Is Christian Science a Dying Religion?

“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?

church

 

Health Insurance: One Christian Scientist’s Thoughts

As a Christian Scientist I feel the need to say this: I believe health care should be universal – a basic right of every man, woman, and child – and no one should ever be denied the care they need simply because they’re poor, or unemployed. Health care should not be dependent on employment or the whims of employers. And a bunch of politicians should not be the ones who decide what kind of treatment and care the residents of this nation can use. Okay. That’s all. Carry on then…

 And he saith unto them, Whose is this image and superscription? They say unto him, Caesar’s. Then saith he unto them, Render therefore unto Caesar the things which are Caesar’s; and unto God the things that are God’s. – Matthew 22

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. – Mary Baker Eddy

One Christian Scientist’s Views on Health Insurance

And as ye would that men should do to you, do ye also to them likewise.” – Luke 6: 31

 ***

A few years ago a dear friend shared with me that she was told the drugs she’s been prescribed to take while she’s in cancer remission will cost $30,000 to $40,000 a month.  She did not have health insurance at the time.  I was floored by the financial burden her family was going to be expected to bear while she recovered from cancer, chemo, and radiation, and tried to find a way to pay for the drugs she was told she needed to take to stay alive.

Health care, in my opinion, should be considered a basic necessity of life – in the same category as food, water, and shelter; I don’t believe anyone should be denied access to the care they believe they need simply because they lack the financial resources.  (Nor should they be denied the care they need simply because it’s not the type of care of which their elected officials personally approve or disapprove – determining whether a type of health care is “acceptable” should not be the job of politicians.)

I myself rarely use the health care insurance that I pay into through work. But, as a member of a community, and as a responsible citizen, I have no problem contributing to a pot of money that will help others who find themselves in the same circumstances as my friend recovering from cancer.  There are ways we can provide for each other as a community that we can’t provide as single individuals. I can’t give my friend $30,000 a month – but I can share my part of a collective health insurance pot with her, and I’m happy to do so.

***

“Then went the Pharisees, and took counsel how they might entangle him in his talk.And they sent out unto him their disciples with the Herodians, saying, Master, we know that thou art true, and teachest the way of God in truth, neither carest thou for any man: for thou regardest not the person of men.Tell us therefore, What thinkest thou? Is it lawful to give tribute unto Caesar, or not?

“ But Jesus perceived their wickedness, and said, Why tempt ye me, ye hypocrites?Shew me the tribute money. And they brought unto him a penny. And he saith unto them, Whose is this image and superscription?

“They say unto him, Caesar’s. Then saith he unto them, Render therefore unto Caesar the things which are Caesar’s; and unto God the things that are God’s.

“When they had heard these words, they marvelled, and left him, and went their way.”

–   Matthew 22

The Christmas Dog

“This is the doctrine of Christian Science: that divine Love cannot be deprived of its manifestation, or object; that joy cannot be turned into sorrow, for sorrow is not the master of joy; that good can never produce evil; that matter can never produce mind, nor life result in death.”

From Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures by Mary Baker Eddy

***

Christmas Eve, 1988.  I was in a funk.  I couldn’t see that I was making much progress in my life.  My teaching career seemed to be frozen, and I was beginning to think my husband and I would never own our own home or have children. The world seemed a very bleak and unhappy place to me.  No matter how many batches of fudge I whipped up or how many times I heard Bing Crosby sing “White Christmas,” I couldn’t seem to find the Christmas spirit.

I was washing the breakfast dishes, thinking my unhappy thoughts, when I heard gunshots coming from the pasture behind our house.  I thought it was the neighbor boys shooting at the seagulls again and, all full of teacherly harrumph, decided to take it upon myself to go out and “have a word with them.”

But after I’d marched outside I realized that it wasn’t the neighbor boys at all.  John, the dairy farmer who lived on the adjoining property, was walking away with a rifle, and an animal (a calf, I thought) was struggling to get up in the field behind our house.  Every time it would push up on its legs it would immediately collapse back to the ground.

I wondered if maybe John had made a mistake and accidentally shot the animal, so I ran out to investigate and found that the animal was a dog.  It had foam and blood around its muzzle.  She was vulnerable and helpless – had just been shot, after all – but instead of lashing out at me or growling as I’d expect an injured animal to do, she was looking up at me with an expression of trust and seemed to be expecting me to take care of her.

“John!”  I yelled, running after the farmer.  He turned around, surprised to see me.  “John, what happened?” I asked, pointing back towards the dog.

A look of remorse came into his eyes.  “Oh, I’m sorry you saw that, Karen. The dog is a stray and it’s been chasing my cows.  I had to kill it.”

“But John, it’s not dead yet.”

John looked back at the dog and grimaced.  “Oh man,” he said.  “I’m really sorry. I’ll go finish the job.  Put it out of its misery.”

By this time another dog had joined the dog that had been shot.  It was running around its friend, barking encouragement, trying to get its buddy to rise up and escape.  The sight of the one dog trying to help his comrade broke my heart.  I made a quick decision. “Let me and my husband take care of it.”

“Are you sure?”

I nodded and he agreed to let me do what I could for the animal.

Unbeknownst to me, as soon as I ran out of the house my husband, knowing that something was wrong, had gotten out his binoculars and was watching my progress in the field.  He saw the look on my face as I ran back.  By the time I reached our house he was ready to do whatever he needed to do to help me.  I explained the situation to him, we put together a box full of towels, and he called the vet.

As we drove his truck around to where the dog lay in the field, I noticed that, while the dog’s canine companion had finally left the scene (never to be seen again), John had gone to the dog and was kneeling down next to her.  He was petting her, using soothing words to comfort her, and the dog was looking up at John with that look of trust she’d given me.  John helped my husband load her in the back of the truck and we began our drive to the vet’s.

I rode in the back of the truck with the dog as my husband drove, and sang hymns to her.  As I sang words from one of my favorite hymns from the Christian Science Hymnal– “Everlasting arms of Love are beneathe, around, above” – the dog leaned against my shoulder and looked up at me with an expression of pure love in her blue eyes.

Once we reached the animal clinic, the veterinarian came out to take a look at her.  After checking her over he told us that apparently a bullet had gone through her head, that he’d take care of her over the holiday weekend – keep her warm and hydrated – but that he wasn’t going to give her any medical treatment.  I got the distinct impression that he didn’t think the dog was going to make it.

My husband and I went to my parents’ home for the Christmas weekend, both of us praying that the dog would still be alive when we returned.  For me, praying for her really meant trying to see the dog as God sees her.  I tried to realize the wholeness and completeness of her as an expression of God, an idea of God.  I reasoned that all the dog could experience was the goodness of God – all she could feel is what Love feels, all she could know is what Truth knows, all she could be is the perfect reflection of God.  I tried to recognize the reality of these things for me, too, and for all of God’s creation.

She made it through the weekend, but when we went to pick her up the vet told us that she wasn’t “out of the woods, yet.”    He told us that if she couldn’t eat, drink, or walk on her own in the next few days, we’d need to bring her back and he’d need to put her to sleep.

We brought her home and put her in a big box in our living room, with a bowl of water and soft dog food by her side.  I continued to pray.  In the middle of the night I got up and went out to where she lay in her box.  Impulsively, I bent down and scooped some water from the dish into her mouth.  She swallowed it, and then leaned over and drank a little from the bowl.  I was elated!  Inspired by her reaction to the water, I bent over and grabbed a glob of dog food and threw a little onto her tongue.  She smacked her mouth together, swallowed the food, and leaned over to eat a bit more.  Now I was beyond elated!  She’d accomplished two of the three requirements the vet had made for her!

The next day I took her out for a walk.  She’d take a few steps and then lean against me.  Then she’d take a few more steps and lean.  But she was walking!  We would not be taking her back to the veterinarian.

In the next two weeks her progress was amazing.  By the end of that period she was not only walking, but running and jumping and chasing balls.  Her appetite was healthy.  She was having no problems drinking or eating.

But one of the most amazing parts of this whole Christmas blessing was the relationship that developed between this dog and the man who had shot her.  They became good friends.  The dog, in fact, became the neighborhood mascot.  (And she never again chased anyone’s cows.)

What the dog brought to me, who had, if you recall, been in a deep funk when she entered our lives, was a sense of the true spirit of Christmas – the Christly spirit of forgiveness, hope, faith, love.  She brought me the recognition that nothing, absolutely nothing, is impossible to God.

We named our new dog Christmas because that is what she brought us that year.

Within a few years all those things that I had wondered if I would ever have as part of my life came to me – a teaching job, children, and a home of our own.  It is my belief that our Christmas Dog prepared my heart to be ready for all of those things to enter my life.

– excerpt from *Blessings: Adventures of a Madcap Christian Scientist* by Karen Molenaar Terrell

http://www.amazon.com/Blessings-Adventures-Madcap-Christian-Scientist/dp/1419612298/ref=ntt_at_ep_dpt_1