Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Christian Science and medicine--err on the side of compassion

I had a nice long chat with Vicki from First Lessons in Christian Science yesterday. She had written to me after noticing Dennis’ comment from the other day about her site saying that it's unethical to treat yourself prayerfully if you’re using medicine. With her permission, I thought I’d share some of what she wrote to me.

Hi. I was reading your blog this morning, and I was alarmed when I read the comment by Dennis, which indicated that he had read on my web site that we should not pray for ourselves while taking medicine. I thought "why would I say that?! I believe we can pray anytime!" Since I wrote that about six years ago, I had to go back through it to find what I did say. I suppose [it] was written awkwardly. I thought I was saying you could pray for yourself, but wanted to get across that if you believe the problem is real and are taking medicine to cure it, then it would be at cross-purposes to do a specific CS treatment—even for yourself. … Maybe you can help me find a better way to explain this, and I can change the web site.

… I would never want to discourage anyone from praying for themselves, no matter the circumstances. A paragraph [on my site] states this:

“For those who do choose to go to doctors, or need to in an emergency, you can also use the First Commandment. God never abandons us, no matter the situation. We can know that because there is only one Mind, there is no other mind separate from Him. Therefore, all the doctors and nurses involved in your case can only manifest perfect intelligence, perfect intuition, perfect skills, etc., as they diagnose and treat you. You can pray to know that because there is only one Spirit, or substance, and that is under God's control, then matter cannot have the intelligence to act by itself; it is under the dominion of God. Because God is the only source of Life, matter does not have life in it. You cannot lose your life as long as God is the only Life. Do not make matter or your body another god. Obey the First Commandment by sticking with God.”

Anyway, I just wanted to let Dennis know that I would not want to discourage anyone from praying for themselves.

In a subsequent email, Vicki said:

I've still been thinking over what I wrote—and the reason it gives me pause is that I have conflicting feelings about the medicine-CS thing. I know what Mrs. Eddy taught, but I also know how horrible it is to find oneself having to choose medicine or die, and being abandoned by the [spiritual healing] community just when you need help the most. But, I also saw how effective Christian Science prayer can be for one in a hospital situation—where the doctors were amazed at the progress—and this was combined with some medicine. So, what's the answer—is there ONE for all?

This last question is the crux of the matter, at least to me. Do any of us have the authority or wisdom to say there’s one right way for everyone? Doesn’t it depend on where one is on the spiritual path? Can we ever truly see into the heart of another and judge for them what they should do?

I’ve often asked myself this question as well: What has done the most damage to the Christian Science movement—people using medicine, or people ostracizing those who do? I almost think we need to do some catch-up in this area, to again make it clear that Christian Science is about love not judgment. Perhaps this means we have to err on the side of tolerance of each others’ choices for a time while we again shore up what it means to heal spiritually. At this time, it seems to me that expressing compassion, love, harmony, and brotherly kindness as the hallmark of Christian Science will do more for the health of the movement than unbending rules and regulations.

I welcome your thoughts on this! Someday maybe we’ll have a Website where we can discuss these issues freely. In the meantime, feel free to share your ideas here.

Your ideas and inspiration are welcome! Please comment below or Contact Laura.
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At 3/27/2007 07:33:00 AM, Anonymous Dennis R. said...

Thank you for your clarification. I could understand why some practitioners might not want to work with someone under the care of doctors, but I did not understand about praying for oneself.

I greatly admire the excellent work on that First Lesson site. I have printed out some of the material for study. As Christian Science is not my background, you can see why I could be confused.

I spent many years in the Charismatic/Pentecostal movement where we also prayed for the sick. Many times my family and I were healed without resorting to medical care so I do prefer a spiritual approach.

Sometimes the pressure of one's family members that do not really trust in spiritual healing all the way can force one to involve the medical profession

At 3/27/2007 10:11:00 AM, Anonymous Carrie said...

I wish healing was more exaulted in the Christian Science community. When I'm talking about the ideas people want to know how it has worked in the past for other people, and I always find myself hestiating alittle, because while I have my own healings to talk about, I wish I could point them to specific examples of things that have happened for other people and why. But I'm rather shy of the healings I've heard in church just because I don't know if I can honestly say I relate to the people individually. How do you handle people looking for examples?

At 3/27/2007 10:44:00 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Laura, thanks for letting me clear this up on your forum! Vicki

At 3/27/2007 03:02:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thanks, Laura and Vicki, for continuing this conversation. It is a tough situation to define, isn't it? but maybe vicki hit it on the nose with her last question - "is there ONE for all?" Seems like there really isn't ONE and only right way, that it is all individual as we each express God in our own way and work toward understanding Him in the way that makes the most sense for ourselves. That's one thing I love about Christian Science is that it really is very individual in its approach. The laws are universal - love God and love your neighbor - but how this is done is unique. Gets to what Paul says in Philippians: "work out your own salvation with fear and trembling."

Have had relatives that have been members of CS churches their whole lives - dedicated, willing members who I'm sure experienced many healings of various ills - then have had some severe health problem and finally resorted to medical for help (usually a surgery). The sad thing to me was that then they tried to keep this totally hush-hush - didn't want others even in the family to know about there "failing." I'm just glad they found health in a way that was right for them at the time. And some, when their fellow church members found out about the surgery, were ostracized.

Could CS have healed them? Yes, I think it can help anyone with anything, but maybe there just are times the fear or something (family pressures, perhaps) is too overwhelming and we need to turn on something else for help. Shouldn't be any shame in that. We have eternity to work out our salvation - anyone can just "get back on the horse" and keep going, so to speak. God's still loving us.

At 3/27/2007 07:32:00 PM, Anonymous Heather said...

I think part of why this can be a sensitive issue is how times have changed from Mrs. Eddy's time to ours. It seems like the medical field has become what the church (general churches of all denominations) used to be. I only have to drive a mile or so before I see a dentist or a foot doctor or some sort of specialist. So many of the commercials on tv focus on healing medical ills, or stopping them before we even knew there was such a medical condition.

So in a way, Christian Scientists are under a lot more pressure now then they were fifty years ago. It seems that society has elevated the medical field to a divine status almost. Unless one is very spiritually alert, one can get sucked into that mindset. Thus, we need more compassion now then we did back then, given the mental pressures at play.

At 3/28/2007 12:30:00 AM, Anonymous RobertSF said...

Thanks for your blog! I have been facing this issue in my own life and have suffered a lot of guilt for using conventional medicine or herbal and homeopathic remedies. I have also suffered a lot of severe and prolonged physical symptoms while I relied totally on prayer at other times. I find I cannot concentrate very well on prayer and spiritual healing when there is a lot of unrelenting physical symptoms occuring. I am pretty new at this and can't afford either a doctor or a CS practitioner, so it's just me and God. I have never doubted God's supreme power over all but I continually doubt my own ability to understand Him well enough to gain healing. So I've decided to use whatever works to quiet the noise coming from my material body and thus, relieved, I can more easily read and pray to gain better understanding.

I am probably your parent's age but love how your motherly nurturing can reach to me in warm and loving ways.

At 4/01/2007 08:02:00 PM, Anonymous Emily said...

"I've decided to use whatever works to quiet the noise coming from my material body and thus, relieved, I can more easily read and pray to gain better understanding."

I don't think Mrs. Eddy would have a problem with that. Take note of what she says on page 464 of Science and Health:

If from an injury or from any cause, a Christian Scientist were seized with pain so violent that he could not treat himself mentally,--and the Scientists had failed to relieve him,--the sufferer could call a surgeon, who would give him a hypodermic injection, then, when the belief of pain was lulled, he could handle his own case mentally. Thus it is that we "prove all things; [and] hold fast that which is good."

I suppose I do this myself on occasion, in a small way: When my head is congested, I frequently crave spicy foods. (Human theory holds that hot pepper will temporarily open one's sinuses.) If the symptoms are so severe as to make it difficult to think clearly, I am not above going to a restaurant and ordering a bowl of very spicy chili or an order of hot wings to knock the edge off the pain for a few moments so I can pull together a coherent thought and pray effectively.

I felt a bit guilty about this a time or two, but as I think about it now, if it's OK to call a surgeon to shoot me up with painkillers, then surely Mrs. Eddy wouldn't begrudge me a bowl of chili on a sniffly winter afternoon.

I refer to this as "emerging gently" ... and I offer no apologies for it.

At 4/02/2007 11:02:00 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I ran across your page by accident? no it was a demonstration. I had a bad experience several years ago when I contacted a practitioner with a problem and was told he would not talk with me if I was under the care of a physician. I had been in CS all my life (2 aunts were registered practitioners) and I was devestated. I left CS and have just recently returned to church. Thank you for your words. They mean a lot to me.


At 4/02/2007 11:16:00 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I feel I should send "the rest of the story". I had surgery (of a delicate nature) going into it knowing that the surgeon was God's child and therefore perfect in all he did. I knew that God was guiding him just as he guides me. The surgery was successful and all is well.


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