Journey out of Christian Science

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Lucia Greenhouse discusses growing up as a Christian Scientist, in a house where you could not be sick and where no medicine was allowed. Her memoir, Fathermothergod: My Journey Out of Christian Science, tells of the struggle that she and her siblings faced when their mother became sick and wouldn’t get treatment. She looks at the Christian Science faith and chronicles its complicated legacy for her family.


Lucia Greenhouse

Comments [28]

Ed from Larchmont

This is one issue with Protestantism: each person reads the Bible and interpets it for himself or herself.

Sep. 17 2011 05:21 PM

Ms. Greenhouses' story of her mother's death, from what sounds like cancer (she mentioned a tumor), while perhaps personally tragic is wholly unremarkable as a singular event. Hospitals across the globe are filled with drug intoxicated people who are slowly withering away in agonizing deaths that medical "science" neither understands or has a cure for. Having been very close to the medical profession for a number of years, i have seen firsthand how little the medical world actually knows and even more astounded at the profit hungry machine that is the Pharmaceutical industry. Attacking a religion for her mother's demise, is both misguided and irresponsible. Perhaps every physician who has lost a patient should have a book written about their failure. The publishing world would be overwhelmed!

Sep. 16 2011 05:12 AM
Steve M from New Oreleans, LA

Sorry... Susan Ferguson (not Sarah)
To Lucia Greenwood: Going after Christian Science and cashing in on it... is such weak sauce. No guts. No character. No empathy from me. And Janine and Sophie... you probably never even heard of Christian Science before this show... even though it's been around for 100 years... another "crazy religion" -- yeah, two undereducated Americans waking up to history for the first time. Wow!

Sep. 15 2011 10:02 PM
Steve M from New Orleans, LA

I'd like to address Susan Ferguson from Greenwich Village directly. Just like Lucia Greenhouse, I find both your arguments extremely victim-oriented babble. I'm supposed to feel sorry for you as a child when I had a CS upbringing and I did just fine? I had healings and I was treated fine and found a lot of love from Christian Science. Meanwhile, I'm now a non-practicing Christian Scientist who has turned to the "true" science of the medical world and all I've found is indifference. Indifferent doctors, indifferent medicine, and having been treated in New York, indifferent office workers who seem angry all the time and sit behind desks in sterile offices looking bored and asking you to fill out tons and tons of paper work. This "true science" is filled with horror stories of misdiagnosis, endless illness, pill popping -- and medicine heals, really? Medicine treats... it doesn't heal. If you're given a prescription for the rest of your life that you have to take every day... you're not healed... you're treated. Like a machine. You're looked at as a machine, by an indifferent system that doesn't treat you as an evolved being, but rather a collection of body parts. Does medicine help people? Sure. Do a lot of doctors care about patience, have bedside manner and really care? Absolutely! Tons of great doctors. Tons of good care out there... and that's the same with Christian Science. Some good practitioners, some bad. Some good parents. Some bad. A lot of healings... and then sometimes, unfortunately, not. Same as under medical care. Sometimes kids get sicker, even with drugs administered, and die. Sometimes older folks go to homes and die because they don't get adequate care. Sometimes, people don't have health insurance and don't get treated... and die. Is this a healing, helpful system for everyone? In Christian Science, you can turn to it and if you understand the metaphysics of it and work at it and are a deep thinker and are disciplined, you will have success. If you're not willing to put in the work and dedication... then take a pill. But if you think, Sarah Ferguson from Greenwich Village, that the medical solution is this more elevated approach to healing... I think you're disingenuous and I challenge you -- as someone raised in the same religion as you, as someone who is actually not practicing it, just like you, as someone who has also lived in Greenwich Village and is a hip, intellectual, liberal probably like you -- I challenge you on an intellectual level -- I challenge your thinking. I think you are wrong and I'm saying it directly to you. You... are...wrong, and so is Lucia Greenwood. And I’m not missing the point. The point is: she cashed in on her childhood with a book attacking a religion that is an easy target. You want to be bold... go after Judaism, Catholicism, the overly medicated culture. Then you’re going after a culture that will fight back.

Sep. 15 2011 09:53 PM
Gina from NYC

@ barent who wrote: instead,they are fixated on denigrating any sort of intervention,no matter how healthy and natural. that, is really sick.

You are misinformed. While certainly some Christian Scientists wouldn't consider medical or alternative intervention of any kind, many do, and the Church neither encourages nor discourages its members to turn to medicine (or not). It's an individual choice and an individual responsibility.

While I was growing up there was at least one time that my parents sought medical attention for my siblings and me. I never got the sense that they felt bad about that decision in any way.

Sep. 15 2011 03:33 PM
Gina from NYC

I'm glad that Lucia made it clear that her story is just her story. You can't paint the way Christian Science is lived in one broad brush stroke. In my family we most certainly referred to illnesses by name. I don't even know how you'd get around that. It sounds ridiculous. True, we approached our health from a completely different standpoint (we dealt with things through prayer--and we've had all kinds of major healings), but we weren't living in denial. I have never heard of keeping people who are not Christian Scientists away from someone who is ill. That was never my experience nor was it ever even suggested. I believe that that was Lucia's experience, but it's not the norm (as far as I know). As for the glasses, it doesn't sound like Lucia's parents prevented her from getting them and they probably paid for them, even if they weren't happy about it. My parents both wore glasses and when I needed them, they sent me to the eye doctor, too. No questions asked and no harassment. Even so, I'm happy that much to the surprise of my eye doctor, years later, my vision improved so much that I've now passed the driver's eye exam several times over. And that happened because of prayer. My siblings didn't stick with Christian Science either, but they weren't loved any less nor was there a strain in their relationship because of that. And finally, the host of the program mentioned the end of the print newspaper as though that was a sign of a weak church. That seems incredibly out of touch with the media industry that he's supposed to be a part of. The online version of the Christian Science Monitor ( is reaching more people now than it ever has.

Sep. 15 2011 02:23 PM


Sep. 15 2011 12:20 PM
anonymous from nyc

I have sympathy for all the people who have had painful experiences. I sincerely hope you find healing in whatever way you choose.
I saw my mother die a painful death under medical care, part of the reason I now turn to Christian Science which has a preventive and healing affect. This society persecutes anyone who doesn't bow down to medical theory. Don't worry about my children, I don't have any and never will in a society that makes parents slaves to medical commands and holds their children hostage to increasingly unaffordable medical requirements.
The United States has made hypochondria
the norm. The movie "Contagion" will make millions.

Sep. 15 2011 02:06 AM
Susan Ferguson from Greenwich Village

Unfortunately, the Christian Science adherents who have responded here have missed the point entirely. This book isn't about you. You are free to pray and die anyway you choose. You are free to lie moaning in pain and agony, like my mother. (While we were made to pretend we didn't hear and that pain doesn't exist.)
This book is, instead, about your children whom you are supposed to love and protect and cherish. I am a CS child — and I know others who are like me — we lived in fear that our parents would let us die rather than get us life-saving medicine and attention. We were are abandoned emotionally by parents who paid lip service to LOVE. Ask yourself, where do your loyalties lay? To your family who cares for you or to your ideology which fails you time after time.

Sep. 14 2011 11:33 PM

a sad irony, is that christian science is partially right ,even if for the wrong reasons. so much of main stream medicine, is damaging and even lethal. if CS made provisions for holistic treatment, and common sense prevention,they would make more sense. instead,they are fixated on denigrating any sort of intervention,no matter how healthy and natural. that, is really sick.

Sep. 14 2011 07:01 PM
Sarah Avery from New Jersey

Mary Baker Eddy wrote a book called "Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures" that is a revelation of truth based upon Christ's teachings that encompasses ALL and is not limited to physical healing. Christian Science is about TRUTH and your individual relationship with God. Human focus on materiality is a burden to spirituality and results in all the ills that torment the world.

Sep. 14 2011 06:54 PM
david from Bronx

I have heard of many cases that were given up by medical doctors and then patient was healed by Christian Science.
I have been healed by Christian science.

Sep. 14 2011 04:07 PM
sophia from nyc

To balance these annecdotal unfortunate
experiences with Christian Science, I would like to say that it saved my life.
There are thousands of other positive accounts about Christian Science healing to be found in Christian Science Reading Rooms and at

Sep. 14 2011 04:03 PM
Liane from Westchester

I've read the book, and I encourage everyone to do the same.
It is one of the most provocative coming of age memoirs I've read. I couldn't put it down. It's reflective, honest, even-handed and brave. She's a wonderful writer, and the book is a moving testament to the power of healing through writing.

Sep. 14 2011 03:50 PM
pamela from NY

I too was raised as a Christian Scientist and had many very similar experiences. Greenhouses's accounts rang very true. My father died of a heart attack at 59 and my mother died at 69. She was a practitioner and my father was a reader. We never saw doctors as children and, thankfully, were never seriously ill or injured. However, I well remember my mother receiving a call from a "patient" in labor who was giving birth at home. The baby was still born. Prayer didn't help that poor infant. I also well remember a young man in his 30s dying of cancer, leaving behind a family, and I witnessed many other serious illnesses that went unattended. I realize that it's very controversial, but I personally believe that parents who deny their children medical attention should be tried for manslaughter if the child subsequently dies. The child has no choice in the matter. To me, the parents should not have the right to decide whether their child lives or dies.

Sep. 14 2011 02:14 PM
Susan Ferguson from Greenwich Village

I was a CS kid. My best friend was a CS kid. Her mother died of a curable cancer. My cousin was a CS kid. His mother died of self-inflicted starvation.
What Lucia says is so true. I endured a brutal summer of my mother praying over my eye sight, all the while I was blamed and made to feel shamed for being "resistant" to healing. Finally, my mother gave in and I got glasses.

My mother lived in pain with few respites. She was angry. Why didn't she get a healing? She prayed. She read. She consulted a practitioner. Her pain confined her. There wasn't an aspirin in the house. There was nothing I could do. When she finally declared that she wanted to die. I had to let her.

She never realized that modern medicine had become true science, while Christian Science is still mired in the fear of 19th century snake oil. Medicine can cure. CS just leaves the patient guilt ridden, sick and left to die. The "healings" are arbitrary and anecdotal. They cannot be repeated. They are magical thinking.

Sep. 14 2011 01:48 PM
anonymous from nyc

There is a provision in the Christian Science Church Manual entitled 'Duty to Patients' which specifically encouages consultation with medical doctors.

Sep. 14 2011 01:44 PM
Florence from North Jersey

I find this to be more a story of bad parenting than about a religion. Both health care and religion are very personal choices. There is no health care directive made by the Christian Science church. Every church member is free to choose how they treat any incident of illness.

I sincerely hope the Leonard Lopate Show will invite a Christian Scientist to present their own positive personal experience using Christian Science prayer to heal themselves. You may contact me if you are interested.

Sep. 14 2011 01:28 PM
glork from Glen Ridge NJ

Not only is there no one in the Christian Science Reading Room in Upper Montclair NJ but if there are 10 people attending the cavernous Christian Science church or temple or whatever you call it, that's a lot. Extremely strange. Ask Hank Paulson (Goldman Sachs) a lifetime Christian Scientist whose daughter works for the CS organization about the mind over matter stuff - must work regarding making $$$.

Sep. 14 2011 01:26 PM
Tony from Canarsie

No, Elliot, the Church of Latter Day Saints (Mormonism) is not the "fastest growing religion in America." The conversion rate of the LDS is actually quite small compared to other religions and Christian denominations.

Sep. 14 2011 01:24 PM
JFreely from NYC

You left us hanging!!! What was her mother's diagnosis, I'm not the only one asking this...

Sep. 14 2011 01:22 PM
anonymous from Yonkers, NY

I am a member of the Christian Science Church. This segment is misrepresenting my Church. It is not true that Christan Scientists don't go to medical doctors. Bring The New York Committee on Publication to your show. Characterizing an entire religion by one experience is bigotted.

Sep. 14 2011 01:21 PM
Janine from NYC

sounds like an ignorant religion

Sep. 14 2011 01:20 PM
Sophie from Poughkeepsie, NY

I'll say it again-- another crazy religion.

Sep. 14 2011 01:20 PM
Sophie from Poughkeepsie, NY

Another crazy religion.

Sep. 14 2011 01:18 PM
Capper from nyc

What was your Mother's diagnoses?

Sep. 14 2011 01:17 PM
Jennifer from Brooklyn

I am a practicing Christian Scientist. I have never heard of anyone being shut out in case of illness. I don't think Lucia's experience is typical of Christian Scientists. Also, I have had many great healings, mental and physical, through prayer as Jesus taught us.

Sep. 14 2011 01:16 PM
Mike from Tribeca

For several years now, there's been a Christian Science "reading room" on Church Street in Lower Manhattan. I walk by it all the time and except for one or two people who work there I've never actually seen anyone in it. I imagine the rent for such a location must be quite high. Does your guest know if this is the norm nationwide?

Sep. 14 2011 01:15 PM

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