Usually when someone talks about “coming out” it’s in reference to declaring one’s sexuality, specifically if one is homosexual. In my small circle of on-line friends who are former Christian Scientists, we also frequently talk of “coming out”, however in this case for us, it isn’t about sexuality, it’s about declaring publicly, especially to our Christian Scientist friends and family, that we are no longer Christian Scientists.
While I can’t speak for the experiences of those who “come out” regarding their sexuality, I can say that coming out as a former Christian Scientist, at least to those who are still in the faith, is not an easy thing for any of us to decide to do. Many former Christian Scientists keep their secret from their Christian Scientist friends and family for many years, if they ever even do come out to them. Many of the reasons we often stay secret, or are timid about declaring our non-Christian Scientist status vary, but there is usually one common reason we all share: concern or fear about how those Christian Scientists, be they friends or family, will react; and losing those connections. Often, we try to maintain our relationships with our Christian Scientist friends and family, after all in some cases, they comprise our entire social circle, and to be without them would be to find yourself completely alone. I have been fortunate in that I’ve been able to quickly develop a new and close circle of friends, most of whom know absolutely nothing at all about Christian Science other than what I’ve shared with them. Also, none of my family remains in Christian Science. With the exception of myself, it has killed off the few who were still practicing it.
Now, I do need to state very clearly that there is no official or unofficial Church policy stating that Christian Scientists must or should abstain from contact with those who leave the faith. It just tends to happen that some Christian Scientists will distance themselves from those who leave the faith, and often deep conflicts within families will erupt, as the now differing points of view begin to clash–especially if a Christian Scientist becomes ill. Often, the non-Christian Scientist family members and friends find themselves coldly shut out, and if said family member dies, the non-Christian Scientist family members will be lucky if they’re even informed, and there will likely be no funeral or memorial service, and the dead person is subsequently rarely spoken of–they become an “un-person”.
In my own case, my initial concern about coming out was more a desire to avoid being harshly judged, and losing some long-standing friends dating back to my college years. I also wanted to sort through my own feelings, and figure out my spiritual path on my own, privately. Now, I am quite open about the fact that I have left Christian Science, and have so far encountered little judgement and actually a lot of support from those of my friends who are Christian Scientists, although a few Facebook friends of the Christian Science persuasion have mysteriously disappeared.
This blog is the only time I stay “in the closet” behind a shield of anonymity, and that is solely because I want to speak and share freely, and the story I’ve shared here about my own family’s tragedy is quite personal, something I would not share publicly if my identity were known. I am a very private person, believe it or not, and the spotlight is not where I ever want to be. Also, Christian Scientists and their church tend to be extremely harsh and bitter in their reactions to those of us who speak out against Christian Science–especially those of us who were once Christian Scientists, and quite frankly I’m not willing to endure the excoriating criticism. There are others who have compelling stories of survival, and who are willing to share their stories publicly, and I’m happy to be in their background chorus of supporters, and to give them occasional shout-outs here on this blog. I prefer to remain well away from the spotlight.
For the most part, many Christian Scientist acquaintances of people such as myself who’ve left Christian Science hold to the thought that we are “lapsed” or under the (hopefully) temporary influence of mortal mind and that we’ll eventually see the light and return to Christian Science–bigger, better, and stronger. Believe it or not, some do return to Christian Science. I remember a conversation years ago with a fellow classmate in my Christian Science Association about another classmate who left Christian Science. He said that while our classmate may have left Christian Science, Christian Science had not left her. In my case, I wish it would, but I fear it will be with me for the rest of my life in some ways. The damage to me is largely mental health-related, and writing this blog is part of how I’m processing it all. Thus far, I haven’t suffered major physical issues from past conditions left untreated, other than the tinnitus I suffer, which may be the result of a bout of earaches I suffered as a young child, which never received any medical attention. I was relatively lucky.