A Tragically Public Failure of Christian Science

I’m not a follower of celebrity news or gossip. I’ve never really cared about celebrity culture. Celebrities are just people to me, nothing more, nothing less. Their lives and attention-begging antics generally aren’t interesting to me. However, one bit of recent celebrity news has caught my attention for obvious reasons, given my background and the reasons I write this blog. I also feel very conflicted about this story as well, and have debated whether or not to write about it at all. The celebrity story I discuss here points up a central reason why I write this blog: Christian Science does not heal physical ailments. Plain and simple, it does not work, I’ve said this many times; and now we have a very visible failure of it in the celebrity news pages.

Actor Val Kilmer is one of a few well-known celebrities who identify as a Christian Scientist, and he is no exception to my general antipathy towards anything celebrity-related. There are other Christian Scientist celebrities; among them actors, politicians, musicians, and athletes; and many others who grew up in Christian Science but subsequently left it. I previously wrote this post about James Hetfield of Metallica who grew up in Christian Science.

During my time working at The Mother Church, I occasionally met some of these folks, but Val Kilmer is the only one I ever got to know for any length of time. The department I worked in at the time was involved with a project Kilmer was working on for the Church, and I and several of my colleagues spent a few weeks working with him on one aspect of it. I won’t say much about our interactions, other than to say that by the end of our time working with him, my initially ambivalent to negative impressions of him had largely reversed, and I honestly think at his core, he is decent, kind person who is extremely passionate about what he does, and settles for nothing but the best in whatever he’s doing. Kilmer definitely seems, to me, like someone who doesn’t do anything half way, and I deeply respect that about him. Unfortunately for his health, that includes radical reliance on Christian Science for physical healing.

For the last several months, rumours have circulated regarding Kilmer’s health. Speculation has it that he’s battling throat cancer. A few months ago, he was admitted to hospital after he coughed up blood, but left as soon as possible. Any time he’s been seen in public recently, he’s been sporting scarves around his neck in an obvious bid to hide something. More recently, photographs have emerged showing him leaving church looking very unhealthy. Whatever he’s dealing with is taking a very obvious toll on him.

My conflicted feelings about whether or not to write about this arise number one from the fact that my heart goes out to Kilmer and his family (who I understand are deeply concerned about his health and apparent lack of proper care and attention to it), and the fact that this obviously scary and deeply personal difficulty in his life is being splayed out for the world to see, and for people like me and other critics of Christian Science to comment on it. I for one, would never want to have my life subjected to the kind of personal scrutiny that his life is currently being subjected to. I honestly wish the paparazzi would leave him alone, and allow him the dignity of suffering privately. My motivation here is to point up the obvious failure of Christian Science to heal, and how the dogmatic belief in it victimizes its believers.

While I have deep empathy for Kilmer and his family, my goodwill ends at the doorstep of Christian Science, and how it has brainwashed him into thinking he can pray away what is obviously a very serious health condition that has not improved since photographs and stories about it first arose earlier this year. Kilmer’s story is a very public display of the complete and utter failure of Christian Science to heal, and we are watching this man tragically suffer because of it. Christian Science promises an ability to heal anything–even cancer, and the fact of the matter is that it can’t. Unfortunately Val Kilmer and thousands of others buy into this false promise. If there is one small shred of anything good to see here, it is that the world at large is seeing once and for all that Christian Science is completely fraudulent in its claims of an ability to heal, and I hope that this story keeps anyone who may be thinking about exploring Christian Science to think twice.

What is sad, is watching Val Kilmer suffer so needlessly and publicly. According to some accounts, if anyone close to him in any way pressures him to seek medical care, they’re cut out of his life. That is all too often the case with Christian Scientists who are dealing with physical ailments, and families have been torn apart because of this. My thoughts go out to Kilmer, his children, and the rest of his family. Christian Science is sometimes a fatal choice. I hope he comes to his senses before it’s too late, and gets the care he needs.

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13 thoughts on “A Tragically Public Failure of Christian Science

    • In and of itself, I don’t believe anyone’s expectation of failure has anything to do with Val Kilmer’s illness. His own thought, yes maybe that can have an effect. Other people’s thoughts, not so much, in my opinion. Give me well-documented, peer reviewed scientific proof that it does, then we can talk.

      • I agree that other people’s thoughts only have zero to limited effect, most of the time.Otherwise, we’d be buffeted constantly by others’ projections onto us. I actually think that is the definition of witchcraft- negative thoughts having bad effects on others…..
        I love Val Kilmer and wish him on to his best possible fate. I am glad he is showing us the real face of Christian Science when it doesn’t work. He is really being upfront about it and he always was a very upfront guy, so he is being true to himself and letting it all hang out for the world to see.

  1. The last I heard of Val Kilmer, he was wanting to make a movie about his fearless leader Ms MBE, and Mark Twain. His position was that Twain admired and was fond of Mary. I ggogled it thorougly back when and realized the church was not going for it.

    As for his current radical reliance- almost all of us know where that is going…….
    Being such a public face of CS and publicly showing how CS fails to heal should help the cause of the churches enemies than benefit the church.

    While I am at it. Robin Williams had a strong CS influence in his early life. While he may have shed most of it, he still did not realize he needed help for his emotional instability. Emotional instability is deadly. As many as 24% of people diagnosed with a mood disorder do commit suicide. We can’t rule out early negative beliefs that kept him from recognizing his emotional instability- which is already hard enough for non-CS-influenced people to see.

  2. “JAH on June 21, 2015 at 8:47 am said:

    All the negative expectancy of failure does not help him, and works against success”

    That statement is pure magical thinking and also.demonstrates a belief in witchcraft – witches were burned for beliefs about their so called negative thinking on others and their crops. If negative thinking killed people directly, Nixon would have been dead by 1968, Hitler by 1939 and Antonio Scalia and C. Thomas, by yesterday- and so on. Oh Yeah and Obama would have been dead 10 times over by the negative thinking of the opposite party! As it is they can’t even kill “obamacare”, only give it a memorable name, LOL!

    That statement is also totally negative because people do things that others think they will fail at- all the time.How many things have happened in spite of negative thinking? Well, Lots.It is called overcoming the odds and has to to with personal strength, not the wishes of others for good or ill.

    I can’t imagine a Jah-lover defending CS! There is no room for pot sacraments in CS or any kind of expanded thinking, whether drug fueled or au natural. Or, if you are Jah Himself, hurry up and make pot legal everywhere in the world. It is one of the oldest-used herbs by mankind and my arthritis is really bad today!

  3. I felt impelled to comment since it seems unkind to find a reason to be glad about someone’s very public health issues because they seem to support one’s view of CS. I would prefer to hope that he recovers. (JAH are my initials, no other meaning. Changed now to lower case to prevent confusion?)

    • I too hope he recovers, and take no happiness in his suffering whatsoever. However, I don’t think Christian Science will bring him any sort of recovery. His radical reliance on it may just kill him. Christian Science fails too many people, and it is very obviously failing Val Kilmer.

  4. Hi
    Hoping to make you happy with this gossip headline:
    http://www.thehollywoodgossip.com/2016/01/val-kilmer-undergoes-life-saving-cancer-surgery/
    Although the followup does not seem to be publicized, Val apparently had surgery and is seen looking ok with a tracheotomy tube in his throat.
    NB: he thanked CHER among others for their support. That sounds like he was lucky to have a friend like Cher, but it is no public testimonial to Christian Science!

    Maybe he is over it!

  5. Lost my grandpa at 60, grandma at 63, both were Christian Scientist and refused “meaningful” medical treatment. It is sad only having a couple memories of them. My Dad isn’t actively practicing, but won’t go to the doctor until he absolutely has to go. Thankfully, my mom had us raised non-denominational.

    • My grandparents were also CS. Gma passed in 2000, family took her to a CS nursing home to die basically. Gpa in 2007, couldn’t get out of bed one day and was actually taken to the hospital. Cancer, too far gone to know where it originated. He passed so a few months later. My Dad is the same way, but my mom grew up Lutheran and was actually a nurse when she met my dad so luckily I grew up knowing the wonderful world of medicine.

  6. Watched my Dad go through two years of bladder cancer without any treatment other than Christian Science. We even insisted he go to the CS sanitarium if he was going to insist on only CS care, but he only stayed a week. It was absolutely agonizing not being able to get him to get medical care until those last weeks when he finally consented to go to the hospital, He died at age 70 a few weeks later. The irony was that his sister suffered the same type of cancer a few years later, received medical treatment, went into full remission and lived many, many more years until she died of a stroke at 88. Right after Dad died, I wrote the Mother Church and told them to remove me from their membership. This was the final straw. And we made Mom promise she would never do this to us again. She had good medical care from then on and lived to be 100.

    • You’ve clearly articulated, by sharing your own experience, how Christian Science is so completely ineffective and fraudulent in its claims.

  7. I was raised a CS, was very active in college. I went to church three times a week. I felt guilty every time I got a cold, or worse. Later, I started getting really depressed and went to my mother and told her. She did nothing. She said nothing except, “You are the perfect child of God and in perfection there can be no error.” I loved my mother–who chose to raise us in this religion, but she could not deal with problems, or illness of any kind. I find that cruel. In children, it is downright negligent not to take a child to a doctor. It think the laws have made it so. Children do not choose their religion. I remember the exact incidents leading to me to thoughtfully leave the church, and explaining why. A group of us were in Boston for some annual meeting a the Mother Church. It was late and a homeless man came up to me and asked for a quarter back in the 70s. My practitioner pulled me by the arm away from him and looked me in the eyes and said to me: “that is error. He is ERROR. Do not listen to error. Error is a lie.” I was so confused, and I felt her words to be cruel and displaying almost the same symptoms of people who have lost touch with reality.
    I believe Mary Baker Eddy had hallucinations, mostly auditory when she ostensibly wrote Science and Health. (There are many claims she copied much of it from the writings of Hegel and Engels.)
    I was coming of age, and started to have boyfriends and a sense of sexuality. Being such a good little CS as I was, I asked church leaders what their stand on sex was. I could get no answers from anyone other than one person telling me it was part of a healthy relationship.

    Despite it’s origins, and at times, complex metaphysical reasoning, CS attracts wealthy, right wing people who have little worries and what concerns they do have can be easily dismissed by claiming we live in a perfect world. God have a place for us…if we should find ourselves unemployed. or without a home. Should we get ill, it is because our thinking is somehow diseased…our thinking if off track. It’s a terrible, deadly cycle that offers temporary comfort and the permission to not worry over death, disease, ailments, dis-ease.

    I went to summer camp at Round Up Ranch with the daughter of John Erlichman…of Watergate. Rich and wealthy..kids with nothing to fret. My whole social life revolved around the religion. I have seen people from our church die before they’d go to a doctor. That is not the preachings of Cs. It really is a guide for living. If you can’t heal yourself, you get a practitioner. If the practitioner can’t heal you, you go to the doctor. Supposedly no stigma or harm done. By there is a lot of peer pressure that you caved to medical science. Gossip at our local church was around who was ill. Normally they’d put the ill person on some kind of prayer list to send good thoughts their way. In CS, it was a sign of weakness.

    That is not me. I deliberately, and quite formally dropped out of the church at the age of 21, after going to the church elders to tell them they have failed to persuade me or guide me that they and I are living in a shared reality. I honestly believe people who practice CS are delusional.

    My primary interest was going to Sunday school as a child and learning about Metaphysical thinking. I had an excellent understanding of Science and Health, the Journal, and other books written by MBE. We used to have naughty fun stumping the Sunday school teacher by asking him such questions as:if god is omnipresent, omnipotent, omniscient, benevolent, why do bad things happen? Classic philosophical question. The teacher would try to tell us youngins of about 10 years old that it was because we were not putting enough faith in our belief that we are perfect children of God living in a perfect world…as such, nothing should go wrong would only we fully realize it.

    For the life of me I cannot understand why my mother settled on this religion. She suffered severe headaches and tried everything. She said when she read S&H they went away. I believe if someone tells you to relax and let someone else worry about everything…yes, they would go away. For that, it’s still not worth the beautiful Mother Church.

    But don’t listen to me. I am an atheist now. And the best I can say about is they are phonies and you can’t have a real conversation with them because they are ghosts.

    In the end though, my mother died suddenly from heart failure at the age of 79. She was not in pain. Nor did I ever hear her complain of any ailments her entire life. Maybe she didn’t want to. Maybe she had the luxury not to. When the doctors asked us about her health history, we all shrugged our shoulders, no one knew. The cruel joke was I was her health care proxy and had been given very specific instructions long before she died about what she wanted. No tubes, no machines, etc. I honored every word even though every day but I was so inner conflicted. I still believe this is a very intimate, personal time and a person has the right to choose how they pass away.

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