A staffer at NPR recently asked me if I’d be interested in doing a segment on Christian Science for NPR’s Interfaith Voices. It sounded like a great opportunity and I agreed to do a pre-interview. I had a nice chat with the senior producer of Interfaith Voices. I talked about what prayer means for me as a Christian Scientist (not pleading to some anthropomorphic god to fix everything for me – but drawing my thoughts close to Love), and she shared what she’d heard about research that shows human thoughts and feelings play a huge part in healing. But then she asked me, “Why would a Christian Scientist choose Christian Science over medical treatment for her children?” and I realized that that’s what the whole segment was going to be about – Christian Science versus medical science. I told her that I’d sometimes taken my sons to doctors when I felt the need, and that maybe I wasn’t the right fit for this show. She graciously agreed that I probably wasn’t the right person for this segment, and let me off the hook.
I was hugely relieved to be let off the hook, but I guess I was also a little disappointed about the focus of the proposed segment. I wish that one day someone would ask me to talk about Christian Science just for itself – not as something in opposition to something else – but as a way of looking at life and a way of living. Sometimes it seems that the only thing people THINK they know about Christian Scientists is that they’re the ones “who don’t go to doctors.” As I’ve mentioned, there have been times when I felt the need to take my sons to doctors when they were youngsters. I was not conflicted about this or anything. I wasn’t worried about being ex-communicated or losing my Christian Science friends or making God angry – I don’t believe in a wrathful, vengeful god – in Christian Science “God” is another name for Principle, Mind, Soul, Spirit, Life, Truth, and Love – and Love doesn’t get angry at parents for doing what they feel they need to do, humanly, to keep their children safe and healthy. An angry god is not the kind of god I could ever worship.
Getting back to the producer’s question, here are some reasons why I might choose Christian Science treatment over medical treatment for myself –
- Christian Science is always available – even if I’m in the middle of the wilderness on a back-packing trip, far away from civilization. As Mary Baker Eddy writes in the Christian Science textbook, Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures: “In divine Science, where prayers are mental, all may avail themselves of God as ‘a very present help in trouble.'”
- Christian Science treatment doesn’t involve any invasive or intrusive procedures – there are no scalpels or knives, or drugs that might have harmful side effects.
- When I experience healing in Christian Science my whole nature is transformed – not only do I come out of the experience better physically, but I come out of the experience a better person – less fearful, stronger, kinder, more responsive to the needs of others. Christian Science healing is uplifting. It brings me into at-one-ment with the Consciousness of Love. And that is something I haven’t experienced in medical treatment.
But I think asking Christian Scientists why they would choose Christian Science over medical treatment is the wrong question to ask, really. It’s akin to asking people who go to doctors why they don’t choose Christian Science instead. It’s setting up Christian Scientists to be in a defensive position. A better question might be: “What is it about Christian Science that appeals to you?”
And here is my answer for THAT one: Christian Scientists believe that Jesus’ mission here was to teach us how to love and how to heal. I like the idea of that – that I can use my understanding of God as Love to help heal the world. It’s a way of life that I have found practical and useful. I have been able to prove the teachings of Christian Science in my own life and have experienced some wonderful healing through my understanding of it. I am a Christian Scientist because it has enriched my life and helped make me a better person.
fascinating and beautiful interview – such wonderful to read and cherish your words:)
Hi, mihrank! It’s always so fun to see your name pop up here! Life bless you, my friend!
Dear Karen – Thank you for your kindest words – I wanted to let you know, I am in the last stages in launching Radio Internet. Please let me know if you like to do your show, I can email you additional information:)
You may have heard this baseball analogy. Christian Science can’t get up to the base to bat because medical questions, especially about children, come up and are the “only” things that the public wants to know.
Medical issues and scientific issues are on the public’s mind. We have to answer such inquiries, if we are going to get up to the base and bat.
I know you and others have this wonderful enthusiasm, but what is in the cue of the mind of the public are these medical and modern science worries about Christian Science.
Remember when practitioner Virginia Harris was twice on Larry King’s CNN worldwide show? Poor Virginia couldn’t bat the ball for Christian Science because Larry King sincerely kept harping and harping over and over about Christian Scientists’ avoidance of medical approaches to solving problems. Both interviews had that same blockage.
I would agree that the teachings of Christian Science are so revolutionary for Christianity and Bible interpretation that that would do a lot to help people. It would surprise them about the good contributions of Christian Science. Unfortunately, it seems we can’t get up to bat!
I estimate that I have done about 200 radio interviews about prayer, consciousness research, and parapsychology. Most of the time Christian Science comes up in the conversations. Only one interview by a psychiatrist did I get grilled in a negative direction. It turned out, speaking on the phone afterwards, that he said he didn’t know the things I mentioned. It was enlightening and he did enjoy the references I made. We keep in touch.
If your NPR pre-interview was recent, could you please let me know of your contact? I can think of several people who could address the public’s concerns. Then he or she could proceed to get up to the base and bat a ball about the insights that Christian Science has to offer about the evolving religious and scientific world we are experiencing.
“Why would a Christian Scientist choose Christian Science over medical treatment for her children?”
Yeah, that’s the elephant in the room CS is going to have to address head-on over and over and over again. Some CS have made REALLY BAD CHOICES and people have died.
Caroline Fraser’s book God’s Perfect Child talks about this at length. Another excellent example is Rita Swan’s son Matthew, https://thedublinreview.com/‘matthew-you-cannot-be-sick’/ (you may have heard of her, she founded C.H.I.L.D. http://childrenshealthcare.org)
I agree A better question might be: “What is it about Christian Science that appeals to you?” it no longer appeals to me, but for a while it did, and on some level, I still understand the appeal.
Hi, Kat – I thought your comment was worth posting a whole’ nother post for – so you’ll find my response to your response to my post under a post titled “A Response to a Response to My Almost-Interview with NPR”. Yeah. I am feeling like doing run-on sentences today. So sue me. 🙂
To Kat – Some people have made very bad MEDICAL choices (including the doctors) and people have died and yet people still keep going back to them – why? It doesn’t automatically mean that if you choice to take your sick child to a doctor it will be healed and not die…..if it dies under doctors care is it okay? but if it dies under spiritual care it is not okay? – sorry don’t see and never have seen the point of this argument. Just as there are children who have died and others been healed under doctors care there are many authentic, proved cases of children being healed under CS – many more than died. I think Karen expressed it all very well in her original piece. Nothing needs to be added not anything taken away.
I take no issue with Karen’s original piece, I think she expressed things quite well.
Some people have made very bad MEDICAL choices
I completely agree. However, it has been my experience when Drs. make mistakes they try and figure out what went wrong, where as with Christian Science clearly someone wasn’t “demonstrating” it properly. Your experience may differ.
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Dear Eurilda. I appreciate your enthusiasm for the theology.
To use the baseball analogy again. Scientific medical procedures and Scientific spiritual procedures are not playing in the same ballpark. They are in different venues at this juncture.
Medical procedures are driven mostly by constant scientific research which most often can have an explanation attached. Pointing to failures dismisses the goal to have less of them.
Christian healing procedures are driven by laws of God that are not well-understood and are not consistently drawn upon. Divine healing has few explanations attached. The public pointing to failures may be unfair, but the procedures for spiritual healing are not accepted by the culture. We should expect to be treated as odd nonconformists..
In the past history of Christian Science, those folks had less progress of science and medicine to address. Those among us today who have experienced epiphanies, psychic moments, inspiration from a healing and so on are in our own minds. We are not taking our subjective experiences enough into the objective world (even though there is some disturbance within quantum science as to the reality of very much that is objective). That anomaly aside, the past is no longer. What was previously claimed as “proved” and “authentic” is no longer. “Proved” is not something that can be done presently.
A scientist or medical person would say today, “Okay. Show me how the cases healed are proved?” Then what?
There is a theme in many science fiction novels and movies that applies to Christian Science. What we subjectively experience, and may even know to be the truth, doesn’t register with other people until they find out for themselves.
What Kat and Bill and Karen have to say is all important. I would just add that my interactions with doctors, and hospital chaplains, and journalists in regard to Christian Science have all been interesting, thought-provoking, and generally productive. But too often the interchange in public forums becomes reduced to Christian Scientists talking past their interviewers and not finding enough common ground. Earlier this year, a Christian Science spokesperson contributed a piece in the New York Times that asserted she believed that Christian Scientists had rights to pray for their children no matter how extreme the case. (The spokesperson had never had children of her own.) Readers naturally slammed her comments, and US courts have held for over a century that all religious belief is protected by our constitution, but that all conduct in the name of religion is not necessarily protected. Why don’t we hear what the courts have been telling us for one hundred years and find intermediate ground that Jesus did in accommodating the demands of the Roman government? Mrs. Eddy didn’t go out looking for special protections
Part of the reason that Christian Scientists have been stereotyped as “not believing in doctors” is because Christian Scientists have often fallen into the dogma that we are not ALLOWED to go to doctors. Church members have been asked to step down from teaching Sunday school or holding a church office for the alleged mistake of going to a doctor, but of course Mrs. Eddy was never asked to “step down” from her position as author of Science and Health, and Pastor Emeritus because she took morphine at various times in the early 1900’s. So are we to assume that some Christian Scientists today think church members in our century should be held to a higher standard than Mrs. Eddy? Evidently. Nuts, eh? No wonder we face stereotypes from the public. We have perpetuated those stereotypes ourselves.
When Virginia Harris was interviewed by Larry King (as Bill referenced) years ago, King asked over ten times what Christian Scientists would do if prayer didn’t work. Unfortunately Mrs. Harris didn’t really answer that question. Why can’t we quote what Mrs. Eddy said and cite what she did to answer that specific question? See pages 401, 444, and 464 in Science and Health where Mrs. Eddy pointed out “fail-safe” possibilities for those who believe in prayer but find their prayerful efforts thwarted in some way.
If we ever want to be taken seriously as a religious faith by the general public, we must engage the public, and that sometimes involves facing uncomfortable questions from the media and others. Mrs. Eddy’s interview with a journalist (see My. 341-346) is a fine example for us of how she faced specific questions about vaccination, surgery, church government, etc. in a non-combative, understandable, and interesting way that is so rare to hear from Christian Scientists today. Paul and Jesus came down into the valley to meet the world with the inspiration they possessed, and we are the better for them doing that.
Thank you, George – for this thoughtful, insightful post.
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Reblogged this on Adventures of the Madcap Christian Scientist and commented:
…When I experience healing in Christian Science my whole nature is transformed – not only do I come out of the experience better physically, but I come out of the experience a better person – less fearful, stronger, kinder, more responsive to the needs of others…
Hey Karen, it would have been great to have heard you on NPR as I love to listen to all their programming, but I thought immediately when you said what the purpose of the show was that you were not going to be the strict fundamentalist type Christian Scientist they were looking for! HA! I have always been pretty healthy so I have never faced a Cancer prognosis or something serious like that but I told you before that I am not the best example of a Christian Scientist I guess , so I would not have a problem with using a Physician if I felt I needed one. To me, I never really saw where Mrs Eddy said that we were not allowed to use Doctors , only to not mix CS Treatment with main line medical treatment . I may be wrong but that was always my impression . To me , Christian Science is much more than being one of those weird people who don’t go to Doctors! Even though I was raised as a Christian Scientist , almost all my friends and peers were non Christian Scientists. The Church we attended was not in the small town we actually lived in so I saw my CS friends just at church , not school, so I was exposed to many beliefs and attended many different churches with friends and then as an adult I studied various Religions, both Christian and Non Christian. To me, I never discovered any book of Scripture or Holy Text that struck me like Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures. It is just profound to me. It answers questions that no other religion does. To me even the fundamental heart of Christianity, the atonement of Christ just does not make any sense except in the light of Christian Science. So even though I may not exactly live what NPR would call a normal Christian Science life, I still read and study and try to put the teachings of this wonderful doctrine to use. After all , didn’t Mrs Eddy say something about emerging gently into the truth or something like that? I guess that is what I have been doing! Take care! Rick
I so love this comment! You and I may not be the most stereotypical versions of a CSist, but I really like who we are. 🙂
So it seems that you are hiding out over here too… I’m glad to have found this page and certainly am proud to get to know you… So there.
Danny! Fancy meeting you here!!! 🙂 How fun to see your name pop up here!