Tuesday, 6 December 2016

A Childhood Memory of an Abstract Christmas

Growing up in Christian Science, with my mother as a radical believer in it, resulted in a major disagreement between us. It was to herald the first of many but it was early days for me, within Christian Science, and I was still sufficiently young enough to be attracted to the commercialisation of Christmas via the local shop window!

It all began in early December when I saw a box of coloured foil angels. All that was required was to assemble them by folding and sliding the tabs into pre-cut slots, inserting a coloured thread (all provided) and then hanging them on the Christmas tree. I can see them now -gold, silver, red, blue, green and purple. I was about six or seven and every time we walked past the shop, I would stand for ages, staring at them. I knew my mother did not approve of them. Maybe, I thought that the longer I stood looking at them, then that would convince her that I really wanted them! I could think and talk about nothing else that I wanted to decorate our tree.

And so it began. Every mention I made about angels was counter- philosophised with the words of Mary Baker Eddy. Her definition of angels was considered by my mother to be the one and only true doctrine! Mary Baker Eddy defines angels (in her book, Science and Health) as, "God's thoughts passing to man, spiritual intuitions...." This posed a dilemma for us. My mother was determined that I should be brought up as a Christian Scientist and therefore, there was no need for physical manifestations or human ideas of what angels might look like! That was all material and we were supposed to be concentrating on the spiritual meaning of Christmas!

I had the inevitable conflict of being a Christian Scientist but also being a young child at school where the Nativity play depicted young children dressed as angels! Didn't the angels appear to the shepherds and speak to them? Why did we sing carols at school? What did it mean if we could not hark the herald angels sing or if the angels could not wing their flight over all the earth? Was the Christmas story incorrect? How could the choirs of angels ever sing in exultation?! It was confusing! I knew the angels were pretty and colourful and merely a decoration but to deny the actual existence of them, within the Christmas story, was unthinkable!

As an adult, I appreciate and love singing Christmas carols. As a child, I had to pretend to sing carols while I was at school.  When I was a Christian Science child, my mother forbade me to sing many of them because of their perceived "false doctrine". I am struck by re-reading Mary Baker Eddy's book, "Christ and Christmas" that she wrote the following, in part, "Yet wherefore signalize the birth of him ne'er born?"

 If you enjoy singing carols, now you have left Christian Science, sing loudly! Do share if you have any memories of a childhood Christmas within Christian Science!
 Oh, a relative who was not a Christian Scientist bought the box of "angels" and helped me place them on the tree. Nobody in our home dared to argue further on the matter. I like to think, for once, I was allowed to enjoy some reality. Happy Christmas!

Monday, 2 May 2016

Ben's Story

In November 2002, my mother, who had been a Christian Scientist for over forty years, experienced severe chest pains. She visited a hospital, where a heart attack was diagnosed.
 
 
 
She made the decision not to accept medical treatment. Instead, she went to Whitehaven, Christian Science Home, near Bath, England, UK. My brother and I took her there. When we visited two days later, she was suffering a heart attack that was far more severe than the first. The home had not contacted us. She was alone in her room. It was winter, yet the window was open and the room was cold. We left the room for around ten minutes to discuss what should be done. When we returned, none of the staff was sitting with her, even though they knew we had left. When we told her we wanted her to go to hospital she immediately agreed.
 

   
 
In hospital, she died after ten days. Following her death I wrote to Whitehaven to inform them. Some weeks later we received a donation request from them. Having been brought up in Christian Science, I knew very well the level of denial of illness and death involved. Nevertheless, the lack of sensitivity towards our feelings came as a shock.
 
 
 
I also felt  that, although she had decided to go to the home, that someone should have stayed with her when she was ill, even to provide comfort. It was not acceptable to use the belief that illness is not real as a pretext to do nothing. The room temperature and her wellbeing should have been monitored to ensure that the window was not left open for too long, and was not excessively cold.
 

   
I complained to the regulating authority, which at first refused to investigate. Following my insistence that an investigation was their legal obligation, an enquiry began. The initial findings were not to my satisfaction. The investigating officer did not state that the home should have done more. It took more than two years and more than a hundred letters to achieve a satisfactory outcome. This was a statement that the home should have done more during the course of my mother's illness.
 
At the time, new laws were being introduced relating to the regulation and running of nursing homes. It had been proposed that Christian Science Homes would have a complete exemption, as they were non-medical homes. After pointing out that all other nursing and care homes were covered under the new act, whether or not they were providing medical care, Christian Science homes were included and a set of care standards developed.
 

A recurring theme of the official response was that I should show greater religious tolerance. This view was frustrating, as I did not think it was a reason to permit sub-standard care. Neither was this easy to accept when I had also experienced avoidable pain as a child due to medical neglect. This was not something I felt should be tolerated, whether an organisation was religious or secular. The homes were set up to look after vulnerable, mainly older people. They could not avoid their duty to provide consistent, properly managed and attentive care, whether or not medical treatment was a part of that care.
 
 
 
A few years later the home was closed down and the building was sold. There is now another Christian Science home in Chepstow, Wales, UK, some thirty miles from the former Whitehaven.



Monday, 11 January 2016

New Year 2016 Unwitting Secrecy?

Over the last few months, there have been a few cases in the press, of children dying from medical neglect and one case of an actor who appears to be trying to hide a possible medical problem from the world's view. Such distressing cases and the pain of those respective family members, may only be imagined.


This has reminded me of the secrecy which is created within a strict belief system, in the non-acceptance of medical aid. What do I mean when I use the phrase "medical aid"? I sometimes wonder if the general public ever realises or understands that there are belief systems which literally mean it when, as in Christian Science, medicine is not an option? People sometimes say to me, "Yes, but surely a serious condition would mean the seeking of pain relief or anti-depressants etc. etc.".  Not always so! (Science and Health p167 is one reference)


I know that some Christian Scientists, possibly in an effort to shake off criticism and become more plausible, suggest that visiting a doctor and using medicine is acceptable. But I know from former Christian Scientists and from my personal experience that this attempt to be sensible with one's health care is often resultant in judgmentalism from other church members, Christian Science practitioners declining to "treat" (by CS means) patients and an over-riding feeling of guilt by the patient.


I was shocked when a Christian Scientist, whom my late mother held in high regard within the Christian Science world, told me he had resorted to pain relief for a troublesome tooth. My mother took the study of Christian Science extremely seriously and endured untreated breast cancer!
Putting aside the issue of radical reliance within belief systems, I am left wondering to what extent secrecy plays its part in the lives of  the wider families affected, in this case by Christian Science.


The hiding of ill health, hiding the symptoms - either by staying at home, increased resting or wearing looser clothing etc. more and more in-depth study of Christian Science, no discussion of what the "condition" might be! I'm quite sure some relatives of Christian Scientists will recognise the foregoing!


Does Christian Science have the effect of making its former members continue a pattern of secrecy within their daily lives? Is that a result of strict belief systems, in general? Are we embarrassed to mention Christian Science - either that we were in it or that we wonder whatever people would think of us? Having left Christian Science, do we remain as very private and secretive people? Thoughts?

Friday, 1 May 2015

Not alone!

A new resource began from today - www.exchristianscience.com   includes personal stories and interesting book reviews. A valuable resource for anyone trying to leave Christian Science and its mind-set.

Keep watching, as more content will be added. Wish I had had such a resource when I left Christian Science - just knowing others were out there, would have been great! 

Congratulations to all those who have worked so hard on this new website!

Monday, 2 February 2015

Tuesday, 13 May 2014

Umbrellas in the Rain

I like umbrellas. They are just what you need when you need shelter. ExCS UK is just such an umbrella, if you like! It exists for all genuine former Christian Scientists and for those who may still have relations in it. There was no shelter for me in UK nearly forty years ago and I would hate to feel anyone would have to endure the isolation of leaving Christian Science, as I did.

ExCS UK seeks to shelter those mentioned above - regardless of religious beliefs, location in the world etc. We do not proselytise but we gather strength and encouragement from others who can understand the unique situations which a history of Christian Science may pose. Believe you me, some of the situations we have heard over the years, could not be made up! The distress of some contacts is also so saddening.  This is why we opened an umbrella. No doubt, it has its failings. It has also witnessed Christian Scientists trying to score points but during the years, we have joined together and are the better for taking shelter!

Why UK in the title? Because it was founded here and we wanted to make any European contacts feel less far away from USA and to make it easier for them to join us in our meetings. We also have American friends - some of whom supported me when I most needed it - and others, worldwide.

 Also, at the time of beginning this journey out of CS there did not seem to be too much shelter for those who were not of Christian persuasion. I believe people need support, primarily, not the promotion of different faiths.

We are a strictly non religious group and we enjoy our diversity! Please feel free to join us and to share with us!

Monday, 24 March 2014

Identity

These days, we hear much about radicalism. Within the world of Christian Science, I was radical in my reliance on it. I continued the parental example of radical reliance, to which I was exposed. My mother was radical in that she lived and breathed Christian Science - no room for flexibility in her world! No doctors, pain relief, talk of health issues nor exposure to anything "worldly". Total reliance on Christian Science! In years gone by, to be radical was not much spoken about.

To my mind,  a question is posed - did my mother have that kind of personality which was attracted to strong-mindedness, no compromise and literal interpretation of Science and Health by Mary Baker Eddy? Or, was it solely Christian Science which encouraged her radicalism to develop? Does radicalism of belief foster a false sense of security in day to day life? And is that what she was searching for - some kind of security? That, in a topsy-turvey world all around her, there was something on which to depend?

Within that framework, did I have the potential within my personality to become radical, within a belief system, or did my radical stance on Christian Science develop the longer I was exposed to its doctrines?

Page 167 of the above-named book reads, "Only through radical reliance on Truth can scientific healing power be realised." Radical reliance was our benchmark in the search for healing. The longer my mother was exposed to radical reliance, the more her eyes became lifeless. She marched to the beat of a different drum and gradually became lifeless before our eyes.

Does it matter? Apart from her immediate family, who cares? Why am I writing this, today? Well, something happened recently to cause me to think carefully. As a second generation Christian Scientist and never having owned my own personality, to what extent has my brain been affected by radical belief? Having left Christian Science, have the seeds of radical reliance remained in my brain? Has my radical reliance polarised into a radical stance against it? Is being radical, whatever the cause, sown within my personality? And, inadvertently, have I become radical, again, in my opposition to Christian Science?

My strong-mindedness over leaving Christian Science has been brought into question and it really poses a deeper question. Who am I? I am an ex Christian Scientist. To deny being "ex" or "former" or "previously" is to deny who I am and what I stand for. It does not prevent me from moving forward and being thankful to be alive but it identifies me.

Mere musings. Is there anyone out there who was radical in their Christian Science belief? How does your exit from it affect your opinions and life, now?