Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Belief System.

I may have mentioned in past postings that my father was a Christian Scientist. In that particular faith, it is believed that the material body is a reflection of the perfection of God, and that any illness or injury can be conquered, completely cured, by prayer and/or right belief in this fact. Followers pray and read passages from the Bible and other publications written by the religion's founder. When a member becomes ill, their illness is tacitly ignored and denied, although they may still receive offers of help with driving and chores. Even death is acknowledged only obliquely and funeral services are never held in the Church. No one acknowledges that the body is physical and has needs and dysfunctions. I was raised in this faith, but came to believe that it was almost cult-like in its beliefs and was incredibly damaging and delusional.Unfortunately, its effects had already been felt in my own health and well-being.

My Dad continued to believe, praying and reading right up to the point that the words were stolen out of his mind by dementia. I'm sure he felt deeply that whatever was affecting him could be conquered if he just believed it hard enough. Unfortunately, it didn't work that way; in fact, it led to him obstructing us in every possible way, denying he had a problem, needed help, or was in danger. Members of my Dad's Church helped him in his denial, refusing to acknowledge that they saw any strange or potentially dangerous behavior from him, although I'm sure they did. To these people, physical problems, even death, are negative beliefs that just haven't been fixed yet.

Although I disagree strongly with his beliefs, I have tried as hard as I could to ensure I follow them on his behalf as closely as I can; not filling him full of drugs, limiting visits to doctors, and limiting medical intervention.

The other day an old friend from Dad's Church called to check in on him, since he hadn't been to Church in quite a while. I receive these calls periodically, from people that I have known since I was very little. They are all lovely, kind people, but not one of them actually believes that there is anything wrong with Dad, which makes discussing his illness both strange and uncomfortable. Knowing there's no point in saying much, I try to be honest about how my Dad really is, while at the same time, knowing they are mentally denying every word I say.

In the end, I try to be polite, giving them few details beyond that my Dad continues well and happy where he's living. While I appreciate their kindness and their concern for my Father, I dislike these calls. They are able to hang up the phone feeling good for having checked in and happy that they can continue to fit my Father into their beliefs of the world. It tends to bring up bad memories of my time in the Church and my time being ill. I wish I could stop all connection with this harmful faith and its dysfunctional followers, but until my Father dies that won't happen. In the end I'm left with their refusal of the truth, feeling conflicted and uncomforted, knowing that there has been no real connection made, and that I must continue to participate in the denial.

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