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.

Elitism and Religious Superiority in Christian Science

Often, long after leaving Christian Science, the aura of elitism or superiority lingers…

“The time for thinkers has come.” In its Genesis-like proclamation, Mary Baker Eddy reveals her book, Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures, intended to initiate a new system of higher thinking to overcome all challenges.

“Contentment with the past and the cold conventionality of materialism are crumbling away. Ignorance of God is no longer the stepping-stone to faith (Science and Health vii).”

With this edict, she sets the stage for a brand-new religion that bucks historical Christianity. 

Eddy reveals the keys to undiscovered forces, a special knowledge she claims she was “divinely authorized” to share. With a recipe for successful religious elitism and superiority, Eddy begins with a base of Gnosticism, adds in a heaping amount of mind control, tosses in confusing metaphysical theories, sprinkles in some mesmerism, and finishes with a splash of good ‘ole superstition.

Mind Control: Indoctrination from an Early Age

From the time most of us began attending Sunday school, we were spoon-fed that Christian Science is special and unique. My mother repeatedly told me that “the best gift she could ever give me was Christian Science.” Instead of being told I was special because I was unique, loved, and treasured, I heard the message that I was special because I had been given the gift of Christian Science. From an early age, I was skeptical. In looking around, it didn’t feel like I was all that special to go to an unusual church, not have access to medical treatment, and experience shame around unresolved physical problems when my friends asked why I was at school when clearly, I was sick. 

Every effective cult (or destructive religious group that deviates from religious norms) employs mind control techniques.

In his book, Combating Cult Mind Control, Steve Hassan states, “Information control is the second component of mind control. Information provides the tools with which we think and understand reality. Without accurate, up-to-date information, we can easily be manipulated and controlled. Deny a person the information they require to make sound judgments and they will become incapable of doing so.”  Hassan goes on to argue that “deception is the biggest tool of information control, because it robs people of the ability to make informed decisions.” 

Further, distorting information becomes an essential strategy to hold members in place. Since all Christian Science children are taught that they are a “perfect child of God” and that they have access to a “special system of healing,” it is inevitable for a sense of superiority to creep in. After all, we were indoctrinated to believe that we had special knowledge that was far superior to all our non-Christian Science friends.

Narcissism: Leader, Individual, and Group

Many people, after leaving Christian Science, have noticed or read about Eddy’s narcissistic tendencies. In support groups, we’ve also noticed the thread of narcissism as we talk about our parents and relatives still practicing Christian Science.

The American Psychiatric Association defines Narcissistic Personality Disorder as having the following traits: “Grandiosity, or feelings of entitlement, either overt or covert; self-centeredness; firmly holding to the belief that one is better than others; condescending toward others; attention-seeking. These impairments must be relatively stable and evident over long stretches of time for a person to be recognized and diagnosed.”

Most of us heard the metaphor that regular Christians had the “kindergarten” version of Christianity; we Christian Scientists had the “graduate school” version. I’ve heard this many times over the years as a means to explain away the vastly different theology that didn’t match up with anything recognizable within mainstream Christianity. This statement is a destructive, false statement that breeds intense individual religious superiority in mass quantities. And, it couldn’t be further from the truth. 

It’s almost as if Eddy injected Christian Science with a recipe for producing a whole group of narcissistic people. We worship her, her theology, her books, and ultimately ourselves in that our grasp of Christian Science and resulting healings from physical problems offer the proof that the whole system works. Whether or not we had actual healings or perceived healings, we stood up at Wednesday night testimony meetings and gave a glorified account of:

  1. How we applied the flawless principles of Christian Science to affect our ‘seemingly’ physical situation,
  2. How we overcame the ‘false evidence’ that told us we had a problem that needed healing,
  3. How we would subsequently gush effusively giving honor and glory to Mary Baker Eddy, our leader, for discovering Christian Science. By having declared that we had a healing, we subsequently elevated ourselves to the same level as the false teacher. We too achieved success, acclaim, and grandiosity. 

For those who didn’t experience “demonstrations,” guilt, depression, and angst often resulted because at its core, Christian Science teaches that its system is flawless; if it didn’t work, it was because your understanding was limited. This is a hallmark of high control groups: the system isn’t flawed, the individual practicing the system is flawed.

“Since the doctrine is perfect and the leader is perfect, any problem that crops up is assumed to be the fault of the individual member. They learn to blame themselves and simply work harder,” Hassan adds in a section on thought control in Combatting Cult Mind Control.

There is an additional kind of narcissism reflected in Christian Science: collective, or group, narcissism. “Collective narcissism is characterized by the members of a group holding an inflated view of their ingroup.” Discovered and documented by Sigmond Freud, called “Freud’s Theory of Collective Narcissism,” he noticed that some groups developed “in-group bias” where they preferred and elevated their group’s thinking and biases above others. For example, fighter pilots’ larger-than-life attitude, sorority, and fraternity members’ superiority complex, and even extreme homeschool families who feel this is the only way to properly educate children. 

Gnosticism: Special Lost Knowledge Revealed

Elitism and religious superiority are the natural results of being taught that we, as Christian Scientists, had a special, unique knowledge available only to us. In the early years of Christianity, the Gnostics rejected widely accepted theology that Jesus Christ was both God and man. These Gnostics had trouble with the Incarnation, or theological premise that Jesus was both fully God and fully man (Orthodox, Catholic, and Protestant Christians all agree on this point). Gnostics believed Jesus could only be fully human or fully divine–not both. They decided that he was fully divine and with this decision came the split between physical reality and spiritual reality. They rejected everything material, proclaiming that only the spiritual realm was real. This “gnosis,” Latin for knowledge, became special esoteric knowledge. A special club, a group that had unique teachings only a select few could understand.

Sound familiar? 

King Solomon said in Ecclesiastes 1:19, “…there is nothing new under the sun.” His statement continues to stand the test of time. Eddy did not prophesy something new, she repackaged something as old as the story of Jesus Christ himself and presented it as her own creation. In the late 1800s, most likely only pastors and seminary teachers would have known much about the ancient heresies. Medical treatment was very experimental and the average life expectancy between 1860-1880 was approximately 35 to 39 years old. People were desperate for relief from common physical maladies, and a Gnostic repackaging placed on top of a magnanimous narcissistic leader created the perfect storm for a new cult to flourish. 

Christian Science Culture: Lofty and Exclusive

The aura of mystique and air of superiority was evident in Mary Baker Eddy’s writings. Even the big words she carefully chose to use in her writings reeked of lofty education and privilege. She commanded trust, demanded respect, and required utter devotion to her cause. 

Elitism in Christian Science is ‘baked in.’ The very basis of Christian Science hinges on elitist, preferential theology that only the most enlightened understand and select for themselves. Many of us have voiced concerns in the past about not understanding specifics of Christian Science theology. It might be hard to recognize the traits of destructive mind control, but the more you delve in, deconstruct from the harmful and confusing worldview, and understand the specific components of cult mind control, the easier it will be to unpack the ‘coding’ of religious superiority implanted in us. 

When we acknowledge the weaknesses created by the baseless teachings of Christian Science and the narcissism it breeds, we can deconstruct from the views we were raised with and embrace an attitude of humility. Anchoring yourself in the fact that you are human, with an imperfect human mind and body, you can adopt a humble attitude and gradually break the patterns of arrogance and elitism.  Through dedication and perseverance to recovery from religious trauma, it is possible to understand, break habits, and effect change.

For further information on what constitutes a cult, watch the Freedom of Mind (Steve Hassan) BITE Model Video: