I’ve pondered this question often over the past few years. I think I’ve written a bit on the subject in this blog too. Mostly, I’ve thought I stayed with Christian Science because (1) it’s what I grew up with, it was familiar, and (2) I didn’t want to disappoint my parents. However, a fellow ex-Christian Scientist hit on another reason many stay in Christian Science and this really hit me between the eyes: many children who grow up in Christian Science reach the age of 18 so terrified of doctors and medical care, and afraid of disappointing their parents (like I was), that they stay with Christian Science out of fear. As I read that, it really hit me: this is the real reason I stayed with Christian Science. I was also too afraid to leave.
Contrary to what one might think as an outside observer seeing the true craziness and harmful aspects of Christian Science, my decision to leave Christian Science was not easy. In fact, it was one of the most wrenching decisions I’ve ever made, even though on the other side of the coin, I’ve never felt more sure about a decision in my life. The relief and happiness I fee now after leaving Christian Science is immeasurable. For the first time in my life, I feel like I’m being truly honest with myself, and who I really am. I inhabit a very real body, and live in a very real material world, with all the good and bad that comes with it.
It’s amazing to me what fear can do. It’s like keeping a warm coat on that you put on during a February cold snap, and keep on because you’re too afraid to take it off because you think you’ll freeze, and before you know it, it’s July, but you’ve become so used to the coat you can’t take it off. It’s become your comfort zone, for better or worse. So, you sweat it out in that coat, all the while knowing that you should probably take it off, but you’re too scared to do so, because there’s that irrational part of you that thinks you’re going to freeze to death even though it’s a sweltering 30°C outside now, instead of the bone-chilling -30°C it was in February.
I feared going to the doctor because I was afraid of some dire diagnosis that would change my life irreversibly, or spell an early end (didn’t happen)–that was the most stupid and illogical fear, after all, if I had cancer, knowing about it or not would not change the fact that I had it; but, knowing about it early enough and seeking treatment might lead to a successful outcome, rather than an early and painful death. I feared the loss of what seemed like a “safety blanket”. I feared the loss of everything I’d come to know and been comforted by (that did happen, but it was readily replaced by an infinitely better support network). I realized that I was really afraid of nothing.
At every turn when I’ve sought medical care, I’ve encountered professionals who respect me, respect my boundaries, and only want to make or keep me healthy. They explain thoroughly what’s happening to me, why certain things are happening, and how it can be treated. No, medical science can’t cure everything, but unlike Christian Science, it never makes that claim. It can cure and treat many things though, and I firmly believe I’m much better off putting my health in the hands of highly trained professionals who have had many years of intensive schooling and practicum experience, are subject to strict licensure and professional certification, and who rely on evidence-based medicine rather than the untested and unverifiable whims of some sort of divine being, or a Christian Science practitioner who’s had all of two weeks of training in their craft, and who is not subject to any sort of licensure or on-going professional oversight once “accredited” (the accreditation consisting solely of listing in the Christian Science Journal, and that only requires the submission of affidavits of at least three healings that can be attributed to the practitioner’s prayers, and the successful conclusion of a telephone interview with an employee of The Christian Science Publishing Society).
The friends I have now, both those who are former Christian Scientists, and those who know nothing of it, have become like a family to me. While my friends who know nothing of Christian Science will never have the capacity to truly understand what I’ve been through, they are far more supportive in times of need than any Christian Scientist ever was, and the knowing “virtual nods” I get from my on-line ex-Christian Scientist friends give me a reassurance that I’m not completely nuts that keeps me going sometimes.
Fear kept me in Christian Science. Reality (which slapped me upside the head) and faith in reality is what finally led me out. Do I regret my time as a Christian Scientist? Yes and no. As I’ve said before, a teaching an Aboriginal Elder gave me resonates with me: “it’s a part of your journey that brought you here; you can’t change that.” Yes, there will always be that part of me that wishes Christian Science had never been a part of my life, but I realize that for better or worse, it is an integral thread in the tapestry of my life. Pull at one thread and you unravel the tapestry.