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…