Christian Science

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Christian Science is a pseudoscientific and overtly religious belief system founded by Mary Baker Eddy in 1866, based on the idea that Christianity is a verifiable set of beliefs. The central texts of Christian Science are the Bible and the Christian Science textbook, Science & Health With Key to the Scriptures by Mary Baker Eddy.

Oxymoronic connotations[edit]

"Christian Science" is an oxymoron in the sense that "Christian" implies some form of dogma and set of beliefs to be adhered to, while "Science" is a method that does not and cannot have a strict dogma. Unfortunately, it's an oxymoron that has attracted a sizable following (which isn't entirely surprising, since the "Science" part of the name was tacked on to gain credibility). Contrary to the name, followers of "Christian Science" do not actually believe in science — or even, it would seem, their own senses, since they specifically deny any evidence which contradicts their interpretation of the Bible. There are also some who would doubt that their religion is particularly Christian, but that is beyond our scope.

Medicine and health[edit]

Christian Scientists deny the reality of the physical world. They instead believe that the only reality is purely spiritual and that there is only one substance of which we are all composed (God). As a consequence, Christian Scientists deny the reality of pain and disease, believing them to be deceptive misperceptions of the pure spiritual nature of man and God. They contend any such misperception may be remedied through prayer and reflection on God's perfection and goodness.

The official party line is that Christian Science does not try to convince people not to get medical attention, but does discourage mixing of Christian Science and reality-based treatments. However Christian Scientists are encouraged not to educate themselves about physical ailments.[1] The primary book for Christian Scientists is Science and Health With Key to the Scriptures, first published in 1875 by Mary Baker Eddy. It is no small irony that Eddy's history of hearing voices as a child suggests she may have been schizophrenic, a diagnosis that medical science was not yet capable of making in the 19th century and which Christian Science would have in any event rejected.

Nancy Brewster[edit]

Nancy Brewster was a seven-year-old girl who died as a direct result of neglectful "treatment" at the hands of her mother, who followed the teachings of Christian Science. Because Nancy was "God's perfect child," it would be impossible for her to have health problems — thus when exercising in 100+ degree heat didn't cure her lymphoma, it was because she was being stubborn, a perfectly valid reason for her mother to repeatedly beat her and blame her for her illness. After her death, her mother told her siblings that she had taken a trip to Africa. Ms. Brewster's published testimony in the Christian Science Journal ignores the existence of Nancy.[2]

Many other children have also died at the hands of Christian Scientist parents.[3] The conditions they die from are usually easily treatable, e.g. diabetes. Due to religious exemptions in criminal and civil code many of these parents are able to escape justice altogether or receive lesser charges.

A similar event was presented in Family Guy episode titled "Livin' on a Prayer" (Season 10, Episode 12). In addition to the usual shoehorned cut-scenes the plot of the episode is based around an infant being diagnosed with a treatable form of cancer taken home by his Christian Science mother, to be kidnapped by the Griffins who took him to a hospital. There is a brief standoff at the hospital between Lois and the parents of the child (and police) which includes Lois making brilliant counter-arguments to Christian Science ("What if medical treatment is God's will?" or "What if penicillin is answered prayer?"). The standoff ends with Lois saying "What's the point of praying to God for a cure if you're just going to wipe your butt with his answers?" Interestingly, there was no word of a lawsuit regarding the incident.

The Church[edit]

The church headquarters in Boston

Unsurprisingly, Mary Baker Eddy used Christian Science as the basis for founding a new church. Its official name is The Church of Christ, Scientist. Instead of sermons, the Church has readings from Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures, per Ms. Eddy's instructions.

Official positions on social and political issues[edit]

The Church of Christian Science claims that they are unable to speak for anyone, as they are an individualistic religion. However, their web page on "social issues" would suggest that they do have specific positions on some issues:[4]

  • HomosexualityMarriage is for procreation, and is a blessing from and of God. Hence, it is likely that as a Church, they would not support gay marriage. However, gay relationships must be seen as a part of the human condition, though they also say all people are not as pure as Jesus, and strive in their own life to grow spiritually. While this line supposedly suggests that gay members should be accepted openly, it is tainted with some idea that it is not as healthy or godly as heterosexuality.
  • Abortion – In another vaguely worded position statement, each woman must strive in herself to find "the steps that are nearest right for them in this situation." At the same time, "we stress non-medical solutions to all problems."

CS in positions of power[edit]

During the 1960s and 1970s, Christian Scientists occupied powerful positions in the federal government, including:

Haldeman and Ehrlichman used their influence in the White House to push a bill through Congress which extended the copyright of Eddy's Science and Health... for an extra 75 years. The bill was declared unconstitutional.

Legacy[edit]

A reading room

The movement's most lasting contributions to humanity are its newspaper The Christian Science Monitor, which is usually considered quite excellent,[5] and numerous air-conditioned "Christian Science Reading Rooms"Wikipedia's W.svg tailor-made for a broke student to duck into for a few hours of quiet while traveling.

However, the movement appears to be in slow but steady decline. The number of Christian Science congregations fell by half, and the number of practitioners declined by four fifths, between 1971 and 2009.[6] The Monitor reports that in 2009, more new members came from Africa than the United States.[7]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. Fraser (Atlantic) 1995. Also see Arnold S. Relman, "Christian Science and the care of children", New England Journal of Medicine, 309(26), December 29, 1983, p. 1639; Rita Swan, "Faith healing, Christian Science, and the medical care of children", New England Journal of Medicine, 309(26), December 29, 1983, pp. 1639–1641; Nathan Talbot, "The position of the Christian Science church", New England Journal of Medicine, 309(26), December 29, 1983, pp. 1641–1644.
  2. Nancy's story on Children's Health Care, along with the stories of many more who have died as a result of religious-based neglect.
  3. Suffering Children and the Christian Science Church, The Atlantic
  4. The following from the official web site.
  5. Just don't follow their medical advices!
  6. Christian Science Statistics: Practitioners, Teachers, and Churches in the United States, Quackwatch
  7. Africa contributes biggest share of new members to Christian Science church, Christian Science Monitor