Unashamed ExCS

By m.rose, submitted via email. m.rose is a pseudonym. For more information about how to share your story, please visit https://exchristianscience.com/about-2/share-your-story/


I am a former student of Principia. I was raised in Christian Science my whole life, and my mom is one of the most respected CS nurses in New England. My father attended Principia College, but later left Christian Science. At the time I was graduating high school, he had lost his job, and told me Prin was the only affordable option because of the scholarships I received. After moving around and attending 4 different highs schools, part of me was relieved that I would be with people I knew–so I was obedient.

Early on in my freshman year, I went through an experience that would now be labeled as date-rape. I swept it under the rug until several people urged me to come forward. I waited until school ended that year, because I didn’t want negative visibility for me or the gentlemen involved.

That summer I attempted to process what had occurred, but after struggling from depression off and on throughout my life, I quickly fell into a dark place. The guy I had accused said many hurtful things to me, but when he called me a cunt, it completely broke my heart.

I started seeing a therapist and taking prescription anti-depressants. I was not planning on returning to Prin, but at the time it was my only option. The dean of students treated me like a heroine addict, and took my medication away from me. For a while, the resident counselor (with absolutely no medical background) was doling the pills out to me at night. Eventually the school told me I needed to stop taking them or leave.

Soon I fell into the adverse effects of withdrawal, far worse than anything I have ever experienced. The mental anguish was as painful as being stabbed. The dean of students told me I needed to go on medical leave, but it was a contentious time in my family and I felt I had nowhere to go. Eventually I tried to overdose on the sleeping pills I hid from the school. My roommate found me unconscious and called the school nurse. Luckily, after hours, I woke up. No one had called an ambulance, and no medical attention was given. It frightens me to think of how easily I things could’ve gone the other way—and I wonder why I wasn’t worth a 911 call.

I left at the end of the semester after the dean of students met with me and my father and told us that I could come back the next semester, without needing to reapply, and that my scholarship would still be in place.

I did as she said, but I was never admitted back into Prin, and was told I wasn’t allowed on campus. No reason was provided.

I remember the dean of students (at Principia) asking me to be more realistic when I said I might want to apply to a school like Boston College or Northeastern. I currently attend Northeastern University and work full-time in marketing. I am up for a second promotion, despite not having my bachelors yet.

Recently I met up with that same roommate, in NYC, when we were both visiting family, and we got into the topic of the school now allowing students to take medication. I became upset and said “well, where’s my apology”?! She told me it was my fault for attending the school, and that I just blame everyone else for my problems. It is this kind of ignorance and judgement of those who take medication, that make it really hard for me to be around Christian Scientists. What happened at Prin was deeply painful, but I suspect me not being CS made me unworthy of compassion.

I returned to work that Monday, feeling totally defeated, only to find I had been promoted to a full time employee “for far exceeding the expectations for an intern, and for an incredible work ethic.” Interesting that they left out my characteristic lack of accountability.

I don’t drink or do drugs, but I take medication every day for allergies, Birth control, etc. I don’t identify with any theology, but I am passionately vegan and advocate compassion for all living beings. In the eyes of Christian Science and Principia, I am morally inferior. In the eyes of everyone else, I am someone deserving of respect.

You know, it’s funny that I eventually got a heartfelt apology from the guy who assaulted me, but I never got a word of remorse from the school that almost killed me.

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.

#MeToo

Please know: the following may contain triggers for many people reading.

The following post is by an Anonymous contributor.


This whole #MeToo hashtag on social media (the Movement was started by Tarana Burke) has hit home for me and for so many of my friends – male, female, trans…

Like just about every other woman I know, I have also worked in hostile work environments, been catcalled, assaulted, raped.

Please know: the following may contain triggers for many people reading.

That time I was assaulted at Principia College

I have heard so many stories of female students being assaulted, raped, treated inappropriately by staff members / faculty / professors. This is my story, with specific details left out, because even though I am anonymous, I still am not ready to share specific details with anyone.

When I was a student at Principia College, I had an attempted date rape. I had previously slept with him, but didn’t want to this time. #NoMeansNo Just because I wanted sugar in my tea last time doesn’t mean I want sugar in my tea this time.

He came to my room and was quite insistent. I had been asleep in my bed. At Principia, it was against the rules to lock your doors, therefore doors didn’t even have locks! So, I couldn’t lock him out of my room, even though I was trying to sleep and didn’t want visitors.

He got in to my bed, and I was pinned against the wall. I told him “no” so many times. He kept coming at me, with a smile on his face. I pushed him away. This person is much larger than I am, and I was genuinely getting afraid. I kept pushing him, telling him, “no” and he kept thinking I didn’t mean it, and that he could convince me if he kept coming at me and smiling that smile I will never be able to forget.

He did finally leave, but I had been so scared. After I was sure he was gone, I went outside my room. Two women I knew were out in the hallway, so I told them what had happened, and I just started crying. They sat with me and just listened. I think one may have very gently hugged me. They didn’t quite know what to say, but they just sat with me and let me feel the sadness and fear. I knew these two by name, and had chatted over the years with both of them maybe once. But I was so grateful they were there when I needed someone to just be safe for me to be with and help me through this pain.

I never turned him in. I figured since we had “been together” before, I would be blamed and nothing would come of it. (This is over 20 years ago.)

A few months later, he was dating someone else. I have no idea what happened, but the administration came to me and said his most recent girlfriend had mentioned my name in relation to him.

The Dean of Students set up an appointment with me and asked me for my story. I told her. The Dean also mentioned that a few other gals on campus had been named, and they were going to interview them. I didn’t learn their names, or who they were. But there were at least 4 of us, from what I could gather. Each with our own story.

He was kicked out. Principia did the right thing by kicking him out.

More than a decade later, a sibling of mine was about to graduate from the college. I was very happy for them, and our family all went to the graduation weekend.

Guess who was back on campus. About to graduate with my sibling. Go ahead, guess.

It was him. This man.

I spent the whole weekend hiding behind pillars, and ducking. I figured out where he sat in the dining room and then carefully figured out a completely other place for me to go hide during meals in the dining room. The whole weekend should have been a happy occasion. For me: it was One Large Trigger. I had to be on high alert the entire weekend.

I told one of my parents, “look, if I suddenly disengage from our group and go hide behind a pillar or a tree or start running, just know that it’s because I saw the guy who attempted to rape me when I was a student here, and I can’t handle seeing him. By the way, he keeps trying to friend me on Facebook and I feel completely stalked by this guy in the cyber world.”

My parent’s response was completely devoid of empathy and compassion.

It was a typical Christian Science response:

“It’s been 20+ years, don’t you think he has changed by now?”

I was told to forgive the accuser.

There was no, “I’m so sorry that happened to you back then! Oh my gosh!” There was no, “Oh wow, that’s not okay that this whole weekend has to be ruined for you, Principia seriously screwed this up, didn’t they?”

I mean, nothing kind to me as a person. The comment was all about the other person. And how they had probably “changed by now.” And that I should “know the truth about the assaulter and forgive him.”

One of my other siblings walked in to the room, and heard what I was talking about with our parent. I said something specific about this person, and my sibling replied, “oh yeah, I met him today.” I don’t remember any empathetic comment about my experience. I do feel like my sibling was sad that I had to deal with it this weekend during graduation, but I don’t remember empathy about the previous attempted rape situation. Just: “I met him today.”

Our family had gotten 2 assigned seats-tickets to graduation, and had a bunch of “back of the auditorium un-assigned seats-tickets” to the graduation. I wanted to sit in the back, and stay hidden so I could just enjoy graduation and not have to be on high alert.

My family insisted I sit with the nearly front row seats for graduation, and you-know-who walked right by me after walking the stage, and sat down too close for my comfort, along with the other graduates. I acquiesced and sat up front. Again, no empathy from this parent, and my boundaries were not respected to help me feel more secure and peaceful.

If you’re a practicing Christian Scientist, you’re not allowed to have any sort of negative emotions. None: no fear, no anger, no sorrow. Nothing negative. They don’t even have the word, “anxiety” in Christian Science. If there is no word for it, it doesn’t exist.

That’s my FIRST #MeToo in a Christian Science setting.


That time I was assaulted in a Christian Science Reading Room

Note: If that story triggered you at all, I would like to caution you NOT to read this next story.

This next story – since it was someone whose name I don’t even know, and no one knows him from the Christian Science community, as far as I know, I can include details I haven’t even told my husband.


I spent a few days a week working in a Reading Room in a very busy city. Another 70 year old woman (who I will refer to as “Collins”) took care of it most of the week, and I filled in on the other days. It is and open full time with regular business hours and staffed only by one woman at a time. (Is this a good idea to you?)

This was not one of those Reading Rooms where it’s open like 1 or 2 hours per week only. This one paid the staff a salary wage, and kept it open full time with regular hours.

I will tell this story in order of the timeline, but it’s not how I learned it. I didn’t learn this first part until after it was all over.

Collins had a regular homeless visitor who came in. He seemed like a regular person, but he was homeless. The previous Reading Room full time attendant had been a man, and he welcomed the homeless in and encouraged them to come in. He went on to work in Boston at The Mother Church.

This visitor would come in and ask about King Solomon. He had a “little boy” look about him. It was a facade he could put on easily, to make himself seem innocent and harmless.

He was getting more and more bold with Collins. He came in every few weeks. He was a regular. One time, he actually stroked her breast. She chalked it up to, “oh, it was accidental, he didn’t do that on purpose.”

The next week, I was walking up to the Reading Room door to arrive a few minutes before my shift started. This person I had never seen before was standing there, staring at the hours on the door, waiting for it to open. I didn’t know what to do. I was obligated to open it. I have to say I wanted to turn around and go to the coffee shop on the corner and wait it out. But I didn’t want to “get in trouble” by not opening on time.

I went up to the door, with my key, and he asked me if it was open. I said, “it will open in 10 minutes.” He nodded and left.

I opened the door about 10-15 minutes later. He came in about an hour after that.

He puttered around in the study room, then came over to me and said, “do you have anything on King Solomon?” It felt like a genuine request. I went to the study room to get a Bible.

I leaned over to get the Bible off the shelf, and he stroked the back of my butt in a specific way that terrified me (this is not something my husband would even do, believe me). As he stroked it, he said, “soft.” And then I heard the distinct sound of a belt buckle being opened.

I had the Bible in my hand at that point. I whirled around, and held the Bible up, threateningly. I marched to the door, gestured widely with my arm with the Bible in it, and said loudly and boldly, “Get out! You are not welcome here ever again!” I was outside the door, holding it open with the Bible gesturing him to leave.

He walked out very calmly, as if he had done nothing wrong.

I called the people who wrote my paychecks. I told them. I said I was sorry, but I didn’t think I could stay open and sell any Christian Science Monitors that day. (Seriously, I felt bad about that, and actually apologized. We usually sold 2-3 Christian Science Monitors every day.)

I called Collins, and she told me the story of him stroking her breast a week or two before that.

Reader: Please know this: people who are apt to do this sort of thing get more and more bold. That’s what they do! I have verified this with my psychiatrist and therapist. Yes: people get more and more bold.

I called my husband. He told me to lock up the Reading Room and come right home.

I called back the paycheck writers and told them I was going home. I was so shaken up, I could barely speak, I was crying. I was a complete mess.

When I got home, my husband started telling me I needed to report this to the police. The Christian Scientist in me said I needed to forgive this man, and “see that it’s not a part of him.” If I didn’t see it as part of him, then he would be healed of this sin, and it would be “as if it was never a part of him, because he was healed.” And so I felt obligated to fervently pray to see him as pure and innocent. (What about ME!)

I prayed this way: “He is God’s perfect child, he is innocent, this is not a part of him. God made him kind and loving. He is not capable of hurting someone, because God didn’t give that to him. Since God didn’t give it to him, bad stuff can’t exist, it’s not a part of him. He didn’t harm me, because I am God’s perfect child too, I can feel safe and protected. I was safe. I wasn’t harmed. I am ok. I am still God’s perfect child. God loves me. God loves him. He can’t harm anyone. He can’t harm me. I am safe. All is well…” blah blah blah blah blah. For hours, days and months I prayed this way.

My husband tried to convince me to go to the police about this. After 2-3 hours of him telling me this is what I should do, he said, “what if he tries to do this to a female who works in a nearby store?” I didn’t want to have another woman subjected to something so horrible or probably worse; so that’s what convinced me to call the police.

I called the police. They told me to come in the next day and talk with a detective. A Christian Science church member lady I trust kept my kids for the hours we had to go back downtown. My husband accompanied me. First, we went to the police station. Then, they sent a detective out to meet me at the Reading Room.

Thankfully, it was a woman detective. I showed her the Reading Room. I told her what happened. I acted all of it out for her. She was very kind and compassionate and smart. I felt safe talking with her.

Collins also told the detective what had happened to her.

The detective was full of compassion and empathy. She was also very surprised that I hadn’t called the police right away. That bothered her immensely. At some point a few days later, it occurred to me that women are supposed to call the police immediately when this happens – that this is a NORMAL and HEALTHY response – to call the police! I realized how bad of an idea it was that Christian Science had conditioned me to do the exact wrong thing! This wrong thing could endanger another woman. This was a key turning point for me in leaving Christian Science.

I still have issues going to that major metropolitan city. I don’t mind going with my kids and with friends and tourists. But I don’t seek out opportunities to go there. Recently, I tried to meet a friend there. She was over an hour late to meet me, and I started to panic. I headed back home without ever seeing her. She apologized profusely. But it made me realize that despite the fact that it’s now been years, I still cannot be there alone.


Both of these instances happened in Christian Science settings, and neither of these times were not the first time I was assaulted, attacked, raped, anything. I had been raped three times already before my experience at Principia College, and I knew how to get away. There is a “look” rapists get in their eye, and I learned to recognize it, defend myself and keep defending until they go away. Rapists want an easy target. They do NOT want someone who will fight back and be difficult. Thanks to me learning this THE HARD WAY, I haven’t had a rape since.

Rapists want an easy target. They do NOT want someone who will fight back and be difficult.

It took me years to be able to tell my Christian Science family members about these instances. I only told them recently, in fact, about the one at Principia. They still don’t know about the one at the Reading Room.

I recently realized that a few of my siblings were friends with the person who assaulted me at Principia. I called them all on a multi-person phone call, so we could all talk to each other at the same time. I told them briefly that this person had harmed me, and that a group of us women students had told our stories to the Dean of Students and he was kicked out. I asked my siblings to please block this person on social media. My siblings blocked him. They didn’t even question me about it. They were very kind to me and were not devoid of empathy. They just blocked him and then told me they love me and support me. I felt so grateful for their compassion and support. My siblings are wonderful people and I appreciate them so much.

After the assault at the Reading Room, I yelled at myself about not being able to forgive this person. I also yelled at myself about not feeling safe in the metropolitan city. David and Goliath assured me that I was safe, that’s what I had learned from a young age. “The story of David and Goliath teaches us that we can take down a bully or someone of power if we just believe in God enough! Trust that!” I yelled at myself constantly for not feeling safe.

As Doctor Phil might say: “How is that working for you?”

Well, it didn’t. I am so grateful for good, solid therapy, psychiatric care, and specific medicines.

Did you know that talking about our fears actually makes them have less power over us? Christian Science teaches people NOT to talk about their fears, because then they won’t have power! This is yet another way that Christian Science teaches us the exact wrong thing to do. This makes the human condition worse instead of better!

I hope that with all of these #MeToo posts on social media, that our society is waking up and that good men will learn to advocate for women. That they will learn to say, “not cool, man,” when they see coworkers sharing dirty photos of their wives, or catcalling women, or discussing lewd things in locker rooms.

Men allies: Teach other men to be classy. Be an ally to marginalized people – including transgender people, black people, Native American people, Asian people, dwarves, disabled, elderly, everyone!

I hope that school systems will begin to teach empathy in schools. I think learning empathy is a necessary skill to help humanity rise up and become something better. Empathy is the best way for women to not have to share something like #MeToo in future generations.

Thank you for reading my story.


Last note: Collins died about a year after my assault in the Reading Room. She died a very sudden death, at a Christian Science Nursing Facility. Her husband had died at the same facility a few months before Collins did, after suffering for years. As far as I know, despite losing both of her parents while in Christian Science nursing homes, their daughter is still a Christian Scientist who works for “The Cause,” in a public way.

Five Questions – Principia Edition – M’s Answers

Former Principia Students, who are former Christian Scientists, answer some of the most common questions they’re asked about their Principia experiences. 


1) Why did you attend Principia?

[Principia College] gave me a good scholarship and the place felt very comfortable. It had a homey atmosphere. Visiting weekend was fun, and I felt better attending a school I had actually seen. I had plenty of qualms about the school, but it was affordable and nice.

2) Did your experiences at Principia impact/influence your views of Christian Science?

Yes. I was a devout Christian Scientist throughout and in the years following Prin. I attributed my disagreements with the numerous people there and the institution itself to a misinterpretation of Christian Science, which I considered a personal religion. I didn’t think it could be regulated in the way the school tried to do. I felt as though it was an intolerant, harmful, and in some cases illegal means of practicing the religion, and I had a hard time reconciling how so many Christian Scientists, who were supposedly praying to God for guidance, could get the wrong answer from God so many times. I also struggled with what I felt to be true and what I thought should be true according to Christian Science.

3) If you had a do-over would you attend Principia again? Why/why not? 

I don’t think I’d redo my time there because I learned so much about the way the world works. It was a microcosm of bureaucracy and mundane evil. Counterintuitively, I might be more naive if I had gone to a more “worldly” college. I met a few great people who are still good friends. We went through a lot together. Maybe I would have had a more ordinary and “better” experience elsewhere, but I’m trying to accept that my weird background is part of who I am. And I do think I got a good education there. I really liked my professors and the place was beautiful with nice facilities.

4) Would you recommend Principia to a young Christian Scientist?

This is a hard question. I don’t know if I could recommend it to anyone. It is not a healthy place. A few years ago I might have said yes. There are some amazing opportunities, and many people treasured their time there. But I’m no longer a Christian Scientist and I’ve seen its dark side and seclusion from the world.

5) Please share one positive experience and one negative experience about your time at the school/college

There are so many of both. One of my best experiences [at the College] was an abroad program to England. It, as well as a field study program to the Southern United States, was magical.

Perhaps my most memorable bad experience was when I tried to report a student for harassment and the school proceeded to make everyone involved, except the perpetrator, feel guilty. Many institutions deal abominably with this sort of thing, and in this case there was a special Christian Science brand of victim blaming.

Five Questions – Principia Edition – H’s answers


Former Principia Students, who are former Christian Scientists, answer some of the most common questions they’re asked about their Principia experiences.


1) Why did you attend Principia?

“Good” grants and scholarship combinations made it appear affordable (which it was not, in either case). The small, quiet campus was a promising break from an overcrowded high school experience and I didn’t want to face thousands of new faces who were likely to be drinking or otherwise more rowdy than I wanted to handle.

2) Did your experiences at Principia impact/influence your views of CS?

Yes – knowing that a lot of students who attended Prin left CS after, I thought it was a shame that Prin turned so many people off of the religion. In hindsight, their draconian policies were probably helpful in highlighting the absurdity of the religion as a whole. One regret was that while I felt like a “bad” CS at Prin, I got more into CS after leaving. I did gradually ease away from the religion a few years after leaving Prin, though.

3) If you had a do-over would you attend Principia again? Why/why not? 

Yes – I would take it less seriously, but the friends and the campus made it worthwhile: I would have gone under at a larger school and Prin was a comfortable size.

4) Would you recommend Principia to a young CS?

No – a similar experience can probably be found elsewhere with less baggage.

5) Please share one positive experience and one negative experience about your time at the school/college

Positive…………………..

Negative – total lack of confidentiality when dealing with RCs; nosy RCs who would shame single students for not having a boyfriend but would hound students who were dating, assuring them that if anything was amiss/a violation of the code, they’d be caught.

Positive – maybe it was Stockholm Syndrome, but some of the friendships forged there have been remarkable.

Five Questions – Principia Edition – C’s answers

Former Principia Students, who are former Christian Scientists, answer some of the most common questions they’re asked about their Principia experiences.


1) Why did you attend Principia?

I had several reasons for attending Principia College. My grandmother took me to Summer Session twice during my high school years and I fell in love with the campus. I was still fighting hard to understand and believe Christian Science at that point in my life because my family expected it of me. I thought being surrounded by a community of practicing Christian Scientists would help me understand. The largest reason was that I wanted to get away from my emotionally abusive father.

2) Did your experiences at Principia impact/influence your views of CS?

They did, to some extent. I was initially surprised at the strong pressure from the young men there to be sexually involved. I guess I had somehow thought CS guys would be above that. I was blissfully unaware of some of the hypocritical things that went on around campus, but just knowing that so many of my peers were not living up to the “moral standards” changed my views a bit.

3) If you had a do-over would you attend Principia again? Why/why not? 

This is so hard to answer. I regret sinking myself so far into debt for undergrad school. I regret being in a department (art history) that had so little concentration on helping students be ready for employment or grad school. I do not regret getting away from home. I love so many of the friends I made at Prin. I was fortunate to miss any serious medical events like a measles epidemic (although I was there for the flood of ’93). I can’t go back and change my decision, and it’s really hard to imagine choosing anything different. Going to Summer Session made me want to be there. I didn’t even apply to any other colleges. I would like to change that part, but I loved being at Prin most of the time, so overall, I don’t regret it.

4) Would you recommend Principia to a young CS?

Only if they can do it without going deep into debt. I generally would recommend a less expensive school for undergrad. I would also warn them not to expect a bunch of perfect Christian Scientists.

5) Please share one positive experience and one negative experience about your time at the school/college

Positive experience: I made some wonderful friends during my time at Principia, some of whom are still close. I learned a lot about dealing with different personality types, too.

Negative experience: I got pregnant the first time I ever had sex, but I had no idea. My first time happened on the last day of my freshman year at Principia College. My boyfriend and I had been skirting the edges of intercourse for some time, and we both wanted to have sex before we parted for the summer. We didn’t use any form of birth control. Unlike some CS parents, mine had allowed me to attend health and science classes all through my years in public schools, so I wasn’t entirely ignorant on these matters, but I had a vague belief that my case of chicken pox at the age of 16 had rendered me infertile. I have no idea what his reasoning was; we didn’t discuss it. I was embarrassed enough without trying to ask him if he had a condom.

The reason I didn’t know I was pregnant was that I had periods pretty much as normal during that summer. The pregnancy was probably abnormal—tubal, perhaps. My boyfriend and I both arrived back on campus early that fall. He was on his House Board and I was on a sports team. At our earliest opportunity, we had sex again. I went back to my dorm to clean up and noticed that I had started to bleed. I called him with my concern, but he simply said something reassuring—I don’t remember exactly what it was. That evening, he went to St. Louis for an event. I stayed alone in my dorm room.

I bled heavily and began to notice bits of solid material included in the blood. It didn’t occur to me at first that it was a miscarriage because I had been having my period. I think I briefly realized it later on as I continued to bleed into the night, but it didn’t sink in until a couple years later. Eventually, I passed out on my bed. I woke up to blood soaked through my clothes and into the mattress. I realized my roommates would ask questions if they saw it and flipped my mattress.

It never seemed like a real option to go to Cox Cottage. I was alone and scared, but didn’t dare ask for help because I knew I would face condemnation if someone figured out what had happened. I think I also realized that I was unlikely to get any real help at Cox Cottage. That night was one of the scariest of my life.

Five Questions – Principia Edition – B’s Answers

Former Principia Students, who are former Christian Scientists, answer some of the most common questions they’re asked about their Principia experiences.


Why did you attend Principia? 

I applied to Principia College because it was recommended by my brother (who had attended the Upper School) and other people in our local Christian Science community.

Did your experiences at Principia impact/influence your views of Christian Science? 

I was a fully believing Christian Scientist when I started at Principia, and I was still a true believer when I finished. If I had attended a different college or university I probably would have become a more critical thinker and developed doubts about Christian Science.

If you had a do-over would you attend Principia again? Why/why not? … 

No. Looking back, I realize that Principia did little to prepare me for life in the real world. Principia is a sheltered experience that is not helpful for developing maturity and independence.

Would you recommend Principia to a young Christian Scientist? 

Young Christian Scientists would do well to avoid Principia College (unless your intention is a career within the Christian Science community). If you are interested in science or engineering, be aware that physics at Principia is taught with a metaphysical slant that will not be regarded well by graduate programs. If you are interested in a career in wildlife management or ecology, be aware that Principia’s limited biology curriculum is weak in the areas of microbiology, biochemistry, and anything to do with pathologies (all of which are essential for a field biologist).

And by the way, you should know that Principia is puritanical on the matter of sex. Principia urges students to “strive for dominion over all claims of sensuality.” You can be expelled for premarital sexual activity.

Please share one positive experience and one negative experience about your time at the school/college. 

Principia’s no-cut policy made it possible for me to play an intercollegiate sport, which I probably would not have been allowed to do at some other school. I was a mediocre player and spent most of the time on the bench, but it was nice to have the opportunity.

On the negative side, I was disciplined twice for free speech. One incident involved the campus newspaper, the Principia Pilot. We published a satirical issue and the administration was not amused. We were ordered to report to the Dean of Faculty, who reprimanded us and demanded that we recover and destroy all the copies we could find. Principia College has low tolerance for expression of diverse views.

My eyesight was on the line!

This piece was originally published on 


By Jenny, an Ex-Christian Scientist Group contributor.

When I was in my final year at Principia College, I developed some kind of eye infection. I went to the emergency room secretly, but was still somehow found out by a Christian Science nurse who interrogated me about why I was there. When I refused to tell her, she called my house mom and the dean of students. They each spent an hour or so interrogating me, trying to get me to tell them why I was at the hospital.

The crux of the issue for them was not my well-being or health or whether my eye problem was contagious, but whether I had been given a prescription. They told me that if I didn’t tell them they would have to make me move to Cox Cottage or possibly kick me out. I told them it was my body, my choice, and that I felt it was confidential.

We eventually reached a truce when I told them that if it would make them feel better I would be more than happy to lie to them and tell them that I was not taking a prescription. It was one of the single weirdest experiences of my life. My eyesight was on the line! What would have happened if I had been less sure of my decision or more concerned about public perception or what my parents would say if I was asked to leave?

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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A Principian’s Reflections on the Matthew Code

Originally published on 


Way back when I was still a naive and optimistic freshman at Principia College I signed up to participate in an off-campus activity with some fellow students. It would take us away from the campus for several weeks, during which time it was of the UTMOST IMPORTANCE that we uphold the values of Principia and if we saw anyone partaking in un-Principia-like activities (aka breaking the prin code) we were to report them AT ONCE to the staff member who was tending to us.

My fellow freshman and I felt a little uneasy about ratting out our fellow students, but it was the sophomores (those wise older sophomores) who got really upset. What about the Matthew Code!? they demanded. What about it?! we asked. They didn’t tell you?! They sounded incredulous.

The Matthew Code is from Matthew 18:15-17, and most Christian Science groups omit “but if he neglect to hear the church, let him be unto thee as an heathen man and a publican” which I think is rather silly.