Christian Science

(Investigator 17, 1991 March)

In mid 1990 David and Ginger Twitchell, both Christian Scientists of Boston, USA, were convicted of involuntary manslaughter for letting their 2½-year-old son die from a bowel obstruction.

The judge ruled that subjective belief in healing by prayer is no excuse for not getting medical help for a sick child.

This was the fifth conviction against American Christian Scientists in two years.

Christian Science rejects vitamins, drugs, doctors, surgery, immunizations, etc. When sick or in pain members try to "deny material sense testimony".

Until 1983 parents who denied their children medical treatment on religious grounds were rarely prosecuted. In that year the Department of Health & Human Services dropped the religious exemption ruling of 1974 and required all child-neglect cases to be reported.

At the same time Douglas and Rita Swan, former Christian Scientists, were leading a campaign to get tougher laws passed. The Swans had let their own baby die from meningitis in 1977 and then became opponents of their former faith.

Christian Science was founded in 1866 by Mary Baker Eddy (1821-1910) and organized as a Church in 1879.

Mrs Eddy got the idea for the new religion in 1862 when she had a spinal illness. She was treated by Phineas Quimby who practised mind-over-matter faith healing using auto-suggestion and hypnotism. Years later she plagiarized extensively from Quimby’s writings.

In 1866 Mrs Eddy hurt herself in a fall. She claimed she was given only three days to live – a diagnosis which her doctor denied – and was miraculously healed.

The first version of her book Science And Health With Key To The Scriptures appeared in 1875.

The Church teaches that matter is not real and that sickness and evil are illusions. The cure for "sickness" is therefore to understand Divine Truth and in this way correct distortions and conflicts in the mind.

One Christian Science textbook says: "Anatomy, when conceived of spiritually, is mental self knowledge, and consists in the direction of thoughts to discover their quality, quantity, and origin."

The Christian Science Journal, a monthly periodical, was started in 1883, the Christian Science Sentinel in 1898, and the Christian Science Monitor a daily newspaper in 1908.

The "Mother Church", the first Church Of Christ Scientist, was dedicated in Boston in 1895.

In 1910 there were 1,229 branch churches and in 1952 3,083 branch churches. The United States statistics as given in the World Christian Encyclopaedia (1982) are 2,430 congregations with 475,000 adult members and 1 million affiliated.

That some cases of healing have occurred in Christian Science is undeniable. The Church, however, does not allow verification either before or after. Therefore it’s difficult to judge to what extent the successful cures involve psychosomatic symptoms.

At one point during his trial last year David Twitchell said sadly concerning his son: "If medicine could have saved him, I wish I had turned to it."