Two strands of my life – my inherited background and my adopted faith – recently came together when I stumbled across a manuscript written by a Polish Christian Scientist who described how her family managed to save a young Jewish couple by hiding them in their family circle for the duration of the Nazi occupation.
I am the son of Jewish parents who lived in pre-war Berlin. They thankfully managed to escape the death camps but were unable to avoid other harsh, but less lethal, war experiences. So I have always had a deep sense of gratitude for anyone who risked their lives to save Jewish Holocaust victims. Reading this Polish woman’s notes as a Christian Scientist I was also touched to read of a family who had walked the talk of the Golden Rule to “do unto others as you would have them do unto you.”
Living that love, including the prayer-based physical healing the public mainly know it for, is Christian Science. The Founder of Christian Science, Mary Baker Eddy, puts it this way: “Healing physical sickness is the smallest part of Christian Science. It is only the bugle-call to thought and action, in the higher range of infinite goodness” (“Rudimental Divine Science”).
Touching the hem of such “infinite goodness” changed my own life priorities. My first experience of this was when a wage-guzzling gambling addiction faded out as spiritual inquiry faded up and the spiritual adventure of striving to live more unselfishly flooded in. I have never felt tempted to gamble since that change came about, over two decades ago.
For this and many other reasons I have ended up “giving back” by first joining The Church of Christ, Scientist (the official name for what most people call the Christian Science church) and now working for it full-time. This has occurred much to my own amusement, since I grew up with a deep suspicion of all organisations, and particularly religious institutions.
I have since gained in respect for other churches through seeing, behind the headlines, the amazing charity and social work that many religious workers do, day in and day out. It has also been helpful to me that The Mother Church – the worldwide Church of Christ, Scientist – is not quite like any other church. Since its beginnings the focus of its activity has been prayer-based healing rather than pastoral care, and publishing “the Word” rather than church-growing.
The worldwide church is organised under the government of an ingenious, and very concise, document called “The Church Manual” which gives the structure for a church membership that is designed to look outward with love for others rather than inward with self-concern. It is a daily struggle to live up to that ideal, of course, and I for one do not always manage it. Yet when I do, it is very rewarding.
The building blocks of all that the Church of Christ, Scientist does are “lives lived” by its members. As one’s experiences of healing through prayer compound, it is natural to take the understanding gained out to others, as public practitioners of Christian Science, praying for others at their request.
It is equally natural to share accounts of healing in weekly and monthly magazines – respectively called the “Christian Science Sentinel” and “The Christian Science Journal” – and in Wednesday evening testimony meetings at Christian Science churches.
As a last (loving!) master-stroke in her design for her Church, Mary Baker Eddy founded The Christian Science Monitor, now a long-established and widely respected Pulitzer prize winning newspaper.
The motto of the Monitor is “to injure no man, but to bless all mankind” and I find it consistent in living up to this ideal. As the son of Holocaust survivors I was moved to learn that the “Monitor” had spotted the threat of Adolf Hitler as early as 1923 and remained consistently clear in pointing out the danger posed by his ambitions from that point on (“Commitment to Freedom – the story of The Christian Science Monitor, by Erwin D. Canham).
The Christian Science Monitor” isn’t designed to promote the Church – it just contains one daily article “from a Christian Science perspective” – but to serve the public, who make up its main readership. However, it also serves to prompt members like me to remember our Christian duty to embrace all humanity in our prayers for peace and practical progress. In this respect, the “Monitor” serves as a daily wake-up call not to forget what my Polish friends remembered, that – as a colleague once put it – “Love is a be, love is a do!”