Chrystal’s Story: My Second Lump (Part 2)

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 note from Chrystal: I was born a fourth-generation Christian Scientist, and finally left the religion when I was in my 40s. In this blog series, I will do my best to share with you my 40+ year journey. I have done my best to make the journey sequential, but it’s also themed to a large extent, and sometimes it has been necessary to take things out of sequence to share a theme. 


My Second Lump (Part 2)

The following is a flashback to when I was nearing the end of my branch church membership, with a problem that had spanned more than a decade of my life:

The growing lipoma on my back was now causing so much pain to my neck, that I couldn’t straighten my head for a few days at times. And, of course, being in Christian Science, I couldn’t take Advil to even relieve the pain. I remember walking around with tears in my eyes over the amount of pain I was in, and hiding in my house. I was raised to hide in my house when I was in pain. How can a community reach out to help you, when you’re hiding in your house? I remember a Mormon woman who lived in my neighborhood, and for some reason socially, she stopped by my house and we had a little visit, and I couldn’t straighten my head up that day. She so lovingly said to me, “that looks really painful.” I assured her I was fine, that it had happened before, and I would be fine soon. I was NOT fine! I couldn’t straighten my head, I had tears in my eyes, and if I tried to move my head in any way, I would cry out in incredible pain! I remember the love in her eyes. She was genuinely concerned for my well-being, and she was only a neighbor; I know now that if I ever needed someone to help me, and I called her, I know she would be there for me, even though I wouldn’t consider us “friends.” She was my neighbor and she has genuine love in her heart for humanity.

After a decade of praying with various practitioners (including my Teacher) about the lump, I remember feeling discouraged. I was so discouraged. I would rally myself and pray again. Because Christian Scientists are supposed to “yield not to discouragement.”

Individuals are consistent who, watching and praying, can “run, and not be weary; . . .walk, and not faint,” who gain good rapidly and hold their position, or attain slowly and yield not to discouragement. God requires perfection, but not until the battle between Spirit and flesh is fought and the victory won. – “Science and Health,” p. 254

Christian Scientists are taught that “discouragement makes the problem worse, and makes it harder to heal.” So I prayed. I payed practitioners to pray. I payed my Teacher to pray.  

I would see the 2 ladies at my second branch church who had the growths on them that were more pronounced, and I didn’t want to end up like that. Mine, at least, I could hide by wearing a patterned shirt. They couldn’t hide theirs any longer, no matter how they tried. I felt so sorry for them, to not be able to hide their problem any longer. And then I would chastise myself for thinking such things. I wanted to hug them and say, “I have a lump too, but I can hide mine,” but for someone to speak up & say, “I see your problem and I want to support you and share love with you” is verboten in the Christian Science culture. Speaking up about it makes it “more real.” Because by not speaking, it’s “not real.”

Our voice is given so much power in Christian Science. Apparently, just talking can do many things – it can make lumps grow, it can cause fevers, poison ivy, infectious diseases. It can ruin vacations, it can rain fire and brimstone on a bad church member. I am positive they believe words can kill, so they won’t speak unless it is cheerful, superficial, happy nonsense. I am wondering if I believe it is this sort of thing that drives people completely insane. (Denying our very existence, to our core. How can it keep us sane and normal if we deny 100% of our humanity?)

At some point, probably a year after my wonderful success with the “Church Alive” experience, I decided it was time to get this lump removed from my shoulder, by a medical doctor. It had gone on long enough. My arm would go to sleep for 45 minutes at a time, and I couldn’t wake it up. And that didn’t feel good to me. (It scares me a lot now that I am out of Christian Science and someone pointed out that this was pushing on a nerve, and it’s a good thing I didn’t have to lose my whole arm!) I voluntarily pulled my name out of “The Christian Science Journal.” (This means I was no longer a Journal Listed Christian Science Practitioner. I wasn’t kicked out or anything; I chose to do this for my own reasons. I left on good terms and was told I could come back within 6 months if I wanted, if it was longer than that, I would have to apply from scratch again.)

Then, began the guilt. Oh, the guilt. And I had no one to talk to about it. I had to suffer with my guilt at having “failed.” I had failed to heal it. I had failed to have enough faith. I had failed to pray enough. I had failed all the Practitioners that had prayed for me over the last 5+ years.

I know all the words to victim blame myself, and I made liberal use of all of them. Then, of course, I probably entered the depression that had probably started but been bulldozed over by “Knowing the Truth” and “Getting on with things I had to do anyway.” So I dealt with depression and guilt with the only way I knew how: by denying them. For months. I think it took me about 8 months to get over the guilt, and I finally started trying to find a doctor. (At this point, I was now a Sunday School teacher at the Unity Church.)

Now, someone who grew up going to doctors, might know where to start when looking for a doctor. But this was all brand new to me. I didn’t know how to find a doctor. (The doctor who removed my first lump, wasn’t covered by our new insurance.) I didn’t know what kind of doctor I wanted. It took me many months to find one. And of course, you can’t just walk in and say, “remove this please.” They had to send me to another doctor for a sonogram to look at it. Then results had to be done up. Then I had to have a consultation. Then I had to go to the operation. I was put under for the procedure (that was my choice – because the pain of the much smaller lump had been unbearable to me, and I couldn’t go through that again). I think this was in 2011. Then I had so many follow up appointments. The lump was far bigger than I had anticipated, and than he had anticipated. I have keloids in my back with basically means, “aggressive scar tissue,” and this scar on my back continues to grow and cause me pain years later. I consider this scar to be my “scar of leaving Christian Science.” Maybe someday I will wear it proudly. At this point, I still hide it under clothing. (I know of people getting tattoos to symbolize leaving the Christian Science church. I didn’t have to get a tattoo. I have my very real scar on my material body.)

I wish that was the end of my story of leaving Christian Science. That would wrap it all up, neat and tidy. But, of course, a 44 year story and it doesn’t just end there. And it’s now 2016 as I type this.

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6 Weeks to a Quaker (the first go-round)

I grew up as a church goer, and when I don’t attend, it feels like I have a “void” in my life. So I tried a local Quaker church. It was about 10 miles away, but traffic made it take about 40 minutes to get there on a Sunday morning. I took my oldest son with me to the Meetings, and I enjoyed them immensely. Here were people who cared about the environment. One person was a beekeeper and I loved that! Several were gardeners, and some were activists or worked as volunteers either in Peace Corps or in Africa, setting up a school to teach children. I loved everything about this church. I made my homemade applesauce for potluck, and I was instantly accepted as one of these people.

After about 4 weeks of attending, I called up my family and told them, “I am a Quaker now!” I think my own family thinks I am changeable and whack-a-doo, so they took it in stride. I also called a gal from my Association who completely and lovingly supported me (she left our Association the following year & converted to Judaism), and I called our Teacher who asked me, “what’s appealing about the Quaker church?” I told her I liked sitting in the Silence, and how that brought me peace and calm for several days after in my life. After that, she told our Association (an Association is an annual meeting of the students taught by the Teacher, and guests the Teacher welcomes too) to try to meditate for 20 minutes every day.

My 6th Sunday in a row attending at The Quaker Meeting was potluck Sunday. I asked the lady next to me what it took to join the church. She told me, “well, you’re assigned some people to make sure you are spiritually growing.” I hadn’t yet felt like I was leaving Christian Science; I was just leaving the branch church, and I still wanted my own Bible and my copy of Science and Health. Her comment made me so uncomfortable, I couldn’t return to the church. I blamed the traffic. It was so far away, even though it really wasn’t; traffic just made it feel so much more far away. I started visiting other kinds of churches.

Chrystal’s Story: The Last Straw – Part 2

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 note from Chrystal: I was born a fourth-generation Christian Scientist, and finally left the religion when I was in my 40s. In this blog series, I will do my best to share with you my 40+ year journey. I have done my best to make the journey sequential, but it’s also themed to a large extent, and sometimes it has been necessary to take things out of sequence to share a theme. 


The last straw for me to leave the second church, was this:

I had taught Sunday School there almost from the get-go. My sons were in Sunday School there. I had an intense strong belief that since the church proclaims they are a “Christian” church, that “The Holy Bible” should be taught every Sunday to the kids. I thought it made sense.

My older son had a teacher who would take photos and bring them to class. Random things. Frankly, none of the photos were worth a second glance to me. And this teacher would show photos to my son of random things and that was what Sunday School was like. He is a nice man, but I didn’t see any substance to the class.

My younger son’s teacher was a very good friend of mine – she was always one of my biggest supporters of all of my ideas to modernize our church. She is still a good friend to this day, and she has lovingly kept her mouth shut about me leaving CS, though I am certain it hurts her that I have left Christian Science. I remember her telling me how much it hurt her when her brother left. But she has been wonderfully lovingly supportive of me and never said how hurt she is by my leaving the religion. She taught my son’s class ½ time with another teacher; they alternated. My Sunday School class was the next grade up, and I sat right next to them so I knew what was going on the whole time. I remember the other teacher having the kids pray about what to draw, then draw, then cut the paper, then recycle the paper, then clean up the paper, and ok, let’s hold hands and now we will clean up. It was a moment of daycare. It wasn’t Sunday School. Neither teacher had a Bible-based education for the kids.

My final straw at that church was a Sunday School teacher’s meeting, and we all sat there and talked about rotating teachers for the new school year, and what would we like, and if you were a parent, what would you like. I spoke up and said, “I need my children to have The Bible taught to them; it’s a Christian church, teach The Bible. They aren’t stupid, they love the stories, teach The Bible. I need my kids to have teachers who teach The Bible.” A Christian Science Teacher was there and nodded along with me. She had previously taught my older son and said, “he knows his stuff.” She agreed with everything I said.

The classes were then arranged during the next few weeks, and my kids had been placed with the identical teachers. They had completely disregarded my input about my kids. I never went back to that branch church again. I honestly felt like it was a waste of my time.

I did try to attend yet another branch church, and it was my intention to join. (Apparently, “God” really had to clonk me on the head hard before I learned lessons. Or, I am fiercely loyal to a losing organization.) I walked in the door, knew people, they were so happy to see me, and there were no chairs for my kids. Their Sunday School was bursting at the seams. (They must be doing something right!) And they were too full and couldn’t find chairs for my kids. They did finally find chairs after a scramble. I think one got a rolling desk chair. That seemed kind of cool, to me, actually. But that was the first hint that we didn’t belong there – no physical room for my kids to be there.

The second clue I got was a long nasty email from one of the members there who said, “you didn’t even say ‘hi’ to me.” She went on and on. I hadn’t even seen her, and if I am the new one who walked in the door, shouldn’t she be the one to come over and greet me? A lot of the other people got that memo and caught me and talked to me and I couldn’t exactly walk around and go look at all the people. Her email was so long and so angry, that I said, “I’m not doing this again.” And I never went back to another branch church. I had finally gotten the memo that the Christian Science church experience really isn’t for me. My kids still loved Christian Science Sunday School, so I let them attend every now and then with my brothers at their church for about a year. We also started visiting other kinds of churches together. The changeable nature of all of this started to take a toll on my kids; I had also dragged them to other Christian Science churches when we were working on the VBS. It all added up and they got tired of the lack of stability. That was a rough patch, added on to the other rough patches.

Didn’t Jesus say in The Bible, “they will know you are my followers by how much you love one another” (John 13:35)? Clearly, this is a church that isn’t getting that memo.

I left branch church experience feeling completely burned out, depressed (though I didn’t have words for that because I had faithfully muted every commercial, and denied all of my “negative” emotions), disengaged, fried, and un-creative. They took the best of me and ground me completely under foot, and made sure every single door had hit me on the way out. I had successfully prayed away every single part of my personality, and I was now a walking zombie, barely able to take care of my kids. But I was blind to all of that. It took me 6 years to recognize that, because “denial is strong with our people.”

Now that I have been out of the church for a few years, I am starting to realize my ideas were NOT bad: they were just close minded people with a serious fear of any kind of change. The church is happily stuck in the 19th century, and they don’t want to budge. For a church that preaches, “Fear not, be not afraid” (Isaiah 44:8), they are the most fear-filled people I have ever known.

For about a year after leaving the Christian Science branch church experience, I knew that was the hardest thing I’d ever done in my life. I considered this experience of leaving to be “my divorce experience.” My husband (who was never a Christian Scientist and has been completely supportive of me in my spiritual journey) told me, “I expect you will need to heal for a while after this.” He was right. I am now more than 5 years out of the branch church experience, and I am finally starting to feel better.


Notes from Chrystal:

Here is a resource about emotional abuse. It is painful stuff. Please read this and get out of any relationship where you are being emotionally abused. I am still recovering from this painful experience.

Here is an informative article about anxiety and depression.


Notes from The Ex-Christian Scientist:

Unless you have formally withdrawn your membership, you are likely still counted as a member of the Mother Church, aka The First Church of Christ, Scientist, in Boston.

A quick e-mail to the Office of the Clerk, can confirm if you are still a member. If you are still a member, you can formally withdraw your membership via e-mail, or write a letter. You can reach the Church Clerk at: [email protected]

More information about withdrawing from The Mother Church can be found in our Resource Index drop down menu.

Chrystal’s Story: The Last Straw – Part 1

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 note from Chrystal: I was born a fourth-generation Christian Scientist, and finally left the religion when I was in my 40s. In this blog series, I will do my best to share with you my 40+ year journey. I have done my best to make the journey sequential, but it’s also themed to a large extent, and sometimes it has been necessary to take things out of sequence to share a theme. 


The Last Straw (Part 1)

Leaving my first branch church

A gal who had been raised in a Bible Belt kind of church had a toddler son. It was coming up on Easter Sunday, and she wanted an Easter Egg hunt for her son, because her neighbors were elderly and she didn’t have anyone else she knew who had kids, so she thought it would be fun for the kids at church. I know “The Manual of The Mother Church” by Mary Baker Eddy specifically states, “no special celebrations at Easter,” and I knew the members would hate the idea. I thought really fast, because I was proceeding from a place of “let’s let our member who converted to Christian Science feel loved and accepted,” and I said, “let’s call the daycare place next door, and see if we can use their playground for our Easter Egg Hunt on Easter Sunday!” This gal loved the idea. I wasn’t going to be in town, but I arranged for all of it to happen. Then, I gave the announcement to the First Reader.

The Sunday before Easter, I had just finished teaching Sunday School, and the Second Reader came storming down the stairs to me in Sunday School — she was angry. Whew! My students hadn’t all been picked up yet by their parents. This church member started to berate me and tell me off, with complete disregard to my students. She couldn’t believe that as Second Reader, she had to hear about this from the announcement! How dare I come up with having an Easter Egg Hunt at church!

I couldn’t get a word in edgewise for at least 7 minutes. She knew how to talk without breathing and I couldn’t interrupt her to say, “it wasn’t my idea! It was this other person’s idea, and I moved it over to the daycare so it wouldn’t be on church grounds!” I couldn’t believe how furious she was with me for this thing that I had tried to arrange so our own member could feel loved.

As this church member friend berated me in front of my Sunday School kids, I realized, “oh my gosh, she won’t let me speak to say ‘it’s not even my idea,’ and “it has come to this in the church: people think: ‘that idea is SO BAD, it MUST be Chrystal’s.’”

As it turned out, the parents had the Easter Egg hunt in our own parking lot (remember – I was out of town), and several moms griped to me about how terrible it was. I had arranged for the daycare playground next door, and they chose our own dirty parking lot with litter and gravel among the Easter Eggs. Way to celebrate Jesus Christ’s resurrection. (This church has a bus stop at the edge of the property, and I have seen cigarette butts in the parking lot too. It wouldn’t surprise me if there were also cigarette butts among the Easter Eggs!)

I remember lying awake in bed with that drama playing in my head over and over and over. It was the middle of the night, and I pictured the story of Daniel in the Lion’s Den. I got out of bed with my husband sleeping right there, and my boys sleeping in their rooms down the hall. I knelt down next to my bed and prayed. I had never knelt down on my knees, folded my hands and prayed. But I knelt down the way I thought Daniel might have done every day, and I prayed. I prayed as hard as I could pray. I cried and cried, and I prayed and prayed. I remember suddenly having a vision of “a new heaven and a new church,” (a clever variation on Revelation 21:1) and I knew everything would be ok.

I withdrew my name from membership 2 days later. (I had planned to withdraw 3 days later, but I got a phone call from another member berating me for something else, so I resigned immediately after that phone call. It had all gone on long enough.) Stupid me, I went to another branch church and joined them the following Sunday. (I told them “your branch is closer to my house, so I am just switching.” It was closer to my home, but that wasn’t completely why I was switching.)


Notes from Chrystal:

Here is a resource about emotional abuse. It is painful stuff. Please read this and get out of any relationship where you are being emotionally abused. I am still recovering from this painful experience.

Here is an informative article about anxiety and depression.


Notes from The Ex-Christian Scientist:

Unless you have formally withdrawn your membership, you are likely still counted as a member of the Mother Church, aka The First Church of Christ, Scientist, in Boston.

A quick e-mail to the Office of the Clerk, can confirm if you are still a member. If you are still a member, you can formally withdraw your membership via e-mail, or write a letter. You can reach the Church Clerk at: [email protected]

More information about withdrawing from The Mother Church can be found in our Resource Index drop down menu.

Chrystal’s Story: On Recycling and Medicine

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 note from Chrystal: I was born a fourth-generation Christian Scientist, and finally left the religion when I was in my 40s. In this blog series, I will do my best to share with you my 40+ year journey. I have done my best to make the journey sequential, but it’s also themed to a large extent, and sometimes it has been necessary to take things out of sequence to share a theme. 


Why don’t Christian Scientists recycle? Oh yeah: Because “matter isn’t real.”

I wish all of my ideas had gone over so well. (For clarification: I was a member at one (very small) local branch church, eventually left my membership, and then I joined another (very large) local branch church.

At the first church, with permission from The Board, I bought recycle bins, and I put them around the church. And no one used them. I also was the maid at the church, and emptied the trash and took the recycling home. People threw trash in the recycling and recycling into the trash. Constantly. It was such a battle. The bins were right next to each other, and their actions showed blatant disrespect. I couldn’t believe the constant disrespect.

At my second branch church, I remember church members laughing at me when I suggested people should bring their own water bottles to church and use the water fountain, and we should stop buying the plastic water bottles. I remember one man taking the paper off of his water bottle, rolling it up, and feeding it back into the water bottle. And he laughed about it. I remember fuming about it. That moment is seared into my memory.

I tried to make our ultra boring bulletin boards lively: I added color and made gorgeous flyers. No one seemed to care or notice.

I took my Sunday School kids outside to sit under trees. My students LOVED it. We would go for walks in the woods and have wonderful talks about trees, nature, goodness, the universe. Everything. (I don’t understand why other teachers didn’t do this too? Is it because trees are made up of matter?)

I remember wanting us to have hymn sings more regularly instead of just at Christmas time. I wanted us to have potlucks, and dinners, and fun events. I knew we should want to attract families to our church. “Let’s have a free event for the neighbors and get a moon bounce!” Idea after idea was shot down. Everything was shot down. It was so incredibly discouraging. I wanted us to have a hymn sing to learn the new hymns from the Supplement so we would be comfortable and sing them during regular services. I wanted the kids from our Sunday School who played instruments to feel invited to come up & play for us. I wanted us to give money to the students to attend Christian Science camps. I wanted us to paint the walls with murals and do so many things.

I remember crying and crying because my ideas were rejected over and over and over. I was so despondent. I didn’t feel like we should do all of my ideas, but it was so discouraging to constantly be berated for my ideas. I was getting yelled at more and more, and people were starting to call me on the phone to tell me they had heard of my latest idea and how terrible it was, and they had to chime in and tell me what a terrible idea I had. I was crying more and more frequently at home. I thought I should bear this cross, I should actually “kiss the cross” so I could “wake to know a world more bright.” (“Poems” by Mary Baker Eddy, p. 12) The crosses got more heavy and more burdensome. They never became lighter and easier to bear. My husband saw me crying more often in our bedroom over church activities. At one point, he told me, “church is a volunteer activity, if it’s not fun, why do it?” I was so removed from understanding this as a concept, that it felt like he had literally spoken Greek to me. I kept running his sentence through my head for months after that: “If it’s not fun, why do it?”

At one point, my first church wanted to do our annual lecture. (As required in “The Manual of The Mother Church” by Mary Baker Eddy.) The next town over from the church has a big Spanish population. I tried to convince the members that we should have a local Spanish lecturer come and give a Spanish lecture and have it be at the library, which is incredibly central to where the Spanish people live and hang out. You might have thought I had talked about dropping a bomb on the church and destroying everything. Everyone hated the idea. I mean, they really hated it. They told me that the Spanish population could hire their own lecturer if they wanted one. I felt like if the Spanish people had probably never heard of Christian Science then we could help them know about it. But I was of course out voted. And we moved forward with our lecture and had our standard English lecture. And it was attended by all the usual people – folks from the area Christian Science churches who all lecture-hop and attend each other’s lectures. Who were we trying to serve? Ourselves? We clearly weren’t interested in serving our neighbors.

My second branch church wanted to completely remodel their building. The whole Sunday School needed a face lift. I know members don’t like to spend money, and I was asked to come up with a plan for “what can we do.” I came up with a whole plan, within 24 hours (which I thought was pretty darn impressive; I worked really hard on that plan and got it to the Sunday School Superintendent right away). It had 3 tiers to it. Tier one was: “high impact, low cost or no cost.” Tier two was: high impact, some cost. Tier three was: high impact, high cost. I figured they could pick things from the different tiers (some things on the list were “1) Rearrange the furniture. 2) I have a ton of my own artwork we can hang on all the walls. A higher end (expensive) idea was: “get a baby grand piano and arrange the entire Sunday School around it, and have classes with couches”).

How many ideas do you think they did on the list? How long do you think it took them? Well, they did take me up on the offer to hang my paintings. The Superintendant took all my paintings, put them on the floor around the Sunday School, and the students voted for their favorites by tossing post it notes on the paintings. Then, they basically hung up all of the paintings around the Sunday School.

About 6 months later, they pulled down all of the paintings, barely packaged them, and returned them to me. I was appalled they did not ask me to come and remove my own artwork. They had taken down my artwork, and put them in a cold, damp storage room, and then called me to say: “how can we get these to you?” Disrespect. Again. I had been away for a week when that happened. I had zero warning, and I was gone, and they took down the paintings without even informing me that they had been considering it.

Not only was I never thanked for that list; it was never even acknowledged. As far as I know, they never did any of the other items, and they probably will never do anything other than paint the inside of the Sunday School, which they last did when I was a kid there probably 30 years ago.



Christian Science and Medicine do not mix

One other thing at my second branch church (and among most branch churches, I believe), was a continual conversation about “should we allow people who are currently on medicine to join the church?”

This church membership whined and complained all the time about the low membership numbers (when they also proudly wore the badge of “the largest Christian Science church in the state.”) They complained that they were all getting older and “no young people are members.” (I was RIGHT THERE – ½ the age of the majority of their membership, and I was a Journal-listed Practitioner. But apparently, I didn’t count. They wanted “young people.” I constantly heard the phrase, “If we only had more healings!”

We had 2 gals who had grown up in Sunday School, wanting to join the church. One had lifelong epilepsy and was on a medicine to control it after years of nothing to help her. I grew up with her, and one time I witnessed her turn around and around and suddenly fall to pavement. I had no idea what “epilepsy” was, and I was so afraid she was hurt, and I had no clue how to respond to this seizure. It was scary to me. (I wonder if another child in another faith community would have been educated that this person had epilepsy, and since she’s your friend, you might be told what to do in the event of a seizure, so you don’t witness her falling on hard pavement and hitting her head? Well, she and I were raised in Christian Science and we were indoctrinated that “it isn’t real; it’s not a part of her, so ignore it.”)

The other young gal who wanted to join the church had also grown up in Christian Science and was barely over ½ my age. She was on medicine for maybe depression or anxiety, or some other mental issue that was never told to me clearly (because to name any problem makes it “more real”). They both loved the church and wanted to join as church members. These gals’ parents were members of the church, and the daughters wanted to join too.

The membership refused to vote to let them join the church. I was an outspoken person saying, “they should be able to join! We want members. We want young members. These two gals love this church, let them join!” And I had a small handful of people who agreed with me, but wouldn’t speak up about it. There was one incredibly angry and vocal man (who had once held a prestigious position at a big news organization) who was opposed to them joining the church. The venomous words that came out of his mouth shocked everyone. And yet, he “won” the argument. Time after time, he showed up at every meeting and spoke with such force and anger. At one point he said, “maybe I should leave the church then!” And everyone sat silent. I was thinking, “yes! Leave! Good riddance, Mr. Big Shot Attitude man!” (Why is it that the angry argument always wins at the Christian Science church? Jesus said: “By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another.” – John 13: 35 (By the way, this is right after the story where Jesus washed the feet of his disciples, and told the disciples that “the servant is not greater than his lord” – John 13:16.)

John 13:

 

 

Jesus Washes the Disciples’ Feet

 

So when he had washed their feet, and taken his garments, and sat down again, he said unto them, Know ye what I have done to you? Ye call me, Master, and, Lord: and ye say well; for so I am. If I then, the Lord and the Master, have washed your feet, ye also ought to wash one another’s feet. For I have given you an example, that ye also should do as I have done to you. Verily, verily, I say unto you, A servant is not greater than his lord; neither one that is sent greater than he that sent him. If ye know these things, blessed are ye if ye do them.

 

 

A New Command I Give You 

 

 

Jesus saith, Now is the Son of man glorified, and God is glorified in him; and God shall glorify him in himself, and straightway shall he glorify him. Little children, yet a little while I am with you. A new commandment I give unto you, that ye love one another; even as I have loved you, that ye also love one another. By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another.

 

The members never let these two kind gals join the church. My patience with the membership started wearing thin when they wouldn’t fight for the right of these two girls to join the church they had grown up in and sincerely loved, simply because they were on medicine for long term problems they had. Their being on medicine wasn’t anyone’s business, anyway! It certainly wasn’t any of my business that they were on medicine. Who cares? They are good people and deserve to be loved and cherished and appreciated for their wonderful qualities.

Growing up in Christian Science

The following is a collection of contributions from members of the Ex-Christian Science collective about growing up in Christian Science. 


 

It was very difficult to explain my religion’s beliefs to my friends. I was always trying to make it sound like a more ‘normal’ religion, in fact writing “United Church” on a form once because I was embarrassed to write Christian Science. I so wanted to be like everyone else. I didn’t want my friends to know that there was no minister at our church, that there were two people on a podium and one read from a book of garbled language I couldn’t understand and finally, it was mortifying to explain that I had to go to Sunday School instead of the church service until I was twenty!

– Tessa


When I was growing up, we definitely had pictures of Mary Baker Eddy around our house. My parents gave me a framed portrait to keep on my bedside table, in fact. I was pretty much a believer throughout my entire childhood. Then I went through the ‘it works, it’s just not for me’ phase. I think I was in my late twenties when I finally realized how much I had been misled. It’s hard to know better when everyone around you, particularly your loved ones, are fervent believers.

– Beth


When we would come home from school and announce fearfully that measles or something else was going around, my mother would say firmly, “Contagion is all in the mind!” and send us back to school. I would brag to the other students that my siblings and I never got sick because sickness was all in the mind. Then I got chicken pox. I had no idea what was happening to me and of course my mother wouldn’t have had any medical education to help with that. I remember lying alone and sick in my room staring at every inch of my skin. Where was the chicken that I was sure would be sticking to me?

– Tessa


I did everything I could to hide the fact that I was a Christian Scientist. Even my closest friends didn’t know. It was embarrassing. It made me different in ways I didn’t want to be different. Sunday School was an hour of torturous boredom, and often my parents had to fight with me to get me ready in time to go, and when I was a little kid, I couldn’t stand the little old ladies who always wanted to pinch my cheeks. Ugh! I hated that! That is why to this day, I am always extremely respectful of peoples’ personal space–especially children.

– Jeremy

“The idea that you’re deceived by illusions is itself an illusion.”

By Michael, an Ex-Christian Scientist Group contributor. Michael is a pseudonym, to ensure anonymity.

My parents thought I was perfect.

It wasn’t just me. My parents thought everyone was perfect. They were Christian Scientists, and they believed that all people are God’s perfect children, and that God’s perfect children are literally flawless in every way. They raised me to believe this. They also raised me to believe that people are continually deceived by dreamlike illusions, such as pain, suffering, and death. Eventually, this began to feel like a contradiction to me. One summer, when I was sixteen years old, I raised my hand in Sunday School and asked “If I’m perfect, how can I be deceived by illusions?”

The teacher said, with no trace of irony, “You’re not. The idea that you’re deceived by illusions is itself an illusion.”

For three months after that, I poked at this question as if I were prodding a sore tooth. It was disturbing. Instead of finding answers, I came up with more and more unanswerable questions. Why do Christian Scientists go to car mechanics, but not doctors? Is there really any difference between real pain and illusory pain if they both hurt the same? If Christian Scientists are sitting on a great scientific discovery, why do they just talk about it in church instead of getting it peer-reviewed and published?

After many hours of lying awake in bed, I eventually realized that Christian Science no longer made sense to me. I don’t remember how I told my parents that I wanted to stop going to church. I know that they were disappointed, but they agreed to let me stay home on Sundays and Wednesdays. I think maybe they thought this was just a phase I was going through.

It wasn’t a phase. I’m not a Christian Scientist any more. I haven’t set foot in a Christian Science church in almost fifteen years.

At first, I worried that my relationship with my parents would be damaged, but it turns out that I needn’t have worried. My parents still love me, and I still love them. The only thing that’s changed is that we no longer talk about religion with each other–and honestly, that’s a relief.

Five Questions: P’s Answers


When people leave Christian Science there are five questions that pop up again and again. We can only answer these questions for ourselves. By sharing these answers, we hope to shed a little light into the murky depths of Christian Science. Find all the answers to the Five Questions on the FiveQuestions tag.

The following answers are from P, a member of the Ex-Christian Science Facebook community.


How did you get into Christian Science?

I was born into it. My mother was born and raised in Christian Science, and my father converted to Christian Science when he married my mother.

Why did you stay in it for so long?

I didn’t actually stay for very long. I left at age 16, which is fairly young for a child to renounce his parents’ religion.

What made you decide to leave?

My parents and Sunday School teachers raised me to believe that the universe was literally perfect. They told me that there was no such thing as pain, suffering, or death–there were only dreamlike illusions of pain, suffering, and death. They told me that if we could only stop being fooled by these illusions, they would melt away like a bad dream.

One summer, when I was sixteen years old, I raised my hand in Sunday School and asked “If I’m perfect, how can I be deceived by illusions?”
The teacher said, with no trace of irony, “You’re not. The idea that you’re deceived by illusions is itself an illusion.”
That was the moment when Christian Science stopped making sense to me. Over the next three months, I struggled to maintain a coherent theology, but instead, I just kept coming up with more unanswerable questions. Why do Christian Scientists go to car mechanics, but not doctors? Is there really any difference between real pain and illusory pain, if they both hurt the same? If Christian Scientists are sitting on a great scientific discovery (as they say), why do they just talk about it in church instead of getting it peer-reviewed and published?
Eventually, I came to the conclusion that Christian Science is self-contradictory, and that even if you take out the contradictory parts, everything that’s left is still demonstrably false.
Why would anyone join?
I ask myself sometimes why my father converted to Christian Science. I don’t think that he did it just to marry my mother. I know that my father’s mother (my grandmother) died when my father was still a boy, after wasting away in a hospital, and I suspect that this gave my father a lifelong unconscious resentment of doctors and medicine. Christian Science is a welcoming environment for someone who doesn’t like doctors.
Another reason why someone might join Christian Science is that they’ve been reading books by Louise Hay, Deepak Chopra, or Rhonda Byrne, and they’ve come to believe that their thoughts can directly affect the world. Christian Scientists also believe that their thoughts can directly affect the world, so a person who holds this belief might see a Christian Science church as a community of like-minded individuals. (They might be in for a surprise, though, when they learn about Christian Scientists’ other beliefs!)
Did you really believe? 

Yes. All throughout my childhood, I believed that I was perfect, and that I could make bad things go away if I concentrated on disbelieving them. In hindsight, I can see that my efforts had no effect, but at the time, I never doubted that Christian Science was true. If the ailment that I was praying about happened to resolve on its own, I would see that as a confirmation of Christian Science. If the ailment didn’t resolve, I wouldn’t attribute the failure to Christian Science, I would just assume that I wasn’t praying hard enough. That’s called confirmation bias, and it’s an insidious force.


If you would like to contribute your experiences to The Ex-Christian Scientist, you can email us at [email protected]

We went to the park

By an anonymous Ex-Christian Scientist Group contributor.

I was chatting with a woman in line at the bakery this morning. She got her grandson a sticky roll and hot chocolate and was expecting him to behave in church. I got my children something similar, and we went to a nearby park.

I sat and watched the kids play, occasionally coming back to check in with me, and to eat a few more bites of their pastries. When they tired of climbing, swinging and sliding, we went for a walk along the trails through the protected nature area adjacent the play area.

As we walked, I thought back to the little boy and his grandmother who were heading off to church. I remembered all the Sundays growing up, where I had wanted to sleep in, but instead we were hurried off to church, a twenty minute drive, and we often had to get there early so my parents could usher, or my mother could mind the childcare room.

Almost every Sunday from birth until I turned 20 (the magical age we were ‘allowed’ to attend with the main congregation), I was at church, either in the childcare room (until I turned three or four), and then in Sunday School. I did slack off a bit on Sunday School attendance when I was at Principia, but in my defense, being at Prin was like always being at Sunday School.

Christian Science was all around us, selected readings at house meetings, inspirational post-its on the bathroom mirrors, roommates who read the lesson, friends who attended the Christian Science Org. meetings on Tuesday mornings, and professors, practitioners, and lecturers who gave talks in the evenings about how Christian Science inspired them. Attendance, while optional, was recommended, and your absence was often commented upon.

Some days I liked Sunday School. It was one of the few places I could be ‘normal’. No one looked at me because I was weird for not visiting a doctor, or because I decided not to drink, experiment with drugs, or have premarital sex. I was free to talk about my understanding of God and Ms. Eddy’s seven synonyms and how they could apply to my life without being looked at like I was a freak.

Some days this felt more sincere than others, some days I felt I believed it, and some days I felt like I was parroting the party line, memorizing and regurgitating information. I had a lot of questions for my Sunday School teachers, I was eager to learn more, I wanted to know how Christian Science worked, I wanted answers.

I spent a fair bit of time ‘chatting’ with the Sunday School Superintendent (that sounds much more official than it was) about how I was ‘interfering’ with others’ spiritual growth and my questions were ‘not appropriate’. Sunday School teachers tried to put me off, by telling me I’d have to wait and take Class Instruction and all would be revealed, but I never made it that far as I was never ‘led to the right teacher’.

The best part were the Thanksgiving Day services. We all got to sit in the main auditorium; everyone, even the little kids (little kids being about six and up, the childcare was usually quite full those days). We would read the President’s Thanksgiving Proclamation which always included something about pilgrims, and then the most random people would stand up and talk at length until the reader had to say “THANK YOU” in a super firm tone and an usher had to come take away the microphone. It was like the Oscars of Christian Science testimonies.

When I made the non-optional transition to church at the age of 20, I hated it. There was no time for discussion, or questioning. You sit and are read the same lesson you have (theoretically) been reading all week. Christian Science church services are not fun, they fail at being interesting, they don’t engage the audience, and they’re tedious.

To the consternation of my mother, my children are not going to experience any of these things. As an adult, I do plenty of things I dislike that I have to do. Church attendance is not one of them, and forcing my children to attend Sunday School isn’t either.

She was considered barely manageable because she occasionally asked questions

By an anonymous Ex-Christian Scientist Group contributor.

There was only one other occasional Christian Scientist kid who came to my church, a girl called Sean. Sean was unpopular amongst the old ladies who taught Sunday School as she was considered barely manageable. This was because she occasionally asked questions and preferred to talk about what she had seen on TV and which pop stars she liked instead of listening to them.

One day, one of the old ladies in the main service had a heart attack, and Sean and I were whisked outside so quickly our feet barely touched the ground, where we were made to sit on a wall by the entrance to the church. Our parents and the Sunday school leaders were abjectly horrified that we would see the ambulance that they had called, or the ambulance men ‘doing things’, and wanted us out of the way.

We saw the paramedics arrive and take one of those heart electrocution things inside with a stretcher. Sean didn’t know what it was, but I was proud of myself that I could tell her as I had seen it on TV. She seemed very interested that such a thing existed. I concurred that it was extremely cool all the things that medicine on TV dramas could do, especially as Christian Science didn’t appear to be able to do anything, evidenced by the fact that one of their number appeared to have actually died during a service and none of their colleagues could think of doing anything other than calling the emergency services.

We were then rushed back inside and quarantined back in the Sunday School room. This is because the medics were going to carry Mrs. X out and we were to be saved the traumatic sight of human beings giving another human being basic care. Mrs. X’s fate was never alluded to, or her identity. Other than by trying to work out who it had been like a game of geriatric ‘Guess Who,’ the following week we were never to know. Was she in a better place? I suspected in my heart of hearts that if she never had to go back to that awful stultifying church again, she probably was.

But it was obvious it had scared all the adults badly, and none of them appeared to be getting any comfort from their beliefs.

“Are Sin Disease and Death Real?” taught us the obvious answer: no.

 

The following is a collection of contributions from members of the Ex-Christian Science collective about Church and Sunday School. 

 

 

When I was about ten, and a student of the Christian Science Sunday School since I was two, I was so indoctrinated that I thought the last sentence of the Scientific Statement of Being was “Sunday School is dismissed!”

A friend’s father died, and since we had been taught so much about the unreality of death, I decided I should handle it that way. I did not tell my parents, and was expecting to see the departed one walking around any minute. My parents found out about the death from someone else and asked me why I didn’t tell them. I explained all I learned in Sunday School about death! My non-Christian Scientist dad then gave me a talk on reality— real reality.

I was miffed! I talked to a practitioner about this later and she advised me “You don’t walk on the water.” How much should we be expected to handle—or not handle—at the age of ten? Doing some thinking, we had a lesson called ‘Are Sin Disease and Death Real?’ which taught us the obvious answer: no. It made for a very confusing childhood!

– Anonymous


I really liked Sunday School and always enjoyed talking about philosophy and religion. Most of my Sunday School teachers were nice and interesting people. Of course, I always had a nagging feeling that even though I talked the talk, I would someday disappoint everyone in terms of Christian Science.

– Marie


There was a little girl in my Sunday School class; I was shy and awkward and she was pretty and popular. She picked on me very overtly, I mean loudly made fun of me and other things that were downright mean. When I finally got the courage to ask my dad to tell the Superintendent about it, the Superintendent chose to respond by sending me a letter to my home address. She said I was letting personal sense get in the way of enjoying Sunday School, and that I must remember that “we can’t always arrange things exactly the way we would want them to be.”

– Ashley