Dr. God was written by Elodie Reed, a student at Amherst College. It was published in the Amherst College magazine, The Indicator. Here’s a Google doc link where you may view it as it was published: http://tinyurl.com/ElodieReedDrGod
Dr. God – An insider’s guide to Christian Science
An average person’s reply to the words “Christian Science” is often, “What, you mean Scientology?” Though the names are similar, the two belief systems couldn’t be more different. (For one, Christian Science doesn’t have any associations with Tom Cruise.) In and of itself, Christian Science is a unique way of thinking about the world, and as with any religion, there are misconceptions of what it is really about.
To start, let us look into some of the history surrounding Christian Science. Mary Baker Eddy founded the religion in 1866 after a bad fall in Lynn, Massachusetts, which left her in critical condition. Having prayed regularly since childhood, Mrs. Eddy turned to the Bible. After reading an account of Jesus’ healing powers, she suddenly felt well again. In the months that followed, Eddy continued to read and study the Bible, eventually writing what today is regarded as the Christian Science textbook: Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures, which was first published in 1875.
Revised many times, this book acts as a guide for Christian Scientists, alongside the Bible. Science and Health emphasizes the spiritual interpretation of the Bible (looking past the literal and seeing the divinely inspired ideas) and details Eddy’s experiences with Christian Science. Though it was originally meant for all Christian churches to adopt, this did not turn out to be the case, so Eddy founded The First Church of Christ, Scientist in 1879 in Boston, Massachusetts.
As it did then, the Christian Science church service today consists of a few hymns, a solo, a brief silent and recited prayer, and readings out of the Bible and Science and Health, both of which act as the “pastors” of the church. There is no sense of hierarchy in Christian Science (no priests or ministers, for example), as one finds in most other religions. It is a “lay church,” where the members make up the church and use a democratic system to elect members to board positions. These elections include the appointment of two readers that run the church services each week. These positions change every few years. Because of this system, everyone is equal in the Christian Science Church. At the same time as the church service, there is also Sunday school for young people under twenty years of age, and there they are taught “Truth,” or the divinely inspired ideas from the Bible and Science and Health.
The purpose of going to church to hear the readings out of the Bible and Science and Health is similar to what most other types of church services are for: to give us good ideas, to help us to be better people, and to help us try to answer life’s big questions. In church, in Sunday school or in an individual’s personal study of Christian Science, the most basic ideas being presented by Science and Health and the Bible are about God and Christ.
The definition of God in Christian Science is, as Eddy says in her book, “The great I AM; the all-knowing, a1l-seeing, all-acting, all-wise, all-loving, and eternal; Principle; Mind; Soul; Spirit; Life; Truth; Love; all substance; intelligence.” (Science and Health, p. 587) In other words, God is a universal force that is everything, and is also all-good. From this, it follows logically that everything must be good. Anything that appears contrary to good, like sin, disease or death, must not be real, and is what Christian Scientists call “error.” This error, or evil, only exists so long as humans’ understanding or knowledge of God and his all-goodness is absent. Christian Scientists explain this with a metaphor of darkness and light: in a dark room, one can’t see what’s there, and the darkness looks and feels real, that is until the light is switched on, and one sees what is actually in the room. Understanding God and his all power is like waking up from a nightmare into the real.
Needless to say, Christian Scientists don’t believe in going to heaven or hell. We believe instead that the kingdom of heaven (or the eternal good) is already here and has always been (and always will be) the reality for everyone. This is because Christian Scientists emphasize, as it says in the first chapter of Genesis in the Bible, that “God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them” (Gen. 1:27). In other words, human beings are God’s ideas or his concepts, and we reflect all of God’s qualities of perfection, and so experience only those good attributes. Because God is spiritual, we are spiritual; because God is good, we are good; because God is the one and only force, we are one and harmonious; and so on. As we live our lives, we are working to see ourselves as we truly are – perfect, good, harmonious – and that is what the aim of Christian Science study is.
Enter Jesus. To be clear, unlike a lot of other Christian religions, Christian Scientists do not view Jesus and God as the same being. However, we do acknowledge that Jesus was more than just your average Joe. He was the son of the Virgin Mary, conceived through the power of God. For Christian Scientists, Jesus was the most spiritually-minded man to have walked the planet. He had the Christ, or expressed, as Mrs. Eddy says, “God’s spiritual, eternal nature.” Christian Science acknowledges everyone as having the Christ – you, me, the random guy on the street, everyone -since God is reflected in all of his ideas, or in all of mankind. Jesus best exemplified this idea. The proof is in his healing of virtually everyone who came near him (and others who were not even in his presence), which is written down in the New Testament of the Bible. Jesus saw man so clearly as the image of God that when someone with a health or mental issue approached him, he only saw a perfect, spiritual man in front of him, and this healed the person instantaneously.
Jesus demonstrated man’s spirituality in the extreme at his crucifixion. Though his human body was destroyed, he arose three days after to show that material forces (time, death, injury, hate, etc.) had no effect on his spiritual being. To Christian Scientists, his eventual ascension brought the idea of the Christ to fruition: He passed out of material perception, because he recognized his true being as spiritual, perfect, reflected in God. He never ceased to exist (in a spiritual sense), since Life, or God, is eternal, without beginning or end, and man reflects that timelessness. Christian Scientists aren’t waiting for a second coming: The Christ is already here in spiritual form; he has always been and always will be.
This may seem like a lot of explanation, but I must establish the Christian Science views of God and Jesus because they help explain the way we think about the world and, in consequence, how we act. The reason it is so important to Christian Science that Jesus was a man is because he could heal, and therefore we can heal too. And that is the basis for the practice of Christian Science: to rely on God for healing.
Not taking medicine is what everyone always associates with Christian Science. I am always asked, “So you can’t take medicine, right?” Halfway right. There is no rule that prohibits Christian Scientists from taking medicine. However, l and most other Christian Scientists choose not to take medicine because we haven’t found it the most effective method for treating an illness. We instead work to understand God’s love for us and our complete reflection of His perfection. When we come to this understanding and see ourselves spiritually and perfectly, the seeming issue, whether it is a bad cold, a broken arm, an unhealthy relationship, or any number of troubles that humans seem to run into, vanishes. Many cases of successful Christian Science treatment for every sort of issue (including what appear to be very severe problems) are written down in Christian Science literature, the most popular being the weekly Christian Science Sentinel, the monthly Christian Science Journal, and of course Science and Health.
I personally have experienced numerous healings throughout my life, as well as a general overall persistence of health. (I only missed two days of high school all four years, for instance.) One memorable healing experience took place about ten years ago, when I fell skipping on the paved sidewalk and landed very hard on my arm. My wrist appeared to be broken, and for several hours after, I was in a lot of pain, so much that I couldn’t move the arm. But after having my father and mother talk with me about God and his love for me and about my reflecting God’s perfection and wholeness, and thinking about those ideas to myself, my arm stopped hurting right away. There was no soreness in the days after, and it was like nothing had ever happened to my arm. This was only one of many times I have relied on spiritual care, on God, for solving an issue physical or otherwise.
Just as the medical world has doctors, Christian Scientists have practitioners, or men and women trained in Christian Science healing that people can call for help. These practitioners pray for their patients. This “prayer” is not what is typically thought of as prayer. Instead of supplicating or asking God for help, Christian Scientists establish and deepen – through study and thought – their understanding of what they know is the truth about man, God’s idea: that he is perfect. It is when the realization of this Truth occurs that the healing takes place. This sense of healing is also different from the norm: Whereas one typically thinks of healing as “making better,” healing in the Christian Science sense is an uncovering what is already there. Again, like the light and dark metaphor, the perfect, spiritual man is there all along, but one has to flip on the light, or have understanding, to dispel the illusion of darkness, or evil (which can take many forms, not limited to sin, disease, and death) to see the true man, one that reflects God’s perfection.
This whole “praying” and “healing” process probably sounds foreign and strange to most of you, but looking at it differently can make it sound more reasonable. Sometimes I “pray” on my walks through campus, in the sense that, when I see someone I don’t know, l stop myself from making a snap judgment and instead find a God-given quality about that person. For example, “She looks intelligent,” or “He seems like he could be sincere and understanding.” I look at these people as the ideas of God. And it sounds silly, but its amazing how much more pleasant my walk through campus is. Much of Christian Science is just a matter of mindset: thinking good, doing good and expecting good tends to result in seeing good.
I realize that I’m discussing all of these very Christian ideas in the magazine of a diverse and liberal college, whose readers are certainly not all religious. My intention is not to convert, but to bring a new perspective into the open. I discuss religion fairly often with my roommate and friends; almost always, these conversations are both intellectually enriching and practically valuable. After all, as a Christian Scientist, I don’t view myself as any better or worse than any other student on this campus, or any other person on this planet. There are a lot of questions I still don’t know the answers to (and I can guarantee the same for other Christian Scientists). We are all trying to figure out how to live our lives in the best way we can, and I have found Christian Science to be a valuable tool.