Previously published on October 26, 2014, a few musings on Halloween, sin, disease and death. For other truly terrifying Halloween-related issues, see my October 31, 2012 post on the Protestant Reformation

We recently received the following e-mail from Kid1’s teacher:

IMPORTANT NOTICE: I am suggesting that you avoid downtown this Saturday. The now annual Zombie Walk Contest and Race is happening throughout most of the day and into the night. It is a gruesome and very frightening affair for young children. I do not want these awful images living in your children, or coming into the classroom.

Young children trust that the world is true. They take fairy tales to heart in a real way recognizing archetypal truths. A child can be told that something is pretend, then parrot that back to the adult. The truth for them is more that everything they encounter is real and they are in some way part of the encountered things or events.

Please shield your children from this zombie nonsense while they are so young, receptive and imitative.

The last sentence of the e-mail really stood out to me:

Please shield your children from this zombie nonsense while they are so young, receptive and imitative.

You could easily replace zombie with any number of things, as it is not just fairy tales that children take to heart in very real ways. They are quite observant little creatures and you should be mindful of the behavior you are modeling as well as what you say.

The idea of shielding children is not new, they’ve popped up time and time again in parenting books, and in Science and Health, Ms. Eddy reminds us that “children should be allowed to remain children in knowledge (Science & Health, p. 140). If Ms. Eddy was writing the e-mail today, she would likely replace zombie with the Christian Science Trinity of Doom — sin, disease and death — because really, isn’t that what Halloween is all about?*

I am not going to expose my children to the Christian (or Christian Science) notion of sin. The idea that without God they are nothing is harmful, the idea they are born sinners is ridiculous, the complex dogma that has grown around the mythology of a 2000 year old Jewish carpenter who may or may not have existed, and that has been translated and reinterpreted numerous times is not something I plan to expose my children to until they are old enough to realize it is a story, just like the stories of Zeus and Hera in Greek mythology, or the numerous other stories explaining creation.

Disease is a tricky one, there is a line between exposing children to things they are not ready for, and acknowledging that they are not feeling well. I am not going to tell my children about the Ebola outbreak in Africa (that would worry them unnecessarily), but I will comfort them when they are congested and can’t sleep well at night. When the children have questions, I will do my best to answer them in an age-appropriate way: Kid1 saw a photo of some men in hazmat suits cleaning up after some ebola victims and asked what was going on. My husband explained the men were wearing “special suits, like firemen wear” and they were “helping people” — both of these things were true, and Kid1 was satisfied with the answer. I’m sure my answers will change as they grow older, by then I hope to have gained more insight into how to answer difficult questions.

Ms. Eddy goes out of her way to emphasize the unreality of death. There are nearly 100 references to death in Science and Health, and she includes a definition of it in the Glossary. On p. 531, she defines death, as

An illusion, for there is no death; the unreal and untrue; the opposite of God, or Life.

Ms. Eddy goes on to rail about matter, unreality and the flesh, and I lose interest. Ms. Eddy and I live in two very different worlds: Ms. Eddy has returned to the universe, and I am still here. The children have asked a few questions about death, and I have tried to be honest with them. No, [the deceased] is not coming back. We will only see them again in photographs (and possibly on video), we will always have our memories of them, and we can honor their memories by living a full life.

When they are a little older, I will share with them the piece from NPR’s All things Considered: Planning Ahead Can Make a Difference in the End that talks about why you want a physicist to speak at your funeral. I will also share with them the piece by Rev. Michael Dowd, Death: Sacred, Necessary, Real, which beautifully touches on the theme of the positive role of death in the Universe without being creepy.

Young children trust that the world is true.

The children have already been exposed to “zommies” — they’ve watched my husband play Minecraft, but those are very different than zombies walking down Main Street, SmallTown USA. They know the zommies in Minecraft aren’t real, that would be silly, the world is not made of pixelated bricks!

image via http://www.planetminecraft.com/project/zombie-arena-1244230/

This zombie is OBVIOUSLY NOT going to be walking down the street any time soon.  image via http://www.planetminecraft.com/project/zombie-arena-1244230/

Why do they know these things? Mommy and Daddy told them so, and they’ve seen for themselves — they don’t look like Minecraft characters. There is the grey zone, with things like Santa Claus, and angels — I’m still sorting out how to deal with those, but I feel quite strongly that I will not pile upon my children the burden of nonsense that sin, disease, and death are somehow their fault. I will not fill their nightmares with images of zombies, the false idea that sin brings sickness, or the confusing mental gymnastics required to pretend to comprehend unreality of matter.

* I’m being sarcastic there. I don’t have any problems with Halloween, but I do feel it can be a Bit Too Much for small children so we stick with very low-key celebrations.


Agape: I love you, let me control you

Originally published Dec. 1, 2013 being re-published now, as a follow-up piece to the one run on Valentine’s Day

A while back I wrote a popular post about Love, where I talked about 1 Corinthians 13:13 (faith, hope and love). As much as I dislike Paul, it didn’t stop us from having 1 Corinthians 13:4-7 read at our wedding.

  • Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud.It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. 

I agree with Paul, as a member of society (and as a parent) I try to be patient, kind, etc. because makes for more pleasant interactions with my fellow humankind. I’m going to disagree about the notion that God (as described in the Bible) is Love, I don’t care what 1 John 4:16 says, God is not Love.

Biblical God is not patient, or kind. He is envious, boastful and proud. He dishonors others, he is very self-seeking, easily angered, and keeps a record of wrongs. He does not protect, trust, or preserve. Don’t believe me? Go read the Old Testament.

Old Testament God uses the “why do you make me so mad? you make me so crazy! look what you made me do!” excuse a lot, as well as the “if you love me, you will do all of these things OR ELSE” line.

Continue reading

What is Love?

Originally published on Oct. 17, 2015, and cross-posted today on ExChristianScience.com. Re-published today, in honor of Valentine’s Day. 

While Buddhists focus on the Rights of the Noble Eightfold Path, Christian Scientists focus on things like “the right hand soap,” the “right Sunday School teacher” and the “right” dictionary.

Yes, the right dictionary.

You might think all dictionaries are the same, but you’d be wrong. If you’re a good Christian Scientist you spend a good deal of time “with the books” and to understand them better you spend even more time looking at words and trying to diving their deeper spiritual interpretation.

Now, I’m no expert on “which dictionary is right” but I have been involved in marathon discussions of what words “really mean” and how they “apply” to me. While this can be an interesting philosophical exercise and a fun way to spend a lunch hour, it is usually a waste of time.

I happen to have a few spare moments this morning so I decided to compare definitions with the help of a quick google search for “definition of charity.” 40,000,000 results in 0.34 seconds later I decided to pick the top five or so well-known dictionaries to compare.

Why “charity?” In 1 Corinthians 13:13 Paul reminds us of the importance of “faith, hope and —” and the greatest of these is “—.” The the translations* all agree on “faith” and “hope” but the last, and most important thing is either translated as “love” or “charity” which might seem like a little thing, but with words and their meanings being important such an alternative interpertations or inconsistency should be exhaustively studied.

Google defines charity as:

char·i·ty/ˈCHaritē/ Noun:

The voluntary giving of help, typically money, to those in need.

Help or money given in this way.

Synonyms: alms – mercy – beneficence – benevolence – philanthropy


char·i·ty noun \ˈcher-ə-tē, ˈcha-rə-\  plural char·i·ties

: benevolent goodwill toward or love of humanity
a : generosity and helpfulness especially toward the needy or suffering; also : aid given to those in need b : an institution engaged in relief of the poor c : public provision for the relief of the needy
a : a gift for public benevolent purposes b : an institution (as a hospital) founded by such a gift
4: lenient judgment of others

char·i·ty (chr-tn. pl. char·i·ties

1. Provision of help or relief to the poor; almsgiving.
2. Something given to help the needy; alms.
3. An institution, organization, or fund established to help the needy.
4. Benevolence or generosity toward others or toward humanity.
5. Indulgence or forbearance in judging others. See Synonyms at mercy.
6. often Charity Christianity The theological virtue defined as love directed first toward God but also toward oneself and one’s neighbors as objects of God’s love.


char·i·ty  [char-i-tee]  noun, plural char·i·ties.

1.generous actions or donations to aid the poor, ill, or helpless: to devote one’s life to charity.
2.something given to a person or persons in need; alms: She asked for work, not charity.
3. a charitable act or work.
4. a charitable fund, foundation, or institution: He left his estate to a charity.
5. benevolent feeling, especially toward those in need or in disfavor: She looked so poor that we fed her out of charity.

Oxford Dictionaries

Definition of charity noun (plural charities)

  • 1an organization set up to provide help and raise money for those in need:the charity provides practical help for homeless people
  • [mass noun] the body of organizations viewed collectively as the object of fundraising or of donations:the proceeds of the sale will go to charity
  • 2 [mass noun] the voluntary giving of help, typically in the form of money, to those in need:the care of the poor must not be left to private charity
  • help or money given to those in need:an unemployed teacher living on charity
  • 3 [mass noun] kindness and tolerance in judging others:she found it hard to look on her mother with much charity
  • archaic love of humankind, typically in a Christian context:faith, hope, and charity

Websters is the only dictionary that lists “benevolent goodwill toward or love of humanity” as a definition. Dictionary.com comes close, with “benevolent feeling” but it is predominantly aimed at “those in need or in disfavor.” Both the Oxford and Free Dictionaries list a “Christian” context/definition, but don’t seem to be able to agree on quite what that is.

This brings up the BIG QUESTION of what did Paul really mean? Are we supposed take what he says at face value and be nice to all of humanity, or give money to the poor?

This is quite a conundrum. Is there perhaps some deeper meaning? I don’t really want to associate with the poor or give money to the needy. I know! I’ll put aside those moral issues and “dig deeper” in the text. I’ll probably also decide that I like “love” more than “charity” even though Ms. Eddy used the King James translation which says “charity.”

After all, God is Love and love is also more nebulous of a concept. God will provide for the needy. What is love anyway? Does Love with a capital “L” mean something different than “love” with a lowercase “l”? Time to get out the dictionary again.

*This also brings up the debate over which translation of the Bible is the best. While the general consensus seems to be that the KJV is the “best” because that’s what Ms. Eddy used, there are some groups who think the New International Version should be used as well for the “more approachable” language (it is also what is used in most of Principia’s religion courses which require a Bible). I also had a professor at college who would the Bible in their original Hebrew and Greek when she wanted to delve in.