I recently met the manager of a business in my neighborhood. He asked what I do for a living and I replied I am a Christian Science practitioner. As I usually do, I followed that by inquiring if he knew what that meant, which sparked a brief conversation about my work. I described how people call on me for help in overcoming all kinds of everyday problems, including health issues. I explained that in addition to seeing patients in my mid-town office or in their homes, I am available 24/7 via phone and email, which means I often provide treatment without a face-to-face visit. He asked how that is possible. As this conversation was taking place in the context of a larger gathering, I suggested we talk more another time but answered that, briefly, it is possible because the treatment is entirely mental in nature. He nodded. Later that day, I followed up with an email thanking him for his interest in the healing practice of Christian Science and offering to answer his question more fully. He wrote back right away:
“Thank you for your concern about not answering my question, but believe it or not, you did. If I’m correct, you treat your patients by tapping into the power of the mind and positive thinking. How did I do?”
“That’s actually very close, but it’s missing one critical factor — the power is in divine Mind (i.e., it’s more than human ‘mind over matter’). However, yes, I see how what I said did answer your question. I’m so glad!”
This exchange highlights a common misconception about Christian Science treatment or prayer — that it is an exercise that relies on the controlling power of the human mind over the human body. In fact, the exact opposite is the case: Christian Science requires the surrender of human control in favor of total reliance on God, or divine Mind.
It is completely understandable that this misconception is out there, so I’m making an effort here to begin to correct it. Admittedly, this concept of reliance on God is not always an easy one to understand — or to explain! But it is foundational to understanding Christian Science.
Christian Science is a theology and a prayer-based healing system based entirely on God. The study of Christian Science and its practice involves a never-ending effort to understand more about God — His omnipotence, omnipresence, and goodness. Mary Baker Eddy, the woman who discovered Christian Science in the late 1800s, wrote, “It is our ignorance of God, the divine Principle, which produces apparent discord, and the right understanding of Him restores harmony.” (Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures)
Christian Science is a radical approach to health and other human conditions, because it revolves around a radical definition of God as all-powerful, all-good, governing all. Even a glimpse of this all-powerful divine nature can transform and elevate one’s human experience — and this often has a tangible healing effect on the body, because yes, the human mind directly influences the body. Through a clearer understanding of God, the human mind yields to the dominance of the divine Mind — it gives up control and consents to the divine Mind’s control over every aspect of existence, including health.
I welcome conversations like the one described above, because they force me to articulate what I understand about Christian Science and how it differs from the many other helpful systems New Yorkers are using today. Even when my beliefs are challenged, I value these conversations, because they lead me to a further investigation of my religion and the nature of God. That investigation helps me grow in my understanding which, in turn, enables me to help others. And for that, of course, I am grateful.