A Metaphor Does Not a Diagnosis Make

I was reminded recently, in an on-line discussion thread, of Christian Scientists’ propensity to put at the root of many a physical ailment a metaphorical mental/emotional issue. A participant in the thread commented on how a heavy feeling in her chest was expertly diagnosed by a Christian Science practitioner or some other Christian Scientist as a ‘manifestation of stubbornness’. Yeah right! No, it couldn’t be something perhaps more serious like heart disease or asthma. Just change your hard heart, and it will all go away–like magic! Geez! Now I know what’s caused my asthma! I guess I can toss aside my inhalers! Hallelujah!

Some other metaphors…

I’ve heard many other metaphors in my time as a Christian Scientist. Severe back pain was expertly diagnosed to me by my Christian Science teacher as being a result of my fear of losing mobility. I now know that it is likely a distended or herniated disc, and I’ve been assured by medical professionals that I have no reason to fear loss of mobility. I do, however, deal with chronic back pain that flares up periodically. Proper and regular physical therapy has put it into a better state of remission than it’s ever been in before, and if it flares up, specific exercises, treatment, and ibuprofen all combine to lessen the pain and make it go away much faster than it ever did in the past with Christian Science ‘treatment’.

I’ve heard tell that acne is a manifestation of a fear on the sufferer’s part to ‘face’ something in their life. Um…I can assure you that acne is a skin condition, usually brought on by the effects of puberty, genetics, and diet. Although stress is mentioned as a possible contributing factor; that’s about as close to reality the Christian Science diagnosis gets.

Cancer is a big one, not only in the world at large, but with Christian Scientists. Many is the Christian Scientist (I and others suspect my Mom was one of them) have succumbed painfully and gruesomely to untreated cancers of various forms. The most common forms that I observed with Christian Scientists were melanomas (skin cancers). Many have also died in agony from breast cancer–a form of cancer that has a high survival rate if caught early enough (but that requires regular examinations). If I had a dime for every little old lady or man I remember who had large hideous growths on their faces, I’d probably be able to pay for a nice vacation. Many of these melanomas are easily and routinely treated in a doctor’s office and nothing more is ever thought of it. Normally, most people don’t die from these, but many Christian Scientists have. My aunt, my mother’s younger sister, died from bone cancer that went untreated until her latter days when she went into hospice care, but at that point it was too late. All they could do was keep her comfortable with some very powerful painkillers. I know of another gentleman who’s related to a former Christian Scientist friend of mine who is slowly and painfully dying of colon cancer–a form of cancer that can be routinely treated if caught early enough. When my aunt died, I remember my parents saying that cancer was a manifestation of deeply held resentment. I have heard that statement from many other Christian Scientists as well. Now, it was possible that she did hold some resentment–my uncle was a first-class asshole, who cheated on her frequently, and was verbally abusive, but was that the cause of her cancer? I highly doubt it.

Really…it’s a cruel world out there…

Every person who’s grown up in Christian Science will recall the oft-repeated platitude regarding contagion that not one of God’s creatures can harm another. Bullshit! Just turn on Animal Planet if you want to see some animals (like lions) hurting others (like gazelles). The same goes for viruses and bacteria. They do real harm, and they can be passed from person to person. They are real, and they are a part of this world, whether we like it or not. The real world cannot be tied up in a neat little package of goodness with a bow on top like Christian Science would have you believe. The world is a cruel place, and it is also a wonderful place. That’s just the way it is. Yin and yang; good and bad; dark and light. Everything has its antipode. The bad stuff is just as real as the good stuff, girls and boys. And no, there isn’t a metaphor that can diagnose or cure the bad stuff. Shit happens, and that’s just the way it is; and there isn’t necessarily any cosmic reason for it.

So often, Christian Science tries to put a veneer of credibility on its crackpot claims of effectiveness. It relies on metaphors to explain complex medical and mental health conditions, trying to reduce serious illness to simple and candy-sweet platitudes. This, my friends, is a dangerous path to walk, and many have walked it to miserable and painful deaths. My parents did just that. Don’t reduce your health and well-being to metaphor. Metaphors are better kept to language and literature.

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One thought on “A Metaphor Does Not a Diagnosis Make

  1. Victimizing the one suffering just can’t help the healing. The jargon still makes me angry: I seem to have a headache, My thought will get me over this. Metaphors, platitudes, illogical thinking, big words strung into meaningless sentences. The worst is really that the blame heaped on the sufferer is the antithesis of love or truth, but perhaps that is just uncapitalized.

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