Dry Bones or Lively Stones?

And when he was come nigh, even now at the descent of the mount of Olives, the whole multitude of the disciples began to rejoice and praise God with a loud voice for all the mighty works that they had seen; saying, Blessed be the King that cometh in the name of the Lord: peace in heaven, and glory in the highest.  And some of the Pharisees from among the multitude said unto him, Master, rebuke thy disciples.  And he answered and said unto them, I tell you that, if these should hold their peace, the stones would immediately cry out. – Luke 19

 Wherefore laying aside all malice, and all guile, and hypocrisies, and envies, and all evil speakings, as newborn babes, desire the sincere milk of the word, that ye may grow thereby:  if so be ye have tasted that the Lord is gracious.  To whom coming, as unto a living stone, disallowed indeed of men, but chosen of God, and precious,  ye also, as lively stones, are built up a spiritual house, an holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices, acceptable to God by Jesus Christ. – I Peter 2

I just finished reading Stephen Gottschalk’s Rolling Away the Stone, which focuses on the last 20 years of Mary Baker Eddy’s life. It was not an easy read for me – it took several weeks to work my way through it – but I found it really thought-provoking. One of the themes that seemed to keep re-appearing was the idea of a “revival” – the idea of stirring up “the dry bones” and bringing new life to our Christian Science experience. Gottschalk quotes Mary Baker Eddy as instructing her student, Albert Farlow to, “…stir the dry bones all over the field, to more words, actions and demonstrations in Christian Science.”

Later Gottschalk writes: “As with other movements after the death of their founder, Christian Science became to a significant degree routinized, in the process losing much of the spiritual animus that accounted for its early growth. The pattern is observable, whether we are speaking of the early Christian church after Jesus, the Islamic movement in the decades after the death of Mohammad, or the Franciscan order after the death of St. Francis. Eddy appears to have anticipated with great apprehension that the Christian Science church, too, would settle down into a kind of bland predictability, when she was no longer on the scene. To her, being a Christian Scientist in any meaningful sense involved not only a strong commitment, but, in a sense, a spirit of adventure.”

Gottschalk writes: “What apparently concerned her the most was the prospect that the church would devolve into yet another ecclesiastic organization, ‘barren,’ to use her words in Science and Health, ‘of the vitality of spiritual power, by which material sense is made the servant of Science and religion becomes Christlike.’… This materialism could, she believed, take on ecclesiastical form. It did so when Christian Scientists, conditioned by their earlier adherence to orthodoxy, failed to break with outworn tradition, ritual, and other merely exterior forms of worship. ‘Long prayers, ecclesiasticism, and creeds,’ she stated, ‘have clipped the divine pinions of Love, and clad religion in human robes. They materialize worship, hinder the Spirit, and keep man from demonstrating his power over error.’”

Whoaaaah, right?

The Christ, Truth, is living, lively, dynamic –  it didn’t die with Jesus. And the Christian Science movement was not meant to stop and flash freeze at the moment of Mary Baker Eddy’s passing, either. I’m sure Eddy would not have wanted this for her movement. “I find the general atmosphere of my church as cold and still as the marble floors,” she wrote, after an appearance at The Mother Church,  “… I did feel a coldness a lack of inspiration all through the dear hearts… it was a stillness a lack of spiritual energy and zeal that I felt.” And, In Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures, the textbook for Christian Science, Eddy writes: “The letter of Science plentifully reaches humanity to-day, but its spirit comes only in small degrees. The vital part,  the heart and soul of Christian Science, is Love. Without this, the letter is but the dead body of Science, –  pulseless, cold, inanimate.”

Life! Joy! Love! Aren’t these the way-marks of the living Christ – the Truth that heals?

***

Jesus was alone

when he rolled away that stone

Pushing back matter –

throwing away the tatters

And we have our job, too

to see what is real

to do what we must do

to rise up and heal

to laugh, dance, and sing

praises to our King

to stir those dry bones

and be joyful, lively stones.

***

(I’m sure Seuss would have done better

at writing this poetry-letter

But he is not here

and you’re stuck with me, I fear.)

14 thoughts on “Dry Bones or Lively Stones?

  1. in your poetry-letter – Jesus was never alone – he was always at one with God – otherwise he could have never rolled away the stone 🙂

    • Good point! When I wrote that line I was thinking of that place in Science and Health where MBE writes, “While we adore Jesus, and the heart overflows with gratitude for what he did for mortals, – treading alone his loving pathway up to the throne of glory, in speechless agony exploring the way for us, – yet Jesus spares us not one individual experience, if we follow his commands faithfully; and all  have the cup of sorrowful effort to drink in proportion to their demonstration of his love, till all are redeemed through divine Love.”

  2. The religion actually continued steady growth for some time after Eddy’s death.
    However, the steady advancement of life-saving medical procedures and medicines in the 20th century were significant reasons for the rapid decline of the religion.

    • You may be right, Farrah. And I think you bring up an interesting point – are people drawn to CS just for what it can bring to them – physical healings,, financial and professional success, etc.(stuff I’ve experienced myself through my study of CS) – or does CS offer something more, something deeper than material gain and healing? I think it does. For me, anyway. It’s a way of looking at the world and understanding the power of Love – not just utilizing that power, but drawing close to it in our hearts and glorifying it – that, I think, can transform our world. Another question that your post raises for me is this: Is CS just one more religion? Just another denomination? Because… well, to tell you the truth, I am not a particularly religious person, and if that’s all CS had to offer, I wouldn’t be at all interested in it.

      • Karen, the point is that a foundational promise of Christian Science (that it can heal more effectively than medicine) has been broken many times over in the last 100 years.
        You can look at the world a different way, but if CS communities are some of the only pockets in the developed world that still have deaths from measles and diabetes, what does that tell you about your different view of the world?

      • I could go a couple different directions here. I could point out that, according to the American Medical Association, medical science is actually the third-leading cause of death in this country, and give you a bunch of statistics about that and stuff:

        “In his book, Makary cites a study published in the New England Journal of Medicine that found one in four hospital patients are harmed by a medical mistake. Makary also notes a host of other findings, including one that 20 to 30 percent of all medications, tests, procedures in health care may be unnecessary and another 10 to 15 percent of patients are not given all their options. Another alarming statistic featured in the book: surgeons operate on the wrong person or wrong body part up to 40 times a week.”
        http://www.cbsnews.com/8301-505269_162-57513953/surgeon-sounds-off-on-dangers-of-hospital-care/

        “Even more significantly, the medical system has played a large role in undermining the health of Americans. According to several research studies in the last decade, a total of 225,000 Americans per year have died as a result of their medical treatments:

        * 12,000 deaths per year due to unnecessary surgery
        * 7000 deaths per year due to medication errors in hospitals

        * 20,000 deaths per year due to other errors in hospitals

        * 80,000 deaths per year due to infections in hospitals

        * 106,000 deaths per year due to negative effects of drugs

        Thus, America’s healthcare-system-induced deaths are the third leading cause of the death in the U.S., after heart disease and cancer.”

        http://www.health-care-reform.net/causedeath.htm

        or… I might speak from personal experience – talk about my CS aunt who lived to be 94, or my other CS aunt who lived to be 88, or my mom who is 85. I might share with you the healings I’ve had of doctor-diagnosed melanoma; or a puffed-up hand that markers in a blood test indicated was rheumatoid arthritis (the nurse and family physician were pretty surprised by that healing); or I might talk about the time when I was wheeled down to the OR for a caesarean section, and just moments before I was sliced open, the medical team all got surprised looks on their faces and began coaching me to “push” – my son was born naturally, and when I asked my medical practitioner what had happened, she said “We don’t know.”

        OR… I might just say this: Even if I died tomorrow, I’ve had a really good life – and I give credit to my belief in a God who is, literally, Love, for that. Just living a really long life doesn’t guarantee a really good life, you know? And I have had a really good life. 🙂

  3. Funny you should post this just as I started my third reading of this book. Gottschalk is so clear in his assessments. If I highlighted every profound passage fully half the pages would be yellow!
    Now, if you can, follow this logic…from stones I went to river rocks and from there to rivers mudding up as a means of cleansing, and from there to the man by the pool waiting for the troubling of the waters. (John 5) But should we jump in when the waters are troubled and muddy? Or should we wait by the pool? Gottschalk helped me see that healing comes, not by troubled water and not by waiting. The healing will come, the waters will be clear when we stop lying! And I don’t mean lying on our bed. I mean when we stop telling ourselves mortal lies, when we allow our thought to rise. That’s when we jump in, quit the Adam dream and become the lively stones Peter speaks of.

  4. Karen, I’d love to follow you in every direction you go because I think you’ve convinced yourself of the efficacy of prayer for bad reasons.
    Isn’t it wonderful that medical science provides all that information about the shortcomings of medical science?
    Can we find similar statistics for Christian Science treatments?
    Isn’t it better to admit the ‘failures’ of a practice?
    Medical science admits their failures, seeks to improve them constantly, doesn’t blame the victim by saying “surgery didn’t work because you didn’t have a correct understanding”, and it doesn’t exclude anyone saying “our pearls can’t be cast before swine.”

    Your personal experiences are single data points, if we look at larger data sets, we have a better understanding of the real trends.

    • Farrah,
      You write, “I think you’ve convinced yourself of the efficacy of prayer for bad reasons.”

      The healings I’ve personally experienced have convinced me that prayer works.

      (Note that when I’m talking about ‘prayer’ I’m not talking about the kind of prayer that involves pleading to, or begging, some capricious anthropomorphic god to please fix me up. For me, prayer involves bringing my thoughts into harmony with Love – and when I’m able to do that I experience healing – the melanoma, rheumatoid arthritis, and childbirth healings I mentioned above are just three examples – doctor-witnessed examples – but I’ve experienced a bunch of other healings, too, that have proven to me the efficacy of that kind of prayer. Trust me, If Christian Science hadn’t worked for me, yea, these many years, I would have moved on and found something else that did. I ain’t no martyr for religion.)

      You ask, “Isn’t it wonderful that medical science provides all that information about the shortcomings of medical science? …Isn’t it better to admit the ‘failures’ of a practice?”

      Yeah, it’s very cool that medical science monitors itself. But it’s also obvious – to me at least – that a system can monitor itself until the cows come home, and that doesn’t necessarily make it a better system. Personally, I’d rather stick with something that has been proven to work for me, rather than trust myself to a system that monitors itself really well, but hasn’t much helped me. I mean… if medical science has been proven to work for you – then, by all means, use it. But until the practitioners of medical science can guarantee that medical science will always cure its adherents, and never cause them harm or kill them, I don’t think it should be surprising that thinking individuals often look for alternatives to it. (Sometimes it seems to me that people have as much unquestioning blind belief in the power of medical science as others have in the reality of an anthropomorphic god.)

      Of course, for me, Christian Science is much more than just some kind of health care system. It’s a way of looking at the world, and it seems to suit me really well.

      You write, “Medical science… doesn’t blame the victim by saying ‘surgery didn’t work because you didn’t have a correct understanding’, and it doesn’t exclude anyone by saying ‘our pearls can’t be cast before swine.’”

      You seem to be implying here that Christian Science is some kind of exclusive club for only select individuals or something. There may be – I’m sure there are, in fact – Christian Scientists who somehow look at the religion of Christian Science in that way. But not every Christian Scientist is religious, and not every Christian Scientist looks at Christian Science as some kind of country club. As I mentioned earlier, I myself am not a very religious person. For me, and Christian Scientists like me, Christian Science is Science – and the Principle of it is available to everyone, equally.

      “Your personal experiences are single data points, if we look at larger data sets, we have a better understanding of the real trends.”

      Well, all I can tell you, I guess, is that CS has been proven to work for me – and data points and sets aren’t going to change the truth of that.

      • “The healings I’ve personally experienced have convinced me that prayer works.”

        Have you deeply considered the possibility that crediting your personal healings to prayer may be presumptuous?
        Isn’t it convenient that the explanation for improved health is what you were hoping to prove?
        It’s unscientific to assume a causal connection when you see a correlation. Correlation does not imply causation.
        If we wish for there to be a causal connection, we should strive to disprove our assumption, not to confirm it.
        Healings rely on subjective validation and are less valuable as data because of this.
        People convince themselves that astrology is true when some vague predictions come true, forgetting the predictions that never materialize.
        People convince themselves that many alternative medicines are effective by assuming improvements are directly caused by crystals, thinking, diluted substances, etc., and forgetting (or rationalizing away) the times they aren’t healed instantaneously.

        You say you won’t switch to medical science until it guarantees it can heal everything.
        CS claims it is a universal panacea able to heal everything, but has never been demonstrated as such for anyone including the founder (but we learn to rationalize failings or delays as our own fault, or the world’s fault, not the ‘infallible’ DivineScience’s fault, right?)
        Wouldn’t you rather subscribe to a system that provides honest assessments (not claims of a panacea that have never been realized).
        Medical science is amazing, take a look at the history of medical science and how it’s eliminated plagues, diseases, and ailments from our modern lives.

        You’re convinced CS works because you’ve ‘proven’ it yourself. But I don’t think you’ve considered how easy it would be to convince yourself that crystals can heal if you were really hoping to prove that to yourself. You credit improvements with your pet theory (subjective validation, confirmation bias, survivorship bias, etc.), rationalize away disconfirming evidence, and build an impervious armor to protect your thinking from ever doubting yourself.

      • Farrah,

        Maybe I need to back up and say this: I am not antagonistic to medical science. I know that’s a common assumption that people make about CSists, but it’s not a valid one – not for me, anyway. In a discussion I was having with another non-CSist, after I explained where I was coming from, he put it really well, I think: “So, we are talking about a very personal choice, that may appear to be in opposition to something (say, medical science) at some level, but really isn’t against it, per se, but is simply you choosing something else.”

        My brother-in-law is an anthesthesiologist, my niece just graduated from med school, my nephew is just entering med school, my sister-in-law is an RN and works in a recovery ward – and I have huge esteem and respect for all they do to help their patients – for the hours of research and study that have gone into their training. And I might add that all of them have shown respect for me and my way of life, too.

        There have been times when I’ve chosen to take my sons or myself to doctors – and this is not a big deal for me or anything – I’m not laden with guilt or conflict when I make that decision. But – for me – medical science has not been particularly effective. Maybe I don’t have enough faith in it or something. 🙂 The three incidents I related to you earlier – the puffed-up hand, the complications in childbirth, the melanoma on the eyelid – were all, actually, healings that were witnessed by medical doctors because I’d, voluntarily, taken myself to them for help.

        The puffed-up hand really had me scared, to tell you the truth. I woke up with this hand that was bigger than Andre the Giant’s. When I’d shown my hand to my colleagues at work, they’d all been really scared for me – told me to get to a doctor right away. So I did. The doctor seemed really concerned, too – he said it was probably either a serious infection or an inflammation and wanted to give me a bunch of drugs right away, and take a blood test. I opted out of the drugs, but agreed to the blood test. After the blood test I called a CS practitioner for support. The next day my hand was even puffier, but I’d lost all my fear and knew I was healed – and the second day I woke up, my hand was back to normal. When the blood tests came back the receptionist at the doctor’s office called to tell me that there was a marker for rheumatoid arthritis and the doctor wanted me to see a specialist. I told her I was completely fine. She put a nurse on the phone then, and I told HER, I was fine – my hand was back to normal. She was shocked. She said she guessed nothing more needed to be done right then, but to call the office should there be a return of the condition. That was more than three years ago, and the condition has not returned.

        (I recently got copies of all my medical records from the doctor’s office because I wanted to make sure I wasn’t making all this stuff up – and the records show that the melanoma and puffed-up hand happened just as I remember them. Other records I obtained from my mid-wife back up my story of the birth of my youngest son.)

        I just read this book by Margaret Laird called *Christian Science Re-Explored* and I thought what she had to say about medical treatment and treatment in Christian Science was really interesting. She basically says that if Christian Scientists are just using Christian Science as some kind of alternative health care system – as a way to “fix” stuff and get healthier or richer or happier – then it’s really no different than someone who turns to medical science for help. She writes: “I asked a friend why she liked to repeat the Ninety-First Psalm when she was in trouble. She replied that it gave her comfort. She did not realize that the comfort it gave her was the same kind of comfort that an aspirin tablet gives. There is nothing wrong about this if transitory comfort is important to us, and there are times when it may be. But Enlightenment is the real Comfort that we feel in our belief of comfort. The comfort that comes from reading the Bible or from tranquilizers is an abstraction, or belief of comfort, which can easily turn into discomfort. The comfort we need when we are in trouble does not lie in words but in Science, the discernment of spiritual facts, since being is Spirit. Unfettered by nice-sounding, comforting words on which to lean, the Scientist moves to a new dimension of awareness, unfamiliar but exciting and self- fulfilling.”

        For me, I don’t study Christian Science so that I can be healed of problems – the healings are just a really nice side effect of my growing understanding of Love, God.

  5. “I find the general atmosphere of my church as cold and still as the marble floors,” she wrote, after an appearance at The Mother Church, “… I did feel a coldness a lack of inspiration all through the dear hearts… it was a stillness a lack of spiritual energy and zeal that I felt.”

    It is almost like MBE had a time machine & was talking about CS churches in 2013.

  6. Pingback: 1 Peter 2. Our inheritance through Jesus Christ’s blood. The living stone and the Holy Nation. God. Live as God’s servants should. The example of christ’s suffering. | GodLovesBummyla

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