Thursday, December 9, 2010

Thoughts on Christian Science

I was raised in Christian Science. It was a good religion for a kid. The message was very positive. In fact in Sunday School we were taught that God is only positive. There are 7 specific synonyms for God; Life, Truth, Love, Mind, Soul, Spirit and Principle. I learned that we are all part of God or more precisely, individual expressions or reflections of God. We learned that the material world is an illusion and that we are really spiritual beings. Sin was defined as our belief in the material world. The degree to which we believe in and are attached to matter, is the degree to which we suffer. Everything in the material world passes away, so the task of a Christian Scientist is to develop a Spiritual sense, which can be defined as a deeper understanding of our true relationship with the Divine.
I preferred the Christian Science message over the one at my previous Sunday School, which was Presbyterian. There was a scary side to their message. I felt I had to watch what I did or else I would be punished. Once I asked the Sunday school teacher if animals went to Heaven, he told me, no they didn't, only people. He probably didn't speak for all Presbyterians, but at the time I decided I didn't want to go to heaven, I wanted to go where ever my dog went. When I asked the same question of the Christian Science lady, she told me that all living things are part of God and that includes my dog. Also that Heaven was not a far off place, but was always present and could be experienced in this life. We didn't need to wait until we died. The way to experience heaven, I was told, was to quiet down, “be still and know that I am God”.
When I got older and started attended Christian Science church services, I had a lot of trouble “being still” and paying attention. The church service was excruciatingly boring to me. There are no preachers in Christian Science, just two readers. One reads passages from the Bible and one from Mary Baker Eddy's book Science and Health. There is absolutely nothing extemporaneous about the service, robots could do it.
When Katie and I lived in Rochester, New York we attended a Christian Science church a few times. It was a huge beautiful Cathedral, but there were only 7-10 people attending the services. We found that to be true in other areas as well. In Port Angeles, Washington, during the 5 years we lived there, the local Christian Science Church first downgraded to a Society and then went out of business altogether. Christian Science seems to be a rapidly declining religion. I Speculate that there are two main reasons for the decline. One is the rigidity of the way the religion was set up by Mrs. Eddy and the other is their stand on not receiving medical help for physical problems.
The First Reader at one of the CS churches we attended had a huge goiter on his neck. I'm sure he was praying like crazy for it to go away, and probably felt guilty that it wasn't. I know that guilt all to well. I wanted to tell the guy, just have a doctor take that thing off your neck and get on with your life. I suffered from migraine headaches for years. I called a Christian Science practitioner to pray for me. She asked me a lot of questions and one of them was, Are you receiving any medical help for them? I told her I took a migraine pill when I felt one coming on. This allowed me to go to work and function, as opposed to lying in a dark room all day. This particular woman was a renowned Christian Science teacher and writer and she told me she couldn't help me as long as I continued to take the medication. Her response turned me off and I started to argue with her over the phone until she told me she had to go. I kept taking the medication and stopped reading Christian Science.
Mrs Eddy was not the first person to use the term Christian Science and it wasn't a brand new philosophy that she discovered. She learned the basics from a spiritual healer named Phineas P. Quimby. After being healed by him, she hung on to his manuscripts and for a time considered herself his “disciple”. On her own she worked out the details of this new theology and spiritual healing in conjunction with Biblical Scriptures and much of it I'm sure came to her through revelation. It is fair to say she greatly advanced this theology. But it always bothered me that she took all the credit for everything she wrote and taught even though there are passages lifted directly from Quimby's manuscripts. And many other spiritual writers of the day had published works developing the same ideas. But it's hard to find mention of Mr. Quimby or any of the other spiritual writers and healers of the time in any of the official Christian Science literature. It's like they never existed. In fact it's taught in the church that any other person's interpretation of Christian Science or spiritual healing is tainted by “carnal” or “mortal mind”. So Christian Scientists give her all the credit for all the teachings. To be a loyal Christian Scientist you need to accept that all other systems of spiritual healing are wrong and only her system is the “Truth”. So like so many religions, you either buy into it entirely or you don't.
In the late 1800's, Emma Curtis Hopkins was at one time Mrs. Eddy's star student. She rose to the top of the organization and became editor of the Christian Science Journal. She then suddenly disappears from the Christian Science literature and is never to be found again. Ms. Hopkins saw similarities in Christian Science philosophy and Eastern Philosophy, particularly Hinduism. Also she realized that the evolution of the Christian Science philosophy cannot be contained within one organization. Revelation and Truth do not belong to any one individual. She began to talk about this publicly and Mrs. Eddy booted her out of Christian Science. Ms. Hopkins went on to teach classes which spawned the New Thought movement including Unity, Religious Science and Divine Science.
It's obvious that Ms. Hopkins learned much from Mrs. Eddy. The teachings are almost identical. Emma Hopkins sited the basic difference between her beliefs and Mrs. Eddy's with the following distinction; Mrs. Eddy states, there is no life, truth, intelligence nor substance in matter. Ms. Hopkins makes the subtle, but profound distinction that, there is no absence of life, truth, intelligence nor substance in matter.
Since childhood I've had a “love/hate” relationship with Christian Science. I suppose it's not unlike the feelings of Catholics, Jews and other Protestants concerning the religion they were raised in. Sometimes I am fiercely attracted to the religion and want to join up and believe everything it has to teach and at other times I reject it vehemently and see inconsistencies and hypocrisies within it. In the end I strive to remain true to an honesty of Being.


  1. I attending Christian Science sunday school when I was young (pre-kindergarten). I think it was my mother's idea but like so many other things I never discussed it with her. All I remember is Mary Baker Eddy and a little lamb. No idea what the message was. When I got older we attended main line protestant Sunday School.

  2. Little Johnny was absent from school. When he returned the teacher, who was a Christian Scientist, asked for his excuse. Johnny said his father was sick. The teacher corrected Johnny and said his father only thinks he is sick... it is all in his mind.

    Little Johnny was absent again. When he returned the teacher asked for his excuse. Johnny replied: "Now my father thinks he is dead."