I have a confession to make. I regularly drive under the influence…of mortal mind. You thought I was going to say something else eh? While we all know that driving under the influence of alcohol or mind-altering drugs is very dangerous (and thankfully illegal), I am wondering of the inherent dangers, pitfalls, and frustrations of living under the influence of the dangerously delusional ideas of Christian Science.
In my own family, I have seen what radical reliance on Christian Science can get you–a horrible, prolonged, and painful death–all the while, mired in the fog of Christian Science “denialism”–yes, now I’m making up words–a fellow ex-Christian Scientist friend has coined the term “mental gymnastics” when describing what it takes mentally to try to practice Christian Science, now I have my word!
When my own father was slipping into dementia, and could barely sit up for five minutes, his Christian Science practitioner said he was making “progress”. Bullshit! He was dying! When my mother was wasting away in a Christian Science nursing home in excruciating pain, and not eating, the nurses happily provided reports of her “progress”. Years later, when I talked to my cousin who regularly visited her, I got a different take on Mom’s “progress”. Mom had a tumour the size of a basketball growing in her abdomen, she was in continuous and excruciating pain, and she could barely eat or drink. Yes, progress; progress towards death.
This level of denial is not only insane, it is dangerous–especially when it affects the well-being of others, particularly children. A vivid story of the dangers of living under the influence of Christian Science and how it can directly affect others who can’t make decisions for themselves, can be found by looking up the story of an on-line friend of mine, Liz Heywood. She suffered from a bone infection during her teen years, which went untreated while she, her parents, and a Christian Science practitioner prayed about it. Her knee ultimately fused in a position that rendered her unable to walk normally, and caused years of pain. Ultimately, she had the leg amputated. The mental trauma she has endured is unimaginable. It has negatively affected many aspects of her life, and still does to this day. Oh, I almost forgot to mention, the disease that she suffered from is, and has been for several decades, readily treatable with a simple course of antibiotics. Read her story on her blog. She also mentions that the practitioner on the case originally, who ultimately became a teacher of Christian Science, would often tout her case as a “healing”. Yeah, some healing that was. Well, I suppose at least it didn’t kill her.
Many children have died from painful conditions that would be easily and routinely treatable by medical intervention. Children’s Healthcare Is a Legal Duty (C.H.I.L.D.) Inc. lists their stories on their website. It’s not pretty. Not all victims are Christian Scientists, by the way. Denial and refusal of medical care is not exclusive to Christian Scientists, but it seems to me that Christian Science raises it to intellectual heights that most other faiths only dream of, and the Christian Science Church has had, and continues to wield strong influence with legislators especially in the United States to get exemptions to requirements for medical care placed in child protection laws. Christian Scientists try to say that Christian Science is not faith healing, yet even when I was a Christian Scientist, and I read various definitions of faith healing, I couldn’t see much of a difference. If there is a difference, it’s all a matter of mere semantics at the most.
I guess I got off lucky. With a few exceptions (a few bouts of whooping cough, pneumonia, mumps, measles, and chicken pox), I rarely got seriously ill, and when I did, fortune shined on me and I was able to recover. I credit the passage of time and the human body’s own innate ability to heal itself more than any intervention by Christian Science. The last time I tried to apply Christian Science healing “treatment” to a physical ailment was about 5 years ago when I had a bout of what I am quite certain was kidney stones. I remember being on the phone with the practitioner, listening to him repeating some phrases from Mary Baker Eddy’s writings, or the Bible, all the while writhing on my bathroom floor in the most intense pain I’ve ever experienced. I ended up researching naturopathic treatments, and tried one that ultimately caused them to break up and pass (painfully) from my system. If this were to happen now, I’d be in the walk-in clinic or Emergency room ASAP. I consider myself fortunate that I did not suffer serious consequences–at least none that I am thus far aware of.
Living under the influence of Christian Science also can have effects beyond the individual who is practicing Christian Science. I recently read a post in an ex-Christian Scientist forum by a woman (a non Christian Scientist) who was divorcing her Christian Scientist husband (which inspired a previous post). Woven throughout this post was her emotional frustration at living with a man who would not even acknowledge, less discuss any sort of problem. She was emotionally isolated and alone in what became a loveless marriage. I’ve seen it where Christian Scientists can become annoyingly detached emotionally. I can’t even begin to imagine how it must be for one who is unfamiliar with Christian Science to deal with it. I also think of my own struggles in dealing with my Dad in the latter days of his life, although I still was “in the faith” at the time, I had to deal with his obstinate refusal, initially, to seek medical care or even acknowledge that he had a very serious physical issue. I had to trick him into going to the hospital–something I felt terrible about having to do.
So, in the long and short of it, living under the influence of Christian Science is like being in the craziest carnival funhouse in the world while at the same time playing a torturous game of Russian Roulette. It is a state of altered reality that few can really understand or comprehend. Recently, I was having a conversation with my college-age second cousin who stayed with me this past summer, and told her some of my story. Now, her mother (my cousin) grew up in Christian Science but left the faith as a teenager, so she knows something about it, but has never been extensively exposed to it. When I told her that, until recently, I had almost never been to the doctor, she looked at me in shock. She couldn’t believe it. When I told her some of what I used to believe in, she just thought it was absolutely crazy, and couldn’t understand it–and she is quite well educated and very open-minded. She couldn’t understand how my parents didn’t seek medical attention in the face of their own declining health in their latter days. To her, and to anyone else I tell the story to who has no knowledge of Christian Science, it all sounds like a twisted crazy, dark fairy tale. They can’t believe that it’s true, but it is. I’m not making any of it up.