Everyday Spirituality

Everyday Spirituality


Authority is in Revelation, not in Religious Objects

posted by Cheryl Petersen

As the revisionist of Mary Baker Eddy’s Science and Health, I receive emails or letters from people about my book, 21st Century Science and Health. Here is a recent one:

Cheryl,

I got the kindle version of 21st Century Science and Health. I appreciate your work and your path. I am an acupuncture doctor. I have always been acutely aware of Mary Baker Eddy’s work. Until I ran across your work, though, I didn’t think a bridge could exist between my path, Eddy’s path, and especially the path of the institution currently designated as Church of Christ, Scientist. The fact that you recognize that doctors are often on a spiritual path (and NOT just evil mesmerists) is of immense importance!!

Your work is a breath of fresh air. Many thanks.

Sincerely,

R.N.

August 2011

 As the revisionist of Science and Health, I also hear another view: Church members mechanically wave off 21st Century Science and Health with great nervousness while authoritatively contending out loud, “That is not Christian Science.” However, it is evident that this authoritative attitude eludes reality and is transitioning out of itself.

Granted, it has long been acknowledged that two valid perspectives can be seen related to religious experience: one that focuses on religious institutions, their projects, their policies, and their “authorized” versions, and another view that focuses on the way religion is lived every day in “unauthorized” yet very real ways by common people of faith.

The Church of Christ, Scientist, clearly cares about promoting precise descriptions of orthodox institutional religious doctrines and guidelines. But that doesn’t mean their work has any more authority in Christian Science than the rest of us who work from the pews at the back of church, or from all of the unauthorized places—homes, schools, other denominational services, acupuncturist’s and doctor’s offices, campuses, social services—where religion employs major power.

Are the views on authorization changing? You bet, and like so many changes in the history of religion, that change may be coming from the people who are at the bottom of the hierarchy. I understand those at the top of the Christian Scientist’s hierarchy don’t like the idea of saying the church’s views are changing because it implies they were wrong before. But, in truth, the institutional church is always changing. For example, Eddy revised Science and Health over 300 times. After Eddy’s death, church officials did authorize a few changes in Science and Health, but then the revision work stopped dead in its tracks. Big Change.

The move to “authorize” a material object as if it is the valid representation of an idea, only sets the scene for disapproval of everything else—an unwelcoming scene to humanity receptive to revelation. As someone who has been writing about Christian Science for 20 years, I stand by my observation that views on religious authorization are changing.  Christian Scientist’s repeat the phrase, “Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures, written by Mary Baker Eddy, discoverer and founder of Christian Science,” and nod their heads like they understand, but they don’t realize what the reality means until forced to face it. To “discover” means Christian Science has always existed. Eddy didn’t kick-start it into existence. Therefore any person, anywhere in the world, in different human circumstances, can also “discover” Christian Science, put it into practice, feel its beneficial effects, and write about it with authority. Furthermore, if scientific Christian works continue to be waved off and contended against as “not Christian Science,” until Christian Science all but disappears, any person can also again “found” Christian Science while crediting Eddy for her ideas. The authority is in revelation, not status-quo, and revelation is not exclusive, but inclusive to humanity.

A small sign of this transitioning view of authority was recently given by Louis Benjamin, from South Africa, who was allowed to post online at www.ChristianScience.com his article titled, The Branch Church Constitution. In reference to his branch church, Benjamin posited a pregnant question in this statement, “We felt we should continually be looking at our constitution and bylaws to reduce the human element. We should continually be “keeping abreast of the times” (Church Manual, p. 44). How many times did Mrs. Eddy revise Science and Health? If we accept that she is our Leader, maybe we should be following her example.”

The revision of Science and Health illustrates transition, not in the doctrine of Christian Science, but in the stance of those who profess Christian Science. The views that a book or ritual can be authorized, or that a hierarchal interpretation is an authority to follow, is fading. Humanity sees we are independent thinkers who can take responsibility for own thoughts and actions. Eddy defined Christian Science in Rudimental Divine Science, “As the law of God, the law of good interpreting and demonstrating the divine Principle and rule of universal harmony.” The law of God does not require human authorization for its survival. It is alive and well and unstoppable. We can receive and act on revelation right now!

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