I felt I had no right to mourn because my father had just ‘passed away’

By an anonymous Ex-Christian Scientist Group Contributor.

 

A year ago I started an Master in Fine Arts program in creative writing. I’d left Christian Science officially two years before. My first workshopped article was a piece I had written on all the wonderful strangers who had helped me with car trouble. The piece was meant to be inspirational and uplifting. It had a very happy ending. I did mention in the piece that my father had died and I felt lost when it came to taking care of my car because he had been a mechanic and always looked out for me in this way. I was twenty-five when he died a grisly death of untreated colon cancer under Christian Science care.

When I was having my piece workshopped the teacher asked me why I felt it was necessary to have a happy ending. He told me I was completely wrapped up in magical thinking and that I needed to dig deeper in order to have a story and not a string of anecdotes. Essentially he told me my whole life was an anecdote and not a story. I was shattered. I told him there was no point in not having a happy ending. Who would want to hear or read about things that aren’t resolved in a harmonious way?

Then he told me that although the appearance of my story was happy, it was clear to him that underneath I was suffering greatly from unresolved grief due to my father’s death. My father’s death was three decades past, which added to my shock about this teacher’s statement. It was a very uncomfortable discussion for me because I had shut Dad off after he died, always believing I had no right to mourn because my father had just ‘passed away’ and nothing had really happened to him, according to my religion. I have since written a chapter about my fathers death, and the writing was therapy for me. The guy was correct; I was—perhaps still am—a mess.

I left the session in internal chaos, realizing I had nothing to write about because I had always been taught by Christian Science that my life should be treated like a testimony at church, with the final words being: “I am so grateful for Christian Science.” Over the next few days I realized I needed to look completely differently at my past, to revisit these experiences I had shut away and put aside with Christian Science. The whole conversation was a revelation. Now I see that everything about Christian Science is anecdotal, and there is a big difference between anecdotes and stories.

My thesis has ended up being about my journey away from Christian Science, and through writing it I am discovering truths about myself, my upbringing, and the difference between what I think now and how I thought when I was a gung-ho Christian Scientist.

I don’t believe I knew just what I thought about all that until I wrote it down. Writing is therapy. It really helps

Ruth’s Story: Turn to Medical Hospice

By an anonymous Ex-Christian Scientist Group contributor.
hospice/end of life header

This is the story about my mother’s turn to medical hospice in the final weeks of her life. She is not alive to tell the story herself, but I believe she would approve my account of it here.

My mother (her name is Ruth) was a devoted, life-long Christian Scientist who practiced ‘radical reliance.’ She would tell you that she experienced many wonderful healings in Christian Science.

In her mid-80s, Mother began experiencing worrisome symptoms that did not yield to Christian Science treatment. She worked diligently to heal the problem, and she had the help of one, and then another, Christian Science practitioner. In time, her condition worsened to the point that she could not eat, and she decided to admit herself into a Christian Science nursing facility.

Her condition deteriorated, and she finally acknowledged that she was not going to ‘meet’ the problem and that she would ‘pass on’. Mother was not afraid of dying, but she was disappointed in herself. She had sometimes said that, “Christian Scientists should not get sick and die.” Rather, she believed that when the time came to die, they should demonstrate a quick and painless passing from a healthy human state to their next plane of existence. But that’s not how it worked out in her case.

The Christian Science nursing staff at the sanatorium made no adjustments to my mother’s care as her distress, exhaustion, and pain increased. They continued to place a full tray of food in front of her three times a day, even though she could not keep any food down. Neither could she sleep. My brother and I smuggled some sleeping pills to her, which she was grateful to have.

One morning she telephoned, begging me to transfer her to a medical hospice. Later that day, I and a social worker from the hospice accompanied an ambulance to the Christian Science nursing facility to accomplish her move. The director was at first reluctant to release her, but after a discussion she was allowed to leave.

Mother was admitted to the hospice and was made comfortable in a room by a medical nurse. The attending physician came by to interview her and explain what care they would provide to ease her through the death process. Mother asked a few questions and seemed satisfied. After the physician left, she turned to me and said, “these people are so much more professional.” Those are her exact words. Mother died peacefully under palliative medical care about two weeks later.

Mother remained committed to Christian Science to the end. In her view, her turn to palliative medical care in her final days was consistent with Mary Baker Eddy’s provision for relief from extreme pain as stated in Science and Health (p. 464). As I reflect on her experience, I am at a loss to understand how the Christian Science community can avert its eyes from the suffering of their faithful members as they go through the human death process.

There isn’t ANYTHING that Christian Science doesn’t promise

By an anonymous Ex-Christian Scientist Group Contributor.

 

People like to see things the way they want to see them, and spiritualizing it with a theology called ‘Christian Science’ gives a pseudo-rationale to the otherwise preposterous thought that we can have everything perfect just by imagining it so. That’s quite a selling point, isn’t it? All your problems can just vanish if you follow Christian Science’s dogma.

Christian Science leads to huge arrogance; at least it did in my family. We were well-to-do, which simply added to this attitude. Christian Scientists believe one is as smart as they want to be, one is privy to the most advanced understandings—which Jesus allegedly stumbled upon accidentally back in His day, and which Mary Baker Eddy would later ‘perfect’—and you’re just plain better than everyone else! No suffering, no sin, no poverty or shortage – heck, you won’t even die. There isn’t ANYTHING that Christian Science doesn’t promise!

If the thought that all this is unrealistic—or, heaven forbid, untrue—comes into your mind, that’s Animal Magnetism; banish the thought, and double-down on your Science & Health. It’ll all make sense someday. And, since Christian Science is, by definition, ‘Truth itself,’ anything that doesn’t support it is clearly untrue! Why would one waste their time? It’s what I call the Christian Science put-down: ‘no, you misunderstand…’ usually used when they can’t explain to you what they’re talking about. It’s a way to dodge a rational debate, and cop an attitude of superiority at the same time.

“The people here are so nice.”

By an anonymous Ex-Christian Scientist Group contributor.

When my mother went into what turned out to be a diabetic coma I called 911, even though she made me promise never to call a doctor or take her to a hospital. The nurse there said her blood sugar was 800, the highest that had ever registered on her meter, and I asked, “Is that good?” The nurse looked at me oddly, told me that my mother was a diabetic, and asked me what planet I had been living on—and I realized how lacking my education had been. I was fifty years old then, and have been catching up ever since.

The first thing my mother said when she woke up in intensive care was, “The people here are so nice.” Then I said, since she had always told me she would die of fright just going over the threshold of a hospital, “Mom, you’re okay with this, right? You were dying and I didn’t want to lose you.” And she said, “It’s okay. This is a ‘suffer it to be so now’ situation. I’m not going to beat myself up because I didn’t have enough understanding. I’ll continue to study.”

And so she did—while testing her blood sugar six times a day and taking insulin on a sliding scale three times a day. She regularly kept her host of doctors appointments and even had a cornea transplant and a cataract removed to improve her eyesight, which she had mostly lost due to diabetes. I think she was okay with the doctor because she didn’t make the decision herself. In her mind she could blame it on me, and because she loved me so, and I could never do wrong, and she trusted me, she was fine.

What I learned from it was, when your parents get old, sometimes you have to jump in and make the hard choices. My mother was eighty-three. She didn’t want to do the thinking anymore. So I did it. The folks in the emergency room told me she would have died within the hour, but my call to 911 extended her life six years. That experience was one of the keystones on my way out of Christian Science.

If people were doing something different I internally judged them

By an anonymous Ex-Christian Scientist Group Contributor.

I felt God’s hand was in everything that unfolded for me. I couldn’t take a step without praying about it, and all right decisions, activity, or relationships would have the appearance that fit perfectly with the moral, spiritual, and generally white-bread codes dictated by Christian Science.

If people were doing something different I internally judged them as heading in the wrong direction or being wrong. ’Reality’ in the human material world had to fall within the Christian Science parameters or it wasn’t real or wouldn’t contribute to spiritual progress in the Scientific plane of existence. When you are born into a cult like this it is not your fault. But it is hard to think differently. Christian Science programs thought at such a primal level.

I was hardcore for about forty-five to fifty years. My greatest sadness now, is that I brought my children up in Christian Science. My kids wised up before I did. My husband is not a Christian Scientist and has been very patient for over thirty years. But I had such a strong family influence growing up—third generation on both sides. And I didn’t really feel free to decide for myself until after my mother’s death. Now, I feel like I was let out of my cage. But daily, I have to give myself permission to think whatever I like.

So many Christian Scientists mimic each other. It really is a cult, as dangerous as the Jim Jones thing. I believe there is mind control going on. I never realized it before but that has to be how practitioners work. They kind of mentally rearrange your furniture upstairs.

A Reflection of Perfection

By an anonymous Ex-Christian Scientist Group Contributor.

 

I was raised in Christian Science in Canada. We were a rare species! I was a fourth generation Christian Scientist. I recalled this morning, after 38 years, a Sunday school lesson when I was about four years old. In the lesson, the very old teacher explained to me that I was like the reflection from a diamond ring— a reflection of perfection, but not actually there. I feel like I understand the source of a lot of grief over the years now. What a thing to say to a preschooler.

The root cause of many of my problems is the brainwashing I received as a child, and that’s something that I have to remind myself of constantly. I was lucky that I never had to face any serious illnesses as a child. Consequently, I don’t think I really understood radical reliance, although I guess that is what it was. As an adult, it just increasingly became clear to me that I couldn’t measure up to the impossible standards set by the religion. Then I did get sick, and that was the end of it for me. But I think the legacy of constant failure in Christian Science was the thing that hurt me the most as a child. It continues to haunt me as an adult because I often feel that I’m not trying hard enough, not working hard enough–just not enough.

As I was thinking about leaving the religion, I had been living with undiagnosed adult onset asthma for about a year. I was blue for that entire year—I couldn’t make it up a flight of stairs. Yet, I kept praying–waiting for my ‘thought to clear.’ My first puff of a rescue inhaler convinced me to leave Christian Science. The little blue inhaler that allowed me to function was a revelation, as was the fact that the doctor I saw was so matter-of-fact about it. It was the first time in my life that someone had acknowledged an ailment, and did not expect me to feel like I had brought it on myself for some unknown infraction.

The guilt that Christian Science requires children to live with is soul-destroying. Even without the physical effects, this guilt and fear becomes so often the defining feature of the person raised in Christian Science. And how to fight these things remains elusive to me. After a pretty trying week at work a couple of weeks ago, I told several people that I’d ‘given myself a migraine.’ I couldn’t just accept that it had been a particularly horrible week and that I was tired and stressed. Somehow, it had to be my own fault.

I’ve had many therapists over the years—my least favorite was the therapist who told me to wear an elastic band and just snap myself with it every time I felt bad about myself. I asked her if I could stop when the bone started to show. But the one I have now—wow. She just gets it. Christian Science is so weird that I think she has been intrigued and considers me a special challenge. She was the first person to make it clear to me that Christian Science and I weren’t the same thing. Also, she thinks Mary Baker Eddy was psychotic, and that consequently Christian Science attempts to replicate psychotic boundary-less thinking. But it has taken me a while to find someone like this.

I would encourage anyone who is comfortable with the process to talk to a therapist about Christian Science–and to keep looking until you find one who is willing and able to do the work to help you. A dispassionate listener who can see the damage, and help you to see it too, is unbelievably important; as is the understanding that the psychological mind games of Christian Science are, for many people, a form of religious abuse.