Magazine article The Exceptional Parent

Christian Science Views on Disability

Magazine article The Exceptional Parent

Christian Science Views on Disability

Article excerpt

"Christian Science enables us to understand our relationship to a loving God and our relationship to each other. This understanding improves our lives, our communities and the world." (1)

In about 1850, Phineas Quimby of Maine used Anton Mesmer's ideas of animal magnetism to develop his own healing approach. He would place his hands on a sick person's head and abdomen and encourage supposed magnetic forces to flow through them. He claimed that diagnosis and cure resulted from the individual's faith in him. In 1862 he treated Mary Baker (Glover) Eddy for a spinal problem. The water massage and hypnosis had a positive effect. "She concluded ... that her cure was not due to Quimby but to 'truth in Christ.'" 2

In the late 19th century she developed Christian Science as one of many drugless healing methods and founded The Church of Christ, Scientist in 1879. Churches of Christ, Scientist have no ordained ministers or clergy. Members are elected periodically to conduct Sunday and Wednesday services. Sermons are derived from the King James version of the Holy Bible and Eddy's Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures.

"Christian Science contends that illness is an illusion caused by faulty beliefs, and that prayer heals by replacing bad thoughts with good one." (2) Illness is considered evil and is not part of God's cosmic plan, for God is good and never wills evil. The purpose of life is to maintain harmony with God and the world. The patient may seek the help of a spiritual healer. He or she will talk to patients and help them to repent their sins. If that fails, then the patient is asked to seek the assistance of a medical doctor. (3)

They are opposed to vaccinations, immunization, and quarantine for contagious disease, although official church policy advises members to comply with state laws. A physician or midwife may be used during childbirth. A physician may also be used to set a broken bone if no medication is administered. (2)

Its founder repeatedly called it a system of medicine. The system duplicates that of a medical health-care system. The church trains nurses and calls its healers "practitioners" and charge for their services on a scale of local physicians' fees. "Consultations can take place in person, by telephone, or even by mail." (2) "No one else is allowed to treat the patient while the practitioner has the case, although the church describes the treatments as prayer." (4) "...the church neither limits the diseases its practitioners may treat nor indicates any duty to refer, although the entire training of practitioners consists of two weeks of religious instruction." (4)

Christian Scientists may legally practice in all states. Medicare and some insurance companies cover care given by Christian Science practitioners, and their services are also tax-deductible as a medical expense for federal income-tax purposes. Eyeglasses, hearing aids, and dental services are used by some members who still maintain that illness is the consequence of mental error.

Reimbursement by insurance companies for Christian Science treatment should not imply that these insurance companies support the notion that Christian Science cures children of serious illness. "Rather we should recognize that from the insurance company's perspective, it is simply a matter of good business to offer such insurance coverage." (5)

NUMBERS

Worldwide, there are an estimated 150,000 to 400,000 Christian Science adherents. (6) At the end of the 20th century, the church had about 2,500 congregations in 70 countries; its headquarters is at the Mother Church in Boston. (7) In the United States, there were an estimated 270,000 adherents in the early 1940s and 400,000 in 1973. The number of adult adherents decreased to 214,000 by 1990 and 194,000 in 2001. The

Christian Science Monitor, a leading international newspaper, had over 175,000 subscribers in 1988 and 53,000 in 2005, but only 15,000 of the more recent tally of subscribers were members of the church. …

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