Like many of my new on-line friends who are former Christian Scientists, I too have many Facebook friends who are still Christian Scientists. Given how deep into the culture of Christian Science I was until fairly recently, I have a lot of Christian Scientist friends, and some of them are very enthusiastically deep in it. I went to Principia College, worked at The Mother Church for ten years, had Class Instruction, and also went to a Christian Science summer camp as a camper and staff over a number of years. I was deeply steeped in the culture of Christian Science.
Some of my college and camp friends are not Christian Scientists anymore, some pay lip service to Christian Science, and others I’m not sure what their religious “status” is. Then, there is the core of friends who are still very very deep into it and post it all over the place. Rare is the time I open my newsfeed and not see some Christian Science-related post from these folks–whether it be a pithy quote from Mary Baker Eddy, a link to something a Committee on Publication has posted on-line somewhere, a glorious exultation about the church service they just attended, or the ever-present and ever-annoying “Daily Lift” posts.
Christian Science, for a fringe and small faith that it is, has a large and strong on-line footprint. Just ten or so years ago, when I was still working at The Mother Church, on a quiet day at the office, I Googled Christian Science. At the top of my search results were articles, postings, and websites that were all critical of Christian Science. Now, when I do research for this blog, and seek out resources of interest to former Christian Scientists, the Christian Science Church-sanctioned websites, and blogs and other sites kept by practitioners and other Christian Scientists are what bubble up more to the surface. The dissident and opposing voices are farther down in the search. The Mother Church and Christian Scientists in general have very effectively harnessed the power of the internet to spread their message of disinformation. I tip my hat to them, very well played. That does not, however, take away from the fact that Christian Science is, to quote a Brit who posted in the comments section of one posting by a Committee on Publication in an on-line news board, “complete codswallop”–to translate that into more crude North American English, “complete bullshit”. I think I like the Brit version–a nice polite swipe.
I find that I have to write my search strings more specifically now to smoke out the opposing views. Just entering “Christian Science” or “Mary Baker Eddy” does not as easily find the opposing views anymore, although I’m happy to report that my little ol’ blog here does show up quite frequently in my searches, thanks to my tagging and writing strategy (you will notice that I never abbreviate Christian Science in any of my posts as “CS”) and the fact I’ve been at this little project for almost a year now. Same with some of my fellow ex-Christian Scientist bloggers. Having worked nominally in the industry in the past, and knowing how search engines work, I have from day one with this blog, tagged it so it would eventually compete for space at least near the top of searches with the official Christian Science stuff. I’ll be honest, it feels good–like a nice little poke at the Big Man! In among the well-funded, highly edited, nicely designed, and highly censored postings of “official” Christian Science sites and postings is my little blog, and a few others written by subversive voices such as mine. I have been quite happy to share my tagging knowledge with my fellow renegade ex-Christian Scientist bloggers. The internet, while it is a great forum to spread official viewpoints, is an equalizer. If you can simply tag effectively, your point of view gets right in there with the Big Man’s.
So, how do I feel about the pro-Christian Science stuff that greets me on Facebook? It really depends on the day, and my mood. Most of the time, I drift past it as quickly as I can; sometimes it triggers a traumatic memory and my anger boils to the surface. I am considering blocking from my newsfeed postings from those who are the most prolific, but I don’t like to do that–I do care about these folks and like to know how their lives and families are doing–we were all good friends in college after all. Sometimes, when someone posts a link to a posting by a Committee on Publication, for example, I’ll use it as a research opportunity, and sometimes I’ll respond to the posting in its comments section, to offer an opposing point of view. What I have not ever done yet is respond directly to my friends on their Facebook pages, and I probably never will. I still subscribe to the adage of “do unto others as you would have done to you”. I wouldn’t go into someone else’s home and rearrange their living room furniture any more than I’d want them to do the same to me. However, if someone does directly engage me in conversation or debate or post something in a public on-line forum, I will respond.
Bottom line, it’s hard not to respond each and every time I see a Christian Science-related posting from my friends who are still deeply marinating in the Krazy Sauce of Christian Science with a comment that criticizes or deconstructs their false worldview, but what would it achieve but to just alienate and anger? Wise advice I was given once is to choose my battles. I’m pragmatic enough to realize I’m not going to change any minds, so I don’t waste my time and effort trying. Let them have their rose coloured view of the world if that’s what makes them feel good. My greater fear, however, is for their children and what will happen to them if they get seriously ill or injured (deny all you want in Christian Science, but shit does happen). But, that is a whole other blog post topic.