Go Forth, Brave Turtle!

Scared Turtle in Shell --- Image by © Sabet Brands/Corbis

Scared Turtle in Shell — Image by © Sabet Brands/Corbis

I don’t mean to denigrate turtles; I happen to think they’re wonderful creatures, and I encounter many of them by the lakes here where I live, and like all animals, I think they’re beautiful. However, they do exhibit a well-known behaviour when frightened that is analogous to how Christian Scientists sometimes act when they speak or write publicly about Christian Science, and are challenged or questioned on what they say. So, I denigrate them for metaphorical purposes only.

Turtles, when they’re threatened and if there is little other recourse, will often withdraw into their shells and wait out whatever it is that’s threatening them. Christian Scientists, especially those who make forays into the media, will often act the same way.

For the past year or so, I’ve been part of an informal group of former Christian Scientist miscreants who seek out articles written in various media outlets by Christian Scientists in order to comment on them “in a polite manner” (to paraphrase the stated mission* of the Christian Science Committees on Publication). We have our own Facebook group, and when someone comes across an article that deserves our attention (and inevitable criticism), they’ll post it, and we will individually comment as we choose to, or not. That’s about the extent to which we are organized in our efforts. We’re definitely not as organized (or well-funded) as our adversaries are. To say the least, it’s often a frustrating, but occasionally rewarding endeavour.

Getting out there…

Christian Scientists and their Church are engaged in a quiet, subtle, and systematic public-relations campaign to get Christian Science “out there” in the public eye. It’s an effort that has been a bit more than 10 years in the making, they have taken a very long-sighted view on this, and they are extremely patient. They have never sought instant results with this initiative. I’d liken it to a campaign of attrition. The sarcastic side of me would compare it to water torture. Keep layering it a little bit at a time, and eventually you’ll have a thick layer of icing on the cake.

The public relations efforts of the Christian Science Church mostly begin and end with the Committee on Publication (COP)–the public relations department of The Mother Church. Back in the early quarter of the last decade, they realized they really needed to get Christian Science in the public eye. With all the spirituality talk out there, nobody was mentioning Christian Science or Mary Baker Eddy. I remember when I was working at The Mother Church, few of the regular Boston Joes who walked across the Christian Science Plaza every day even knew what Christian Science was. Compare that with the undeniable fact that likely everybody in Salt Lake City knows what Mormonism is. If you’re a Christian Scientist, that’s a problem.

To solve it, the manager of the COPs began having the local COPs (they’re in many US & Australian states, Canadian provinces, and countries throughout the world) focus on media work. Media work for COPs (known as “Committee”) entails contact with media outlets and reporters, and most visibly, getting on the internet. Almost all COPs maintain their own blogs, and many also blog on so-called “reader blogs” on major news sites such as Huffington Post, Houston Chronicle, Washington Post, and many smaller local outlets. They get out there in what I’ve called in the past “stealth mode”–often making little or no direct mention of Christian Science or Mary Baker Eddy in their posts. I’ve written about this here.

The frustration starts here (and so does my metaphor)…

Now for what truly frustrates our little merry band of ex-Christian Scientist mischief-makers. Anyone who has spent time on any of The Mother Church websites or social media will quickly notice that on postings where there are comments, there are  few to no critical comments. It’s not to say that people don’t make critical comments, it’s just that the good folks in Boston don’t let those comments go up, and if one does, it’s usually deleted very quickly. That’s all well and good for The Mother Church’s websites and social media–they have every right to decide who gets to play in their sandbox. The same goes for individual blogs by Christian Science practitioners. I ask, “Why are they afraid of criticism? Why so afraid to answer the tough questions?”

However, when the COP folks in particular, put their stuff out there, be it on sites like Huffington Post, or even their own blogs, and don’t entertain critical or questioning comments, I have a huge problem. These people are the public relations “spin doctors” of the Christian Science church, and rarely do they allow critical or even mildly questioning comments to be posted on blogs they control. Sometimes, as with one particular COP who is from the Lone Star State (Texas), they don’t allow critical comments on so-called “reader blogs” they keep on newspaper websites. I and several others have tried to comment on articles posted by our Lone Star friend on the “reader blog” that he maintains on the Houston Chronicle website, to no avail. We generally don’t even bother on his or any other COP’s personal blogs. It’s frustrating and angering to us to see this stuff go out there unchallenged on regular media sites like nasty stinkweed pollen. The COP folks are putting lipstick on the pig of Christian Science, and they’re getting away with it in too many instances.

What are these people afraid of? Are they afraid that those of us who’ve realized the truth about Christian Science will call them on the BS they’re selling? Are they afraid of the tough questions we’ll ask? All they do is stick their heads out for a few seconds, spew their homilies, then retreat like scared turtles back into their Christian Science shells. They want their cake and eat it too. Well, I’m sorry, that’s not the way the big bad material world works. If you’re going to put your theology out there, be prepared to have it challenged, and be prepared to answer the tough questions. If you can’t answer tough questions, then maybe your theology is indefensible and you should stay on the porch.



*The mission of the Committees on Publication is found in the Manual of The Mother Church (Article XXXIII, Section 2, pp. 97-98): “It shall be the duty of the Committee on Publication to correct in a Christian manner impositions on the public in regard to Christian Science, injustices done Mrs. Eddy or members of this Church by the daily press, by periodicals or circulated literature of any sort.” Each “Committee” in a particular locality is actually just one person, although they are sometimes assisted by one or more “assistant committees”.


6 thoughts on “Go Forth, Brave Turtle!

  1. I just read one of those CS with no mention of CS articles. Ewwww. That’s so gross. How can they feel good about what they are doing. It can’t make them feel good to know that as soon as someone knows they’re peddling CS they won’t want anything to do with them. It’s like those Scientology “personality tests”. They’re just recruiting tools for a cult.

    • They’re trying desperately to get a seat at the table, and if people know who/what they are, they don’t stand as good a chance at getting that seat. So, they try to sneak in–looking like something they’re not.

  2. Can I just gently point out that your friend Kat, over at Kindism, has an extensive comment policy that basically states that she reserves the right to edit and delete comments that are left in defense of CS. I know that’s not you, but this is not a strategy unique to the COPs.
    I do appreciate that you have never edited our rejected my comments and that you are willing to engage with myself and others who participate in the same kind of “trolling” that you do, but for the other side. 🙂

    • Kat and I have our polite disagreements on the posting of pro-CS comments. As long as a comment does not violate any of my rules, it gets posted here. I actually have yet to reject a comment. That said, I also reserve the right to respond to pro-CS comments as I see fit. 😉 I don’t have a huge problem with the censorship on CS sites (practitioners, COPs, The Mother Church), they have the right to do as they please. The Ex-Christian Scientist website (which I’m involved with) generally does not post pro-CS comments. It’s also their right (and unlike the TMC sites, this policy is clearly stated by The Ex-Christian Scientist). However, I do object strongly when CS writers go out onto newspaper or other ‘public’ forums and do not allow critical comments to be posted (yes, this does happen–the Texas COPs ‘reader blog’ on the Houston Chronicle website is an example). That should not be allowed. They should not have control over comments.

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