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The Thanksgiving Day service is the only ‘special’ service the Christian Science church offers. The readings from the desk include the Presidential proclamation for Thanksgiving, as well as a few passages from The Bible and Science and Health. The service is then opened to the congregation for them to share ‘testimonies of healing and sharing of experiences in Christian Science.’
The following are testimonies from Ex-Christian Scientists, as they give thanks for having left Christian Science. Thank you all for your contributions!
We at The Ex-Christian Scientist offer no readings, or lengthy proclamations, merely our sincerest thanks for everyone who has contributed to our efforts. We do not advocate any one particular path but acknowledge that there are many legitimate pathways that can be personally and spiritually fulfilling.
I’m so grateful that since leaving Christian Science I don’t have to inconvenience the whole family by never being able to start our dinner prep until I get home from church. And they don’t have to worry about disappointing me by declining my invitation to help me fill a pew. (Ah the pride!!!! Look everybody, see my wonderful family!) – Jaycie
I am grateful that I am no longer a Christian Science practitioner. I am grateful to no longer be seen (or see myself!) as part of a spiritual elite who have some sort of advanced “spiritual understanding.” I am grateful to no longer be beholden to a system wherein my value is only as much as my last “successful” treatment. I am grateful that I was never made a Teacher or a Lecturer, and that I wasn’t hired to work in Boston – I am grateful that I am not bringing people into Christian Science, or further encouraging people to deepen their beliefs in CS. I am grateful that I am no longer perpetuating lies that are actively hurting people through denying the reality of our bodies, our minds, and ours hearts, and thus denying medical, emotional, and psychological help. I am grateful that I am not in a system that has such a hollow, empty, superficial, and ultimately harmful view of what it means to love one another. I am grateful that I am no longer being asked to ignore or cover-up lies, corruption, and abuse in the name of serving “The Cause.” I am grateful that my first allegiance is no longer to Mary Baker Eddy, her teachings, and her church. I am grateful that I am no longer engaged in twisting and warping, contorting and corrupting, every verse of the Bible to try to make it conform to Mrs. Eddy’s completely baseless interpretations. I am grateful to be free of the endless perpetual cycle of trying to be good enough, judgment, self-condemnation, guilt, and shame.
I am grateful to be in a new, real, Christian community now, one based in the gracious love of a God who really does know you and love you. I am grateful to be in a new church community where there are no elites, where honesty and integrity are more important than the organization. I am grateful to be in this new community where we can actually accept and love one another, not because of how good we are, or what we can do for one another. Instead, we love each other as real people, broken, messy, full of mistakes, but also gloriously beautiful, amazing, wonderful people – all at once! I am grateful to be in a church community where love and forgiveness are freely given. I am grateful to be in a community where we can laugh together and weep together, where people are actually there to help one another in every way, and where genuine love is truly freely given. – Tanner Johnsrud
I am glad I bailed forty odd years ago, in my twenties. I still pack crap, but have been glad of good medical care in the time since then. I have been able to control allergies with antihistamines, OCD, ADD, and depression with appropriate medications. Twenty years ago, a surgeon removed half of the medial meniscus in my right knee as I had torn it some fifteen years prior to that but just lived with it. Lately, I have begun reading about cs and mbe from writers who have not taken the blue pill, and am strengthened to be learning more about what an insanity cs is and what a complete nutcase mbe was, and how tmc has continued the delusion while the religion fades into well-deserved oblivion. I am especially grateful for the Ex-cs website and the facebook group. – Ron S.
I’m thankful to be FREE of Christian Science. I’m grateful for my family. I’m grateful for the ability to begin to care for my physical, emotional, and mental health, with the support of a wonderful counselor and a good doctor. And most importantly (with respect for those ex-CS who oppose religion, either for now or for always), I am thankful for the real Christian gospel of salvation through Jesus, a supportive church community, beautiful/real hymns, and the hope of heaven. – Hillary
I’m grateful for modern medicine. I’ve just had a surgery that I’ve been wanting for a long time that will increase my quality of life and reduce my risk of cancer. I’m also grateful for my lifelong (non-CS) friends who still love me despite the fact that I was completely brainwashed when we met. – Spice of Life
I am so grateful to be out of Christian Science. While I was in CS, I sustained numerous concussions. I had 3 after i became a parent in my 30s. I never had any of them checked out medically.
One time I was trying to tell a testimony at a CS Wednesday church service about the most severe concussion I ever had. The First Reader shut me up. She completely invalidated me. It hurts like hell to be invalidated.
This year, in therapy, I learned that vision therapy is a “thing.” I learned that my plethora of eye problems is likely due to all the concussions I have had.
I am grateful for my therapist who validates me. I am grateful for my vision therapy team.
I am grateful to not have to sit through church today.
I wish everyone a happy Thanksgiving and holiday season. – Jodi
Thank you everyone for your Thanksgiving Testimony contributions, this concludes our post. Should inspiration strike, the comment section will remain open for 30 days.
We wish you a wonderful holiday season. The ExCS Admin Team.
1) Mary Baker Eddy’s sister had a large cradle built for her, when she was an adult in her twenties. Neighborhood boys were paid to rock Mrs. Eddy in the cradle. She also had a swing installed. After her second marriage the cradle was moved to her new home, many townspeople recall the great migration of the cradle in a wagon.
2) MBE was a clairvoyant in her earlier days, taking on the role of a “medium” who heard spirits. She scrawled messages from the dead that spoke to her, ghosts appeared next to her bedside at night. Seances were hosted at MBE’s father’s house, and there are many first hand records of MBE’s central involvement to these events.
3) MBE did not demonstrate interest to care for her own son.
MBE demonstrated no interest in her son as a baby or child, and limited interest when he became an adult with his own family. MBE’s father said “Mary acts like an old Ewe that won’t own it’s lamb. She won’t have the boy near her.” Baby George was passed off between Grandma Glover, MBE’s sister, and neighbors and hired help. Eventually, George went off with a hired help when they moved westward; to his credit he did remain in contact with his mother.
4) It is reported that MBE dyed her hair and wore glasses. Apparently the dye job was quite low quality and didn’t suit her other features and colouring. When she moved out of Boston to retire, she let her roots grow out and became naturally grey. The images that we see of her are the only licensed images she allowed out.
When MBE did live lectures in Boston to the general public she grew annoyed when people in the audience would ask her why she hadn’t healed herself of poor eye sight. She stopped live lectures to the public.
5) Santa Claus was abolished by MBE by proclamation in 1904. Christian Scientists must not permit their children to believe in Santa. I would assume many ex-Christian Scientists are grateful their parents ignored this one.
6) Miss Mary Baker was married three times.
Her first husband, George Washington Glover, was a family neighbor who she married at 22 years old in December 1843. The couple traveled to Charleston, SC, where Glover was a stonemason, but he died in June the following year, while pregnant Mary gave birth in September.
Her second husband Dr. Daniel Patterson was a dentist and surgeon. MBE’s own father advised the Doctor not to go ahead with marrying her. He lived out his days in Maine alone, no record of divorce is mentioned.
Her third husband Asa Gilbert Eddy was a student of Christian Science in Lynn, Massachusetts, they married in 1877 and he died in 1882.
7) MBE was obsessed about malicious mesmerism.
I missed this in Sunday School entirely, but MBE ardently believed the mental ill will of other people was harming her – notably Dr. Kennedy, a young man who practiced an early version of Christian Science with MBE in Lynn, MA. When she had her first professional ‘break up’ of many from Richard Kennedy, she wrote riveting prose about this ‘mental assassin’ who tore apart her success with his ‘darker crimes’. As the years wore on, it wasn’t just Kennedy on the list – MBE believed she “bore in her own person the ills from which she released others” and “she believed she herself suffered from the torturing belief she had taken away from others.”
8) Touching to heal.
Early versions of Christian Science prayer incorporated touching the patient’s head, to use a bowl of water, and to rub the patient’s head. “You lay your hands where the belief is to rub it forever out” wrote MBE in Scientific Treatise on Mortality.
9) MBE taught classes, but she never acted as a practitioner. From the very beginning she collected tuition money and taught, but never acted as a healing agent herself – only focusing on explaining the ‘Science’. In later years as the church grew larger, this helped her stay out of additional legal trouble.
10) MBE tried to start a fire in a house where she was a live-in guest. The affidavit from the family’s son, Horace Wentowrth, describes the scene when the family returned from a local holiday and broke into MBE’s guest room (she had locked the door and left). “We found every breadth of matting slashed up through the middle, apparently with some sharp instrument. We also found the feather bed all cut out pieces. We opened the door of a closet. On the floor was a pile of newspapers almost entirely consumed. On top of these papers was a shovelful of dead coals.” Other family members affidavit confirm the same events. This, along with many other events, were not mentioned in her authorized autobiography, which entirely skips over her mid 20’s to mid 40’s.
And a final extra fact!
The infamous ‘fall on the ice’ narrative doesn’t correlate with the doctor’s affidavit. Injuries and recovery from the infamous fall on the ice were reflected in an affidavit by the doctor who served MBE, Dr. Alvin M. Cushing. He kept a journal of all his patients incidents including MBE. She complained of headache, was given morphine, which the Doctor reports she was very happy to take and even “gave me much credit for my ability.” MBE says she was destined for death according to medical sources. Well, Dr. Cushing wrote “I did not at any time declare, or believe, that there was no hope for Mrs. Paterson’s recovery, or that she was in a critical condition, and did not at any time say, or believe, that she had but three or any other limited number of days to live.”
The following has been submitted by “Anonymous Guy in Ohio.”
In general, I was a very healthy child growing up in our Christian Science household, so many of the intricacies about CS’s distaste for modern medicine avoided my awareness. Never had a broken bone. No allergies. Outside of a few severe seasonal colds, I never missed school.
My parents skirted around CS expectations in a curious manner…I got the mandatory vaccinations for school, I went to the dentist regularly–including getting fillings when needed (?) but everything else was off the table.
I very much liked Christian Science growing up. I remember being disappointed as a kid to find out that it was a lay ministry, meaning that leading services wasn’t a full time job. If they would have had priests or ministers, I probably would have considered that as a career path.
I don’t know why, but in my youth I was highly susceptible to testicle torsion. This is essentially when your testicle twists backwards and circulation is cut off. Very common sports injury. Some, like me, just seem to have a predisposition for it–like some people having “bad knees”, I guess.
It starts off innocently enough. A feeling like your leg is falling asleep, except it’s high up in your groin…usually I would go for a short walk, nature would take its course, it would untwist itself, and I wouldn’t think anything of it.
Then one day shortly before my fourteenth birthday, it happened again–and this time it didn’t turn back. This is the WORST. Nausea sets in as the most sensitive part of the male body starts dying. Worst pain you’ll ever feel. If I think about it hard enough, even 25 years later, I get nauseous all over again.
After vomiting for an hour, my mom said that I needed to “get back to God” and start praying. (I was a mouthy 13 year old–aren’t we all?!)
Several hours later it was now 1am and I was writhing in pain as I vomited off the bedside. The pain was too great to walk, so running to the toilet was out of the question.
My mom decided to read “Science and Health” to me….I didn’t hear a word she said. I told her my balls hurt. She told me that it was part of puberty and “I didn’t know what boys my age were supposed to look like” when I told her I could feel the swelling in my scrotum.
Finally I punched the wall. I was out of ways to process the pain. My mom closed the book and walked out of the room, telling me to get some sleep.
I thought about going to the hospital myself, but at 13 years old, I would have to walk there. In my small town, that was definitely possible, but in my condition, not practical.
I dreamed in a red haze all night.
For the next week, I felt part of myself die inside. They both swelled up to the size of a tennis ball as they fought for circulation. I was bullied in school for “walking funny”. I’m pretty sure the Guidance office & a few teachers pulled me aside to investigate, but I was programmed not to discuss family business with them. If only I had.
Eventually, one testicle shriveled up and died.
That’s when I fell out of love with Christian Science. There’s no coming back from that.
A few years later, I got an infection “down there”–this is a common thing if you’ve had this kind of trauma in the nether regions. It was a different pain, but similar enough that I was certain the whole thing was happening again.
I already only had one testicle–was I now a Eunuch at age 16?
I demanded to go the doctor. My mom said, “We can’t, you need to pray, this is what you get for falling away from the Church.”
I told her I was going with or without her because I had a driving permit now, and I didn’t care if I got arrested for not having an adult in the car. If she took the keys, I would walk, because it wasn’t as bad as the last time. Realizing that I had her, and that a minor showing up at the hospital without their parent’s consent would probably get Children’s Services involved, she relented and agreed to go with me.
My mom refused to sit in the appointment, because the Church would be disappointed. She said she was only doing this to humor me.
The doctor was done in about 10 minutes. “Here’s an antibiotic for the infection in your right testicle. No, your left testicle is never going to grow back. We’ll schedule a follow up test, but at this point it’s more dangerous to remove your testicle than to leave it.”
I told him that he didn’t tell me anything I didn’t already suspect about my condition, but I would need him to tell my mom because she thought I was only here because I was having a growth spurt and lacked a working knowledge of puberty.
He agreed, brought her into the exam room. He minced no words. I will never forget the look on her face as he told her that I was intimately scarred for life, and there was no remedy.
“It’s okay to cry,” she told me as we got back in the car, with tears in her eyes.
“I ran out of tears a long time ago,” I said. ” All that’s left is anger now.”
The following was submitted by Beverly via email. It is shared here with permission.
I was born and raised on both Principia Campuses, Upper School and College, in the late 1940’s. We lived in a tiny Faculty House, very isolated, on the Prin College Campus where my Dad (WWII Veteran) was a Professor of Political Science. Both my parents were also raised in C.S. Dysfunctional Families and my Dad’s mom was a very weird, 300 Lbs. overweight C.S. Practitioner.
When I was 9 yrs. old we moved to the Prin Upper School Campus where my Mom taught Pre-School. Again, very isolated community….you had to be a C.S. to live in our Neighborhood behind the School.
I remember that whenever any of us kids (5) got sick – we were told that we really weren’t sick and often felt guilty just for getting sick. We got no Medical or Doctor attention (if my folks had gone to the medical, they probably would have lost their jobs at Prin.) Also, since they didn’t have much money, my parents hardly ever called C.S. Practitioners – we little kids just had to “tough it out” on our own! We all remember lying in bed with Fevers, etc. and getting no relief or help at all. They just put on a Record of C.S. Hymns.
When my oldest sister was 10 she contracted Polio, but my folks just thought she had a headache and put her to bed. They may have called some dinky little practitioner in Elsah for a while…..but nothing was really done for her and she had to endure a lot of pain, screaming at night, on her own. When she finally got out of bed, one of her legs was withered and she has hobbled with a disfigured leg ever since. No wheelchair or aides for her! Now, her leg has deteriorated so much that she really can’t walk at all.
I suffered from periods of Deep Depression when I attended Prin College, but had no idea why. Then I got my first Flashback and broke down crying, saying “I don’t think I love Mom and Dad any more.” I had no idea why I was saying that.
Fast forward to my late 40’s. Again I was very Depressed, and thought maybe it’s because I had left C.S. years ago and maybe I should start studying it again. As I did…..thru a series of “Higher Power” orchestrated events….it was finally revealed to me that I had been sexually abused by my Dad when I was about 4 or 5 – in my bed at night. My Mom knew about it, but did nothing, as she needed to stay married to Dad and they needed the money from Prin.
I found Co-Dependents Anonymous and a Fabulous Sponsor which saved my Life! I’ve been a 12-Stepper every since! My problem is I still find it difficult to completely leave C.S. and get hooked back into it. I have done some Therapy, but no Therapist really understands how C.S. works and what it does to you…especially a child!
I’m so grateful to have found this website and could really use the support that is offered here.
Anyway, that’s basically my story and I still have a hard time believing that I was raised and abused in a Cult – when all the time I was told that I had the Best Life because I was being raised in C.S. and going to Principia!
You can refer to so many posts on this page that share that “The Manual of The Mother Church” specifically states that we can have no special celebration for Easter.
I got to thinking about this last week. The religion proclaims to be Christian. And most Christians think that God gave us his “only begotten son.” And at some point along Christ Jesus’s journey, he died, laid in the tomb about 3 days, and then arose from the dead. This is a true miracle of a story. Christianity created a holiday from the Pagan tradition of Ostara, and named it Easter, to celebrate the resurrection of Jesus from the tomb.
And yet, Mary Baker Eddy said so clearly in “The Manual of The Mother Church” not to celebrate it.
My new journey and studies have taught me about narcissists. Eddy was clearly a narcissistic. My thoughts took me to the clear realization recently that she didn’t want any special days of devotion to Jesus; because she wanted every day to be about her. Continuing to think about this a bit more, I remember the Weekly Bible Lesson. Where we read the imperfect Holy Bible, and then have her to interpret it to us with her book, “Science and Health.” She gets the last word in. Every day, for every Christian Scientist.
I was once yelled at for daring to find a daycare center for the children of our Sunday School to have an Easter Egg hunt. It is so ingrained in the Christian Science mind set that we do NOT celebrate Easter.
Well, I am now decidedly OUT of the Christian Science mindset and church.
I got together for lunch a month or two ago with some Quaker girlfriends. One of them started talking about Easter baskets. It was clear that such a thing brings her so much joy. She has grown children, and she still makes baskets for herself and for her husband. I told her I have never in my life received an Easter basket.
Unphased, she told me to make my own. I have gone to the store in subsequent weeks, to pick up bread and basics. I see the Easter basket aisles at the store, and I just stand there and stare at the stuff on the shelf. None of it is appealing to me. Well, except maybe the Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups. I don’t care how those are wrapped, I like them.
I had to spend some time pondering what on earth I would want in my own Easter basket. Perhaps it’s not a stuffed animal bunny toy, or candy, or chocolate or PEZ dispensers. Or whatever else I have seen at the store. I wondered if I wanted candles or spa gift cards or shampoo or soap. Did I want a pair of fuzzy socks?
I have looked and looked at these items in the store. So many times over the week, and I just stare at it and it looks like junk to me. I don’t want a candle. I have candles. I don’t want fuzzy socks. I have fuzzy socks. I don’t need a new electronic device. I went to the spa to get my hair cut, so I am good with that. There is nothing that I want.
I was walking out of a major retailer yesterday, and saw yet another display devoted to Easter, of things they sell at the store. Easter lillies, Orchids and freshly cut flowers. They were beautiful – at least they weren’t junk. I stood there, took some photos of them, and enjoyed their beauty in the store. And I just know – I have plants and a beautiful orchid at home. I don’t need these plants in my Easter basket either.
It is interesting to me that this entire “tradition” of Easter is so devoted now to a culture of consumerism and spending money and junk that hurts the planet. Isn’t Easter supposed to be a time when the Earth is waking up, the way Jesus woke up from the tomb? Shouldn’t we be planting new things to enjoy for years to come — like native shade trees — instead of conusming the world’s resources — how much water and gasoline and deforestation and slave labor and shipping went in to making that toy or candy at the store, to sell it for $5 or less and become junk in some child’s room, so they have no room to dance or play with their imagination? Do we really need all this junk that surrounds us? Is that what Easter baskets are about?
These are the things I ponder as a Quaker who now thinks about the Quaker Testimonies – the SPICES:
S – Simplicity
P – Peace
I – Integrity
C – Community
E – Equality
S – Sustainability
Sustainability in my new Quaker Faith reminds me to think of George Fox saying to William Penn about his sword: “Use it as long as you can.
It reminds me not to acquire simply for the sake of acquiring. It reminds me to think and act responsibly in regards to my own consumerism. I recently learned the word “Resumerism,” which makes us think about “Reduce, Re-use, and Recycle.” Resumerism.
May all have a delightful Sunday and all future days.
Nothing, I believe, can really teach us the nature and meaning of inspiration but personal experience of it. That we may all have such experience if we will but attend to the divine influences in our own hearts …~ Caroline Stephen
By Tanner Johnsrud. Tanner was a journal listed practitioner for more than a decade before leaving Christian Science.
This week lots of people in the United States will be celebrating an important holiday. March 14 is 3.14 or, PI Day. So in honor of Pi(e) Day, I thought I would share a little bit of CS myth-busting.
Many Christian Scientists get their de facto ideas about what happens after death from an account claiming that Mary Baker Eddy raised her secretary Calvin Frye from the dead. (Actually, there are at least five distinct accounts of her “raising” Mr. Frye from the dead.) But the most famous one involves Calvin Frye going downstairs to get a piece of pie in the middle of the night:
“Miss Bartlett said that while Mrs.
Eddy was living at 385 Commonwealth Avenue, Boston, Mr. Calvin Frye
suddenly passed on, and Mrs. Eddy raised him from the dead. Some time
elapsed from the moment he passed on until Mrs. Eddy restored him to
life. One of the students who witnessed this demonstration asked Mr.
Frye what his experience was during the time that, to them he seemed to
be dead. He replied that he was in the pantry eating pie.” (Lottie Clark
reminiscences, quoted in Mary Baker Eddy Christian Healer p. 269)
The story of Calvin Frye and the pie has been told again and again in Sunday Schools and Association meetings. And many Christian Scientists assume that what happens after death is that we go on exactly as we were before death, just as Calvin Frye supposedly went on and got a piece of pie. The de facto views of life after death for untold numbers of Christian Scientists are based heavily – not on the Bible, or real scientific evidence – but on the testimony of what people said that Julia Bartlett told them, referencing what Calvin Frye purportedly said about his experience. Many Christian Scientists logically assume, based upon their implicit trust in Mrs. Eddy and the details they know, that Calvin Frye died, and after his death he continued on to get pie, and was raised from the dead by Mrs. Eddy.
They are unaware, however,
of important history regarding Calvin Frye. Mr. Frye became interested
in CS after his mother was treated in CS for insanity by Clara Choate.
He soon became the most devoted of Mrs. Eddy’s followers, he was her
loyal secretary, not even taking a single day off for decades. However,
Calvin Frye had a long history of cataleptic seizures. Catalepsy is
characterized by rigid body and limbs, limbs staying in the same
position when moved (waxy flexibility), no response (a decrease of
sensation), loss of muscle control, and slowing down of bodily
functions, such as breathing. In previous centuries people were buried
alive who were mistaken for dead as a result of a cataleptic seizure.
Mr. Frye had a long history of these cataleptic seizures, which can be
mistaken for death. On July 14, 1888, Mr. Frye wrote a letter about one
such seizure, the onset of which he attributed to mental forces trying
to attack Mrs. Eddy through him:
“About two years ago, I was
having much to contend with from the attacks of malicious mesmerism, by
which the attempt was made to demoralize me, and through me to afflict
Mrs. Eddy. While under one of those attacks, my mind became almost a
total blank. Mrs. Eddy was alone with me at the time, and, calling to me
loudly without a response, she saw the necessity for prompt action, and
lifted my head by the forelock, and called aloud to rouse me from the
paralyzed state into which I had fallen. This had the desired effect,
and I wakened to a sense of where I was, my mind wandering, but I saw
the danger from which she had delivered me and which can never be
produced again.” (Mary Baker Eddy Library L15943, quoted in Mary Baker
Eddy Christian Healer Amplified Edition p. 571)
He said that he
would never again have such a seizure. But in that, as in much else, Mr.
Frye was tragically wrong. There are at least five distinct incidents
recorded in authorized Christian Science literature, that tell of
students of Mrs. Eddy seeing her rouse Calvin Frye from these cataleptic
seizures. Calvin Frye kept a diary – there is no record of him ever
saying that he died. These cataleptic seizures were assumed, by the
students (who did not know of Calvin Frye’s history), to be incidents of
raising him from the dead. In the above letter he spoke of his mind
wandering during such an episode – is it possible that during the
incident with the pie, his mind wandered and he merely imagined going on
to get pie, rather than that being testimony as to a post death world
that is exactly parallel with our own?
But for untold numbers of
Christian Scientists, their beliefs about the nature of life after death
are greatly shaped from what someone said that Julia Bartlett said that
Calvin Frye told her about a mental wandering he may have had in
connection with one of his recurring cataleptic seizures.
One of the hard things about getting our friends and loved ones to leave CS is that they believe this story. They think that people will just go on, just as they have, and so while death might be unfortunate, nothing really changed for that person, because death isn’t real. As a Christian, I follow what the Bible says about what happens when we die, but I fully understand that my atheist friends believe there is no such thing. Both the Christians and the atheists in this group recognize that the CS teaching that death isn’t real is a huge problem and a huge lie. We both recognize the tragic nature of death. And we want our CS friends and loved ones not to die unfortunate, painful, and early deaths. We both want the people we love to live life to the fullest. Maybe getting the truth out regarding Calvin Frye can help challenge the CS narrative which says that death isn’t real.
By ExCS group contributor Jodi B. This is part of a series of first hand stories about vaccinations and Christian Science.
I never received childhood vaccination. I was religiously exempted by an easily obtained form in the Commonwealth of Virginia. I was protected by herd immunity my whole life and mistakenly thought it was my parents’ prayer (and later, mine), keeping me safe from measles and polio and such “out there.”
At the age of 16, I was away at Cedars Camps in Lebanon, Missouri, and there was a measles outbreak there. The State of Missouri kicked in and said “all those campers need to either be quarantined or go home and be quarantined there at home.”
I wanted to take my stand about staying proud of never having been given a shot. I wanted to go home. My parents wouldn’t let me.
The Missouri Health people came in and gave those of us who stayed, shots for the Measles. Another counselor friend of mine told me “it’s just ‘water in, water out,’ and for some reason, that helped me with my prayers on my fear of getting a measles shot.
I was so afraid I then had the actual measles and I told one of my older campers. She was probably 15 at the time. I didn’t want her to sit by me at dinner lest she get the measles from me. She was so disappointed that I would dare think she wasn’t spiritual enough to resist getting the measles.
I felt sad that I had made her feel disappointed. She sat with me anyway, in an awkward dinner. She never got the measles. I didn’t, either.
5 years later, I was about to graduate from Principia College. It was 1994. A few weeks before graduation. Word came around campus that 3 seniors might have the measles. They had never had the measles shot. There was a measles epidemic on campus. Everyone who had been vaccinated could leave campus – come and go freely. Anyone who had not been vaccinated needed to either go home and be quarantined or be quarantined on campus.
A lot of us had been vaccinated at Cedars Camps. Maybe 30 of us on a campus of maybe 600 students. Principia wrote to Cedars and obtained our vaccination records, because none of us had our own records.
I felt so proud that I could come and go off campus. So I did it just because I could, though I rarely left campus at any other time. I think my friend who had traveled to Korea and had all of her vaccinations and I drove to the store to buy donuts. Just because we could and she had a truck.
The 3 seniors were quarantined in a beautiful, well kept old house on campus that had since been needlessly neglected and then condemned, never got the measles. I was so glad those 3 students didn’t get the measles. We all graduated on time.
After becoming a mom of two elementary school boys, I subsequently left Christian Science due to mounting issues increasing in severity that were most decidedly NOT being healed in Christian Science.
We got one of my kids tested. He was found to be on the autism spectrum.
One of my sisters-in-law is a medical nurse and had a newborn son. I was scared of vaccinating my elementary school boys. She assured me that her newborn was vaccinated and would be given all shots on schedule.
She also taught me that term “herd immunity.” I had been protected by herd immunity and never by prayer.
I got my sons and me vaccinated using an alternative vaccination schedule. My boys’ schedule was set up by their brand new pediatrician. Mine was set up by the Department of Health in the Commonwealth of Virginia.
We have also gotten the flu shot every year too. We all used to get the flu every single year. We haven’t gotten it since starting to get the flu shot (except for this past year when the flu was particularly aggressive, but the shot kept people from dying even if they still got the flu after getting the shot).
I have gotten and continue to get professional help so I can be a better parent to my son on the spectrum. He is thriving now as a person unlike the traumas he was going through while on the spectrum, and attending Christian science Sunday school.
The vaccination had zero affect on either of my boys in regards to autism. And I am so grateful all 3 of us have our complete vaccinations now.
In God’s Perfect Child, Caroline Fraser writes a few sentences that carry a lot of weight in my life. In a section about Ex Christian Science authors who have published accounts of their experiences, she calls out
“the hypochondria and narcissism that are characteristic of the Christian Science way of life: when you have no way of knowing what’s wrong with you, particularly when you’re a child, you fear the worst, becoming more obsessed with your body the more you try to repress any thoughts about it. Exaggerated fears can arise from the simplest symptoms, or even from no symptoms at all.” (Fraser, 1999, p. 325)
This was me. I was plagued by fears for my health. Sometimes the fears were fleeting: “What if that’s an ingrown toenail?” The next day, I’d be fine and forget about it. Other times, fears gathered into dread that spanned weeks, months, or years: “Why is my breathing shallow? Do I have a heart condition?” Some fears were not put to rest until I left Christian Science and began medical checkups.
So I’d like to list them. Here are all the health scares I can remember having in my life as a Christian Scientist. There were more, I’m sure, now fortunately forgotten. I’ll start the list with Lyme disease because I distinctly remember, as a girl of 14, lying awake one school night, tossing and turning in fear that I had this disease, because I’d seen news reports about it.
Lyme disease appendicitis tonsillitis scabies diabetes pink eye thrombosis heart disease internal bleeding various kinds of infection an ingrown toenail a broken toe a stroke
Without knowledge of the body, I could think that I had appendicitis because I felt a pain on my left side. Without knowledge of the health care system, I could be overcome with dread at the thought of pink eye: How do I heal it? Fears common to the human experience (“Is something wrong with me? Am I going to die?”) blew up even bigger in my mind because I knew I would have to heal myself alone, with only my thoughts, with no ability to discuss what I was going through.
I’m actually a fairly healthy person, and now I realize that I always have been. The tragedy is that instead of enjoying my health, I spent decades magnifying the smallest symptoms into something disastrous. My physical health was fine; my mental health quivered and quaked and tore itself down over and over again.
Another tragedy, more difficult for me to articulate, lies in the narcissism that Fraser mentions. People in this world actually do experience diabetes, thrombosis, and other serious conditions for which a cure is challenging or nonexistent. And I think that all my crawling fears prevented me from feeling sympathy for those afflicted. It was all about me: If symptoms persisted, I was afraid. If they did not, then I could assure myself that the condition wasn’t real because disease is unreal because God didn’t make it. A person in the real world who accepted the reality of disease might learn about a condition, rally to bring awareness to it, give to a cause to find a cure, become a healthcare professional, or do something else real and practical.
I’ll conclude with a story about my life since leaving CS: Last year, I was the support person for a friend who underwent surgery. I was to take him to and from the hospital and stay with him for a week afterward. The night before surgery, my throat felt sore. Then the thought: “Oh no. What if I’ve caught the flu! What if I pass it along to him!” Thoughts spiraled; panic grew. But I went to bed anyway. As I lay there, trying to sleep, I told myself, “Let’s be realistic: I did get my flu shot two weeks ago. And now, either I have something or I don’t. Time will tell. The best thing for me to do is get plenty of rest.” I slept, and I woke up feeling fine. And the surgery went smoothly.
It’s a vulnerable existence, knowing that an illness or accident could come and knock me over at any time, and even if I did muster an army of “God-like thoughts,” it would make no difference. But unforeseen events are part of life. Frankly, it’s much, much better to accept reality than to live in ignorance and fear.
Work Cited: Fraser, C. (1999). God’s perfect child: Living and dying in the Christian Science church. New York, NY: Metropolitan Books.
This post has been submitted by an ExCS group contributor. If you have questions about vaccinations, please ask your Doctor or other healthcare professional. For more posts about Healthcare see Healthcare Resources
As someone raised in Christian Science, you may not have received recommended vaccinations as a child. This can leave you vulnerable to preventable diseases, and can also make you a carrier who could transmit these diseases to people who are unable to get vaccinated. Many ex-Christian Scientists view getting vaccinated as an important step in their recovery.
In this blog, I use the terms immunization, vaccine, and shot interchangeably. I also provide resources for the United States because that’s what I’m familiar with, but similar resources for vaccinations standard in other countries are easily found online.
Immunizations are covered at 100% by health insurance because they are classified as preventative care. So, they will not cost you anything out of pocket if you have health insurance. There are several different types of vaccines that you will need to catch up on and get in the future. There is a standard set that all children in the US should receive, there are vaccinations that adults need, and there are also vaccinations that you should get every year, like the influenza (flu) vaccine. There are also specific vaccines either recommended or required if you are traveling to certain countries. When preparing to travel out of the country, you should check the CDC website to find out which vaccinations are recommended. In some cases such as for the yellow fever vaccine, you will not be able to re-enter the US without proof that you received a particular vaccine. Don’t worry, your doctor will tell you which ones you need.
I want to tell you about my experience with vaccinations to illustrate why it is important to get them now. I got the measles at CedarS Camps, a major summer camp for Christian Scientists, when I was a small child. There have been many measles outbreaks at Christian Science camps and Principia College. Every time, the CDC comes in and shuts it down, and the children’s parents make the choice of either having their child receive the measles vaccine or going home. Unfortunately, many faithful, well-meaning, but woefully and willfully ignorant Christian Science parents expose their children to complications including pneumonia, encephalitis of the brain, and death by skipping this one vaccination.
My family moved several times when I was growing up. Every time we moved and I had to enroll in a different school, my mother had to scramble to produce notarized documentation that exempted me from vaccinations for religious reasons, which was legal in the state I grew up in. Every time, either she had to find these documents after having just moved or get new ones notarized and this always caused a scramble and an awkward delay. This happened again when I was registering for college classes and the delay caused me to miss getting in to some of the classes I needed because of the time it took to get forms notarized and physically sent to the college. I also had to deal with this awkwardness when traveling internationally for a job. So, by getting vaccinated, you can avoid situations like these for times you need to produce an up-to-date shot record.
I got caught up on childhood vaccinations in my 20’s so that I could travel internationally, even though I was still sort of a Christian Scientist then. However, I stubbornly did not get the flu vaccine every year even after getting the recommended childhood vaccinations. One year, I traveled to my home state to visit extended family and got sick while visiting. It was miserable, and I remember being sick like that several times before. When I got home, I went to the doctor and they tested me and told me that I had the flu. During my trip, I had interacted with an infant and an elderly person while visiting my extended family, and felt horrible for exposing those vulnerable populations to an easily preventable, but potentially fatal, disease. I’d also exposed two planes full of people while traveling home. I felt incredibly stupid. Now, I am proud of myself every time I get my flu shot every year.
When you go to your primary care doctor, tell them that you were not immunized as a child and that you would like to get caught up on your shots. If you are comfortable doing so, you can let them know that your parents raised you without medical care. After some initial surprise, they are usually pretty understanding and relieved that you would like to get immunized now.
First, you need to find out which shots you need. You can choose to either go ahead and get all of them, or you can request an Immunity/Vaccine/Antibody Detection test. Because you were not immunized as a child, you may have gotten some diseases and already have immunity to them and therefore do not need a vaccination for those diseases. If so, you can avoid the soreness that occurs from getting an unneccesary shot and any potential side effects. You will also learn more about your childhood by finding out which diseases you had. For example, I got chicken pox and measles as an unvaccinated child raised in Christian Science. That meant that I did not need the chicken pox vaccine. I did still need the MMR (measles, mumps & rubella) vaccine in order to get immunity to mumps & rubella. I remember having the measles, but I don’t remember having the chicken pox. It’s also good to know for your health history, and having this data on record will contribute to statistics which inform public policy.
The doctor’s office will need to draw your blood for the Antibody Detection test or refer you to a lab for bloodwork. So, you will need to wait for the results before you can find out which vaccinations you need. At your follow up appointment, you will find this out and can now decide how to proceed. (You don’t have to get this test if the additional step will be inconvenient or if it’s not covered by your health insurance.)
Here is a common list of vaccinations:
Your doctor will tell you which ones you should get based on your age, health history, risk factors, etc. Some shots need to be gotten in a series of two or three within a certain period of time, like 30 days or < 6 months. If you need a series, it’s important that you come back to get the subsequent shots within the specified time period so that the immunization will be effective. There may be some vaccinations that came about more recently that your doctor might recommend for you, like the HPV vaccine, that may not be covered by your health insurance because they have not yet been added to the CDC’s list for your age group. So there is a chance that the cost for these additional vaccines might not be fully covered by your insurance, but you can call them to check beforehand. Even if there is an out-of-pocket cost, it is a good idea to get them if you can afford to do so.
Now that you know which shots you need, you can decide on the timeline for how to get your immunizations. You can get several at once or spread them out. I personally recommend that you plan to get one vaccination per month, but it may be more convenient for you to get most of them all at once and then only return for the series shots, or spread them out to get a few at a time with your series shots. For example, military members are often given 8+ vaccinations at once. Either way you choose, it should not make a difference on the cost (free).
The nurse administering the shot will ask you where you would like it. The most common place to get a shot is in the upper part of your non-dominant arm. They may also be able to give it to you on your hip. You might want to consider which side you sleep on and get the shot on the opposite side.
You may have a choice in vaccine delivery mechanisms. Anything that can be breathed in will be more pleasant than receiving it as a shot. There are also “live” vaccines, which may not be recommended if you have small children in your household, are pregnant, or live with someone who is pregnant. You might be advised to wear long sleeves to sleep in for some period of time while the vaccine is absorbed. Your doctor or nurse will go over all of this with you and send you home with a pamphlet containing all of the information you need.
The annual flu shot is available at pharmacies for convenience and you can use your health insurance and skip the doctor’s appointment if that works better for you. A nurse at the pharmacy will administer the shots.
Be aware that there are potential side effects from vaccinations. The FDA has concluded that the benefits outweigh the downsides. Read the information you receive thoroughly. I personally experienced a swollen lymph node from the MMR vaccine. This happens in 15% of children who receive it. If you are self-aware and informed about what could happen to you as a result of getting particular vaccines, you can recognize when you are experiencing a side effect and find ways to reduce the impact of these side effects. You can also call your doctor’s office for advice on how to handle side effects if you experience them. For my swollen lymph node, I read that it helps to sleep on the opposite side so that the lymph node gets less blood flow. After I did this, the swelling went down. Even though I had this unpleasant side effect for about two weeks, I am still glad that I got that shot. Most of the time, the area where you received the shot is simply sore for a few days to a week and there are no side effects. I’ve gotten probably fifteen shots total and only had this very minor side effect with one.
Now that you have been vaccinated, you can feel good about participating in a free public health benefit and display your new shot record proudly. You will get sick less often, and can no longer be a potential carrier endangering infants, elderly, or people otherwise unable to get vaccinated with easily preventable diseases. Now you can rest assured that you won’t get a debilitating disease that is easily preventable. You will also no longer need to feel awkward about a misinformed religious exemption imposed on you by well-meaning parents. Your shot record will come in handy when you apply to live in a college dorm or for certain jobs.
There are things we all do when we are getting a new start: a new project, a new life, a new job, a new haircut. Maybe we think about what isn’t working, and what is working, so we can focus more on what is working and discard what isn’t.
We think about what didn’t work, what might work, how we might go about making a change, whether the change is realistic or not, when we might like to start. New Years is a perfect time to do this sort of thing.
Many cultures (all?) celebrate a New Year. I personally celebrate my new year with the Winter Solstice – December 21. But a lot of the United States celebrates it on January 1. The Jewish folks have a different New Year and so do the Chinese. I am sure there are other people out there who celebrate the New Year on their birthday or at other times during the year.
Our New Year’s Celebration has grown to include more family time, a few meaningful rituals and traditions, and some thinking as to what we would like to let go of in the year to come, and what we would like to embrace more of.
Growing up in the Christian Science household where I grew up, I saw my parents do things like run together, eat vegetables, drink milk. My mom prided herself on “not cooking with salt.” I also didn’t go to health class. I was excused by religious exemption, from going to health class. So I didn’t learn things like: where is my spleen? what is a miniscus? how should we wash our hands properly? what are the symptoms of a cold? What is the difference between a cold and the flu? Why does a woman bleed every month? What is a fallopian tube? Why do we need a liver? How do you put a condom on a banana?
The day of the winter solstice, it rained all day long where we live. There were a few moments when the sun came out. My older son taught me the term “sun shower,” which is when the sun comes out in the middle of the rain. We all opted not to go out in the rain across the yards that are no longer just wet, but now they are spongy, and we stayed inside our home, looking out a particular window to see the sunset. Before that happened, though, a rainbow came out a few times! It was so beautiful! It was a special kind of New Year experience for us, to have a rainbow.
My two goals this year for the New Year
This year, for our New Year, I have made my goals simple, so I can focus on them and try to stick to them. My intention is to be kind to myself in my own head about them if I don’t. My focus this year for New Years is to practice self care. I have learned from Ruth Bader Ginsberg, that it’s important to take care of our physical bodies. I think I am finally getting the message about this, because I didn’t get it in a health class in middle or high school. Thank you, Justice Ginsberg. For me, it will be eating right, moving more, and using that elliptical I just HAD to have on Amazon Prime Day.
The other goal I have set for myself for this near year is to follow the idea of Hestia – she is a little known goddess. I found out about her in the book “Simple Abundance: A Daybook of Comfort of Joy” by Sarah Ban Breathnach. Hestia is “the goddess of the hearth and home.” I have little projects here, there and everywhere. I have finally learned that the idea of “I want to make this and I can totally do that, and it will be beautiful!” is completely different from, “I am going to spend time and make that and it will be completely beautiful!” So I have the makings of various projects all over the house. (The shelves I want to hang, the wreaths I want to make, the violin music I want to play, books I want to read, my dad’s books I want to scan and put online so everyone can read them….) I have decided that it’s time for me to also just focus more on taking care of our home.
I hope everyone has a lovely and peaceful new year. I also wish everyone a productive and peaceful 2019.