Wanna be a Sheep

The other day the Awkward Moments Children’s Bible Facebook page shared a collection of horrifying “Christian Music” videos gathered from YouTube. I followed some of the links to their logical conclusions, and came across I Just Want To (Be A Sheep)

The sheep theme reminded me of the guest post by the (obviously a pseudonym) Vicomte de Chagny, — if you haven’t read his awesome post “Why Religion Makes me Uncomfortable” I highly recommend it. The dear Vicomte tells us that:

One of the most famous texts of the Bible starts out “The Lord is my Shepherd.” Similarly, one of the most oft-sung hymns in the Christian Science Hymnal begins “Shepherd, show me how to go.” Mary Baker Eddy, who wrote that hymn, also defined “sheep” partially as “innocence…those who follow their leader.” With a shepherding God to direct them, sheep (that is, all of us) by definition do not need to think for themselves. But earlier in the same book containing that definition, on the first page in fact, Eddy writes without hesitation or apology, “The time for thinkers has come.” Can these two seemingly contradictory statements coexist? Is it really time for the unthinking sheep to start thinking? Christian Science seems to think so. I’m not so sure.

The Vicomte then goes on to explain how Christian Science does not really want you to think about it too deeply, if you do, the whole thing unravels into a mess (I’m paraphrasing — you really should go read the piece).

As the Vicomte points out, the very first page of Science and Health, in the second paragraph starts with the heavily quoted “The time for thinkers has come.” The phrase is so popular that the cool-hip young-adult outreach website for the church is called “time4thinkers” (you can google it, I refuse to give it link traffic). I have taken a screen-shot of the passages in question, from the Preface of Science and Health:

Screen Shot 2014-05-07 at 10.25.41 AM

It is interesting to note that before Ms. Eddy starts of on the importance of thinking, she starts in with dependence, “to those leaning on the sustaining infinite” and then with the sheep metaphors. There is a “wakeful shepherd.” You are not really supposed to think for yourself, you should be leaning on the sustaining infinite, the God-Shepherd.

As for the hymn the Vicomte is referring to, it is entitled “Feed thy Sheep” and is a poem written by Ms. Eddy. It is set to music in several different ways, although most congregations are only good at singing one of the versions.

“Feed thy Sheep”

Shepherd, show me how to go
         O’er the hillside steep,
How to gather, how to sow, —
         How to feed Thy sheep;
I will listen for Thy voice,
         Lest my footsteps stray;
I will follow and rejoice
         All the rugged way.

Thou wilt bind the stubborn will,
         Wound the callous breast,
Make self-righteousness be still,
         Break earth’s stupid rest.
Strangers on a barren shore,
         Lab’ring long and lone,
We would enter by the door,
         And Thou know’st Thine own;

So, when day grows dark and cold,
         Tear or triumph harms,
Lead Thy lambkins to the fold,
         Take them in Thine arms;
Feed the hungry, heal the heart,
         Till the morning’s beam;
White as wool, ere they depart,
         Shepherd, wash them clean.

(Poems by Mary Baker Eddy, p. 14)

There is no space for independent thought in Ms. Eddy’s shepherd-sheep relationship, the sheep (ostensibly her followers) should listen for Thy voice — the voice of Omniscient Mother-Father God, so that their footsteps don’t stray. The sheep are also in for quite a walk as Ms. Eddy tells us the way is rugged, but we should follow and rejoice, because OMFG knows what is best. This is not the time for questioning the Divine Shepherd.

Ms. Eddy’s lyrics are not as crude as pop-culture creepy-puppet Christian children’s music videos, instead of repeating over and over “I wanna be a sheep,” Ms. Eddy appeals to the pseudo-intellectual inner struggle, to borrow an analogy from my high school English lit, the inner Jekyll and Hyde: Thou wilt bind the stubborn will, a  line or two down from that she continues, make self-righteousness be still — keep Mr. Hyde in his place.

Ms. Eddy’s shepherd also offers food, healing and purification — they are white as wool er they depart, I don’t think Ms. Eddy ever dealt with much wool, in a natural unprocessed state it is beige (or brown depending on the color of the sheep) with little bits of twig. I digress.

I find the people-as-sheep with OMFG-Shepherd analogy to be disconcerting. The wikipedia article on sheep tells us that sheep are not known for straying far, they prefer to stay in a group this flocking behavior makes them easier for experienced shepherds to control, if anything, they get upset when they are separated from their flock. Sheep need a leader and often the “leader” is whichever sheep makes the first move. Wikipedia also tries to reassure us that sheep are not stupid — they are as smart as cows and pigs, and can recognize faces and be trained.

People can recognize faces, be trained, and when properly conditioned (through religion and other methods) they too will follow group flocking behavior. If you’re busy following the leader, this does not bode well for thinking.

Christian Science teaches us to Think, but not too critically. Question, but not too much. As long as the answers you come to are ones that are sanctioned by our Beloved Leader Ms. Eddy and her Authorized Christian Science Literature, or The Mother Church, you’re welcome to come to those conclusions, but if you stray too far from the Authorized Message, you quickly get abandoned by OMFG’s Flock.

If you do have the time to think, your thought may turn to  why follow the Shepherd along the rugged way, why not take your own path? Obviously it is because The Shepherd (OMFG) knows best. If you educate the sheep (OMFG’s followers) they won’t have use for the Shepherd and the flock falls apart — at this point the problem is more for the Shepherd than the sheep because OMFG is without a flock, and what is the point of being OMFG (or Ms. Eddy) if you have no followers/people to control?

Can a God-figure exist if no one believes in it? Are we God’s creation, or is God ours, and why would we create such a jerk?


look at all my trials & tribulations, sinking in a gentle pool of wine


It surprises some of my fellow former-Christian Scientists that while I have left the Mother Church, and no longer follow (or believe) in the teachings of Ms. Eddy, I continue to refrain from imbibing alcohol. I don’t drink wine, beer, or cocktails. I don’t enjoy vodka, tequila, or spirits. I’ve had a few sips in the past: mulled wine at a Christmas fair, a polite sip of wine, fruity liquor over ice cream, hard cider. I’ve gotten tipsier than I care to admit to (that was the hard cider), but I’ve never gotten totally and completely wasted. I plan to keep it that way.

People used to question why I abstained from imbibing alcohol,  Christian Science has very little to do with why I don’t drink. I have the usual answer, of “I don’t enjoy it” — which is true, I don’t enjoy how I feel (my stomach gets queasy). If pressed hard enough, they may hear about the relationships I’ve seen damaged by excessive alcohol consumption, or the ex-boyfriend who thought nothing of consuming a box of beer (I think there are 32 in a large box) in a weekend and drunk-dialing late into the night. They may hear about the poem that was read every spring over the intercom of my high school — often before Spring Break, or Prom. (2)

If pushed hard enough, I firmly tell them that I prefer not to drink, and that is my decision. I do, however, enjoy cooking with wine — most of the alcohol burns off and the flavor is much better than the usual substitute of chicken broth (for white) or beef broth (for red). I do fall back on a handy list of substitutions from time to time as I don’t regularly stock Grand Marnier in my cabinets, but a bottle of $5 dry white wine has taken up residence in my fridge – it is cheaper than cooking wine, tastes better, and doesn’t grow things the way the box of organic chicken broth does after being ignored a little too long. (3) I also have some beer (for bread making) and an aged bottle of vodka (I don’t remember why anymore).

I started dabbling with alcohol in cooking before I “left” Christian Science, it started with beer in bread — a few tablespoons. I didn’t understand what the “big deal” was, I could only find one reference to “alcohol” (it was the root word in alcoholic) in Science and Health. (4) In Chapter XII, Christian Science Practice p. 406:28407:1 Ms. Eddy decrees

The depraved appetite for alcoholic drinks, tobacco, tea, coffee, opium, is destroyed only by Mind’s mastery of the body. This normal control is gained through divine strength and understanding. There is no enjoyment in getting drunk, in becoming a fool or an object of loathing; but there is a very sharp remembrance of it, a suffering inconceivably terrible to man’s self-respect. Puffing the obnoxious fumes of tobacco, or chewing a leaf naturally attractive to no creature except a loathsome worm, is at least disgusting.

I have mixed feelings on this one: I don’t think coffee and tea should be lumped with opium. I agree, one should not drink to excess (and if one is going to be driving one should abstain, or find a designated driver). I was not going to drink the beer, I was making bread, no one was going to get drunk or become “a fool, or object of loathing.” I also find smoking revolting, but I’ve not take up the habit since leaving Christian Science. It is interesting that Ms. Eddy refers to “alcoholic drinks” and not wine specifically, as she goes on to define WINE in the Glossary on p. 598:17

WINE. Inspiration; understanding. Error; fornication; temptation; passion.

In addition to the mention in the Glossary, wine is mentioned nine other times, on pages 32:3, 32:20, 33:2733:27, 35:19, 52:2953:1, 65:1, 114:12, 281:27282:1, and 321:19322:1. Chapter II, Atonement And Eucharist contains the most references to wine in the context of sacrament. (5) It is my understanding that Christian Scientists celebrate the “sacraments” of “baptism” and “communion” twice a year – when the Bible Lesson on “Sacrament” comes around. (6) Christian Science “sacrament” excludes the material elements of water, bread, and wine. Baptism (another “sacrament” in more traditional churches) occurs when the person is “submerged in Spirit.”(7) I’m not going to pretend to understand the theology and logic behind Ms. Eddy’s actions, but I do know many of my “Christian” friends were confused that I had never been baptized with water.

Wine is mentioned a second time in Chapter 2, on p. 52:2953:1, as the Pharisees criticize Jesus for being a “friend of publicans and sinners” Ms. Eddy jumps to Jesus’ defense stating “The latter accusation was true, but not in their meaning. Jesus was no ascetic. He did not fast as did the Baptist’s disciples; yet there never lived a man so far removed from appetites and passions as the Nazarene. He rebuked sinners pointedly and unflinchingly, because he was their friend; hence the cup he drank.”

On p.  65:1 in  Chapter 3, Marriage Ms. Eddy hopes that “Christ, Truth, be present at every bridal altar to turn the water into wine and to give to human life an inspiration by which man’s spiritual and eternal existence may be discerned.” I see this as similar to the passage in Chapter X, Science Of Being (p. 321:19322:1) where Ms. Eddy cites Jesus’ turning the water into wine as a demonstration of the power of Mind. By this logic, I suppose if you’re capable of turning water into wine, there’s nothing wrong with enjoying a glass or two. My Sunday School teachers often attempted to justify Jesus’ decision to change the water into wine by saying that “water wasn’t always safe to drink” — when I argued that Jesus’ could’ve headed them if they fell ill, the topic was usually changed, and quickly.

The final references to wine (other than the Glossary) are in  Chapter VI, Science, Theology, Medicine (114:12) and Chapter X, Science Of Being (281:27282:1), both allude to pouring new wine into old bottles. The message in Ch. VI:

in expressing the new tongue we must sometimes recur to the old and imperfect, and the new wine of the Spirit has to be poured into the old bottles of the letter.

stands in contrast to the message in Ch. X,

Divine Science does not put new wine into old bottles, Soul into matter, nor the infinite into the finite. Our false views of matter perish as we grasp the facts of Spirit.

A search for old wine/new bottles turned up a parable about new wine into old wineskins, even with my years of Sunday School attendance I don’t remember this one being mentioned — perhaps because it was about wine, or because I didn’t go around reading the New Testament for fun (8).

Ms. Eddy seems to want to have her wine two ways, as she states in her Glossary definition wine can be “inspiration” and “understanding” but too much of it leads to “error; fornication; temptation; passion” (what’s wrong with passion? Oh right, distracts from God). Allegorical wine is fine — abstract wine as a symbol of Divine Science is acceptable, but the imbibing of the juice of crushed fermented grapes? That is acknowledging, and therefore empowering, the material, which leads to error, and error  (fornication, temptation and passion), distract from God, which leads to death.

I find the Christian Scientists perpetual preoccupation with alcohol far more damaging than the occasional glass of wine itself. They claim that matter has no power over them they go out of their way to give it power — this is most apparent in situations regarding hospitality and culinary endeavors: they balk at a glass of wine offered as a gesture of hospitality, wrinkle their nose at liqueur over ice cream (or send it back and request it without the offending topping), and make a show of declining something cooked in a white wine sauce. If you didn’t know better you’d think all Christian Scientists were recovering alcoholics and the tiniest sip would send them headlong into a dionysian trance.

As I mentioned before, I don’t drink, but I have no problem emptying half a bottle of wine over a turkey breast to braise it for a holiday meal — I would like to add it was the most amazingly moist and flavorful turkey ever, even my Christian Science in-laws said so — and then looked aghast when I told them what I’d done, to their credit, they continued to eat, but did not go back for seconds. If you choose to imbibe alcohol, please do so responsibly, if you choose not to, that is your choice, but don’t hide behind Ms. Eddy’s bogus logic to back up your reasoning.

  1. Jesus Christ Superstar (1973) The Last Supper https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PJxKtOwgLdw
  2. http://www.witn.com/blogs/newsblog/69081682.html
  3. http://homecooking.about.com/library/archive/blalcohol6.htm
  4. I know, it “distracts” from one’s “relationship with God” (as does sex, drugs, idolatry — which could be anything from being “materialistic” to worshiping a golden calf)
  5. Ch. 2, Atonement & Eucharist 32:3, 32:20, 33:2733:27, 35:19, 52:2953:1
  6. An example of the weekly Bible Lesson on Sacrament from December 11, 1898 http://christian-science-csd.info/christian_science/biblelessons/christian-science-bible-lessons/0011.html
  7. http://www.lcms.org/ Lutheran Pamphlet on Christian Science
  8. I may touch on the old wine/new bottles parable in the future. The parable can be found here – http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/New_Wine_into_Old_Wineskins
  9. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dionysian_Mysteries

Passages from Science and Health via http://lineoflight.com/

By a Dark Remedy – Baddy Mary Eek

an anagram-inspired poem by Our Beveled Loader, the Focus Overridden, Key Ravaged Berry Mold

Nudism Beach Tents
Or a Floured Dab Velveteen Oriole
A Braced Emu Gritting
In the Interim, a Failed Evil
Mr Porn, with a Cad Leitmotif Intro

Elf Ogress Ad
Infestation of Finite fine Bile Foam
Prominent Rooter, Angel Lies
Plan Chirrup Tit
A Fluorescent Oleo Riff

Siphoning a Turmoil Visor
A Refulgences Shit Pillion
Gory Hunts, a Ceca Riflemen
Hale Retail Math
Lo, Teary Evil

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Ms. Eddy’s Inspiration Round 3

Welcome Ms. Eddy’s Inspiration Round 3 (for all posts on this topic see the MBE Inspiration tag). Answers to Ms. Eddy’s Inspiration Round 2 are now up.

As noted in Rounds 1 and 2, Ms. Eddy claims Science and Health with Key to the Scripture was divinely inspired and that her only source was the Bible, I have drawn from a variety of sources to compile the passages below. What work is hers? I’ll let you try and sort that out.

  • Science and Health by Mary Baker Eddy (the 1875 and 1994 editions)
  • Quimby Manuscript by Horatio Dresser
  • The Leiber Document found in Mrs. Eddy Purloins from Hegel (1936) by Walter M. Haushalter

** Please note I have temporarily allowed “anonymous” commenting. All first-time comments will be moderated. **

1) The time will come when the true God will be worshipped in spirit and truth, for God is a Spirit and not a man.

2) Matter is not the medium through which Spirit acts, or is manifested. Spirit is never individualized, and there is no medium for it. Spirit is infinite, because it is Intelligence, what then can limit it? Again, to Spirit Intelligence alone is Substance, and there is no matter. If the body was intelligent, it could never return to dust, for mind dies not, and Intelligence never developed from matter.

3) Jesus’ parable of “the sower” shows the care our Master took not to impart to dull ears and gross hearts the spiritual teachings which dulness and grossness could not accept. Reading the thoughts of the people, he said: “Give not that which is holy unto the dogs, neither cast ye your pearls before swine.”

4) The unity of God and man is made real by Spirit.

5) He travelled all through the land curing all sorts of diseases, preaching the kingdom of Science, and His fame went everywhere. Great multitudes followed Him and He went up into a higher state or Science and opened His mouth to them in truth or parables.

6) The beauty of matter passes away fading at length into decay and ugliness. But beauty itself is a thing of Life exempt from age or decay and to be this is must be a thing of Spirit.

7) Disease is the offspring of error

8) Matter and its claims of sin, sickness, and death are contrary to God, and cannot emanate from Him. There is no material truth. The physical senses can take no cognizance of God and spiritual Truth.

9) there is no truth, substance, life or intelligence in matter; all is infinite Mind. Thus matter has no reality; it is only the manifestation of Spirit.

10) That Spirit propagates matter or matter Spirit, is morally impossible.

Ms. Eddy’s Inspiration (Round 2)

Welcome Ms. Eddy’s Inspiration Round 2 (for all posts on this topic see the MBE Inspiration tag). Answers to Ms. Eddy’s Inspiration Round 1 are  now up.

As with Round 1, while Ms. Eddy claims Science and Health with Key to the Scripture was divinely inspired and that her only source was the Bible, I have drawn from a variety of sources to compile the passages below. What work is hers? I’ll let you try and sort that out.

  • Science and Health by Mary Baker Eddy (the 1875 and 1994 editions)
  • Quimby Manuscript by Horatio Dresser
  • The Leiber Document found in Mrs. Eddy Purloins from Hegel (1936) by Walter M. Haushalter

** Please note I have temporarily allowed “anonymous” commenting. All first-time comments will be moderated. **

1) science brings to light truth and its supremacy, universal harmony, God’s entirety, and matter’s nothingness.

2) Embryology affords no instance of one species producing another; of a serpent germinating a bird, or a lion a lamb.

3) What is the weapon that destroys this life or disease? Science. This is eternal, and that destroys all other life. This is to the animal life, death. So Science to the natural man is nothing that contains life. But this Science is a Principle. This is the only living and eternal life. This Science is what rose from the dead or natural life.

4) Mind is universal, the first and only cause of all that reality is.

5) To separate the truth from the error is a Science the knowledge of which teaches how to correct an error or disease, and in this knowledge is eternal life.

6) Therefore the divine Principle of Science, reversing the testimony of the physical senses, reveals man as harmoniously existent in Truth, which is the only basis of health; and thus Science denies all disease, heals the sick, overthrows false evidence, and refutes materialistic logic.

7) The difference is not as great between the opposite species as between matter and spirit, so utterly unlike in substance and intelligence. That spirit propagates matter or matter spirit, is morally impossible.

8) Wisdom is the true man and error the counterfeit.

9)  The optical focus is another proof of the illusion of material sense. On the eye’s retina, sky and tree-tops apparently join hands, clouds and ocean meet and mingle. The barometer, — that little prophet of storm and sunshine, denying the testimony of the senses, — points to fair weather in the midst of murky clouds and drenching rain.

10) What is disease? It is false reasoning. True scientific wisdom is health and happiness. False reasoning is sickness and death; and on these two modes of reasoning hang all of our happiness and misery.

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Ms. Eddy’s Inspiration (round 1)

Ms. Eddy claims Science and Health with Key to the Scripture was divinely inspired and that her only source was the Bible (see below).

With that in mind, I will now inform you that the passages below come from the following sources:

  • Science and Health by Mary Baker Eddy
  • Quimby Manuscript by Horatio Dresser
  • The Leiber Document found in Mrs. Eddy Purloins from Hegel (1936) by Walter M. Haushalter

I challenge you, dear readers, to sort out who wrote what — please share your answers in the comments. The correct answers will be shared in due time.

Please note I have temporarily suspended the requirement for a name/e-mail address when commenting so that “anonymous” commenters may speculate freely on the passages below. All comments will be moderated.

1) The contrast of good and evil is destroyed in God who is the only true reality. Since nothing is real and eternal, nothing is Spirit, but God and His Idea, evil has no reality. If God is admitted to be the only Mind and Life, there ceases to be any opportunity for evil.

2) Man is the expression of God’s being. If there ever was a moment when man did not express the divine perfection, then there was a moment when man did not express God, and consequently a time when Deity was unexpressed – that is, without entity.

3) Thus it is set forth that man is the supreme Idea born of Mind.

4) Eternal life is Christ or Science, this teaches us that matter is a mere shadow of substance which the natural man never saw nor can see, for it is never changed, is the same today and forever.

5) Since, then, man is the Idea of His principle, and the image and likeness of intelligent life, substance, and Spirit, he is beyond the reach of death. In the Science of Being nothing can harm or destroy him.

6) Man’s true consciousness is in the mental, not in any bodily or personal likeness to Spirit. Indeed, the body presents no proper likeness of divinity, though mortal sense would fain have us so believe.

7) Truth, Life and Love are God, the Soul of the universe and man, and the only substance of intelligence.

8) As disease is in accordance with the laws of man, a penalty is attached to every act so that everyone found guilty must be punished by the law.

9) God is infinite, the only Life, substance, Spirit or Soul, the only intelligence of the universe including man.

10) One of these elements is governed by Wisdom, the other by error, and as all belief is in this world of darkness, the truth comes in and explains the error.

For more on those claims, you can read the article entitled Mary Baker Eddy: Author by Peter J. Henniker-Heaton, From the June 1966 issue of The Christian Science Journal, http://journal.christianscience.com/shared/view/144gukeifl2?s=cs

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