This is #5 in a series of posts looking at the 26 Christian Science Weekly Bible Lesson subjects, chosen by Mary Baker Eddy, and rotated twice per year. These lessons are the sermon at each Christian Science church worldwide, and are read by Christian Scientists daily. Today’s subject is “God”. Look for other posts in the category “Lesson Sermon Subjects“.
“O Lord! Ooh, you are so big! So absolutely huge. Gosh, we’re all really impressed down here, I can tell you.”
(from the movie “Monty Python’s The Meaning of Life”)
Yes, God is a big topic, ever so big. How can I cover this in one post? How can it be covered in one lesson topic? The answer is it can’t, although Mary Baker Eddy certainly figured she could define God (twice in Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures). Since this is a blog about my journey, to touch on this subject I’ll offer up my evolving and changing concept of God.
GOD. The great I AM; the all-knowing, all-seeing, all-acting, all-wise, all-loving, and eternal; Principle; Mind; Soul; Spirit; Life; Truth; Love; all substance; intelligence.
(Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures, p. 587)
This definition of God that I just shared is one of two in Science and Health where Eddy presents the classic and well-known (to all Christian Scientists, current and former) seven “synonyms” of God: Mind, Soul, Spirit, Life, Truth, Principle, and Love. She also presents them in the chapter “Recapitulation” in answer to the question, “What is God?”, where she lays out another definition of the Almighty in her answer: “God incorporeal, divine, supreme, infinite Mind, Spirit, Soul, Principle, Life, Truth, Love.” (p. 465). In Christian Science “grammar”, these terms are capitalized (as I have done here) when used in reference to their synonymous (according to Christian Science) relationship to God; and Christian Scientists will sometimes use the terms “God” and any of the synonyms interchangeably. All except Principle are also Lesson Sermon topics.
As a good little Christian Scientist, I grew up with this definition of God, and selected looks at the Abrahamic version of God; a deity that if you take the time to read the bits of the Bible that the Lesson Committee1 in its cloistered secret room in Boston doesn’t choose to have you read, you will find to be at times petty, bigoted, misogynistic, racist, genocidal, and above all massively insecure. This is a deity that commands a man to murder his own child to prove said man’s fealty. It is a deity that sanctioned the ethnic cleansing of the Canaanites so that the “chosen ones” of Israel could occupy their land. I could go on, but you get the picture. “God”, especially in the Old Testament is (to me) basically a petty, insecure, asshole on a very grand scale. Not a “God” I can believe in. I always had trouble with stories like the ethnic cleansing of Canaan, and the story of Abraham and Isaac. What did those people ever do? Why would God ask a father to murder his own son? I could never get past these obvious injustices and immoralities. I firmly believe it’s things like this that people throughout history have taken from the Bible and used the to justify some very horrific acts of ethnic cleansing and other evils to this day.
Lurking as I do on the Christian Way forums,2 one recurring theme I see amongst those who have left Christian Science for mainstream Christianity is that their change in faith to mainstream Christianity from Christian Science was motivated by the act of reading the Bible in its entirety, or at least reading individual books of the Bible in their entirety. While I haven’t read the Bible in its entirety, and likely never will, I have read several individual books of the Bible in their entirety, and this holistic reading has had a distinctly different effect on me. Yes, it has been one cause of my change in faith, but rather than turn me towards a different form of Christianity, it has turned me away from it completely. The more I’ve read the Bible, the more I find it, and the God present in it, to be quite distasteful and completely lacking in any sort of moral character.
I do believe in a higher power of sorts. For me, it’s an evolving belief/concept. In a sense, I am agnostic in that to some degree, I think God (or whatever you choose to call it) is undefinable, and unknowable to a large degree. I tend to believe now in the “universe” as a collective intelligence of which we are all an integral part and to a degree forms and guides our experience. I don’t believe in specific sentient supernatural being that is gender-specific, invisible, capricious in nature, choosy over whom it saves or condemns, and/or omnipresent. That just doesn’t make sense to me. I look for what makes logical sense to me, and what I see as “logically moral”. The conventional Abrahamic concept of God is completely lacking in logic, and is fundamentally amoral.
The atheist believes there is nothing beyond the here and now, and that we cease to exist after we die. That’s entirely possible, but it’s not something I can accept. I innately feel that there is something beyond our current existence. I feel like it would a tremendous waste of time if this is all there is, and what of some of the compelling stories of near death experiences? I think there is something more, and some (admittedly controversial) research is beginning to point to the idea that there is perhaps more to consciousness than what we see and feel in the body; that it may be an energy that exists on a quantum level, residing in our bodies, which act as carriers of this conscience while we are alive.3 I believe that death is a doorway to a new experience or different existence. I don’t believe it is an end. However, when the time comes, it’s entirely possible I may find out differently. For anyone, be they scientist, pastor, new-age practitioner, or otherwise, to say that they, or the collective “we” know everything would be to me, the height of human arrogance. There is always more to discover.
As I’ve said, I have my own concept of and relationship to my higher power. Nobody, and no religion defines it for me, or gets between it and myself. Faith has always been deeply personal for me, and it is especially so now and that’s one reason why I’m not always open about my faith. However, when I was a Christian Scientist, I was extremely reluctant to be open with my faith more because I was often embarrassed by it–you will find many a former Christian Scientist who will say this. Also, I could not really explain it very well, since I really didn’t get it myself, so I avoided situations where I would have to explain the unexplainable, rationalize the completely irrational, and defend the indefensible. Ironically, I now am very open about talking about Christian Science and my former adherence to it now that I’m not a Christian Scientist, largely because I no longer feel the need to explain or defend it.
I now follow First Nations/Native American spirituality, and I am also more open with my current spiritual path because it is a path that is truly mine. It isn’t dictated to me by my parents or anyone else; I chose it, and my experience of it is unique to me. The brother next to me in the sweat lodge will have a different path and experience, even though we attend the same ceremonies. It makes sense to me, and I understand it, but it is a lifelong path of learning. Nobody knows everything, and anyone who claims they do should be treated with suspicion. I will always say that I know more today than I did yesterday; that’s the extent of it for me. My concept of God is my own. It makes sense to me, and it comes from my own experience and meditation on the subject. Although I walk a similar spiritual path to others, we all have different ideas of what “God” is. It’s personal and unique to all of us, and that’s just fine.
1 The Bible Lesson Committee is a highly secretive group of, as I understand it, Christian Science practitioners, and probably some teachers of Christian Science, who are appointed by the Christian Science Board of Directors to select the citations for the Weekly Bible Lessons. They meet regularly in a special room in the offices of the Christian Science Publishing Society (I have seen the door to this room, but have never been inside) on select, and secret occasions to compile the Lessons. The membership of this committee is kept secret, as are their meetings. Most who are, or have been on this committee keep their membership secret. Outside of this committee, other than the Board of Directors, there are only two people that I know of who know who is on the committee and when they meet: the manager of the Christian Science Publishing Society, and their executive assistant.
2 The Christian Way forums are open to everyone, and are (in my opinion) one of the best resources available for former Christian Scientists or those contemplating leaving the faith, and for those who are looking for additional insight into Christian Science. There, the former Christian Scientist will find many familiar stories, and an audience that will uniquely understand their own story. The common thread between almost all of those who post is a past adherence to, or some contact with Christian Science or Christian Scientists. Posters and lurkers are of many different faiths, or none at all. It is well moderated, and everyone is held to a high standard of conduct and respect for all perspectives. Respect and welcome is given to all, no matter their religious background or lack thereof. Even some Christian Scientists bravely post to this forum.
3 “Discovery of Quantum Vibrations in ‘Microtubules’ Inside Brain Neurons Supports Controversial Theory of Consciousness.” Science Daily – Science News. Science Daily, LLC. 16 January 2014. Web. 19 January 2014. <http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/01/140116085105.htm>