If we are to be defined by our religion, then I suppose I have am in line with Christian Science. But, if you were to tell me the religion Christian Science was going to be renamed to Christian Research, or to Humane Science, my reaction would be on the level of a comfortable, “Ah.”
There are a couple of reasons for this casual response, the first and most obvious being that a title is only a title. Words are only words. I won’t truly know what Christian Science means until I read the ideas in the books meant to teach it, The Bible and Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures, by Mary Baker Eddy.
In Sunday School, I was taught Christian Science etiquette, how to properly mark, read, and quote from the Bible and Science and Health. Certain authorized words were to be revered. I was given a smaller set of books, the travel edition, to take with me when I went on a trip. Undeniably, I could see Christian Science offered some distinguishing elements, but I’d ask, “Is it the words that make Christian Science?” Answers I received were not satisfying.
Even if I had felt any warm feelings toward certain words, I still don’t know if I ever would have caught on to that elusive thing called, “the spirit of Christian Science” by reading words or books. When others were somberly repeating words from the King James Version of the Bible, or Mrs. Eddy’s words, images of robots would come to mind. Try as I might, I couldn’t seem to feel the sacredness of words written centuries ago.
But I did experience Christian Science. When praying or being prayed for, I was healed of sicknesses. I remember a broken shoulder bone healing quickly. I’d practice talking with God as Love and Truth, a concept learned through the Bible and Science and Health, with a childlike simplicity that genuinely revealed the presence of a higher power, truly able and willing to guide me to wellbeing and purpose. But the constant referral to hand-picked words would sometimes grate on my nerves.
After leaving for college, I did what any college student would do, and conducted a little scientific experiment. I threw the Bible and Science and Health in the garbage. Nothing happened. I did not lose my ability to think humanely or logically. God did not disappear. I even still felt something invigorating and inclusive. I eventually pulled the books out of the garbage, but it was after I discovered for myself that I could experience inspiration and healing without the explicit use of certain words.
Of course, as I got older, I understood that there is no magic about the words in the Bible and Science and Health, but that the rules governing the reverence and repetition of its words are intended to convey respect and devotion. After college, I started reading modern versions of the Bible and revised Science and Health to make its ideas practical in the 21st Century.
I’d like to think that we could change the words Christian Science to something Christian Research or Humane Science without putting the things we value at any great risk. Granted the King James Version and Mrs. Eddy’s version of Science and Health still entertain my eyes and mind, along with newer versions, but I remind myself if, as meaningful and as important as these symbols are, I don’t’ want to let them get in the way of the things that really matter.