I’ve said it time and time again in various posts here that I do not believe that Christian Science works. Yes, Christian Scientists like to point to a “well documented record of healing” a lot when refuting those of us who claim that it doesn’t work. The problem is, that “well documented record of healing” is anecdotal evidence at best–and it’s not particularly good anecdotal evidence anyway. All that is required for a testimony to be ‘documented’ (published in the Christian Science periodicals) is for verification from three people who have witnessed the so-called ‘healing’ or who can vouch for the integrity of the testifier. Usually, those who vouch for testifiers are Christian Scientists themselves–hence, as I see it, a large credibility gap. Independent, impartial verification would engender more faith in the testimony for me nowadays. So, today I’ll explore some of my own reasons why I don’t believe that Christian Science works. These are my proofs. These are my truths.
I’ll start by citing a few of my own experiences, or those I’ve witnessed in my own family, since as a writer, I’ve often been told to write about what I know (readers, you’re more than welcome to share your experiences in comments, or as guest posts). Here are some instances of reputed ‘healings’ either my own, or others in my family.
One that jumps out immediately for me happened in 1995. I got a call from my Mom, who was concerned about my Dad. She had received a very strange call from him, and apparently he seemed very disoriented. Since I worked near his office, she wanted me to go and check in on him. When I got there, I found him very disoriented–almost delusional, and saying the same things over and over again. He couldn’t figure out how he got where he was. It was like his brain was running an endless loop tape that kept repeating itself. I got him home and into bed, and dutifully called a Christian Science practitioner to pray with us for him. Over and over again, he would ask me the same series of questions. It was as if someone had erased part of his memory. I had him repeat the Scientific Statement of Being (Science and Health, p. 468), and the Lord’s Prayer with me over and over. He eventually went to sleep. A few hours later, he woke up and was in a normal state of mind, except he could not remember anything about that day. We suspected he may have suffered a minor stroke, but it was never diagnosed. Now, due to the fact that he came out in a normal state of mind, we considered this a remarkable healing in Christian Science. However, years later when I took him to the hospital when he took seriously ill (see the “Death in My Family” series of posts), he suffered what doctors initially suspected was a massive stroke. That was confirmed later in a CT scan. They also said there was evidence of at least two earlier strokes. One I could account for with an incident that had happened a few weeks prior when he fell in his home. The other I concluded had to have been this incident in 1995. When I described the incident to the doctors, they confirmed that he had likely suffered a stroke, but obviously they wouldn’t state that it definitely was a stroke. Was he healed? Not in my definition of the word. He survived, continued working for a couple more years before he retired, but no, he did suffer permanent, albeit subtle effects from that stroke. The biggest thing I noticed, and this took time to become apparent, was a change in his personality after 1995. Dad and I had always been close, and rarely antagonistic, but after this incident, he became noticeably more belligerent and irritable. Mom and others around him noticed too, but at the time, we chalked it up to old age…you know, the “grumpy old man” thing. I didn’t make the connection between the personality change and this incident, however, until the conversation with the doctors when Dad was in the hospital, and they discussed with me some effects of strokes, one of which, in many cases, is a change in a person’s personality.
One that happened to me personally dates back to when I was in first and second grade. During those years, I suffered several bouts of what I believe was probably either bronchitis or pneumonia, or possibly both at various times. I was never diagnosed, and never treated medically. Whatever the condition was, it was allowed to run its course. As I recall, with each incident I missed around two weeks of school. Yes, I recovered, and after second grade, these bouts of illness ceased, and fortunately I didn’t die, as is the fate of some children who contract serious lung infections, and this was hailed as a healing. I wasn’t healed, I merely survived! My body naturally healed itself. However, I have suffered lingering effects as a result. I suffer more severely than most if a cold gets into my chest. Recently, when I had a chest cold, I began to experience trouble breathing. Suspecting I may have been developing bronchitis, I went to a walk-in medical clinic. Fairly quickly, the doctor determined I wasn’t exhibiting symptoms of bronchitis or pneumonia, but he noted wheezing in my lungs as I breathed, something he noted as an asthmatic reaction. I was prescribed an inhaler for relief. I told him that this happens often when I get chest colds. While not unheard of, he said it was unusual, and indicated possible damage to my lungs of some sort, but without further tests or x-rays he couldn’t confirm. This is something that has happened to me often in the past, and when I was still a Christian Scientist, I would suffer through it, without the relief provided by inhalers.
A watershed disproof of the reputed effectiveness of Christian Science for me has always been the case of my younger brother. Now, unlike my previous examples, this is not a ‘healing’ said to have happened, but rather one that never happened. Christian Science, you see, claims to heal as Jesus did. Jesus famously healed those who were ‘lame’–to use the Biblical parlance–we would say handicapped, disabled, or paraplegic/quadriplegic. My brother had what is known as cerebral palsy, a condition that occurs in varying degrees (some are high functioning and live fairly normal lives, others, such as my brother, are wheelchair-bound, unable to talk or do anything for themselves). As a child, I often wished, and yearned for him to be ‘normal’–able to walk and talk like other kids. I even had vivid dreams in which he and I talked and played together. Christian Science offered the promise that this could actually happen, and my parents fervently (it seemed to me) believed it and fed that promise to me. They ‘worked’ on it constantly through prayer in Christian Science throughout his life. At various times, they also enlisted the help of Christian Science practitioners, yet they also sought medical treatment for him when the occasion demanded, and it demanded frequently. This is often a reason that hard-core Christian Scientists will cite as a reason a ‘healing’ did not happen, and it was cited a few times in my brother’s case. My brother never stepped up out of that wheelchair and had a conversation with me or anyone else. He died of natural causes at the age of 16. Most people with his degree of cerebral palsy do not live much past their late teens or mid 20s. Some make it to 30. I always maintained, and still maintain, that if he had jumped up out of that wheelchair, I would never doubt Christian Science. Because that never happened, I harboured doubts that never went away. I just repressed them for many years. Christian Science made a cruelly unfulfilled promise to me and my family. As far as I know, there is no documented case of a person being healed through Christian Science of any condition such as my brother’s, yet Christian Science offers that cruelly false promise of healing. To say this makes my blood boil with anger would be an understatement.
These are just a few examples from my own life, and my own family. Of course, apologists for Christian Science will state emphatically that Christian Science did not fail. It was a lack of ‘understanding’ or some other excuse like that, or that my parents mixed Christian Science with medical care, as in my brother’s case. I remember as a teenager, after my brother’s death, being told when I challenged the veracity of Christian Science’s claims or being able to heal, in regards to the fact that my brother never was healed, that I shouldn’t put that kind of pressure on him as some sort of example of failure, as if it was his own doing or undoing or something like that. Apologists often blame the victim or the family, as I’ve written about previously. Bottom line, IT DID NOT WORK.
As I look back on my life, I can say definitively, based upon my own experience, that Christian Science absolutely does not work. It makes grand promises that it does not fulfil at all. In that respect it is immensely cruel. It offers false hope to those in desperate straits; a life ring made out of lead. This is my truth about Christian Science, as one who was in the faith from birth to the age of 42.