I’ve heard and read more than a few accounts from former Christian Scientists about how absolutely callous and un-loving some Christian Scientists can be. From criticisms levelled at the person who wheels their invalid spouse into church every Sunday “for all to see” to accusations made to parents that their grown son came to church “falling down drunk”, when in fact the person was suffering from a disease that impaired their movements.
I just have to say that my blood absolutely boils when I hear stories like this, and there are many more. How can a group of people who practice a religion that professes love for all mankind, such as Christian Science does, be so cold, callous, and completely lacking in even the most basic level of empathy? I think part of it boils down to the one aspect of the practice of Christian Science that pisses me off the most: denial of the material reality we all live in (Christian Scientists included). These two examples I gave above are glaring examples of (1) the fact that Christian Science does not heal, and (2) that disease is indeed a real and present part of the human experience. Christian Scientists are excessively unwilling to acknowledge anything short of absolute perfection. It is a form of brainwashing. To the most fundamentalist Christian Scientist, nothing else exists but absolute perfection. They are delusionally blind to anything else. In the Christian Science rose-coloured universe, we are all perfect little children of God. No imperfections exist (or are tolerated).
When I was a member of a branch church and also on its board of directors, we proposed the idea of installing a ramp so that those in wheelchairs could more easily access the church. Our church had recently received a bequest that would have been sufficient to pay for this. We brought a proposal to the membership, and while there was general support for the idea, one member stood up and raised a point that almost made me jump out of my seat screaming in rage. She stood up and basically said that if we were to install this ramp, “wouldn’t we be acknowledging mortal imperfection?” (this is as best as I remember what she said–it’s the gist of it anyway). The flat, emotionless tone she used was shocking, especially since the widow of a member who did use a wheelchair, was sitting near her. It also hit a personal nerve with me, as my younger brother had been a wheelchair user for his entire life. I stood up and basically said that we “need to meet people where they are, and be a welcoming church for everyone.” The deep levels of delusion and denial with Christian Scientists are unfathomable to anyone who hasn’t been there themselves, and it not only comes off as cold and unsympathetic, it IS cold and unsympathetic, no matter how Christian Scientists may try to portray it otherwise.
In the interests of balance, I offer a story that redeems Christian Scientists, and it happened in the midst of one of the most traumatic events of my life, shortly after I had my Dad admitted to the hospital, and roughly a month before he died. As usual, I had gone to church this one Sunday morning. After church, a few members asked what hospital ward Dad was in. I didn’t think much of it when I told them, as some members had already been visiting him regularly. When I went to visit him that afternoon, there were a few members already there. More came in an out through the afternoon. By my estimation, almost all of the 15 or so strong membership of that church had been there visiting Dad at some point that afternoon. At some point during his hospital stay, I think everyone had visited him at least once. I still get choked up when I think about it. When he died, I hosted a “celebration of life” at the home he shared with Mom, who had died earlier that year, and more than half of the members of that church came and we celebrated the person he was in life. These people showed true and genuine love to me and to Dad, the kind of love that is preached in Christian Science, but is sadly lacking in many who are its adherents. The members of the local Christian Science Society here where I live are what Christian Scientists should be, what all decent human beings should be: loving and understanding. They didn’t care that he was in the hospital, they didn’t think I had betrayed him by putting him there. They just simply loved us, unconditionally.
On the surface, on an initial meeting, Christian Scientists seem happy, warm, and nice, and most genuinely are. I’ve heard many a person who’s had little or no contact with Christian Science or its adherents say this. But, scratch under the surface, dive a bit deeper, and you find that the opposite is often, but as my last story relates, not always true. All too often, adherents of Christian Science become so blinded and twisted by its theology that they lose touch with reality, and lose any sense of basic human empathy and love. So wrapped up in their desire to see only perfection and deny anything else, they forget that humans are not a perfect species; this world is not a perfect place, and that imperfection, matter, body, sin, disease, and death are all quite real. They are NOT illusions!