Perusing The New York Times Sunday morning, one reads that, at the site where the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. delivered his famous “I Have a Dream” speech 47 years ago to the day, Glenn Beck, a celebrity born solely of his opinions expressed via the media, claimed, “America today begins to turn back to God.” And estimates of 300,000-500,000 gathered on the mall in Washington to applaud his message.
Flipping to the “Week in Review,” one encounters a new Public Editor, explaining his willingness to take the job as “designated representative of the readers of The New York Times.” Describing the condition news organizations face — the public’s insatiable demand for information, countered by an insistence on accuracy and integrity of reporting — he states, “The cure, or at least a salve, for this condition is transparency, accountability, humility.”
What a hopeful statement about the press in America — that its future prosperity would rest, in part at least, on an ability to express humility! Is this not democracy at its best?
Further on, he paints a mental picture of The Times as “no conspiracy” — neither publisher nor executive editor is “the Wizard of Oz,” he says, “dictating an agenda from behind a screen. Rather, The Times comes together like parallel computing: many lines simultaneously flowing through a filter, hitting the driveway and flashing on a screen. It is very messy.”
This sounds a bit to me like the democratic system of Christian Science branch churches — simultaneously endeavoring to demonstrate the rules of Christian Science in their locales, working in parallel with other branches, supporting the one Cause of Christian healing. And meanwhile, off in Boston, is the worldwide headquarters — known as The Mother Church — which has no power to control or influence the activities of the branches, but rather, whose primary influence over the system that some may also call “messy” is to love and appreciate, while providing a qualified list of available lecturers to speak to the public about Christian Science and teachers to carry on the healing practice.
So this democratic system also is not a “conspiracy” — no “Wizard of Oz dictating an agenda.” Like The New York Times, operating in a democracy, the Christian Science church is organized in a fashion that seems to call, in part, for humility to survive and prosper.
Saturday I saw a new movie, “Mao’s Last Dancer,” about Li Cunxin, who defected from China in 1981 to dance with the Houston Ballet Company. It’s a moving account of his decision to defect — and the personal sacrifices that would result — which Mr. Li confirmed as authentic. The film portrayed living conditions in China at a time when the west was viewed with suspicion, if not outright contempt — when children were expected from the earliest years to dedicate their lives to Chairman Mao. In short, it showed through the life of one extraordinary artist the radical choice between living under a dictatorship, where every thought is prescribed and controlled, and living under a sometimes messy democracy, with freedom to make your own decisions, including your own mistakes.
With all of this swirling around in my thought this weekend, the central theme that emerged is one of gratitude for the freedom to think for myself. And that leads me to think of Christian Science.
I was drawn seriously to study Christian Science only after I felt comfortable that no one would tell me what to think — but that I’d have the freedom — and the responsibility! — to learn, understand, and apply its concepts on my own and figure out for myself whether it worked for me or not. Obviously, I concluded that it did — and I’ve been working to deepen my understanding ever since.
The basic text explaining Christian Science is Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures, by Mary Baker Eddy. On the first page of the preface it states, “The time for thinkers has come.”
That seems as true today as the day it was written.