Surviving the Faith-based Medical Neglect of My Childhood: An Ex-Christian Scientist’s Story

I mentioned earlier that during the Secular Coalition for America’s briefing with White House officials, Liz Heywood, one of the speakers from our side, was unable to make it because of the weather.

As a child, Liz’s Christian Scientist parents saw that she had a bone infection. Instead of getting her the medical help she needed, they just sat there and prayed for her, accomplishing nothing. The infection got worse and Liz had to live with it for decades.

Three years ago, Liz had her leg amputated.

She wasn’t able to tell her story in person to the Obama administration officials, but she did prepare a statement which was read aloud by an SCA staffer.

It is possibly the most damning piece of evidence against faith-based exemptions for medical neglect. It shows how religion receives unnecessary and undeserved levels of respect from our leaders — even to the point where it harms people.

We atheists need to enlighten our elected representatives about this problem so they can be pressured into making the proper changes.

The last day of my childhood was Saturday, November 22nd, 1975. I was thirteen years old.

I galloped my horse through the woods, then I rode my bike to a friend’s house and we ran together all afternoon. I’d had no injury, but that night my left knee swelled like a melon; by bedtime I could barely walk. In a matter of weeks, so much pus was draining from my knee and running down my leg that my parents put a cookie sheet underneath to catch it. Within a month I was bedridden — and stayed that way for almost a year. Another six months in a wheelchair left me a teenager with a fused, hideously deformed leg and emotionally crippled by post-traumatic stress disorder.

Yet I never saw a doctor. I never received any medical treatment. I was a third-generation Christian Scientist living in Lexington, Massachusetts, within twenty miles of the Mother Church in Boston. My parents treated the sudden infection in my knee the same way they treated every illness: by having a Christian Science practitioner pray. Christian Scientists believe that mortal life is unreal: they believe that understanding the spiritual universe created by God results in physical healing. All injuries and illnesses are treated this way — from paper cuts to cancer.

The year before, in 1974, federal regulations were enacted by the Nixon Administration that protected the rights of parents to choose religious treatment for their children even if it meant denying them urgently needed medical care. In 39 states and the District of Columbia, these exemptions are still in place even though in 1984 the Reagan Administration stopped mandating that states exempt parents from charges of religion-based medical neglect.

Years later, my bone disease was identified as osteomyelitis, a strep infection that can settle in a joint. While serious complications can develop, immediate treatment with antibiotics can result in a good outcome. But my family saw my swollen, stiff knee as a mortal illusion to be corrected through prayer. About five weeks from the onset, my leg began to drain an alarming amount of pus. My mother called a Christian Science practical nurse to help care for me — a nurse trained by the church in strictly non-medical methods and forbidden to diagnose disease or dispense medicine.

And I believed only prayer could help me: I never expected or even wanted medical treatment. I was bedridden for ten months in 1976. I lost weight. I couldn’t bear to have my mother hug me — the slightest motion was agony. I sensed I might die. Some nights, I was afraid I wouldn’t die. I was fourteen years old.

My school, friends and neighbors were aware I was seriously ill and being treated with prayer. At times I screamed in pain, but none of the neighbors investigated. Only the mother of my best friend was concerned enough to call a lawyer but was told it was unlikely that I could legally hospitalized. As a last-ditch effort, my friend’s mother sent an ambulance to our house. My mother told me afterward the driver said someone [was] having a baby.

This faith-based medical neglect hid me in plain sight behind the respectability of Christian Science, under the radar of politically correct religious tolerance. Even when they feared for my life, my parents seemed incapable of choosing medical help. By Christian Science policy, a practitioner may refuse to pray for clients who receive medical care, and my parents were terrified that hospitalizing me would lead to my death. Though I had a phone by my bed on those nights I cried, it never occurred to me to call anyone except the practitioner.

I outlasted the disease. My leg was scarred to the bone and my knee fused at an angle of about eighty degrees. But my school never asked for details when I finally lurched back to class on crutches after eighteen months, wrestling with depression, anxiety, eating disorders, claustrophobia, and panic attacks. Eventually I dropped out of high school.

Orthopedic specialists were unable to replace my fused knee. By the time I reached my forties, my foot and ankle had deteriorated until I could barely walk. Three years ago today, February 26th, 2007, I chose an above-knee amputation.

I remember clearly the agony and anguish I felt as a child. I remember that no adult stepped forward to end it. The law authorized my parents’ decision to leave me untreated, and the sanction of the law discouraged others from doing what is right. But refusing to act on the pain a child feels is criminal.

It is my sincere hope that my story will inspire the Obama Administration to realize that federal regulations must be amended. States that wish to receive federal funds must be required to remove these religious exemptions in their child abuse laws. My case is not unique: children today are in danger. Despite the abuse inflicted upon these children, most states are unable to pursue civil or criminal proceedings. The need to protect innocent children who are being hurt by these laws is urgent and immediate. When states aren’t required to document or classify cases of religion-based neglect — much less remove children from homes where this kind of abuse occurs — the consequences are completely unethical and morally unacceptable.


  • Ron Smuin

    Having been “raised in Christian Science” myself, and having left the fold some thirty years ago, I still hold anger about the fear I felt from recurring childhood ear infections. My maternal grandfather was deaf from the Spanish Flu epidemic after WWI, but nobody explained that to me. I thought I would go deaf like Grandpa (who was not a Scientist). And, a head injury and concussion (“treated” with Christian Science) and subsequent hearing impairment in one ear caused further damage and fear.

    I agree with the critical point: there is no such thing as a Christian Science child. There is a child of Christian Science parents.

    Parents who eschew medical treatment for themselves have the right to do so, but withholding proven medication from a child is not a right.

  • http://twitter.com/achura Rooker

    If we’re all wrong and there really is a God, I promise you we’ll be seeing people like these parents in Hell. They’ll have their own special level.

  • Doris Tracey

    Life is definately an illusion when neglect and ignorence are involved.Her parents were not in their right minds.I don’t know if her parents would have woken up if she had died. Also if she had died you wouldn’t of had this storey.

  • mae

    Should the Christian Science religion or Ms. Heywood’s parents be blamed? Nothing in C.S. (and, like Ms. Heywood, I am a 3rd generation Christian Scientist) says a person is prohibited from seeing a doctor! I have children and in at least one instance one of them went under the care of an MD for a period of time. Did we abandon our religious faith? No, and neither did we abandon our child to fend for himself. Like anything else, you demonstrate what you understand. If Ms. Heywood’s parents were not able to reasonably demonstrate their understanding of healing through prayer, they had an obligation to consult a doctor. That they chose not to is just that — their choice. Don’t punish all Christian Scientists for the mistakes of a few. If a C.S. family neglects a child, there are already laws on the books to deal with it. C.S. is not a license to maim or kill your children and I know of no case in which it was ever consciously put forth as such.

  • Loren Petrich

    It must be noted that Christian Scientists often have difficulty in practicing what they preach. Mary Baker Eddy herself wore glasses and she took laudanum. Isaac Asimov once heard a low rumbling noise on Sunday mornings, which he tracked down to the air conditioner of a nearby Christian Science church. He laughed long and loud at how the church’s members were so unwilling to convince themselves that they are not really overheated, thus making that air conditioner unnecessary.

    Some Christian Scientist might object that overheating is not really a disease, but there is an overheating-caused disease: heatstroke.

  • DDM

    Every time I read a story like this that happens in America, I can’t help but wonder if it’s result of no universal health care. Prayer is indeed a cheaper alternative to spending money out of the pocket to have things fixed.

  • http://www.zazzle.com/godless_monsters Godless Monster

    As a culture, we are often quick to point out the backwardness and barbarity of others. Stories like this should be passed on to Christian friends and family.

  • PrimeNumbers

    Well, that story tells it all. I hardly know what to say. It really is time for the “can’t say anything bad about religion” taboo to finally come to an end.

  • Jonas

    Ironically, Massachusetts is today one of the few states which mandates health care for all residents. — Still I think the CS lobby is powerful enough to get their share of the Heath Care Dollars.

  • MH

    That was hard to read.

    Christian Science (what a misnomer) as a religion is fading fast and only a few hundred thousand members are left. So I don’t get why polititians feel the need to pander to them. Their Mother Church in the back bay is a great piece of architecture. When they finally have to sell it I hope the buyer doesn’t knock it down.

  • Brandon

    Holy crap.

    There’s a Christian Science Reading Room right across the street from my apartment, and this is the first I’ve ever actually learned about their beliefs…

    Also – “Christian Scientists believe that mortal life is unreal: they believe that understanding the spiritual universe created by God results in physical healing.”
    Wait a minute…that’s The Matrix!

  • http://marag.livejournal.com Mara

    As a parent, I’m literally unable to comprehend how someone could watch their child go through that and not get medical treatment. It’s a mindset so alien that I can’t wrap my head around it.

    Heck, the first time my daughter had a cold, I cried because there was so little I could do to make her feel better!

  • Claudia

    If a C.S. family neglects a child, there are already laws on the books to deal with it. C.S. is not a license to maim or kill your children and I know of no case in which it was ever consciously put forth as such.

    Actually one of the biggest issues is that in many places there are NOT laws on the books to deal with this. In fact it’s even more outrageous than that, there are laws specifically in place to protect parents who use faith-healing on their children from prosecution. That is to say, that the same action that would send an atheist parent (or a Catholic one) to jail or have their children removed for neglect and abuse is SPECIFICALLY protected in the case of parents who claim that they were treating their children with prayer. This has been documented as leading to severe difficulties in prosecuting cases where children are maimed and even killed by the insanity of their parents.

    And it is in these extreme cases in which I think that you can start to legitimately talk about religion being a mental disorder. I disagree with those who would call all religious people mentally ill, on a number of grounds. However I think that when your religion has so blinded you and taken over your life that it overrules the most primal human instincts (and there’s not a lot more primal than taking care of your children) then I think it steps over the line into illness. I’m sure that there are many evil people who use religion as a smoke-screen to justify actions that are merely evil, but I’ve read enough cases about CS parents watching their children die to think that they can’t possibly all be evil. No, they are insane. Laws need to exist to protect children from this sort of thing and to make sure that children in very devout CS families are regularly checked up on to ensure they are healthy. Mind you, same should go for girls in extremely devout Muslim families, especially those girls who opt to be secular. I think “faith killing” draws from the same well of insanity as “my 7 year old can barely breathe, let’s pray harder”.

  • MH

    Brandon, everyone stole that idea from Plato, who was either the first person to think it, or the first to write it down.

    Mara, I can sort of understand people of the 1860′s when this craziness got started. Prayer could invoke the placebo effect and so it was better than nothing. Of course that is no longer true with evidence based medicine.

    Where they really have logic tight compartments is that they’ve never followed their belief system to its logical end. In their philosophy medicine isn’t any more real than the disease, both are a manifestation of thought. So why is prayer (also thought) better than medicine when they are the same thing in their ideal monist belief system?

    Get those people to a philosophy course!

  • Jestak

    Nothing in C.S. (and, like Ms. Heywood, I am a 3rd generation Christian Scientist) says a person is prohibited from seeing a doctor!

    While this is the official CS Church line today, for a long time the Church actively discouraged members from seeking medical care. Moreover, as a 3rd generation CStist, mae, you are certainly aware of the very powerful social pressures put on church (cult, actually) members to follow Mrs. Eddy’s dictum about “radical reliance on truth” and avoid even thinking about seeking medical care, even when it is necessary to save a life.

    Moreover, as Claudia correctly notes, you are wrong to claim that “laws on the books” are adequate to deal with CS parents who neglect or abuse their children. Many state laws contain “get out of jail free” provisions to exempt CS parents from being prosecuted–provisions that exist because of intensive CS church lobbying.

  • Pingback: Some parents deserve nothing less than a horsewhipping « Toward a Moral Life

  • http://religiouscomics.net Jeff P

    There is a tension between what would be nice to be true and what is in fact true. It would be nice to be true that our thoughts (and prayers) could cure all disease. Evidence, though, does not support this notion. It would be nice to suppose that there is an afterlife and believing the right things gains you entrance to the “good” version. Unfortunately, there is not a lick of evidence that this is anything other than wishful thinking. It is part of human nature to want things for free or for little effort. It is very sad that some children have to suffer because of their parents organized “wishful thinking”.

  • Martin

    Regarding Plato’s matrix:

    The Allegory of the Cave

    Regards

  • Vene

    CS’s stance on medicone reminds me a lot about how the JWs view blood transfusions. Even if it’s officially accepted, that doesn’t mean they’re actually going to preach in line with that and they sure as fuck are going to actively discourage it.

  • Laura Thébaud Gibbs

    My brother died of Christian Science-based medical neglect (pneumonia, and the first doctor who saw him was there to sign the death certificate). Neither parent was thought disordered, but both suffered from personality disorders reinforced by CS. Social pressure would definitely have influenced them to call a doctor. Neither would have broken the law. After John died, Mother just thought she hadn’t “known the truth” about the illusory nature of “mortal mind” well enough. I.e., she had agreed to consult a doctor if he wasn’t better by morning, so she had shown a lack of faith (thereby causing his death, in CS crazy-think). So she was even worse afterwards, and as the “replacement child” I bore the brunt of her mental illness. It is high time for this government sanctioned craziness to end.

  • Jen

    That should have come with some sort of NSFYourStomachDueToPus warning tag.

    I am a little shocked the school did nothing here. My sister’s high school called my mother about an hour into school to let her know my sister wasn’t there (and she knew, there had been some crossed wires about a dentist appointment) and this was not some awesome high school, but a fairly middle-of-the-road-no-one-goes-to-Harvard school. And yet this woman disappeared for a year and then returned with a major injury and no one said anything? What?

    In the past few years the FFRF have done some podcasts on court cases around these clowns, with babies dying of rashes and 11 year olds dying of diabetes. It’s horrifying and should be stopped. Refuse all the medical treatment you want- that’s your right as an adult- but I am not convinced that this is alright for kids in any way.

  • Staceyjw

    This is terrible, I can’t believe she lived (glad she did!), and the pain must have been unbearable- no access to pain meds even! I bet her parents considered their prayer a success since she didn’t die. HOW HORRIBLE!

    The amount of brainwashing that it takes to see your kid in that condition and do nothing but pray is inconceivable to me. They need to be jailed, and treated for mental illness, because this is what their religion turned into.

    Sick, and it needs to be stopped.

  • ckitching

    If Ms. Heywood’s parents were not able to reasonably demonstrate their understanding of healing through prayer, they had an obligation to consult a doctor.

    So, mae, you think it’s the parents fault because they didn’t have enough faith. Typical. I suppose the victim of this tragedy is at fault for not having enough faith, too, right? After all, she abandon her faith as an adult.

    Intercessory prayer does not work.
    Intercessory prayer does not work.
    Intercessory prayer does not work.

    I can’t say that often enough.

    Intercessory prayer does not work!

  • SickOfChurch

    Once, a child was ill. The parents prayed for the child to get well. The illness progressed and the parents prayed harder, but still not taking their child to the doctor. The child finally lay on their deathbed, the parents praying as hard as they can, and not a doctor in sight. The child passes away. Later in life, the parents pass away and ask $deity why their child was not healed, given the massive amount of prayers said. In reply, the $deity only offered this: “You could have actually *helped* and brought the child to a doctor so I had something to work with!”

  • xpastor

    That’s a horrifying story. In Canada we do not have any such exclusions for faith-based neglect of a child’s medical needs. We have had several court cases with Jehovah’s Witnesses where the parents were trying to prevent the child from receiving a blood transfusion. It can get dicey with an older child who has been brainwashed. There was a case recently where a 16-year-old girl was refusing a transfusion, and her father who was not a JW was trying to get the court to order it.

  • muggle

    As I said on the other thread, I would have liked to have been there to give a piece of my mind about exempting the religious from child abuse laws but Liz’ suffered far worse than me so hers is a more powerful story. I’m glad she’s telling it and I hope it gives her strength. That she’s endured so much and can stand tall and tell it as it is shows strength. I’ve no doubt she’s gained it the hard way.

    No to child abuse exemptions whether physical, sexual or neglect. My health problems too greatly stem from abuse and neglect in my childhood. My mother didn’t believe in substituting prayer for medicine but she sure believed in physical abuse as the Buybull mandates, and it’s had it’s lasting affects. I agree utterly that this is a matter important enough to be Federally mandated and not left up to the states.

    Mae, if that’s the case, then what’s the objection to making parents who treat children with only prayer criminally liable for neglect?

    LOL, Brandon, I sat through “The Matrix” only once because so many of my fellow nontheists seem to laud it. I didn’t get it because it’s entire message seem horribly Christian to me. Overwhelmingly so.

  • mae

    A weird computer thing happened so my first attempt at posting this may also appear. For the sake of completing my thought I decided to re-post.

    It is the parents’ fault but not because they didn’t have enough faith. It’s their fault because they failed to apply the teachings of their religion in reasonable ways. Nowhere in the writings of the C.S. church will you find a command to not use medical care for your children. (I personally know many C.S. members who have used med. care at one time or another — usually due to family pressure — and they were neither condemned by their fellow churchgoers or by the church itself. Not me towing the official party line, me having personal knowledge of and friendship with these people. Some of them got better, but some of them died. I also know C.S. families who used doctors at the first hint of a problem and the result was permanent impairment in a couple of cases and death in another. One of the cases involved a toddler under 18 mos. who was taken to hospital and died from a doctor’s mistake during surgery. A lawsuit failed to find him guilty of malpractice.

    An argument that C.S. families need closer regulation than the general population is ridiculous. Medical neglect of children happens a lot and it usually does NOT involve C.S. followers. (There aren’t that many of us, for one thing.) In fact, medical neglect usually does not involve religion at all. Unless the government wants to put an eye on every family with children 24/7 to make sure the parents are doing their job, I think it will have a hard time legally singling out followers of a particular religion. Look, if I as a Christian Scientist choose to seek medical treatment for my ill child and the doctor I pick is found to be incompetent and endangers my child, should I be penalized for that? If not, why? After all, I am a Christian Scientist and I have put my faith in the MD’s ability to do his job and my choice has turned out to be a poor one. How are we going to define medical neglect and at what point is a parent “off the hook” for criminal prosecution? And if a C.S. family applies their faith teachings to child’s health problem and the problem is resolved should they still be penalized for endangering the child? Do we penalize for trying C.S. or do we penalize only if C.S. doesn’t work and the child dies? Lots to consider.

  • Jestak

    Nowhere in the writings of the C.S. church will you find a command to not use medical care for your children.

    Mae, as you know perfectly well, Mary Baker Eddy explicitly taught that CS “treatments” were not to be combined with medicine. You do not need to be reminded of the passage in Science & Health which ends with the peroration “Only through radical reliance on Truth can scientific healing power be realized.”

    It is true that in recent years the Mother Church, in its public pronouncements, has taken the line that individual CStists are free to seek medical care. This is, as I am sure you are aware, the Church’s response to the legal challenges Christian Science has, rightly, faced in the past 20-25 years. They realized that if they continued to push the “radical reliance” doctrine openly and publicly, the Church might eventually face legal liability.

    But while The Mother Church has changed their public position, CStists out in “the field” continue to promote the “radical reliance” dogma. For example, a FAQ maintained by CS churches in the St. Louis, MO, area says the following: “Can Christian Science be combined with reliance on medical aid? No.” They then go on to quote the “radical reliance” section from Science & Health in support of their position. Moreover, the informal social pressures which I described in a previous post are as strong as ever.

    An argument that C.S. families need closer regulation than the general population is ridiculous.

    That’s a straw man, and you know it, Mae. No one is saying that CStists need “closer regulation.” What we are saying is that CStists need to be held to the same legal standard as everyone else is. We want the provisions in the law which give CStists special protection–provisions that exist because of the Mother Church’s intensive lobbying over the years–be removed, so that the law applies to you just as it does to everyone else.

    Look, if I as a Christian Scientist choose to seek medical treatment for my ill child and the doctor I pick is found to be incompetent and endangers my child, should I be penalized for that?

    IANAL, but I would imagine that if you ignored clear evidence of the doctor’s incompetence, you might face legal liability for negligence, but otherwise, no. However, the doctor would face both professional discipline and potential civil liability for their incompetence. By contrast, the CS Church has no process for even reviewing cases where a CS practitioner’s “treatments” fail, much less imposing the sort of discipline an incompetent doctor can face.

  • mae

    Jestak,

    Thank you for your civilized response to my posting. It’s always refreshing to discuss a controversial topic with someone who can argue intelligently. I’m not familiar with the acronym IANAL, but the question as to why a parent would not be held criminally negligent for picking the wrong MD remains hanging. As for the CS church’s lack of process for reviewing cases of failed treatment, I agree there should be one. Having this would, I think, indicate to the outside world that the church takes the responsibility for its representatives very seriously. I have often wondered why such a review is not in place or, if it is, why it is not publicized.

    Again, I am puzzled by the claim that C.S. parents are able to skirt the law re: child neglect whereas “regular” parents are not.

    The challenge in the court cases involving C.S. families has always been to prove that the parents willfully or knowingly neglected or sought to harm their children. The same argument has been used with non C.S. parents, too. And what of the C.S. families who were criminally penalized for their child’s death? Doesn’t that satisfy you that we are all vulnerable to prosecution? Trust me when I tell you that it is the rare C.S. parent who does not keep in mind the long arm of the law when it comes to caring for their children.

    I am not personally familiar with the “informal social pressures” you mention — this after having spent a lifetime in the C.S. church among all types of individuals with all types of circumstances. If the pressure is there, I’ve never felt it nor seen evidence of it. This includes when members of my own family were under the care of a doctor! I have seen love and encouragement and support for those who ended up in hospital. No condemnation, just caring.

    I posed the question about the type of parent that refuses an alternative treatment if their primary one doesn’t seem to be working.

    If conventional medicine doesn’t work, most if not all parents (not just C.S.)will go down a different path to find a solution, will they not? The field of alternative medicine is growing and it’s worth exploring why.

    Conversely, even in C.S. if prayer isn’t solving the problem it’s reasonable to consult a doctor. If parents are not willing to shift gears, then I argue that their adherence to a particular religion or health care method is not their biggest problem. Their lack of common sense coupled with an overbearing sense of false pride is more likely the culprit.

    It is humbling and terrifying to have to set aside what you believe in, especially if it’s all you’ve ever known and trusted — whether it’s C.S. or conventional medical care. Perhaps there are some folks who let pride get in their way. They shouldn’t, though, because it goeth before a fall.

    I’m willing to bet that the vast majority of C.S. parents — me among them — are willing to entertain an alternative to prayer-based treatment if said treatment is not working. Why? Because we love our children and will do pretty much anything, including setting aside deeply held religious convictions, to help them.

    In my opinion, any C.S. parent who is not willing to do so has grossly misinterpreted and misapplied the church’s teachings, especially with regard to children.

    There’s much more to Christian Science than the one tired quote about “radical reliance.” That thought is so often taken out of context because its place in the whole of the church’s doctrine is not understood that it frankly becomes frustrating.

    Most critics of C.S. — or any religion for that matter — don’t bother to try to learn what a church really teaches.

    My remark about “closer regulation than the general public” was not intended to be serious. It was a snarky thing to say and I admit it. :o P

    Conventional medical treatment is far from perfect, so why does everyone expect prayer-based healing to have a 100% success rate? Just like doctors who vary in their ability to perform, so Christian Scientists will necessarily vary in their ability to apply their religious beliefs.

    I venture to say that even if Christian Science got it right every time, there would still be criticism just because it’s an easy target and doesn’t fit a conventional, mainstream way of thinking.

    We’re damned if we do, and damned if we don’t. So, some of us do, some of us don’t, and some of us just say, “Damn!” and do both.

    Thanks Jestak for the discussion.

  • Richard Wade

    Liz,
    Thank you for your courage to tell us your story.

    Please forgive my asking you these questions if they are intrusive or too painful to consider. If so, just ignore me. My work, my purpose is to understand relationships and how to help people with their relationships. I’m not talking about helping you with your parents, but merely learning all I can about relationships in general. I can only learn if people tell me how things are with each other.

    I’m curious if your parents are still alive, and even if not, I wonder how your relationship with them changed as you grew up and they grew older. I’m curious about your relationship with them now.

    Again, please forgive me if I am intruding.

  • radcs

    As a Christian Scientist, I would echo what Benny has said. This is a terribly sad story and my heart goes out to Liz for all that she has gone through. In my experience, though, it is not typical of Christian Science. While Christian Scientists normally choose a path other than conventional medicine, this choice is not based on blind faith. It instead reflects a systematic approach to prayer that has proven to be reliable and effective in the lives of those who practice it (in my own family’s case, for five generations). Most Christian Scientists would agree that when praying about a health issue (especially for a child) results matter. Christian Scientists don’t believe or teach that their religion somehow exempts them from the legal and moral obligations that every parent has to provide the best possible care for their children. Indeed, I believe that most Christian Scientists feel a heightened sense of this responsibility and consistently practice their faith within that context.

  • Renee

    To be honest, I am not sure what Christian Scientists believe.

    However, I am a Christian. I love God will all of my heart, and I put Jesus first in my life. But I have Bipolar I Disorder, PTSD, ADHD, PMDD, and Panic Disorder. Very recently, after 3 years of being treated, it has come to my attention that is is very likely that this may actually be hypothyroidism.

    The truth is that God sees nothing wrong with us taking care of ourselves medically. There is no sin in seeing a doctor or taking medication. God often uses these methods as ways of healing. Prayer alone is not always the answer. God does provide healing in some miraculous cases. But I think that more often than not, His method of healing is to use the doctors that He has educated and the medicine He has given us.

    I am tired of hearing from Christian extremists (there are some extremists in every religion) that those who are sick are suffering because they either have sin in their life or that they don’t have enough faith. That is NOT biblical. But not every Christian believes this way, in fact, most Christians don’t.

    I am heartbroken to hear this story. It is a horrible truth. God does not want us to suffer or follow Him blindly. He wants us to discover the truth, and it is in the Bible. The Bible never told us not to see a doctor and just “pray an illness away.” It’s absurd. However, along with seeing a doctor, prayer is an essential part of the healing process.

    Here’s a good article regarding this matter: http://www.gotquestions.org/Christians-go-doctors.html

    I am really sorry to hear that people are suffering needlessly due to being misinformed or misled. It is a sad truth that some people take what they are told by misled pastors and follow that blindly (rather than taking it for guidance and opening up the Bible themselves and verifying that what their pastor told them is indeed the truth).

  • Former ‘Scientist’

    Is there a safe group or place on the web where adults (like me) who were raised in C.S. can discuss their experiences? NOT a religious group or another cult group or a feeder group to another religion.

    There must be thousands of adults who could benefit from sharing their traumatic C.S. childhood experiences in a neutral place. A place NOT populated with C.S. apologists?

    I found these comments helpful in thinking about my own childhood.

    Thanks.

  • Liz Heywood

    I appreciate all your heartfelt comments and discussion. Telling my story this way has been part of a very long journey. This is a complicated, emotional topic; faith and belief (religious or otherwise) are personal and potentially volatile issues.

    To Former “Scientist” (and other ex-CS’s): there is an excellent support network of ex-members connected with the organization Children’s Healthcare Is A Legal Duty, Inc. (CHILD, Inc.) CHILD actively fights government legislation that protects faith-based medical neglect. CHILD also sometimes holds meetings for ex-Christian Scientists to share their experiences. I went to one a year ago and it was very cathartic to give an anti-testimony(!). Having been a CS is very singular and isolating, and escaping that mind-set takes time.

    http://www.childrenshealthcare.org/

    I’d like to mention that despite the rough times, my relationship with my parents is very good. My situation as a child was extremely complicated, and my parents have suffered and continue to. I’m glad to have been in touch with them during our individual and on-going recoveries. Despite its claim to legitimacy, Christian Science is a cult that brainwashes its members with magical thinking.


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