Marriage tragically misunderstood

December 31st, 2018

(With research by John Andrews) “Male and female created He them, [equally] in the image of God,” we read in Genesis. Yet Christian Science, in both its doctrine and its culture, tends to privilege the woman (see SH 533 and many other passages), even to the point of encouraging a wife’s refusal of sexual intimacy to her husband.

Many years ago my then-wife told me I must not “look to persons for love and affection” — which was her CS justification for cutting off marital relations.  Such one-sided, imposed celibacy is poison for a marriage. Has the man no say?

Growing up in a Southern California branch church, I remember observing several CS couples that were friends of my parents.  All were in their late 50’s, all the wives strong matriarchs, all the husbands milk-toasts.  One had to assume the husbands had long since been deprived of marital intimacy owing to the Christian Science concept that sexual relations are unspiritual.  It troubled me to see one after another of these men dying far too young. Was it their only way out of these dead “non-marriages”?

Mrs. Eddy’s chapter on Marriage, placed near the beginning of her textbook, calls for restricting marital sex to procreative purposes only (SH 62) and speculates on humanity’s eventually outgrowing sex even for that purpose (SH 68).  I remember learning that some of the elderly female teachers of Christian Science taught this disapproving view of marital intimacy to the young wives going through class instruction.  Inevitably this turned their homes into battlegrounds. I vowed never to let it happen to me.  But it did, contributing to a painful divorce.

Today as a Catholic, I’m impressed by Father Ripperger’s teachings on “the marital debt” by which, when one spouse makes a reasonable request, the other cannot refuse without incurring a mortal sin.  This follows from the historic Christian understanding, held by Catholics and Protestants alike, whereby marriage is a sacramental calling and the family is a sacred institution for the healthy formation of children. St. Paul addresses this at the beginning of I Corinthians 7.  And to be fair, Eddy hints at it with such vague phrases as “enduring obligations” and “mutual compromises” (SH 59) — but then contradicts herself a few pages later.

Thus the way is left open for the feminized, asexual, unbiblical CS culture I experienced at my last branch church. Serving in the reading room, I noticed all the books on family with no fathers. “I was a single mom and found Science and Health,” was the norm.  Both the Readers were overweight, saccharinely smiling women. Men, one gathered, were frowned upon for their gender’s lack of spirituality.  Then I realized I was being treated with contempt by the committee chair lady. It was the catalyst that started my search for a new faith home.

I escaped Christian Science and found the one true God. It’s sad, though, to think of all the well-intentioned individuals and couples — and their children, born or unborn — still being harmed by CS with its tragic misunderstanding of marriage and the sexes.

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