Orange juice makes me happy!
This was the once-proud pronouncement of a child who grew up in a Christian Science household. She related this to a Christian Science practitioner, and was sternly rebuked. Yes, you heard me right–this happy child was rebuked for simply expressing how happy something as simple as orange juice made her feel! Can you believe that? I’ll bet most people can’t, but those of us who grew up swimming in the Krazy Sauce of Christian Science just give a knowing head-nod and eye-roll. We’ve all been there before in one way or another.
Departure from happiness…
This experience was a touchstone moment for the little girl, and she began to systematically remove all things that made her happy from her life, or adapt a more neutral emotional response to the things around her. The practitioner had said something to the effect of her happiness about orange juice “giving power to (so-called) ‘mortal mind'” or something like that. Happiness had become something ‘bad’, something to avoid–it was pleasure in something that was false. There are also elements of this aversion to happiness or pleasure in this world in other faiths as well.
The fundamentalist Christian or Muslim will often view happiness on this Earth as a sin that will prevent you from attaining eternal bliss in the afterlife, or just generally make you a ‘bad’ and/or immoral person. This is a broad generalization, I know, but this is my observation from my knowledge of other fundamentalist sects. I think it’s definitely an underlying theme, and I’m not here to talk about other faiths. I welcome any clarifying comments or criticisms.
Christian Scientists, like those of other faiths, come in many shades of fundamentalism. The practitioner in my story here comes from a more extreme end of Christian Science fundamentalism. So did my own Christian Science Teacher. I was always much more moderate. The truly fundamentalist Christian Scientist will reject any sort of relief or pleasure in the so-called ‘material senses’. To them, any pleasure derived that way is to hand over power to what they call ‘mortal mind’, which ironically is something they also consider to be nothing–yet they give it a lot of power. Also ironically, and this was especially true of my Teacher, they are often very proud of their material wealth and possessions. There are many contradictions with Christian Science and Christian Scientists, as any of my long-time readers will know. These create a lot of mental and emotional conflicts within people, and it was always something I struggled deeply with.
The little girl’s rejection of happiness led to long cycles of depression throughout her life, which of course in Christian Science were never properly addressed; they were simply denied. Christian Science is like a sickening kind of Rube-Goldberg machine. It complicates things unnaturally, and runs in convoluted circles. In the discussion forums in the ex-Christian Scientist on-line groups I’m in, I see the damage it does first-hand, and top of the list is depression. Right up there is low self-esteem. I’d say probably almost all former Christian Scientists will say that they’ve experienced one or both of these.
I personally suffer frequently from feelings of inadequacy and low self-esteem. I’ve also dealt with depression, or at least depressive episodes. I was recently offered a promotion at work, which I accepted. Almost immediately, the fear of failure set in. That ‘still small voice’ (to turn a favourite Christian Science phrase on its head) started saying, “you’re not good enough, you’re going to fuck this up!” I’ve had to constantly counter that by the affirmation that my employers are intelligent enough to recognize that I am capable of doing this job, and doing it well. Otherwise, they wouldn’t have given a second thought to passing me over and putting out a general posting for the job. The relentless pursuit, in Christian Science of absolute perfection, which is impossible to attain, causes deep self-doubt when inevitably you find yourself falling short. You’re never good enough, because you’re not perfect. Instead of finding joy, I found fear. I had to think and reason myself to the place of joy that most people would go to more immediately.
Seeing the light and finding happiness…
So too, the little girl, now an adult, had to find her happiness. After many decades of marinating in the Christian Science Krazy Sauce, and even becoming a Christian Science practitioner herself, she left Christian Science. It was then that she slowly began to find her joy, and she’s still working on it. There are many things that should bring her joy and pleasure that still don’t. But, like so many others who’ve left Christian Science, she’s begun to enjoy the simple pleasures in life, like a beautiful sunset, the ability to bring joy to others through her artistic talents, a beautiful song, or…orange juice. She struggles to feel the same joy that others feel from the things she does for them, but like the rest of us who’ve left Christian Science, she makes progress one day at a time. We’ve all been deeply wounded by this fundamentalist cult, and the healing is slow and difficult. In many cases, it will take the rest of our lives.
Sometimes, our friends who’ve never been exposed to Christian Science will think it’s weird the stuff that makes us happy. They don’t think anything of taking pain killers or other medications that relieve discomfort. We ex-Christian Scientists marvel at being able to do these things. We marvel at taking pleasure in ‘worldly affections’ that others take for granted. In a way, we’re like little boys and girls discovering the world for the very first time. And yes, I do like orange juice!