You were *supposed* to stay out for two weeks

By Marie. ‘Marie’ is a pseudonym. This was originally published on Emerging Gently, and it is shared here with permission.


My mom sent me back to school too soon after having chicken pox. I had come down with it during a Girl Scouts camping weekend in fourth grade. It was right after my parents separated and she was working days for the first time, so the first week of school that I was sick I had been home alone. This was highly atypical for my upbringing and in hindsight I believe she had kept this a secret from my father’s side of the family, who knew I had chicken pox but whom she did not want to ask for help from, and this created her internal stress to get me back to school.

The following Monday morning, I still had open sores all over me, but my cold symptoms had lessened and my mother had been making noise all Sunday, in Christian Science platitudes, that I was ready to go back to school the next day–I had made my demonstration and that sort of thing. I kept pleading with her that NO ONE came back in one week, you were *supposed* to stay out for two weeks when you had the chicken pox; it was not a race, there was a rule. But I was sent on my way, to walk to school alone.

I was filled with dread. I was a pariah at school because of Christian Science. I was not a cool kid to begin with; too fat, too bookish, too sincere. I did not wear my ‘cult status’ (heh, heh) well. The arrangement in the mornings was that the entire student body waited in a crowd outside the doors until the arranged time and then the doors were unlocked and we proceeded into our classrooms. It was a small school district where we all walked to and from school, even at our lunch break.

As I approached the already large crowd of students, the first few took notice of me and a murmur, then a larger thrill of reaction sped through the student body. There were no adults present. They simultaneously turned to face me as a group and backed away from me as a group, into the brick corner of the building behind them, protectively. Dozens of voices cried out, “You’re not supposed to be here! You’re sick; what are you, stupid? She’s a Christian Scientist, she doesn’t know she’s not supposed to come here with chicken pox, she’s gonna get us all sick! Get away from us! Get away from here! Go home, Christian Scientist!”

I stopped, paces away from them, in the middle of the playground, hysterical with tears, pleading with them, “I know! I told my mom!” over and over again. They would not hear me. A teacher came to open the doors and saw the scene. She waved the children inside and hustled over to me to ask, “What on earth are you DOING here? It’s only been a week! You’re still sick!” I sobbed, “I KNOW! She told me to come back!” With veiled disgust and efficiency she whisked me into the nurse’s office who quickly confirmed with the first temperature check of my life that I was still contagious, gave me a note stating I was not to return until the following Monday, and sent me on the walk home.

I marched home filled with deep fury at my mother, hyperventilating with sobs over what I had been put through. She was surprised to see me stomp through the door and slam the note down in front of her. She asked some sort of question I can’t remember, but my answer was, “No! All the students were afraid of me and yelled at me to get away, and the teachers said I shouldn’t be there and the nurse said not to come back until next Monday. Just like I TOLD you.”

I crawled into my bed and fell into an exhausted sleep, which is where I should have been in the first place, hiccuping with tears as I slowly calmed down. As I drifted off, my last awareness was my mother’s presence at my bedside, stroking my hair. “I’m sorry, honey.”

It felt like being smothered by a soft blanket

By Marie, an Ex-Christian Scientist Group contributor. Marie is a pseudonym.

 

The college encouraged school spirit. They told you to spread the word about how great the place was. You felt pressure to participate in your House’s events. Some asked you to leave your doors open. You had no choice but to leave them unlocked. The door locks had been broken, if the doors were built to have locks at all. If items were stolen, students were taught to pray about attachment to material objects.

When I was there, only the women’s dorms were locked and only during certain hours. We had no control over this, and sometimes the security guards locked the doors early or forgot to lock them entirely. Because students didn’t need to carry keys most of the day, women often forget their keys and got locked out or had a virtual curfew that men didn’t worry about. Whenever students discussed the injustice and sexism of this practice, people replied, “Life isn’t fair.” Even after a male student was beaten by a group of men who came from off campus, it was up to the male students to decide whether to lock their dorms. We were told that state law required women’s dorms to be locked. When brought up specifically with the administration, they admitted that this was untrue. Administrators blamed ‘student rumours’ on this falsehood.

Men and women lived in separate hallways, usually separate dorms. Spying on and reporting one another for breaking rules, including visiting the hallway or room of the opposite sex during specific hours, was called moral courage.

People occasionally disappeared. It was a mystery as to whether they were suspended due to having sex, falling ill, or getting hurt and taking medicine or staying in the hospital, or attempting to commit suicide. Perhaps they simply transferred to another school, or maybe they committed an actual crime. Rumours ran rampant because, (1) people fiercely guarded their frequently violated privacy, and (2) speaking about ‘bad’ things was discouraged.

This made activism difficult. Pointing out the evil in the world and fighting it with material means was looked down upon and outright silenced. It was more important to focus on the community than on the outside world. Then again, protesting the administration was also highly regulated if allowed at all. For example, at that point, students could only be homosexual if they actively tried to pray the gay away and remained celibate. Protesting this rule was considered ‘homosexual activity’ which was forbidden.

The campus itself was beautiful and clean. The school offered several amazing opportunities, including a fabulous array of abroad programs. Most of us felt comfortable leaving our bags out when grabbing lunch, trusting that nothing would be stolen in this small religious community. Considering the very limited options, the food was good, and the dorms were lovely. The dorms were one of several things that reminded me of Harry Potter. We were an incestuous, tiny school of magical outsiders.
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I stepped away from Christian Science, as a test.

By Marie, an Ex-Christian Scientist Group Contributor. Marie is a pseudonym, to ensure anonymity.

 

I stepped away from Christian Science, as a test. I spent a week not worrying about animal magnetism, or daily prayers, or anything like that. I just thought whatever I wanted to think. I then left CS quite suddenly and found that to be extremely difficult. I still do sometimes, especially when things are tough and I don’t know what to turn to. Some people I know who left CS after always doubting didn’t feel like it was such a big deal. We all handle it in different ways.

Outsiders simplify the issues surrounding Christian Science, and that can feel dismissive. Like, ‘Hah! What a bunch of crazy, stupid kooks.’ I was one of those kooks, as are many intelligent people I love. Not to mention, in a way, it trivializes what I’ve gone through. The other day a friend asked why my roommate and I talked about our past so much. It was because it was important to us and shaped who we are. To him, it seemed something to remember and value or grieve but not to dwell on so much.

I still don’t feel ready to read God’s Perfect Child. I found it in a used book store and started reading it. I had to sit there for a few moments because I felt very overwhelmed. I couldn’t bring myself to buy it. My parents often talked about the book, shaking their heads, especially since my dad taught the author in Sunday School. So of course he blamed himself.

I left because I realized that Christian Science and numerous other attitudes I held were killing me. In my case at the time, more mentally than physically. It just wasn’t worth it. I was more important, living life was more important. As for whether Christian Science is correct, I decided that the more important question was whether Christian Science was correct for me.

I would describe myself as an atheist now, but I also realize that literally no one knows for sure how the world works and what’s out there. It’s been a long and very difficult journey. I keep discovering new ways in which I’ve imbibed Christian Science ideology, occasionally for the better, usually for worse. I feel as though I have to construct a whole new identity and learn how to trust myself. Not practitioners, not God. Me.