If I was forced to pick one thing that annoys me the most about Christian Science and particularly how it’s practiced, it’s the way the victim is blamed when (as it usually does) Christian Science fails. This blame is not direct, and it is often subtle, passive aggressive, if you will. It is usually not obvious, but it is there, right between the lines. I saw it soon after my Dad died when a Christian Scientist friend of the family admonished me to not see his death as a “failure of Christian Science”. I do see it as a failure of Christian Science, and Christian Science fails in many, many other cases. Sometimes, I wonder if the lucky ones are the ones who die–there are some who suffer a lifetime of pain and mental misery as a result of Christian Science “care” gone bad.
Often, when I’ve seen Christian Scientists passively aggressively “blame the victim”, it’s so subtle, it’s often hard to see, and there may be some who will dispute that there is any blame being assigned. Even those who do assign blame may not even realize what they’re doing, so engrained is the “there’s nothing wrong with Christian Science” mindset. Usually it is the victim’s practice or more accurately incorrect practice of Christian Science; or it’s that there’s something not quite right with their thought that’s failed them in the eyes of the die-hard Christian Scientist. To a true-blue, fully indoctrinated Christian Scientist, Christian Science is perfect and infallible. It never fails. When it does, it’s something else that wasn’t right.
Christian Science has a excellent, well-documented record of healing, and when practiced consistently and responsibly, it brings harmony to all aspects of human experience.
(Emphasis is mine)
This quote is the last line in a rebuttal to an article* in the Ithaca Journal highlighting the tragic experience of Liz Heywood, a Spencer, New York resident whom I have gotten to know on-line. Liz suffered from a bone infection as a teenager. Her parents chose Christian Science treatment over medical treatment with tragic results. The bone infection ran its course, she spent a year in pain, with a severely swollen leg which drained pus, and ended up with her knee joint fused at a 45 degree angle. Ultimately, to relieve pain, and to enable her ability to walk somewhat normally, she underwent an above-knee amputation of the affected leg as an adult. The condition from which she suffered is commonly and usually successfully treated with a simple course of antibiotics, with 100% normal recovery in almost all cases. To put it bluntly, she did not have to suffer as she did. Christian Science treatment failed miserably in this case! However, if you read between the lines on the above quote, the writer is subtly blaming Heywood’s parents, and Heywood herself: “…when practised consistently and responsibly…” that’s putting the blame entirely on the parents and the child.
Now, I do put some fault on her parents for irresponsibly choosing Christian Science care over medical care (which could have cured this disease without incident), the fact as I see it is that Christian Science FAILED. Liz’s parents were very devout Christian Scientists who honestly thought she would be healed. They did everything “right” as far as Christian Science practice was concerned, yet their daughter WAS NOT HEALED. It was Christian Science that failed Liz Heywood and her family, not whether or not their practice of Christian Science was “correct” or not. Bottom line, Christian Science does not work. Let’s stop blaming the victims!
It is statements like this that come at the end of op-eds or letters to the editor by Christian Scientists and/or their apologists, that gall me to no end. What rubs even more salt into it for me is that the rest of this op-ed is front-loaded with apparent compassion for Liz’s suffering. Bullshit! This writer, I believe, is more concerned about how bad Liz’s story makes Christian Science look. Her story is one of the most “in your face” examples of the utter failure of Christian Science I’ve seen in years–perhaps ever.
This op-ed follows a common pattern I’ve seen for years with Christian Science apologists–express large amounts of sympathy for the victim, toss in the usual lines like, “Christian Science has a excellent, well-documented record of healing…” and “Like all parents, Christian Science parents love their children, and the care of their children is their first priority.” and also that no system of healing is perfect (but as a former Christian Scientist, I can tell you that most Christian Scientists DO think that Christian Science is infallible–they just won’t come out and say it). Then finish it off with the backhanded it’s not Christian Science that failed, the hapless victim just didn’t do it right–framed, of course, in ambiguous language that doesn’t come out and say that directly, such as the highlighted language in the quote I gave earlier.
Sometimes, I feel as if Christian Scientists invented passive aggressiveness. I really don’t think the writer of this op-ed realized what she said, and in her conscious mind she probably wasn’t intending to assign blame to the victim. I used to say the same things myself as a Christian Scientist, and never felt as if I was blaming the victim. But, that is what I was doing; so ingrained is some of the Christian Science bullshit that you don’t even realize it most of the time when you’re doing it yourself.
*Unfortunately, the original article is not available on-line as of this writing. UPDATE: the rebuttal is no longer available for viewing either (I have removed the link to it). Unfortunately, I did not footnote or reference it as I normally do, so I do not recall who the author was, only that it was a Spencer, New York area Christian Scientist, likely acting on the behest of the Christian Science Committee on Publication for the state of New York (this is my well-educated assumption, based on my knowledge of how the media is handled by the Christian Science Church and Christian Scientists).