“So you, like, don’t believe in doctors?”
I don’t get this question. Of course I believe in doctors. Dr. Drew is a doctor and he clearly exists; what’s not to believe?
I get asked this a lot whenever someone finds out I’m a Christian Scientist. Most people either don’t know what the hell I’m talking about, or have seen an episode of "Law & Order" where some awful parents let their kid die instead of taking him to the hospital. Or they ask me a series of progressively horrifying hypothetical injuries, seeing which one would be bad enough for me to get my ass to a doctor.
“What if you broke your leg? What if you were in a car accident? What if you had CANCER?” Yeah, if I had a broken leg, or were in a car accident, or had cancer, I would go to the doctor. Let me explain.
First, some info. Christian Science is based on the teachings and writings of Mary Baker Eddy, who wrote the book that we use as a companion to the Bible, "Science and Health" with Key to the Scriptures. "Science and Health" was published in 1875, and remains unchanged. We use it in our church services along with the King James Bible (and as a total Renaissance literature nerd, can I just say, I LOVE that we use the King James Version, which is the BEST BIBLE EVER). In "Science and Health," Mrs. Eddy writes about using the Bible to heal herself after suffering a spinal injury that left her paralyzed. To break it down for you:
• Christian Scientists believe that the healings and teachings of Christ are available to all people, as a scientific process we can all use in our daily lives.
• Christian Scientists believe that mankind and the universe are spiritual, as opposed to material, and are perfect and good.
Think about it this way, if you will: We believe that God is good and we are made in God’s own image and likeness (Gen. 1:27), and therefore we must be good, as well. Furthermore, since God is good and God made everything, we believe that sin, disease and death are really illusions. God didn’t create sin, disease and death, and therefore they don’t exist. When our bodies get sick, this is an illusion, an error in our thinking (we talk about “error” a lot in CS), and we need only to correct that error to experience healing.
Sounds kooky, right?
It really isn’t all that different from manifestation or, you know, "The Secret" (which, admittedly, is still pretty kooky), except that we base our beliefs on the teachings of Christ, and use the Bible to back it up. Still, I can totally understand why this seems weird to a lot of people. Christian Science hasn’t always been, and still isn’t, the easiest religion in the world for me to follow.
Going to church will always be inextricably associated with my grandma in my mind. In the 25 years I knew her, she went to the doctor once, when she fell and got a huge gash on her forehead that was bleeding like WHOA and required stitches. Even then, she didn’t want us to take her. She just wanted us to call Rose, her practitioner, and ask her to pray.
And for the record, when my grandma passed away, she was 93. Her skin was fucking amazing, and she looked about 60. If that isn’t a shining endorsement for CS, I don’t know what is. (I’m kidding, I’m not trying to convert anybody. We don’t proselytize. But her skin really was amazing.) My grandma was an ideal Christian Scientist. I can’t say I’ve been as devout as she was, but it’s something to aspire to.
That pesky bit about not going to the doctor or taking medicine is where most people have trouble with the whole CS thing. Nowhere in the Bible or Science and Health does it say, “Thou shalt not take any medicine.” However, it does run counter to our beliefs in our spiritual existence. In other words, taking medicine is treating the material, imperfect illusion, when what we really need to do is simply correct our thinking: If I know, and truly believe, that I’m not ill, I really and truly won’t be ill.
I’ve gone to the doctor countless times in my life. I went to the doctor the time I had toxic shock syndrome from a tampon (yeah, I don’t use tampons anymore), and the time I needed stitches in my knee. It doesn’t mean I’m a bad Christian Scientist. I’ve gone because I’ve been too scared, upset or in pain to focus and calm my thoughts enough to “know the truth,” as we say, and pray. And when I say “pray” I don’t mean beg or ask God to give me respite or deliverance from my suffering, but rather, to just reaffirm to myself that I’m God’s child, made in His image and likeness, and to clear the error from my thinking and see the perfect me. Make sense?
And it works. I can tell you innumerable stories of opening up my "Science and Health," or just reciting the Scientific Statement of Being (which we would always say at the end of Sunday School, and which, for the longest time, I thought ended with the words, “Sunday School dismissed”) and immediately or eventually feeling better. As a result, I have abnormally acute mental control over my body. I can talk myself out of being sick, almost every time. Cuts and scratches heal very quickly on me. Scars fade and I forget the injury that caused them in the first place.
I go to the doctor when I don’t think I can handle the situation, or when I’m too scared, which is pretty rare. I don’t go to the doctor when I have a cold or the flu, and I don’t take medicine when I have a headache. At least, I try not to. But it isn’t always easy.
I’ve always had horrible periods. I would be out of school for close to a week in my teens, with cramps, headaches, fainting and every other awful PMS symptom. This was the time that tested my faith the most. I looked at the occasional visit to the doctor, and the occasional medication, as the result of my own weakness and insecurities; something to work on, but something every Christian Scientist goes through once in a while. But my monthly bouts with PMS would torture me. I’d spend most of the time in the fetal position either in bed or on the floor of the bathroom, crying, throwing up and passing out.
One reason I didn’t like to take a specific PMS medication was that it would give me only temporary ease for my pain, and in 4-6 hours I would have to take more and more and more. The more pills I took, the less effective they became. It felt like a never-ending cycle of medication, and even if I had never heard of Christian Science, the dependency that I had while on PMS medication would have been a turn off for me.
The times when I got through my period the easiest were when my grandma moved in with us toward the end of her life. Taking Motrin every 6 hours did nothing for me compared to climbing in my grandma’s bed with a hot water bottle and listening to her read to me from the Bible or "Science and Health," or just sing hymns to me. Where one would leave me exhausted and addicted, needing another pill just to function, the other would leave me feeling empowered in my own body, knowing that something as basic as my monthly period couldn’t have control of my life, couldn’t take the power away from me.
I haven’t had a miserable period in years, and while I’m sure many people would attribute it to hormonal changes in my body, I attribute it to the lack of fear. I no longer wait in fear of my period, giving it the power to take me out of commission for five days, letting it cloud my thinking and get bigger and bigger in my mind. It’s nothing to me, and it has no affect on me. Because I don’t let it. Christian Science reaffirms to me that ultimately I am in control of my body, and whether that means visiting a doctor, or praying through the pain, I get to decide.