This is the second in an ongoing series of posts on the topic of contradictions I have found within the practice, culture, and/or teachings of Christian Science. Look for these posts in the category ‘Contradictions‘. To reduce the risk of contradicting myself, I will not at this point state how many posts there will be in this series. 😉
As some regular readers here may know, I spent a number of years working at the Christian Science Church headquarters in Boston, Massachusetts (otherwise known as The Mother Church, or as I like to call it–The Mother Ship). I had some wonderful experiences there, and I also had some of the most trying times of my life there–both professionally and personally. It was a great growing and learning experience, and while I am happy beyond belief to put it behind me, I wouldn’t trade the lessons I’ve learned for anything, and they continue to serve me well.
Which, brings me to the topic du jour. One of the first things I noticed when I moved to Boston and started my new job at the vaunted Mother Ship, was the ever pervasive presence of food. It was everywhere. My duties often took me all over the vast campus, and desks had food out on them, usually homemade stuff. It was like working at a giant branch church filled with little old ladies who liked to bake stuff. Also, when we had meetings, food was often catered in, especially if said meeting was at or near lunch. All-employee meetings occasioned a sumptuous catered affair, usually held in the Sunday School auditorium. I remember one all-employee Christmas Party where there were those fountains of liquid chocolate of differing sorts (from dark to milk chocolate), and pieces of cake, and strawberries to dip in it, like a fondue. I did then, and still do maintain that I would like one of these in my living room.
While I have generally not been a slender person through most of my adult life, and I usually tried to keep active, my weight ballooned up quickly after I moved to Boston. My “come to Jesus” moment came when I was back home to visit my parents (actually to where I now live) back around 2002, and I went on a hike that in the past I could have done with one hand tied behind my back. It nearly killed me. It felt like my heart was going to break out of my chest. I had ballooned up to nearly 300 pounds. I have lost and gained and lost much of that in intervening years, and am working on a final downward spiral in the weight department now; so no, I am not a small person, but neither am I as huge as I once was. So, now that I’ve placed myself firmly in the glass house, I’m now ready to lob a brick.
I was not the only super-sized person in cubicle land at the Mother Ship. Nor was I the heaviest, by even a long shot. I knew a few who were so overweight they could barely walk, and the weight was becoming a noticeable health issue for one person I did work with, and also with another who was an acquaintance. I would estimate some of these folks were in the neighbourhood of 400 or more pounds, perhaps even close to 500 or more. More than once, I heard the comment that, “well, others smoke, some do drugs, but we [Christian Scientists] have food.” That was said with some pride, actually.
As I see it, and always have, a bad habit is a bad habit, an addiction is an addiction, no matter how you try to wrap it up with pretty paper and bows. Despite their protestations to the contrary, my friends, Christian Scientists are just as subject to the same human frailties of other common folk. As for the food thing, of course there is the usual denial that there is a problem, and some folks will take that fucking denial to their graves. Just admit for once that you have a fricken’ problem! It’s an addiction, not so different from any other addiction to things like crack, heroin, or meth. Then do something about it! Seek treatment for the underlying medical issue, and/or the more likely mental health issue. Doing nothing but denying there is a problem is just going to result in an unpleasant decline and death.
In the AA (Alcoholics Anonymous) tradition, it is taught that one of the first things one needs to do in order to solve a problem (like addiction) is to admit that one has a problem over which they have no control. This is where Christian Science fails big time. There is NO acknowledgement of the problem. In Christian Science there is no problem. The 800 pound (pun intended) gorilla in the room is completely ignored. But, like it or not, you’re gonna have to deal with him at some point. Meanwhile, while you ignore the problem it just grows until you hit critical mass and you have no choice, or you just die. Christian Scientists will keep saying there isn’t a problem, when clearly, when you weigh 400 pounds, there is.
Christian Science as I look back at it now with an ever increasing skeptical and critical eye is a mass of contradictions. An ex-Christian Scientist acquaintance of mine very appropriately refers to trying to understand Christian Science as “mental gymnastics”. I can’t think of a better way to describe it.