Beliefnet
Everyday Spirituality

Experts describe self-injury as intentional acts of inflicting pain and damage to one’s own body. A person can cut, burn, scratch, or bruise their self. They can consume too much alcohol or drugs, or hook-up in unsafe sex.

WebMD tells us, however, that self-injury isn’t the same thing as a suicide attempt. Self-harm is generally a hidden activity. People cut themselves in private, for instance.

People have been hurting themselves for millennia. For example, as religious flagellation, priests wore belts containing sharp nails. Belts were tightened so the nails would pierce the skin, as if the self-inflicted pain would make the person more spiritual and less sensual. In the name of religion, people also practice poverty, starvation, and uncleanliness, thinking it brings them closer to God because they’re denying themselves physical comforts or pleasures.

Are they closer to God? Or, just closer to pain?

Good questions. I don’t think there’s a difference between pain and pleasure in the body. Living in either physical discomfort or comfort isn’t living in God.

To judge spirituality based on painful or pleasant physical conditions results in serious mistakes that lead to more mistakes. Whereas, better judgement starts and ends with spirituality.

Psychologists say self-harm is a means of controlling emotional pain, but this doesn’t make sense. I can only reason that self-injury increases emotional pain.

And it stands to reason that religionists who make efforts to control their own body through physical comfort or discomfort only increase spiritual-harm. Although not a proponent of self-injury, when reading about sex abuse cases within the church, I’m inclined to say, “Go back to self-flagellation. Hurt yourself and not others.”

We’re human. Sometimes we need physical restrictions to reduce total harm done. We don’t have life figured out. Life can be difficult. But we have examples to learn from.
John the Baptist and Christ Jesus compliment one another in showing the power of self—spiritual-love. We read in Mark, “John was clothed with camel’s hair and wore a leather belt around his waist and ate locusts and wild honey.” Whereas Jesus ate at buffet tables and drank wine. Yet the physical appearance wasn’t the point for either. The aim and intent were spirit based. Mind based. Having the mind that holds and expresses ever improving behavior.

The antidote to self-harm is to cherish spirituality. It comes from something higher than human descriptions and reasoning. I call the higher power God, the spirit of Christ, the truth that we were created to manifest a love of our spiritual self.

“The God who made the world and everything in it, being Lord of heaven and earth, does not live in temples made by man, 25 nor is he served by human hands, as though he needed anything, since he himself gives to all mankind life and breath and everything. 26 And he made from one man every nation of mankind to live on all the face of the earth, having determined allotted periods and the boundaries of their dwelling place, 27 that they should seek God, and perhaps feel their way toward him and find him. Yet he is actually not far from each one of us, 28 for “‘In him we live and move and have our being’; as even some of your own poets have said, “‘For we are indeed his offspring.’—Acts 17

“Jesus was no ascetic. He did not fast as John the Baptist’s disciples; yet there never lived a man so far removed from appetites and fixations.”—21st Century Science and Health

“With the aid of divine inspiration and spiritual logic, our consciousness can advance out of weariness and disease, out of that which hides the power of Spirit.
“The legitimate and only possible action of divine Mind is the production of harmony.”—from science & religion to God

Discovery:

In the 1860s, Mary Baker Eddy discovered a reality of divine mind and its manifestation. She called it Christian Science and said it included a system of mental healing, the same system used by Christ Jesus and prophets.

Before organizing a church, Eddy taught mind-healing to students in a classroom setting, using the Bible as her source of information. Her Christian background unsurprisingly caused her to identify God with divine Mind, capitalized.

In 1875, Eddy published a textbook on Christian Science, Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures. She revised and updated Science and Health until her death in 1910.

Platform:

Christian Science involves four fundamental propositions:

  1. God is All-in-all.
    2. God is good. Good is Mind.
    3. God, Spirit, being all, physical matter isn’t the reality we believe.
    4. Life, God, omnipotent good, deny death, evil, sin, disease—Disease, sin, evil, death, deny good, omnipotent God, Life.

Tenets:

Christian Scientists were instructed in Science and Health not to stress religious policies or creeds but to observe the following six tenets.

  1. As adherents of Truth, we take the inspired Word of the Bible as our sufficient guide to eternal Life.
  2. We respect one supreme and infinite God, the Truth of Christ, the Holy Spirit, and man and woman as the image and likeness of God.
  3. We acknowledge God’s forgiveness of sin in the destruction of sin—though sin will be punished until spiritual understanding casts it out as unreal.
  4. We acknowledge Jesus’ example as confirmation that Love unfolds our unity with sinlessness and health.
  5. We acknowledge that Jesus’ crucifixion and resurrection signify the ability to increase our faith to the understanding of eternal Life.
  6. We solemnly promise to watch and pray for that Mind to be in us, which was also in Christ Jesus; to do to others as we would have them do to us; and to be merciful, just, and pure.

Mission:

Although physical healing is part of Christian Science, it isn’t the main purpose. Eddy wrote that the primary goal of Christian Science is to take away the sins of the world.

Sin:

Sin is a term applied to the energies and beliefs that oppose God.

God is defined as: The great “I AM;” the all-knowing, all-seeing, all-acting, all-wise, all-loving, and eternal; Principle; Mind; Soul; Spirit; Life; Truth; Love; all substance; intelligence.

Application:

Christian Science treatment begins and ends with God. Through prayer or meditation, individuals are guided by Godlike thoughts to follow through on the best answer for each given problem.

Religious Structure:

Eddy’s charisma and devotion gained a following, and in 1879, she founded the Church of Christ, Scientist, in Boston, Massachusetts.

Eddy also opened the Massachusetts Metaphysical College and taught students who came from afar and would return home to start and build branch churches.

In 1895, Eddy dictated that sermons in all churches must consist of pre-constructed readings from The Bible and Science and Health, read by lay-members. The two books became known as the Pastor to students of Christian Science, or Christian Scientists.

Connections:

Christian Science is not associated with Scientology, New Age, hypnotism, or quantum physics.

Past:

From early- to mid- 20th century, recorded testimonies of successful spiritual healings are found in Christian Science literature. But about fifty years ago, for many and complicated reasons, failures apparently surpassed successes. Branch churches began closing. Although in her time, Eddy was widely known as a pioneer in mind-study, her legacy has since been dismissed by mind scientists and researchers.

Future:

The spirit of Christian Science, defined by Eddy as the law of divine Mind forever interpreting harmony to the universe, can’t be stopped. Even if the physical structures symbolizing Christian Science are losing ground, the power of a loving, healing Mind takes new forms.

A reboot of Eddy’s Science and Health is now available for the public. It’s titled, 21st Century Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures: A revision of Mary Baker Eddy’s Science and Health. The contemporary book is for all healing practitioners, from many faiths and backgrounds, including physicians, who are recognizing the power of systematic prayer.

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I’ve heard it said that religion and an afterlife were invented to control human beings. Maybe, maybe not. Religious threats of a horrible afterlife if you don’t have good behavior here on earth,  don’t work consistently. And life experience teaches otherwise. After Mom and Dad died, I still felt their presence. Religion and an afterlife were accepted by me as part of an ongoing reality in consciousness.

Maya Angelou wrote:

“A great soul serves everyone all the time

A great soul never dies.

It brings us together

Again and again.”

 

Proverbs 16:17

The highway of the upright turns aside from evil; whoever guards his way preserves his life.