book report: fathermothergod by Lucia Greenhouse (2011)
I don't know if this genre of books exists, but I would call fathermothergod by Lucia Greenhouse a spiritual horror story. I confess to enjoying Stephen King for a while and his horror fiction, but his writing had nowhere near the effect Greenhouse's memoir did on me. The night I finished the book, the last half of it in one night, past my bedtime, I ended up having a nightmare being trapped in Christian Science.
Her father became a church practitioner, someone who prayed for and encouraged sick members, trying to help them get rid of their perception of illness, which founder Mary Baker Eddy denied was reality. To her, only the spiritual is real, and the physical is illusion. He tells her, “Lucia, dear, you know we don’t discuss symptoms in Christian Science. It doesn’t support the healing process.” So when the practioner's daughter wants to get eyeglasses, he felt threatened. I remember my Eyeglasses Rebellion and, more recently, the acrimony I created by announcing my intention to get health insurance after college. “That’s just a slap in my face!” he had wailed. “A stab in the back!” Greenhouse never joined the church and grew more and more disillusioned with it as her mother, in her early 50's, got sicker while both parents denied anything was wrong. What is right about a "faith" community that neglects a member who seeks medical help? Soon, the shunning would be felt. I didn’t have to grow up Episcopalian or Lutheran to know that church communities typically rally around their members with flowers, hospital visits, and Prayers of the People at times of personal or family crisis, none of which will be forthcoming. The ideological commitment of her father, that anyone or anything could be to blame for the illness and its consequences except the teachings of Christian Science, is horrific. He minimizes the children's visits to their mother, to minimize their negative thoughts which might hinder the healing they are praying for. The wickedness repeats when, years later he is hospitalized and the children are denied visitation to protect his healing.
Greenhouse survived a religious Orwellian family. Her story is a warning to those who are considering conversion to Christian Science. Even if one were to deny her conclusions, it's not hard to deny the impact of Eddy's teaching on numerous families who have let children die unnecessarily because of her teachings such as, "Disease is an experience of a so-called mortal mind. It is fear made manifest on the body." Denying fear won't stop a virus nor cancer. Even Eddy died.
I received a free Kindle version for review from Netgalley.com in exchange for this review.