On dissenting opinions, Ellen, and Christian Science

This post is starting out as a bit of a random thought-spill that takes in several different thoughts, incidents, and things published that may not seem related at first glance, but they all have a common thread that weaves, or more like zig-zags randomly through them. So bear with me, dear reader. I do have a point (I think).

Recently, an interview with Ellen DeGeneres was published in Parade magazine. As many may know, Ellen DeGeneres grew up in Christian Science, and does not have an overly favourable opinion of it. While DeGeneres has spoken openly about this in the past; as far as I know, this is the most in-depth she’s gotten on the subject in any sort of interview I’ve seen or read, and even here I don’t see her going all that deep on the Christian Science angle, although it is in the background throughout the interview. It naturally attracted attention among my fellow ex-Christian Scientists in our Facebook group (with largely a collective “yeah, I know what you mean” look/nod). However from Keith Wommack, Christian Science Committee on Publication from the U.S. state of Texas, it prompted a letter to the editor, not of Parade magazine, but to a newspaper in a Texas town I’d never heard of until now. Why a letter to the editor of a paper regarding something not even published in the paper itself was published in that paper, I don’t know. Perhaps that paper carries Parade magazine (it’s one of those magazines that’s a syndicated insert in weekend papers throughout the United States). I think it’s likely that Wommack has a relationship with the editor.

In his response, Wommack trots out a typical Christian Scientist argument, “that isn’t what Christian Science [is], [teaches], [etc.].” However, Mr. Wommack, that was Ellen DeGeneres’s experience with Christian Science, that is how it’s practised by a large number of its adherents; and, DeGeneres’s experience is reflective of many of our own. To me and many other former Christian Scientists, Wommack comes off as dismissive and flippant. Also, Wommack can’t truthfully say that Christian Science, in its teaching of the denial of so-called ‘material/mortal reality’, does not teach people to pretend, at least on some level, that everything is ‘okay’, even when it’s not. After all, Christian Science teaches that we all supposedly live in some esoteric ‘spiritual reality’ in which everything is perfect. When you can’t see this ‘reality’ (which is pretty much all the time), you’re forced to pretend on some level that it’s really there. Let me tell you, that is mentally exhausting. A friend and fellow ex-Christian Scientist aptly refers to this as ‘mental gymnastics’.

I guess it’s natural for Christian Scientists, like any other group, to get defensive when their faith is criticised or attacked in some way, and they’re entitled to their defence. I’m also entitled to my arguments against their defence, and my insider’s perspective gives me the ability to use their own theology and arguments against them, and to point out the fallacy of their argument, and their faith. So what if that pops the bubble of denial and complacency. Christian Science has wrecked many lives and many families, and I will always stand ready to be that critical voice, and to call out those who flippantly dismiss another person’s painful experiences.

If you’re going to dismiss a person’s experiences as “not what Christian Science teaches” then tell me, with annotated attribution, what it does teach then! I spent 40 years mired in that pool of denial, and can’t find one thing that refutes what DeGeneres said about her own experience. Christian Science is all about denying ‘bad stuff’, and only acknowledging ‘good stuff’. When you see something bad, you deny it. You are forced to pretend it doesn’t exist. You paste on your fake smile, and that veneer of “everything is a-ok.”

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