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.