The Impersonal Christian Scientist

As I was writing and editing my recent post Love, I began to see issues I touched on there that I wanted to expand on, but it just didn’t seem to work within that post. The biggest one for me is something that has become very apparent to me as I’ve left Christian Science: the coldness and impersonal nature of many Christian Scientists–especially parents.

Now, I’ve heard many a non-Christian Scientist over the years refer to how nice and pleasant Christian Scientists are. So many times, I used to hear about how “nice, happy, and pleasant they are.” Yes, that is the way it appears on the surface. Dig a little bit deeper, and the reality is sometimes quite different.

Childhood hell…

In my own experience growing up, I was fortunate to have parents that weren’t overly radical in their practice of Christian Science. They were human, and somewhat willing to accept that, and they realized that I too was human, that I would get sick sometimes, and make mistakes. I was never berated simply for being sick. I was cared for, although without medical care or even cold medicine, but above all I was treated with love and affection. My parents were also quite willing to take my brother and I to a doctor if the need seemed to arise, although it never did for me in their perception. My brother was a different story–he spent most of his life under intensive medical care due to cerebral palsy and severe epilepsy. It’s possible that my parents’ greater willingness to seek medical care for us was due to legal requirements–in Canada, the provision of necessary medical care for children is a legal requirement, and there are no exemptions, but I think it was just a more pragmatic outlook that they had.

That is not the case for many unfortunate children of Christian Scientist parents. What some people experienced as children, while it may not be physical abuse (unless you’re talking about denial of medical care), it was definitely mental/psychological abuse of the highest order. Imagine you’re a child, let’s say six or seven years old, and you get a cold (something I’m sure every child gets). You come home, you’re feeling physically miserable, you’re coughing, and what you need most (other than cough medicine) is loving comfort from your mom or dad. Instead, you get an angry response; you’re immediately sent to your room, and angrily told to repeat “God is Love!” and to deny that you’re sick. One more cough engenders another angry tirade. If you have a more serious illness that doesn’t yield to Christian Science ‘treatment’, heaps of anger and accusations of “not doing your ‘work'” properly–in other words, your illness is your fault. This is the reality for many children raised in Christian Science homes.

Odd behaviour…

A story that was related in an on-line discussion thread told of a reader in a Christian Science branch church who collapsed in a grand mal seizure in the middle of the last hymn during the Sunday church service. Most humans would immediately rush to the person’s aid, and call 911. Not a church full of Christian Scientists. No, they continued with the hymn and felt proud of the fact that this little bit of ‘mental malpractice‘ didn’t interfere with the all important church service! I’m sure if someone dropped dead in a Christian Science church, people would just step over the dead body, completely ignoring it until the stench of death got to be too overpowering.

About eight years ago, David Reed, CSB had been elected president of The Mother Church, a largely honourific post. On the day of Annual Meeting when as the newly elected president, he was to officiate at the meeting, he collapsed from a heart attack in a nearby Church-owned apartment. While his death was acknowledged by the Church (of course, the cause was never mentioned), the reactions of many Christian Scientists strike me as odd now as I look back. A typical Christian Science-y remark that floated around with many was that his death was an “attack on the Church”. It was a fricken’ heart attack, you idiots! By the way, it took those who found him 20 minutes before they finally had the wisdom to call 911. Of course, the failure of paramedics to revive him was deemed a “failure of medical care”, never mind that despite 20 minutes of what must have been some very intense Christian Science prayer by more than a few CSBs, he didn’t revive anyway. If paramedics had been called earlier, there’s a possibility his life could have been saved. It is a well-known fact that with things like heart attacks and strokes the earlier medical treatment is given, the better the chances of often full recovery. You’ll probably never hear a Christian Scientist acknowledge that though. No, their prayers/Christian Science ‘treatments’ didn’t fail, it was the paramedics and medical science that failed.

Another story that was related to me a few years ago was of a woman whose husband had recently died (Christian Scientists like to say ‘passed on’–in fact, I am told that this now common term originates with Christian Scientists). This woman was seen just a few days later, out at the mall, brightly dressed, and acting as if nothing had happened. I understand that they had been married for several decades.

Why?

So, what makes many a Christian Scientist so lacking in basic human love, affection, and care? What could make someone dispassionately ignore a person who faints or has a seizure right in front of them? What could make a parent angrily send their child to their room and punish them simply for being sick? What could make someone whose spouse of many years just died act as if nothing tragic had happened? Plain and simple, I think it is the complete disconnection from reality that radical practice of Christian Science induces. I’ll admit that in the cases of some parents who go off the deep end, there are other underlying mental health issues, Christian Science is a major catalyst in inducing the abnormal behaviour they express towards their children, and it is an amplifier of any latent mental health issues.

To the truly radical and fully indoctrinated Christian Scientist, illness is not real, and when presented with it, they vehemently deny it, expressing that denial in anger at times. Also, it cannot be underestimated how important Christian Science and church are to the truly radical Christian Scientist. It is their first love, and anything that attacks it or makes it look bad is evil and must be destroyed–even if it’s your own child, or the First Reader who just collapsed, and could be dying right in front of you.

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12 thoughts on “The Impersonal Christian Scientist

  1. These frigin Christian Scientists need to be approached and told point blank that the only reality that truly exists is, ” you see with your eyes, you hear with your ears, you feel with your hands (and feet and other parts of your body, etc.), you smell with your nose and you taste with your mouth!!! Life can’t be more real than that!!! And that’s the way God created it, because the Bible says so!!!
    I could go on and on but I would be ranting. However, these radical reliant CS’ers really need a rude shake-up, not to mention serious reprogramming.
    Now, about the CS related child deaths. This is my take. I can’t help but wonder about the parents, who radically rely on Christian Science to pray about whatever life-and-death issue the child has. The child dies as a result. Immediately, they receive sympathies from their neighbors. Then someone who knows the family, murmurs the gossip about what truly happened. The CS’s neighbors find out the truth about the matter. More gossip. Then when the CS’ers try to talk to their neighbors, they get a glassy or blank stare. Then the neighbors shun them like they never knew them. The neighbors talk subtly, words like “they let him/her die!” or “they should have taken the child to the hospital”, etc. My bottom line question about this type of sad scenario is how do these people live with themselves when it all hits home? Do they try to pray it away to “know the truth” that this never existed and then just move on?? HAH! And yet they walk free! Will CS’ers never learn??

    • Do you think that CS parents have any different feeling at the loss of a child that parents who choose medicine? Loss is loss. I’m sure for all of them it prompts intense introspection and reevaluation. You don’t very often see parents who chose medicine rejecting it altogether when their child dies in a hospital though. And I’ve never seen a parent prosecuted for allowing their child to die under a doctor’s care. Why are parents not taken to court for neglect and falling to explore alternative options when a doctor told them he couldn’t do anything to save their child? Is it just because despite our near-absolute faith in medicine, there is a built in understanding that it actually doesn’t work sometimes? Why do we tolerate such inconsistency and unreliability in the primary means of health care we choose? Irrespective of one’s feeling about CS, it’s worth taking a moment to critically consider whether the confidence we place in medical care is propotionate to its success rate. And I’m not advocating that everyone should give up medicine and turn to CS, but I do think that the monopoly thatof the strictly medical approach needs to be broken up and that other options should be given more equal consideration. (Even a growing number of doctors are saying this; it’s not a fringe idea.)
      I’d also like to point out that although everyone loves to talk about child cases, there hasn’t been a child death of that nature in the CS community since the early 90’s, as far as I’m aware. All of the ones in recent years have been other faith healing groups, never Christian Scientists. The Church and CS field have surely learned a lot collectively from those tragedies in the intervening 30+ years. And an observer will note that particularly in Oregon, the CS Church has not stepped in to fight the repeal of laws that protect parents (albeit of other faith groups), out of an acknowledgment that if the existing law is allowing this to happen repeatedly, then it does need to change.

    • And I should clarify that the questions in the first paragraph of my connect are purely rhetorical. I do not advocate trigger-happy prosecution of anyone and everyone who can’t prevent the death of a child.

  2. In response to your comments about parenting, I just want to add an alternative experience (alternative to the hypothetical you purpose, not to your own). I was raised by CS parents and have taken it up on my own now as an adult. My parents were loving and caring, like yours, and never made me feel guilty for feeling sick. I think they achieved a very good balance of tender care that was conducive of healing and that didn’t go over board into the kind of sympathy and pampering that would make a child pretend to be sick just to get attention (we all know that this happens and I’m not trying to suggest that genuine illness is pretending). When I was ill, they handled it gently, sometimes calling a practitioner, sometimes praying on their own, typically with quick results. In one situation when there was an outbreak of whopping cough at my elementary school and I was found coughing, we did get a test for pertussis at the request of the school. By the time the test came back, though it was positive, I had stopped coughing and the doctor gave me a note permitting me to return to school, but the school nurse wouldn’t allow it because she couldn’t believe that I had recovered that quickly (whopping cough sometimes being called the 100-day cough). I should note here that CS is also applicable and useful as a preventive method, not merely curative, though healing (of things that have already happened) is what we hear about most often.
    I agree that it is totally unreasonable and inappropriate for parents to scold children for being sick or to accuse them of not doing their work. The heart and soul of Christian Science is Love (S&H) and those behaviors are clearly missing the point. A parent, especially of young children, should be accountable themselves for ensuring and maintaining the health of their children, not putting it on the shoulders of the child. If they choose Christian Science as their primary means to do so, fine, but they must ensure that it works and do something else if they find that it is not meeting their expectations. And I would suggest that the same applies to parents who choose medical care. If medicine isn’t up to the task, they ought to be willing to pursue alternatives, because loyalty to or disbelief in any system is not a sufficient justification for suffering or death.

    • This is classic “teach the controversy” silliness, like how fundamentalists try to slip Creationism into science classes. Medicine is based on science, Rocky, and CS is based on belief in an internally inconsistent, outdated, baseless theology created out of whole cloth (plus the Bible, sort of) by a nutty old lady 150 years ago. When medicine fails, you suggest people try what? Faith healing? good luck with that. And if you use CS to try to heal your kids, and they are harmed or killed by your failure to allow them medical treatment, I hope you get prosecuted and imprisoned. Here’s the thing about kids: they don’t choose CS. They don’t choose any religion, because they are too young to understand it. And I get why you try to indoctrinate them young (as was done to you–sorry about that), but it doesn’t make it right. Kids are never CS’ers, so don’t make them practice it. If you choose it as an adult, that’s your choice.

      • So true! I may have dodged a bullet growing up. My parents were CS’s. My brother died at age 7 of Leukemia 2 weeks after he was diagnosed. That’s after my parents were turned into the authorities for neglect. My mother died 2 years later of breast cancer. She lived with a lump in her breast for who knows how long before telling anyone. By the time a doctor became involved it was too late. She left my sister and I without a mother at ages 6 & 3. We were sent to camp that summer my mother died. When my Dad picked us up we learned we would never see our mother again, and then no one spoke about it again. Since no one would talk about it, we couldn’t even grieve. We always wondered what life would have been like if she had not died. We grew up with a step mother whom only pretended to care about us. The only good that came out of it was that over time she gradually pulled my father away from CS. We went to CS church until I was about 12. My sister & I were sent away to CS summer camp every year for 2 months, so my stepmother could have the summers off I assumed. Can you even believe sending a 5 & 8 yr. old far away for 2 months straight? Anyway, one year when I was around 12 I became ill at camp. I can remember being so sick and there were people sitting beside me reading the Bible. Someone even offered me a hot dog. Needless to say, I couldn’t eat anything let alone a hot dog. (No medical attention) I kept asking them to call me parents and they finally did. I will have to say my parents came and took me right to a doctor in the middle of the night. The doctor actually met us at his office and he said I had walking pneumonia and gave me a very strong shot of penicillin. He said, if I hadn’t come when we did, I would have been in the hospital the next day or worse. I think if I didn’t have a stepmother (as bad as she was) I may not be here typing this right now. I guess you can imagine! I’m not a Christian Scientist. She did finally get my Dad to go to Dr’s.

        Mary Baker Eddy is not God, not Jesus and not even a saint. She was a human who died about 150 yrs. ago and was not resurrected like Jesus was. She was actually a false prophet, which the Bible says to beware of, as there are many. In my opinion CS is a cult. Where in the bible does it say not to see a doctor away.

        Finally, there is one book and one only. That’s the Bible, and any religion that has it’s “own” book should be a red flag.

  3. Yes, my nephew developed diabetes at age 12. My sister (his mom) was so afraid. She went to church members for support and they berated her. Shortly after that, she left the church.

  4. After years of searching the internet to find intelligent discussions by people who have left Christian Science, I’m thrilled to find this blog! Thank you. I fervently embraced Christian Science at about age 40, joined the Mother Church, joined and was active in a branch church for 11 years. One thing I benefited from is looking at the good. “Think on these [good] things,” as the apostle Paul said. I was not raised as a Christian Scientist. My family had mental illness, and we were taught to be very critical and negative. So I relished the positive thinking that I learned in Christian Science. But I agree with this blog owner that many Christian Scientists are distant and cold, to the point of being cruel, especially to their children. There is also a huge amount of hypocrisy and pretending healings when a person actually went to a doctor. I believe that I did have some physical healings. However, now I wonder whether it was because of Christian Science prayer, or a placebo effect, or some other form of self-healing. Some of these healings were very rapid. Some things I could not heal in any way, the main one being chronic sinusitis. I could not smell or taste anything except toxic perfumes for several years. I prayed and worked with Christian Science practitioners about this, but nothing helped. So I finally went to a medical doctor. I guess I had had this for so long that it took several different kinds of antibiotics to cure it, but it did cure the sinusitis, and now, some 35 years later, I cherish my sense of smell every time I’m walking down the street and smell the trees, rain, or flowers. I notice in some of the writings here that physical healings or lack of them, are discussed a lot. This blogger wrote: “After years of searching the internet to find intelligent discussions by people who have left Christian Science, I’m thrilled to find this blog! Thank you. I fervently embraced Christian Science at about age 40, joined the Mother Church, joined and was active in a branch church for 11 years. I believe that I did have some physical healings. However, now I wonder whether it was because of Christian Science prayer, or a placebo effect, or some other form of self-healing. Some of these healings were very rapid. Some things I could not heal in any way, the main one being chronic sinusitis. I could not smell or taste anything except toxic perfumes for several years. I prayed and worked with Christian Science practitioners about this, but nothing helped. So I finally went to a medical doctor. I guess I had had this for so long that it took several different kinds of antibiotics to cure it, but it did cure the sinusitis, and now, some 35 years later, I cherish my sense of smell every time I’m walking down the street and smell the trees, rain, or flowers. This site’s blogger wrote: “….I think it is the complete disconnection from reality that radical practice of Christian Science induces. I’ll admit that in the cases of some parents who go off the deep end, there are other underlying mental health issues, Christian Science is a major catalyst in inducing the abnormal behaviour they express towards their children.” I would like to address the issue of mental illness in the children of Christian Science parents. As we know, Christian Scientists believe that nothing we as humans see or experience is “real.” We are mesmerized (i.e hypnotized) into thinking the world as it appears is real. Can you imagine what damage this does to children — that pain is not real, the fall the child has just had is not real, their friend is not real except spiritually, the pain their pet feels when injured is not real, their crying is not real, hunger is not real….I mean really — hey how can a parent tell their child these things? I have to wonder if a Christian Science parent hits or spanks his or her child, then when the child screams in pain, the child is told “There is no pain in matter!” I joined the church because my new husband was raised in Christian Science, and I thought highly of his mother (or so I thought at the beginning). I found out that a few years before I met him, he had been in a psychiatric ward for several months, and was given lithium. I now know that lithium is given for manic depression/bipolar disorder. I think my husband was unipolar manic — he never got depressed, but was unreliable, and had no fear of anything! He’d do extreme daredevil things, risking his and sometimes my life. He was also a compulsive liar and a great natural actor. I think he developed the lying, deception, and a charismatic acting side of himself as a child to protect himself as a child from the forced belief in unreality that his mother foisted on him. He was an extremely funny man — a natural comic, and somehow his mother was not able to suppress that, although she sure did try. I have a lot more to say, but have written much to long now, so see you later on!

  5. God is Impersonal Principle.

    I was sent to Principia a CS boarding school. I was denied living in the warmth of a family from which to build patterns for my own family some day. But I was housed in an institution.
    I was told that God would be my infinite Father-Mother. How did that turn out? It didn’t. I was shaped in an emotional and affectional vacuum.

    CS worships Impersonal Principle. That was always heartless and cold to me. Other churches teach of Jesus showing us the Father God’s love, and He has helped me fill the holes in my heart from being raised worshipping Impersonal Principle.

    I don’t think Mrs. Eddy bonded with people. I wouldn’t wish Impersonal Principle on anybody.

    • I’ve been reading an excellent biography of Eddy by Edwin Dakin. It’s called “Mrs. Eddy: The Biography of a Virginal Mind”. This biography points up exactly what you’ve said in your last line. Eddy did not have very good relations with any human beings as far as I can tell.

  6. CS may attract mental illness. My mother who is certifiable, found CS during a nervous breakdown…go figure. She attempted to raise me in CS against my Sierra club druid fathers wishes. (SC another cult entirely) when I was 11 my mom married her practitioner after many months of hours on the phone getting “treatments” to deal with the loss of her father my grandfather. And disclosed family financial info to him…..oh look who’s now marrying my crazy mom and giving me orders! And every time I articulated discomfort or just feeling creeper out by the guy I was lectured about how these feelings were me allowing the devil or animal magnetism to influence my thought. I was frikin 11 lady! Any resistance to his direction of any kind was met with “don’t fool around the man has a mind seven miles in the sky” he reads minds, he has the divine gift. Yeah so did Jim Jones and Marshall what’s his comet. They made me start calling him dad. No I’m totally serious. Estranged from my father and half brothers from the insuring 2 year custody fight where their lawyers brought a religious freedom argument into it.
    My mother and her “practitioner” which is kind of priest confessor psychiatrist best friend all rolled into one, gave me explicit instructions on how to disrupt and run away from my father when he had custody. This led to multiple arrests and detainment by police. I was 11 mom.
    Any dissent any balk any argument was met with some kind of religious rebuke. Message something is wrong with you not us.
    They finally won custody, after 2 years and my father and I did mot speak for 7 years. Even then our relationship never recovered. He’d just say you’re going to end up just like your GD fing mother! And chastise me for my alcoholism as he opened his 3 rd bottle of chard.
    After all hat they packed me off to Daycroft a boarding school for CS kids in Connecticut. It was he’ll in many ways, I was 14 by then, severe anxiety, depression, homesickness. Relegated to an institution after so many legal arguments about what my best interest was.
    The school faculty hated me. I was shamed for having a playboy and a copy of the breakfast club the first week. He’s too sexual. Go figure I’m 14. The kids were cruel, the staff like concentration camp guards towing the party line at all times. I got in so much trouble for a bottle of Nyquil. And was ultimately not invited back because I’d developed a crush on a senior…age inappropriate must be something wrong with that kid.
    What a total mind f#!k!
    The practitioner turned out to only be in it for money, duh right. My mom essentially signed my trust fund from my grandfather over to the guy. I was 16 and livid. He smiled laughed and said it was the will of God or some other such self serving nonsense. Oh did I mention his penchant for adolescent boys. Yeah throw that in too.
    CS at least in this case, destroyed my relationships with both my parents. Taught me that everyone especially your own mother and father will steal from you, stab you in the back, and then blame the victim.
    I’m 44 now, with a serious case of PTSD and I flash back to those experiences many Times a day until I want to dislodge my brain.
    Perhaps I’m being too harsh on CS alone, it was a perfect storm of 4 pshchotics (parents and step parents) the essence of the “me” generation and a Jackie cult that yes I agree Lends it’s self to sociopathic parenting.if your kid is troubled or misbehaving it’s his fault for not “knowing the truth” or mentally malpractising believe me you assclowns if I could bowl things up with my mind mommy and step daddy would have exploded decades ago. Hypocracy and mind control. The Boston candidate.

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