By Jodi, a blog contributor
I was taught that the biggest difference between Christian Science and Christianity was that we viewed the Creation and Adam & Eve story differently from them.
I remember explaining to so many different people over the years, what this means, and I figured I should share this in this blog, too.
There is so much to share about this part of the Bible, and it encompasses only 2 chapters.
The Holy Bible starts with the chapter, Genesis. And Genesis Chapter 1, starts with “The Creation Story.” It talks about how God created the universe. In the original, it uses the name “Elohim” for “God.” It talks about how Elohim divided the waters from the firmament (or ground). It talks about creating 2 lights in the sky – one for the day (the sun) and one for the night (the moon). It’s a beautiful chapter, full of creation of the fish of the sea, the fowl of the air, every living creature that moves upon the face of the Earth.
It talks about how “God created man in his own image, male and female created He them.”
It’s interesting to think about when this chapter was written. It was actually written after the Adam & Eve story. The Israelites were in the desert, escaping slavery in Egypt. They wandered around for a good 40 years (it may not have been exactly 40, but it was a very long time). And the Rabbis with them had to get creative in their story telling.
To the Children of Israel, “In the image of God” meant “royalty.” Only Kings and Queens were “made in the image of God.” But the Rabbis wanted the Children of Israel to also see how holy and special they were, so they said, in this story, that they were made in the image of God, too. How special they must have felt, to hear the words that they were holy children of God too, as marvelous as royalty!
If you go to Genesis 2, verse 11, this is the first place where the word “But” appears in the Bible. Before this, it was established that men and women were created and in charge of all the things on the brand new planet.
Suddenly, in Genesis 2, verse 11 it says: “But there went up a mist from the ground and watered the face of the earth.”
After this, the God referred to as “Elohim” goes away, and it turns into “Jehovah.” Jehovah is translated as “Lord God,” instead of as “God.” And it’s a whole new story of creation — the Adam and Eve story.
This story predates the story of Creation in Genesis, Chapter 1. This story is the one most commonly referred to, I think, as the first man and woman on the planet. The Lord God created a man (Mary Baker Eddy defines “Adam” in her Glossary chapter in Science and Health as “A man”).
The Lord God walks around on the Earth and creates a man, called Adam, and then “causes a deep sleep to fall upon Adam.” Then the Lord God takes a rib from Adam and uses it to create a woman, and names her “Eve.”
It’s a completely different story from the one in Chapter 1. This story is complete with a talking snake and tree that bears the fruit of knowledge of good and evil, whereas Genesis Chapter 1, seems to only convey good things. Nothing “evil” in there. Nothing evil shows up at all in the Bible until we meet this serpent who talks about this tree that The Lord God said they could expressly not eat from.
The story goes that the serpent “beguiled” Eve and made her want to eat of the tree. She takes a bite of the fruit and gives some to Adam. Adam eats of the fruit too.
Both people are suddenly aware that they are naked. They hear The Lord God (Jehovah) walking around and go hide themselves. Jehovah is suspicious of their behavior and then punishes them when He finds out what happened.
One of the punishments is that Adam must now till the ground (farm) to find food. It will no longer be easy to get to, from the trees in the Garden of Eden. Eve is punished forever to have painful childbearing experiences. She gets the punishment of monthly blood, and pain simply for being a woman. Before this, people were created by God or The Lord God (Elohim or Jehovah). Now, they must come through woman and it will be a painful and awful experience for women for the rest of time.
I want to point out something that gets glossed over to everyone I have talked to who was never a Christian Scientist but who was familiar with these stories:
There’s that part where The Lord God causes a deep sleep to fall upon Adam. The part where The Lord God takes out Adam’s rib, in order to create woman or Eve.
Remember that part? In Christian Science, this is a key part of our faith. The fact that Adam was put to sleep. As far as I know, no other religion focuses on this detail. But it’s a key factor in the core beliefs of Christian Science.
You see, the Bible never mentions that Adam woke up.
Christian Scientists believe that “we are all in the Adam dream.” That’s right, they believe that Adam is still dreaming, and we are all inside this dream. None of us is real. We are all illusions inside Adam’s dream.
You know how when you’re dreaming, and you find something you like, perhaps a treasure or a journal or food or who knows what. And you want to keep it forever. But then you wake up, and it’s gone? Because it was never real – it’s gone. I remember as a kid, having a dream that I was in a cafeteria line. I thought for sure if I held onto my plastic ware hard enough with my hands, that I could manifest it when I woke up. I woke up and my fingernails were digging into my hand, but I didn’t have any plastic ware in my hand. It wasn’t real. It was an illusion.
This is what Christian Scientists believe at their core – that everything around them is as real as that plastic ware that I tried to hold onto in my dream.
When they have an illness, it’s common for a Christian Science Practioner to say, “you just need to know the truth.” What’s the truth? That the illness is an illusion. It’s not real. Just know the truth. Wake up to the reality of everything – just wake up. Once you wake up, you will be healed.
This belief system had the effect on me that I learned to dissociate at a very young age. I even practiced it. Dissociating can also be experienced as depersonalization or derealization. I can’t quite remember the difference between all of them – I do all of them. One of my medical doctors even diagnosed me with this – dissociation. It means that I don’t stay present in my body.
I have talked with enough Ex Christian Scientists now that I know a lot of us do our best to ignore our pain. It’s what we were taught. We were taught to not pay attention to it, since it’s not real. Ignore it, downplay it, pretend it isn’t there. Basically, get your focus on something else (God in particular) and your pain will go away because you’re not focusing on it.
I remember in third grade, being bored with what was going on around me, and I remember just trying to grasp the idea that I wasn’t actually in my body, that I was a spiritual soul that was made in the image and likeness of God. What would that look like? I remember trying to deliberately detach myself from my body, as if I was a spirit floating above my body. That was my real self, not this dream that had 5 senses.
That reminds me to share that we were also taught that the 5 senses (seeing, smelling, tasting, feeling, hearing) are not real either. Anything we could sense with one of the 5 senses also wasn’t real, because it was inside the Adam Dream.
Are you seeing yet how crazy all of this is? Everything you can see, hear, taste, touch, smell isn’t real because it’s just made up by some guy who fell asleep aeons ago?
All of this sounds like a Science Fiction plot to me now. Like a short story I read in Jack Finley’s book, “About Time,” about a world that created glass globes. In his science fiction story, people created worlds for a competition. All these little entities inside the globes were tiny people walking around, building things. Ultimately to be destroyed by the creator at the end of a year long competition. (I didn’t describe that very well; suffice it to say it’s a very good story.)
I am learning, since leaving Christian Science, that my body is actually real. I have had to have heart surgery and need to take a daily medicine to control my heart further so I don’t pass out when I walk too fast or get too excited or nervous about things.
Growing up in Christian Science, too many of our parents took the Christian Science teachings of “your body is not real, it’s just a dream,” too seriously and denied all medical care. In my experience, I was also denied any practical, material remedy. I wasn’t allowed honey to soothe my sore throat. I didn’t dare ask for crutches when I had a painful toe dislocation in high school. I had been taught that my needs weren’t valid. My needs weren’t important. Not just physical, but emotional too.
If I was ever sick, I was sent to my room as if I was being punished – to go read my Bible and Science and Health. To pray and read only. No tv, no remedy. I was allowed to nap, thank goodness, when I was sick. I always worried that I would get in trouble for napping when I was sick. Thank goodness I never was. It wouldn’t surprise to me to hear some day that someone else was punished for that – not reading enough of their holy books to get a healing.
I also wasn’t given words to define my emotions. I was allowed to feel joyful, happy and grateful. But I wasn’t allowed to feel sad or angry or frustrated. It took years of therapy to be able to put words to emotions I had buried my entire life.
There is one other thing that I want to share about the Adam and Eve story and how it relates to my own experience. I often heard of friends having painful periods and cramping once a month. I had friends who could hardly get out of bed because the cramping was so bad. I felt somehow superior because I didn’t have these issues – that I had overcome the falsity of the Eve story. Eve being punished. Since I knew it was a dream (she is inside Adam’s dream too, if you think about it), then I knew the period issues didn’t have to affect me. It gave me a complete lack of empathy for people who had cramping with their monthly cycles. They didn’t “know the truth.” They were “asleep in Adam’s dream.” Their pain wasn’t real, they just believed it was. Why would I have any kind of empathy for people experiencing a dream? It’s what I had been taught – no empathy for people in pain or distress.
Getting out of Christian Science and taking the (very scary) step to start going to doctors*, I found that medical nurses and doctors actually CARE about people. They listen when you say, “I’m not feeling well,” and they ask questions. “Is it a sharp pain? A dull pain? Where is it? Does the pain come and go? Is it throbbing? How intense is it?” And they listen to the answers. They administer medicines and bandages and other aids as necessary to help ease my physical body.
For years, when I went to a hospital or care facility, I would cry. I couldn’t help it. Others I know have had this same response too. We are so unused to having someone be kind to us when we are suffering, that it is overwhelming and we cry in response to the kindness. It’s a shock to our system to be tenderly cared for when we aren’t feeling well.
I am at the very beginning of learning how others see these 2 stories. As far as I understand it, these 2 stories are viewed as the same story. One gives the people names, and the other does not. I think this is how it is. I am not entirely sure, actually. One talks about where people start – like the family tree header. Maybe there were people before that, but history is started with these two – Adam and Eve.
I went to a Catholic wedding one time and the Adam and Eve story came up. The priest told the story. I was baffled why a story that punishes women so badly would be at the center of a marriage. It just shows the different perspective a Christian Scientist has.
I want to also share that once I got out of Christian Science and learned what it felt like to receive true empathy, I learned to have empathy myself. I now know how to listen to people when they talk about their distress, or their emotions. I can try to soothe as I am able. I am able to comfort my own children when they aren’t feeling well.
It’s a complete shift in my brain to have empathy.
I hope all the folks still in Christian Science will get out sooner rather than later. I want them all to learn how to take care of their body and not die from something painful due to long term medical neglect.
I am actually grateful to know that while I don’t know about Adam and Eve being a real story or not, I am grateful to know my own body is actually real. I am learning, over time, how to take care of it.
*I had been taught to be afraid of doctors. That they make mistakes and kill people all the time. I was genuinely afraid of going to a hospital or doctors, thinking it would make me less of a child of God, unworthy of being healed ever again.
Additional Reading that May be of Interest
- Rabbi Danya Ruttenberg The Great Angel Smackdown and Pehaps the most subversive act of all
- Reclaiming Reality from Ms. Eddy’s Matrix is an Ongoing Challenge @ kindism
- Adam & Fallen Man @ Emerging Gently