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.)

Satyagraha, Ahimsa, and A Rule for Motives and Acts

Creeds, doctrines, and human hypotheses do not express Christian Science; much less can they demonstrate it. – Mary Baker Eddy

To seek Truth through belief in a human doctrine is not to understand the infinite. We must not seek the immutable and immortal through the finite, mutable, and mortal, and so depend upon belief instead of demonstration… – Mary Baker Eddy

        The way to extract error from mortal mind is to pour in truth through flood-tides of Love. – Mary Baker Eddy

***

Mahatma Gandhi, that great leader of non-violent resistance, said, “I have discovered in the earliest stages that pursuit of truth did not admit of violence being inflicted on one’s opponent but that he must be weaned from error by patience and compassion. For what appears to be truth to the one may appear to be error to the other. And patience means self-suffering. So the doctrine came to mean vindication of truth, not by infliction of suffering on the opponent, but on oneself.”

According to Wikipedia “Satyagraha” ((http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Satyagraha) means “soul force” or “truth force” and can be loosely translated as “insistence on truth.”  “Satyagraha” was a term created and used by Mahatma Gandhi in his non-violent struggle against foreign control of India.  “Ahimsa” – the Hindu belief that all living things are connected and that we should treat all life with kindness and non-violence – is fundamental to Satyagraha.  Gandhi believed we are all morally interdependent on each other – we depend on each other to do the “right thing” – that it is imperative for us to cultivate what is decent in each other.

Recently, as I was pondering A Rule for Motives and Acts for members of the Christian Science Mother Church, it struck me how similar it is to the idea of “Satyagraha” –

A Rule for Motives and Acts (Article VIII, Section 1 of the Manual for the Mother Church): “Neither animosity nor mere personal attachment should impel the motives or acts of the members of The Mother Church. In Science, divine Love alone governs man; and a Christian Scientists reflects the sweet amenities of Love, in rebuking sin, in true brotherliness, charitableness, and forgiveness. The members of the Church should daily watch and pray to be delivered from all evil, from prophesying, judging, condemning, counseling, influencing, or being influenced erroneously.”

First Readers of the Christian Science branch churches read this rule from the podium the first Sunday of every month.  When I’ve served as First Reader in our branch church, and read this rule out loud to the congregation, there’s been a part of me that cringes inside a little. I’m a little embarrassed.  A little awkward. And hugely humbled.  I mean… well, who am I to be reading this rule to the congregation? I know with certainty that there have been times when I have not lived up to this rule.  Have I always been loyal to God, Love, Truth – the Principle of Christian Science – rather than to persons? Have I always had the courage and humility to “rebuke sin” – not in a way that personalizes it – but in the manner of Gandhi, weaning “from error by patience and compassion” and with self-suffering, or – as Mary Baker Eddy puts it – extracting error from mortal mind and pouring in truth “through flood-tides of Love“? Have I always been charitable and forgiving? Have I always refrained from “judging, condemning, counseling, influencing, or being influenced erroneously”?

Yowza.

We don’t have a lot of doctrine, dogma, or creed in the Christian Science church.  There are not a whole lot of detailed rules, really, about how we should eat, dress, stand, sit, wear our hair, or address one another, and there are no rules that separate men and women in any way, or create a church class system and hierarchy.  We are pretty much free agents when it comes to that stuff – free to follow our own conscience and understanding.

In the textbook for Christian Science, Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures, Mary Baker Eddy writes, “The time for thinkers has come. Truth, independent of doctrines and time-honored systems, knocks at the portal of humanity.” A little later she writes, “Our Master (Jesus) taught no mere theory, doctrine, or belief. It was the divine Principle of all real being which he taught and practised. His proof of Christianity was no form or system of religion and worship, but Christian Science, working out the harmony of Life and Love.” Eddy writes, “Surely it is not enough to cleave to barren and desultory dogmas, derived from the traditions of the elders…”

So. Yeah. Which brings us back to A Rule for Motives and Acts. All the other stuff that one sometimes finds in humanly-organized religion – the dress codes, the class system, the distinction between genders, the rules about food – all of that pretty much seems meaningless when put next to the idea that “divine Love alone governs man,” doesn’t it?

Do Christian Scientists have a doctrine at all? Well, there is this: “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. The perfect man – governed by God, his perfect Principle – is sinless and eternal.” (from Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures by Mary Baker Eddy)

Perfect Principle and perfect man.  Perpetual, uninterrupted joy.  Unconditional, unending Love – shining on everyone, without distinction. Endless Life. That’s a goal worthy of our time and energies, yes?

The hour has struck when proof and demonstration, instead of opinion and dogma, are summoned to the support of Christianity, “making wise the simple.” – Mary Baker Eddy