I dreamed in a red haze all night.

The following has been submitted by “Anonymous Guy in Ohio.”


In general, I was a very healthy child growing up in our Christian Science household, so many of the intricacies about CS’s distaste for modern medicine avoided my awareness.  Never had a broken bone.  No allergies.  Outside of a few severe seasonal colds, I never missed school. 

My parents skirted around CS expectations in a curious manner…I got the mandatory vaccinations for school, I went to the dentist regularly–including getting fillings when needed (?) but everything else was off the table.

I very much liked Christian Science growing up.  I remember being disappointed as a kid to find out that it was a lay ministry, meaning that leading services wasn’t a full time job.  If they would have had priests or ministers, I probably would have considered that as a career path.  

I don’t know why, but in my youth I was highly susceptible to testicle torsion.  This is essentially when your testicle twists backwards and circulation is cut off.  Very common sports injury.  Some, like me, just seem to have a predisposition for it–like some people having “bad knees”, I guess. 

 It starts off innocently enough.  A feeling like your leg is falling asleep, except it’s high up in your groin…usually I would go for a short walk, nature would take its course, it would untwist itself, and I wouldn’t think anything of it. 

Then one day shortly before my fourteenth birthday, it happened again–and this time it didn’t turn back.  This is the WORST.  Nausea sets in as the most sensitive part of the male body starts dying.  Worst pain you’ll ever feel.  If I think about it hard enough, even 25 years later, I get nauseous all over again.  

After vomiting for an hour, my mom said that I needed to “get back to God” and start praying.  (I was a mouthy 13 year old–aren’t we all?!)

Several hours later it was now 1am and I was writhing in pain as I vomited off the bedside.  The pain was too great to walk, so running to the toilet was out of the question. 

My mom decided to read “Science and Health” to me….I didn’t hear a word she said.  I told her my balls hurt.  She told me that it was part of puberty and “I didn’t know what boys my age were supposed to look like” when I told her I could feel the swelling in my scrotum.

Finally I punched the wall.  I was out of ways to process the pain.  My mom closed the book and walked out of the room, telling me to get some sleep. 

 I thought about going to the hospital myself, but at 13 years old, I would have to walk there.  In my small town, that was definitely possible, but in my condition, not practical.   

I dreamed in a red haze all night. 

For the next week, I felt part of myself die inside.  They both swelled up to the size of a tennis ball as they fought for circulation.   I was bullied in school for “walking funny”.   I’m pretty sure the Guidance office & a few teachers pulled me aside to investigate, but I was programmed not to discuss family business with them.  If only I had. 

Eventually, one testicle shriveled up and died.

That’s when I fell out of love with Christian Science.  There’s no coming back from that.

A few years later, I got an infection “down there”–this is a common thing if you’ve had this kind of trauma in the nether regions.  It was a different pain, but similar enough that I was certain the whole thing was happening again.

I already only had one testicle–was I now a Eunuch at age 16? 

I demanded to go the doctor.  My mom said, “We can’t, you need to pray, this is what you get for falling away from the Church.”

I told her I was going with or without her because I had a driving permit now, and I didn’t care if I got arrested for not having an adult in the car. If she took the keys, I would walk, because it wasn’t as bad as the last time.   Realizing that I had her, and that a minor showing up at the hospital without their parent’s consent would probably get Children’s Services involved, she relented and agreed to go with me.

My mom refused to sit in the appointment, because the Church would be disappointed.  She said she was only doing this to humor me.

The doctor was done in about 10 minutes.  “Here’s an antibiotic for the infection in your right testicle.  No, your left testicle is never going to grow back.  We’ll schedule a follow up test, but at this point it’s more dangerous to remove your testicle than to leave it.”

I told him that he didn’t tell me anything I didn’t already suspect about my condition, but I would need him to tell my mom because she thought I was only here because I was having a growth spurt and lacked a working knowledge of puberty.

He agreed, brought her into the exam room.  He minced no words.  I will never forget the look on her face as he told her that I was intimately scarred for life, and there was no remedy.

“It’s okay to cry,” she told me as we got back in the car, with tears in her eyes. 

“I ran out of tears a long time ago,” I said.  ” All that’s left is anger now.” 

Interview with the Author of “Cult Survivor”

Cult Survivor by Chrystal Cole is the latest exCS memoir now available from Amazon. The ExCS site sat down with Chrystal to talk about her new book and why she is speaking up. ExChristianScience.com is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, this post contains affiliate links.


Chrystal was born a fourth generation Christian Scientist. She believed in the belief system for 42 years, even as all of her friends left it. She 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’. This eBook shares her journey from childhood to parenthood and leaving the dangerous cult. Chrystal finally found a sense of peace when she turned her back on Christian Science and walked away. Her extended family is still in the religion, and she uses a pseudonym to protect their anonymity.


ExCS: What inspired you to write “Cult Survivor”?

Chrystal:

I think it was a series of things. When I first joined the Ex Christian Science Facebook group, people kept asking me: “Wow, you were a practitioner and now you’re an Ex Christian Scientist? How did you do that? What’s your story?”

I was getting the same question at my Quaker Meeting – “What was your spiritual journey that you were so devoted to Christian Science but now you’ve decided it’s not for you? How did you decide to become Quaker?”

And other people just kept asking me, in general, “what does it mean to be a Quaker?”

So I started thinking about my journey. I have this idea that I want to turn everything into a simple “Elevator Speech.” Meaning, turn it into a story that lasts about 40 seconds and covers the basics, so that it can be completely told during an elevator ride.

Well, I kept thinking how my story really cannot be told in an elevator speech. It needed to be told with all the complexity. I mean, it’s a 40+ year journey. It’s not simple like, “I grew up in Christian Science, discovered the Quaker Path and then switched because I liked it better. Oh, and PS: I was caught in 2 measles outbreaks.” It’s so much more than that.

Leaving Christian Science, for me, brought on a whole host of other changes. My dad’s death helped me clearly realize that Christian Science is NOT a science. Science says “gravity works because like attracts like. Gravity works because of centripetal force.” And things like that. Gravity doesn’t suddenly stop working because someone didn’t believe it correctly enough.

My dad was a good man, worthy of having a good, productive and healthy life. He prayed and believed in God all the time! He believed that he would have a Christian Science healing, right until he closed his eyes into the coma from which he never awoke. If anyone was worthy of a healing, it was my dad. Everyone loved him. This whole process showed me with absolute clarity that Christian Science does NOT work. It’s NOT a real science.

Christian Science does NOT work. It’s NOT a real science.

In order for me to process this new way of looking at the world, I needed to write my thoughts down. Writing helped me process all this information intellectually and emotionally. I needed to do this for my own journey towards mental health.

It took me months to write this story, and the whole time I was still striving to make it “Quaker Simple.”

 

ExCS: Has having family still “in” Christian Science impacted your decision to share your story?

Chrystal:

Absolutely. I worry every day that they will find the Ex-Christian Science blog and read any of the posts and realize it’s me, telling my story, and they will identify so much with enough of it (we all knew my dad, for instance), and then call me up and yell at me, and then turn their back on me.

I worry every day that they will find my book now, on Amazon, and that the Christian Science Committee on Publication will send out a letter to Reading Rooms and state Committees on Publication (these are individuals inside the church organization who do everything in their power to shut down publications that come out and say “Christian Science is bad.”

I worry that the letters will say, “let’s get on a mission to destroy this book, and its author” or something like that.

I am not sure that there will be any time where my family will like hearing that I wrote this book. If they come across it while they are still in Christian Science, I hope they will do what I did when I was a Christian Scientist, serving in my local Reading Room and in the mail came the book, “fathermothergod” by Lucia Greenhouse. I just ignored it and called my Practitioner to tell him how proud I was for not reading “an obnoxious book.”

Obnoxious Books. Sect. 12. A member of this Church shall not patronize a publishing house or bookstore that has for sale obnoxious books.  

The Manual of The Mother Church, Article VIII, Mary Baker Eddy

I wish I had read “fathermothergod” all those years ago when I saw it come to my Reading Room. I sure wanted to. With a title like that, I knew with absolute certainty that the author came from inside the Christian Science church. Someone from outside the church wouldn’t have come up with a great title like that.

So, to answer your question again, yes. I am afraid to share my story because my family is decidedly IN the religion. They talk to me about some aspect of Christian Science regularly. One even said to me, “it hurts me when you talk negatively about Christian Science, the religion I love so much.”

You know, the last thing I would ever want to do is hurt anyone. I love my family. I work so hard to make people feel safe around me. But I am also passionate about safety. I have seen too many die this year alone, thanks to being lifelong believers in Christian Science.

If something is a safety issue: I speak up. I have to. Something inside me tells me: Speak Up!

Being in Christian Science to the absolute exclusion of mental and physical health care is dangerous! I have seen so many people die and heard of so many people who die these horrible, tragic, unnecessary deaths! I feel like my own version of Rosa Parks – I’m tired of hearing about these deaths. Or the cripplings. The scars people have from their “love of Christian Science.” It’s a dangerous belief system and needs to be brought down.

 

ExCS: One of the most common critiques we (the ExCS site) get is a variation of “that is not Christian Science,” “that is not my experience with CS,” and “they are not practicing CS correctly and/or are taking things to an extreme.” Have you had push back from CS-sympathisers? What would you say to those who say you were doing CS all wrong?

Chrystal:

You know what? If ANYONE knew Christian Science, it was me. Mary Baker Eddy wrote: “follow me only so far as I follow Jesus.” So I took that to mean that I should hold Jesus up as my highest example of Christian Science. Jesus turned to The Bible, such as it was, when he was preaching. So I turned to The Bible for everything.

I mean, I loved Christian Science. I was active with my Association. I knew all the stories to tell people and I knew they were having healings. I loved playing “the opposites game.” I do believe I actually understood all the contradictions. It made sense to me.

When I first got to the Ex Christian Science Facebook group, people kept writing that Christian Science is so full of contradictions. I didn’t see it. I was so bewildered by this comment. And it came up frequently! I finally threw up my hands and asked the group for examples

That’s when I think I finally started seeing through the illusion that Christian Science is a worthy practice for spirituality. I realized there ARE contradictions. There are so many contradictions!

No matter the topic of conversation, I could draw on a Bible story to share that would help elevate people’s thoughts. I had a story of when I was short on oil and was trying to bake a cake for my son’s birthday party. I upended two bottles of vegetable oil as they went “drip… drip … drip… drip…” in to the measuring cup. And I looked up and prayed. It sounded so much like that story, for me, of the woman who needed oil and said the words, “bring me yet another vessel.” My oil came out to be the perfect amount I needed. I thought about this story – the woman who had all that she needed, right there with her and didn’t need to go looking for more.

I dove in with all my heart deeply and sincerely into Christian Science. Christian Science consumed my every thought. I understood all the contradictions and gave away copies of “Science and Health” like they were ice cream on a hot summer day.

I believed that I had healings 500 times per day, because I had been taught, “every time we change a thought from a bad thought to a good thought, that’s a healing!” I believed it hook, line and sinker. I had a few friends who would wait with baited breath on my every word as I explained how a Bible story was still relevant today. I went to Association every year, without fail.

I had been taught, “every time we change a thought
from a bad thought to a good thought, that’s a healing!”

My ex Christian Science Teacher had me doing things for Association in a prominent way. One time, we did a skit and I was given the task of being “The Voice of God” over the microphone. I couldn’t make this stuff up. I felt so honored to have been asked to be “The Voice  of God.” Another time, I was reading the part of the apostle Andrew. My Teacher told me, “so many people started crying, you were so good at that role.”

Believe me, I fervently believed Christian Science and loved every moment of it. I loved being different from everyone else. I loved feeling like “I have the toolbox and can heal the entire world!”

I used to also have that “holier than thou” expression on my face when someone left Christian Science, like my own bio mom, for instance, who dropped out of the Christian Science nursing program before I was born. “She just never understood it,” I’d been taught. Well, I wasn’t going to be a loser like that. I was going to be Journal Listed as a Practitioner and really UNDERSTAND IT. And: I did. I understood it. I didn’t see any contradictions in Christian Science when I was in it. I was thoroughly brainwashed at that point in my life.

I didn’t see any contradictions in Christian Science. I was thoroughly brainwashed.

It took a LOT to propel me out of the belief system. Once I was out, I started learning other very painful, hard to read stories of other people who had gotten out much sooner than I had. And, those stories helped me uncover how much junk was in my head. Other folks’ life experiences showed me how brainwashed I had been.

I was so unhappy in Christian Science as time wore on. I was deeply unhappy. If Heaven is a place we can have here on Earth, as Christian Science had taught us, why did I feel like I was living in hell and being tortured? Something wasn’t adding up for me. I wanted to be happy. My life was so off balance. After I left, and went through real psychiatric treatment, I can now say my life is truly at a good place and I am happy.

If Heaven is a place we can have here on Earth, as Christian Science had taught us, why did I feel like I was living in hell and being tortured?

The more I get Christian Science out of my system, the more happy I feel. I say: “get it out!”

Do current, practicing Christian Scientists want to hear what I have to say?
No. They really don’t. I tried to push my experience on them, but it turned them off. My family turned their back on me in a very painful way when I was pushing hard about leaving Christian Science. I have found a balance now, and they are back in my life. I stay mostly silent, and I have also had to stand up and let them know, “stop bringing up Christian Science, if I can’t talk with you about why I am out, I don’t want to hear about it constantly every time we get together, either.”

There’s so much more to life than just a belief in Christian Science! My experience has shown me that people who choose to be absolutely devoted to Christian Science let it consume them completely. I don’t see balance in their lives. It’s hard to just sit there and let them give me an onslaught of their Christian Science chatter.

 

ExCS: Do you have any previous writing experience?

Chrystal:

I was an English major at Principia College. I have wanted to be a published author for a very long time. My high school Creative Writing teacher told me my stories were excellent and she looked forward to me publishing at some point. This was the first book I have ever published, which has helped me understand the publishing world just a bit more. My future books, under my own name, will be coming very soon. I’m so excited to finally be a published author!

I am currently working on a 2nd Edition of the book, which will have much more graphic content about my healings. By the way, I consider Christian Science healings to actually be “untreated traumas.” My next steps with Cult Survivor are to get it into paperback form, and then in an audible form. Those will be coming.

I consider Christian Science healings to actually be “untreated traumas.”

 

ExCS: Is there anything else you would like to share about your book?

Chrystal:

Yes – actually. First off, you can read the book on your computer monitor if you like. You don’t need to have a Kindle device to read it! It’s portable and is easy to read on your phone or electronic tablet or computer. I will be turning it into a paperback as soon as I am able, maybe by early next year. 

I do want my story to get “out there” to help propel people out of the Christian Science belief system. I need more people to get out and I hope that will help propel my family to get out too. They sure don’t want to listen to me telling them to get out! My passion to get them out comes across as anger. No one wants to be yelled at, so I’m still working on that.

Thank you, Ex Christian Science blog, for giving me space here over the years to share my journey. Having this forum has helped me process the crazy thinking! I couldn’t have left so completely and so quickly if I hadn’t written about my experience and also gotten feedback from readers of the blog.

Thank you, readers of this blog, for reading and commenting. It helps those who post know that they are not alone.

I am so grateful for the Ex Christian Science community! We all get the unique kind of crazy and how it is dangerous.


ExChristianScience.com is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, this post contains affiliate links.

Chrystal’s Story: Finding My Way to the Quaker Path (Part 2)

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. 


Finding My Way to the Quaker Path (Part 2)

At my particular Quaker Meeting, there are two of us who were raised in Christian Science. (The other one is the dad of that boy, J.V., from my 8th grade private school class!) Several people are medical doctors, and a few are atheist or something like it, though they don’t use that word. There are many of us who aren’t sure how to put our beliefs about a god-type-entity into words. I do know I no longer believe in the God that Christian Science taught me about – the one who inflicts pain and suffering when you are “far away from Him/Her,” and won’t heal you until “you change your thought.” I watched this version of God inflict 25 or so years of Parkinson’s on my amazing, kind, smart, creative, funny dad, and I watched my step-mom victim blame him. “If you only prayed more, if you only read Christian Science literature, you would be healed.” (In the end, my dad died a sudden death-by-starvation, due to not wanting a feeding tube. At that point, though, all he could do was curl up in a fetal position on the bed, and I know he wouldn’t have wanted to live longer with a feeding tube too. It breaks my heart that my amazing dad had to die that way. My dad fully expected to be healed, even as he started to enter the coma he never woke up from.)

My dad dying, as far as I can figure, was my final straw towards leaving my Mother Church membership. I had joined The Mother Church in Boston – “The First Church of Christ, Scientist in Boston, Massachusetts” when I turned 12. About 2 months after my dad died, I withdrew my membership. As I type this, I realize this was me rejecting Mary Baker Eddy as “my leader.”

Alertness to Duty: “It shall be the duty of every member of this Church to defend himself daily against aggressive mental suggestion, and not be made to forget nor to neglect his duty to God, to his Leader, and to mankind.” – “The Manual of The Mother Church,” by Mary Baker Eddy, Article VIII, Section 6.

In 2015, I wrote to The Mother Church through their website and never got a confirmation that I am no longer a member. I don’t get mail from them any more at least, including no more requests for the annual money from members. So that’s good! The Quaker Faith was fine with me being a member of the Christian Science Church and still attending the Quaker Meeting. I have learned that probably most Christian churches are fine if you are members at two or more, or are a member at one and attend another. The Christian Science church makes you choose only their version of “church.”

Christian Science, as far as I have witnessed it, teaches people to victim blame and chastise and judge each other. Any time someone wants to go to a doctor, they have to lie about it – lying by omission. They don’t tell their church family, they are so scared of going to a doctor, and they go because they need care, and don’t have anyone to support them. If they come home and need meals or care at all, they have nowhere to turn. If they admitted, “I went to a doctor,” they might likely be kicked out of the church, or at least ostracized. “If you only prayed more, you would have your healing,” they are told over and over again by people who truly think they are being loving when they are really judging and victim-blaming.

I no longer believe in a merciless god like that. I don’t know if I believe in a god or not. I have stripped myself to my core, and have laid everything I have in front of myself, and am examining my inner most beliefs to determine what I believe. At this point, I know I believe in Mother Earth and Father Sky. I see so much beauty in Nature, and so much beauty in the Sky. I love that my Quaker brothers and sisters recycle and compost their food, they push each other to be more kind, to be kind to the earth, to be kind to animals. I love the peaceful protests. I have heard a woman give talks about all the times she was arrested as a peaceful protester – she loved being arrested with her dad growing up. It was something they did. They would peacefully protest war or whatever was wrong, and get arrested and thrown in jail for it. Now she loves protesting with her daughter.

I have a new Quaker Friend who is a District Attorney, who works for all the cases of people who are thrown in jail protesting outrageous things. There were riots due to racism in a city not too far from us, and she gathered everything she needed to head into the rioting city, to prepare the legal documents and cases to help get the people inevitably get out of jail the next day. She gathered granola bars, lanterns and batteries (in case of power outage), snacks, her suit for court, paperwork and specific books. I love that the Quakers fight for the freedoms of people. She talked about how it felt, being a white person driving into a city that had protests and police locking down black people. She saw her privilege right then and there – laid before her. She drove easily through police checkpoints in the middle of the riot to reach her District Attorney’s Office so she could stay up all night, preparing to get the protesters out of jail the next day.

I thought “Quakers are peaceful, and they are conscientious objectors,” and that was initially what drew me to the Quaker Faith. But there is so much more to it. The Quaker Testimonies are nothing at all like Christian Science Testimonies. The Quaker Testimonies mean “Quaker Values.” The acronym for the Quaker Testimonies is “SPICES.” It stands for: Simplicity, Peace, Integrity, Community, Equality, and Stewardship. (See: http://www.friendsjournal.org/s-p-i-c-e-s-quaker-testimonies/)

(By the way, The Quakers also have a “Journal.” It’s a monthly publication. The first time my dad’s wife saw my copy of the Quaker Journal sitting on my kitchen counter, she said, “That’s cute.” As in: “oh, they must have copied the Christian Science Journal by doing that.” Ahem. Quakers have been in this country for over 350 years. It predates Christian Science by at least 250 years – IN THIS COUNTRY.)

Quakers were an integral part of the Underground Railroad. We sing black gospel hymns like, “Follow the drinking gourd” in our Meeting. I have found out these hymns have hidden messages meant to help the slaves navigate the Underground Railroad. I feel like I am part of something really big. I am on a committee dedicated to helping work out the horrendous Mass Incarceration problem in our country. A Friend I know is working hard to create transitional housing for people who are being released from jail and don’t have an ID and can’t get a driver’s license or a job. Transitioning from jail to freedom is not easy at all. And there is no ½ way house for most of them. Feel free to look up the Friends Committee on National Legislation. They do very cool things. I am just starting to get active with this organization, and it’s very exciting.

I don’t know that I necessarily think that Quakers are peaceful in the same way of what I thought it meant when I first walked in the door; Now I know they do fight – they absolutely fight – on the side of Justice. They are actively out in the community, fighting for people’s rights and freedoms, and they know that it takes time to change laws, but they work toward it (sometimes for decades, among huge resistance) and they don’t give up. Laws cannot be changed overnight, some can take years or decades, but the Quakers fight diligently and make progress on issues of injustice.

I am finally learning how to be an activist. I am finally learning how to help my community. Quakers have also always accepted folks from the LGBTA+ community. So many kinds of churches turn away LGBTQ+ folks. I know a transgender woman, and she is fully accepted as a woman in the Quaker community – she attends our Annual Quaker Women’s Retreat. It is hard for us to rent a facility that meets our needs and also accepts LGBTQ+ folks. We have gay women who are married to each other who attend our retreat, and they are not welcome everywhere. But we work hard to find facilities that will rent to our retreat so these women will be accepted and able to attend. Friends of mine marched in the 2016 Washington, DC LGBTQ+ parade with banners held high from the different area Quaker Meeting Houses. And they manned a Quaker booth the next day at the LGBTQ+ festival.

During my Christian Science branch church membership, I was always discouraged from going out into the community to find out what the people need and help them as a face of the Christian Science church. We wanted to do our annual lecture, to an audience of mostly other Christian Scientists, and the members felt like, “this is us fulfilling our duty.” They thought I was ridiculous to suggest that we actually DO something for the community. What should we do? I didn’t know. I had no guidance and didn’t know the issues. Everything I suggested was shot down again and again. In the Quaker Meeting, I hear about so many different things they are working on and being activists to help people in need. We even have the kids learning to be activists – they make 240 sandwiches and 120 lunches, once a month for the local homeless shelter. The kids love the activity, and it’s teaching them to do GOOD for the community. I love that all of the kids in the Meeting House are learning to serve the Community. It’s wonderful.

Hindsight is 20/20

This is Part 2 of a multi-part story of one woman’s journey leaving Christian Science. For all posts see ‘Spice‘.


File:Refraction through glasses 090306.jpg From Wikimedia Commons, the free media repository

I have been unable to see properly for at least half of my life.

While a lot of modern day Christian Scientists don’t go to doctors, many of them do go to eye doctors, because Mary Baker Eddy herself went to eye doctors. Eye doctors and dentists are exceptions to the rule of not seeking medical care — but that’s a whole ‘nother article. For now we’ll just leave it with the concept that Christian Scientists are allowed, under religious doctrine, to go to eye doctors and get and wear glasses.

Even though both of my Christian Scientist parents wore glasses, they didn’t know how to help me navigate what I feel is the labyrinth of optometry.

I first found out that I needed glasses at the DMV, testing for my driver’s license at age 16. Having been raised by Christian Scientists, I was exempt from vision screening in school. I was also exempt from health class, scoliosis screening, hearing screenings, and vaccinations.

I was at the DMV after a rough driver’s ed experience in school. I didn’t pass the course and needed additional hours with the instructor which took additional time, cost additional money, and further inconvenienced my parents who had to transport me. Within my family, I got a reputation as being a bad driver.

After the DMV, my mother took me to Wal-Mart for an eye exam and to buy a pair of glasses. I remember being scared and frustrated and crying during the exam, because he was asking me which lens I “liked” better, and I didn’t know. I didn’t know by what criteria I should like one lens over another, and I was very scared at my first experience at a doctor’s office. I remember when I first put them on and looked across the big store, I could now read the signs across the ceiling. The first time I wore them outside I reveled in the ability to see each individual leaf on a tree. Being able to see was amazing, and driving became much easier.

I don’t think I got another pair of glasses until I was away at college, a couple of years later. Why would a good Christian Scientist get their eyes checked every year? That would be acknowledging the idea of mortal decay and giving it power. Well, I accidentally left my glasses on a desk in a classroom and never found them. In a panic, I had to figure out how to get — and pay for — another pair of glasses. And why would a good Christian Scientist have a backup pair of glasses? That would be acknowledging that things can be lost, which is error.

From Science and Health by Mary Baker Eddy, “Recapitulation,” p. 472:

 

Question. — What is error?
Answer. —

Error is a supposition that pleasure and pain, that intelligence,
substance, life, are existent in matter. Error is neither Mind nor one of Mind’s
faculties. Error is the contradiction of Truth. Error is a belief without
understanding. Error is unreal because untrue. It is that which seemeth to be and is not.If error were true, its truth would be error, and we should have a
self-evident absurdity — namely, erroneous truth.Thus we should continue to
lose the standard of Truth.

 

I found a coupon in the newspaper for a $25 exam, which sounded great to me, being on my own financially. I went to Wal-Mart to pick out a pair of frames and get an idea of the price. (After all, my mom had taken me to Wal-Mart for glasses. Isn’t that where everyone gets glasses?) Then I went to the optician designated on the coupon for my eye exam. Afterward they asked if I’d like to look at frames, and I said I could not afford the glasses that they sold there, and that I needed my prescription to take to Wal-Mart. They did not want to release my prescription, and I didn’t know how to advocate for myself or the law stating they were required to give it to me. So I bought from them glasses that were out of my budget even after discounting. (The coating wore off of those glasses before my year warranty was up, and those bastards charged me for “shipping” to replace/recoat the lenses.) I was at this shady place because I didn’t know about medical insurance, what I had access to via my parents or the university while in college, or that I could have had a proper exam from a non-swindling eye doctor. I didn’t know that non-swindling eye doctors existed until several years later, and I hated “the glasses racket” and treated it with proper disgust and distrust.

Later in college, I lost my glasses while out dancing. Of course I blamed myself horribly for losing them, because Christian Science teaches that “nothing is lost in God’s Kingdom.” This is probably based on the phrase, “thy kingdom come,” found in “The Daily Prayer” from The Manual of The Mother Church, Eddy:

Daily Prayer. Sect. 4. It shall be the duty
of every member of this Church to pray each
day: “Thy kingdom come;” let the reign of
divine Truth, Life, and Love be established in
me, and rule out of me all sin; and may Thy
Word enrich the affections of all mankind,
and govern them!

In reality, people lose or break glasses all the time. It’s so common that it is normal to have a “backup pair” of glasses so that this exact situation does not happen. My prescription was expired, so I had to do another “fire drill” to get replacement glasses in a hurry. You can bet I didn’t go back to those bastards for a $25 eye exam.

After graduating college, I had a reimbursable cash incentive from my employer for medical expenses. Because I was driving slowly when approaching signs, the coworkers I was on a business trip with suggested that it was time for new glasses, which was embarrassing. I found an independent eye doctor and got an exam. He suggested that I get my eyes checked every year. I didn’t even know that was a thing.

I got eye exams every year for the four years that I had that job because of this reimbursable cash account. The next time I went to this doctor for an eye exam, he said that my prescription had changed only slightly and started to write a new one. I begged him not to change my prescription if it was only slightly different, because new prescriptions gave me horrible headaches. I remember the look he gave me, like I had just asked him to commit a felony. I didn’t learn until 10 years later that headaches upon getting a new glasses prescription is not uncommon, but in the meantime this reinforced my disgust and distrust in what I perceived as being “the glasses racket”.

After that I went to graduate school, which is very reading-intensive. I knew the signs that my vision was going by now, so I went to an independent eye doctor for a prescription and went along just fine. After a couple of years the lenses became crazed, and I needed to replace these glasses. I was so frustrated and did not have the time, money, or patience to deal with it. Since I felt like I could see just fine and had a deep distrust in “the glasses racket”, I decided not to play their game this time. In the state where I lived then, a glasses prescription was good for 2 years, instead of 1 year, which had been the case where I lived previously. Well, if 2 was just as good as 1, then why not 3? I felt like it was all bullshit anyway, just designed to make eye doctors money. So I did a forensic copy job on my prescription and extended it for a year so that an unnamed optical provider would make me another pair of glasses. (Thankfully, the statute of limitations has expired on this. I did not know at the time that this is very, very illegal, but that is no excuse.)

After I graduated and started my next job, the first thing I did was to get Lasik. It had been about four years since I had had an eye exam and gotten new glasses, and the doctor thought that my prescription was stable. Lasik was a terrifying experience, but was well worth the emotional upheaval. I remember seeing every individual snowflake falling outside the window the next morning with my naked eyes. I proudly went to the DMV with my Lasik letter to get the corrective lens restriction removed from my license. I could see as soon as I woke up everyday! Life without glasses was SO FINE.

A little over a year later, I was in an accident that caused a vision problem called Purtcher’s Retinopathy. It took a while to diagnose and affects the retina — a different part of the eye than Lasik fixes and which glasses corrects (the cornea). While signing myself into the ER after the accident, I asked if the pen worked because I couldn’t see my signature on the admittance paperwork. The ceiling tiles were also fuzzy as I laid in the ER bed. But, we had much bigger fish to fry (injuries to treat), and the doctor said that the accident probably kicked up floaters, that my body was under stress, and that it would clear up.

Two days later I was following up with my primary care doctor, and they were asking me for all kinds of information for the insurance claim. I couldn’t read well enough to get insurance info from my email on my phone. I successfully advocated for myself at that appointment and begrudgingly got orders for a CT scan, which did not show any abnormalities. (By this point, I had been getting medical care for 10 years.) Purtcher’s Retinopathy takes two days to fully present. That night, I picked up a plate full of liquid that I couldn’t see, and splashed the liquid all over myself. After watching me do this, my husband took me to the ER at a hospital with a well-known eye center. My intake eye exam (which I cried through) revealed my vision was only 20/200. The ER resident was able to confirm that there was nothing wrong with my Lasik flap,and that my optic nerve looked fine, and agreed my problem must be caused by floaters. I pushed back and said that I felt like I was looking through snow on an analog TV and the interference stayed in the same place wherever I looked, which is not explained by floaters. I ended up seeing a total of six eye doctors over four months before getting definitive test results proving that I had a vision problem. Every time they gave me the same stupid exam, and every
time I bawled my eyes out because I couldn’t see.

Fun fact: there are no criteria for a doctor clearing you to drive after you have vision problems. I asked about the fact that it took me 10 seconds sometimes to make out a letter and the several times that, as a passenger, I did not see a scooter, small, neutral-colored car, or pedestrian. They said to just “use my judgement.” My husband drove me to all of my appointments and to work for six weeks. Then he needed to go on a business trip, so I started driving again. I got a new GPS and used voice prompts and drove slowly. By the 4-month point, I was testing at 20/35, which was close enough to 20/30, the legal requirement for driving. This should scare the hell out of you. It scared the hell out of me.

A year after the accident, I passed a DMV vision test and my retinologist said that my retinas looked just as good as any adult’s off the street.

Life went on for a couple more years. I started treatment for migraines that included medication. I didn’t feel like I could see very well and blamed it on the meds, like a good semi-pseudo-sorta-former Christian Scientist. In fact, after a few days on one medication, I almost missed a school crossing guard, and immediately quit taking that medication. It got so bad that I avoided driving at night as much as possible and drove very slowly on exits and when taking turns. I thought to myself: ”I am too young to be having these kinds of vision problems and limitations.” I read about blurred vision in my medication side effects. (Spoiler alert: they ALL say this.) I discussed this with my doctor, and we slowly reduced the medication until I no longer took it. My vision improved slightly, but was still so bad that I couldn’t read signs across the room. My husband told me to try on his glasses. Goddamnit, it was time for new glasses. AGAIN.

At this point, it had been 4 years since I got Lasik, and my eyes kept deteriorating. I’m sure that some of my Christian Science family members blame my having gotten Lasik for needing to wear glasses again. I didn’t solve my vision the “right” way, through prayer. Yeah, ok.

So it turns out that I will not achieve my goal of cutting the glasses industry out of my life. But now (I think) I know how to deal with it like a rational adult. I now have not only one pair of backup glasses, but also a fashion pair, plus prescription sunglasses. This feels like pure luxury.

Because I was raised as a Christian Scientist, I got the reputation for being a bad driver during my formative years and felt guilty for needing glasses and for not being “God’s perfect child.” I did not get eye exams every year or even every two years while in high school and college — the prime age range for getting into a car accident for non-vision-related reasons. My lack of knowledge about eye doctors and the glasses industry made correcting my eyesight a very painful and expensive process — not to mention incredibly dangerous, because without a backup pair of glasses, I was out on the open road unable to see properly. All of this stress occurred during the most important years of my education. As an adult, I unwittingly committed a felony by changing the date on my prescription, because I was sure I knew better than these swindling, glasses-hawking eye doctors. Finally I blamed my vision problems on meds and did
not have the self-awareness — or body-awareness — to recognize that I had needed new
glasses for over 8 months.

“​My lack of knowledge about eye doctors and the glasses industry made correcting my eyesight a very painful and expensive process — not to mention incredibly dangerous…”

I have major emotional baggage when it comes to glasses and vision. What I went through was completely unnecessary thanks to 14th century technology (glasses) and middle-class means (the ability buy a backup pair) during modern times when vision screening is mandatory during elementary school (unless you have a religious exemption). I have been terrified of driving, made to feel like it was my own fault that I couldn’t see, felt swindled, despaired that I would never be able to see again, and I committed a felony. My troubles didn’t occur in 1900 — this was Anno Domini 2000+. Except that for Christian Scientists, it may as well have been 1900s — medically speaking.


image via https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Refraction_through_glasses_090306.jpg

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?

The Spice of Life –  Part 1: Before leaving Christian Science

This is Part 1 of a multi-part story of one woman’s journey leaving Christian Science. For all posts seeSpice‘.


I was raised in a Radically Reliant Christian Science Household. I would like to tell you what that was like now that I have completely left the religion, and how easy it would have been for me to have had both a better childhood and adulthood.

I got what I now know is bronchitis almost every year in my memory. Once, I was out of school for a week because of it. I thought it was normal to get sick for two months every spring. I thought it was normal to have snot running down your face and sneeze constantly while talking to a professor. I thought it was just a belief in allergies that caused me to cough so hard and for so long that my back was sore for weeks. Every year. Again and again.

At age seven I got measles at CedarS Camps during the 1989 outbreak. When I started using modern healthcare as an adult, I was shocked and dismayed to learn how much danger I was in as a child over diseases that were completely preventable. Furthermore, rejecting these modern, scientifically derived and proven solutions takes a lot of work on the part of the Radically Reliant anymore, what with religious exemption forms that must be notarized and filed with different schools. When Christian Scientists including me successfully avoid measles vaccinations through these legal means–thinking smugly that it is our First Amendment right to do so–it in fact allows us to become carriers for the disease and transmit it to others, including vulnerable populations who may not be vaccinated. I was horrified to learn that I was at the forefront of the biggest measles outbreak in modern America

When I was 15, four teenagers including myself, were in a car accident. After the accident, I was in and out of consciousness and no one could contact my family. A kind friend’s mother finally got a hold of my mother to let her know I had been in a car accident. When my mom arrived at the Emergency Room, I remember being on the x-ray table and they stopped diagnostic tests because my mom was signing me out of the ER. I realize of course, that was just how she was raised–to Radically Rely on Christian Science. I had badly chipped teeth and probably a pretty bad concussion based the fact that I was fading in and out of consciousness. I don’t remember much, but I definitely remember feeling confused and hurt on behalf of the friend’s mother who was brusquely told “no thanks” when she offered to add me to her church’s prayer list. I remember thinking that it couldn’t hurt, and that this person was so kind to have helped track down my mother.

While I’m very grateful for a roof over my head, a full stomach, and intelligent and loving parents, I moved out of a Radically Reliant Christian Science household feeling very confused about a lot of things. This impacted my jobs, school, friendships, and romantic relationships in ways I am only starting to realize and move past fifteen years later. I will expand upon this in Part 2.

I’m still the odd man out

By Renee, an Ex-Christian Scientist Group contributor.

I am a medical assistant at a health and wellness practice. Recently at work we started this 30-day affirmation challenge. I read through all of the materials and was instantly troubled. The document was something along the lines of ‘Positive Affirmations for a Healthy, Happy Life.’ I am usually a fairly upbeat, laid-back person, but these types of things bring out the worst in me.

There was this one line towards the end: “I believe in the perfect outcome of every situation in my life.” Ummm, no thank you. We were also encouraged to wear a green rubber band and every time we said or thought something negative, we were supposed to pop the rubber band and switch wrists. My ex-Christian Scientist heart just ached over the thought of doing this. I was not willing to punish myself for having an honest thought or feeling.

I went straight to my boss and told her that I really appreciated the thought of what management was trying to accomplish and that I think that having a cheerful disposition when dealing with our patients is essential. At the same time, when someone is hurting they need compassion, and validation that they hurt and are sick, not to pretend that everything is fine. My boss is also a very close friend, so I kind of leaned on her desk and told her that it took me 25 years before I was really free to say that I didn’t feel well or that I was unhappy and many more years beyond that of digging through the damage those 25 years cost me. I flat out stated that I would not participate.

She looked at me like I had suddenly grown a horn out of my forehead. She didn’t understand. Everyone looks to me for direction. I keep the medical staff lifted up and I am always an ear for others. How could I not want to do this when I am the one always cheering everyone on? This is right up my alley! Blah, blah, blah… She literally was horrified that I had told her this.

Here we go again. I’m the kid sitting in the hallway doing a worksheet because my classmates are studying human biology and it conflicts with my religious beliefs. But this time, somehow, in the reverse, and I’m still the odd man out. How is that? But I have stayed to true to myself and not participated, even though to do so brings a different sort of discomfort in trade.

It was our fault that my father died because we let him out of our ‘experience.’

By Sharon, an Ex-Christian Scientist Group contributor.

Christian Scientists have a lack of humanity, sympathy, empathy—whatever you want to call it—in the face of death. It’s downright weird. My mother’s explanation to me about my Grandpa’s death when I was just a little girl was, “Oh, he could be down the street, or he could be upstairs.” I could never figure it out, whether he had become invisible to me or what.

I had a grandmother who was of a sort of Mennonite religion. She had lost a little boy when he was six. She would tell me how he died, and how he went to heaven, and how she wasn’t worried because she knew she would join him some day, and she would rejoice when she did. I very much preferred Grandma’s story because I couldn’t figure out why my Grandpa would just be ‘down the street’ and wouldn’t come see me.

Later on my aunt died and I went to her funeral. My mother actually went with me, which was unusual. They had a sermon which included statements about how we should be glad because she would be seeing her husband and other loved ones. My mother left the funeral and said, “that is the stupidest thing I have ever heard. She will NEVER see her husband again because she let him die.”

My mother also once told me that it was our fault that my father died because we let him out of our ‘experience.’ My passive father had waited for my mother’s permission to seek treatment for his throat cancer, but by then it was too late. She said that my father had just gone on and he didn’t know he had died and he still had all of us, but we had let him go.

When my mother’s mother died, I was eight years old. I was never told that she died. I was told that a package was to be delivered and I was just to sign for it and put it on the kitchen table. It was my grandmother’s ashes. My mother acted as if nothing had happened.

My mother was a class-taught Christian Scientist by a teacher who was taught by a student of Mary Baker Eddy’s. My mother spent countless hours with that teacher between her Association meetings. She wrote many, many letters to the teacher, received many back. She non-stop studied, talked, researched all Mrs. Eddy’s writings. Certainly during all these visits and during her class or Association meetings, the subject of death—or non-death, I should say—came up. She was taught this malarkey somewhere.

Growing up in Christian Science

The following is a collection of contributions from members of the Ex-Christian Science collective about growing up in Christian Science. 


 

It was very difficult to explain my religion’s beliefs to my friends. I was always trying to make it sound like a more ‘normal’ religion, in fact writing “United Church” on a form once because I was embarrassed to write Christian Science. I so wanted to be like everyone else. I didn’t want my friends to know that there was no minister at our church, that there were two people on a podium and one read from a book of garbled language I couldn’t understand and finally, it was mortifying to explain that I had to go to Sunday School instead of the church service until I was twenty!

– Tessa


When I was growing up, we definitely had pictures of Mary Baker Eddy around our house. My parents gave me a framed portrait to keep on my bedside table, in fact. I was pretty much a believer throughout my entire childhood. Then I went through the ‘it works, it’s just not for me’ phase. I think I was in my late twenties when I finally realized how much I had been misled. It’s hard to know better when everyone around you, particularly your loved ones, are fervent believers.

– Beth


When we would come home from school and announce fearfully that measles or something else was going around, my mother would say firmly, “Contagion is all in the mind!” and send us back to school. I would brag to the other students that my siblings and I never got sick because sickness was all in the mind. Then I got chicken pox. I had no idea what was happening to me and of course my mother wouldn’t have had any medical education to help with that. I remember lying alone and sick in my room staring at every inch of my skin. Where was the chicken that I was sure would be sticking to me?

– Tessa


I did everything I could to hide the fact that I was a Christian Scientist. Even my closest friends didn’t know. It was embarrassing. It made me different in ways I didn’t want to be different. Sunday School was an hour of torturous boredom, and often my parents had to fight with me to get me ready in time to go, and when I was a little kid, I couldn’t stand the little old ladies who always wanted to pinch my cheeks. Ugh! I hated that! That is why to this day, I am always extremely respectful of peoples’ personal space–especially children.

– Jeremy

You were *supposed* to stay out for two weeks

By Marie. ‘Marie’ is a pseudonym. This was originally published on Emerging Gently, and it is shared here with permission.


My mom sent me back to school too soon after having chicken pox. I had come down with it during a Girl Scouts camping weekend in fourth grade. It was right after my parents separated and she was working days for the first time, so the first week of school that I was sick I had been home alone. This was highly atypical for my upbringing and in hindsight I believe she had kept this a secret from my father’s side of the family, who knew I had chicken pox but whom she did not want to ask for help from, and this created her internal stress to get me back to school.

The following Monday morning, I still had open sores all over me, but my cold symptoms had lessened and my mother had been making noise all Sunday, in Christian Science platitudes, that I was ready to go back to school the next day–I had made my demonstration and that sort of thing. I kept pleading with her that NO ONE came back in one week, you were *supposed* to stay out for two weeks when you had the chicken pox; it was not a race, there was a rule. But I was sent on my way, to walk to school alone.

I was filled with dread. I was a pariah at school because of Christian Science. I was not a cool kid to begin with; too fat, too bookish, too sincere. I did not wear my ‘cult status’ (heh, heh) well. The arrangement in the mornings was that the entire student body waited in a crowd outside the doors until the arranged time and then the doors were unlocked and we proceeded into our classrooms. It was a small school district where we all walked to and from school, even at our lunch break.

As I approached the already large crowd of students, the first few took notice of me and a murmur, then a larger thrill of reaction sped through the student body. There were no adults present. They simultaneously turned to face me as a group and backed away from me as a group, into the brick corner of the building behind them, protectively. Dozens of voices cried out, “You’re not supposed to be here! You’re sick; what are you, stupid? She’s a Christian Scientist, she doesn’t know she’s not supposed to come here with chicken pox, she’s gonna get us all sick! Get away from us! Get away from here! Go home, Christian Scientist!”

I stopped, paces away from them, in the middle of the playground, hysterical with tears, pleading with them, “I know! I told my mom!” over and over again. They would not hear me. A teacher came to open the doors and saw the scene. She waved the children inside and hustled over to me to ask, “What on earth are you DOING here? It’s only been a week! You’re still sick!” I sobbed, “I KNOW! She told me to come back!” With veiled disgust and efficiency she whisked me into the nurse’s office who quickly confirmed with the first temperature check of my life that I was still contagious, gave me a note stating I was not to return until the following Monday, and sent me on the walk home.

I marched home filled with deep fury at my mother, hyperventilating with sobs over what I had been put through. She was surprised to see me stomp through the door and slam the note down in front of her. She asked some sort of question I can’t remember, but my answer was, “No! All the students were afraid of me and yelled at me to get away, and the teachers said I shouldn’t be there and the nurse said not to come back until next Monday. Just like I TOLD you.”

I crawled into my bed and fell into an exhausted sleep, which is where I should have been in the first place, hiccuping with tears as I slowly calmed down. As I drifted off, my last awareness was my mother’s presence at my bedside, stroking my hair. “I’m sorry, honey.”