Reshaping My Distorted Image of Doctors

By an anonymous Ex-Christian Scientist Group Contributor.

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

I Had Prostate Cancer

By an anonymous Ex-Christian Scientist Group contributor.

 

I was ailing. My son noticed and insisted I have a physical. A PSA blood test indicated I had prostate cancer. I was out of Christian Science at this time, but not running to doctors. My son insisted they call him with the results.

We went for a conference, and radiation was recommended. At the time of the conference, my hands were shaking and I was falling often. I went to radiation for nine weeks, five days a week, and that cleared it up beautifully. I had a Christian Scientist friend with similar symptoms at the same time. He had a practitioner working and went to a Christian Science nursing facility, sat around reading, and died shortly after.

As we often heard on Wednesday, “I am extremely grateful for….” But in this case, I am so grateful that my son got me to the doctor!

I maintained appearances in order to please my parents

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

 

I stayed with Christian Science out of family loyalty and guilt for decades, eventually living a dual life—the one I lived in front of my parents and the one I lived when I was apart. I lived that double life out of fear and a superstitious belief that maybe Christian Scientists were right all along and if I stopped believing in it I would be cursed. But most of all, I maintained appearances in order to please my parents. There were a bunch of us kids, and I always felt that being a Christian Scientist was a requirement for being approved of and loved. I had a nagging feeling that I was loved less because I wasn’t a good Christian Scientist.

I “came out” in bits and pieces over the years, but the incident in which I truly showed them that I was not a part of their religion was at the ripe age of 42 when I invited them for Thanksgiving dinner at a friend’s house. I asked my boyfriend to bring wine and instead of either not drinking in front of my parents or sneaking drinks in the kitchen, I offered them ginger ale and then loudly asked my boyfriend to pour me a glass of red. It seems like an insignificant thing, and most people I know would never understand what it took for me to do it. It took a lot of courage. It felt fantastic enjoying wine with my meal without guilt. I felt like a weight was lifted off of me.

I once wrote an article for the local paper after a major brewery swooped in to buy our local cottage brewery. I wanted to show the difference between a local brew and one from a large corporate-run company and interviewed people in the community, including a brewer. I got everyone to take a taste test. My mother, always a fan of my writing, read the article and said, “oh, but you didn’t taste the beers of course!” She said it like it was fact, even though in the article I included my thoughts on the taste of both beers. Denial was ever present.

For all the problems I had with my parent’s beliefs, they were right there for me when I went into premature labour at 23 weeks gestation. They visited me in the hospital and did not bat an eye at the IV drip or the nurses or doctors. They were kind and accepting of my needs for the medical world. When my son was born a week later, 24 weeks and 520 grams, they came to visit him, donned gowns, scrubbed up, and sat by his incubator. Sure, they prayed in their CS way, but they also accepted my beliefs, including giving my son his inhaler treatments when they babysat him.

I stepped away from Christian Science, as a test.

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

 

I stepped away from Christian Science, as a test. I spent a week not worrying about animal magnetism, or daily prayers, or anything like that. I just thought whatever I wanted to think. I then left CS quite suddenly and found that to be extremely difficult. I still do sometimes, especially when things are tough and I don’t know what to turn to. Some people I know who left CS after always doubting didn’t feel like it was such a big deal. We all handle it in different ways.

Outsiders simplify the issues surrounding Christian Science, and that can feel dismissive. Like, ‘Hah! What a bunch of crazy, stupid kooks.’ I was one of those kooks, as are many intelligent people I love. Not to mention, in a way, it trivializes what I’ve gone through. The other day a friend asked why my roommate and I talked about our past so much. It was because it was important to us and shaped who we are. To him, it seemed something to remember and value or grieve but not to dwell on so much.

I still don’t feel ready to read God’s Perfect Child. I found it in a used book store and started reading it. I had to sit there for a few moments because I felt very overwhelmed. I couldn’t bring myself to buy it. My parents often talked about the book, shaking their heads, especially since my dad taught the author in Sunday School. So of course he blamed himself.

I left because I realized that Christian Science and numerous other attitudes I held were killing me. In my case at the time, more mentally than physically. It just wasn’t worth it. I was more important, living life was more important. As for whether Christian Science is correct, I decided that the more important question was whether Christian Science was correct for me.

I would describe myself as an atheist now, but I also realize that literally no one knows for sure how the world works and what’s out there. It’s been a long and very difficult journey. I keep discovering new ways in which I’ve imbibed Christian Science ideology, occasionally for the better, usually for worse. I feel as though I have to construct a whole new identity and learn how to trust myself. Not practitioners, not God. Me.

The Life of Mary Baker G. Eddy and the History of Christian Science

The Life of Mary Baker G. Eddy and the History of Christian Science, by Willa Cather.The Life of Mary Baker G. Eddy and the History of Christian Science, Willa Cather

 


This book is a compilation of a series of articles that appeared in McClure’s magazine between January, 1907 through June, 1908 with Georgine Milmine listed as the sole author. It is now known that author Willa Cather had extensive involvement in the writing and editing of these articles.

– Jeremy


The authors traveled New England interviewing people who had actually known Mary Baker Eddy from childhood through her adult life and the growth of her movement. McClure’s [magazine], where the articles originally appeared, was one of the foremost journals of investigative journalism of its day, and the series was damaging to the aura of Eddy and the respectable image of Christian Science that The Mother Church had tried to cultivate. I remember from my class at Principia College on the History of the CS Movement that the book was ‘nothing more than baseless yellow journalism.’ But after reading it, it’s clearly credible journalism that must be taken seriously.

– Bruce


Mary Baker Eddy was her own worst enemy, as much of the damning material from this book is in her own words. Highly recommended.

– Anonymous


I had been relieved of my Christian Science beliefs for about seven years when I read this book. I knew by then that the system simply didn’t work, and that many who tried to follow it had suffered greatly, but I had not been aware of the truly misanthropic nature of its founder. Of course the work was condemned as lies by followers of Mary Baker Eddy. Denial of facts is at the heart of Christian Science.

– Marion

Christian Science (Twain)

Christian Science / Twain

Christian Science, Mark Twain


From Mark Twain’s book Christian Science, 1907 edition, pp. 208-209
[Mary Baker Eddy is] grasping, sordid, penurious, famishing for everything she sees—money, power, glory—vain, untruthful, jealous, despotic, arrogant, insolent, pitiless where thinkers and hypnotists are concerned, illiterate, shallow, incapable of reasoning outside of commercial lines, immeasurably selfish—
[But] to her followers she is this: patient, gentle, loving, compassionate, noble hearted, unselfish, sinless, widely cultured, splendidly equipped mentally, a profound thinker, an able writer, a divine personage, an inspired messenger whose acts are dictated from the Throne, and whose every utterance is the Voice of God.

HILARIOUS.

– Madeleine


I was an enthusiastic believer until age 20, when I picked up Mark Twain’s book Christian Science in a book store. I read two pages, and it felt like a glass dome around me shattered. I bought the book but hated it for what it had done to my perfect illusion. The transformation I experienced while reading it felt involuntary, like someone had tapped me rudely on the shoulder and disturbed my reverie.

– Elizabeth


Priceless. I was rolling on the floor.

– Katie J.

Mary Baker Eddy (Gill)

MBE Gill

Mary Baker Eddy, Gillian Gill.


The criticism of this book is that it pulls punches, and, some readers find it dry. Personally, however, I found this biography to be riveting and of an extremely high quality. Its gentler approach allowed me to form my own suspicions instead of reacting against criticism of Mary Baker Eddy that I wasn’t ready for. It matched my comfort level at the time because it is approved by The Mother Church, but it still led me down the rabbit hole, and my ensuing curiosity led me to the ex-CS community as well, which has been invaluable.

– Elizabeth


Gillian Gill is unaffiliated with Christian Science, but strives to make Mary Baker Eddy’s voice heard. It is an extremely informative and detailed biography and it is interesting to read about the problems the author encountered with The Mother Church leadership in accessing historical documents.

– Katharine

 

Mrs. Eddy: The Biography of a Virginal Mind

Mrs. Eddy / DakinMrs. Eddy: The Biography of a Virginal Mind, Edwin Franden Dakin

 


I just finished reading the Dakin book, which I highly recommend. I learned that one of the big things in the early Christian Science movement was the ability to ‘demonstrate supply.’ The New York church had a special borrowing room so that people who had not yet ‘demonstrated supply’ could borrow things and appear to have done so. I came away with the impression Mary Baker Eddy didn’t want to hurt anyone, she just wanted to be Someone Important.


Dakin’s biography of Mary Baker Eddy is based on contemporaneous sources, and is absolutely jaw-dropping! Does a great job of showing how Christian Science was a money making operation for Eddy, and how dishonest and manipulative she was. I now understand why The Mother Church launched a campaign of intimidation against publishers and booksellers to suppress it.

– Bruce


Dakin’s biography is well-sourced, and refreshingly insightful especially into Mary Baker Eddy’s early life, experiences, and mental-health issues, many of which, as I look at it all in its totality, largely frame her so-called ‘discovery’ of Christian Science, and how and why it developed as it did. Historical figures in the movement who previously were portrayed as villains in the ‘authorized’ history I used to read as a Christian Scientist, are presented here in a different, more balanced light. Eddy was a capricious woman who quickly wore out friendships and welcomes throughout her life, and those who no longer suited her were summarily vilified, as was anyone who dared to stand up to her.

– Jeremy


Reviews from other ex-Christian Scientists on the internet

The Healing Revelations of Mary Baker Eddy: The Rise and Fall of Christian Science

The Healing Revelations of Mary Baker Eddy: The Rise and Fall of Christian Science, by Martin Gardner.

The Healing Revelations of Mary Baker Eddy: The Rise and Fall of Christian Science, Martin Gardner

 


In this light-hearted book, you will learn things that you never knew about the history of the Christian Science church (such as the memorial pyramid that used to mark MBE’s birthplace). Gardner summarizes the various plagiarism charges and devotes a chapter each to Dickey and Twain, etc. At the end, Gardner explains how CS fits into the context of other New Thought movements.

– Beth


This book is worth picking up if for no other reason than to read the jaw-dropping chapter detailing the memoirs of Adam Dickey, who served as Mary Baker Eddy’s private secretary from 1908 until her death in 1910.

– Linda P.


Reviews from other ex-Christian Scientists on the internet

The Unseen Shore: Memories of a Christian Science Childhood

UnseenShoreThe Unseen Shore: Memories of a Christian Science Childhood, Thomas Simmons

 


I gave a copy of The Unseen Shore to the senior pastor of our Presbyterian Church sometime in the early 90s. In our monthly newsletter this very erudite man stated his opinion that it was the best theological text of that year.

– Marion


This memoir was a bit too cerebral for me, but I’ve talked to others who liked it. Weaving poetry and philosophy throughout this pilgrimage, Simmons offers an intelligent, literate account of his personal ‘dark night of the soul.’ Ultimately, he acknowledges life and the material as real—despite imperfections—rather than as the illusory, spiritual manifestations of his Christian Science youth.

– Beth


This book was one of the first I read around the time of my mother’s death. I related to his childhood pain and was touched at his descriptions of relating to his child after leaving Christian Science. I identified with that; my children have been my reality, also. This is a very honest book. He writes about a journey which is not for the faint-hearted. One formerly CS friend of mine couldn’t finish it, as it raised many painful memories.

– Katharine