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Friday, April 29, 2005

For years now, I have struggled with a question of faith--Are Christian Science and dental braces incompatible with each other? Let me explain why....

Back in college, one of my roommates was quite the ladies man. Or, at least, he fancied himself to be quite the ladies man. In fact, he wasn't rico suave and had a string of failed relationships punctuated by such classics as leaving a note for a woman in her dorm room while she wasn't there, but then finding out he left it in the wrong room; jumping out of a moving car and chasing a woman down the street; asking another roommate for a condom and saltines while his date was in the bathroom throwing up a hairball. All the while sleeping on a pull-out sofa with Tracy Chapman playing on the stereo.

One day, he came to the realization that there was a whole group of women that he had not even considered dating. This led to what could be termed the Ugly Girl Theorem. He explained himself by saying that he had only been dating women whom he had been physically attracted to, that the relationships never worked out, and so the superficial beginning must somehow be to blame. He identified the problem variable as the attraction he felt. In order then to have a different outcome, he would only date women whom he was not physically attracted to. He summed it up saying, "I haven't given ugly girls a chance." Or something equally wise.

The Ugly Girl experiment was a complete failure, and fortunately, the Theorem was only tested on one unknowing subject. After a couple of dates, he realized that he just wasn't attracted to the woman, and he likely was not going to become attracted to her. It was a shocking outcome that none of us could have predicted. So he told her that he didn't think it was going to work out, and he explained to her his theory about dating ugly girls. No, not really. But that would've been funny, too.

So what does all this have to do with Christian Science? The woman he tried dating was a Christian Scientist. Christian Scientists believe in the power of prayer to heal sickness and disease. These are the people you hear about on the news (or on "Law & Order") whose children die when they aren't given medicine and who believe that praying will make a headache go away.

In addition to being a Christian Scientist, the woman that he was dating also had braces (whether or not this was a factor in his selection of the woman as a test case was not determined). And so this begged the aforementioned question--Are Christian Science and braces incompatible with each other? If God gave you a fucked up set of teeth, then wouldn't braces be an affront to the will of God? If prayer is good enough for a clogged artery, then why isn't it good enough for a snaggletooth?

And so for years, I've wondered about this. And finally today, I found the answer. Virginia S. Harris, chairman of the board of directors of the Church of Christian Science, breaks it all down for Larry King:
KING: How about orthodontists?

HARRIS: For teeth.

KING: For teeth.

HARRIS: Sure, that's OK. You can have your teeth cleaned.

KING: You can have braces put on.

HARRIS: You can have braces put on, sort of a mechanical
thing, and a haircut.

KING: So all Christian Science kids aren't walking around
with crooked teeth.

HARRIS: That's right.
So yes, America, you can both be a Christian Scientist and also have braces. But setting out to date ugly people is a bad strategy.

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