Assessing Mrs. Eddy’s legacy

March 19th, 2020

“Mary Baker Eddy: Christian Scientist and Persister” was the title of a laudatory piece on the influential website Real Clear Politics, published March 16, 2020, as part of a Women’s History Month series recognizing notable speeches by women. The subject was Mrs. Eddy’s address in Boston’s Tremont Temple on that date in 1885 (see Mis. 95).

The writer, Dana Rubin, apparently not a Christian Scientist herself, approached it from today’s prevalent assumptions of intellectual relativism (everyone has their own truth) and cultural Marxism (ideas gain validity from who says them, not from their correspondence to objective reality).

In a word, identity politics—MBE’s claims had merit because of how many chromosomes she had, and because she defied the “establishment,” and because her church took a growth spurt after the Tremont address.

All that and the glorification of Mrs. Eddy simply for having been a “persister” against opposition, a slogan of the feminist movement in recent years. (A wordplay on “sister” is probably in there somewhere as well.)

Thinking back, I can remember the talking point of Robert Peel and other CS apologists that Eddy’s system deserved special admiration by virtue of her being female—an argument rooted in her own slanted scriptural interpretations from Eve in Genesis all the way to the woman in Revelation 12 (SH 533 and 562).

Over against which, we who believe in the Bible as truly inspired and in truth as truly true (as Francis Schaeffer put it) must adamantly resist that whole solipsistic, self-indulgent mode of thought, whether it comes from a devout CSer like Peel or a feminist ideologue like Dana Rubin. My rebuttal to Rubin’s RCP article, posted in their public comments section, was as follows:

I was raised in a family and community that revered Mrs. Eddy. I loved them and still do. But considered in the light of day, regrettably hers is not a legacy of honor. 

She undermined the Bible, the book that has done more for human flourishing than anything ever written. She diminished Jesus, the central figure of world history, in order to elevate herself and her own mystic theories. 

She encouraged a personality cult bathing her in semi-divine adulation—thereby ensnaring countless women and men in a psychological dependency that is the opposite of standing on one’s own feet in a supposed “time for thinkers” which she dishonestly proclaimed. 

With grandiosity she predicted her system would take over Christianity by 2000 and the entire world of religion and health soon thereafter. Fortunately the opposite has occurred: Christian Science is quickly passing from the scene, after having deceived millions over the past 150 years, and with unnecessary suffering visited upon many of them.

If the RCP recognition of Women’s History Month intends to honor contributions of genuine merit, not merely defiant gestures by self-seekers, Mary Baker Eddy does not qualify.

Christian Scientists like to think that reality is spiritual not material, and that they live in the truth that makes free.  But consider the slavish materialistic determinism implied in even suggesting to someone that Science and Health is the book to live by because you and the author have (at long last, after eons of male domination) the same number of chromosomes.

Read a person’s DNA and make them your life-example accordingly? No thank you. What happened to “there is neither male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus” (Galatians 3:28)?

No such simplistic motivation as I have just described actually determines most CS women’s adherence to the Eddy system, of course.  But the very hint of such motivation by herself and her followers should shock us. What a fraud on women and men alike. What an insult to those “thinkers” whose day is claimed to have finally dawned in 1866.

Bottom line, this shallow and faddish little article by Dana Rubin on Real Clear Politics is one more reminder that the exaltation of subjectivity and selfhood so dominant—and so damaging—in our times was first a source of, and then a beneficiary of, contributed to, the rise of Christian Science in the 19th and 20th centuries. The anti-human consequences have been extensive, as I noted in my RCP rebuttal.

For this and many other reasons, we must sadly conclude MBE did not leave a legacy of honor.

Interior of Tremont Temple Baptist Church in Boston today, probably little changed from when Mrs. Eddy spoke there in defense of her doctrines in 1885.

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