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.