The following is a collection of contributions from members of the Ex-Christian Scientist collective about the impact Christian Science has had on relationships.
Not quite twenty years ago, my marriage ended. He and I were both devout Christian Scientists. We were very involved in the Principia community, and our kids were at Prin College and Upper School. My then-husband had a very bad temper, and eventually I summoned all my courage and went to the local woman’s shelter for guidance and help. I felt like such a scofflaw for relying on outside help, but I was losing my mind. God bless that shelter and all its angels. I learned so much, and it was such a blessing, and that was the first crack in the Christian Science armor, when I learned that it’s okay to be a human being.
One day, a woman friend called to ask why I hadn’t been in church. She’d been a good friend, and her husband was well-loved at Prin. It seemed right to lay my soul bare, so I told her the truth: I told her that my husband was abusive. My friend went silent. I thought she’d hung up on me. After a moment, she said, “My husband is just like yours.” Two more times, I confided in women friends with Prin-employed husbands, and both times, they hung their heads and said, “My husband is also abusive.”
Christian Science’s teachings can create the perfect breeding ground for abuse of all kinds, because the Christian Science way of thinking, if there is someone abusive in the home, is that the abuser’s behavior is the victim’s responsibility to ‘un-see’. This is a completely wrong and unproductive guilt created by Christian Science dogma on top of the abuse by the spouse or parent.
Abuse and dysfunction in the home is definitely not unique to Christian Science; it can happen in any family, group or culture. But Christian Science is a culture deeply tied to shame, denial, and secrets. This applies to health, sexuality, mental health, emotions— everything. We are strong for having survived, for moving forward, and for breaking the cycle.
A dedicated Christian Scientist doesn’t need an outside influence in order to feel guilty about not having a healing quickly or about resorting to ‘materia medica.’ We are programmed to feel that way from the time we enter Sunday School, if not before. Christian Science is never to blame, it is always the individual’s lack of understanding.