The Matthew Code & My Experience With Hypocrisy at Principia

Originally published on 


(15) If your brother sins against you, go and show him his fault, just between the two of you. If he listens to you, you have won your brother over. (16) But if he will not listen, take one or two others along, so that ‘every matter may be established by the testimony of two or three witnesses.’ (17) If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church; and if he refuses to listen even to the church, treat him as you would a pagan or tax collector.
(Matthew 18:15-17 – New International Version)

The Matthew Code, as the above quoted Bible verses have come to be known, was thrown at me and my fellow students at Principia College time and time again, and is a part of the moral code that Principia students are required to abide by. Now, I read the above verses, and I clearly come away with a certain interpretation, and no, I do not need anyone else’s interpretation to gain what I feel to be clarity on what these verses say and mean. It’s simple: if you encounter someone doing something wrong, you go to them directly on your own and talk to them about it; if they don’t listen, and don’t acknowledge that they’ve done something wrong, you bring a couple of friends (preferably mutual friends) along; if that fails, then you go to higher authorities to have the situation corrected and ‘balanced’, so to speak. You do not go to the authorities first. Now, I’m talking of someone committing minor moral offenses. If I see someone robbing a house, assaulting, or murdering, I’ll go straight to the police, no questions asked.

In the context of being a Principia student, I saw it as: if I encountered someone breaking the rules, I’d confront them myself first and seek to redress the situation that way, and if that didn’t work, go up the Matthew Code ladder from there. That’s how I saw it when I did have my own encounter with rule-breakers while I was at Principia. In practice however, the administrative authorities at Principia had a different take on the Matthew Code, and most of us students knew that, and many of us saw it as hypocritical. They wanted you to skip past the first few steps. Continue reading “The Matthew Code & My Experience With Hypocrisy at Principia”

I have lost about ten friends from Principia…

By Stacey, an Ex-Christian Scientist Group contributor.

I went on a Prin Abroad my senior year at Principia College. There were four men and about twenty women. One of the men on the trip committed suicide a year after the trip, another died of measles three years later, and a third died about ten years later.

As you know, when you spend over three months with people, you get to know them well. I was shocked when the suicide happened, and I wondered if I had missed any clues. I don’t know if the suicide rate for Christian Scientists is higher than the average, but I think that reluctance or guilt in seeking medical treatment contributes to the problem.

I have lost about ten friends from Principia including a very good friend who had been sick for almost a year. I didn’t have a chance to tell her how much I cared for her since I didn’t know about the situation until after she was gone. There was no service. Those still in Christian Science just don’t understand how cruel this is to everyone else.

Two weeks ago, I went on the Prin Alumni online directory and found an email for the last surviving male on the trip. We have reconnected, and I am looking forward to more conversations with him.

1989 Measles at Principia Upper School: Elizabeth’s Story

The following is by Elizabeth, an Ex-Christian Scientist Group contributor, and was originally published as a guest post at on February 1, 2015. It is reprinted with permission, and has been slightly modified for The Ex-Christian Scientist.

Did Principia hide conditions from authorities during the fall 1989 Upper School measles outbreak? What were your experiences with Christian Science nursing while at Prin during the measles outbreak? How did they diagnose it, since they’re trained to see disease and contagion as unreal?

This measles epidemic hit at the beginning of my first year at Principia Upper School, in fall of 1989.  I was fifteen, and it was the first time I had attended a boarding school or been away from my family. The student population was almost entirely unvaccinated due to Christian Science beliefs. The first quarter, I was paired with another sophomore named A___. She was a most unusual combination of kind, unconcerned with appearances, and popular. And she was totally into Christian Science, or appeared to be on the outside. A tranquil understanding of the philosophy, is how I would describe it, although it sounds strange to say it that way now as ex-Christian Scientist, but that is how I remember perceiving her. A___ tells me, “I’m not going to get sick, you’re not going to get sick.” That kind of worked, and I remember thinking, “ok, of course we’re not going to get sick.”

Then one Sunday after church, A___ laid down and didn’t get back up. She just laid there with her eyes closed, skin blotching up, listening to Christian Science tapes. I was scared. Still, nobody said anything, but frequently housemoms–the women employed by Principia to live in the dorms with us, one per wing, and act as our guardians, would walk by and look in the door at A___ without comment to either of us. Eventually a housemom came and took A___ away. The dorm got really quiet. Lots of kids came down with it the same weekend that A___ did. I’m happy to presume I felt this way for my own reasons, but I definitely felt that I was expected not to get it, in the same way I would be expected not to sneak off campus or expected not to skip my homework.

The housemoms never said ‘measles’, only the kids spoke of it: “some kids have measles”, “this one has it now”, or “so and so’s roommate was gone when she came back from practice.” But no one in the administration talked about it. They would just tell you reassuringly that they were “taking good care of” your roommate (anyone who got spots disappeared shortly thereafter). The housemoms did not say anything about your symptoms, they would just appear at your bedside after you’d been down for the count for a few hours to a day, and they’d say, “Come with me, honey. Is there anything you want to bring?” There was no communication from the administration otherwise. Continue reading “1989 Measles at Principia Upper School: Elizabeth’s Story”

1989 Measles at Principia Upper School: Paul’s Story

By Paul, an Ex-Christian Scientist Group contributor.

I was a student at Principia Upper School during the measles epidemic in Fall 1989, and I contracted measles. I had the good fortune of being a day student, so instead of being on lockdown in ‘Gulag Clayton Road’, I was at least able to suffer in the discomfort of my own home.

I remember being really freaked out because I had to get my blood tested to see if I was immune, and I was scared to death by the process of the blood draw. My, how far we’ve come… Anyway, it was pretty pointless because I more or less felt like crap by the time I showed up at the lab. I drove home, took a nap, and began to notice blotches when I awoke. I can’t recall how many days I was ill—it seemed like forever. I couldn’t get comfortable, etc., as I’m sure all of us experienced. The whole experience was utter hell. At least I could shower as often as I wanted and didn’t have to deal with petulant houseparents.

They sent the principal and dean of students out to deliver ice cream to all of us day students who were de-campused due to illness, and we had to come to the door to get our goodies. I realize now they were probably sent out to check on us to make sure none of us was at death’s door so the Christian Science Committee on Publication could be given a heads up if we were.

1985 Measles outbreak at Principia College: Garey’s Story

By Garey, an Ex-Christian Scientist Group contributor.

The measles outbreak at Principia College in 1985 was awful. Two students, one of whom I knew and took a class with, and another, the child of a faculty member, died. At one point, more than a hundred students were sick.

I shared a dorm room with two guys who remained my best friends for years, and we had to pretty much order one of our roommates out to Cox Cottage, the on-campus Christian Science nursing facility, because he was that sick. I was sitting next to a student who almost collapsed during the meeting announcing students could get vaccinated. Many had never been to a doctor. I had been vaccinated as a kid, although I ended up getting the shot again so I could leave Prin for spring break, because the entire college campus had been quarantined.

I remember hearing about Scott Shadrick’s death as if it were yesterday. Things were pretty rough around campus, with 100+ students sick with measles. We left the dining room after dinner that night, returning to Brooks North with friends. As we climbed the stairs to the main floor, we saw a notice announcing Scott’s death. His was the second student death. We were very upset. Before that, we were thinking that perhaps things were getting better on campus. But that news was a real downer. I wasn’t close friends with him, but it was sad to see someone I knew die so young from a preventable disease. I’d never checked before today, but neither student is listed in the Principia College directory.

So many deaths at Prin. Early, unnecessary deaths of fellow classmates, and parents, teachers & professors from both campuses dying way too young. My doubts about Christian Science started during the measles outbreak. What I find bewildering is how many hardcore Christian Scientists are still at Prin, especially with all the premature deaths.These memories are wedged in my mind forever. I always wonder how those lives would have turned out.

The Principia & The Measles

The Principia School and College experienced measles outbreaks in 1985, 1989, and 1994. The following are related articles from newspapers, academic journals, CDC reports, books that discuss the outbreaks, and Principia College’s policies regarding immunization as of February 2014.

A 2009 article in The St. Louis Post-Dispatch provides a brief overview of the events:

In 1985, three Christian Scientists affiliated with Principia College in Elsah 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. Nearly 200 people contracted measles that year, including a doctor from Barnes-Jewish Hospital and an infant, both of whom were infected by Principia students off campus. Hundreds of Principia students and their parents ultimately decided to be vaccinated during the outbreaks, but many opted against vaccination. (source)

Continue reading “The Principia & The Measles”

My eyesight was on the line!

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?

Katie J.’s Story (Part 1)

katie j:header 1

By Katie J., an Ex-Christian Scientist Group contributor.


To say that I was literally born into Christian Science would not be an exaggeration. I was born on a cold January morning in Tulsa, Oklahoma, at my grandparents’ house. My parents were in the middle of going through a divorce, which, according to Oklahoma law, could not be final until I was born. Because all of this was happening amidst a legal proceeding, my father had been required to provide my mother with medical care during her pregnancy, which she completely ignored. There was a doctor set to deliver me at a local hospital, and a plan to avoid said doctor and local hospital. I would be born, then the doctor would be called to be informed that he had missed the whole thing—it had all just happened so fast. My grandmother’s name appears on my birth certificate, but that was only done to protect the identity of the real attendant, a Christian Science nurse.

As luck would have it, the Christian Science nurse had been a legitimate obstetrics nurse before converting to the religion. This was lucky for my mom because there was some complication with the separation of the placenta—and this nurse knew how to deal with that—something that the average Christian Science nurse wouldn’t know anything about. And so I came into the world, the placenta was dealt with, and my mom and I were both healthy and came through the ordeal with no medical intervention whatsoever. I never had medical care and I wouldn’t be seen by anyone from the medical field until I was sixteen and snuck off to get birth control pills at the local Planned Parenthood clinic.

Continue reading “Katie J.’s Story (Part 1)”