During my first quarter at Principia, I was part of a class trip to Independence, Missouri, where I had the opportunity to attend a Christian Science Sunday service. Much of what I observed in the church has vanished from my memory, but one thing still remains. The congregation was mostly above fifty years of age. As someone used to seeing fairly balanced congregations, the situation was unsettling for me. I have to confess that I have been thinking about it for quite some time now, and will most likely continue thinking about this trend until I see a change. Aren’t there any young people out there who attend church services?
The French thinker, Victor Hugo, once said, “The only thing that is greater than all the armies of this world is an idea whose time has come.” Mary Baker Eddy reminded us in Science and Health With Key to the Scriptures that “the time for thinkers has come” (vii). And this brings me to the all-important question: Who are we? There is the option of assuming the identity elucidated by the founder and discoverer of Christian Science, Mary Baker Eddy, which is that of thinkers. Another option is to believe that we exist as matter journeying through space and time. One identity calls for genuine sacrifice and its endpoint is the discovery of the purpose of life; the other calls for absolutely nothing on our part. In fact, to use the words of an anonymous 18th century Austrian comedian, “All you need to be while headed nowhere is flap, snob, snub, snap, and trap, both yourself and others.” I am sure these words appear chaffy at first sight, but not to everyone. To Mrs. Eddy’s thinkers, those words mean all that one should try not to be!
In Victor Hugo’s words, is there a new idea whose time has come for modern day Christian Science? Or did the idea of thinking cap off when Mrs. Eddy stated that the time for thinkers has come? If indeed we are living through the time of thinkers, what role do we need to play? In demonstrating how times and traditions call for strategic transformation, Paul wrote to the Corinthians telling them how he spoke and thought as a child in his youth, but put childish things aside upon his transition into adulthood. In explicit terms, there are actions that are only suitable for certain times and places. For instance, the utilization of smoke as a means of sending signals was ideal eons ago; using it in today’s world will attract funny reactions. What is the “smoke signal” in Christian Science? Is it rigid faith, or the benevolent gift that swells within the wide room of the moral law, the natural doctrines, and divine provisions to accommodate all of God’s children?
There are several questions like this one that call for responses as Christian Science strides into the future. Aggressive outreach is a move seen by some as one way to get more people involved in church. Biblical wisdom clearly states that whoever lights a lamp should not hide it under a bushel, but instead should position it strategically so as to share the light with others. If Christian Science is the light, what then are we doing by engaging in limited or non-existent outreach?
As Christian Scientists move forward, they have an obligation, not earthly, but heavenly, not human, but divine, to come up with working approaches to get the message out to the rest of the world. I have a deep conviction that Mrs. Eddy’s message is what most – if not all – the world needs for healing. For this reason, outreach tactics have to take into account the religious socialization of the various peoples of the world. The reason for this is that, as a relatively new and growing faith, conversion is key to the attainment of a critical mass in new regions, who will then help establish a foundation for future membership in the church.
Even as I write this, I am humbly cognizant of my limited understanding of religious matters, and will easily cave in to rebuke from a change-resistant quarter. But truth be said, Paul had to cover long distances after the death of Jesus to take the good tidings to different parts of the world. Call it becoming a fisher of men!
Mrs. Eddy’s religious genius yielded a church that the “thinkers” (whose time has come) need to lead prayerfully according to Biblical purposes. The divine spirit is powerful in that it purifies not just itself, but those who seek to reside in it, too. And this is why minds open to new ideas on reaching out to the people of the Philippines, India, China, and Nigeria who have never heard of Christian Science are especially needed at this moment.
Excuse my use of these funny animals in relating what I think Christian Science should be: not a tortoise with a shell that grows imperceptibly from birth to death, but a snake that keeps on molting with each season, absorbing new energy and adapting to new habitats, while keeping the founding principles of uncompromising obedience to God and service to humankind. The abundant love, joy, kindness, warmth, service, selflessness, healing, and acceptance that are so present in Christian Science make up the recipe for a perfect living that today’s world is lacking.
From the poverty stricken slums of India to the vanity filled skyscrapers of San Francisco,
From the crime-riddled villages of Nigeria to the dry crannies of Bulgaria,
From the politically charged Middle East to the crisis prone Latin America,
God’s people await good tidings.
Shall we fail them?
And in failing them, fail ourselves?
It is an idea whose time has come, and yeah—it is a time for thinkers!