In my series of brief posts on significant religious movements, I come to Christian Science, the brainchild of Mary Baker Eddy.
The main thing people know about them is that they don’t use medicine, although I guess that’s also true for Scientologists. Actually, Eddy’s belief that healing can be accomplished purely through spiritual means relates to the old Gnostic/Platonic idea that the material world is illusory. It’s the spirit world that’s truly the creation of God. As for Jesus, he wasn’t God in the flesh, nor did he have all of the attributes of the true Christ while in his earthly body. My mom told me once that my grandmother insisted Christian Scientists were neither Christians nor scientists. I would say the latter is correct, as there isn’t anything scientific about Plato’s allegory of the cave, which is basically where anti-materialism comes from. Christian Scientists do generally accept tenets of science other than the medical variety, but I guess they don’t really matter all that much, since they pertain to an illusory world anyway. I’ve never quite understood how people who accept this philosophy decide where to draw the line, but there you go. I think the reason mainstream Christians will sometimes say Christian Scientists don’t share their religion is that they deny the divinity of Jesus. They still believe Jesus was the Messiah, though, and isn’t that the important thing in Christianity?
So why not use both medicine AND spiritual healing? It seems that many Christian Scientists think they’ll work against each other, although I have to wonder how that could be the case when medicine is illusory. While Jesus himself was said to heal people by driving out demons, and his followers are supposed to have the same power, I don’t think Christianity in general really has a history of being hostile to medicine prior to the nineteenth century. After all, Colossians mentions “Luke, the beloved physician” as a significant member of the early church, and it’s to him that the books of Luke and Acts are traditionally credited. There’s also a part of the book of Sirach, which is considered canonical by the Catholic and Orthodox Churches, that makes positive reference to the science of medicine. So where’s this hatred coming from, Eddy? Well, I guess she needed something to set her teachings apart. I still think it’s kind of a dangerous idea, though. Maybe if Jim Henson hadn’t waited until the last minute to consult a doctor, he wouldn’t have died at the age of fifty-three.
Speaking of which, I didn’t know of any famous Christian Scientists other than Henson, but this page identifies several celebrities of both past and present as adherents to the faith. Well, at least they were RAISED that way. I took a look at some of the linked articles, and it looks like many of them came from Christian Scientist families, but abandoned the religion later on. Apparently Elizabeth Taylor and Marilyn Monroe both converted from Christian Science to Judaism, and Audrey Hepburn had a traumatic experience in her youth when her mother refused to get her medical treatment for whooping-cough. Doris Day remained a member, however. Interesting.