Freedom from Christian Science and a Path out of Anxiety

By Karen, submitted via email. Karen is a pseudonym. For more information about how to share your story, please visit https://exchristianscience.com/about-2/share-your-story/


In my decades as a Christian Scientist, I read Science and Health all the way through at least three times. I even tried to do what one of my mother’s friends did: read the entire book in one week (seven hundred pages in seven days). Yet in all my readings, my favorite chapter was always the one set apart from the rest of the book: the final chapter, “Fruitage.” I loved the personal narratives, which I could latch on to so much more easily than the formal prose. I loved the healings; one of my favorites was from the Civil War veteran who was healed of a broken jaw from taking a log in the face when sawing wood. Yet, as I grew into my thirties, I felt increasingly that I was at the same place many of the “Fruitage” writers were. I was ailing, hurting, discouraged, lost, and wondering what it was all about. I yearned for relief. I had been a student of Christian Science all my life, yet I was in the place of these people who discovered Christian Science. Darkly, I began to think of myself as a reverse Christian Scientist. What did that mean for me? Would I ever find healing?

After I left Christian Science and, awkwardly, entered medial care, I began to accumulate testimonies of my own kind. I found freedom, redemption, healing, comfort—concepts embraced by Christian Scientists—in the sphere of modern medicine.
Of all these, freedom is the one that means most to me. I spent fourteen years living in fear of heart disease. The symptoms began in 2001: My heart would race and beat fiercely. My chest would ache. My breathing would become shallow, my hands would tingle, and I would feel light-headed. I knew very little about my body, but I knew enough to be convinced I had a heart problem. (I want to note here that these symptoms can be serious, so definitely learn about them and get yourself checked out by a doctor if you experience them.)

Thus began over a decade of suffering. I experienced these symptoms with varying degrees of frequency and extremity. Thus began prayer, reading, and calls to four different practitioners over the years: calls in the early hours of the morning sometimes, sometimes calls when I was too afraid to even speak. The practitioners were patient and kind. One of them assured me, “Your heart is strong.” That helped me.
After the first two years, the spells lessened. But they never left. The fear never left. It often brought me to tears. I stopped driving on highways, and I approached bridges with trepidation. I was afraid of having an attack, losing control of my car, and harming myself or others. I dreaded being alone in my house (something I typically enjoyed) because I might have a fit and die with nobody to help me. I was even scared in long lines at the grocery store or at stoplights, lest I collapse and hold up people’s progress.

When I left Christian Science and started medical care, I anxiously awaited my first physical: What will they find? I did feel some reassurance that I would finally receive proper care, but I dreaded the inevitable looks of concern, the tests, the diagnosis.
My dread turned to relief. Since my start with medical care in 2015, I’ve had various tests, some as part of regular doctors’ visits and some stemming from two urgent care visits. Among those tests, I’ve had two EKGs, neither of which caused any concern.
My heart is fine. They say I have an occasional murmur, so I take the doctors’ advice to
avoid caffeine, to exercise and eat well, and to cope with stress. My heart really is strong, or at least it’s mostly normal. Now I know that with an assurance I never had before. (Even if I had a problem, I would now be in the care of professionals. And I wouldn’t be alone: Heart trouble is experienced by many people around the world; it’s part of the human condition, and we make the best of it that we can.)

What, then, were all these symptoms that I felt? I still had episodes of shallow breathing. I asked my primary care physician about it. Her first question was, “Do you feel a lot of stress in your life?” She asked about anxiety—a term I’d never heard spoken except in the context of nervousness, like I-am-so-anxious-about-my-math-test. This lovely, perceptive physician referred me to mental health services, where I found a therapist that illuminated my world. She explained anxiety to me. She recommended two books to me (see the resources below). The books introduced me to the nature of panic attacks. I remember sitting on a chair in my bedroom,
my mind blown wide open as I went down a checklist of panic attack symptoms. This changed my life.

Since autumn 2016, I have had four panic attacks. They are horrible, and at some point I always end up thinking I am going to die. (There’s still progress to be made!) But I hold on to the thought: This is probably a panic attack. I ride it out with the tools I have been given from therapy and books. I can enjoy being alone again. Waiting in lines or at stoplights is a normal experience again. And I’ve been driving on highways more. I’ve had many victories. I have freedom. The contributors to “Fruitage” in Science and Health sometimes remarked that they were grateful beyond words for Christian Science. I am grateful beyond words for leaving it.

Resources

And many more! Look around for what fits you best.

Chrystal’s Story: New Beliefs

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.


New Beliefs

I have decided to completely start from scratch with my own spiritual belief system. It’s kind of fun, to see what I believe in. It reminds me of the end of the book series, “The Hunger Games.” The final book, “Mockingjay,” has Peeta asking “real or not real?” and his friends reply and tell him what is real or not real. He starts to realize the memories that are not real have a “sparkly quality to them.” I am asking myself lately: “real or not real?” And I know I love The Sky, and I love Nature. So at the moment, my beliefs are simply, “Mother Earth, Father Sky.” I am enjoying understanding the winter and summer solstices. My kids and I agreed we don’t need to celebrate Christmas anymore, and we will celebrate Yule instead. Look it up. It’s a beautiful holiday with rich and meaningful traditions.

My kids took some time to get out of the Christian Science mindset. My older son still struggled with it for a year after I left. Early in 2016, he told me something to which I replied, “that’s a Christian Science thought,” and he was pretty upset with me that I would dare try to change his thinking. I had to remember to quietly be Quaker, and not try to guide him, but let him come to his own conclusions, and support him in Clearness as he ponders and finds his own sense of truth. He has changed his thinking on that issue, and has found a more reasonable sense of things. In the summer of 2016, he went to Quaker camp for the first time and loved it so much! He now considers himself to be an Ex Christian Scientist and also a Quaker. I am glad he had the space, mentally, to sort through everything and make his own choices about what to believe.

When I wrote this blog, my younger son still believed in God. It brought him a sense of comfort, and I am fine with that. He also wrote a little prayer type song that includes the words: “flying spaghetti monster” and also “god.” We sing it at bedtime. As I edit this blog and get it ready for publishing, I don’t know what his belief is about whether a god exists or not, and I am okay with that. It’s up to him and what brings him comfort. 

I love being a mom to these two boys. If they get sick, I don’t yell at them or tell them “it’s your fault that you’re sick!” and I don’t force them to sit in their room with books and make them read and find their own healing. Sometimes we use a children’s over the counter medicine (or even cough drops, imagine that). I have also found that humidifiers solve a lot of problems in the winter months, and my sons and I go to doctors regularly now.

All three of us are now immunized too. That was a whole other thing I had to navigate to decide if it was dangerous or practical or what. I learned about “herd mentality,” and realized we had always been safe from diseases because the majority of the time, we were surrounded by immunized folks. Real science. Christian Science didn’t protect us. Medical science is real science, using the real scientific method.

By the way, I was caught in not one, but 2 measles outbreaks at Christian Science facilities growing up. This sort of thing wouldn’t happen if everyone was immunized. See Penn and Teller’s YouTube video (warning: salty language) on the topic of why people should immunize their kids. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RfdZTZQvuCo 

My son broke his arm

One day at school, my younger son tripped on a tree root and broke his arm. I was now a Quaker, and I had recently changed the “in case of emergency care card” for him, and removed all the Christian Scientists, and put on some of my Quaker Friends, and of course my husband. My son went to the hospital in an ambulance, and my husband met them there. (I was at work, and my husband took care of all of it.) I remember crying and crying, because I didn’t want my son to have a broken arm, but then I was so relieved that he had been taken directly to a hospital and was being given excellent care for his broken bones, and hadn’t been picked up by a Christian Scientist who would be “quietly praying with him” until I went to pick him up. My son received excellent care the whole time, and eventually had to have surgery on one of the bones that wasn’t healing at all.

I am so grateful to be out of Christian Science. I have finally found happiness and goodness and peace in my heart. I love my neighbors, and have found true friendships – not only with Quaker women, but with other women too, neighbors and moms at my sons’ schools. It’s wonderful what happens when a person removes judgement from their heart and stops thinking they are better than everyone else!

Leaving Christian Science has been a huge step towards getting rid of my depression and anxiety. Real therapy has helped me so much too! (Even therapy is verboten in Christian Science, the way I was taught. Talking about our problems just makes them more real, right?) I know now that it was Christian Science that brought on my deep depression and high anxiety. I am finally recovering my creative self and I am finally healing, thanks to real science and a good trauma therapist, and with the loving, patient and kind support of my Quaker Friends. I am also completely grateful to have found amazing, kind, compassionate, empathetic people on our Ex Christian Science Facebook group. We all shared so many of the the same experiences growing up, and validate each other, so we can heal – for real – from the problems inflicted on all of us (in varying degrees), by the teachings of Mary Baker Eddy, and the way generations have started arbitrarily interpreted those teachings to inflict real harm and calling it “love.”

Nowadays, I go to doctors a lot, to get issues fixed that had no care for the 40+ years of my life. I am getting physical therapy on my shoulder, and the doctor told me recently, “most people don’t heal as quickly as you are, you’re doing exceptionally well!” I was very recently put on an anti depression / anti anxiety medicine and I hear myself laughing easily. I feel like myself again! It’s been a long time since I felt happy. (A friend of mine posted his version of a part of my story here – about my depression. https://emergegently.wordpress.com/2016/09/21/orange-juice-makes-me-happy/ )

I need to get it on my calendar to get my second mammogram soon, as I had my first one only last year after leaving my Mother Church membership. Also, I need to get to a neurologist and get checked for the concussions I had over the years that I never got checked out for, and I’m working through memory issues so many times per day. Untreated concussions have left what may probably be lasting damage on me. I talk with so many other Ex Christian Science folks, and I got off easy with the challenges I struggled with and still struggle with. I am so glad I got out before my kids grew up all the way, too, so they can be saved from so much of the junk I had to go through.

So many people have asked me to share my story. It’s not a quick story, and I am glad to have had this blog series as a platform. It has been incredibly cathartic to write about this experience and share with others so they can know what a dangerous belief system Christian Science is. My journey isn’t over. I expect I will mentally grow more, and post more things in the future.

I am so grateful to have left Christian Science.

Chrystal’s Story: The Year I Left Christian Science

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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.

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.

Chrystal’s Story: Finding The Way to the Quaker Path

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. 


My second chance at life — time to move.

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And: Finding My Way to the Quaker Path (Part 1)

Early in the spring of 2014, it became clear that our house no longer worked for us, and that we needed to move. My dad’s Parkinson’s had advanced so much that he could no longer come into our small house. The house was laid out in such a way that there were too many stairs. And our main level bathroom was way too small and could only hold 1 person at a time, so no one could be in there, helping my dad, which he needed at that point. Also, the 2 flights of stairs were tearing up my husband’s knees and my knees. (We took care of my dad several weekends per year, to give his wife a break from the constant care. It was my idea, and I was glad she took us up on the offer.)

The front and back yards at this house were non-existent, and my kids had to play in the parking lot which had a surprisingly constant flow of cars. There were other issues too, but all of it added up to “we don’t belong here anymore.” So we started house shopping. We did finally move to the town where my parents lived. Now I was closer to my dad, and I could help take care of him 5 days a week at his house. Our new home was laid out in such a way that family members could carry my dad to the main level of the house, and then he wouldn’t have to do any more stairs, and the bathroom was nice and roomy. We had my dad over one time only. He died a few months after we moved here. We do still love our house. It’s perfect for us. I am glad we got to have him over the one time.

We moved here in late spring, 2014. At this point in my church search, I had visited a few churches between leaving the Christian Science branch church, and hadn’t found a sense of harmony at any of them. I still felt like a rebellious person bucking everyone around me. Other churches weren’t working for me yet. I attended 1 that my husband had expressed interest in, but then he didn’t want to go, and they ignored Christians, belittling their thoughts. I wasn’t yet ready to give up Christianity, so it felt painful to attend that church. I attended another church which I had been taught “that’s an off-shoot of Christian Science.” And there were lots of similarities. The biggest and most important difference, though, was that the members clearly went to doctors and didn’t begrudge anyone needing or seeking medical care. I had a misunderstanding at that church with a member over whether or not I could teach The Bible to children (even though it was a Christian church whose minister talked about Jesus and Bible stories every week to the congregation), and I left without looking back.

I had, the previous week, bought a little journal with a tree on it at the church gift shop. And I turned to this paper journal as my “new church.” Any insight I had, I would write in the journal. I loved that little journal, and I felt like I could exist in this “in between” state of not having a church. I could write whatever felt inspiring to me. Now, I have many journals. Some are day to day recordings. Some are “I need to get this anger out of my body, so I will write it here and it won’t hurt anyone.” Some are just thoughts and ideas, and some are book ideas or article ideas I want to write. But this journal was special. I only wrote my best, most spiritual ideas in this journal.

All of a sudden, one day in August, after we had moved to our new town, I woke up to a bright sunny morning and realized, out of nowhere, “there is a Quaker church in the town where we live now!” (I have since learned it’s called “Meeting House” instead of “Church.”) Oh, I was so excited. I found their service times on their website, and showed up on the following Sunday.

I walked in the door, sat down, and had a wonderful experience sitting in Silence with these people. Afterward, everyone at this particular Meeting stands up and says their name and shares a joy or a sorrow (mostly, they are joys being shared). This was specifically started to benefit the one person in the congregation who is blind, as she wants to know who all is there. It is such a loving gesture. One woman stood up and talked about her bee ministry. She was biking all over her neighborhood and having wonderful talks with her neighbors about not using neonicotinoids. These are common pesticides that are killing off the bees in our country in alarming rates. I immediately knew that this was my new church. I knew I was home. I have attended regularly ever since, and asked for a Clearness Committee to help me get clear on joining.

I went through the Clearness Committee process and joined the church about a year after I started attending.

One thing I have loved about the Quaker Meeting is sitting in Silence. I thought I had done that during Wednesday evening testimony meetings at the Christian Science church, but the Quaker experience of Silence is nothing like the Christian Science Wednesday evening testimony meeting “silence.” At the Christian Science church, there is a yearning from members to fill the silence with testimonies. The silence drags on so long at those meetings, or a member will stand up and ramble for 15-20 minutes, which feels like such a drag. Often, the testimonies are about praying about a cold that went away, or a set of lost keys or a lost book that got found. (I once gave a testimony that I had lost a particular Bible and I had yelled at God then found it within 45 seconds.) There are other testimonies too, where someone shares ideas they just gleaned from reading a Bible story or a passage in “Science and Health.” I remember someone once giving a “testimony” about being freed from the desire to buy bandaids. She referenced the quote: “accidents are unknown to god,” from Science and Health.

“Accidents are unknown to God, or immortal Mind, and we must leave the mortal basis of belief and unite with the one Mind, in order to change the notion of chance to the proper sense of God’s unerring direction and thus bring out harmony.”  – Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures by Mary Baker Eddy, page 424

One time, I gave a “testimony” about a concussion I had after a severe fall on ice in a parking lot, and how I had forgotten so much, I couldn’t even remember my own phone number to tell the practitioner how to call me back. The Reader that Wednesday cut me off and said, “how about if you get to the spiritual truths you prayed, and don’t tell any more symptoms.” She was pretty rude. I had been trying to lay the groundwork for the serious problem I had, and then share the prayer of the practitioner, since I was in no state to pray myself. But I closed the testimony with the same old, same old, “the practitioner prayed, and then I took a nap, and I woke up, and I was fine, and I want to thank The Desk for the Readings.” (If matter isn’t real, why do we thank an inanimate object for reading to us?) (Note to any Christian Scientists who are reading this: that Reader behind the desk did a lot of work to bring those readings to the congregation. Don’t thank a desk. Thank a human being for working hard and trying to do good!)

Sitting in the silence at Christian Science services feels like torture to me. I was always trying to figure out some dramatic testimony to give, to fill the silence. Sitting in Silence at the Quaker Meeting feels wonderful. One of the first things I spoke about “out of The Silence” was, “I was sort of begging God for a break in my life, things are too busy. I need a pause button! And I realized: this Meeting, right here, is my pause button.”

I always leave Quaker Meeting feeling like I have had a mental rest. This feeling lasts for several days for me, and is starting to permeate my life. I was feeling rather hectic a few days ago in the morning, so I quietly sat down on my bed, and just sat “in The Silence.” It’s sort of like meditating. Maybe some people meditate, and maybe others do not. I think it’s an individual’s choice how they spend the Silence at Quaker Meeting. The goal is not to fill the space. The goal is to sit and hold the light, and if you are called to speak, then speak only the right amount of words, using not too many, and not too few. Use just the right amount, then sit down. Then, it’s important for this thought to be given time for those who are there to absorb this message. So there should never be a “popcorn effect” of people jumping up and talking one right after another. It is good to have time for Messages to be placed into our consciousness before the next Message is given. I love the time in between messages, because it lets me really listen and think about it before the next one comes.

Historically, Quaker Meetings are Christian. However, nowadays, people can believe whatever they want to believe. Everyone is honored and appreciated on a whole level I never experienced at the Christian Science church. When I first walked in the door, the whole experience was so foreign to me. I wasn’t being judged or chastised for anything. It felt like a foreign language. It was an alien culture to me. I knew it must be a good thing, but I couldn’t understand it, so I stayed to see if I could figure it out over time. (I have been attending 2 years now, and every time I show up, the members are so supportive.

I am so used to being criticized, that this support often brings tears to my eyes. THIS is what love is supposed to feel like. Not the unceasing judgement I grew up with. The concept of judgement is completely foreign to the members of my Quaker Meeting, as far as I can tell. They don’t have the concept. They only have love in their hearts. It’s a phenomenal gift to be in this atmosphere.

Chrystal’s Story: My 2nd Lump (Part 3)

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. 


My Second Lump (Part 3)

It took me a full year to get over the guilt of wanting to go to doctors. I felt like I had completely failed as a person. I felt like I had completely failed as a mom. I had always been taught that “Christian Science is the BEST care.” Hadn’t it (supposedly) kept me from dying from Pneumonia when I was an infant? And here I was about to embark on going to “the second best care.” What kind of mom would want the second best of anything for her kids? This was truly hard for me.

I had a broken heart.

Eventually, I found a dermatologist. The lipoma had grown to the point that it was now putting my arm to sleep for sometimes 45 minutes at a time. Sometimes I couldn’t move my neck at all. And I couldn’t lift up my arm. I asked to be put under, since the previous procedure (when the lump was much smaller) had hurt so badly. Once again, I was so scared, thinking “I might never wake up from this, and then because of vanity, my kids won’t have a mom.” As they were putting me to sleep, I thanked the hospital staff for taking care of me. I dreamed when I was put under. I remember dreaming that I was with a small group of Native Americans, and we were in the mouth of a cave. And they were working on their projects and crafts, and I was just watching them. It was such a lovely dream, and I enjoyed it. The next thing I knew, a nurse was asking me to breathe deeply, so I did, and then I coughed. The whole procedure was done. I breathed deeply a few more times, then I coughed some more.

Because I have keloids (heavy scarring tissue) on my back (from severe sun burns sustained because “I don’t believe in sun block”), the scar from my lipoma surgery is huge. It has probably been 5 years since I had the surgery now, and the scar continues to grow and I feel it literally tearing my skin. I consider this scar to be my scar from leaving Christian Science. It is literally the mark, to me, of leaving this belief system behind me. The literal scar that Christian Science left on my skin. (Oh! But didn’t Christian Science teach me that skin isn’t real?)

Just last week, I asked my husband to please oil the scar again (it’s in a place where I cannot reach all of it, and I still cannot properly move my shoulder thanks to bad cartilage damage there), and then bandage it so the oil wouldn’t mar my shirt. If I had taken care of this years ago, the scar wouldn’t be nearly as big. In January, 2016, I showed it to a friend who also left Christian Science, and after she gasped, she said, “I didn’t realize how big it would be.” Yeah. It’s not a small growth that was on there. It had grown for years before I got it taken care of. It did not come back this time, because I had specifically asked the doctor to check to see if there was more than 1, and to please be thorough, since I didn’t want to have to do this again. He was thorough and I am grateful. I keep learning about doctors, and I went to a doctor in August, 2016, to have him look at my shoulder, because I can still barely move my arm. He diagnosed me with a frozen shoulder and some other big words. I started physical therapy to rehabilitate my shoulder in September, 2016. It will be wonderful if I can gain full use of my arm again, and I am already making so much progress even though it’s only been a month! It’s been years since I was able to wear my seatbelt properly, raise my arm over shoulder height, put on my shirt without doing an awkward movement… There are so many basic things I haven’t been able to do. These movements are starting to come back now, thanks to someone working with my material body. Someone who did take anatomy in school and then more classes to learn how to really help people with their bones and muscles. It’s amazing how much progress that can be made when someone understands how to manipulate matter!

Maybe I can start playing violin again soon! It used to bring me so much happiness to play violin. I hope to find that again.

Chrystal’s Story: My Second Lump (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. 


My Second Lump (Part 2)

The following is a flashback to when I was nearing the end of my branch church membership, with a problem that had spanned more than a decade of my life:

The growing lipoma on my back was now causing so much pain to my neck, that I couldn’t straighten my head for a few days at times. And, of course, being in Christian Science, I couldn’t take Advil to even relieve the pain. I remember walking around with tears in my eyes over the amount of pain I was in, and hiding in my house. I was raised to hide in my house when I was in pain. How can a community reach out to help you, when you’re hiding in your house? I remember a Mormon woman who lived in my neighborhood, and for some reason socially, she stopped by my house and we had a little visit, and I couldn’t straighten my head up that day. She so lovingly said to me, “that looks really painful.” I assured her I was fine, that it had happened before, and I would be fine soon. I was NOT fine! I couldn’t straighten my head, I had tears in my eyes, and if I tried to move my head in any way, I would cry out in incredible pain! I remember the love in her eyes. She was genuinely concerned for my well-being, and she was only a neighbor; I know now that if I ever needed someone to help me, and I called her, I know she would be there for me, even though I wouldn’t consider us “friends.” She was my neighbor and she has genuine love in her heart for humanity.

After a decade of praying with various practitioners (including my Teacher) about the lump, I remember feeling discouraged. I was so discouraged. I would rally myself and pray again. Because Christian Scientists are supposed to “yield not to discouragement.”

Individuals are consistent who, watching and praying, can “run, and not be weary; . . .walk, and not faint,” who gain good rapidly and hold their position, or attain slowly and yield not to discouragement. God requires perfection, but not until the battle between Spirit and flesh is fought and the victory won. – “Science and Health,” p. 254

Christian Scientists are taught that “discouragement makes the problem worse, and makes it harder to heal.” So I prayed. I payed practitioners to pray. I payed my Teacher to pray.  

I would see the 2 ladies at my second branch church who had the growths on them that were more pronounced, and I didn’t want to end up like that. Mine, at least, I could hide by wearing a patterned shirt. They couldn’t hide theirs any longer, no matter how they tried. I felt so sorry for them, to not be able to hide their problem any longer. And then I would chastise myself for thinking such things. I wanted to hug them and say, “I have a lump too, but I can hide mine,” but for someone to speak up & say, “I see your problem and I want to support you and share love with you” is verboten in the Christian Science culture. Speaking up about it makes it “more real.” Because by not speaking, it’s “not real.”

Our voice is given so much power in Christian Science. Apparently, just talking can do many things – it can make lumps grow, it can cause fevers, poison ivy, infectious diseases. It can ruin vacations, it can rain fire and brimstone on a bad church member. I am positive they believe words can kill, so they won’t speak unless it is cheerful, superficial, happy nonsense. I am wondering if I believe it is this sort of thing that drives people completely insane. (Denying our very existence, to our core. How can it keep us sane and normal if we deny 100% of our humanity?)

At some point, probably a year after my wonderful success with the “Church Alive” experience, I decided it was time to get this lump removed from my shoulder, by a medical doctor. It had gone on long enough. My arm would go to sleep for 45 minutes at a time, and I couldn’t wake it up. And that didn’t feel good to me. (It scares me a lot now that I am out of Christian Science and someone pointed out that this was pushing on a nerve, and it’s a good thing I didn’t have to lose my whole arm!) I voluntarily pulled my name out of “The Christian Science Journal.” (This means I was no longer a Journal Listed Christian Science Practitioner. I wasn’t kicked out or anything; I chose to do this for my own reasons. I left on good terms and was told I could come back within 6 months if I wanted, if it was longer than that, I would have to apply from scratch again.)

Then, began the guilt. Oh, the guilt. And I had no one to talk to about it. I had to suffer with my guilt at having “failed.” I had failed to heal it. I had failed to have enough faith. I had failed to pray enough. I had failed all the Practitioners that had prayed for me over the last 5+ years.

I know all the words to victim blame myself, and I made liberal use of all of them. Then, of course, I probably entered the depression that had probably started but been bulldozed over by “Knowing the Truth” and “Getting on with things I had to do anyway.” So I dealt with depression and guilt with the only way I knew how: by denying them. For months. I think it took me about 8 months to get over the guilt, and I finally started trying to find a doctor. (At this point, I was now a Sunday School teacher at the Unity Church.)

Now, someone who grew up going to doctors, might know where to start when looking for a doctor. But this was all brand new to me. I didn’t know how to find a doctor. (The doctor who removed my first lump, wasn’t covered by our new insurance.) I didn’t know what kind of doctor I wanted. It took me many months to find one. And of course, you can’t just walk in and say, “remove this please.” They had to send me to another doctor for a sonogram to look at it. Then results had to be done up. Then I had to have a consultation. Then I had to go to the operation. I was put under for the procedure (that was my choice – because the pain of the much smaller lump had been unbearable to me, and I couldn’t go through that again). I think this was in 2011. Then I had so many follow up appointments. The lump was far bigger than I had anticipated, and than he had anticipated. I have keloids in my back with basically means, “aggressive scar tissue,” and this scar on my back continues to grow and cause me pain years later. I consider this scar to be my “scar of leaving Christian Science.” Maybe someday I will wear it proudly. At this point, I still hide it under clothing. (I know of people getting tattoos to symbolize leaving the Christian Science church. I didn’t have to get a tattoo. I have my very real scar on my material body.)

I wish that was the end of my story of leaving Christian Science. That would wrap it all up, neat and tidy. But, of course, a 44 year story and it doesn’t just end there. And it’s now 2016 as I type this.

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6 Weeks to a Quaker (the first go-round)

I grew up as a church goer, and when I don’t attend, it feels like I have a “void” in my life. So I tried a local Quaker church. It was about 10 miles away, but traffic made it take about 40 minutes to get there on a Sunday morning. I took my oldest son with me to the Meetings, and I enjoyed them immensely. Here were people who cared about the environment. One person was a beekeeper and I loved that! Several were gardeners, and some were activists or worked as volunteers either in Peace Corps or in Africa, setting up a school to teach children. I loved everything about this church. I made my homemade applesauce for potluck, and I was instantly accepted as one of these people.

After about 4 weeks of attending, I called up my family and told them, “I am a Quaker now!” I think my own family thinks I am changeable and whack-a-doo, so they took it in stride. I also called a gal from my Association who completely and lovingly supported me (she left our Association the following year & converted to Judaism), and I called our Teacher who asked me, “what’s appealing about the Quaker church?” I told her I liked sitting in the Silence, and how that brought me peace and calm for several days after in my life. After that, she told our Association (an Association is an annual meeting of the students taught by the Teacher, and guests the Teacher welcomes too) to try to meditate for 20 minutes every day.

My 6th Sunday in a row attending at The Quaker Meeting was potluck Sunday. I asked the lady next to me what it took to join the church. She told me, “well, you’re assigned some people to make sure you are spiritually growing.” I hadn’t yet felt like I was leaving Christian Science; I was just leaving the branch church, and I still wanted my own Bible and my copy of Science and Health. Her comment made me so uncomfortable, I couldn’t return to the church. I blamed the traffic. It was so far away, even though it really wasn’t; traffic just made it feel so much more far away. I started visiting other kinds of churches.

Chrystal’s Story: What’s Next?

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. 


My Second Lump. (Part 1)

After that first cyst was removed in high school, over the years I had many cysts develop in various places on my body, and melt. I got used to them. I always prayed and they always went away. I always thought they were “healed.”

Somewhere before I became a church member (early 2000s?), I started having shoulder issues. I went to a massage therapist weekly trying to get the pained muscle to loosen up. I am not sure massage worked. (I felt like such a rebel, since massage is also not allowed in Christian Science.) I started having shoulder cartilage issues. I chalked it up to being a lifetime violin player. I tried physical exercise and massage therapy and nothing worked. At some point, a lump appeared, and while I am forgetting all the specific history, I remember finally going to a dermatologist.

He said it was fatty tissue probably, and I paid him to remove it. He used only novocaine, and the procedure hurt like he was tearing my skin, though he assured me he wasn’t. It hurt so badly. The next day, the lump was back. The lump was back the next day. In my Christian Science thinking, this meant that I had clearly not healed my thought about it, thus, painful surgery was for naught. I have since deduced that there must have been 2 lumps, and the 2nd one was never removed and simply moved over to the space that was now vacant after surgery. It took me years to become ok getting it removed again. In the meantime, it grew and grew and wreaked havoc all over my whole shoulder, neck and arm area (see: My Second Lump – Part 2). And I prayed and prayed in Christian Science to no avail.

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Church Hopping

Starting in maybe 2009, I started church bouncing to other denominations. I tried a Quaker church near that 3rd branch church and went there for 6 weeks. It was just too far.

I went to a Unitarian Universalist Church, and the anti-Christian sentiment there was too strong for me. I never complained about it, but I heard other Christians complaining about it. I asked them if I could have a Christian Science Thanksgiving service there on Thanksgiving, and the ministers said, “it’s just not our mission.” And I felt shoved out. I thought it was a church that was supposed to accept all beliefs, but it wasn’t my experience when I was there. They accepted Ex Jews, Ex Catholics and Buddhists as far as I could tell, and I wasn’t any of those categories. I tried Unity next, and had a falling out that I repaired recently (3 years later) with the woman who leads the children’s education. So, Unity (an offshoot of Christian Science – you can google it https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Emma_Curtis_Hopkins , https://smile.amazon.com/Emma-Curtis-Hopkins-Forgotten-Religion/dp/0815629338?ie=UTF8&*Version*=1&*entries*=0 ) didn’t work for me either. At Unity, I learned that Christian Science is part of the “New Thought Movement,” though I know that Christian Scientists would absolutely disagree about being placed into any category like that. (Christian Scientists say they hate categories.)

Interestingly enough, the first time I walked in the door, someone pointed out someone else who had found Unity as an Ex-Christian Scientist. I introduced myself to him and he said, “Well, you know, Mary Baker Eddy’s writings are all plagiarized from Phineas Quimby.” I was horrified! My dad had written a paper at university with research by Robert Peel all about how she did not plagiarize (this paper can be found in the Mary Baker Eddy Library archives: http://www.marybakereddylibrary.org/about/contact/research-questions/). After my dad’s death, I have learned the truth: yes, she did. Absolutely. (And I went through heartbreak that my dad had been completely fooled by Robert Peel all those years ago.) The whole “divinely authorized” thing is completely bogus. Sorry to break it to any CS folks reading this, but there are documented resources. Quimby’s own writings for side-by-side comparison can be found cheaply on Amazon. https://smile.amazon.com/Quimby-Manuscripts-Phineas-Parkhurst-ebook/dp/B00O0AFXOY?ie=UTF8&keywords=phineas%20quimby&qid=1464963913&ref_=sr_1_2&sr=8-2

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Time for me to take this “going to doctors thing” a bit more seriously…

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Earache Story (Part 2)

A few years after leaving branch church membership, I wasn’t feeling well. I may have had the flu or bronchitis brought on by allergies that got worse every year (though I never knew they were allergies; I just knew it was what I called in my head “seasonal issues”); they were starting to come twice a year now instead of once a year, and were getting prolonged for weeks. My son who had the ear issues from years before (remember the painful ear that never drained the next day?), also wasn’t feeling well. He did not want to go to the doctor with me, but I felt it was the right idea. So I made him go with me. We were both so scared. But we went anyway. The doctor diagnosed both of us with bronchitis, and gave us a prescription for antibiotics. Then she looked at my son and said, “does anything else hurt?” He said, “my ear hurts sometimes.” She pulled out the thing they use to look in ears, and saw something in there that didn’t belong. She showed me. She tried to get it out, but it made him scream in pain.

She said, “we need to get that out of there.” She said it was resting on his ear drum, so every time they barely touched it, it hurt him terribly. So she said, “we need to put him under so we can get it out of there.” Oh my gosh, I was so scared. I mean: really scared.

I thought they were basically telling me, “we are going to kill your son, when would you like to make the appointment for?” It took a whole lot of faith to be ok with this appointment, and to trust that he would wake up after having been “put under.”

I cannot emphasize enough how scared I was about it. I made the appointment for like 2 days later and did my best not to live with a high heart rate and panic mode the whole time. I took him to the hospital, having followed instructions about food and such. They told him the sleeping gas would “smell like smelly shoes.” And he laughed. When they put the mask on his face, he shoved it away so hard and started yelling at them and yelling for me. I went into panic mode to save my son, and they had to usher me out of the room. I was a complete wreck. About 11 minutes later, they came to get me, and told me it had all been done in under 2 minutes, and he was waking up now. I was so relieved! He was fine!! They showed me what had been in his ear: it had been a very small pirate coin from a toy pirate set (https://www.amazon.com/PLAYMOBIL%C2%AE-5135-PLAYMOBIL-Pirates-Ship/dp/B004P5O8MM ). My husband (who is a magician), joked, “he is the first person to actually take a coin out of his ear!” We still have that coin in a surgical container around here somewhere.

Around that point, I also started going to a dermatologist for skin issues I have always had. I have keloids on my shoulders. I have some moles on my back that are pretty big, thanks to “not believing in sun block.”  I also have acne, and have had acne since 4th grade. I was never allowed to use benzoyl peroxide. That was completely forbidden. The amount of teasing “why don’t you take care of that, it’s so easy!” And my stubborn sense that “no, if I do that, it won’t be healed! I have to heal it!” Is such a bunch of silliness. Why let a child be tortured for decades when a solution is so easy? Now that I am over 40 years old, almost 45, I have discovered Noxema and benzoyl peroxide. Wow. What a miracle cure! (And I keep forgetting to use it! #NoThankYouChristianScience)

I had prayed and prayed about the lipoma on my back. It had come back immediately after that first surgery, and it was not being healed in Christian Science. This was such a big struggle for me. I fervently felt like “God must want me to have this, so it’s not being healed, so it is here so that I can grow spiritually and heal it.” And at some point, after having worked with so many practitioners and also my Teacher on this issue for years, I finally decided to walk away from branch church membership and walk towards “going to doctors.”

Chrystal’s Story – Going Crazy At Branch Church

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. 


Earache Story (Part 1)

One evening, my younger son had an earache when he was a toddler. He had them every now and then. One of my brothers used to get those too, but my step mom taught me that “at some point he just outgrew those.” She told me that after the pain of an earache is gone, it drains out, and they are “healed.” My son had probably several of those – a painful ear that drained out the next day, and then was “healed.” I called a Practitioner one time because his ear hurt. It was late at night, and I sat in my rocking chair, holding my precious toddler, and trying to “keep my thought calm.” He kept putting his finger in his ear and screaming. I could barely hear the practitioner talking to me on the phone over the screams of my son. After a while, my son calmed down and went to sleep. I never saw drainage, and thought, “well, that’s just a healing in a different way.” (This story continues, but it comes up – after I left the branch church as a member. This story is “to be continued.” See: Earache Story – Part 2)

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My “crazy” ideas, and the best events I have ever orchestrated in my life.

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As my boys grew up, I became more and more involved in Christian Science branch church work. I organized the annual lecture for our church, I created a dedication ceremony for our new building from scratch. I bought a new dress and gotten my hair done for the occasion, and baked 2 enormous, beautiful cakes. I expected 100 people to attend, and I think we got less than 30 people; to say “I was disappointed” would be a gross understatement.

At the time, I was on the church board. When I was on the board, a gal we all knew who had been a long time member wrote to us and said something like, “I am gay. You didn’t knowingly choose someone to be a gay SS teacher, and I am giving you the opportunity to ask me to leave.” While the whole LBGTQ idea is anti Christian Science historically, we as a church board, were actually quite progressive. We wrote her an easy letter saying, “We love you for who you are. We didn’t even need to discuss this or vote on it. We invite you to participate in this church now and any time in the future in any capacity that you would like.” She felt so incredibly loved by our letter. She had truly expected to be booted out of the church. We absolutely accepted her. I felt like I was working on bringing the branch church into the future.  (That member wasn’t there much longer. She moved away, moved back, joined a different branch church, then left that one too. I feel like there are layers upon layers in each of our stories, and none of us discuss them with each other. Each of us on our own little island.)

While this branch church was progressive when it came to loving a member who was gay, that church was ultra traditional, in that it didn’t allow memorial services or weddings in it. (Why would we need a funeral or memorial service when we don’t believe in death? The person didn’t die. They just “sailed in a boat and went over the horizon!” Why would we commemorate something that never happened?) This same church also only used to let Readers read only from the actual books (“The (KJV) Holy Bible,” and “Science and Health” by Mary Baker Eddy). But now that church allows even A.A. Meetings in the building, memorial services, HOA meetings, and if a Reader wants to read from their electronic device, they are welcome to do that too. It’s a fairly progressive church. They even allow memorial services there now too, though they are called, “Celebration of Life,” and look a whole lot like a regular church service with a small “testimony” time, when people can share memories of the deceased.

When my youngest son was in Kindergarten, I started up a Vacation Bible School (VBS) for Christian Science children. A friend of mine and I ran that for a few years. It was a wonderfully progressive thing to do with the children. One hour per week of Sunday School to learn “The Bible,” with kids not even showing up ½ the time didn’t feel like enough. So having a solid week of VBS for kids in the summer felt like a great idea. I went to almost a dozen local branch churches and recruited Sunday School teachers, students and volunteers to come from those places to be a part of our VBS.

You might be surprised to learn that at first, so many church members blasted me about this (can you imagine someone who professes to be a vocal part of a church they think is “The highest form of Christianity,” arguing with someone who wants to teach the children “The Holy Bible” in church?

Too many members actually said, “is that even allowed in our church?”

Seriously? (They were referring to the idea of having a camp for a week, from an insurance perspective. The insurance people thought the people who called to check were completely daft. They said: “you want to teach a Bible camp at your church? It’s your building, and that is a church activity, of COURSE your insurance policy covers it!”)

It was totally bizarre to me that Christian Scientists would wonder if we could teach The Bible to kids on days other than Sunday. They felt the only time to teach kids about The Bible was for that 1 hour every Sunday, and a VBS is just something that is simply not done at a Christian Science Church. I pointed out that we would be teaching The Bible to our children. I pointed out that The Manual of The Mother Church says, “The Sabbath children should be taught the 10 Commandments, the Beatitudes, and The Lord’s Prayer.” I pointed out that Christian Science teaches us that “the sabbath is every day; not just Sunday.”

“The first lessons of the children should be the Ten Commandments (Exodus 20: 3-18), The Lord’s Prayer, and its Spiritual Interpretation by Mary Baker G. Eddy (Matt. 6: 9-14), Sermon on the Mount (Matt. 5: 3-11).”

 

The Manual of The Mother Church by Mary Baker Eddy, Article XVIII. Section 11.

I was shocked at how much explaining I had to do to convince people that this was an ok thing to do, and that it would be a good idea. I had passion for this project, and it kept me full of energy to keep pushing for it. I found it interesting that the people who had been my biggest resistance eventually became my biggest supporters.

Parents loved it! They donated money to cover all the costs like snacks, crafts, paper, etc. It was really a nice experience for the kids. That was one of two times when I felt completely supported in one of my “crazy” ideas for the church.

Another crazy idea I had, was to run with an article I saw in The Christian Science Journal, called “Church Alive.” The Journal called on all branch churches to run with the theme “Church Alive” and do an event the weekend of Annual Meeting (the weekend before the first Monday in June). I had an instant vision of what it would look like. It was a beautiful vision, and I thought, “let’s do it! The Mother Church asks us to do this; let’s do it! It will be wonderful!”  (Yeah, I’m crazy like that.)

Well, I brought it up to the members at my branch church. This branch church is proud for being the “largest branch church in the state.” (Most of the members do not come to meetings, and don’t show up for church services and haven’t in YEARS and need to be removed from the rolls. But the church seems to love the prestige of being “the largest branch church” so they keep the rolls stacked like that. That feels deceptive to me, but, that’s another story for another blog post.)

Well, I got so much push back on it. The board took forever. The article had come out in the fall, maybe in October. I had until June. To me, this was plenty of time. I had planned my entire wedding in 5 months, I could easily do this.

The decision finally came in late March: “Yes! Go for it!”

I remember rolling my eyes and thinking, “finally!”

After the decision came, I kept getting a lot of people saying “it’s too short of a time line! We can’t do it!”

I wanted to scream, “if you all had said ‘yes’ earlier, it wouldn’t be that short of a time line! Remember Jesus getting across the sea in that boat instantaneously? Christian Science teaches that ‘time is limitation.’ Stop believing in time!” But I just had to keep my mouth shut and let them grumble and show them we could do it & it would be fabulous.

TIME. Mortal measurements; limits, in which are summed up all human acts, thoughts, beliefs, opinions, knowledge; matter; error; that which begins before, and continues after, what is termed death, until the mortal disappears and spiritual perfection appears.

 

Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures by Mary Baker Eddy, p. 595

I wrote to all the people I knew at all the area churches – there were about a dozen within our tri-state area. I got so much response! I had meetings at our branch church. Together with all the volunteers from the area churches, we found speakers, workshop leaders, 200 attendees, and we catered lunch including vegan options for everyone. The entire lunch experience went flawlessly, which is really saying something. People marveled at the wonderful lunch experience, which still strikes me as funny.

We hired a musician from Boston to come and do a performance during the day, and we also gave him the opportunity to do a well-attended concert the night before. The day of our “Church Alive” conference, this musician sang “Siyahamba” with my very young son on stage, showing everyone how easy it is to sing the new hymns. (There is an incredible amount of resistance in the membership to sing from the new Hymnal Supplement. Also “Siyahamba” is one of the coolest spiritual songs ever, and I think it has become the hymn of the current generation of Christian Science kids.)

The whole event was to take place the Saturday before Annual Meeting (Annual Meeting is in Boston every year, on the first Monday in June). We saw the brand new community center that we were renting for the event for the first time the Thursday before that. I found out that day, that they had audio-visual capabilities. I developed a whole powerpoint, musical videos, and slide shows and everything after I found out the audio-visual capabilities. I also figured out how to stream a video of The Board of Directors talking to our audience through the audio-visual equipment. I had never done anything like that before. I figured out all of that in 2 days.

It was amazing, if I do say so myself. I consider the entire event to be one of my best shining moments in my life. To recap: I pulled together a team of volunteers and an amazing conference attended by about 200 people in the span of less than 3 months, and I did all of the amazing audio-visual in just 2 days. We not only stayed in budget, we also made a bit of money on the endeavor. I think that’s pretty darn cool.

The one thing that went completely askew was the one time in the group when I had to sadly “let them learn the hard way.” We had 2 choices for our keynote speaker. We could go with a very forward thinking Christian Science Teacher and Lecturer from another state (we had the money to fly her in) who is incredibly creative, or we could go with a local practitioner everyone knew who had started up 2 branch churches from scratch. The second woman had been a Sunday School teacher of mine, and everyone loves her. She’s wonderful and intelligent and kind and funny. However, she is not dynamic, and she is not a public speaker or a lecturer.

I have a leadership quality that lets the group decide, and then I get behind the decision. I don’t cause waves or hard feelings by saying, “you’re wrong here, you’re choosing the wrong option.” I pushed a little, but they were very set on having this local woman be the speaker. So, we had the local speaker come. She sat down during her keynote presentation. She read her speech from her own handwritten notes. Her speech was in no way dynamic, and it was very hard to listen to. Apparently, it had a lot of really great ideas and points in it (I couldn’t hear it from my seat in the back, but people who heard it & wrote on the comment cards, said she had a lot of great things to say). And almost every single feedback form we got for the day had high marks in every single area, except that the key note address was “not dynamic” and “hard to listen to.” That was the only failure of the day. I am not sure if I would push more next time, but it was interesting to observe this group do that to themselves.  They chose a “known” over a better alternative that was “unknown,” even though their group leader had passionately and lovingly told them which option would be the better option. They just couldn’t trust or have faith in the idea. And it made me feel sad for them.  

‘An Opposing View.’

The following is a collection of musings from members of the Ex-Christian Science Group on about the difficulty of leaving Christian Science. 

I doubt that there is another religious belief system that is so pervasive in the thought that a quick casual conversation will reveal to the participants that both are Christian Scientists.

– Anonymous


Is it the familiarity we defend? Or, is it Stockholm Syndrome? There’s gotta be a name for it…

– Heidi


Imagine a Christian Science Sentinel with a section titled ‘An Opposing View.’ What parent would then let her child attend Principia? What reader whose compassion had not been petrified by his studies would not be moved?

– Marion


I talked with a Unitarian Universalist minister about Christian Science. She said that Christian Science is a ‘closed’ religion that thinks it knows the entire truth already, unlike UU and other ‘open’ religions that allow for questioning, thought, learning, and growth.

– Beth


I’ve read so many comments along the lines of ‘although I was raised in Christian Science, I always had doubts about it in the back of my mind.’ Which, by comparison, makes me feel rather foolish. I had zero doubt, I questioned nothing about Christian Science until I was over the age of thirty. It is part of the puzzle I’m trying to figure out about myself—what made me such a good little unquestioning cult member?

I stopped attempting to practice Christian Science about ten years ago, but for a long time I was in the ‘it works, just not for me…’ camp. Really, it has only been in about the past year that I have realized how dangerous and even evil Christian Science is, the way it shreds families and individuals. It’s only been in about the past year that I have begun to recognize myself and others as victims of Christian Science.

In retrospect though, what a 180. That is actually pretty amazing, that I was able to go from such an extreme to where I am now.

– Ashley


Every breath of a devout Christian Scientist comes through a fog of filtered observations.

– Marion


I always harboured doubts about Christian Science, even from childhood. But, it was a weird sort of comfort zone to me–it promised wonderful, fanciful stuff that anyone would want, but it never really delivered. I desperately wanted it to work, looked for evidence that it worked, and for many years, despite it always coming up short, I stuck with it–it kept a weird hold on me. When I saw the gruesome and fatal end result of lives dedicated to Christian Science, I finally realized I needed to take my doubts out for a walk, and I’ve never looked back.

– Jeremy