One might ask me, “what is/was your biggest doubt about the efficacy of Christian Science?” In answer to that, I offer three words: my younger brother. He had a motor condition known as cerebral palsy. In Christian Science-speak, it would be called a belief of cerebral palsy. Yeah, it’s not real (in the fairy-land of Christian Science)–but try telling that to those who have it, or those who care for those who do. Oh, how many times my teenaged self tried to deny the “reality” of my brother’s condition while I was either feeding him dinner or getting him dressed. Cerebral palsy comes in varying degrees of severity. There are many who live quite independent and full lives with it, becoming in some cases well known as actors and comedians, or in many other fields of endeavour. Others, such as my brother, have it in it’s most severe form–rendering them unable to walk, talk, or care for themselves in any way. Many people who are born with this condition as severe as my brother had it do not live much beyond age 30. My brother made it to 16. He died in 1985, the year I graduated from high school. I had just turned 18. I grew up fast. I did not take it well.
My brother and I were very close, and I often looked after him myself once I was old enough. Despite the fact that conversations with him were one-sided, we had a deep and unique relationship. To understand him, you had to truly know him. I loved my brother dearly, and often had dreams in which he was able bodied like I was, and we had conversations. Those dreams were vivid, and I have never forgotten them.
Now, Christian Science teaches that matter is not real, all is spiritual perfection. It also promises healing of any material condition, and that would include cerebral palsy. None of that ever squared with the vivid evidence before me in the form of my incapacitated brother, bound for his entire life to a wheelchair. I, along with my parents, prayed fervently for healing for him. It is that kind of false hope that is so damaging, in my view. It sets people up for some of the worst disappointments, and sometimes leads to devastating physical consequences. I know one person who is an above-the-knee amputee who can personally attest to that. By the way, I am not aware that there has been any verifiable, documented case of anyone being healed of cerebral palsy. It is medically incurable.
Of course, if a healing doesn’t come, it could not possibly be because Christian Science failed. By the way, Christian Scientists, and especially the Church like to point out that modern medicine fails frequently, and it does. But, modern medicine does not claim an ability to heal anything and everything. Christian Science does. In the Christian Science view, the healing did not happen because we did not “see” past the material picture. In essence, it was our fault. Fuck that! Sorry, but that is the ONLY picture there was! We did see what was really there. It was staring us right in the face! He had cerebral palsy. That is an undeniable, albeit tragic fact! Christian Science could never cure it, no matter what kind of mental gymnastics we attempted.
Now, for the record, my brother was under medical care for his myriad medical issues for most of his life. Doctors had warned my parents that due to a deformity of his spine (scoliosis), his lungs and heart were crowded within his chest, and that lung infections were serious for him. We did whatever we could to mitigate any chance of him catching cold, or worse. However, he died due to the effects of a chest cold. Fortunately, my parents were never “radical reliers” when I was growing up, and while we didn’t go to the doctor regularly, and I was never immunized, if something got at all serious, and healing through Christian Science wasn’t happening, they weren’t above seeking other means of treatment. For me, that never happened. I drew the good cards in the game of genetic poker, I guess.
I have always maintained, and still do, that if my brother had ever jumped up out of that wheelchair and had a conversation with me, I would have never doubted Christian Science, and I would certainly not be writing a blog like this one. The fact that he never did was one of the biggest cuts in the “death by 1,000 cuts” as I’ve described it of my faith in Christian Science. You’d think it would have been all I needed to leave, but it wasn’t. I used to wonder how some whacked out crazy religions could have such a hold on people, yet I refused to see how whacked out my own religion was.