What they’re missing is the Bible

September 8th, 2007

Rocky Mountain News religion writer Jean Torkelson has been a friend of mine for years. She’s quietly devout in her Catholic faith (not wanting readers’ knowledge of it to color their view of what she writes), politically conservative, gracious and ladylike, impeccably fair, and very good at what she does. A while back she devoted a short piece to what’s new at the Christian Science Metropolitan Reading Room near Denver’s fashionable Larimer Square (“Church group takes dramatic turn,” July 30). Several things jumped out at me from the article.

One, the innovative approach of chairman Nan Simonds in fostering a discussion series which, in Torkelson’s words, doesn’t just “stay true to founder Mary Baker Eddy’s idea” of a reading room but seeks to be “more relevant” in a way “Eddy would approve of.” Such risk-taking in CS church work isn’t uncommon, but making a success of it when the backlash comes, is. You wonder (a) what stir this may cause internally and (b) what difference it will make, internally or externally.

I ask the latter question because another notable feature of the article is the apparently bland and shallow level on which the discussions are proceeding. “These people, in biblical times, were busy too.” Okaaay…

Revealing in the same vein, and tragically typical of the Christless Christianity and self-salvation that Mrs. Eddy’s followers are stuck with, is the column’s final paragraph, where “the Mary and Martha problem” is trivialized (by Simonds and her co-religionists, not by Torkelson) to “one of finding serenity in a frantic world.”

If the session ever brought out Jesus’ commendation of Mary for choosing “the better part” and centering on Him, there’s no evidence in this account from a discerning and careful journalist. On the contrary, it seems to have been Martha’s misplaced priorities, works righteousness, and assertive indignation that “several related to” in the occasion’s “eureka moment.” Okaaay…

My friend Jean’s skills as a reporter shone in bringing to light this key insight: “What several participants said they’re missing from the world is a better sense of the Bible.” Remarkable, isn’t it, when Scientists study the Bible so faithfully every day and hear it read at length (more length than most evangelical churches, to be sure) twice a week in church. In the church readings there is still something missing, Laura Tate comments. More “continuity”, not just snippets and short takes, is what Sue Sommer (another old and dear friend of mine, as it happens) hopes the reading room discussions will provide that other avenues don’t.

These good folks and seeking hearts may get more than they bargained for. It was the restless search for that something-missing, the quest for continuity in Scripture as provided by its supreme hero, the crucified and risen Lord Jesus, that led me out of Christian Science and to the foot of His cross. When that begins to happen for more and more individuals, and next for small groups like the one described here — and it will, it is — then we will really see the fulfillment of Jean Torkelson’s column title: “Church group takes dramatic turn.”

The author can be reached at andrewsjk@aol.com

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