From Pleasantville to Principia — The Journey of One Woman’s Life from the Cult of Christian Science to Christ

The following was written by Ashley. She shared this with me after she discovered my posts about Christian Science on the cults page. I’m sharing her testimony with you, and with permission.

From Pleasantville to Principia

If you looked up my childhood in a dictionary, you would have found the word Pleasantville.  I was raised in Kansas City by two very loving, grounded, hard-working parents.  I had a brother 2 years older than me, and the four of us together were very close, loving and fun.  My brother and I were pretty good kids growing up.  Our parents ran an indoor sports complex, and so athletics were extremely important in our family.  We both grew up playing sports and hoped to someday see the fruit of our hard work through a College scholarship.

The Falsity of Fainting

We were members of the local Christian Science church.  I never really noticed that I was different from anyone else in school because of the church I attended.  I didn’t really notice there were other churches outside of Christian Science.  The first recollection of me realizing that Christian Science was different and so was I, was when I fainted for the first time.

It was on the day of Thanksgiving.  While getting ready for church, I made it very clear that my stomach was really hurting me and I didn’t feel capable of going and sitting for an hour in church.  As was custom, my mom or dad took me into a quiet room of the house and shared that I needed to “Know the Truth” about myself and to read from the Science and Health the Scientific Statement of Being.  I can to this day repeat it verbatim.

There is no life, truth, intelligence, nor substance in matter. All is infinite Mind and its infinite manifestation, for God is All-in-all. Spirit is immortal Truth; matter is mortal error. Spirit is the real and eternal; matter is the unreal and temporal. Spirit is God, and man is His image and likeness. Therefore man is not material; he is spiritual.

Praying that my body was spiritual and not material, I tried to be a good Christian Scientist, and overcome my pain by changing my thought and aligning it with God’s thought and proceed to attend the morning church service.

It didn’t take but twenty minutes into the service and I looked at my brother and shook my head.  The rest I don’t remember up until I woke to throwing up in the bathroom.  I was told that I fell back on the pew, hit my head, slid under the seat and started to throw up.  My dad rushed me out of the church.  I went home and was sick the whole week.  We prayed and no medical attention was sought out for my stomach pains and dizziness.

Through this experience, what made me realize that something was different about Christian Science was the reaction of my church congregation; or lack thereof.  No one mentioned my faint when I came back the following Sunday.  And I was told not to discuss  it to any friends, neighbors or family members.  By sharing this “false belief” about me fainting, I was accepting it to be true about myself.  And it wasn’t true, because I was a perfect child of God.

My faints continued and so did my parents need help me KNOW THE TRUTH and not accept them.  I remember a time where my family drove to Florida and we had stopped at a gas station.  I had been sleeping in the back and woke up and no one was in the car.  I ran into the gas station in complete fear that I wouldn’t get my candy they usually would let us have on stops.  When I found my mom, I started to faint.  She quickly dragged me into the bathroom so that no one would see.  I remember vividly her trying to quietly wake me up and tell me that someone else was in the bathroom and to be quiet.  I didn’t understand why I couldn’t have the help of someone else besides my parents, but she definitely didn’t want my faint to be seen.  I have continued to have fainting issues to this day.  To be clear, I don’t want to dishonor my parents for what they thought was the right thing to do in those situations.  They always did their best to keep me safe and protected.  But what really stood out to me was the rejection of the belief that I was a “fainter”.  This rejection issue feeds into so many other areas of the Christian Science life.  There’s a sense of shame that comes with a Christian Scientist’s failure to have healing or physical health.  It is hard for me now to wrap my brain around.  If I couldn’t overcome my faints, I felt that it was something I wasn’t understanding in my own thought about God and my true being.  When in all reality, I’m a fainter and it’s okay.  To sum up, Christian Science is a works “religion” and teaches that IF we are praying rightly and “knowing the Truth”, healing will occur.  If no healing occurs; we aren’t where we need to be mentally.  Works.  And that is not how God works.  He is a God of GRACE.

The Principia Bubble

When my brother and I had gotten older, the reality that we were the only Christian Scientists in our school, started to settle in.  When our school had flu shots or required physicals, my parents handed in exemption forms from our local Church to our teachers, while all the other classmates were in the nurse’s office.  It became evident to my parents that we were slowly being opened up to the medical world quickly through our schooling and friendships we made.  So my parents did the right thing as Christian Scientists did, and they sold their business and home and moved us to St. Louis to attend the Principia Upper School-A School for Christian Scientists.

Principia offered everything my parents hoped and prayed for.  My brother and I had a strong education but more importantly, we both became extremely passionate for Christian Science.  We both were thorough in our studying of the Bible with its’ important Key- Science and Health by Mary Baker Eddy.  Every morning I read my Bible lesson and let the Science and Health guide me throughout the Bible in it’s own specific way, and I made my parents extremely proud with my daily spiritual growth.

The Wrong Decision or my BEST Decision

When it came time to choose where to go to College, I had always known that softball would play a key role in my decision process.  Considering I loved the sport and my parents paid a lot of money so I could play at an elite level all throughout high school, I made getting a scholarship my main goal.  At the time, I was 4th generation Christian Scientist.  My brother was already attending Principia College, and so were my cousins.  I worked extremely hard to get my scholarship and fortunately was offered one.

My parents still begged me to apply for Principia College and this is first part of “my story” where I knew the Lord specifically directed me.

I was always so obedient to my parents, but in my heart I knew Principia was the wrong place for me.  My reasoning was that all my highschool friends would be there and I didn’t want to repeat highschool all over again.  But looking back, it seemed very unlike me to not even please my parents with applying as a back up plan.

From College to I Do’s

I had 4 great years of college.  I stayed true to being a Christian Scientist, but found myself around a lot of people who thought I was extremely different.  I laughed it off, and egotistically thought that I knew the Bible better and was more spiritual than them.  After all, I was a Christian Scientist and was capable of healing myself through prayer.  They were all “weak” in thought and needed medicine.

And this is the 2nd part of “my story” where I saw the Lord’s hand at work.  He brought me my sweetheart.

My husband was a blessing like no other.  He was raised Catholic and I was raised Christian Science.  What were we to do?  Knowing my temperament, if I had married a man who was extremely opinionated and impatient, I probably would have put my foot down and said there was no way I would leave Christian Science.  But my husband was and still is none of those qualities.  He’s patient, open-minded and always calm.

We decided to attend both each other’s churches.  We both had found we disliked different parts of each other’s denomination and decided that we would figure it out in time, instead of pushing to join a church.

“But I’m a Christian!”

Right in the beginning of our marriage, my kind-hearted Mother in Law encouraged me to attend a Bible Study.  It is a 8 year study called Bible Study Fellowship.  This Bible Study didn’t allow you to speak about specific denominations.  It was a pure study of the Bible with application questions.   I thought it was great.  I had never studied the Bible without the Science and Health right next to me, and so I was very intrigued by this “new age” way to study.  Oh me.

The first year I really enjoyed the study.  But as any well-trained Christian Scientist would do, I ignored the parts of the Bible that were not “inspired by God’,  such as “we are sinners…”, “Christ is God”.  Obviously those were not inspired because Mary Baker Eddy told me that I am made perfect, sin does not exist and Christ is a great example-BUT DEFINITELY NOT GOD.

As I studied the Bible, the more clear it was to me that Mary Baker Eddy left out some extremely solid nuggets of TRUTH that I desperately needed to know about.  When I studied and realized that Jesus declared himself to be THE Savior, and that a final day of judgement was to come for all men, I was stumped.  I was told differently by my leader Mary Baker Eddy about my salvation.  That’s when my world began to crumble.  Is she calling Jesus a liar?  I couldn’t piece it all together without feeling a great deal of anxiety.  Nothing is more humbling than being passionate for one set of beliefs all your life and to one day find out that you are incredibly wrong.  But this is where the Lord really protected my broken-hardened heart.   At Bible Study Fellowship (bsfinternational.org) they would always ask us at the end of the lecture if we had accepted Christ.  That was what would qualify someone as being Christian.  I of course ignored that portion of the lecture because I was a Christian.  Right? Wrong.  The Lord continued to protect me.

The second year of this Bible Study feels like it was just yesterday; and I wish it was.  I would love to go back and repeat the feelings I had over and over.  It was my fourth week and we were studying the Book of Matthew.  One of the key principles shared was, “Repentance involves changed thinking and a changed life”.  That night, my life was changed.  I don’t even know how my legs walked me out of that church, but I somehow made it to my car and called my Mother in Law and started rambling off a bunch of questions.  Like always, she was calm, comforting, knowledgeable, and extremely helpful.  That night on the phone, I came to KNOW the Lord Jesus Christ as my Savior.  22 years old.  I drove home, and looking back I’m surprised that I didn’t get a speeding ticket.  I found my husband and quickly told him the news.  The GOOD NEWS.   Together we worship the Lord and I can’t be more grateful for God’s hand in my life.

Can someone teach me to forget, not just forgive?

I will be honest and say that I am definitely a working progress throughout this amazing change in my life.  Although I now know the Lord as my Savior, the pain of knowing I’m the “black sheep” in my family and lost in a sea of Christian Science friends who don’t understand who I am anymore, is one big dark cloud over my head.  I am working on forgiveness and trying to understand what God wants out of me.  But the anger I have and grudges I hold are not mine to carry.  They are the Lord’s. I am taking a place that’s not really mine when I hold onto the way people have wronged me.

I think about Joseph and his darkest hours in prison, sold into slavery by his own family, and wonder what He thought about God.  God brought people into Joseph’s life in his darkest hours to comfort and help him.  I think about my darkest hours and look back at different people God brought into my life.  He was always there through the encouragement and comfort of others.

This is my lower story that will glorify God’s upper story.

“And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.” Romans 8:28
It’s all about the UPPER STORY.  Christian Science was my darkest hour, and I know there will be many stumbling blocks along the way-but I have the armor of Jesus Christ and cannot be shaken.  It’s all about the Upper Story.

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5 thoughts on “From Pleasantville to Principia — The Journey of One Woman’s Life from the Cult of Christian Science to Christ

  1. Love this story. I was struck by the similarities between Christian Science (a sect I know very little about) and the word-of-faith movement. Being born again in a Charismatic church, I can remember the frustration with some of the people as I tried stating obvious things like “I think I’m coming down with something” and being accused of a “negative confessions”.

    Still, great story. It is always so neat to hear how God works in such a wide array of circumstances.

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  2. Pingback: From Pleasantville to Principia

  3. Ashley,
    My story has some similarities to yours. My great grandfather, grandfather and father were CS. My dad was a first reader and naturally this comes with the same expectations being as someone raised to know nothing else. I had no reason to doubt I was a Christian and wasn’t looking for anything else. Yet when I also was 22 a co-worker had the boldness of the holy spirit to stand before me and tell me I wasn’t a Christian, he turned and walked away. This really got me to questioning what I had been taught, I began to have a great fear of death. I didn’t know at the time but he was part of a small home bible study with spirit filled Christians praying for me.

    I snuck around to visit a few churches outside CS, perhaps their prayers all combined to really break through the strongholds. I watched quite a bit of Christian TV, the 700 Club and knew there was more in life. Pat Robertson seemd to be speaking directly to me, so as we know God works in our lives differently but in personal ways. I got to the point where I couldn’t sleep. I has a vision of Jesus walking before me and God was asking if I would follow him. The old nature was telling me lies, such as my family will reject me, or I will never have fun in life again, etc, etc. I was running out of excuses to not believe, then in the last vision I heard this voice say I knew enough and had to decide. I ran out of reasons to reject Jesus, he had done nothing wrong towards me, my heart was getting soft, he turned and looked at me and his eyes melted me towards him. I believed.

    So to get right to your issue of forgetting and forgiving. As a new Christian the old devil really tries to get us back, hinder our growth or just vent his anger at losing another one. I thought being 22 was getting saved late in life, its early. We have to get strong and win the battles one at a time. It does get better. Personally, I had to create some distance between my CS family and my life, a clean new start, even another city. In fact after becoming a real Christian I was still going to CS but knew there was more, after just a few weeks I found a real Christian church and never looked back. Those CS services were dead but I didn’t know this until I had real life.

    Our Christian family is now our new family and if part of a healthy biblical church with closeness and love, we can find this to be more real and healthy than our natural family experience. Make sure you don’t go back, I’ve seen some born again Christians fall back into their old religions or natural vices. This is a spiritual battle happening, yet much of it hinges on our choices. After awhile you will win and overcome that and grow into more newness of life. My email is scott-hammons@msn.com if you need prayer or to exchange what’s happening.

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