Leaving Christian Science: 10 Stories of New Faith in Jesus Christ, Interview with Lauren Hunter

Lauren Hunter grew up in a fourth generation Christian Science home but struggled to understand and implement successful physical healing. Like many who have left Christian Science, she sought out others who had also left to gain clarity. After being out of CS for nearly 20 years, she hoped to help others cross the chasm of leaving this religious cult by sharing her story, as well as the stories of nine others she interviewed. Her book, Leaving Christian Science: 10 Stories of New Faith in Jesus Christ, was released in 2020. 

Hunter’s book examines stories from 10 different people who left Christian Science and started walking a Christian path, following Christ Jesus as their guide. 

In the following post, Contributor Jodi interviews Lauren Hunter about her experience writing the book:


Jodi: What compelled you to write a book about various people’s stories of how they left Christian Science? 

Lauren: I’ve always loved the power of story and felt that the impact of pulling away from the Christian Science faith would be stronger as told not only through my own story, but also through the stories of others who left. 

When I first left Christian Science in 2001, I knew no one who was a “former Christian Scientist.” I became a member of the Fellowship of Former Christian Science (FFCS) group in 2015. Through that group, I met so many new friends with incredible stories. Each person’s tale blew me away and encouraged me. I thought, if I can compile a whole book of stories of people who left, there’s a lot of power–all in one book.

Jodi: What kind of power are you talking about here? 

Lauren: It’s easy to shirk off one story of someone who left CS. Followers will often say, “they just couldn’t understand it” of someone who left. They look down on people who leave because there’s this sense of baked in narcissism–that CS is a special knowledge that only they have. I felt there was power in sharing 10 stories of people who all left. There’s no book available with this many exit stories in one place.

Jodi: How did you come up with the list of people to interview? Did you know all of the people before you approached them to write the book? Were people referred to you? 

Lauren: I worked with Katherine Beim-Esche of the Fellowship of Former Christian Scientists to help me locate people who had various stories to fit the theme of each chapter. I had an idea of what themes to include, but these changed as I did my interviews.  I did preliminary research, short email interviews, then long Zoom recorded interviews for each person’s chapter. It was tricky to pull out distinct themes for each story, but it all came together as I had hoped, which was great. 

Jodi: How did you come up with the questions you asked them, in order for them to tell you their story? 

Lauren: I really love interviewing people. Initially, I made a list of questions asking about the person’s upbringing, history in the Christian Science church, etc., and sent this in advance. When we sat down for the interview, I made sure to ask many of the same questions, but each person had such a unique story that some questions emerged as we were doing the interview. It was a wonderful process and I feel very honored that these individuals would entrust their stories to me. 

Jodi: Are there thread(s) that you see each story sharing? 

Lauren: Great question. I spoke about all these different threads in the recent FFCS presentation I did entitled: “My story, your story, and God’s story.” (YouTube Link Here) Some common threads are:

  • Struggling with the dual reality of having to deny the physical world while living in it. 
  • Guilt and shame over “trying” medicine when healings didn’t happen
  • Shame over imperfections in health as well as imperfections in beauty
  • Dissociation from physical needs including noticing pain, anxiety, or fear
  • Trouble recognizing boundaries, limits, and identifying needs

Jodi: Tell me about the ‘dear one” sections of the book, where you write a comforting letter to the readers of the book. Did that come naturally for you? Was it easy to hear their stories and come up with a comforting letter?

Lauren:  In the “dear one” letters at the end of each chapter, I tried to invoke the kind of gentle and loving mother many of us wished we had growing up in CS. I am a mom, and I can’t imagine watching my kids suffer as many did in their childhoods. It’s really heartbreaking. I had more trouble processing several of the stories because they dealt with issues that hit close to home for me. I really loved writing these ‘dear one’ sections and hope that my concern and care for the reader came through. 

Jodi: How long did it take for you to compile the stories? To write this book? 

Lauren: It took me about two and a half years from idea to publishing. This was my first full-length nonfiction book and I was squeezing it in around running a full-time business (and raising my family). I learned so much during the process and treated it like a learning experience. My second book, due out this winter, is a step-by-step guide to help people write their own stories. 

Jodi: Did any particular story stand out to you as either typical of all the stories, or different in some major way from all of the other stories? Which one? What made it different or the same? 

Lauren: John Andrews’ story about struggling to let go of Mary Baker Eddy as Leader with a capital “L” was something that many people struggled with. In Christian Science, we were taught to put Eddy on a platform above God and Jesus Christ. This is something a lot of people struggled with. 

This is where mind control comes in. The only way followers will do what an organization says is if they buy into the (often narcissistic) leader who proclaims they are a prophet — most of us “drank the Kool-aid,” and believed that Eddy’s words were holier than the Bible. 

Dixie Baker’s story of surviving the measles epidemic at Principia College was so difficult for me to stomach. It was a completely different topic and included physical, emotional, and medical neglect–her account rocked me and was very unique that someone from within was brave enough to detail what happened while under CS nurse care.

Jodi: Is there something you would like to share with people who read our blog, who are looking for a path to leave Christian Science and are scared to do it? 

Lauren: Interestingly, you use the word “scared” in your question. When I was growing up in Christian Science, I felt scared all the time because I never knew what was wrong. So much of the Christian Science belief system deals with allaying fear. Well, we wouldn’t have all been so afraid if we’d gone to the doctor to find out what was wrong! I now feel huge freedom not practicing CS. If I have a medical issue, I email my doctor, get a test done, and figure out a plan. I no longer have massive amounts of fear to deal with surrounding my body. I have to ask questions, look things up, and learn as I go–and I’ve been out of CS for 20 years! I’m just grateful that I left before having my four kids. I can’t fathom dealing with all the childhood illnesses without medical care. 

So I guess my advice is to ditch the fear, allow yourself a care team that includes a good trauma-informed therapist, a former Christian Scientist who has adjusted well, and a good doctor who will listen to you and take you seriously. 

Jodi: Is there anything else you would like to share with our readers? 

Lauren: I’m working on a new book called Write Your Journey that will help people write their stories about their family, faith, or career. The idea came to me when people read my book and wanted to share their stories with me. Info on this book will be available at https://laurenhunter.net


Leaving Christian Science: 10 Stories of New Faith in Jesus Christ by Lauren Hunter (Veritable Books, 2020) is available on Amazon

If you have left Christian Science and are seeking others who have taken a Christ-centered path, we highly recommend the Fellowship of Former Christian Scientists.

Ask a Nurse: If you’re concerned, get it checked out!

Ask a Nurse The ExCS site has teamed with a registered nurse and paramedic with a background in healthcare education and public health. Married to a former-CS, the Nurse would like to share their experience with the healthcare system, and answer any questions former-CS may have!  The Nurse will NOT get involved in diagnosing or giving medical advice, but if there are questions folks have related to going to a doctor, explaining medical terminology, how to advocate for yourself in healthcare, and so on, they might have a perspective that can help.  


Thank you everyone for your feedback on our first post! This post is in response to a comment from our first Ask A Nurse Post (slightly edited to protect everyone’s privacy).

From our Facebook group comes the following dilemma:

When I am able to access health care services one of my biggest fears is finding out that I had ailments that would have been preventable had I gone sooner (like in childhood) or that the current ailments that I have have progressed and only gotten worse by going untreated…. Am I being irrational? It makes me nervous, I definitely want to go, I have no hesitations about going, but I’m worried.


Ask A Nurse Responds:

Hi all, the feedback from my first post was really inspiring, building on that I’d like to respond to a comment regarding fear of going to see a doctor. From the sounds of it, it’s not that the person didn’t want to go to the doctor or feared how the doctor might react to hearing the person had never been to a doctor, but what the person might find out by going to see a doctor. *

I can empathize with that. I understand that the fear of discovering you’ve been carrying around a preventable or curable illness could be emotionally overwhelming. I’m not sure how to push someone to overcome those feelings, except to say, many things can be solved if addressed early. That and the idea, the more often you do something, the easier it becomes. Going to the doctor that first time can seem intimidating to the point of panic. It goes against everything you’ve been taught. My concern/fear is, I’ve heard enough horror stories of folks in CS who delayed care for so long, that they go past the point of being able to fix it. More than likely whatever you’re facing is something that can be addressed, but you’ve gotta take that first step and see someone. Again, I’m not here to judge CS, I was never in the religion, I grew up Catholic (Catholicism has its’ own set of issues), and as I like to say, I’m a “recovering Catholic.” But, if you’re concerned about a potential illness or nagging pain, get it checked out. The sooner you can figure out the problem, the sooner you can deal with it. 

Whenever you do decide to go to the doctor, how do you know who to see? This blog has a great description on how to find a primary care doctor, and I would encourage you to review that post. I will add though that if you need a specialist, in the US, most health insurances will require you to start with your primary care doctor and get referred to a specialist (as it sounds, a specialist is someone who focuses on a specific field of medicine). For instance, if you’re concerned about some weird heart palpitations, you’d go see your primary doctor first, and then that doctor would refer you to a cardiologist for further examination. This can be time consuming, but it saves money (at least for the insurance company). 

My biggest piece of advice, and this applies to anyone, anytime you do go to the doctor, bring a friend. Preferably someone you trust and who is familiar with the healthcare system. My mom was a registered nurse, when she was older, even though she was an experienced nurse, my sister and I would take turns going with her to appointments (sometimes we’d both go with her, and other times my sister would conference me in via FaceTime). The advantage to having someone with you is they can think of questions you might not or hear things you might not. Doctors can talk fast; another set of ears helps. Reportedly patients forget 40-80% of what is said during their appointment and 50% of the rest is heard incorrectly. I usually tag along to my spouse’s appointments to help interpret jargon and ask questions. Take notes during the appointment too. Most phones have a notes app or something similar. Old-fashioned pen and paper work well too and it’s less likely to be confused as texting 😉

It’s been pointed out that bringing a friend may be difficult given the pandemic.  At many hospitals and doctors’ offices, visitors are limited and, in some cases, not allowed at all.  My solution for this is simply to phone a friend.  Recently, a close friend of mine was diagnosed with a rare cancer.  The family asked if I could help.  As I couldn’t be with my friend directly, my friend simply called me, put me on speaker and gave verbal permission for the medical team to speak with me (some places might require you to sign a permission form).  The physician and nurse then spoke with my friend while I listened in, took notes, and asked questions.  As long as you, the patient, give permission, the healthcare team should never have an issue with you conferencing a friend in via phone (and if they do have an issue with it, well, that’s a red flag).  

Also, feel free to interview the doctor a bit during that first encounter. I’ve shopped around for different doctors. I ask questions about how long they’ve been practicing, how long they’ve lived in the area, stuff like that. All I’m trying to do is build a rapport. If someone gives me a bad vibe, I find someone else. “Bedside manner” is important, especially if you’re looking for a long-term doctor/patient relationship. I also look for subtle things, how do they treat the nurses and other staff members? If they’re a jerk to their staff, they’re not someone I want to give my business to.   

Regardless, nobody is more invested in your health than you. Nobody knows what you are feeling better than you. Trust those instincts. You are your own best advocate. If something feels off, get it checked. Maybe it’s nothing, but the peace of mind afforded by knowing it’s nothing, or at least something that can be dealt with, is better than carrying around that stress in your head.  

*Quick side note, instead of a doctor, you might see a nurse practitioner (NP), or you might see a physician assistant (PA). I personally have been seen by all of the above and have no qualms being examined by either a doctor, NP, or PA, especially for routine stuff. For clarity in this post, I used the term “doctor,” but that could refer to any of the aforementioned disciplines.


Additional Former-CS-based Resources

FAQ About Christian Science (CS), and the CS Experience

ExChristianScience.com is dedicated to helping those who left, but we often find that friends and family reach out to us with concerns and questions about Christian Science (CS), hopefully this is a starting point.  

As former Christian Scientists whose mission is to help those who have left/are leaving Christian Science, we will do our best to broach this topic without too much bias and personal prejudice, but we’re not going to make any promises. We do not speak for every CS, or former-CS, but we can highlight some common themes and trends we have seen over the years, in our Facebook support groups, and from emails to our website. This is by no means an exhaustive list, and we strongly encourage everyone to check out the additional links and resources.


This FAQ addresses the following:

  • What is Christian Science?
  • What do Christian Scientists believe?
  • Why do people join Christian Science?
  • Why might someone join Christian Science today?
  • Why might someone have joined Christian Science in the late 1800s/early 1900s?
  • Why do people stay in Christian Science?
  • Why do people leave Christian Science? 
  • Can you actually ever truly leave Christian Science?
  • Is Christian Science a Cult?
  • Is Christian Science the same as Scientology? 
  • Is Christian Science a Bible-based Christian religion?
  • What is the Christian Science stance on medical care and vaccinations? 
  • I have a friend or loved one that I care about who is deeply into Christian Science and I don’t know what to do and could use some support!
  • I am a former Christian Scientist and I could use some support! 
  • I have so many more questions!
  • I have a question that was not answered here!
Continue reading “FAQ About Christian Science (CS), and the CS Experience”

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

Chrystal's Story header image

This is part of an on-going series, for all posts in this series see the tag Chrystal’s Story.


A Wedding at Principia During my Reunion Weekend

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

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

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

Quaker Women

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

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

 

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

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

Feeling Real Grief

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

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

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

Becoming an Ex Christian Scientist

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

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

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

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.