Chrystal’s Story: The Year I Left Christian Science

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 Wedding at Principia During my Reunion Weekend

A few years ago, I went to my brother’s wedding weekend at Principia College’s Chapel (it’s a beautiful campus, with buildings designed by nationally renowned architect, Bernard Maybeck. See: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ICioQ12vTo0 ). We were there for several days. It happened to also be my class reunion that weekend. The way Principia does their reunions, they do two classes at the same time, and then every 5 years above that, two more classes go for their reunion too, all the way to the 1920s or so. Potentially, it could be 100s and 100s of people showing up, of all ages. (Like: 2000, 2001, 1995, 1996, 1985, 1986, 1975, 1976…) I showed up for my reunion, and it was also for the students who were a class ahead of me. I would not have attended the reunion, except that it was my brother’s wedding that weekend too, so I figured, “why not, I’ll go 1 day early and catch some of my reunion.” No one, and I mean that literally, no one else from my class or the class ahead of me showed up for our reunion. Zero. I was the only one. And even I wouldn’t have been there (despite it being my 20th reunion), if my brother hadn’t been getting married in the Chapel that weekend, and I really love my brother. (Can you imagine it’s your 20th college reunion and NO ONE shows up except you?  #Awkward )

On Sunday morning, after the wedding, we all agreed we would attend the Chapel service. It was super hard to sit through. I remember the days when I was a Practitioner and I would love to hear “The inspired word of The Bible” and “correlative passages from Science and Health,” but this day at the Principia Chapel just felt tedious (no matter how much I love that Chapel as a building  and I love looking at the architecture). The organ felt too loud and blasty, the Readings were tremendously long, the solos always grate at my ears. I realized I no longer fit in this sort of church experience at all. I was so glad it was only an hour and I was so glad when it was over!

I have now been in the Quaker Meeting as a member for almost 2 years, and my beliefs continue to mold and change, and I love that I have complete freedom and support from my Quaker Friends to be Me. They love me for who I am, and they support me 100% as my beliefs change. I feel completely accepted and loved and cherished. I finally have friends, and I don’t feel like “I am better than anyone.” I feel at peace and equal with everyone. I have a Friend who was incarcerated for a minor offense. And it is good for me to learn his challenges, so I can be educated.

Quaker Women

I have many Friends who are women, and we go out to lunch. We laugh, we cry, we share everything. I can share absolutely anything, and they empathize with me. They support me. They bring me food if I need help, and I take them food when they need help. We mail each other cards that say, “I love you and I am thinking of you.”

I got a card from one of my new good Friends, a year after my dad died. I opened it, read the compassionate note, and just cried and cried. It was so loving of her to remember my dad’s death and send me a compassionate card a full year after his death. I never received cards from Christian Scientists upon my dad’s death, but the Quaker Friends sent me multiple cards. I had barely walked in the door at the Quaker Meeting, and a few short months later, my dad got really sick and died. The doctor had given him a clean bill of health (other than the Parkinson’s) just a month before. 

 

He had predicted my dad could easily live another 10 years. Then, he was gone within a month. My new Quaker Friends mailed me cards and attended our Memorial service in my dad’s Christian Science church (the one I mentioned that never used to allow memorial services or weddings). That church has had a couple of memorial services now, which I think is wonderful and appropriate. Both members died way too young. (What kind of church doesn’t love its members enough to honor important moments in their members’ lives?)

At my dad’s memorial service, the church was so filled – there were so many people standing at the back, and the foyer doors were opened, and the whole entry way area was completely filled, and people even had to stand on the stairs going down down to the Sunday School. That’s the last time I set foot in a Christian Science church. I don’t know if it will be my last, but it was amusing (or sad?) to see it filled to the absolute brim. I think there was only a handful of Christian Science church members there at that service. All the rest of the people attending were friends, family, neighbors, and my Quaker Friends who had never even met my dad.

Feeling Real Grief

After my dad died, I was grief-stricken. He was the only parent I had who had been with me and cared for me my whole life. Everyone else in my life had come and gone, or come in later. My dad meant the world to me. Christian Science teaches us we can’t grieve, because death isn’t real. 

My emotions were so squashed for so many years, though, that I couldn’t help but grieve. Two friends who had left Christian Science suggested that I go to therapy for grief. This was a radical concept to me. I was afraid, and it is against Christian Science. I can’t explain what I was afraid of, but it was definitely not an idea that I was comfortable with.  

I knew that in Christian Science, I had always been taught that to counteract grief and depression, it’s necessary to sit down and write “gratefuls.” I challenged myself to write 100 things I was grateful for, and I figured it would heal my grief over my dad. I sat down and without stopping for any breaks, I easily wrote 112 things I was grateful for. I decided that was enough things, and I put my pen down. My mood hadn’t changed. I was still as depressed and grief-stricken as ever. I decided it was time to get real counseling. I didn’t want to futz around, so I did a search for a high rated female counselor, covered by my insurance. I went in, told her I was grieving over my dad, and we began weekly counseling sessions. She was a phenomenal person. She sat by me and helped me figure out my next path. It turned out that she helped me realize Christian Science was no longer a path that worked for me. She helped me gain courage to tell my family, to tell The Mother Church, and to leave my Christian Science Teacher.

Becoming an Ex Christian Scientist

Meanwhile, the two friends who had suggested that I go to counseling and I were talking more and more about our experiences growing up in Christian Science. We had many parallels, and it was incredibly validating to realize we had so many of the same traumas and experiences. It was almost eery. One of my friends did a search for “Ex Christian Science” and came across this blog and the Facebook group. We all joined very quickly, and found a whole new set of friends. This set of friends have been the most validating group of people I have ever known.

I have learned wonderful words – a whole vocabulary that was denied me in my Christian Science upbringing. I had learned big words like “equipoise,” “extemporaneous,” “perspicacity,” “necromancy,” “self-immolation,” but didn’t know practical words like “boundary,” and “narcissist,” “anxiety,” “immunizations.”  

I have healed and changed so much in the last two years since my dad died. It’s quite remarkable. I am finally finding happiness for real, and I’m able to express an appropriate amount of anger or sadness instead of constantly being on the verge of stifled tears that won’t stay stifled any more. I am a much more emotionally balanced and healthy human being. I no longer struggle thinking “that’s not a part of me, I better heal it, or someone will judge me, and I will be yelled at.” I feel centered and calm. I am a much better mom, spouse, friend, co-worker. My life is so much better than it was when I was a Journal-listed Practitioner – the goal I had wanted to have my whole life.

Do Not Grieve, There is Nothing to Grieve About

The following is a collection of contributions from members of the Ex-Christian Science collective about how death is ‘handled’ in Christian Science.

 

I have found Christian Science’s ‘do not grieve, there’s nothing to grieve about’ instruction to be particularly damaging. It leads those who have lost loved ones to feel ashamed—the deeper the love, the greater the shame. And it leads others to ignore grief in the guise of pretending that it doesn’t exist. We’re providing prayerful support to the grieving person so we don’t have to, you know, acknowledge the loss or do anything practical to help.

– Anonymous



I think I remember one memorial service from when I was young that may or may not have been for a Christian Scientist. But, generally people just didn’t show up at church anymore and nobody ever asked. Why would you mourn someone? What does it matter that they’re dead? Christian Science tears apart the human psyche. It devalues and denies the empathy and compassion that makes us human.

– Heidi


A woman I knew from the local Christian Science branch church, who was about three years older than I was, suddenly vanished. I asked my Christian Scientist mother about her and got double-talk. Later I was alone with my non-Christian Scientist father and he told me she had appendicitis and was under the care of a practitioner, and her appendix burst and she died. When I asked my mother about it she told me, “people are dying in hospitals all the time!”

– Anonymous