Christian Science - 4/2/05
I was down in Seal Beach the other day and, having nothing better to do, I wandered into a Christian Science Reading Room.

I could say that I mistook it for a library, but the sign

was pretty obvious. The real reason is because, well, I was curious.

Inside I found what most closely resembled a small book store, with a kindly white-haired woman named Mildred seated behind a desk. Upon my entrance she immediately put down the book she was reading and asked how she could help me. After some hesitation, I just came out and said it: "I have a few minutes to kill and I'm curious about what exactly Christian Science is."

And she explained. In 1866, a woman named Mary Baker Eddy had a terrible fall on some ice. Several internal organs were badly injured, and doctors said she wouldn't live through the night. The fact is that she survived and recovered; the story is that her injuries were completely healed after one hour of prayer. Eddy then set about trying to figure out what had happened to her, and in the course of this she pioneered a new branch of Christianity, focusing on the healing powers of God.

Christian Science is fairly Protestant - the main difference is that Christian Scientists feel that faith in God's ability to heal is all the medicine one needs. Contrary to common misconception, Christian Scientists are not anti-medicine. They simply believe that medicine is unnecessary. You can take drugs if you like, but it's kind of like taking Tic-Tacs for a headache.

Now I know what you're thinking, and no, this is not going to turn into an entry where I humorously bash Christian Science. I personally believe that no religion is any more right or wrong than any other, and that if one particular sub-division of one sect of one religion had it totally pegged, God would have told more than .05% percent of mankind about it. But since I'd wandering into a Christian Science Reading Room and was curious myself, I figure perhaps now's the time to expound a bit on their ideas. And if it's humorous... well, laughter heals, just like God supposedly does.

A mainstay or the Christian Science view on medicine is that "Jesus didn't take medicine, so we shouldn't either." While I believe modeling behavior after an ideal examplar can be productive (say what you want about Jesus - you have to admit he was a pretty good guy), I think this idea misses something in terms of historical progression. Times have changed... I think Jesus would understand that some things are a little different now. So Jesus didn't use medicine. Jesus didn't use sunblock, either, but I bet he would have loved to get his hands on some SPF 40 in that hot Galilean sun. Also, keep in mind that "medicine" in Jesus' day typically involved leeches, and black and yellow bile. Actually, check that - I don't think medicine in Jesus' day had even reached the level of leeches and bile yet. Medicine in Jesus' day pretty much came down to "die from stuff."

On the other hand, this line of logic goes against one of my main reasons for not being a vegetarian, specifically "if it was good enough for the cavemen, it's good enough for me."

If I have one objection to Christian Science, it's that it seems to be doing this:

The problem I have with religions that ignore science is the same problem I have with science that ignores religion: just because you don't believe in something doesn't mean it can't exist. Especially when the two things can be fairly easily reconciled. It's possible God can heal. It's also possible that God created medicine, and that can heal, too. Christian Scientists can't disprove medicine any more than regular scientists can disprove God.

Religion and medicine shouldn't be mutually exclusive. I say try them both. If I have leukemia, I don't care if it's Jesus or chemo that helps me. If your arm gets chopped off, and you're hoping God will heal it for you, is it really so bad to help Him out with a couple stitches first? I was always taught that God helps people who help themselves, so go ahead and sew that wing back on and have both your doctor and your priest visit your bedside.

I'm probably going to hell for writing most of this from the upstairs library of the Christian Science reading room, but those are my thoughts. I'm probably already going to hell anyway for other much more offensive things I've said or written. I can think of about a dozen right off the top of my head. But I respected and appreciated everything Mildred had to say. One thing we did have in common was tolerance for other religions. Though she had her particular perspective on things, she readily admitted that she was just one person, and could be wrong. Although scientists many times aren't the most spiritual people, at least science has built into it the disproof principle; in other words, openness to other ideas. If religion is going to share space with science, it should be willing to do the same.

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