“But the time cometh when the religious element, or Church of Christ, shall exist alone in the affections, and need no organization to express it.”
– Mary Baker Eddy, Miscellaneous Writings, p. 145
“When students have fulfilled all the good ends of organization, and are convinced that by leaving the material forms thereof a higher spiritual unity is won, then is the time to follow the example of the Alma Mater. Material organization is requisite in the beginning; but when it has done its work, the purely Christly method of teaching and preaching must be adopted.”
– Mary Baker Eddy, Miscellaneous Writings, p. 358-359
“It is not indispensable to organize materially Christ’s church. It is not absolutely necessary to ordain pastors and to dedicate churches; but if this be done, let it be in concession to the period, and not as a perpetual or indispensable ceremonial of the church. If our church is organized, it is to meet the demand, ‘Suffer it to be so now.’ The real Christian compact is love for one another. This bond is wholly spiritual and inviolate.”
– Mary Baker Eddy, Miscellaneous Writings, p. 91
A friend of mine recently pointed out an article in The Federalist titled, “How Christian Science Became a Dying Religion.” In the article the author, Alfred Siewers, writes: “Today, demolished or converted Christian Science churches testify to its decline…The number of Christian Scientists in the United States was 270,000 in 1936 (the last reliable public count). Today, despite growth in the nation’s population, actual church membership in the U.S. could well be down to 50,000, based on a steep drop in numbers of congregations and registered healers.” And he mentions that the last Christian Scientists in Congress, Representatives Bob Goodlatte and Lamar Smith, are no longer members of the legislature.
Here’s my reaction to all of that:
– Regarding Goodlatte and Smith: I don’t care what religion (or non-religion) legislators practice just so long as they are in Congress to help bring equality, justice, and fairness to all Americans, to serve the constituents (rather than corporations), and to save our environment.
– Regarding the closure of Christian Science churches: Back in 1879, when Mary Baker Eddy was trying to share Christian Science with the world, there weren’t televisions, computers, radios, or the internet – and I’m thinking the most effective way for her to share her discovery of Christian Science at that time was through a church. Maybe an organized religion is no longer the most effective way to share the Science of the Christ (Love, Truth, Life).
I believe Christian Science is more a way of life than a religion. Christian Science isn’t something that needs to be housed in a material structure. It’s not dependent on a human organization or a physical building. Christian Science can be practiced anywhere at any time by anyone. The power and presence of Love – the power and presence that brings us healing – isn’t limited to people who are card-carrying members of the Christian Science church. It’s available to all of us – no matter our church or political affiliations, race, ethnicity, gender, or sexual orientation. No one is ever separated from the power and presence of Love. The power of Love doesn’t discriminate or judge us, or leave anyone out. As Mary Baker Eddy writes in the Christian Science textbook, Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures: “Love is impartial and universal in its adaptations and bestowals.”
– Regarding the “declining” membership: Big numbers or little numbers, lots of people or just a few, popular or unpopular – I. Do. Not. Care. I don’t follow ANYthing just because it’s popular, or because celebrities and the “cool kids” like it – and I’m guessing you don’t, either, right? I follow something because it resonates with me – it feels “right” to me – I follow an idea because it helps make me a better person, or gives me the tools to make the world a better place. I follow the teachings of Christian Science because it has brought me healing.
Is Christian Science a dying religion? I guess my response to that question would be another question: Isn’t Christian Science MORE than just a religion?
It sounds like you would be perfectly happy practicing Christian Science on your own or outside the Mother Church. If not, then you seem to enjoy the role of nonconformist in the Mother Church which needs every member’s support. At some point one needs to trust the religious company they keep. I am seeking to do that and have found Christian Scientists to be amiable, although very compliant with MBE’s teachings. Perhaps some day I’ll become a Church member. I liked your post on Margaret Laird.
Hi Chris – thought-provoking response! I’m going to think about your comment a bit more before I respond. Thank you for taking the time to leave a comment.
Okay. I think what I’ll do is respond to your comment, sentence by sentence.
– You write, “It sounds like you would be perfectly happy practicing Christian Science on your own or outside the Mother Church.”
– My response: I guess I feel happy practicing CS anywhere and anytime – whether in the Mother Church or outside it.
– You write: “If not, then you seem to enjoy the role of nonconformist in the Mother Church which needs every member’s support.”
– My response: I don’t particularly enjoy the role of noncomformist. I guess I don’t really think in those terms, you know? I enjoy practicing my right to freedom of thought – and maybe sometimes that makes me seem like a noncomformist (?) – but that’s not really what I’m about. Not sure how to respond to the bit about the Mother Church needing every member’s support. I’m not sure what you mean by that – what kind of support are you talking about and why does the MC need it? I am a member of the Mother Church and support all the good it is doing for the world in its spiritual outreach, and especially in the outreach of the Publishing Society.
– You write: “At some point one needs to trust the religious company they keep.”
– My response: Why?
– You write: “I am seeking to do that and have found Christian Scientists to be amiable, although very compliant with MBE’s teachings.”
– My response: I love my Christian Science friends – those that I feel especially close to are those who aren’t afraid to question things; who don’t follow anyone or anything blindly; and who have the ability to laugh at themselves – they aren’t what I would call particularly “compliant.”
– You write: “Perhaps some day I’ll become a Church member.
– My response: I know you’ll do what Love leads you to do and everything will unfold for you in a beautiful and natural way.
– You write: “I liked your post on Margaret Laird.”
– My response: Thank you! Frankly, I’d forgotten that post and had to go back and re-read it to remember what I’d written there. 🙂
Thank you for taking the time to comment, Chris. You made me think – and that’s never a bad thing. 🙂
I both agree, and I don’t agree. I agree that CS is a way of life and that, even without churches, we would continue as we do.
That being said…I am so grateful for practitioners and religious exemptions and other things that relate to Christian Science as it relates to society that the Church protects for us.
So while I don’t think we need to have a church to be Christian Scientists, I do cherish church!
Hi lampwright! I just now found this post – sorry it’s taken me so long! I’m really grateful for practitioners, also. And I guess I would make a distinction between Church (with a capital “C”) and church (with a little “c”). Church as “the structure of Truth and Love” will always be, won’t it? – whether we have a physical structure or not. I will always cherish the structure of Truth and Love.
Hi lampwright and karen,
I appreciate the freeform ways you both have toward CS. Being somewhat new (still haven’t applied to become a member) I’ve attended one church service and found the testimonials heartfelt. I continue to read H&S to find inspiration and have consulted a CS practitioner on one occasion (still have anxiety issue but will likely follow up). I’ve some fears about whether joining as a CS member will be an abdication of capacity to reason. On the other hand, giving up fear and anxiety is the purpose i seek. Glad I found this site.
Hi Chris – the weekly testimony meetings were always such joyful, inspiring times for me. I remember times when I walked out of a meeting healed because of something someone had shared in a testimony. I’m so glad you’ve found a place that provides you with that heart-felt inspiration.
I’m counting up the years I spent as a member of a branch church – I joined my first branch church when I was 11 – was a member of that church for 12 years (stayed a member even as I went off to university), and then another 33 years years as a member of another branch church when my husband and I moved to another part of the state. And most of those 45 years of branch church membership were really precious ones for me. Branch church membership provided me with a community of people I could share my journey with – there are people I met through my branch church I still consider dear friends. Branch church membership gave me a way to serve CS, too – and I feel really good about those years I served as a Reader, Sunday School teacher, and Reading Room librarian.
And if I’d left my local church sooner than I did it wouldn’t have been the right time. But when I left it was just really clear to me – it was a really natural, unforced thing – that it was time to let others take up the reigns, and it was time for me to share CS in other ways. Something happened when I attended my last service at the local church that… it was just so obvious to me that it was time to let go and move on… there wasn’t any question in my thoughts about it. I didn’t leave in anger. It was a really beautiful unfolding for me, actually. It was more like, “Oh! Yeah! THIS is what I’m supposed to do now. Thank you for letting me know, God!”
Until that moment I think it would have been the wrong choice for me to resign.
I know Love will lead you to do whatever best promotes your growth, Chris. Just listen to the voice of Love. The world needs you.
I hope I see you again here, Chris. I wish you everything beautiful on your adventures in CS!
Thanks for talking about what Christian Science “is.”
Too often, discussion revolves around what Christian Science is “not.” Not scientology, not not going to doctors, not going to doctors. Denial has its place, when balanced with affirmations of living Christian Science.
My background includes studying Christian Science, class instruction, forty years of church membership, Sunday school attendance and teaching, first reader, Reading Room worker; all great experiences until the exercises of maintaining physical buildings and preserving 19th century language and rituals showed diminishing returns.
My prayers unfolded, “Oh wow, Christian Science must be advanced in today’s language and rituals otherwise I’m denying its ongoing advancement and inclusiveness.” For me, it required tangible manifestation of sharing Mary Baker Eddy’s words in today’s language and settings, and yes, withdrawing my church membership. I believe you, Karen, when you say you left church without anger, because I too didn’t leave in anger. There was no room for anger in the beauty of working with and following my highest sense of God’s guidance. My work continues, not because work in the past was or is wrong but because of what’s right about it. And so much more to do!
Thanks to everyone’s good you’re doing.
What a beautiful unfolding, Cheryl! Thank you so much for sharing this! ❤
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