One of the toughest things in life for a former Christian Scientist is dealing with friends and family who are still in Christian Science. Fortunately for me, I have no family members who are still in the faith, but I do have a number of friends who are, although I am not in close or regular contact with most of them outside of the occasional Facebook interactions. For those who still deal closely with people still in Christian Science, these relationships become especially tough if the Christian Scientist friend becomes seriously ill, and especially if that Christian Scientist is a close family member like a parent or sibling. All too often, the non-Christian Scientist gets shut out.
“I know that, according to Christian Science, it isn’t the religion that has failed. It is my mother who has, and probably my father.”
~Lucia Greenhouse (from “Fathermothergod: My Journey Out of Christian Science”) 1
A touching account of this sort of experience is related by Lucia Greenhouse in her book fathermothergod: My Journey Out of Christian Science. In it, she relates the story of her mother’s battle with cancer and her ultimate death as the untreated disease ravaged her body in the most gruesome way. At many turns, Greenhouse battled her radically Christian Scientist parents, and especially her father (who was a Teacher of Christian Science), throughout the ordeal. Often, she was shut out and her concerns downplayed by not only her father but other Christian Scientists. Christian Science nurses at the nursing facility her mother stayed in talked about her parents “dancing” together in the hallway, despite the fact that her mother was bedridden with cancer eating away her body. In my own mother’s case, similar reports were made to my Dad by Christian Science “nurses”, and he happily fed them to me, and we both believed them. This is, unfortunately, an all too common experience when a Christian Scientist family member takes ill. The non and former Christian Scientist friends and family are shut out and a shroud of secrecy and outright lies descends around the one who is ill. This is all to “lovingly support” the ill person’s “demonstration”.
Christian Scientists do not want anyone or anything, least of all irrefutable evidence to taint their thought and endanger the ever-elusive healing. Any negative or contrary thought is dangerous and imperils the ill person’s “progress”. WTF? Is Christian Science that fragile a healing process? If so, it’s absolutely worthless. I think Christian Scientists are just in a deep state of denial about the fact that their “system” of healing is complete bullshit, and they look to blame anything and everyone else for its failure. After all, nothing can be permitted that would make Christian Science look bad. Hell, it doesn’t need anyone else to make it look bad. If Christian Science works, why the secrecy? Why the paranoia? I think the emperor has no clothes.
So, what is the non or ex-Christian Scientist to do when faced with a Christian Scientist who’s taken critically ill? Well, to be honest, there really isn’t much they can do. If someone is going to choose Christian Science, and they’re an adult, they have that right for better or worse, and you’ll just have to live with it, and accept the fact that you may be shut out. I wish I could say something that would feel better, but I’m afraid that’s the cold, hard truth. Don’t expect much empathy, understanding, or accommodation from other Christian Scientists either. Expect them to be Stepfordesquely happy and smiley, and in a complete state of denial. It would be an immense waste of time to try to convince them of any other reality than what they see through their Christian Science rose-coloured glasses, and in a moment of emotional trial, it’s not worth it nor is it necessarily appropriate to confront people. A wise man chooses his battles. If, however, the ill person is a child, and you’re not in a United States state that shields parents from prosecution for neglect involving proper medical care, call the local child protection authorities. I doubt you’ll convince the parents to change course, but the authorities can step in and save the child. Honestly, the advice Bryant McGill gives in the meme at the top of this post is pretty much spot on when dealing with ill or dying Christian Scientists. Be hopeful, be compassionate, be there for them, but also realize that you can’t save them from themselves; and I might add, be prepared to be pushed away. They have their journey and sometimes you have to step back and let them have that journey; something that is not easy to do, especially if it’s someone you’re close to.
It’s never easy to deal with critical or terminal illness, and adding Christian Science into the mix just pours acid into the wound. Take solace with others who know what you’re dealing with, and push ahead as best you can. That’s what you can do for yourself. A hard-core Christian Scientist is as likely to change course as a lion is to become a vegetarian.
1 Greenhouse, Lucia. fathermothergod: My Journey Out of Christian Science. New York, New York: Random House, 2011. Print.