Response to a Response to My Almost-Interview with NPR

My friend, Kat, a thought-provoking ex-Christian Scientist of intelligence and interesting insight, posted a comment on my last blog post that I thought was worth responding to in a whole ‘nother post. Here’s Kat’s comment:

“Why would a Christian Scientist choose Christian Science over medical treatment for her children?”

Yeah, that’s the elephant in the room CS is going to have to address head-on over and over and over again. Some CS have made REALLY BAD CHOICES and people have died.

Caroline Fraser’s book God’s Perfect Child talks about this at length. Another excellent example is Rita Swan’s son Matthew,‘matthew-you-cannot-be-sick’/ (you may have heard of her, she founded C.H.I.L.D.

I agree A better question might be: “What is it about Christian Science that appeals to you?” it no longer appeals to me, but for a while it did, and on some level, I still understand the appeal.

Hi, Kat –

The producer at NPR wanted a Christian Scientist on her show who could respond to Dr. Paul Offit’s assertion that religion is killing children – an assertion presented in his book, Bad Faith: When Religious Belief Undermines Modern Medicine. I was not the right fit to respond to that assertion – seeing as how I did take my sons to doctors now and then when they were youngsters.

But if I were interviewing Offit, there are a couple questions I’d like to ask him, if I had the chance: We know that preventable errors in medical care are the third-leading cause of death in this country (according to the Journal of the American Medical Association, among other sources) and have been for several years now. Knowing that about 400,000 people a year die from preventable medical errors ( ), I’d like to ask Dr. Offit –

  • How much of your time do you spend making medical treatment safer and better, as opposed to concerning yourself with other forms of treatment?
  • Do you think parents should be forced to bring their children into a system that is the third-leading cause of death in America?
  • And do you believe that when a child dies under medical treatment it is any less tragic than when a child dies under some other form of treatment?

I’ve lost friends who were under Christian Science treatment. I’ve also lost friends who died from the medical treatment they were under-going – not from the disease, but from the medical treatment itself. Neither type of death caused me less grief than the other. Humans die. I may even appear to die someday. (I know – it’s hard to believe, right? – but I think we need to consider the possibility that I may not ascend here.) And if I die while under Christian Science treatment, I really hope my loved ones don’t blame Christian Science for this. I hope they realize that Christian Science has helped make me the person they love – and that there was some part of me – maybe a part of me they love – that was drawn to this way of life.

Regarding Rita Swan: I’m not sure why Rita Swan made the choices she made when her baby became so ill. I’m not going to try to speak for someone else. But I imagine that if I’d been in her shoes I might have felt terrible guilt after my baby’s death and would have looked for someone else, or something else, to put the blame on for this tragedy – just to relieve the burden of self-condemnation a little. I wouldn’t judge anyone in Rita Swan’s position for taking the direction she took after Matthew’s death. I don’t blame her. But I’ve never been in the position she was in – as I wrote in my post, I took my sons to doctors now and then when I felt the need to do so. I’ve never felt any pressure from my church family to avoid medical treatment. And I’m pretty sure that if I ever did, it wouldn’t faze me at all. My responsibilities as a mother to keep my sons safe out-trumped any other considerations. (And sometimes that meant saying “no thank you” to drugs that doctors offered that had potentially adverse side effects and no guarantee of helping.)

Regarding Caroline Fraser: Years ago she wrote an article for Atlantic Monthly about Christian Science. Someone handed me the magazine, and I thought they were giving it to me because of the really well-written article on the environment that was in that issue. It wasn’t until a week later, when I was looking through the magazine again, that I saw Fraser’s article. What struck me about the article was the complete lack of objectivity, and the blatant bias. She wrote about Mary Baker Eddy with authority – as if she’d actually met the woman (which, of course, she had not – Eddy died long before either Fraser or I were born). Fraser acted as though she could get inside Eddy’s head and tell us all what was going on in there. I am always wary of people who set themselves up as experts on what’s going on inside someone else’s head – who presume to know what someone else is/was thinking, feeling, and believing – this is often a symptom of bigotry.  Fraser’s article made me wary of Fraser.

There’s another book about Christian Science, though, written by Lucia Greenhouse, a woman who watched her Christian Science mother die of cancer – that I think is less sensationalistic than Fraser’s writings about Christian Science. One of my friends who was raised in Christian Science could relate to a lot of Greenhouse’s experiences with Christian Science in fathermothergod  – and I think Greenhouse’s book was really helpful in validating my friend’s experience. I don’t discount Lucia Greenhouse’s experiences with Christian Science – I believe she’s telling the truth. But my experience being raised in Christian Science is very different from either my friend’s or Greenhouse’s.  My brothers and I were brought to doctors, dentists, and optometrists – and this was no big deal. We also experienced some really beautiful healings in Christian Science. (Which you can read about in Blessings: Adventures of a Madcap Christian Scientist .)

As I wrote in my last post, what draws me to Christian Science is the transformation in my nature that I feel when I experience healing – and I HAVE experienced healing in Christian Science. Christian Science healing doesn’t just make me better physically – but it brings me closer to Love – it lifts my thoughts, inspires me, gives me courage – fills me with joy and gratitude and good will to my fellow man and woman. These are not things I’ve experienced in medical science treatment.

And now I give you a picture from my morning bike ride – just because I wanna… 🙂

Samish River (photo by Karen Molenaar Terrell)