You just don’t ‘understand’ it well enough…

By far, the most common defence that Christian Scientists offer for the failures of their ‘system of healing’ to live up to its lofty promises is some variation on the statement, “you just don’t have a [good enough/correct/complete] understanding of Christian Science.” This defence has popped up in the comments sections on this blog a few times, and I’ve seen it in reader reviews on Amazon.com of books that are critical of Christian Science, in particular the book God’s Perfect Child: Living and Dying in the Christian Science Church by Caroline Fraser. One reviewer comments, “Unfortunately Ms. Fraser does not have a thorough understanding of Christian Science and neither have most of the people who have reviewed the book, here or elsewhere.” (emphasis is mine) I happen to know that Fraser grew up in Christian Science, so I think she had a decent understanding of it, insofar as anyone can. I’ve also seen this defence numerous times in other public forums when people have criticized Christian Science and Christian Scientists have responded. I have also been told on more than a few occasions that I just didn’t/don’t understand it.

Recently, a reader commented on an older post on this blog, implying that I shouldn’t go around trashing the ‘Science’ (many Christian Scientists refer to it as [a/the] ‘Science’), without an understanding of it. I dearly wish that Christian Scientists could come up with better and more original defences of their religion. I hate this one, it’s weak, and I find it offensive. I think I and many others who’ve left Christian Science understand it quite well, and that’s why we’ve wisely chosen to leave it. Science (the real kind) does not need any sort of understanding to ‘work’ or to be what it is (the pursuit of knowledge, essentially). It just is what it is.

As for my own level of ‘understanding’ of Christian Science, I’ll offer up my Christian Science resumé, and dear readers, please let me know if you feel that I should have some sort of at least basic ‘understanding’ of it (as much as someone can have of something as esoteric as Christian Science is):

  • I was born into Christian Science, third generation on both sides of my family, and grew up in the Christian Science Sunday School, rarely missing a Sunday for my entire childhood and most of my teen years (I briefly departed from Christian Science at age 18, returning just before my 20th birthday).
  • I attended a Christian Science summer camp each year after I was old enough; I was eventually a cabin counsellor, staff member, and ultimately a member of the Board of Directors of this camp.
  • I attended a private liberal arts college for Christian Scientists for four years, graduating with a degree in Communications; I was involved with the campus Christian Science Organization for most of the time I was there.
  • I took Class Instruction in Christian Science at the age of 31, and never missed an Association meeting until I finally left Christian Science 11 years later; each year, all students presented a paper at Association on a topic given to us by our Teacher; and my Teacher raved each year about my papers, indicating to me on several occasions that he felt that I had a very deep and complete understanding of Christian Science; at one point even saying that I would be an excellent worker in the ‘field’ in the area I was living in at the time (an implication that I would be an excellent Christian Science practitioner).
  • I have read Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures, the so-called ‘textbook’ of Christian Science (written by Mary Baker Eddy) cover-to-cover; and I conducted in-depth study on many of Eddy’s other writings over my years in Christian Science.
  • I worked for 10 years at the Christian Science Church headquarters in Boston, Massachusetts.
  • I served two stints on the Executive Board of two different Christian Science branch churches of which I was a member, serving as Board Chair for a one-year term.

I think I had as good an ‘understanding’ of Christian Science as it is possible to have. I also think that my parents did too. For their entire lives, they were deeply earnest students of this faith, both class-taught, yet it failed to heal them in their latter days. The same Teacher who extolled my understanding of Christian Science on occasion in my Dad’s last days, implied that he felt my Dad’s ‘understanding’ may be lacking–hence the reason he wasn’t finding ‘healing’ (of the heart failure that actually killed him). This, after having in past years extolled my Dad’s understanding and dedication to Christian Science.

All too often, in the face of the failure of Christian Science to heal, it is the victim who is blamed, and usually it’s their lack of ‘understanding’ that is given as the reason. It could never be because Christian Science is not an effective modality of healing; no, that could never be the case, of course. So, what is there to ‘understand’? If it really is a science, it doesn’t take some special level ‘understanding’ for it to work. It simply does.

I welcome any Christian Scientist to explain fully what I and others like me don’t ‘understand’. Please specifically state what you supposedly ‘understand’ that so many of us (who have pretty good Christian Science resumés) have missed. Please feel free to leave a comment. I’m waiting…

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9 thoughts on “You just don’t ‘understand’ it well enough…

  1. This is absolutely your BEST blog post ever. I haven’t read all of your blog. But I have read enough. And this is your BEST. Thank you so much! Your Christian Science resume mirrors my own quite a lot. Add to my resume “Journal listed Practioner” and also “Christian Science Camp Practitioner,” and remove the “I worked for the HQ for 10 years” and our Christian Science resumes match. By the way, we both also went to the only school in the US for CS students too.

    Thank you so much for writing this post. Amen and amen and amen and amen!!!!

    • Yes, I wonder what YOU did not ‘understand’. I’m waiting for some expert Christian Scientist to chime in. Still hearing the crickets…

  2. PS:

    If after ALL of that, someone STILL insists we “don’t understand it,” well, pray tell me what on earth we would have to do to actually understand it??

    Seriously. I understood it my whole life. I was hoping to one day become a Teacher. Then, my world turned upside down when a parent died. My parent didn’t deserve a life or death like that. And my surviving parent victim blamed them. It was horrendous! The opposite of loving.

    I don’t have to understand gravity for it to work. (Although, I do. I love science!) IT JUST WORKS.

    • I ‘understood’ it (Christian Science) insofar as I believe it could be understood. Christian Science is an incredibly meandering, self-contradictory, and esoteric philosophy that I doubt it could ever be fully ‘understood’. I think that’s all any of us can really claim in the end.

  3. PPS:
    My parent was on hospice for a very short time. Still expecting a complete healing.

    You know what is awesome about us Ex CS people? Once a CS person comes to their senses, we are ALL here for each other. Ready to catch someone when they finally wake up.

    It’s such a scary thing to exit. CS overtakes ALL of your thinking, all day long. It causes anxiety and depression and CPTSD. But all of us Ex CS people are here to help and catch each other and support each other.

    I finally started on my journey to being truly happy once I LEFT “christian” “science.” (It is neither Christian nor Science.)

  4. Lost my very long comment. It was comments by my CS teacher about the Vatican praying for the demise of Christian Science that turned me away. My immediate mental response, Nonsense! I have a strong spiritual side, and found others like me in the Episcopal Church. I live in a University town: UMass, Amherst, Hampshire Colleges then over the mountain, Mount Holyoke and over the river, Smith college where I received my Masters in playwriting! One of our last associate Priests is making her name known in environmental circles, Many of our parish members are Professors in the technical world, bringing a refreshing ispiritual interpretation of our very physical world. I took a four year course titled, Education for Ministry, out of The University of the South through our church. There were four students in each class, out of the group one is now a priest,n who also teaches Computer Science at UMass, another is taking her last steps to Ordination.

  5. Yesterday I had a clear feeling of relief: that I don’t need to heal anything – not now nor in the future. I don’t have to WORK at it.
    My Dad’s a very sweet guy. He had a difficult childhood and so did I after my Mum left when I was 11 so Dad really tried his best for us and clung to his faith.
    What’s sad is that my Dad feels he’s now an inadequate CS because aged 80 he takes medication for heart, blood pressure, diabetes, to prevent a stroke (his partner bullied him into medical treatment). No, Dad, you’ve done your best in the circumstances. On top of all your other difficulties, it’s not your fault you aren’t healed.
    Of the wacko churches I’ve attended the last few years, I’ve realised CS is pretty extreme. It’s funny how the other weird sects hate CS because it’s a weird sect. That doesn’t seem very Christian to me.
    I attend churches because I like community but I steer clear of the guys who really believe Jesus is coming back.
    Thanks for your blog.

    • Your Dad has not failed in anything connected to his health. Christian Science failed him, and proper, scientifically-based medical care is helping him. Period. End of sentence. I lump all of the wacko fringe cults (like CS) in the same group. None more or less crazy than the other. Just different flavours of crazy. Some, I suppose, are more malignant than others.

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