Category Archives: Review

Tribute to Billy Graham

The death of American Christian evangelist Billy Graham deserves homage. I’ve only heard Graham speak a few times, over the radio or on the television. He didn’t really hold my attention. I have read books about Graham, they were nice. I’ve also read about his wife, Ruth Graham, because behind every great man is a great woman.

Graham is known for repeating, “The Bible says…” and, to be honest, those words don’t appeal to my thinking because the Bible is open to interpretation. Words in the Bible can say many things to many people and I have yet to meet someone who gets it always right. And words in and of themselves don’t have power.

So, Graham’s words didn’t enlighten or inspire me, but his integrity, perseverance, and dedication did and still will enlighten or inspire me. What motivated Graham? I suppose it was his love of God, family, and the Bible. And I suppose that is about all I have in common with this, which is plenty.


Caring for Religion, Commentary in The Daily Star newspaper in NY

My article printed in The Daily Star February 10, 2018

Reading in The Daily Star about closure of First Baptist Church in Oneonta provoked flashback. I don’t know their circumstances, but my church community folded about fifteen years ago, and I now offer one piece of advice. Care for religion.

This is not to say religion hasn’t been cared for, but there is a difference between caring for religion and taking care of sacred centers or defending religious policies.

To care for religion isn’t to worry about religion. It isn’t to get distracted by thinking religion is dying. It’s not dying. Pew Research Center reports that 84% of the world’s population is religious-minded and it’s on the increase.

Religion is part of human life, like dirt. And, it is the religious-minded who provide the best care for religion. In other words, pointing fingers at the nonreligious-minded is silly. We don’t expect people who don’t own pets, to care for our pets.

So, how do we care for religion?

I started pondering that mystery when a teenager. I had plenty of time. I spent a gazillion hours operating tractors on the family farm, working the dirt. Plowing, planting, harvesting.

In between listening to Elton John on the AM radio, I’d think over narratives from the Bible, such as the parable of the sower, reportedly given by Christ Jesus. The storyline starts with a sower, throwing seed everywhere. Seeds on the road, on rocky places, in shallow soil, in thorns, and, yep, “on good soil.”

Despite my inclination to debate the waste and inefficiency of randomly throwing seeds everywhere—we used precision planters on the farm—I still was able to grasp the possibility of seed bringing “forth fruit, some a hundredfold, some sixtyfold, some thirtyfold.” (Matthew 13:8)

Arguably, religion has brought forth the fruits of spiritual texts, guidance, relief, wellbeing, and meaningful lives. But, the farmer in me knows that growing fruit depletes nutrients in the ground, big time, and diminishes soil.

That’s why farmers fertilize or amend soil, alternate crops, or leave the land fallow.

Nevertheless, it was that very strategy of caring for soil that moved my mind to care more for religion than for the soil depleting religious practices and policies. I’ll give an example.

When a child, my parents introduced me to Christian Science, defined as an infinite force of divine spirit interpreting harmony to the universe.

As a religion however, it was established by Mary Baker Eddy late 19th century. Early records show churches prospering and members enjoying noteworthy healing and advancements in the study of both human mind and divine mind.

I, myself, experienced tangible benefits from the religion. These fruits, so-to-speak, were self-satisfying until the 1980s when I was first surprised, then grieved, to see churches headed toward their deathbeds.

To be honest, it took me years to stop reminiscing or trying to relive the glory days even if they were in my imagination. It took me years to stop advocating for a human ideology and start advocating for improved religion or convictions.

In my situation, I carried an unfounded conviction that Christian Science required radical reliance on prayer for healing. Why did I have such a conviction?

Good question, and I didn’t get good answers. So, I confronted language used by both admirers and critics of Christian Science, either excusing or condemning going to doctors or not. I traced the language to a sentence in Eddy’s textbook on Christian Science, Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures. She wrote, “Only through radical reliance of Truth can scientific healing power be realized.”

A 19th-century dictionary showed me that the word “radical” has, well, radically changed in meaning during the last one-hundred years. It meant, pertaining to the root or origin, and didn’t carry todays weight of extremism.

But the regrettable notion of “extreme prayer,” paled next to the mistake of grossly confusing reliance on Truth with reliance on prayer.

Sure, prayer is a big component of Christian Science, but prayer is not synonymous with truth. And this new conviction sprouted. I could see it and hear it.

More accurate language was used to discuss and write about religion, teaching me indirectly that spiritual texts also aren’t synonymous with truth, but are interpretations. The conviction multiplied.

Religion is not synonymous with truth. Science, politics, and the media are not synonymous with truth. These institutions aren’t even sources of truth but are methods to discover and share.

Unfortunately, these methods can be used to notice and share information that does little or no good, even harm, to humanity. That is why we should be careful before repeating information. That is why our institutions need continual care.

Historically, proper care doesn’t come from anger, complacency or arrogance. Care comes from insight, education, and an openness to take the time to listen to others to learn where they started from and how they got to where they are. It comes with courage to outgrow the old and wear the new.

Posted online January 9, 2018, Barna Research reported that, “In a post-truth climate, the challenge, particularly for faith leaders, may be to find that balance between encouraging positive signs of introspection while confronting wholly subjective approaches—whether in interpreting facts, discerning truth or practicing faith.”

After reflecting on the bygone Baptist Church, I felt positive respect for its 185 years of singing praises and serving the community. I also was urged to confront and rethink that parable about the sower.

Remember that sower mentioned above, sowing seed willy-nilly? Is it telling me that my religion, or religion in and of itself, isn’t the only place where seed was sown? I’m feeling a growing conviction that seed is everywhere, ready to bear fruit. Let’s get the soil ready.

Bio: Cheryl Petersen lives in Delhi. Her books are “21st Century Science and Health,” “from science & religion to God: A narrative of Mary Baker Eddy’s Science and Health,” and “I Am My Father-Mother’s Daughter.”

Little miracles

Miracles seem to come in different sizes. Some big, some little. But, if we look at all the little miracles, do they add up to a big one?

It’s the many little miracles in the 1947 film, The Bishop’s Wife, staring Cary Grant, David Niven, and Loretta Young, that bring meaning.

A Bishop, played by Niven, is troubled by an obsession to fund the building of a new cathedral. He prays for guidance and an angel by the name of Dudley, played by Grant, appears.

The miracle wasn’t a funded and built cathedral, but spiritual guidance that influenced the Bishop, his wife, and the people around them. They were influenced to treat themselves and others better.

At one point, Dudley, the Bishop’s wife, and a taxi cab driver went ice-skating. With a little angelic miracle working, everyone ice-skated, heavenly.

Afterward, the taxi cab driver thanked the couple for including him and said, “You restored my faith in the human soul.”

Restored faith in goodness and humanity is a big miracle.

bishop wife

Nurture respect already in place

Archeologists have uncovered evidence interpreted to link not only ideas but also actual inscribed words in the Bible back to thinkers and writers who pre-dated Biblical authors.

In his 2016 publication of the book, The Cities That Built the Bible, Archaeologist and Biblical scholar, Robert Cargill gives tangible examples that show some ideas and even words, in both the Old Testament and New Testament, can be traced back centuries before biblical authors were even born.

Correct. Scriptural words were not traced back to God, but to other human beings.

No, no, no, this is not an argument against the presence of God and it isn’t a burial of the Bible or religion. It’s a release.

What if we stopped fearing or revering religion and its accompanying materials? What if we doubled up our efforts to cultivate the respect for one another already in place? What if we acknowledged a truth presenting itself anew for the sheer fact it identifies with ongoing purpose and eternal life?

From the introduction of Sixth Edition of 21st Century Science and Health:

“Truth is ever-revealing itself, it can’t be stopped. It embraces and moves us. With respect to all truth-seekers, I share 21st Century Science and Health.”— Cheryl Petersen

best cover


Cheryl Petersen

Q & A’s on Christian Science

What is Christian Science? The mental process for improvement; the law of Truth and Love interpreting harmony to the universe.

When did Christian Science come into being? It’s existed forever.

How do I discover Christian Science? Through prayer, meditation, and revelation. It finds you.

Where is Christian Science? Everywhere.

Who has written about Christian Science? Many people however in the 19th century, Mary Baker Eddy wrote extensively on this Mind-force she termed Christian Science.

What has happened to Christian Science since Eddy’s time-period? The law of Truth and Love is still intact and translating harmony, health, and holiness to humanity however Christian Science has been buried in misunderstandings.

Why is Christian Science confused with a church? Because Eddy founded a church before she died and human beings began linking the law of Truth and Love to a religious organization and its behaviors rather than share it as a universal Mind-power for good.

How do I separate Christian Science from a religious organization? Know yourself as the representative of Truth and Love, not the representative of a religious organization. Know Christian Science as never able to be locked into a church or book.

Christian Science is free. The law of Truth and Love illuminating life and wellbeing is free. You are free. You can mentally know this power as able to support humanity in its endeavors to improve mind, body, and spirit.

Happy thoughts: The flower hat my granddaughter made me…

flower hat no eyes

Outstanding movie

Wow, the film, Hidden Figures, is outstanding. I highly recommend.

As described online at IMDB, it’s the story of a team of female African-American mathematicians who served a vital role in NASA during the early years of the U.S. space program.

Hidden Figures shows how progress can come without violence.

This is not to belittle the people who fight for equality and encounter violence, because sometimes fighting for equality and freedom isn’t pretty but is necessary for the good of humanity.

However, all examples of nonviolent progress can be recognized as significant and attractive. Hidden Figures does this.

I also appreciated the evidence of families working together and staying strong in their faith and faithfulness.

From 21st Century Science and Health:

At first, Truth leads the few and faithful. As time marches on, the few and faithful thoughts of Truth move forward with the motto of freedom. The powers of this world will react and the old-guard will try to stop truth and make it submit to their human standards and systems. Science, not distracted by threats or assaults, continues to progress. There is always some chaos; however a mobilization to truth’s standard is inevitable.

Improvement comes as mindsets improve. World history illustrates the might of Mind and shows human power to be proportionate to its embodiment of right thinking or spiritual clarity. Words and actions, breathing the omnipotence of divine justice and wisdom, are what powerfully break through discrimination, human agendas, and diminishing returns. Not by weapons and blood does the breath of freedom come. Love is the liberator.

Watch what I want

A short time ago, I wrote a post about wanting a new Bible. Because I sometimes get tired of reading the Bible we have, with its gore, lack of respect for women, and acceptance of slavery, I mulled over the idea of establishing a new Bible.

I know that the Bible, in and of itself, shows how humanity has progressed, and how our idea of God has advanced out of a punishing power into love. But surely, by the 21st century, we could find literature depicting even greater strides.

Then the other night, we watched the 2015 movie, “The Brand New Testament.

Director Jaco Van Dormael, also writer with Thomas Gunzig, tells the story of God, living in Brussels, Belgium, with his family. God is typified as a mean, irrational human being, directing a horrible history for humanity.

His son, Jesus Christ, aka JC, already escaped the household and the story follows how the younger daughter, Ea, escapes to rewrite Scripture and change history.

She gathers six disciples or messengers. We get a glimpse of their life and future as Ea intervenes with her special powers to promote compassion and a trust in good in humanity.

The film seemed a bit ridiculous to me. One disciple left her husband to partner with an ape, as if to show that some animals are better behaved then humans.

After making that mental calculation, I laughed at myself. I was trying to see the deeper meaning behind the story. Exactly what humans have been doing with the Bible for millennia.

There are thousands of Bible commentaries, books that explore the meaning, history, and context of Scripture. They are valuable as noted by Mel Lawrenz in his post titled, “How to Use Bible Commentaries.

Anyway, my desire for a new Bible has been tempered. I will continue to appreciate translations and revisions and commentaries that recover original meanings.

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