Christian Scientists and respect for the rights of others
Like people of many faiths, Christian Scientists take the Golden Rule as basic ethics. It guides our relations with society, and while we can’t claim to have been always perfect in this regard, we feel strongly about respecting the rights of our neighbors and fellow citizens, and not imposing our own religious choices on others. Love for family, neighbor, community and the world is at the core of our values just as in most other churches.
These values apply to choices relating to medical care and the issues raised in the current health insurance debate. The denomination doesn’t dictate in these matters either to its own members or to others. Long before the Affordable Care Act, for example, the church’s headquarters made available medical insurance benefits for those of its employees who wished to have this coverage.
We don’t see this as a contradiction of our Christian commitment or healing ministry. It’s just a matter of respect and consideration for valued colleagues. It would be surprising if business owners who are Christian Scientists didn’t naturally share this respect for the rights of their employees.The same values extend to issues of public health and safety. From the early years of our church’s history, obedience to law has been foundational to the practice of Christian Science. We’ve conscientiously sought to observe reporting, vaccination, and other public health requirements mandated by law or considered necessary for the protection of public health in specific situations.
The religious accommodations in regard to vaccination that exist in a number of states reflect this history. As the Massachusetts Department of Public Health noted in a column in The New England Journal of Medicine in 1974, the accommodation of Christian Scientists as a religious minority has been based on a tradition of “mutual tolerance” and shared underlying values. “In modern practice,” the column pointed out, the denomination “has also drawn a careful distinction” between legitimate respect for religious practice and “what society may reasonably expect [an individual] to do for the general good…" (“Christian Science and Community Medicine,” 2/14/1974, 401-2).
In this spirit, we see respect for our neighbors’ concerns being as valid as respect for the concerns of a spouse or family member of a different faith. The common good includes everyone. And so we can understand the public health concerns that have been raised in recent years by the larger number of exemptions from vaccination being claimed for non-religious reasons.
The practice of spiritual healing is a conscientious choice for Christian Scientists. Countercultural as it may seem in today’s world, it isn’t the narrow religious stereotype often assumed. It isn’t a dogma that can or should be imposed by church fiat, but a heartfelt practice rooted in love and “common humanity” (as the church’s founder put it more than a century ago). While laws and conditions may change over time, we continue to be grateful for the tradition of mutual tolerance and respect that makes the working out of honest differences possible in a diverse democratic society.
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Why would reasonable people turn to the practice of spiritual healing in today’s high tech, pervasively medical culture?
Many automatically assume that Christian Scientists, who have been widely known for their practice of spiritual healing through more than a century, must not be “reasonable people.” Journalists often characterize them as “faith healers” – usually a term of derision implying ignorance and fanatical belief. And yet, this label is seriously misleading, as most such stereotypes are.
Christian Scientists are a diverse, substantial religious body. They’re conscientious, thinking people, on the whole. Deep as their religious convictions are, they make their own choices and respect the rights of others to do the same. They appreciate the humanitarian efforts of doctors for those who turn to them.
They see Christianity not as a narrow church dogma to be blindly adhered to, but as a way of life that has to be responsibly approached and profoundly thought through. Even in the face of public opposition – Christian Science was banned in Germany under the Nazi regime, for instance – this is the spirit in which Christian Scientists strive to approach the practice of spiritual healing.
The study republished here suggests the real reason for Christian Scientists’ continuing devotion to this practice: the actual experience of healing that it has repeatedly brought in their lives.
The study carefully quantifies the medical evidence referred to in many thousands of testimonies of healing published in the Christian Science Sentinel and Journal over a twenty-year period. Undertaken in 1989, it wasn’t (and isn’t) an effort to “prove” the truth of Christian Scientists’ faith, but simply to look at a large and challenging body of evidence that is generally ignored in public and academic discussion.
Christian Scientists themselves find these healings deeply humbling. We certainly recognize how much more we have to learn. We grieve just as others do when healing does not come. The study simply points to the breadth and scope of healing that has come through this consistent spiritual practice, and why Christian Scientists see such healing as significant beyond their own denomination.
Thoughtful people may differ in their views on the ultimate explanation of these experiences, but it’s neither honest nor scientific to dismiss them in a world that, for all its technical advances, still cries out for a deeper understanding of the spiritual sources of healing in every sphere of human life.
Committee on Publication
The division of the Christian Science church that engages with members of the media, lawmakers, and the public is known as the Committee on Publication. The Committee is not the publishing arm of the Church, but serves as an informational resource to answer questions and clear up misconceptions about the practice of Christian Science.
Manager and Church media contact
The Manager of the Committees on Publication, Kevin Ness, guides the Church’s 135 representatives (Committees) throughout the world as they interact with journalists and local lawmakers. Use the directory at the bottom of this page to find a press/legislative contact near you. Or be in touch with the Church media contact for assistance.
210 Massachusetts Ave. P09-10
Boston, MA 02115 USA
Church media contact