I have lurked on the Christian Way forum for a number of years, and have now posted twice as a guest commenter. I enjoy this forum and appreciate it as a gathering place and outlet for those of us I like to call “refugees from an obscure religion”, whether we be religious or not. A thread I recently posted my second ever comment on inspires today’s post (my comment is #22235–signed “Emerging Gently”). The topic of the thread touches on an interesting trend I’ve noticed recently with Christian Scientists’ interactions with media, specifically blogs, guest blogs, articles, etc.–most often from those who act as the spokespeople for Christian Scientists: Committees on Publication (I’ll call them COPs for short), but also other Christian Scientists as well. I’ve noticed an increasing trend with postings and articles in the media by Christian Scientists to not mention either Christian Science, Mary Baker Eddy, or even Jesus or the Bible. In the past, it was almost an inside joke, if you will, that any article published in the media about Christian Science had to have a reference to Eddy, and a quote or two from Eddy and/or the Bible. Now, I’ve noticed a trend for Christian Scientists, and COPs in particular to go into stealth mode; get out there and talk about spirituality and health care, introduce spiritual concepts in general, but make no mention of Christian Science, Mary Baker Eddy, or even Jesus or the Bible.
As I remain connected to many Christian Scientists via social media (many of whom are involved with Committee on Publication work), I see posts of articles or blog posts by Christian Scientists in various media cross my newsfeeds regularly, and occasionally I read them. As one might expect, the head COP, Russ Gerber, is the most prominent voice out there, along with his cohort Tony Lobl, who is the Committee on Publication District Manager for Great Britain and Ireland, and as such is the leading voice for Christian Science in Europe, and to some degree the rest of the world outside of the United States. Do a search on Huffington Post US and UK editions, and their names easily come up, along with a list of posts they’ve made there. I did a quick sampling of their posts there, and here’s what I found:
For Russ Gerber:
- 12 posts between August, 2011 – February, 2013 (most recent)
- out of those 12 posts, 8 made no mention whatsoever of Mary Baker Eddy or Christian Science
- of those 8 “no Christian Science” posts, 2 did make mention of the Bible or Bible stories
For Tony Lobl:
- 20 posts between July, 2012 – August, 2013 (most recent)
- out of those 20 posts, 13 make no mention of Mary Baker Eddy or Christian Science
- of those 13, 1 made mention of the Bible
Mostly, the articles dealt with alternative health care, or alternative views on health care, and some were what many would call “lifestyle” articles. As in this particular post, Christian Science concepts are in the background, without direct attribution to Christian Science. I’ll be honest, some of his articles are interesting, as I remain interested in alternative health care, and am a consumer of alternative therapies on occasion. However, it is telling to me that over half of Gerber’s and Lobl’s postings make no mention of Christian Science.
I’ve seen the same trend with postings by US state COPs and those in other countries: many articles that discuss spirituality and health care in general, with Christian Science concepts lurking in the background, but no direct mention of Mary Baker Eddy or Christian Science–even on their own blogs. For instance, Ingrid Peschke, a Christian Science practitioner and the COP for the US state of Massachusetts, titles herself on her Huffington Post blog posts as “blogger, ‘Changing Tides of Health'”–you have to click into her profile to find out any connection to Christian Science. A quick scan of her blog of the same title shows up little direct mention of Christian Science, Mary Baker Eddy, or even the Bible in her posts.
Often, when either Eddy, Christian Science, or the Bible do get a mention, it is very fleeting, as in this post by Tony Lobl. This all goes against a general policy of the past that all articles by and about Christian Science/Christian Scientists or Mary Baker Eddy seemed to have to have certain requisite quotes from Eddy’s writings and/or the Bible, and often a biographical sketch of Eddy. This change isn’t necessarily not all that new; it’s been a trend I’ve been aware of since well before my own departure from Christian Science. In fact, it’s a trend that’s been apparent to me for over 10 years, but it seems much more widespred now, and has gained much more awareness lately. It’s definitely a departure from what was pretty much orthodox policy for many years.
Why are Christian Scientists in stealth mode? What are they afraid of? My own theory, based on experience, is that while they desperately want the public at large to have a correct knowledge of Christian Science and Mary Baker Eddy, and they want what they see to be their rightful place at the “spirituality table”, they are pathologically afraid of any sort of outside scrutiny of Christian Science or their practice of it, and the tough questions that would inevitably follow once people begin to do even the slightest bit of digging. I think that fear has its roots in the many tragic failures of Christian Science that have had significant press in the past, which illustrate a point I harp on repeatedly in this blog: Christian Science does not work as advertised–it does not heal. More often than not, it fails, and it often fails very tragically, killing its hapless victims, sometimes in horrible and agonizing ways. It is this uncomfortable truth that undermines the credibility of Christian Science and anyone who publicly identifies themselves as such. This is an interesting, and for Christian Scientists and their church, a sad paradox: the aching desire for credibility and a place at the table, but the lack they receive when Christian Science gets any scrutiny.