-being or health or whether my eye problem was contagious, but whether I had been given a prescription. They told me that if I didn’t tell them they would have to make me move to Cox Cottage or possibly kick me out. I told them it was my body, my choice, and that I felt it was confidential.
We eventually reached a truce when I told them that if it would make them feel better I would be more than happy to lie to them and tell them that I was not taking a prescription. It was one of the single weirdest experiences of my life. My eyesight was on the line! What would have happened if I had been less sure of my decision or more concerned about public perception or what my parents would say if I was asked to leave?
By Marie, an Ex-Christian Scientist Group contributor. Marie is a pseudonym.
The college encouraged school spirit. They told you to spread the word about how great the place was. You felt pressure to participate in your House’s events. Some asked you to leave your doors open. You had no choice but to leave them unlocked. The door locks had been broken, if the doors were built to have locks at all. If items were stolen, students were taught to pray about attachment to material objects.
When I was there, only the women’s dorms were locked and only during certain hours. We had no control over this, and sometimes the security guards locked the doors early or forgot to lock them entirely. Because students didn’t need to carry keys most of the day, women often forget their keys and got locked out or had a virtual curfew that men didn’t worry about. Whenever students discussed the injustice and sexism of this practice, people replied, “Life isn’t fair.” Even after a male student was beaten by a group of men who came from off campus, it was up to the male students to decide whether to lock their dorms. We were told that state law required women’s dorms to be locked. When brought up specifically with the administration, they admitted that this was untrue. Administrators blamed ‘student rumours’ on this falsehood.
Men and women lived in separate hallways, usually separate dorms. Spying on and reporting one another for breaking rules, including visiting the hallway or room of the opposite sex during specific hours, was called moral courage.
People occasionally disappeared. It was a mystery as to whether they were suspended due to having sex, falling ill, or getting hurt and taking medicine or staying in the hospital, or attempting to commit suicide. Perhaps they simply transferred to another school, or maybe they committed an actual crime. Rumours ran rampant because, (1) people fiercely guarded their frequently violated privacy, and (2) speaking about ‘bad’ things was discouraged.
This made activism difficult. Pointing out the evil in the world and fighting it with material means was looked down upon and outright silenced. It was more important to focus on the community than on the outside world. Then again, protesting the administration was also highly regulated if allowed at all. For example, at that point, students could only be homosexual if they actively tried to pray the gay away and remained celibate. Protesting this rule was considered ‘homosexual activity’ which was forbidden.
The campus itself was beautiful and clean. The school offered several amazing opportunities, including a fabulous array of abroad programs. Most of us felt comfortable leaving our bags out when grabbing lunch, trusting that nothing would be stolen in this small religious community. Considering the very limited options, the food was good, and the dorms were lovely. The dorms were one of several things that reminded me of Harry Potter. We were an incestuous, tiny school of magical outsiders. Continue reading “It felt like being smothered by a soft blanket”
Way back when I was still a naive and optimistic freshman at Principia College I signed up to participate in an off-campus activity with some fellow students. It would take us away from the campus for several weeks, during which time it was of the UTMOST IMPORTANCE that we uphold the values of Principia and if we saw anyone partaking in un-Principia-like activities (aka breaking the prin code) we were to report them AT ONCE to the staff member who was tending to us.
My fellow freshman and I felt a little uneasy about ratting out our fellow students, but it was the sophomores (those wise older sophomores) who got really upset. What about the Matthew Code!?they demanded. What about it?! we asked. They didn’t tell you?!They sounded incredulous.
The Matthew Code is from Matthew 18:15-17, and most Christian Science groups omit “but if he neglect to hear the church, let him be unto thee as an heathen man and a publican” which I think is rather silly.
(15) If your brother sins against you, go and show him his fault, just between the two of you. If he listens to you, you have won your brother over. (16) But if he will not listen, take one or two others along, so that ‘every matter may be established by the testimony of two or three witnesses.’ (17) If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church; and if he refuses to listen even to the church, treat him as you would a pagan or tax collector. (Matthew 18:15-17 – New International Version)
The Matthew Code, as the above quoted Bible verses have come to be known, was thrown at me and my fellow students at Principia College time and time again, and is a part of the moral code that Principia students are required to abide by. Now, I read the above verses, and I clearly come away with a certain interpretation, and no, I do not need anyone else’s interpretation to gain what I feel to be clarity on what these verses say and mean. It’s simple: if you encounter someone doing something wrong, you go to them directly on your own and talk to them about it; if they don’t listen, and don’t acknowledge that they’ve done something wrong, you bring a couple of friends (preferably mutual friends) along; if that fails, then you go to higher authorities to have the situation corrected and ‘balanced’, so to speak. You do not go to the authorities first. Now, I’m talking of someone committing minor moral offenses. If I see someone robbing a house, assaulting, or murdering, I’ll go straight to the police, no questions asked.
In the context of being a Principia student, I saw it as: if I encountered someone breaking the rules, I’d confront them myself first and seek to redress the situation that way, and if that didn’t work, go up the Matthew Code ladder from there. That’s how I saw it when I did have my own encounter with rule-breakers while I was at Principia. In practice however, the administrative authorities at Principia had a different take on the Matthew Code, and most of us students knew that, and many of us saw it as hypocritical. They wanted you to skip past the first few steps. Continue reading “The Matthew Code & My Experience With Hypocrisy at Principia”