Debunking this article from the Christian Science Monitor

From Lucia Greenhouse, shared with permission.


Debunking this article from the Christian Science Monitor:
“Why do some parents choose not to vaccinate? (From the Christian Science Monitor (Feb 3, 2015) By Amanda Paulson, Staff writer FEBRUARY 3, 2015

It’s a question that’s being asked with increased intensity and often hostility in the wake of a measles outbreak at Disneyland. Parents who decide not to vaccinate their children are often well educated and cite complex reasons….”

http://www.csmonitor.com/USA/Society/2015/0203/Measles-outbreak-Why-do-some-parents-choose-not-to-vaccinate

Full disclosure: I probably–no, definitely, fall into the “hostility” camp for reasons that I make plain in my memoir “fathermothergod.” (Crown Publishers, 2011.) In the days to come I will be delving more deeply into the Christian Science Church’s response to the measles outbreaks (or lack thereof) , and the Christian Science Monitor’s curious coverage of the recent and very newsworthy Measles/vaccine exemption debate–but my knee-jerk reaction to today’s piece in the Christian Science Monitor is this: in 1800 words , Christian Science gets a mere ten, buried almost half-way down the piece. This is it:
“(Many Christian Science families also seek religious exemptions from vaccines.)”

The Christian Science Church has been–until relatively recently, anyway– a strong advocate–and a powerful one too boot– for religious exemptions to states’ vaccination laws. Why? The Christian Science Church’s most devout members practice radical reliance on prayer over medicine. And they do this because for over a hundred and twenty-five years, radical reliance has been the linchpin of religious observance in the practice of Christian Science. But what is noticeably absent from the Monitor’s story today: Christian Science affiliated institutions have been ground zero for well-documented, vaccine-preventable outbreaks: in 1985 an outbreak of measles at The Principia College (for Christian Scientists), resulting in three deaths and over 120 confirmed or suspected cases. In 1985, and again in 1989, there were measles outbreaks at Christian Science summer camps (the first in Colorado, the second in Missouri) which subsequently spread to the campers’ home-states; In 1994, an outbreak, again at the Principia schools, that spread beyond the two campuses and led to a significant public health problem, infecting 241 people. (Keep in mind, too, that Christian Science doctrine refutes the “theory” of contagion.”)*

PS: the byline. Amanda Paulson. Ring a bell? Think: Christian Science, Politics, Finance, Clout.  Father is Hank Paulson, Christian Scientist, former CEO Goldman Sachs, former Treasury Secretary circa 2008. Amanda: where do you stand on vaccines and religious exemptions?

*http://childrenshealthcare.org

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Part V – The Twilight of a God (xxv-xxxiii)

This is part of a series of posts about Mrs. Eddy. The biography of a virginal mind by Francis Dakin. For all posts on this topic, see the tag the Biography of a Virginal Mind


When Alexander had given way to fears of supernatural influence, his mind grew so disturbed and so easily alarmed that, if the least unusual or extraordinary thing happened, he thought it a prodigy or presage, and his court was thronged with diviners and priests whose business it was to sacrifice and purify. . .

So miserable a thing is incredulity . . . and so miserable, also superstition which like water where the level has been lowered, flowing in and never stopping, fills the mind with slavish fears and follies. . . . — Plutarch

Part V is longest and final section of Dakin’s biography of Mrs. Eddy, and Dakin’s choice of Plutarch quote has a heavy air of foreboding doom. Ms. Eddy’s health and mental state have been continually brought into question through out the book, and they continue to come into play in The Twilight of a God.

Dakin seems to be slightly in awe of Ms. Eddy throughout the The Twilight of a God. Ms. Eddy continues to have a steady stream of constantly changing students/attendants and has done her best to keep the Board of Directors in the dark about her declining health. By this point, there have been several published accounts speculating her demise, all of which have been met with her firm written rebuttal.

To counter Augusta Stetson’s amazing church in New York, Ms. Eddy has the Board of Directors build her a grand Mother Church in Boston. The amazing “demonstration” of the Mother Church’s makes world-wide headlines, and Ms. Eddy’s absence at the opening is noticed. To help manage her publicity issues, Ms. Eddy creates the Committee on Publications, to make sure the “correct” views on Christian Science –and her well being– are published.

Ms. Eddy’s attempts at PR-control fail and the World runs an unflattering piece calling her “enfeebled” (p. 401). Dakin disagrees with this assessment, in his view, Ms. Eddy may be in poor health, but she is not being used as a puppet for the Board of Directors, or any one else. The World’s piece concerns Ms. Eddy’s son, George Glover and soon Ms. Eddy finds herself embroiled in what has been termed the Next Friends lawsuit (1). The looming question, is Ms. Eddy mentally fit to manage her affairs? The suit is never resolved, and is withdrawn. Ms. Eddy’s response to all this is to direct the Board of Directors to found the Christian Science Monitor so that she may control the news as she sees fit.

During this time, Ms. Eddy moves from Pleasant View to Chestnut Hill (outside of Boston), because the M.A.M. there has gotten to be too much to handle. M.A.M. continues to follow and plague Ms. Eddy with Agusta Stetson’s power and influence coming to the forefront. Dakin gives several pages of unique (and paranoid) reasoning by Ms. Eddy’s,  and eventually Ms. Stetson is excommunicated by the Board of Directors.

At this stage I would love to read something from the Board of Director’s perspective on this entire affair. Ms. Eddy has carefully set up her church with bylaws making it impossible for anyone but herself to change anything. Aside from a few bequests, the bulk of her property is to go to the Church when she passes, and Ms. Eddy is the Church. I agree with Dakin, the Board of Directors must be quite distressed from 1901 when the first rumors of her death began, until she finally passed from “natural causes, probably pneumonia” on December 3, 1910.

When Ms. Eddy died there was no “leader” to take over, just the Board, and the Manual of the Mother Church which Ms. Eddy had arbitrarily added to as fear and M.A.M. inspired her, as many of her by-laws were aimed at preventing Ms. Stetson from gaining more influence and challenging Ms. Eddy’s position, a proposition Dakin finds extremely unlikely.

  1. http://www.academia.edu/911998/The_Next_Friends_Suit_Mary_Baker_Eddy_and_The_Church_of_Christ_Scientist_on_Trial, http://cdnc.ucr.edu/cgi-bin/cdnc?a=d&d=SFC19070418.2.8#

Junior Christian Science Bible Teaching Show & the Devil in the Church

Although I was raised in Christian Science and a regular attendee of Christian Science Sunday School until my twentieth birthday, I had never heard of, or seen, Junior Christian Science Bible Teaching Show until someone left a few links to YouTube videos in the comments of my post Wanna be a sheep!

I was intrigued, to say the least, and slightly horrified, so I did the responsible thing and googled it. Apparently Junior Christian Science Bible Teaching Show ran from 1994-2008. TVTropes has an awesome summary

The Junior Christian Science Bible Lesson Program was a Los Angeles Public Access program run by songwriter, singer and puppeteer David Liebe Hart. Spanning an impressive run of nearly 20 years, The Junior Christian Science Bible Lesson Program was just that – a Christian scientist Children’s Program. It featured Liebe Hart controlling a cast of animal puppets and ventriloquist dummies while delivering lectures on the dangers of alcohol and drugs, Bible hymns in which said puppets would sing, and very, very strange video editing and visual effects. It has been hailed as the most bizarre children’s program ever conceived.  (1)

I then looked up David Liebe Hart, he has a wikipedia page, which includes the fascinating tidbit that he believes he was “was abducted by Corinian aliens (from the Corendor system), who took skin and blood samples from him. He insists that aliens look like humans as opposed to the notion in pop culture that they’re little green men.” (2)

Both Hart’s Vice and  LA Record interviews talk about Christian Science. The LA Record interview goes a bit more in-depth and talks about his Sunday School experience, and his puppet work.

Jim Henson was your Sunday School teacher?
David Liebe Hart: Yeah, in the Christian Science church. He wanted me to do a puppet show teaching kids to say no to drugs and Bible stories. At first I didn’t want to do it, and he said it would help me advance my career… I first did my first three shows from a woman who was a Christian Science practitioner in Yucaipa, California. And then we sent them to Boston to be used for the Monitor Channel, but the Monitor Channel went out of business and they sold the Monitor Channel to the Discovery Channel—all the equipment and all the stuff. And so they told me to continue with the show on Public Access and the Christian Science church was okay until I started doing more contemporary music and I started mixing in Asian priests. And ….They didn’t like that—they’re very conservative. Very Republican. (3)

Hart goes on to discuss racial discrimination within the church and points out a fair bit of hypocrisy:

I love Christian Science. The teachings are good. But the people aren’t practicing what they preach. Like they have a Bible lesson on love, and they discriminate against interracial dating or people that want to join their church who are colored. Now they’ll cover it up by having a token one and refusing anyone else that’s joining (3)

Racial discrimination in the Christian Science Church seems to be a theme in Mr. Heart’s interviews, and it shows up in some of his non-puppet-related work.  Mr. Heart and his associate Adam Papagan, have produced a song entitled The Devil’s in Church (13th Church of Christ, Scientist), which calls out the Christian Science Church on segregation and racial issues. (4)

Mr. Heart’s views on Christian Science and racial issues is slightly harsher than that of Christian Science practitioner and teacher Bettie Thompson, who acknowledges that there have been (and sometimes still are subtle racial undertones) within the Christian Science movement. (5)

In Mr. Heart’s perspective, the Christian Science Church has a long way to go before it is free of the Devil, or Malicious Animal Magnetism/Mortal Mind as Ms. Eddy liked to call it. However, Mr. Heart seems to have been inspired enough by Ms. Eddy’s teachings to have produced fourteen years of very unique puppetry on public access TV.


Further Reading

End Notes

    1. http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Main/TheJuniorChristianScienceBibleLessonProgram
    2. en.wikipedia.org/wiki/David_Liebe_Hart
    3. http://larecord.com/directors/2009/08/14/david-liebe-hart-and-adam-papagan-interview-if-you-rule-your-mind  (full text pdf: LA REVIEW- DAVID LIEBE HART AND ADAM PAPAGAN- IF YOU RULE YOUR MIND)
    4. The Devil’s in the Church (13th Church Christ, Scientist) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=k9Mm6N02PeU, http://davidandadam.bandcamp.com/track/the-devils-in-church-13th-church-of-christ-scientist
    5. Getting Beyond Segregated Sundays http://journal.christianscience.com/shared/view/hlso0boiyi?s=t

renew a focus on our primary resources for spiritual growth – shut down the questioning

It seems the “Circle of faith” community at christianscience.com is closing down. While I never spent much time there, I did enjoy the idea that The Mother Church would permit “open idalogue among Christian Scientists, their fellow Christians, and people of other faith traditions.”
Screen Shot 2014-07-16 at 2.58.00 PMThe reason given?

we feel this is an opportunity to pause with some of our online activities and renew a focus on our primary resources for spiritual growth — our Pastor: the Holy Bible and Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures by Mary Baker Eddy.

Fear not little flock, the Circle of Faith blogs will remain up — you’re still welcome to comment there, but the discussion boards? Those will be gone as of August 2014.

Screen Shot 2014-07-16 at 2.57.49 PMIn skimming through them earlier, I found some great “conversations” including

And gems like this:

Understanding illusory nature of matter is essential and indispensable for Christian Science. An idea of unreality of matter is not a new one. It is as old as Hinduism, or at least 4000 years old. Hindu religion teaches that material world is an illusion – Maya, a dream of mind based on sensory perception. Buddha 500 years earlier than Jesus also taught about the nature of material world. To Western thought unreality of matter can be explained from subject-object frame of reference. If we look at the tree from one side and then change our subjective position, the tree will remain the same even in case subjective picture has changed. The tree can be dry from one side and wet from the other. It can have more branches on visible side, but lack branches on the other. Based on subjective perception, can we say that the tree is dry or wet? Can we count all branches just looking at the tree from one side? What subjective picture of mind can we create on the basis of our sensual perception?

They go on at some length and then conclude:

To understand all miracles of Jesus, it is crucial to realize that not only “matter” is unreal and subjective, but the whole world is unreal. It seems a very radical idea and a far stretch . But consider the fact that the “world” depends on self and its subjectivity. The world can be one for one conscious self identity and different for the other. There is a world of a schizophrenic and a world of a saint. The world of the same tree is different whether it is a botanist who looks at the tree, or a tree chopper. The world can contain all sorts of projections, attachments, fears and beliefs, which are not real. So, if the world is unreal, what is real? God is real, Spirit is real. God is much bigger than any world our perception and imagination can grasp. And Spirit belongs God, comes from God and returns to God. Spirit is permanent and immovable in the world. There is only one Law Spirit obeys before God. It is described in the words of Jesus, “Give to God what is God’s.”

With all these delightful variations, interpretations, and legitimate questioning of what Ms. Eddy’s claims, it is no wonder that they’re closing down the forums and limiting comments to CSP-authorized posts.

I highly recommend checking out the forums before they’re closed in August! https://community.christianscience.com/community/ecumenical_and_interfaith

Fallen Dictators at the Mapparium

The Christian Science Plaza complex in Boston is in the news, and the column from the Boston Globe is certainly worth the read:  “Luxury housing: Don’t just build for Kremlin cronies, global elite” (1).

The Four Seasons Hotel and Luxury Condo Tower appears to be on former Church property, a Boston Globe article (2), but that does not stop Christian Science from being mentioned almost half a dozen times:

The $700 million project — next to the Christian Science Plaza — got a huge boost Tuesday when Four Seasons Hotels and Resorts said it will manage the hotel and residences in the building, promising to bring a new level of opulence to the already pricey Back Bay.

The project at the Christian Science Plaza by developer Carpenter & Co. will make Boston one of only a handful of cities with two Four Seasons hotels.

The architects shaped the building in an equilateral triangle with rounded corners, a form that is designed to mirror the geometry of the neighboring Christian Science Mother Church.

The development of the property, formerly owned by the First Church of Christ, Scientist, was approved by the Boston Redevelopment Authority last September.

My favorite quote comes from the column discussing the tentative new occupants of the luxury condo (1).

Fallen dictators who buy condos there may enjoy checking out their former domains in the Mapparium at the Mary Baker Eddy Library.

The thought of fallen dictators enjoying the Mary Baker Eddy Library for the Betterment of Humanity makes me smile.


  1. http://www.bostonglobe.com/opinion/2014/07/05/luxury-housing-don-just-build-for-kremlin-cronies-global-elite/tgjxnRTK1Dfa3XTP51THUO/story.html
  2. http://www.bostonglobe.com/business/2014/06/10/new-residential-tower-will-join-offices-boston-skyline/WVLKv4IqrgfCgq8ldup1kJ/story.html
  3. http://www.bostonglobe.com/business/2014/06/10/new-residential-tower-will-join-offices-boston-skyline/WVLKv4IqrgfCgq8ldup1kJ/picture.html

TMC Withdrawals – now via e-mail!

The following is a guest post by fellow blogger Emerging Gently (http://emergegently.wordpress.com/). For more about Guest Posts & their Contributors, please visit https://kindism.org/guest-posts-contributors/, for more about Leaving Christian Science https://kindism.org/csresources/leaving-christian-science/


I joined The Mother Church at the ripe ol’ age of 12, when good little Christian Scientist kids (the ones that have survived that long) are old enough to join. It was at the second admission of members (there’s two per year) in 1979. I was so proud, so were my parents. I was turning out to be a good little Christian Scientist, despite some doubts I had, even then.

I’ll be honest, I wasn’t always a Good Little Christian Scientist. Twelve year old me became a teenager, and I enjoyed some of the things teenagers enjoy, like partying, drinking, drugs, stuff like that. More years went by that I didn’t pay the annual Per Capita Tax ($1.00 US) than when I did. As an adult, the largest donation I sent was $50.00. Sometimes I read the Lesson, more often I just tried once in awhile, or just didn’t. It was a habit I just couldn’t seem to develop.

I did go to Christian Science summer camp, and sexually repressed and bigoted Principia College. I was involved with Prin Club, Christian Science youth groups, and I did Class Instruction and Association. I also toiled away for 10 years at The Mother Ship in Boston. Yeah, I put on the appearances. Inside seethed the doubts, just begging to be let out for a walk. My insides were sometimes like the old Cherokee Legend of the Two Wolves–one bad, one good, always in conflict inside all of us. Which one wins? The one you feed. I always tried to feed the Christian Science wolf.

Fast forward to a few years ago. I’m grieving the loss of both of my parents, who died miserably from untreated medical conditions because they chose to radically rely on Christian Science (which didn’t do anything for them). I was ripped apart verbally by my Christian Science Teacher for taking my dad [gasp] to the hospital in a bid to save his life. I couldn’t be presented with more stark evidence of the utter failure of Christian Science. Basically, it is bullsh*t. Complete and utter bullsh*t.

I withdrew from my Association, and all other entanglements, and came to the decision I must do the same for my long-standing membership in The Mother Church. So, in 2011, I wrote them a letter, and snail mailed it off (one of probably five things I snail mailed that year). I never got a reply back, and really didn’t give it much thought–it probably got lost by either Canada Post or the US Mail, I figured. Fast forward again to the middle of last year, and my friend and fellow blogger here at Kindism is posting her story of terminating her TMC membership. I realize, “hey, I never got that nice little letter or fistful of CS periodical subscription offers…don’t they love me enough to beg for me to change my mind?” I felt like a jilted lover! I resolved to get that acknowledgement I so craved, but my printer would have none of it. So, the follow-up letter remained trapped on my hard drive, and I once again forgot all about it.

Fast forward to 2014. Ms. Kindism, myself, and others are having an on-line discussion that leads again to withdrawing from TMC, and my Kindism friend posts that you can withdraw via e-mail! Yay, I say! I don’t have to worry about a cantankerous printer or the fickle postal services of two countries! Quickly, I dash off my nicely worded e-mail:

Hello,

Sometime in 2011, I mailed a letter asking to be withdrawn from membership in The Mother Church. I never received a response or confirmation. I would like to confirm that I am no longer a member of The Mother Church. If it turns out that I still am a member, please consider this a formal request to withdraw my membership.

Here are my details:

[my name]
Year I joined: November, 1979

I apologize that I do not remember my membership number or have it handy.

The last addresses you would have possibly had on file for me would be:

[A PO box in Massachusetts]

Or possibly:

[An address near where I now live, but not where I now live]

I am no longer available at either address. Please inform me if you need a current mailing address and I will send it to you.

Please acknowledge receipt of this e-mail as soon as possible. Thank you!

~[my name]
E-mail: [my.email.address@iamnotgonnatellyou.com]

The very next morning, I got a reply back from a nice woman at the Clerk’s office, confirming that they had received my previous withdrawal request, and I was indeed not a member of The Mother Ship. I guess they didn’t want to beg me to stay. I guess they just didn’t want me. Oh well…

Oddly, it was a bittersweet feeling. On the one hand, I harbour a deep hatred of Christian Science and what I’ve seen it do to my family and to others. However, I’ve also seen and confirmed the closure of a very big chapter in my life. I feel a bit like an animal that’s been let out of a cage. I revel in being free, but there’s that stupid little part of me that misses the familiar comfort of the cage.

So, if you’ve left Christian Science, and wondering about that next step, it’s easy! Just do it! Rip that old band-aid off, and be free! Just e-mail clerk@christianscience.com…I did it…so can you!

Portraits of Our Beloved Leader

Propaganda & the image of Mary Baker Eddy

marybakereddyFP

fig. 1 classic, commonly used “kindly grandmother” image via http://www.mbeinstitute.org/

I was required to take an art history class for my major in college, it didn’t really pertain to my major, but it fell into some outdated requirements so I spent 50 minutes every morning for ten weeks in a dimly-lit, too-warm room, being lectured at (basically a review of the previous nights readings) by a flamboyantly dressed petite woman using staticy microphone. I think we were  looking at slides of French impressionist art. We had to write a Big Paper (10 pages or so) for the class so I wrote about how Napoleonic art was state-sponsored propaganda. It was more about history than art, and it did not go over well with my professor. The teacher did not get a good review, I did not get a good grade, and it was the only art-related class I took at Principia.

If the Christian Science Church has an art-propaganda movement afoot in how they portray their Beloved Leader, the Discover and Founder of Christian Science, Mary Baker Eddy, I’m going to abide by Halon’s razor, and assume this is not a malicious plot, simply blundering on their part as there are many, many unflattering images of Ms. Eddy on the internet.

That said, I don’t doubt that there is a committee of some sort that carefully controls how Ms. Eddy’s image is controlled in official Mother Church literature, propaganda, and Branch Church activities.

fig. 2 "determined yet serene woman" via http://mbeinstitute.org/PWIntro.htm

fig. 2 “determined yet serene woman” via http://mbeinstitute.org/PWIntro.htm

One of the most common images of Ms. Eddy is one of her looking serenely off to the left, white hair neatly tucked away, like everyone’s kindly grandmother (fig 1). This image often hangs in Reading Rooms, Sunday Schools and the occasional church foyer or the preparation rooms of the First and Second Readers. As images of Ms. Eddy go, it is not unflattering, although I am left wondering who, or what she is looking at.

The other well-known images of Ms. Eddy come from book-cover art. Martin Gardner’s The Healing Revelations of Mary Baker Eddy uses the “determined yet serene woman” (fig. 2) while Stephen Gottschalk’s Rolling Away the Stone uses a variation of the commonly used kindly grandmother theme (fig. 3).

fig. 3 variation of "kindly grandmother" image via http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mary_Baker_Eddy

fig. 3 variation of “kindly grandmother” image via http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mary_Baker_Eddy

It is interesting to note, that in in fig. 3, one of the variations of the “kindly grandmother” theme, Ms. Eddy wears a small crown that was given to her by her students. MJSmith, at Ark of Truth-Mother’s Hood has several excellent pieces discussing the crown and it’s role, as well as other symbolism relating to Ms. Eddy, her role as the woman God-crowned in Revelation, and symbolism in Christian Science in general. MJSmith points out that in some copies of Fig. 3, the crown has been removed, however is wearing the crown in the image on the cover of Gottschalk’s book. MJSmith talks at length about the disappearance of Ms. Eddy’s crown in Deletion a feign to idolatry and the disappearing and reappearing images of Ms. Eddy’s image in Science and Health in More on Mary Baker Eddy’s picture in Science and Health. There are also excellent articles about the imagery in Christ and Christmas, the stained glass windows of the Mother Church.

The cover image of Mary Baker Eddy, by Gillian Gill breaks (fig. 4) away from the “determined yet serene woman” and “kindly grandmother” themes. Gill’s book uses a much starker, younger Ms. Eddy, shrouded in a thick black shawl, and oppressive-looking dress, a very different from the image of Ms. Eddy (fig. 5) in her finery. In fig. 5, Ms. Eddy does look like a bit like a leaderpolitical figure, or the Pope greeting the faithful followers, above them all on a balcony, gracing them with her presence. Her hat looks like a crown, and her robes are vaguely royal in nature.

fig. 5 via christianscienceflorida.org

fig. 5 via christianscienceflorida.org

In my experience, figures 1 and 2 are the most commonly used by The Mother Church and the Branch Churches. Fig. 3 is a bit too Miss Havisham to be widely displayed. MJSmith would likely disagree, and scream conspiracy! but really, the image of Ms. Eddy with a crown in rather lavish surroundings may be a bit much for anyone but the most devout of Christian Scientist to handle. Fig. 4 has come into wider use solely because of the Gill biography – I will admit, even before my departure from Christian Science, the haunting eyes staring out from the cover have kept it from being added to my collection. Fig. 5 is rather grandiose, and not used quite as often. The Mother Church does their best to portray Ms. Eddy as a simple seeker of truth, inspired only by the Bible.

“The Bible was my textbook. It answered my questions as to how I was healed; but the Scriptures had to me a new meaning, a new tongue. Their spiritual signification appeared; and I apprehended for the first time, in their spiritual meaning, Jesus’ teaching and demonstration, and the Principle and rule of spiritual Science and metaphysical healing, — in a word, Christian Science.” (Retrospection and Introspection, p. 25).

That she went on to found a religion with headquarters that have prime Boston real estate, several grand homesinfluential congressional lobbing group, and made quite a bit of money from her over 400 editions of her “divinely inspired” work Science and Health are unimportant. Fig. 5 shatters the image of Ms. Eddy as a simple seeker of truth, and reminds everyone of her “beloved leader” role.