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Monday, October 1, 2012

A Minority Report from a Christian Scientist

Christian Science, a real minority

In Fairmount and especially Crisp Lake there was one Negro named Mac who shined shoes in one of the barbershops.   There were no American Indians, Jews, or Mexicans any where to be found around the neighborhood.  Catholics were here and there but really could not be counted as a true minority because most of them lived north of 24 Highway.  We did have one family living on Ash who it was suspected were gypsies, but no one knew for sure.  No the only minority present in our little community was me.

Being raised a Christian Scientist had some advantages.  First of all you did not have to take the yearly polio shot or what ever types of shots they were giving out that year at school.  When it was my turn for some sort of vaccination a parent aid would whisper something to the nurse, a notation was made on a piece of paper and the next child in line stepped forward and I returned to my seat.  I really felt fortunate, shots scared me and I knew they must be painful.  Secondly there were not many rules involved being a Christian Scientist.  No one said if you did this or did that or you didn’t do this or that you were going to suffer eternal damnation or something.  Hell was not addressed as such and talk of heaven consisted of ‘passing on’ and living on in the minds of others.

If you were to ask people what they know about Christian Scientist a preponderance would say “aren’t they the ones who don’t believe in doctors?”  A few might know who Mary Baker Eddy was (she founded the religion in 1875) or that there was a news paper by that name or perhaps to the truly knowledgeable of trivia, that the headquarters of the church were in Boston (or was it Baltimore)  and that Alan Shepard our first man in space was a Christian Scientist.  Four of the five above are true, one is a little iffy. 

The idea that Christian Scientists don’t believe in doctors is not actually correct.  Their doctrine allows each member to make up their own mind on how to live their life given the teachings of Jesus and the Bible as explained in ‘Science and Health with Keys to the Scriptures by Mary Baker Eddy,’ which includes health care.  Some use doctors some don’t, some take medication some don’t, it is really an individual choice.  They are  encouraged to obey all laws pertaining to health care and if shots are required they are to be taken.  There were not many laws back then that required one to have shots unless you joined the military, ergo no shots for this kid while growing up.

For the purist in the religion or the real conservative types Christian Scientist do have what they call Practitioners that are consulted when health matters arise.  To make this concept simple let us just say that if you are ill, you talk to a Practitioner.  They don’t cast spells or perform rites or anything like that nor are they licensed by the church or state as far as I know, they just help you see the truth and as it is said, “you shall know the truth and the truth shall make you free.”  (Another big saying that Christian Scientist have is “Devine love has always met and always will meet every human need.”)

We had Sunday School like most all churches and I got a good education about the make up of the Bible and knew and still do most of the stories from the old and new testament.  Of course the healing  ones depicted in the Bible were given a lot of attention.

Other churches may have and do look on Christian Science as a cult at least by definition just like they do the Mormons.  By definition they might be correct.  Christian Scientist do not believe in the trinity.  Father, Son and Holy Spirit (Ghost back then) are part of the belief system but they are all separate entities not just one - a much easier concept to grasp.  God is that indescribable  concept that resides in that just as indescribable place called heaven, Jesus is his son, divine but not God on earth in the flesh, and the Holy Spirit sort of mystically runs around between humans, God, and Jesus. (I always thought it interesting that of the two major religions started in the United States, Christian Science  and Mormons, neither believe in the trinity.  It is probably a coincidence unless one or both religions are really the chosen people and not that other group. That is a thought that you would never hear from a Christian Scientist but probably a core belief in Salt Lake City.)  There is no professional clergy, (they have a First Reader and Second Reader, one reads a Bible passage and the other reads from Science and Health explaining what was just read by the other,) no weddings, baptisms, christenings, official inductions nor funerals are performed in or by the church.  There are no revivals, fund raisers, pot lucks, deviations from the script prepared by the Mother Church read each Sunday morning and Wednesday night service, nor any real fun things to do at all.  It was sort of a boring church for a kid as far as I was concerned.  The service and theology are more of a cerebral nature and if the truth be known eludes most adherents.   

I never felt any prejudice directed towards me because of my religion but I was defiantly part of a system that others did not understand nor were interested in finding out more about and it seems like other parents always wanted me to go to church with their children when youth meetings were held  because they were concerned about my soul.  I usually went because they always seemed to have good treats afterwards and most were my friends from the neighborhood anyway.

Gradually I drifted away from the church and have joined different churches from time to time.  I have been a Baptist, Catholic, Methodist, Lutheran, Assembly of God, Quaker, and Disciple of Christ church member in the past.  All seemed about the same, some were a little more demanding on how you conducted your personal life but that really never bothered me because when it comes to religion we are all part of the same hypocrisy.

However one never escapes his early up bringing.  Ideas are planted early and lay dormant but now and then blossom and grow.  You try to kill them off now and then but they keep coming back.  I still consider myself to be a Christian Scientist though I don’t officially or actively practice it anymore except when I become a little ill or just before my annual physical.  I have to do it all by memory now because I don’t have any idea where my copy of Mrs. Eddy’s book is anymore.

The overriding beliefs taught to me in Sunday school that have stayed with me over the years and still imprinted on my mind come from my Christian Science up bringing and other than those I am not real sure about that mystery we call religion.  I am pretty sure that Man is not material he is Spiritual, God is Love and when we pass on we will all be surprised