The months of 2022 have gone barrelling past at top speed. I’ve had thoughts I’ve wanted to write into posts, but I haven’t had the bandwidth to follow through. In lieu of another caps-lock comment inspring Mother’s Day post, I am re-sharing “Some thoughts on Why I am not a Christian Scientist” by Rev. Evans.”
I feel the second part of this post is relevant to this particular holiday. Please remember, Mother’s Day can be an emotionally charged event for many people. Let people to celebrate (or not) as they feel is appropriate for their situation.
Some highlights from and thoughts on “Why I Am Not A Christian Scientist” By Rev. William Evans, D. D. Director Bible Course, The Moody Bible Institute of Chicago. Full text available from Archive.org, full link below.
I appreciate that Rev. Evans opens with the well-acknowledged (at least in former-CS circles) fact that
- The Christian Scientist is forbidden to read books that speak against that cult; he is told he must not argue with any one, even those who are of the closest kinship, if they manifest opposition to the teachings of Christian Science; the doubts that arise in his mind must not be expressed to any one save his teacher; individual thinking and opinion is discouraged; in point of fact, the only books he is encouraged to read are those which are sent out by the Christian Science publishing house in Boston. (p. 4-5, emphasis mine)
Rev. Evans lists several reasons for why he is not a Christian Scientist, several of these are well-worn arguments:
- I AM NOT A CHRISTIAN SCIENTIST BECAUSE CHRISTIAN SCIENCE IS NOT SCIENTIFIC. — yes, yes, we know.
- I AM NOT A CHRISTIAN SCIENTIST BECAUSE CHRISTIAN SCIENCE IS NOT CHRISTIAN. — the arguments he uses are interesting, and if you’re concerned about the Christian (or lack of Christian) points in Christian Science, this section is well worth reading.
- I AM NOT A CHRISTIAN SCIENTIST BECAUSE OF ITS WRONG ATTITUDE TOWARDS THE BIBLE. — clearly the Rev. Evan’s audience is God-fearing Protestants, I’m sure he’d find my attitude towards the bible “wrong” as well.
- I AM NOT A CHRISTIAN SCIENTIST BECAUSE CHRISTIAN SCIENCE IS A FOE TO THE HOME. — this is an argument I have not heard before, and the one I will focus on.
In this fourth example, “Christian Science is a foe to the home” Rev. Evans cites two examples: the first being a family with an invalid sister — in the Loving Christian Family, the brothers help her, but in a Christian Science setting the poor woman is suffering under a false belief and it is her own doing.
- Let Christian Science enter that home, and it asserts at once that the sister is not sick — she is suffering from a delusion. She is, therefore, to blame, and all these tender ministries of love are changed into the acidities of criticism and rebuke, silent, if not expressed.
Rev. Evans should probably stop here. The blame-the-sick-person trope is played out time and time again in Christian Science communities: nominal worshipers are not welcome, gas-lighting under the guise of “helping them know the truth” is common. There may be lip-service as to the “right use of temporary means” but Ms. Eddy is also clear that these “temporary means” usually bring about more suffering before the patient comes around to realizing that Christian Science is the One True Solution.
The second part of “foe to the home” argument is Rev. Evan’s decidedly 1900s privileged male views on marriage and motherhood. I have rather mixed feelings about this. I am both married and a mother, and I find myself disagreeing with both Rev. Evans and Ms. Eddy’s perspectives on both (although I agree slightly more with Ms. Eddy). Rev. Evans begins on p. 31, and starts by liberally quoting Science and Health, before moving on to Ms. Eddy’s less often read work, Miscellaneous Writings.
Christian Science Virtually Denies the Need and Dignity of Marriage and Motherhood. "Did God at first create man unaided — that is, Adam, — but afterwards require the union of the two sexes in order to create the rest of the human family? No!" (S. & //., pp. 531, 532, 1909). "Generation does not rest on sexual basis at all" according to Christian Science. "To abolish marriage at this period and maintain mor- ality and generation would put Ingenuity to ludicrous shifts; yet this is possible In Science, (meaning, of course, Christian Science), although it is today problematic."
Being totally wrong about where babies come from aside, I’m going to stop Rev. Evans here, and remind him of what Ms. Eddy says in Science and Health, about the formation of mortals, which, to be fair to the good Rev. gets quite convoluted quite quickly. Ms. Eddy is not trying to abolish marriage — at least not yet.
"In Miscellaneous Writings, p. 288, the question is asked, 'Is marriage nearer right than celibacy?' The answer is given, 'Human knowledge inculcates that it is, but Chris- tian Science indicates that it is not.' "
For the curious, the full passage from p. 288-9:
Is marriage nearer right than celibacy?
Human knowledge inculcates that it is, while Science indicates that it is not. But to force the consciousness of scientific being before it is understood is impossible, and believing otherwise would prevent scientific demonstration. To reckon the universal cost and gain, as well as thine own, is right in every state and stage of being. The selfish rôle of a martyr is the shift of a dishonest mind, nothing short of self-seeking; and real suffering would stop the farce.
All partnerships are formed on agreements to certain compacts: each party voluntarily surrenders independent action to act as a whole and per agreement. This fact should be duly considered when by the marriage contract two are made one, and, according to the divine precept, “they twain shall be one flesh.” Oneness in spirit is Science, compatible with home and heaven. Neither divine justice nor human equity has divorced two minds in one.
I can see where Rev. Evans is drawing his conclusions, but I read this as more of a cautious warning from a thrice-married, twice-widowed woman: be careful what you’re getting yourself into. Evans’ continues:
These statements show where Christian Science stands with regard to the question of marriage. It shows that in the mind of the Christian Scientist celibacy, or the unmarried state, is nearer right than the married state. It is true that Christian Science does not openly forbid marriage, but who- ever heard of a marriage taking place in a Christian Science church, and performed by Christian Science readers or ministers? Such facts as these ought to make those of us who have the moral welfare of our nation at heart pause and think, if not shudder!
I’m sure Rev. Evans has read 1 Corinthians, that’s a requirement to be a Reverend right? Ms. Eddy’s view of marriage and children is not unlike that of Paul, in 1 Corinthians 7: verses 8-9, and again in verses 25-40.
Now to the unmarried and the widows I say: It is good for them to stay unmarried, as I do. But if they cannot control themselves, they should marry, for it is better to marry than to burn with passion. (1 Corinthians 7:8-9).
There seems to be a bit of suffer it to be so now in both Ms. Eddy and Paul’s perspective. Both see marriage as distraction from the spiritual path, but if you must be with a woman (or man), and you must have children (although Ms. Eddy seems unclear on where babies come from… Generation does not rest on sexual basis at all), being married is the appropriate way to go about it.
I’m not sure what choosing not to be married has to do with “the moral welfare of our nation” — the unmarried Christian Scientists are choosing a life of celibacy, I see this as no different than monks or nuns opting to devote their lives to God, but instead of being cloistered away in a monastery, these Christian Scientists are going about their day-to-day lives.
The good Rev. Evans then moves on to Ms. Eddy’s perspective on Motherhood. I’m going to start with saying I’m not sure I’d take Ms. Eddy’s advice on marriage (even if she was married three times), where babies come from, or how they come into the world, but I also take issue with the Rev. Evan’s perspective:
Motherhood is not, according to Christian Science, the highest badge of womanhood. In Miscellaneous Writings, p. 289, we have these words: "Human nature has be- stowed on a wife the right to become a mother, but if the wife esteems not this a privilege . . . she may win a higher." What is that higher? ... to become a wife and not a mother? Thus motherhood is to be avoided; it is to be put in the category of that which is below a woman's highest and noblest function. This is the Chris- tian Science idea of the marriage relation. May we be pre- served from such a doctrine as this! It reminds us of the heresy foretold by the apostle concerning those who are led captive by silly women, and who forbid to marry. -- emphasis mine -
To follow Rev. Evan’s logical interpretation of Ms. Eddy’s work: remaining celibate is the highest honor, but if you must settle, than be married but don’t have children. I think what Rev. Evan’s finds most problematic is Ms. Eddy’s thought that people, including women, have a choice: a woman can choose to become a mother or not.
The larger context of Ms. Eddy’s quote makes this slightly more clear:
Rights that are bargained away must not be retaken by the contractors, except by mutual consent. Human nature has bestowed on a wife the right to become a mother; but if the wife esteems not this privilege, by mutual consent, exalted and increased affections, she may win a higher. Science touches the conjugal question on the basis of a bill of rights. Can the bill of conjugal rights be fairly stated by a magistrate, or by a minister? Mutual interests and affections are the spirit of these rights, and they should be consulted, augmented, and allowed to rise to the spiritual altitude whence they can choose only good.
Mutual consent must be a foreign concept to Rev. Evans. I’m fairly sure Ms. Eddy is not referring to fun-sexy-time when she talks about “exalted and increased affections,” and while “allowed to rise to the spiritual altitude whence they can choose only good” does not mean Neotantra, the emphasis here is mutual, both parties must want it — regardless of what “it” is, and regardless of how much it may differ from what Rev. Evans’ thinks.
Reverend William Evans, your male privilege is showing, and while this may not have been a problem in 191.”?, I take issue with it now. What people mutually consent to do within (or without) the bonds of marriage is really none of your business.
However, as this is 191.”?, the Rev. feels entitled to weigh in on another hot-button topic that continues to have charged internet debates today: is motherhood a woman’s highest calling? (click on that embedded link, I dare you).
Ms. Eddy and the dear Rev. clearly diverge on the question is motherhood a woman’s highest calling? Rev. Evans seems to think that motherhood is a woman’s highest calling, while Ms. Eddy seems to feel woman should at least be able to consider an alternativehigher calling — an uninterrupted Relationship with God. Ms. Eddy already feels that sex, alcohol, matter, etc. all distract from this relationship, so clearly children belong on this list as well. I’m fairly certain the Reverend is Protestant, as the Catholic church has no problem with men (and women) devoting their lives to God.
I disagree with Ms. Eddy about what a woman’s highest calling being to have a Relationship with God, and I disagree with Rev. Evan as well. Both are problematic at best.
Rev. Evans does not seem to know when to quit: his arguments against Christian Science stem from a fundamentally flawed notion that his version of Christianity is correct (it isn’t), and he needs to re-read Paul and re-examine his interpretations of Ms. Eddy’s views on marriage. The most solid argument he makes is that of the siblings, as so many of us have seen the blame-the-sufferer trope is played out again and again.
More by Rev. William Evans, D.D., Director, Bible Course, Moody Bible Institute of Chicago
Links of interest & Further Reading
- Wives: You have the right to say “no” http://defeatingthedragons.wordpress.com/2014/09/10/wives-you-have-the-right-to-say-no/
- Miscellaneous Writings http://www.gutenberg.org/ebooks/31427