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I wasn't raised as a Christian Scientist, so never had the the experience of raising children in it, nor personal stresses and strains associated with it. However, I've known many Christian Scientists over the years and have been interested in the religion for a long time. I've always had certain questions, but haven't found the answers in Christian Science:
1. Why are matter and material life "unreal" only when they cause discomfort? I've never heard a Christian Scientist claim that matter or material life was unreal when everything was going well. How can a sick body be unreal, but when it's healed, all of a sudden it's real?
2. Mary Baker Eddy claimed that her religion had revived Jesus Christ's emphasis on healing. But there's a huge difference between the way Jesus healed and the way healing is conducted in Christian Science. Jesus took upon HIMSELF the entire burden of healing, which makes perfect sense. Some of the people he healed were in no position, physically or mentally, to know or claim any kind of truth, or to effect any kind of healing. Moreover, they were already suffering. Jesus did not place upon them the added burden of healing themselves! In Christian Science, on the other hand, despite treatment by practitioners, the burden of healing is placed upon the person needing healing [unless the person is a child.]
3.Theoretically in Christian Science God is the healer, but in actual practice, the human mind seems to the instrument of healing, and if healing doesn't come, then the sufferer is oppressed by guilt in addition to being oppressed by the original malady, because the sufferer's thinking must have somehow been deficient, lacking in the understanding of truth.
4. I sometimes wonder if some of the affirmations I hear come from the soul, or whether they're just shallow statements lacking substance. Often I find it difficult to have honest conversations with Scientists, because if I say, "The weather is bad", the person instantly denies this, claiming there is no bad weather in Spirit. If I say that someone did me an injustice, the reply is that I must see that person as God made him or her. That would be fine, except that unless the other person recognizes the same identity, they're going to wreak havoc. I'm troubled by the implication that in Christian Science an individual "seeing the other person as God made him or her" is actually trying, by exerting one's own mental thinking, to change the outward reality. Thus my concern, and question, is this: To what extent do Christian Scientists actually rely on God (as they profess to do), or on their own human mind, to "project" onto the universe the outcomes they desire. I don't doubt that such a course might produce seeming positive results, but such results would probably be shortlived. At some point, a false basis will crumble.
I'm not opposed to the idea that God heals disease. There are numerous instances of unusual healings, many of which have astounded medical practitioners. I feel that there's another power at work. However, this Power operates all over the world. It isn't confined to Christian Science.
That we don't see more evidence of this enormous power interceding more often is a mystery.
I know you're busy, but if you can shed light on any of the questions I asked above (or suggest readings), please let me know.
Carolyn, a very belated thank you for your AM article and for God's Perfect Child, both of which helped me understand the enormous complexities of my childhood. My father was a exceptionally zealous practitioner and my mother had paranoid schizophrenia-- a toxic combination for my two brothers and me. I have many harsh memories of growing up in the atmosphere of denial, with no explanation or empathy for my mother's illness ("She's under the influence of error") and the years of emotional abuse and physical neglect. The fact that I survived is due to sheer rebelliousness, and yes, dumb luck.
My 2 children are grown now, and although I rejected the church's teachings at age 9 (even survived one semester at Principia Upper School--expelled in 1968), in raising them I don't think I was able to completely erase the years of indoctrination regarding illness-- despite years of therapy. They got adequate medical care, but emotionally it was hard for me to be there for them.
I wonder how most children of Christian Scientists fare as parents? Are they able to empathize and respond to their children's emotional needs when they are ill?
Thank you again for the tremendous research and well-written exposť of this dangerous cult.
I think it rare why such a bright person with tremendous writing skills would waste their time and talents on such a slanted interpretation of the truth. My humble belief is this demonstrates how ones early environment can bring such confusion and conflict. CF mother was not a student of CS but her father was. This created the basis for her confusion over CS. Please use your tremendous writing talents for subjects of more importance. CS is and properly practiced is a tremendous resource and faith. Your book provides misinformation and reflects the authors confusion.
Caroline, I stumbled on your AM article on Christian Science this morning and was consumed to tears by the content. I was raised, through fever, meazles, colds, cuts and broken bones and more in that "religion". I even went to The Principia for middle and high school. Imagine in adulthood, the "revelation" I felt the first time I took medication to relieve pain and fever. Now I am a father and I would never want my children to suffer needlessly through any illness any more than I wouldn't find them a bathroom if they needed to pee. I could fill this website with my own stories. Great article, even 17 years later. If you ever need a witness, call me.
I want to say a huge thank you to Caroline for her courageous and objective look at Christian Science. I was raised in "Science" and have struggled with the "demons" that follow so many of those whose introduction to Jesus and God are portrayed in such bizarre contrast to the truth of the Gospel. It is amazing how deep the stream of deception runs and how persistent it can be. On my second reading, I saw even more than on my first and have, I believe, been able to put the whacky teachings of Mary Baker Eddy even further behind me. So many of the scars of abandonment I and others have experienced in childhood are the best example of the kind of fruit which comes from this tree. I was particularly struck by the whole concept of "radical reliance" and how much this is a mind over matter religion rather than one which firmly acknowledges the Lordship of Jesus Christ. Thank you, Caroline, for pushing aside the cobwebs and giving us all a clear view.
re: God's Perfect Child. As someone raised in CS,but rejecting it when reaching a mature consciousness, I have finally found an explantion of the inexplicable in your book. You are "right on" in your exploration of the irreconcilablity of CS's rejection of the material world we live in but are supposed to deny, and their idea of the true spiritual world.I have never read a book I can so totally relate to. Thank you for writing it.
Your talents and efforts are much better employed in your other work:
"Rewilding the World: Dispatches from the Conservation Revolution"
Regarding the work:
"God's Perfect Child: Living and Dying in the Christian Science Church"
--A strictly honest and much more effective title for this work would have been:
"I Couldn't Hack Christian Science: So I Got Mad" -by Caroline Fraser
CF: Oh, snap! It sounds like somebody else is a little mad too. Sure you're not projecting?
I am writing a senior argumentative paper on Christian Science and how it is a form of Child Abuse. I was wondering if you know what a religion has to do to gain recognition as a religion. In my conclusion I am planning on stating that if anyone wanted to make it okay to break certain laws all they have to do is start their own religion not allowing the jury to go against the first amendment. If you think that's lame let me know. haha I've been struggling with this but your article is great
CF: There are different ways by which religions are recognized. You may have seen in the news a few years ago that the Church of Scientology was granted tax-exempt status by the IRS in this country (a privilege it has been denied in other countries, such as Germany), so that's one way to get official recognition. Another way is the time-honored method of just hanging around long enough and gathering enough followers. Best of luck with your paper.
Caroline, I recently read your 1995 article from Th Atlantic, "Suffering Children and the Christian Science Church". I found it extremely well-written and compelling. I was also raised by two Christian Scientists and have often felt that it was only luck that allowed me to grow up healthy and happy. But, even though I was and am healthy, there are so many simple things which would have made my life easier and happier but for Christian Science. (For example, simple acne medicine would have done a lot for my confidence as a young girl and woman. I live with the acne scars today as a reminder of how cruel Christian Science can be, even in cases which do not involve life or death.) The child-death cases are horrendous, but I was also tremendously moved by your discussion of the strains people like us face as adults confronting our parents' premature decline. Your description of the "classic bind of the lapsed children of Christian Scientists" wanting to save our parents from themselves is absolutely correct and I couldn't have said it better myself. Thanks for the article. It is still moving readers over 13 years later. Please keep speaking out against Christian Science!
CF--Many thanks for these comments, and I'm so glad you found the article helpful. I certainly do plan to keep speaking out: Check back again soon. I'm hoping to add a newsletter and make some updates to the godsperfectchild.com website.
Caroline Fraser's website is comprehensive, well written and swell! -An admirer from Bellingham WA