"I knew we were different...but not why"

Brought up in a strict Christian Science household, Kathy tells Jane Reader of the heartbreak of watching her mum's agonizing struggle with cancer

Bournemouth Echo/June 25, 2002
By Jane Reader

As a young child, Kathy knew she was different to her classmates but she wasn't sure why.

Slightly disabled and with few friends, the little girl was being brought up in a strict Christian Science household.

As she grew up, she knew nothing of medicine and ailments including asthma, earaches and dental problems went untreated.

It was only when she went to college that Kathy realized there was an alternative option to pain.

A friend suggested she visit a dentist and, for the first time, she started to question the teaching of Christian Science.

Her mother was totally wrapped up in the writings of the religion's founder, Mary Baker Eddy, who claimed study of her works could heal.

Medicine is seen as totally incompatible with the movement and members are urged to shun all medical help.

"If my mother had a cold, she took to her bed and read the books" said Kathy.

"When she got better she thought it was because of the books. It never occurred to her that colds run their course and that everyone gets better.

"Various childhood ailments went untreated - we were not registered with a doctor.

"I am thankful I didn't suffer from anything more serious because who knows what might have happened to me?"

It is well-documented in America that childhood deaths have been attributed to the failure of the parents to seek medical help.

Kathy said her minor disability may have contributed to her mother's devotion to Christian Science.

"In those days there was no counseling and what mother would not want to heal her child? Perhaps she thought she would be able to heal me."

When Kathy turned her back on Christian Science, she struggled with emotional problems and felt she had no one to turn to.

But in recent years she has been in contact with support groups in the USA. And now she hopes to set up a group in the UK.

Kathy said she does not wish to start a campaign against Christian Science but believes there is a lack of understanding in society.

"I just want people to be aware of what they are dealing with before they get involved," she said.

"My mother was very brave and thought she was doing the right thing by denying treatment.

"If she had 'given in' and had some medical help the guilt would have been unbearable for her."

Services are held twice weekly at Christian Science churches in Christchurch Road, Bournemouth and Church Road, Lower Parkstone.

Reading rooms in Carbery Row, Southbourne and Commercial Road, Poole, advertise: "A Spiritual Focus on World Events".

Posters in the windows tell passers-by: "When Your World Feels Uncertain, Turn to God", and colorful posters, which seem to be aimed at young children, say: "It's way cool to follow these rules".

The Southbourne reading room is also advertising a talk planned at Twynham School on Thursday entitled A Spiritual Focus on World Events."

Membership is said to be in decline and is estimated at as few as 100,000 members worldwide.

Over the years the faith has attracted some famous names including Marilyn Monroe, Doris Day, actor Val Kilmer and Ginger Rogers.

Muppets creator Jim Henson was raised as a Christian Scientist and was a Sunday School teacher in his 20s but he later withdrew from the church.

This is a significant drop from the 1930s when there were said to be 250,000 members in America alone.

This reduction has led to leaders re-inventing the church as part of the New Age movement.

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