Monday, March 16, 2009

Church Experiment #11: Christian Scientists

After editing the finished chapter, I realize I sound bitter this week. Guilty as charged. The experience was just so … well, keep reading and you’ll see.

Much like last week (the Jehovah’s Witnesses), I knew very little about Christian Scientists (www.christiansciencecincinnati.com). They certainly have no connection to the Church of Scientology, and they are definitely a branch of Christianity (believe in Jesus, use the Christian Bible, etc.).

From what I could tell, the Christian Scientists have nothing to do with science. I couldn’t find a Periodic Table of Elements anywhere. Contrary to what Jason Boys suggested, communion was not taken from a beaker. Nary a Bunsen burner was involved in the whole operation.

This was a journey of confusion. One that left me with more questions than answers.

To finish reading about this experience or any of the reflections from my 52 visits, please purchase the full book here.

41 comments:

Lori said...

I think you should go visit Joel Osteen. You are on spring break next week - go for it!

Nick Calcara said...

I was just wondering why God can't heal a broken leg? That is quite a limit to put on Him. About a year ago I witnessed Him cure my wife's eye sight. I'm not saying that prayer would be my only source if I were to break my leg, but it would be my primary one. Hope you're not serious about shooting someone. Good luck on your continuing church journey.

don said...

If you want some good stuff, I suggest opening up your iPod to some podcasts.
The village church (Matt Chandler) and Mars Hill Seattle (Mark Driscoll) may be some good places to start.

It could also be an easy way to experience more churches during your "off days."

Steve Fuller said...

Nick,

God can. I'm just being dramatic. If I were to have any physical (or emotional) ailment, I would pray about it. But I also believe doctors can be our friends. And to promote a religion based solely on prayer when someone breaks a leg seems highly irresponsible to me.

After visiting the Scientologists, the Witnesses, and the Christian Scientists, I think I just had my fill of the religious BS out there. And it made me grumpy. Once I start in with the threats of violence, it's definitely time switch gears - less freak shows and more God.

I apologize if I offended you. Very cool stuff with your wife.

Steve Fuller said...

Don,

Matt Chandler is one of my favorite pastors to hear teach. And I have probably listened to more Mark Driscoll teachings than any other pastor on this planet. Good recommendations.

stephanie said...

My uncle by marriage lost his mother because she broke her hip and refused to go to a doctor. He long ago abandoned the Christian Science faith, and traded it in for secular humanism. She remained faithful to the end (obviously)

I always love opening google reader on Mondays to see a new post by you. I love that you are willing to do this experiment and share it will us. Thanks.

DanThoms said...

I can understand you cynicism. If I broke my leg I would try to set it myself while praying. If that didn't work out I would have to go to plan B, cut if off, no wait that's plan C. Plan B is see a doctor.

Elaine said...

Reading this makes me think of the line "God wants our hearts, not our brains." I hate it when people turn off their brains in the name of God. I know some one will probably comment that God wants our hearts and our brains...but, whatever, you get the picture. Anyway, if you are looking for a road trip, come on down to Nashville. There are a bunch of cool churches around here.

bshawise said...

you're just mad because it was boring. i wonder if this frustration will pop up regularly. not because you'll inevitably run into a boring service but because it's probably going to be hard to ever get into a rhythm. maybe not. maybe the lack of rhythm can become rhythm. regardless, rhythm is certainly a part of experiencing God, right?

Steve Fuller said...

Bradley,

Boring, yes. But more than that, I am frustrated with myself for picking two places that felt very "empty." Especially back to back.

I think Week 11 was a turning point. Yes, I want to experience new stuff and learn about other religions and seek God in unlikely places, but this year is also about experiencing God in new and exciting ways.

Freak shows are interesting, but I also need to pick churches that give me the opportunity to grow and learn and be challenged by God.

Dan Kalbach said...

I'd recommend going to China and visiting one of their 'underground' churches. I'd guess that would rock one's world and aid in redefining their faith.

DanThoms said...

I think you should give House of Joy in College Hill a shot. I've always enjoyed their services (they are a bit long though).

Steve Fuller said...

Kalbach,

I appreciate your offer to fund the trip. You can make the check out to me.

A Modern Ancient said...

A closer drive would be Louisville and Southeast Christian Church.

Now, I by no means support their theology, but they are mainstream Christians... just a little more fundamentalist than I care for.

But, I have had friends who went there and were blessed by their ministry so that's why I suggested it. Plus, it is a HUGE church and only and hour and a half away from Cincinnati.

That way you could get your mega-church "fix" and plan another time to get to Bell's church as well as Willow Creek.

If you don't take my suggestion, I might become bitter and hostile ;-)

Jessica Dalrymple said...

I'm a Christian Scientist and many of us feel the same as you. I have a blog about it. It's for members of our church who want to experience church the way you do. I hope you don't mind if I reference your blog on my blog. I think it is extremely important for us to hear. http://newwinenewbottles.blogspot.com/

Steve Fuller said...

Jessica,

I don't mind at all.

I appreciate your kind response to my blog considering how harsh my words were toward your faith. I am humbled by your kindness.

It is encouraging to hear there are alternative viewpoints out there about the religion.

I was curious - would you be willing to explain what about the faith continues to draw you in? I don't mean to offend, but I really am interested what the attraction is for people.

Andy Rainey said...

What about Andy Stanley's Church?

http://www.northpoint.org/

Nick Calcara said...

Steve,
I am sorry if my comment was offensive. Your church journey is a very educational mission. I can see that it is also a dangerous one as well. You are exposing yourself to a lot of practices that work against God. I have enjoyed reading your blog and think that you are a wonderful writer. I have a similar style with my blog, in that I write how I truly feel at that moment. I may offend, but I am human and have my own perception or views of things. Putting them out there is an awesome way of processing them or getting a point across. I agree that doctors can be our friends but have witnessed that God is the ultimate authority in the medical field. He is a pretty good MD. I often think, on my way to my doctor's office to get medicine for a cold, about how I should be praying for His hand instead. Keep up the good work and I will be praying for your strength on the remainder of your journey.

Steve Fuller said...

Nick,

Your comment wasn't offensive at all. I felt bad that I seemed to blast God's ability to heal when you had a personal story of his healing power. Just wanted to clarify my frustrations were more about the Jehovah's Witnesses and Christian Scientists...not God.

I appreciate your comments.

Suzy said...

As a former Christian Scientist, I think that your experience is pretty typical. But what really drove me from the church is the insistence that prayer and medicine can't take place at the same time. My mother was very sick with cancer and she hung on to CS until she almost died. As soon as my dad took her to the emergency room, the CS practitioner stopped praying for her. After the surgery, my mom stopped taking her medicine so she could hire a practitioner again. She died shortly afterwards.

I just can't understand why God would give us a "Sophie's choice" like that.

gary_laura_g said...

Not Christian. No death = no resurrection = no dual nature. Many hints to the researcher to indicate MBE considered herself the equal (or superior) of Jesus. "Key to the Scriptures" means SHE unlocks the truth, of the Bible... as you said: "gibberish" from a very unhealthy 19th century mind. My brother died of pneumonia without so much as an aspirin while mom prayed and paid a practitioner to do the same. The Christian Science church has put in a bill in Wisconsin that gives a religious defense to homicide, criminal negligence, criminal recklessness, and criminal abuse for "reasonable use of spiritual healing." They are still a danger, blue hair and all. www.childrenshealthcare.org

Anonymous said...

I stumbled upon your blog a few weeks ago and can't wait to read your entries! Your experiment is something that I always wanted to do but didn't. As far as mega churches in this area, what about the Vineyard? If you have already mentioned this, I apologize. I have attended the Vineyard for a few years but it is easy to slip into anamosity - I have recently switched to a smaller, start up Vineyard and feel more connected.

Anonymous said...

Oops, I meant Anonymity!

Fox Mulder said...

Steve:

You said, "Any group that involves one person wandering into the woods or sitting at a desk and creating a religion (L. Ron Hubbard, Mary Baker Eddy, Joseph Smith) is probably not something you want to pursue. Just a thought."

This has been a fascinating blog and I look forward to your thoughts, but the initial impression I get is that you've already made many decisions before entering a door.

There can be a big disparity between our presumption of a group's beliefs and what they actually believe. There is also a disparity on the "first impression" syndrome -- how you're treated socially at first isn't necessarily indicative of the culture as a whole.

Are you looking to simply explore different dogmas? Or are you looking at the sociality as more important? What strikes you as "good" versus "less good"? And why do you enter some of these places predisposed to their veracity?

Are you approaching this with an open mind? Or is there something you feel is missing in religion...and you're looking to find it?

Again, fascinating blog. I look forward to furute installments.

Rohmeo said...

Steve, I'd take a road trip with you to go see Driscoll at Mars Hill in Seattle or even Chandler at the Village Church in Dallas in a heart beat. They are "must hear" podcasts each week for me..some serious Biblical meat. You say you listen to them too...interested to know your thoughts on them though? Personally, I have a hard time believing anyone hearing these guys regularly can go about life the same way without dealing with the Gospel because they aren't afraid of telling it like it is. These Reformed dudes are making an awesome impact by being theologically conservative yet culturally liberal. Look out for their church plant organization (Acts 29) ...it's going to be blowin' up all over the place in the next few years. These guys could be the Spurgeons or Whitefields of our time.

Steve Fuller said...

People said a lot, so let me try to address one comment at a time.

Dave,

I am considering Southeast Christian in Louisville. Huge church and short drive, so it will probably be on the list.

Andy,

I will definitely be visiting Andy Stanley's church. Big church, popular pastor, within driving distance. Have been thinking about heading down there this weekend.

Suzy / gary_laura_g,

Those stories are heartbreaking. Maybe that's why I got so annoyed Sunday. So sad.

Anonymous,

I actually used to work at the Vineyard. That is the megachurch I first starting attending ten years ago. Which church plant do you attend now?

Fox Mulder,

Loved your show. I am really trying to keep an open mind, but something about Sunday just really rubbed me the wrong way. Of course, we all have our predispositions, but part of this journey is exploring other faiths (and mine) with an open mind.

Rohmeo,

Matt Chandler is one of my favorite guys. I think he is intelligent, deep, meaningful, and pretty funny. I have a love/hate thing with Mark Driscoll. I have listened to hundreds of his messages, and I think he offers really good stuff. But his arrogance really turned me off a while back, and I haven't listened to him since. I've actually heard he mellowed recently...Keller spoke to him about humility or something...so maybe I should give Driscoll another shot. Either way, I think they both bring a lot to the table. (But Keller might be my favorite of them all.)

Rohmeo said...

Steve,

I think both Keller and CJ Mahaney have been great mentors for Driscoll in the area of humility. I can definitely tell he has grown tremendously the last couple years (haven't we all hopefully). Plus he is a pretty young dude still, I believe 38? I do believe he has gotten a bad wrap somewhat from things early on because of his personality and youth. He likes to be a man's man..brash with confidence. But the way it spills over in his unwavering of the Scripture I think it's refreshing, empowering and memorable for this culture's needs.

BTW, I am in the middle of Driscoll's brand new book VINTAGE CHURCH which you have got to read and comment on because of what your doing with this church experiment. Great stuff!

AM said...

I am an ex-christian scientist and must say that when I took my husband to a Christian Science Service just so he could get a flavor of what I grew up in all he could say after the service once we got in the car was.....WOWWEEEE! He was buzzzin! Enough said!

Anonymous said...

I just started attending the Lifepoint Vineyard in Monroe, Ohio (Andy Ransdell is the lead pastor). I grew up with a Pentecostal grandma, attended Abundant Life Tabernacle in Germantown, Ohio. Obviously a "religion" that many people do not understand, but maybe one that you should add to your list. I love the openness of the Vineyard and the welcome feeling that it is for everyone. Not just those who dress or wear their hair a certain way. Good luck this year, I'm looking forward to reading more!

Stacey said...

I grew up as a Christian Scientist in the middle of the Bible belt. Since I was the ONLY CS in a high school of 1400, I was frequently asked to come to a Young Life meeting or visit a Baptist Church where I could admit I was a sinner and be saved. This really turned me off to fundamental Christianity from the beginning. As I realized later in life, CS is a false doctrine but at least they didn't think of us as born sinners but as a "perfect child of god". Therefore, today I am a secular humanist and am still fascinated that people believe so many false doctrines. I realize that it brings a sense of peace and hope to millions so I accept this for those who believe. Your experiment is interesting but for me it just confirms the reasons for my current status as a secular humanist.

Anonymous said...

Like Jessica, I'm a Christian Scientist, and I've been thinking about how to answer your question to her. I've also had experiences like yours when I visited other churches, and can only say that is probably why the church you went to was so empty. The way you were treated is sad, but it doesn't have anything to do with CS. As in most things, you need to separate the people from the religion. I have friends and clients in every profession, and even my Jewish doctor friend read Science and Health and understood where Mary Baker Eddy was coming from. I find my best answer of why I keep going to church is that CS has turned me to the Bible in such a big way that I find the answers to every question about life in the Bible. There are also many wonderful (smiling) loving people in the churches where I have made my home.

This sums it up for me - it is what Clara Barton said in 1908 about Mary Baker Eddy (From the New York American)
“I can say that I look upon Christian Science, as I understand it, as the most ideally beautiful yet the most practical and comforting of beliefs. Mrs. Eddy should have the respect, admiration, and love of the whole Nation, for she is its greatest woman. Her teachings spread love and good will among men…" Asked if she had read Science and Health, Miss Barton said that she had, and was much comforted by its teachings. "Love," she said, "permeates all the teachings of this great woman, — so great, I believe, that at this perspective we can scarcely realize how great, — and looking into her life history we see nothing but self-sacrifice and selflessness. She has never exploited herself, but so profoundly has she been interested in bringing a great, joyous, healing and comforting religion to a people, that she made directly for that object, regardless of what criticism came to her in so doing. How beautifully she has managed her own unfortunate trials! Without malice, always with a kindness and charity that is almost beyond human comprehension, has this woman fought antagonism, and that only with love. And I say no one familiar with her life and her teachings can help but see the marvelous consistency and beauty of what she has given to the world in Christian Science. The Christian Scientists I have met all impress me with that same spirit of unselfishness that is characteristic of Mrs. Eddy.”

I agree with Clara Barton, and I haven't found any other religion that answers all my questions about God the way CS does.

Thanks for your honest comments. I hope they will help all of us do a better job in presenting our religion to the public.
Linda Bargmann
St. Louis, MO

Lewis Family said...

I think your experiment is fascinating, but don't discount certain churches b/c of a preconceived notion. Go for it anyway! You will find God in many places you would not have expected. Good luck to you. I'll keep up with your progress, I'm very curious to hear more of your observations. You seem to be being pretty unbiased and open, and it's refreshing.

Anonymous said...

Don't know if you are still taking recommendations on churches to visit, but I'm mighty curious about the Supreme Council of the House of Jacob. I haven't been able to find a website and the guy I know that goes there, won't tell me anything about it?! By the way, are you going to try out a mosque?

Steve Fuller said...

Anonymous,

Yes, a mosque will be somewhere down the road.

And is there any information you can give me about the Supreme Council of the House of Jacob? Never heard of it and wouldn't know where to begin looking for one.

Everyone else,

Thanks for all of your comments about the Christian Scientists, especially those of you who are CS. Always a good reminder that actual people make up all of these religions.

Will said...

Steve -- It is clear you do not understand Christian Science. I am a former Christian Scientist (now Lutheran), but I can tell you that you have them wrong. If you were to visit the CS church in Rocky River, Ohio (near Cleveland), you would have a much different experience. Try going to a Wednesday night service and hear all the testimonies of healing. Would you think they were lying about their healings? Also, Mary baker Eddy did not go off into the woods and write a book and say it was given to her by God. You should get your facts straight before publishing them on the Internet.

Steve Fuller said...

Will,

I wrote about what I experienced at that particular church on that particular day. These are experiences, not facts, so I feel great about publishing them on the Internet.

Thanks for stopping by.

Christopher said...

Very humbled by your #11 blog, Steve. As a current Christian Scientist, I'm deeply disappointed that your experience was so negative -- to the point that you'd view us as a bunch of freaks. It sounds to me like we have a long way to go in making our church showcase the living Christ... a very long way.

Very often one can get lost in thinking that being serious about what you believe means you have to always ACT serious -- or even solemn. But stuffing candles under bushels only does the world a disservice...

I want very much to see my church ALIVE and joyous... filled with challenging ideas and sincere love. And I think these things can happen simultaneous with being serious about what we believe.

And the reason why Mrs. Eddy named her religion Christian Science is that it's provable -- she valued understanding and knowledge as much as faith and belief.

Anonymous said...

This is totally strange but I am serious here. In college at Colorado State my cousin Nicole had a roommate who wanted to get breast implants, thought they'd help her self-esteem. Her aunt---this is Nikki's roommate's aunt---told her she should pray every morning for half an hour for larger breasts, and that if she was sincere and had faith her prayer would be answered. Well, Nicole likes to tell us, her roommate did this and her bust size increased from a 32-A to a 34-B in the course of a one semester. A growth spurt? Maybe, the roommate was still only nineteen and stranger things have happened but the aunt was a Christian Scientist. Not advocating the religion, just passing along a for real story.

Anonymous said...

I grew up in Christian Science, although I have since departed from it. I want to say a few things.

I completely understand your disappointment with the church service. What you said sums up a lot of why I no longer attend.

You have no basis to say "No one has ever seen that [healing of a broken leg]. Especially not a Christian Scientist." Actually, many Christian Scientists and others have seen that. I understand your blog is your experience and perspective, but this is written as if it were fact, and it is erroneous.

The avoidance of medical care is certainly controversial... even among Christian Scientists. But as your brochure noted, it is actually permitted for Christian Scientists to seek medical care. There is no bylaw in the Church Manual prohibiting the use of medicine or surgery. The fact that some members do not, when they perhaps should, is their personal choice and is not mandated by the church. So don't blame the religion.

The ideal is for the Christian Scientist to be of such a spiritual mindset that healing occurs quickly and thoroughly. (This does happen with some people, although relatively few are so advanced.) If a healing does not occur very quickly, then in my opinion that person should seek medical care (if such care is available). But I believe it should be permitted to use both prayer and medicine simultaneously, and as someone else said practitioners won't take that case. I disagree with that aspect of the denomination.

I understand you were frustrated, but calling for people to be shot really made me lose a lot of respect for you.

Thanks.

Anonymous said...

Aren't Christian Scientists the people who do faith circumcisions? The parents of newborn boys bring their sons forward and the congregation prays and within a few hours the child's foreskin drops right off? Yeah, I think they're the ones I read about who do that. Jews should really pay attention to that sort of thing. Saves a step in the process, you know?

Anonymous said...

House of Jacob definitely not recommended. See http://minet.org/www.trancenet.net/house_of_jacob/index.shtml

Summary: HOJ is a secretive, dangerous, control-freak cult.