Why do Christian Scientists go to optometrists (but not doctors)?

One of the most common questions the ExChristian Scientist site gets is “Why do Christian Scientists go to optometrists but not doctors?” Yeah, that is a good question. While we were raised in Christian Science, practiced Christian Science, and have since left Christian Science, the “logic” eludes us too, but we’re giving it a try. 


TL;DR

  1. Extreme Christian Scientists often choose not to go to the optometrist 
  2. MBE’s reasoning allowed for loopholes to avoid lawsuits and CS taking the blame for failure, you may need to so some mental gymnastics, but as a Christian Scientists, you’re used to that, and you can make it work
  3. Optometry was a well-established comparatively evidence-based practice in the 1800s.
  4. MBE is known to have used glasses at various points in her life 

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1) One is fairly self-explanatory, Extreme Christian Scientists often choose not to go to the optometrist, pointing to S&H 167:12We cannot serve two masters nor perceive divine Science with the material senses.”

2) The right use of temporary means” loophole, “obey the law” and other excuses that have been used.

Using glasses is fine as they are “aids” to “assist” us until we reach a higher level of understanding & are better able to heal ourselves. S&H 56 3-6 “Suffer it to be so now: for thus it becometh us to fulfill all righteousness,” Jesus’ concessions (in certain cases) to material methods were for the advancement of spiritual good.” (Yes, we know this is from the chapter on Marriage, but it applies to so many things).

If Christian Scientists ever fail to receive aid from other Scientists, – their brethren upon whom they may call, – God will still guide them into the right use of temporary and eternal means S&H p. 444:7-10 

Glasses are temporary means, until one can demonstrate perfect vision, one must make due. Some CS find glasses to be too obvious, like you’re wearing error on your face, and instead opt for more discreet contact lenses. 

MBE compels Christian Scientists to “Obey the Law” (The Christian Science Journal, Volume 18), and you have to pass a vision test to get a drivers license, as most CS do want to drive, corrective lenses are as a necessary aid. 

Depending on how you read Science and Health, you can find loopholes that “allow” for medical treatment. You may need to do some mental gymnastics, but as a Christian Scientists, you’re used to that, and you can make it work. 

3) Optometry was a well-established evidence-based practice in the 1800s. 

By MBE’s day, the notion of using lenses to help with vision had been around for centuries, and were far more evidence-based than the questionable notions of humors being used by doctors of the day. The Time line history of optometry and optometry research journals from Wiley Online Library places the earliest use of Hand-held reading stones (lapides ad legendum) were probably in use as desk magnifiers in European monasteries before the year 1000, with the final part of the 13th century bringing about primitive nose spectacles, etc. By MBE’s day (mid-1800s onwards), corrective lenses were a well-established practice

4) Ms. Eddy is known to have used glasses in her time. If using glasses was OK for her, it is OK for current-day Christian Scientists. There are some mixed takes on this, as some pro-MBE sources say she was able to heal her eyesight and dispose of her glasses in later years. 

From The Life of Mary Baker G. Eddy – ch. 14

“Mrs. Eddy came up from Lynn on Sunday afternoon, attended by Mr. Eddy, and often by several of her students. She usually wore a black silk gown and a hat when she spoke, used gold-bowed spectacles, and was confident and at ease upon the rostrum.” (p. 262)

“The necessity for wearing spectacles embarrassed her. When she sometimes wore glasses in her own home, she apologized for doing so, explaining that it was a habit she often rose above, but that at times the mesmerists were too strong for her.” (p. 271)

Final Thoughts

It is worth noting that while MBE is quite set against mesmerism, hypnotism, homeopathy, drugs, hygiene, minor curatives, material medicine, chemists, botanists, druggists, doctors, nurses, vegetarianism, hydrotherapy, narcotics, cataplasms, whiskey, apothecaries, man-midwifes, and material hygiene to name a few. Interestingly, optometrists don’t get an obvious mention

Additional Resources 

Christian Science in Historical Context – Further Reading 

History of Optometry – Further Reading 

19th Century Medicine – further reading 

Christian Science Links – Science & Health in full text as a searchable PDF https://christiansciencemedia.org/files/2010/03/Science-and-Health-with-Key-to-the-Scriptures.pdf

https://en.wikisource.org/wiki/The_Life_of_Mary_Baker_G._Eddy/Chapter_07

If I would only know the Truth about my sight, I would not need glasses

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

 

I guess the first and possibly the biggest way that Christian Science negatively affected my life was that I was born nearsighted, and because we never saw a doctor, no one acknowledged this until I was about ten. A teacher saw me squinting and asked me if I needed glasses. I said no, that it was the light coming from the window. She moved me around the classroom, and I blamed the board, the colour of the chalk, everything. Finally, she told me to go to the nurse and I told her I wasn’t allowed.

The teacher must have called my parents, because my mother immediately got our practitioner on the phone. This began about three years of me being told that if I would only know the Truth about my sight, I would not need glasses. There were many phone calls with the practitioner, even lengthy typed letters that I would skim and hide in the garbage when my mother wasn’t around. I remember distinctly how angry I felt reading the letters or listening to her soft voice droning on the phone. I did not want to work at a healing, I just wanted to have glasses so I could see. I knew in my very soul that prayer did not work for me and desperately wished I could get this point across to my relentlessly CS parents.

The other day, I came across a journal entry from when I was fourteen years old. In it, I wrote that after much begging my parents were going to let me get glasses. It had been a decade of blurred vision and headaches before they agreed. I had spent my life to that point afraid to look up, embarrassed to not recognize someone calling my name. I fell behind in certain subjects where the writing on the board was key to successful grades (math and science, for instance). Worse, there were things I was excellent at that I had to give up because of it. I was told by the music teacher that I had an excellent ear and played violin very well. She made me first violin in the orchestra. The problem was that I couldn’t see the music, and it wasn’t long before I fell behind and dropped out. I was a very good actress, but I couldn’t see the Director or follow cues or any of the things one would need to function properly on stage. To everyone’s dismay, I dropped out of acting as well.

I’d developed a complex in which I would start things, but not finish them because I was so sure of failure. I understand that adversity can push a person to greater heights. I wish I could say that that was the case with me, but it was not. My huge lack of coping skills led to very low self-esteem. I felt invisible and lived constantly in a fantasy world of my own instead of reaching out to the world around me. Long after I had left Christian Science behind, I began to realize that I never reached for the stars growing up because I could not see, so I was too afraid. I am still working on changing that.