Celebrity news, beauty, fashion advice, and fascinating features, delivered straight to your inbox!
Thank you for signing up to . You will receive a verification email shortly.
There was a problem. Please refresh the page and try again.
When she was 7 years old, Lucia Greenhouse got the chicken pox — but she was told the disease did not exist. The itchy red bumps on her body, her father said, weren't really there: They were an illusion, a sign that there was an error in her thinking and she needed to pray. Illness, contagion, germs — these are nonexistent concepts in Christian Science, the religion the Greenhouse family practiced. Her father explained, "If we think of God's love as a suit of armor, protecting us, we can never be hurt or sick."
Greenhouse, the author of the new memoir fathermothergod, says she accepted the religion as a young girl growing up in suburban Minneapolis, but over the years, doubts crept in. First, there was the time her kitten died, and no one could pray the pet back to health. "I called my dad out on that," she says. Her father, an authority in the church, told her the animal had not died but had gone to a higher plane of existence. Then there were the more everyday contradictions: For instance, it was acceptable to have a tooth pulled by a dentist because that was a "mechanical correction," Greenhouse says, but it was not OK to take novocaine for the pain.
In junior high, when Greenhouse began having trouble seeing the blackboard at school, her doubts sparked a family crisis: She told her father she might need glasses, and he suggested she try prayer instead. She rebelled and got the glasses — but never wore them at home.
By the time she graduated from Brown, Greenhouse had left the faith behind. But her parents' beliefs came back to haunt her, on a Christmas visit home in 1985. That's when she discovered her parents had been hiding a secret: Her mother was terribly ill. When Greenhouse asked her parents what was going on, they declined to even discuss symptoms. "It was hell," Greenhouse says. "It's a hell I've carried with me for the rest of my life." Her mother eventually checked in to a Christian Science center, where practitioners prayed for her; when her condition became critical, she finally went to a hospital, where she died of colon cancer. "The abandonment felt raw," Greenhouse says, describing her mother's reluctance to get medical treatment. "It still does."
Greenhouse, now a married mother of four and self-described "hockey mom" in Westchester, New York, says she spent more than two decades writing the book, first to help herself heal, but also to shed light on the religion and its contradictions. "The church has presented a squeaky-clean image," she says. "I wanted people to see it in a different light. Kids have died of treatable illnesses. Children don't get the usual vaccinations. It's a fringe faith."
Abigail Pesta is an award-winning investigative journalist who writes for major publications around the world. She is the author of The Girls: An All-American Town, a Predatory Doctor, and the Untold Story of the Gymnasts Who Brought Him Down.
'Firefly Lane' Season 2: Everything We Know
In the immortal words of Tully Hart, "Firefly Lane girls forever!"
By Andrea Park
'Virgin River' Season 5: Everything We Know
The fifth season of the Netflix hit is filming this summer in British Columbia.
By Jenny Hollander
It's Beauty Advent Calendar Season!
The gift that keeps on giving—literally.
By Julia Marzovilla
30 Ways Women Still Aren't Equal to Men
If anyone tries to tell you otherwise, show them these statistics.
By Megan Friedman
EMILY's List President Laphonza Butler Has Big Plans for the Organization
Under Butler's leadership, the largest resource for women in politics aims to expand Black political power and become more accessible for candidates across the nation.
By Rachel Epstein
Want to Fight for Abortion Rights in Texas? Raise Your Voice to State Legislators
Emily Cain, executive director of EMILY's List and and former Minority Leader in Maine, says that to stop the assault on reproductive rights, we need to start demanding more from our state legislatures.
By Emily Cain
Your Abortion Questions, Answered
Here, MC debunks common abortion myths you may be increasingly hearing since Texas' near-total abortion ban went into effect.
By Rachel Epstein
The Future of Afghan Women and Girls Depends on What We Do Next
Between the U.S. occupation and the Taliban, supporting resettlement for Afghan women and vulnerable individuals is long overdue.
By Rona Akbari
How to Help Afghanistan Refugees and Those Who Need Aid
With the situation rapidly evolving, organizations are desperate for help.
By Katherine J Igoe
It’s Time to Give Domestic Workers the Protections They Deserve
The National Domestic Workers Bill of Rights, reintroduced today, would establish a new set of standards for the people who work in our homes and take a vital step towards racial and gender equity.
By Ai-jen Poo
The Biden Administration Announced It Will Remove the Hyde Amendment
The pledge was just one of many gender equity commitments made by the administration, including the creation of the first U.S. National Action Plan on Gender-Based Violence.
By Megan DiTrolio