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.

CDC Studies & The Principia Schools/College

CDC logo via wikipediaCompiled by the Ex-Christian Scientist editors.

The Christian Science church often uses the fact that it has obtained religious exemption laws as evidence that Christian Science can heal all diseases as effectively as medical care. However, studies and statistics from the Surveillance and Epidemiology, Epidemiology Program Office, CDC tell a different story.

Many of these studies and statistics center around the Principia Schools and College, as that is where there is a large enough cluster of Christian Scientists to enable the effective study of the impact of their decisions.


Christian Scientists’ high mortality rate

Principia College / Loma Linda University Case Study

A long-term study (1945 – 1983) between the population of graduates of Principia College (PC), a college for Christian Scientists, and Loma Linda University (LLU), a Seventh-day Adventist-affiliated university showed:

“Overall mortality was higher for PC graduates than for LLU graduates (for men, 40 per 1000 and 22 per 1000, respectively… and for women, 27 per 1000 and 12 per 1000, respectively (p=0.001)). Total mortality was higher among PC graduates in 22 (85%) of the 26 cohorts.”

“The doctrines of both religious groups require abstinence from alcohol consumption and smoking. …. The groups also differ in that Christian Scientists reject medical healing in favor of spiritual healing alone, whereas Seventh-day Adventists accept both spiritual and medical healing.”

Reported by: WF Simpson, PhD, Emporia State Univ, Emporia, Kansas. Div of Surveillance and Epidemiology, Epidemiology Program Office, CDC.1

Footnote:

1Comparative Mortality of Two College Groups, 1945 – 1983.MMWR. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. 23 Aug. 1991. Web. 03 Feb. 2016.

Further Reading:


Christian Science & Religious Exemptions

Measles outbreaks at Principia College

  • In 1985, three Christian Scientists affiliated with Principia College in Elsah, Illinois died; and 712 students were quarantined on campus, when an outbreak of measles sickened more than 100 people.
  • In 1989, another measles outbreak at Principia sickened nearly 100 people, including some off campus, not affiliated with the school.
  • In 1994, another outbreak spread to the Principia, which serves students pre-K through senior high in St. Louis County, Missouri; nearly 200 people contracted measles.1

The [1985 outbreak’s] high attack rate (15.9%) at Principia College is undoubtedly due to these students’ very low immunization levels. The outbreak illustrates the potential severity of measles and the rapidity of spread in an unvaccinated population. The very high apparent death-to-case ratio (2.3%) is unusual in the United States, which usually has a reported death-to-case ratio of 0.1% or lower.2

Footnotes:

1 Townsend, Tim. “Prayer or inoculation? H1N1 is newest dilemma Members of religious groups who forgo vaccines may put neighbors at risk, threaten common good.stltoday.com. St. Louis Post-Dispatch. 06 Dec. 2009. Web. 03 Feb. 2016.

2Epidemiologic Notes and Reports Multiple Measles Outbreaks on College Campuses–Ohio, Massachusetts, Illinois.MMWR. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. 15 Mar. 1985. Web. 03 Feb. 2016.

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.