Christian Science isn’t always easy to interpret. I took one of my childhood favorites and interpreted it for the uninitiated. The part in italics is mine. The other part is word for word from a collection of stories for children. You’re welcome.
It was autumn, and Elizabeth was spending much time with her Daddy in the barn, where yellow and red apples were piled in heaps on the floor. Daddy was sorting and packing them in barrels, to be shipped to cities far away. Elizabeth had learned how to help in sorting, and was handing her Daddy the perfect fruit from the piles and polishing the ones which went in the bottom layer, because they would be on the top when the barrel was opened.
It was autumn, and Elizabeth was learning how to put on her best face in public. Hide the ugly, dear. There’s no need for other people to see it.
Of course, these two were talking, as they always did when they worked or played together. As she picked out a fine red apple Elizabeth said, “Daddy, aren’t you glad that other children are going to enjoy these apples, too?” And then after a moment she added, “Do all the other children have fathers like you?”
Of course, they were talking, because Christian Scientists love words. A lot. As Elizabeth picked out a symbol of Divine Love meeting every illusory human need, she wondered briefly, what strange topic Daddy would introduce today. And no, Elizabeth, the answer is no. Other children do not have fathers like yours.
Daddy did not answer right away, which meant that he was going to say something important. When he did speak, Elizabeth was so surprised at what he said that she dropped the apple she was polishing on her apron.
“Elizabeth, I want you to try always to think of God as your Father. If you will do this, it will help me to express more of the fatherhood of God to you.”
Daddy did not answer right away, which means he was knowing the Truth, waiting for the right thought to “come to him.” When he finally spoke, Elizabeth got an opportunity to demonstrate dominion over clumsiness. She failed.
“Elizabeth, I want you to know I’m not your real father. Your attachment to me is bringing me down and making it harder to imagine that this material world is an illusion.”
Daddy had lifted her onto the top of a barrel and, sitting close to her, was speaking again.
Daddy made sure there was just the bare minimum of physical affection.
“Darling, all that I have ever given you of good came first from our Father. God is the Love which gives all good, and if we know this we shall never lack, because our Father, Love, is everywhere to care for us at all times. If you look only to me, Elizabeth, for what you need, I might not always have it, or I might not be where you are. But God will always be present and able to care for you. It is best to begin to learn this now.”
“Darling, nothing good has come from me, because I am not real. All good has come from God’s Love, which gives us everything we ever need. If we don’t have something, it’s either because we don’t really need it, or we are blinded by error. If you turn to humans, you will always fail. God will always be there. It is best to learn early not to get too attached to humans.”
Elizabeth’s lips were quivering, but she looked straight into her Daddy’s eyes and said, “But I may keep on loving you, may I not, Daddy?”
Elizabeth’s lips were quivering, but she looked straight into Daddy’s eyes and said, “What the fuck, Daddy? I need a real Daddy, who loves the real, human, me, not a metaphysical concept.”
“Of course, my darling. You will love me more by learning who your heavenly Father is, and I shall love you more by knowing you as God’s child. Then we shall really understand and love each other.”
“Of course, my darling. You will love me more by ignoring my humanness and thinking about God, and I will love you more by refusing to acknowledge any imperfections that make you beautifully and completely human. Then we can live out our shared delusion until imperfection hits us too hard for us to miss.”
He pulled a small copy of the Bible from his pocket and, turning to the second chapter of Malachi, he read: “Have we not all one father? hath not one God created us?” Yes, there it was in the Bible; so it must be true and right to know. So Elizabeth promised to try to think that way, and Daddy agreed to help her understand better what he had said.
He pulled out a small copy of the Bible from his pocket, because of course he did, and read a verse asking rhetorical questions. Because the rhetorical questions were in the Bible, they must be true, just like the part about the flood killing the dinosaurs. Elizabeth promised to stifle all thinking that contradicted what Daddy was saying, and Daddy promised to invalidate her experience as often as possible.
All through that autumn they talked again and again about their Father in the way that Christian Science teaches, until Elizabeth knew Him better, loved Him more, and felt His presence really near. Finally it was as though Daddy was no longer between her and God, but as though she was as close to God as Daddy was. This made her feel so safe.
All through that autumn they talked again and again, to the point that as soon as she saw Father approaching, Elizabeth felt a little sick. She would say just about anything to earn his approval, even if she didn’t understand what she was saying. She wanted Daddy to love her, and if talking about God got her there, then that’s what she’d do to feel safe.
A long, long time after this Elizabeth had to leave her home, and go alone to another city to live. Then she understood why her Daddy had helped her so patiently to know God as her Father. Instead of feeling that she had been separated from father-love, she knew its ever-presence. Instead of looking to just one person to express this love to her, she looked for Love’s reflection everywhere, and found it in the most unusual places.
Elizabeth grew up and moved away. She felt oddly distant from her parents, and didn’t get to experience the richness and comfort of physical affection.