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  • Writer's pictureCourtney Heard

Christian Science, Low Expectations and Orlando

Kelsey Grammer is a Christian scientist. I know, I know what you’re thinking… you mean he doesn’t visit doctors? Not quite. You see, plenty, if not most, Christian Scientists still visit medical professionals. In fact, the church does not require that members abstain from seeking professional medical help. The Church’s stance, rather, is that the most powerful combination when it comes to fighting illness is a combination of prayer and medicine.

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That’s not the image you have of Christian Science, though, is it? You’re thinking about all those headlines reporting the deaths of children who had been denied medical treatment for curable ailments. You’re thinking about two-year-old Robyn Twitchell, who died of peritonitis because his parents refused to seek medical treatment in favour of prayer. You’re thinking about Amy Hermanson who died at age seven because her Christian Scientist parents denied her insulin. You’re thinking about Nathalie Middleton-Ripperberger who was just eight months old when she died after days of painful convulsions while Christian Science leaders prayed over her tiny, tortured body. This is the image you have of Christian Science because it’s hard to forget that the ideas bound to the Church of Christ, Scientist led to these needless and preventable deaths of innocents.

Ideas like their belief that disease and illness are exclusively mental; it’s an illusion and true, measurable, tangible illnesses do not exist. Ideas like their belief that the path to healing involves intense bouts of prayer during which the sufferer is to deny the reality of his or her illness. Ideas like their insistence humans are immortal, and therefore, our imagined illnesses do not require medicine.

These are the core ideas at the center of Christian Science that directly contributed to the deaths of innocent children. Children who had no say in the matter and were at the mercy of their parents’ woefully misinformed judgment.

But Kelsey Grammer is a Christian Scientist, isn’t he? Robert Duvall is also a Christian Scientist. There’s also Joan Crawford and Val Kilmer and J.D. Salinger. In fact, most Christian Science church members are normal people, like you and me, who visit doctors when they need them, and treat their illnesses with medicine when they need it, and don’t rely solely on prayer to heal.

When we break down the numbers, the majority of Church members are no threat to their children. Should their kids get sick, they will head to a hospital just like you, just like me.

But just because a majority of members of the Church of Christ, Scientist would not act in such a way that could endanger the lives of their children, does that mean we should not be concerned about their core beliefs at all? Should we forget about the Robyn Twitchells and the Nathalie Middleton-Ripperbergers and the Amy Hermansons because “not all Christian Scientists…“? Is it hateful towards members of this church to point out that it’s dangerous to believe that illness is an illusion? Is it bigoted to say that this very belief has led to the unnecessary deaths of innocent children before and could again? Is it wrong to be concerned about these ideas, just because the majority of Christian Science church members would never endanger their children in this way?

No. Of course not. It’s not bigoted. It’s not hateful. It’s certainly not racist. There are very few people outside of this church who have a problem being critical of it. There are very few people outside of this church who would look at the deaths of the three children above and deny they had anything to do with the beliefs of this church. Any non-member would feel no hesitation finding some blame in the absurd beliefs of the Church of Christ, Scientist. These beliefs caused these needless deaths, of that, most of us are sure.

So, why, when it comes to Islam, do the rules suddenly change?

The Quran says,

They but wish that ye should reject Faith, as they do, and thus be on the same footing (as they): But take not friends from their ranks until they flee in the way of Allah (From what is forbidden). But if they turn renegades, seize them and slay them wherever ye find them; and (in any case) take no friends or helpers from their ranks.

but when secular bloggers are hacked to death by Islamic extremists, we cannot point to this doctrine as a cause, or we are hateful.

In the hadiths, it forbids the depiction of living things, the most revered of which, of course, is the Prophet, Muhammad. But we are not to point to this hadith when the staff of a magazine that recently drew cartoons of Muhammad is slaughtered while the gunmen run away shouting, “Allahu Akbar!” No, looking at their most cherished beliefs is raging hatred. It must immediately be ruled out as a possible contributing cause to the violence, or you’re a racist.

When a hadith says, “If you find anyone doing as Lot’s people did, kill the one who does it, and the one to whom it is done” and we wake up on a Sunday morning to the news that the Islamic State has claimed responsibility for the worst shooting in U.S. history, which killed 50 members of the LGBT community and injured 50 more, we are not to look at that Hadith. We’re not to look at the attitudes towards same-sex love within Islam as a possible contributor. No, to do so, you might have already guessed, would be hateful.

So, what’s the difference between Islam and Christian Science then? Why can we be critical of one, and freely connect heinous acts of negligence to its core beliefs without fear of being called hateful, while to do the same with the other finds us labelled a racist?

Is it that there is factuality to be found in Islam but not in Christian Science? No, precisely the same amount of evidence exists for the idea that illness is an illusion, as the idea that Allah created our world and everything in it. Precisely the same amount of evidence exists for the idea that humans are immortal as the claim Muhammad was a prophet of a creator God.

So, why then, can we openly criticize the core beliefs of the Church of Christ, Scientist, but we cannot do the same for the writings of Islam?

Let’s take a look, again, at the famous Christian Scientists I mentioned: Kelsey Grammer, Robert Duvall, Joan Crawford… what do these people have in common beyond their fame? What do the majority of Christian Science members have in common?

It’s simple: they’re, for the most part, white.

Now, what do the majority of Muslims have in common? You guessed it! They are, for the most part, not white.

We can criticize Christian science because it’s an overwhelmingly white religion, and, well… I suppose you think white people can handle it.

When you get furious at someone for criticizing Islam in this very same way, you’re sending a crystal clear message: you believe that non-white people cannot handle the same criticism that white people can.

In other words, you, my friend, are the bigot. You believe white people can take criticism better than other races.

Well, I don’t believe that. I don’t believe one race can deal with criticism better than others. I think that if we’re ready to tear down idea systems like Christian Science without hesitation, we should not stop there. I believe we should be critical of all systems of belief that contain heinous or dangerous ideas of any kind. I think we should do this, especially, when there is a very clear connection between that belief system and recent atrocities we’re being bombarded within the news.

I believe, if you’re not critical of these heinous ideas, you have blood on your hands, too. And so I will say it, without fear: Fuck Christian Science for leading to the deaths of innocent children, and fuck Islam for leading to the slaughter of people simply because of who they love.

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