Healing and the nature of humanity: A Christian Scientist’s view

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RELIGION

Commentary: Healing and the nature of humanity: A Christian Scientist’s view

Diane R. Hanover, Christian Science Committee on Publication for Arizona

Nov 3, 2016

Is human experience limited to what can be measured with scientific instruments? If not, what is the nature of reality? A Herald column (published Sept. 23) raised these and other issues that thinking people, religious and non-religious alike, have wrestled with through the ages. As a Christian Scientist, I agree that questions so important need answers grounded in reason and practical experience.

More than a century ago, as sociologist Emile Durkheim gathered data to support his theory that religion is the product of human rather than divine activity, religious leader Mary Baker Eddy sought evidence for a “scientific” Christianity based on spiritual law. Eddy viewed the unmatched life and teachings of Jesus Christ as the supreme example of divine truth. But she

agreed with Durkheim that believing wasn’t enough. As she wrote in Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures, “The hour has struck when proof and demonstration, instead of opinion and dogma, are summoned to the support of Christianity…”

Eddy felt that Christians need to live and demonstrate—not merely preach—Jesus’ teachings by following in some measure his example of healing sickness and sin.

For her, genuine Christian healing wasn’t “supernatural,” a matter of praying for miracles, or even “having enough faith,” as one might have in a placebo. As she understood it, turning to God in prayer for healing, as Jesus’ disciples had, involves deepening of character, genuine moral uprising, spiritual growth in grace and understanding, the purifying of a heart in communion with God.

What was the result? In Eddy’s day, William James, a leading secular philosopher and trained physician, said of the healings that were occurring: “I assuredly hold no brief for any of these healers… But their facts are patent and startling…”

More recently, a rigorous “Empirical Analysis of Medical Evidence in Christian Science Testimonies of Healing, 1969-1988” published by the denomination examined more than 10,000 instances of physical healing in published accounts. Some 2,337 of these comprised significant healings of medically diagnosed conditions, involving hundreds of specialists, hospitals, x-rays,

and follow-up examinations, including 222 cases given terminal or life-threatening prognoses by physicians.

The diagnosed conditions healed included cancer (27 healings), tumor (42), polio (16), tuberculosis (68), pneumonia (38), heart disorders (88), kidney disorders (23), broken bones (203), childbirth complications (71), meningitis (9), appendicitis (24, 8 acute) scarlet fever (16), rheumatic fever (16), cataract (11), diabetes (12), pernicious anemia (13), rheumatoid or degenerative arthritis (12), gangrene (2), glaucoma (3), hepatitis (7), leukemia (3), multiple sclerosis (6), blindness (7), vision deficiencies (48), goiter (13), curvature of the spine (8), epilepsy (13), crossed eyes (3), and cleft palate.

Such healings have often been dismissed as “obviously” impossible—the fantasy of deluded believers—or as examples of some as-yet-unexplained power of the human mind. To this day, objective examination of prayer and religious healing by physical scientists remains infrequent and problematic.

Yet these healings happened. Even in this technological era, it’s hard to brush aside so many experiences. As a Christian Scientist wrote in a church publication, denial and disbelief “can’t erase the simple, striking fact of healing, often in defiance of medical expectation, in so many thousands of people’s lives.”

Of course, a list of conditions healed doesn’t illumine the individual human encounter with the power of God, divine Love. The practice of healing is humbling, and no thoughtful person would say that authentic Christianity is easy. Christian Scientists are deeply conscious of how much more we have to learn about this power and practice of Love and how it heals.

Still, such healing has tremendous meaning, not only for Christian Scientists but for humanity—for understanding who and what we are as human beings. Are we just transient biological packages, or is there more to each of us, an irreducible spiritual identity at our core? As the Book of Job declares, “There is a spirit in man.” The great breakthroughs of spiritual inspiration that have moved humanity forward haven’t necessarily fit what people at the time considered explicable in material terms—and still don’t today.

Diane R. Hanover is a lifelong Christian Scientist, raised in Tucson, where she serves an appointment to represent the branch Churches of Christ, Scientist, in Arizona.

News Release – Annual Meeting 2016

The following news information was made available to the press regarding the Annual Meeting of the First Church of Christ, Scientist, held in Boston, Massachusetts, on Monday, June 6.

News release — Hold for June 6, 2016 at 2pm EDT

Headline: Christian Scientists gather in Boston at denomination’s annual meeting; ponder the relevance of church

By: Richard Evans, Manager, Christian Science Committees on PublicationContact: Diane R. Hanover, Christian Science Committee on Publication for Arizona Arizona@compub.org

Boston, MA — When Christian Scientists convened in Boston, Massachusetts, Monday, June 6, for the annual meeting of their denomination, they faced a question that many mainline Christian churches also confront: can church be relevant today?

Their perspective on this question—as on just about everything else—runs counter to the popular narrative. “There’s a universal hunger for the heartfelt experience of God’s saving power,” said Margaret Rogers, chairwoman of the five-member lay board of directors of the Church of Christ, Scientist, which has its worldwide headquarters in Boston. “The demand,” she said, is for a church “that is vibrant with unselfed love and actively engaged in authentic Christian healing for humanity.”

For most Christian Scientists, this doesn’t seem to mean better outreach or new ministries and programs. It means drilling down on the thing they feel they bring to the world: spiritual healing, based on the teachings of Christ Jesus, that is expected to be both humane in spirit and effective in results. “We pray,” explained another director, Allison W. Phinney, “because prayer aligns us with how things really work. It lets us see and feel more of the immense good and the divine Love that’s actually here for us and for humanity.”

Founded 137 years ago by religious leader Mary Baker Eddy, the Christian Science Church is a Christian denomination based on the Bible. While relatively small in numbers, the denomination has branch churches in more than 60 countries and has had an outsized impact on Christian thought by its insistence that God’s goodness brings not only salvation from sin, but healing of illness and suffering.

The group’s diversity is seen among some of the new officers announced at the meeting. The new church president is Annu Matthai of Bangalore, India. The new First Reader—who conducts Sunday worship and Wednesday testimony meetings at The Mother Church in Boston—is Louis E. Benjamin of Hillcrest, KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa. The new Second Reader is Diane Uttley Marrapodi of Forest Hill, Maryland, USA. Many church members travelled to Boston for Monday’s proceedings, while more followed the meetings live online.

The theme of this year’s meeting—“Church: ‘healing and saving the world’”—comes from Mary Baker Eddy’s view that Christ Jesus’ original Christianity has deep relevance for the world and its future, and that church must be a practical force for good in daily lives, bringing hope and spiritual progress for humanity. One small symbol of this is the planned renewal of the Christian Science plaza in Boston’s Back Bay. The outdoor spaces surrounding The Mother Church will be updated to better benefit the community as an environmentally sustainable oasis in the midst of the city. A longer-term commitment of the denomination has been publication of The Christian Science Monitor, an international news outlet providing daily and weekly news, online and in print—news that is intended to bring light, rather than heat, to the important issues of the day.

Members at the meeting reported on activities in their regions, as well as provided examples of healing from around the world. Christian Scientists from around the world, including Arizona, attended this year’s meeting.

 

inside TMC extension with attributionMembers of the Church of Christ, Scientist, gathered in Boston for the 2015 Annual Meeting of their denomination.

 

Ready to Give

Rich Evans, former Committee on Publication for Arizona

Budapest. Munich. Bodrum.   These beautiful, historic places have become symbols of unanswered global questions about our moral obligations to mankind.

This question is just as important here in the Southwestern US, as anywhere.

Seeing reports of masses of refugees fending for themselves at Keleti railway station in Hungary, having just escaped the chaos of warfare, begs many questions and demands serious thought.

“There, but for the grace of God, go I”, could be a natural response. But what is the grace of God? To me, it’s the inspired effect on human behavior of understanding God’s universal love. Such boundless grace must hold answers for each individual, oppressed or free, in conflict or at peace, in Syria or Arizona.

We could, of course, simply view these challenges as someone else’s problem. But we have a track record of doing better than that. In the 1970’s the influx of Vietnamese families torn by conflict was met with magnanimity. Many churches opened their hearts and doors to those in need. And more than just being a morally sure-footed thing to do, it was a mutual blessing.

For instance, our family benefitted from knowing the Pham family. Their daughters proved to be terrific babysitters for our children. In turn, we found a home for our “well-seasoned” Volvo wagon that helped them move their wonderful, talented family about.

“Love is impartial and universal in its adaptation and bestowals,” wrote spiritual thinker and humanitarian, Mary Baker Eddy, in Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures (p.13). She was referring to divine Love, God. When we express such love — for example, living the Golden Rule by doing unto others as we would have them do unto us, which is found in some form in every faith tradition — then we are living this God-given, universal love. Adaptable to any situation, love is meant to be bestowed impartially and universally and we can each pray to know how best to adapt and bestow our love for those escaping war, whether or not they actually make their way to our country.

Does doing so deplete us? No. On the contrary, there’s a wonderful statement from the Bible, “…now at this time your abundance may be a supply for their want, that their abundance also may be a supply for your want: that there may be equality.” (II Cor. 8:14)

How can this be? It is because “our Maker” is infinite good, and as we draw on such an inexhaustible grace on behalf of others we better grasp God’s endless grace for all. We are proving something which, if universally understood, would surely help mitigate at the root the kind of thinking that causes such crises — namely, that fear and greed are misconceptions of a need to compete for resources based on a limited, material sense of their source.

Love is the generosity that comes from understanding God’s infinite, spiritual nature. As we dwell on God’s abundant, impartial grace for all, would we not find ourselves ready to give abundantly to those in need?

This Article was published September 23, 2015 in the Arizona Silver Belt Newspaper.

Spiritual Health in the Face of Dementia

Rich Evans, former Committee on Publication for Arizona

Have you ever ridden into a box canyon? It is difficult to see the way out and the walls threaten to cut one off from all that is normal.

Caring for a loved one challenged with dementia can feel like that. It is wearing. For those who cannot afford help it can be exhausting and frightening. All who provide care in these circumstances, paid or unpaid, need aid themselves.

Dementia is not a specific disease, according to Mayo Clinic. Rather, it “describes a group of symptoms affecting memory, thinking and social abilities severely enough to interfere with daily functioning”. The caregivers in such a situation become the providers of necessary daily functioning for those who seem unable.

The Mayo Clinic Staff continues with advice to caregivers in such circumstances: “Providing for a person with dementia is physically and emotionally demanding. Often the primary caregiver is a spouse or other family member. Feelings of anger and guilt, frustration and discouragement, worry, grief, and social isolation are common. If you’re a caregiver for someone with dementia: 1) Ask friends or other family members for help when you need it; 2) Take care of your physical, emotional and spiritual health”.

Perhaps focusing on this last point, spiritual health, would help in great measure to meet the physical and emotional needs of anyone caring for those exhibiting dementia. But how does one achieve “spiritual health”?

For me, it includes addressing fears by gaining a sense of God’s infinite love for us.

Unaddressed, fear can block our recognition of needed answers in giving care, it can overwhelm us in apprehension for our own safety, and plummet one into a sense of depression.

But when fear is spiritually overcome the practical impact can be liberating. The perfect example of this was when Christ Jesus, whose fearlessness consistently brought healing, encountered a tragically insane Gadarene man called Legion. Despite this man’s miscreant reputation, self-destructive tendencies, and social isolation, Jesus spoke with him normally and showed his Christly love for one who’d probably never received such restorative attention. That fearless care not only calmed him but cured him permanently.

Could this be possible today? Yes. Even the Mayo report allows, “Some causes of dementia may be reversible”. So, why shouldn’t a caregiver, expressing sufficient spiritual love, not only overcome his or her own fear but extend this sense of God’s love to the one being cared for such that the condition may abate? Over many years in the periodicals of my church there are accounts of various forms of dementia, including Alzheimer’s, being reversed through a spiritual understanding of God’s healing love.

Many in the business of extending care to humanity have found strength in a more divine motivation for doing their work. I find this statement from a seminal writing on the relationship between spirituality and health encouraging: “It is proverbial that Florence Nightingale and other philanthropists engaged in humane labors have been able to undergo without sinking fatigues and exposures which ordinary people could not endure. The explanation lies in the support which they derived from the divine law, rising above the human. The spiritual demand, quelling the material, supplies energy and endurance surpassing all other aids, and forestalls the penalty which our beliefs would attach to our best deeds.” (S cience and Health with Key to the Scriptures, Mary Baker Eddy, p. 385)

Filled with love for God and mankind, divine inspiration can lead us out of the box canyon of apprehension, lifting our thoughts above the shadowy dimensions of caregiving, and brightening the way of those in our charge.

This article was published in the Arizona Silver Belt Newspaper, August 5, 2015.

Effective Path to Natural Healing


Rich Evans, former Committee on Publication for Arizona

Why are so many people reaching out for more natural forms of healing today?

For instance, a young mother recently expressed her delight in having her second child born naturally, instead of by cesarean delivery, experienced in her first childbirth. A close acquaintance is keen on natural oils, herbs, and supplements to augment her family’s health. A naturopath friend diligently seeks to cure his patients by re­balancing the normal physical elements found in the human body, in order to exclude more invasive measures. The Center for Integrative Medicine at the University of Arizona strives to discover complementary or alternative means to standard medical approaches, broadening the possibilities for healing.

Perhaps these are all evidences of seekers wanting something better than to be classified as merely a chemical compound, and to work from the premise that each individual is a whole person, and therefore responsible for their own health.

Such an expansive aspiration can attract the criticism of those at ease with the more conventional model of healthcare.

Natural healing, for example, is described, in part, by Wikipedia as pseudoscience. Naturopaths and others in this field, devoting their life to natural healing modalities, understandably don’t take well to the “pseudo” prefix, synonymous with “fake, false, feigned.” Who would? This narrow point of view, perhaps, stems from the habit of considering health as just a limited, matter­based experience without more.

This “more” is not just alternative matter ­ such as oils, herbs, and supplements ­ but a different idea of substance itself. I’ve found that the idea of what’s “natural” is truly expanded when we cease tying it to matter as the “must have” cause and effect. By definition, matter is a limitation because it excludes all that is spiritual. The magnificence and universality of divine Love’s impulse to all mankind is missing — an un-healing limit to place on one’s health.

Ancient and current examples of natural, spiritual healing by divine Love exist. The master Christian, Jesus, healed the servant of a Roman Centurion in response to the soldier’s confidence such healing could transpire without physical intervention and with no diagnosis of matter (Matt. 8:5-­13).

A more recent healing is one of my own. I was freed from a blistered eye, which had become blurry and painful. The situation was alarming. But with persistent prayer to understand the presence of this universal healing Love, and how it is naturally accessible to all ­ as it was to Jesus, to the Centurion, and to many others ­ the condition on my eye cleared. I was healed.

After a decade, there has been no remnant of that experience – no lingering worry of a recurrence. Where did I get my confidence in this divine Science (capitalized to express this God­-based healing system)? It grew from my study of such statements as this: “The physical healing of Christian Science results now, as in Jesus’ time, from the operation of divine Principle [a term for God], before which sin and disease lose their reality in human consciousness and disappear as naturally and as necessarily as darkness gives place to light and sin to reformation. Now, as then, these mighty works are not supernatural, but supremely natural. ” (Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures, Mary Baker Eddy, p. xi: 9-­15)

Perhaps it is this spiritual thought, available to all, that is the most effective path to natural healing – healing not dependent on matter, but recognizing that God is indeed forever with us, and, as a result, harmony, health, and healing are present and natural, now as always.

This article was published by The Arizona Silver Belt, July 8, 2015.

A Harp, Harmony, and Healing

Rich Evans, former Committee on Publication for Arizona

As someone who loves music and has experienced healing, the article, “Healing Sound” ­ in the spring edition of the Arizona University Alumni magazine ­ struck a chord.

Healing sound is when hearing music moves someone in a coma to regain consciousness.

At least, that’s what happened when Carrol McLaughlin, distinguished professor of music at the University, played her harp for just a few minutes at the school’s Medical Center. A comatose patient stirred, pulled off his oxygen mask, and thanked her.

In a more scientifically rigorous experiment, 100 patients were split evenly between a music group and a control group. The latter group just rested quietly. The music group listened to Carrol’s improvisational harp music, that was intended to tie­in with each individual patient’s natural pitch. While the playing did not have a significant impact on the physical measures of the patients’ conditions, it notably reduced the pain experienced for those in the music group by an average of 27%.

But the most interesting outcome was still to follow.

“When the experiment ended and McLaughlin had packed up her harp, a nurse asked her if she would mind performing one time more. A dying man, not in the study, had heard the music. He was to go into hospice later that day and asked if the harpist would play for him. ‘I played’, she says, ‘and I felt great energy from him.’ Afterward, his puzzled doctor found him so improved that he changed the hospice order and sent the man home,” says the Alumni magazine’s report.

This is beautiful, inspiring work. However, the use of a harp, or other forms of music, to achieve better health is not new. The Bible records how Saul, then king of Israel, sought out David to play his harp to relieve him of an “evil spirit”, which today we might see as depression or some other sort of mental illness. [I Samuel 16:23]

Might there be a consistent spiritual dimension here, beyond the music itself? What if there were no harp available to play? Would the harmony that music expresses and the health­ generating results it appears to inspire be lost? Is the harmony we feel from music actually external to us or is it a part of each individual’s essential nature?

The professor says she seeks to key into the natural harmonic in the individual, believing that there is one in each of us. She is expecting the music she is playing to connect in a deeper, health­giving way. And it does. Beethoven, who struggled with deafness, could still “hear” his symphonic compositions mentally­­and we have been the beneficiaries of that fact. But we need not face the challenge of deafness ourselves to feel and value the presence of soundless harmony in our lives. We need only recognize that harmony, at a spiritual level, is an innate part of consciousness coming from a loving God, expressed by each of us individually.

Writing of Beethoven’s deafness and of how Mozart “experienced more than he expressed,” Mary Baker Eddy wrote in Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures: “Mental melodies and strains of sweetest music supersede conscious sound. Music is the rhythm of head and heart” [p.213].

So can a harmony which is beyond audible sound also reach the heart and restore a disturbed consciousness?

In this same book the author states: “Harmony in man is as real and immortal as in music” [p.276]. Does this suggest that harmony is actually a condition of our reality, and if we catch sight of that through a better spiritual understanding of ourselves it can quiet discordant thought and bring healing?

In times of discord experienced outwardly, I have indeed found that to be the case. I have felt the peaceful, Soul­filled strains of divine harmony inwardly, and that has brought calm and joy, disarming tension and lifting my thought away from the pain or stress. There is no harp involved but there is a listening to inaudible chords of the spiritual “rhythm of head and heart”.

So whether it is the sensitive melody emanating from Dr. McLaughlin’s harp, or the quieting spiritual psalm of the music of Soul, ­ the divine presence available to all ­ there is help at hand. We can find harmony in our lives and bring health to the fore in sound healing.

*This article was published in the Arizona Silverbelt newspaper on May 20, 2015.