Sunday, March 23, 2014

A faith that doesn't believe in matter, illness, suffering, or even death.

Today I went to the Church of Christ, Scientist. I was expecting this to be different from any other church experience, and that is indeed what was delivered.


The First Church of Christ, Science here in Ogden is located in the middle of downtown. It's a small yellow building on the older side of things around here, meaning it's more than 50 years old at this point. I find the building to be quite a lovely piece of architecture, it partly reminds me of a classical temple.

It looks a little more white in this picture than it is in real life.

Please note that this sign has the words, "All are welcome," on it and remember that as you read "The People" section of this blog.

The interior was quite lovely, it was an old church building with white walls with wooden molding and old wooden pews. The windows were purple and amber marbled stained glass. Along back wall was a quote from their founder, Mary Baker Eddy, which said, "Divine Love always has met and always will meet every human need."

The front pulpit was very classic looking. A raised platform with a couple stairs leading up to it and a traditional pulpit before which was a flower arrangement.

It's hard to tell from this picture, but in the center of the wall behind above the door are gold letters that say, "God is Love."

Prior to the service, there was some really beautiful prerecorded music playing. It was classical in nature and felt multicultural.

Overall, the atmosphere was classic and beautiful.

The People:

The people here were interesting. When we first arrived, there was a soft spoken lady who asked us if it was our first time in a Christian Science church. When we confirmed that it was, she gladly showed us the quarterly publication that they use for their services and gave us a rundown of what would happen.

There were a few others who were really nice to us and seemed like really fun people to know in day to day life.

But then there was the first reader (the lady who mainly ran the service). She came over to us after the service and asked us who we were and where we were from. I had two friends who accompanied me, Austin and Lisa. Austin has a degree in zoology and in chemistry, thus has quite an extensive background in science. (More on that later.) Austin had a few questions for the reader after the service. He asked if the text they were reading from was written by the woman who founded their church, Mary Baker Eddy. When he asked that, the lady in a very rude tone said, "You don't know who she is? What are you guys doing here?" It was clear from this statement and how she treated us the rest of the time there that she did not want us there at all.

There was another woman who talked to me and Lisa about our travels. She was kind of pretentious about things, but overall was kind to us and wanted to show us a lot.

I got a couple of mixed messages from the people at this church. It seemed some were really glad to have us there, while others, particularly the first reader, were really upset that we had come. I've felt in a few churches before that we were viewed with suspicion or not wanted there, but that was just a feeling. In this instance, words seemed to very strongly imply we weren't welcome, at least by one of the people in charge.

The people at this church were a mixed bag.

The Service:

The service at this church is probably the most rigidly structured of any church I have been to yet. They said that the service was the same everywhere you went in the world. I have heard this from a number of churches before, but what I didn't realize was that the service would be identical worldwide down to the last detail. The hymns, readings, and "sermon" are chosen in advance for each week and every Christian Science church in the world follows it.

The service begins with a hymn. The hymn they sang was to the tune of "Nearer My God to Thee" but had completely different lyrics. I couldn't understand why the change in lyrics as there's nothing in their theology that would be opposed to the lyrics of "Nearer My God to Thee."

After the hymn, they had a short scripture reading, followed by silent prayer and the recitation of the Lord's Prayer. Their version of the Lord's Prayer was the same as every other church I've been to where they recite it, except between each line, they would read an interpretation of the line by Mary Baker Eddy. I sort of found Mrs. Eddy's commentary on the matter to be virtually unnecessary as they didn't really say much that was different from the text itself, nor did it add much new dimension. About the only thing that was significant in her commentary, at least to my eyes, was that it referred to God as Father-Mother God.

Afterward, there was another hymn called "Satisfied" written by Mary Baker Eddy, followed by announcements, and then a solo song. The solo was a prerecorded duet that was played from the pulpit. After the solo, a brief explanation to the subject of the lesson was given.We then had a responsive reading which was similar to the psalm reading in a Catholic church, except it was an amalgam of multiple scriptures.

This then led into the "sermon" portion of the service. To see why I put that in quotes, please see "The Message" section below.

After the "sermon," there was collection taken up, another hymn sung, then a brief, recited prayer at the very end before we were dismissed.

The service was very mechanical with no individual thought, no personalization, and absolutely no deviating from the script printed by the mother church. As a result, it was quite monotonous and felt devoid of life. I was not expecting this from the service. I was actually hoping for something more interesting and more life to it being that this church was once upon a time, a rapidly growing and influential body. I expected to see something with vigor that stirred up the masses, but I saw nothing of that nature.

The Message:

As I said, I am putting the word "sermon" in quotes for this church. This is because there wasn't actually a sermon. Not in the traditional sense. The "sermon" was a list of biblical verses that would be read by the second reader. Afterward, the first reader would read a selection from the textbook written by Mary Baker Eddy, Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures. This book is put on par with the Bible as an authority in faith. It's seen as a supplement to and commentary on the Bible. The reader said, "The Bible and Christian Science textbook are our only preacher." There was no commentary nor individual input on the readings.

The subject matter this week was on matter. Christian Science practitioners have a very Gnostic view on the material world. To them, all matter is an illusion. It's a false reality created by our five senses lying to us. The readings referred to matter as "an error in statement" and "a human concept." For them, the only reality is spiritual reality, and ultimately God is the source of all spirit, therefore God is all that is real.

Because of this view of the world, they don't view pain, illness, suffering, or even death as real things. For them, they're all illusions that can be cured with proper thought. As such, they discourage regular medical treatment and encourage only spiritual healing and changing your perception of reality.

This is an extremely dangerous view to have in my opinion. How many lives could be improved or saved through our incredible advancements in modern medicine? The placebo effect can only go so far.

I found the message here quite upsetting. My friend, Austin, will be covering the more scientific dimensions of this. For that, please check out his blog:

Overall Experience:

This was not the experience I anticipated. I found it dry and uninspiring. Their denunciation of medicine and denial of material realities astounds me and I feel it is a system that is harmful.

Additional Comments:

There will be a video blog up later this week about my time at this church and maybe a bit on the previous ones.

I have yet to choose next week's church. Hopefully I will have decided by tomorrow.

Until next time, peace be with you.

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