Praying about The Weather & Natural Disasters: An Ex Christian Science Perspective

wildfire in California

 The following are thoughts and notes on the current natural disasters that are hitting the globe, by Chrystal. 

To begin …

Well, first off, I just want to say these are sort of disjointed thoughts I’ve had over the years and I am still formulating my thoughts around these concepts. I guess the “uncovering” of random Christian Science thinking and trying to sort out what I believe and what I don’t believe. So, thank you for your patience when I type something disjointed like this blog post.

I look forward to reading your own thoughts and comments and stories in the comments below.

I started typing this post as our nation is recovering from Hurricane Harvey and we braced ourselves for Hurricane Irma. It always takes me a while to type these, think, edit, think some more, edit some more…. As I edit this paragraph, a 10th earthquake has hit Mexico in 6 days.

Deny strongly enough, then you will prove “it’s not real”

I am surrounded by climate change deniers. We have had so many weather disasters. So many. The turmoil on the continent where I live due to National Disasters …. is – for me – nearly unspeakable. All those people, and animals, and buildings and trees – destroyed. Turned to rubble.

I lived at Principia College when a major flood came through and destroyed the whole area. The flood lines are painted on that flour mill in Alton, Illinois.

All of this is heart-breaking to me. I grew up in a thought system that taught me to DENY EVERYTHING I can sense with my 5 senses

If you can see, hear, taste, touch, smell it – then IT’S NOT REAL. Only the things you CAN’T see, hear, taste, touch smell – only THOSE are real!

Christian Science teaches:”Be happy – constantly! No matter what you see, because the bad stuff isn’t real at all! Be happy it’s not real! Rejoice! Be glad!”  

Climate deniers:

I am done denying what’s RIGHT IN FRONT OF ME. Been there, done that. Let’s get to work, people. Stop the blame and finger pointing. Be open to tough choices and difficult conclusions and difficult decisions.

Christian Scientists are taught that they can control the weather

I was long taught that we could “still the storm,” as Jesus supposedly did on that boat.

Jesus Calms the Storm

35 That day when evening came, he said to his disciples, “Let us go over to the other side.”
36 Leaving the crowd behind, they took him along, just as he was, in the boat. There were also other boats with him.
37 A furious squall came up, and the waves broke over the boat, so that it was nearly swamped.
38 Jesus was in the stern, sleeping on a cushion. The disciples woke him and said to him, “Teacher, don’t you care if we drown?”
39 He got up, rebuked the wind and said to the waves, “Quiet! Be still!” Then the wind died down and it was completely calm.
40 He said to his disciples, “Why are you so afraid? Do you still have no faith?”
41 They were terrified and asked each other, “Who is this? Even the wind and the waves obey him!”
– Mark 4: 35-41

And, to accompany the Jesus story, we have, of course, Mary Baker Eddy’s “demonstration” of it. Christian Science teaches children that Mary Baker Eddy once stilled a tornado:

Mrs. Eddy’s maid was working in the room where Mrs. Eddy was and all of a sudden it got very dark and it surprised her so much that she looked out of the window back of Mrs. Eddy and saw a most terrible storm. There were black clouds shaped like funnels rolling around and coming straight towards Mrs. Eddy’s home. She had never seen anything like it. Then she went out of the room about her work and when she came back in a short time afterwards, Mrs. Eddy said to her: “Have you looked out of the window?” No, she had not; but she did and there was all sunshine and clear sky. The storm had disappeared.

– A report of Mrs. Eddy’s healing work compiled by Arthur F. Fosbery, an early Christian Scientist.

My memory of being told another story is that Mary Baker Eddy had her household staff stand on her balcony and face a tornado without fear, and that it went back up in to the sky. It’s probably in one of those biographical books: “We Knew Mary Baker Eddy.”

Pray about the weather

I cannot possibly count how many times I’ve been told to pray about the weather because “someone is getting married that day!” Or that “it’s raining because it’s someone’s funeral and everyone is sad.” Or that “that’s the day of our Christian Science Lecture, pray for nice weather!” If the weather is something we can see and feel, why do we pray about it? It’s not real, you opposite loving people that deny everything logical and say that YOU’RE being the logical ones!

What about prayer?

Every time I turn around, I see more people sending prayers and good thoughts to people that are stuck in areas where a natural disaster is imminent, and for whatever reason, they are unable to evacuate. If you have read very much on this site, you will see that many of us have found that prayer does absolutely NOTHING practical, and many of our family members and friends have died thanks to having only prayer done for them, and nothing practical. This breaks our hearts! I think many of us are fine with the concept of prayer, frankly, but the use of prayer to the exclusion of all else – is dangerous!

The use of prayer to the exclusion of all else is dangerous!

That joke we have all heard

There is a story of a man on a roof and the flood waters are rising. Several attempts are made to save this man and get him to safety. The man ignores all the attempts and thinks a miracle will fall down from heaven and save him. The man eventually dies.

I feel like this describes Christian Scientists that refuse to evacuate when told to evacuate. “God will save me,” they say.

“Real” Legends:

House fire – everything burns except S&H and The Bible

I kid you not that I grew up being told a story of the time a fire struck a house of Christian Scientists. I was told “they were protected and weren’t home at the time.” When these people went back through the wreckage, “everything was destroyed.”

The only things that survived from the fire, unscathed, were their copies of The Holy Bible and Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures by Mary Baker Eddy, which had “fallen from the burned coffee table, to the floor of the house, and they weren’t even singed.” “Everything else was burned.”

I kid you not, this story was drilled in to me as a kid.

Dying in wildfires

I learned another story recently, many current day Christian Science folks corroborated it, too, some of whom knew the couple and heard they had died, but hadn’t been told how:

An older Christian Science couple refused to evacuate their house in California during wild fires. They were killed in the fire. These people were named, and the story was verified by people that knew the people, and knew the story.

Christian Science Camp

I heard a story about something that happened at a Christian Science camp from someone who was there at the time. The girls were on a camping trip, away from their cabins. They were sleeping on a hill above a river. I have personally observed the director of that camp praying extensively about the weather. He keeps a close watch on the weather with a radar.

I am certain the counselors and this director were praying about the weather, to know that it couldn’t possibly harm the girls, and that they could turn the storm.

Well, in the middle of the night (I want to say 3am), the director of the camp arrived in a camp vehicle, where the girls were sleeping. He told all of them to get up, bring their things, and get in the vehicle. As the last girl got in the vehicle, and closed the door, torrents of rain poured down all around them. The next morning, the area where the girls had been asleep was completely flooded.

These are stories Christian Scientists share with each other constantly, to talk about how they were “protected from the weather.” This is one way they share the concept that “Christian Science works.” If it works, why couldn’t he redirect the storm instead of watching on the storm radar, then rescuing them at the last minute? Why not trust the forecast a bit more and just reschedule the trip? Save everyone the bother of probably having wet sleeping bags when they got back to camp, and an interrupted night’s sleep?

That time I prayed about the weather

More than a decade ago, I was at an art festival in a major metropolitan city. At the time, I was on the path towards becoming a Journal-listed Christian Science Practitioner. Suddenly, out of no where, a torrential rain hit the festival. There were tents at the food court area, and everyone who could, crammed in under the tents. I remember being on the edge of the tent – it was shoulder-to-shoulder people.

I stood there, under the tent, water nearly pouring down my back. I was barely inside it, standing with my husband. I thought, “I can pray about this and end the storm.” (Seriously; I believed that.) But then I thought about all the plants and trees and things that desperately needed water. So, I decided to look at it from a different perspective. Immediately, I thought, “Who am I to try to end a storm?”

I had prayed in years past to understand “The Kingdom of Heaven” as being here, right now, all the time. So I decided to just see “The Kingdom of Heaven” right then, right there. I looked around and observed that whereas 15 minutes before, people had been at the food court, standing in line, ignoring each other, now they were all standing shoulder-to-shoulder, and a camaraderie from a shared experience started to form. People were laughing, joking, scooting over to let each other in. A game of frisbee even started up inside that tent.

I felt like I had witnessed a change in the weather – but in a new way! This was one of those “healings” that stuck with me for a long time and proved that “Christian Science works.”

In all honesty, I am not entirely sure what I think of this now, but it is something I have thought about a lot, over the years.

[Ok, as I continue editing this, I see how funny that is. I didn’t do anything at all, just standing there, watching people come together in a disaster or perceived disaster. Go, me! (Hopefully you’re laughing along with me now.)]

Some people, these days, might consider my experience “positive thinking.” Perhaps it is. It’s looking at what could be a miserable experience (wanting to see the art festival, and suddenly finding yourself stuck inside a tent with “a million” people in torrential rain), and seeing it in a new way – seeing it in a positive light.

Is this a form of prayer? I don’t know. Is it positive thinking? Yes. Is it a healing? I don’t know. It’s definitely a change in thought. I welcome your thoughts on this experience! Because I still don’t quite know what to make of this experience.

Peace, Be Still

I went to a Unity Church one time when I was still a Christian Scientist, working towards becoming Journal-listed. I was there for a Christian Science Monitor event. It was interesting to set foot in a Unity Church. I had never been to one before. One of the walls had the quote, “Peace, Be Still,” painted on it, in large dark blue letters. I sat there, reading those words, as I listened to this Christian Science Monitor presentation.

After the presentation was over, I went to the Unity Minister (a woman) and told her my experience in the torrential storm, and my own change of thought. She loved the story. I wonder if she is sharing that, right now, in her sermons when she talks about Hurricanes Harvey, Irma and Jose … and what about the 6 days of Earthquakes that have been going on in Mexico? 6 days of Earthquakes in Mexico so far. Roll that around in your brain for just a moment. (I know by saying “brain,” every Christian Scientist reader just reminded themselves that “man is not made up of brain…” Hahaha! That’s my humor coming out.)

Question. — What is man?
Answer. — Man is not matter; he is not made up of brain, blood, bones, and other material elements.”

– Science and Health, p. 475: 5

I Believe the Earth is Trying to Heal Herself

My current belief system says that Mother Earth is trying to heal herself. She is literally flooding trying to cool herself off. The icebergs and glaciers are melting. Torrents of rain hit some places, severe drought hits other places. The planet is trying to balance itself out. This equates 100% to me to Stewardship, recycling, CO2 issues, methane gas from animal agriculture…

Thoughts on Recycling

You may or may not remember when I wrote about running a Vacation Bible School for Christian Science children with a friend. One time, when I was at her house, I noticed that she threw all of her recycling in to the trash can. I felt like this was such a contradiction to who she is as a person. I asked her as nicely as I could about it. She told me that sometimes she sneaks out recycling, but it really bothers her husband, so most of the time she can’t do it. Her husband believes that global warming is a hoax and so is recycling. He says if it wasn’t a hoax, then people would actually PAY for it, instead of having it be funded even partially by the government. Therefore, it’s a governmental hoax.

She also said, “besides, matter isn’t real.” Oh, right. I guess since I can see it and feel it, it’s not real. I simply cannot wrap my head around the Christian Science attitude that is so anti-recycling. They all have different reasons for it. But they all think it’s just not necessary. Genesis 1 in The Bible says God told us to take care of this planet. My dad constantly told me, “the first four words of the Bible are: ‘in the beginning God‘.” So I feel like this first chapter of Genesis is an important story, above all other stories, to Christian Scientists. And yet, they don’t honor the basic tenant that God told mankind to take care of the planet.

Where do we go from here?

I guess from my Ex Christian Science perspective, I feel that prayer alone is useless against the weather. Seriously. Get out of your closet. Unfold your hands. And go DO something. You think that riding your bike will help with global warming? It’s a drop in the bucket of what needs to be changed. Do some research on animal agriculture. Plant a vegetable garden. Try to eat local foods whenever possible. Think about how you might be able to reduce your trash (there is no “away” when you throw something away. It goes somewhere… it’s just no longer in your home). You can recycle a whole lot more than you think you can!

I guess I am thinking, as I type this and ponder the topic, that prayer alone about the weather doesn’t actually affect it. The Quaker in me says, “We need to talk about Stewardship. Let’s leave this world BETTER than we found it – not worse.”

And God saw the earth that he had made and said, “behold, it is very good.” Then man came along, and screwed it all the hell up. Can we affect the weather? Yes. Absolutely. Choices that we make every day affect the planet. Like the “butterfly affect.”

Let’s NOT “go in to our closet, shut the door and pray without ceasing.” Cease your prayers and do some serious thinking about how you can be a positive change for the world! If we all work together, we can accomplish something good! THAT’s how we change the weather for the better.


image via https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Natural_disaster#/media/File:Wildfire_in_California.jpg

Chrystal’s Story: On Recycling and Medicine

Chrystal's Story header image

This is part of an on-going series, for all posts in this series see the tag Chrystal’s Story.


A note from Chrystal: I was born a fourth-generation Christian Scientist, and finally left the religion when I was in my 40s. In this blog series, I will do my best to share with you my 40+ year journey. I have done my best to make the journey sequential, but it’s also themed to a large extent, and sometimes it has been necessary to take things out of sequence to share a theme. 


Why don’t Christian Scientists recycle? Oh yeah: Because “matter isn’t real.”

I wish all of my ideas had gone over so well. (For clarification: I was a member at one (very small) local branch church, eventually left my membership, and then I joined another (very large) local branch church.

At the first church, with permission from The Board, I bought recycle bins, and I put them around the church. And no one used them. I also was the maid at the church, and emptied the trash and took the recycling home. People threw trash in the recycling and recycling into the trash. Constantly. It was such a battle. The bins were right next to each other, and their actions showed blatant disrespect. I couldn’t believe the constant disrespect.

At my second branch church, I remember church members laughing at me when I suggested people should bring their own water bottles to church and use the water fountain, and we should stop buying the plastic water bottles. I remember one man taking the paper off of his water bottle, rolling it up, and feeding it back into the water bottle. And he laughed about it. I remember fuming about it. That moment is seared into my memory.

I tried to make our ultra boring bulletin boards lively: I added color and made gorgeous flyers. No one seemed to care or notice.

I took my Sunday School kids outside to sit under trees. My students LOVED it. We would go for walks in the woods and have wonderful talks about trees, nature, goodness, the universe. Everything. (I don’t understand why other teachers didn’t do this too? Is it because trees are made up of matter?)

I remember wanting us to have hymn sings more regularly instead of just at Christmas time. I wanted us to have potlucks, and dinners, and fun events. I knew we should want to attract families to our church. “Let’s have a free event for the neighbors and get a moon bounce!” Idea after idea was shot down. Everything was shot down. It was so incredibly discouraging. I wanted us to have a hymn sing to learn the new hymns from the Supplement so we would be comfortable and sing them during regular services. I wanted the kids from our Sunday School who played instruments to feel invited to come up & play for us. I wanted us to give money to the students to attend Christian Science camps. I wanted us to paint the walls with murals and do so many things.

I remember crying and crying because my ideas were rejected over and over and over. I was so despondent. I didn’t feel like we should do all of my ideas, but it was so discouraging to constantly be berated for my ideas. I was getting yelled at more and more, and people were starting to call me on the phone to tell me they had heard of my latest idea and how terrible it was, and they had to chime in and tell me what a terrible idea I had. I was crying more and more frequently at home. I thought I should bear this cross, I should actually “kiss the cross” so I could “wake to know a world more bright.” (“Poems” by Mary Baker Eddy, p. 12) The crosses got more heavy and more burdensome. They never became lighter and easier to bear. My husband saw me crying more often in our bedroom over church activities. At one point, he told me, “church is a volunteer activity, if it’s not fun, why do it?” I was so removed from understanding this as a concept, that it felt like he had literally spoken Greek to me. I kept running his sentence through my head for months after that: “If it’s not fun, why do it?”

At one point, my first church wanted to do our annual lecture. (As required in “The Manual of The Mother Church” by Mary Baker Eddy.) The next town over from the church has a big Spanish population. I tried to convince the members that we should have a local Spanish lecturer come and give a Spanish lecture and have it be at the library, which is incredibly central to where the Spanish people live and hang out. You might have thought I had talked about dropping a bomb on the church and destroying everything. Everyone hated the idea. I mean, they really hated it. They told me that the Spanish population could hire their own lecturer if they wanted one. I felt like if the Spanish people had probably never heard of Christian Science then we could help them know about it. But I was of course out voted. And we moved forward with our lecture and had our standard English lecture. And it was attended by all the usual people – folks from the area Christian Science churches who all lecture-hop and attend each other’s lectures. Who were we trying to serve? Ourselves? We clearly weren’t interested in serving our neighbors.

My second branch church wanted to completely remodel their building. The whole Sunday School needed a face lift. I know members don’t like to spend money, and I was asked to come up with a plan for “what can we do.” I came up with a whole plan, within 24 hours (which I thought was pretty darn impressive; I worked really hard on that plan and got it to the Sunday School Superintendent right away). It had 3 tiers to it. Tier one was: “high impact, low cost or no cost.” Tier two was: high impact, some cost. Tier three was: high impact, high cost. I figured they could pick things from the different tiers (some things on the list were “1) Rearrange the furniture. 2) I have a ton of my own artwork we can hang on all the walls. A higher end (expensive) idea was: “get a baby grand piano and arrange the entire Sunday School around it, and have classes with couches”).

How many ideas do you think they did on the list? How long do you think it took them? Well, they did take me up on the offer to hang my paintings. The Superintendant took all my paintings, put them on the floor around the Sunday School, and the students voted for their favorites by tossing post it notes on the paintings. Then, they basically hung up all of the paintings around the Sunday School.

About 6 months later, they pulled down all of the paintings, barely packaged them, and returned them to me. I was appalled they did not ask me to come and remove my own artwork. They had taken down my artwork, and put them in a cold, damp storage room, and then called me to say: “how can we get these to you?” Disrespect. Again. I had been away for a week when that happened. I had zero warning, and I was gone, and they took down the paintings without even informing me that they had been considering it.

Not only was I never thanked for that list; it was never even acknowledged. As far as I know, they never did any of the other items, and they probably will never do anything other than paint the inside of the Sunday School, which they last did when I was a kid there probably 30 years ago.



Christian Science and Medicine do not mix

One other thing at my second branch church (and among most branch churches, I believe), was a continual conversation about “should we allow people who are currently on medicine to join the church?”

This church membership whined and complained all the time about the low membership numbers (when they also proudly wore the badge of “the largest Christian Science church in the state.”) They complained that they were all getting older and “no young people are members.” (I was RIGHT THERE – ½ the age of the majority of their membership, and I was a Journal-listed Practitioner. But apparently, I didn’t count. They wanted “young people.” I constantly heard the phrase, “If we only had more healings!”

We had 2 gals who had grown up in Sunday School, wanting to join the church. One had lifelong epilepsy and was on a medicine to control it after years of nothing to help her. I grew up with her, and one time I witnessed her turn around and around and suddenly fall to pavement. I had no idea what “epilepsy” was, and I was so afraid she was hurt, and I had no clue how to respond to this seizure. It was scary to me. (I wonder if another child in another faith community would have been educated that this person had epilepsy, and since she’s your friend, you might be told what to do in the event of a seizure, so you don’t witness her falling on hard pavement and hitting her head? Well, she and I were raised in Christian Science and we were indoctrinated that “it isn’t real; it’s not a part of her, so ignore it.”)

The other young gal who wanted to join the church had also grown up in Christian Science and was barely over ½ my age. She was on medicine for maybe depression or anxiety, or some other mental issue that was never told to me clearly (because to name any problem makes it “more real”). They both loved the church and wanted to join as church members. These gals’ parents were members of the church, and the daughters wanted to join too.

The membership refused to vote to let them join the church. I was an outspoken person saying, “they should be able to join! We want members. We want young members. These two gals love this church, let them join!” And I had a small handful of people who agreed with me, but wouldn’t speak up about it. There was one incredibly angry and vocal man (who had once held a prestigious position at a big news organization) who was opposed to them joining the church. The venomous words that came out of his mouth shocked everyone. And yet, he “won” the argument. Time after time, he showed up at every meeting and spoke with such force and anger. At one point he said, “maybe I should leave the church then!” And everyone sat silent. I was thinking, “yes! Leave! Good riddance, Mr. Big Shot Attitude man!” (Why is it that the angry argument always wins at the Christian Science church? Jesus said: “By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another.” – John 13: 35 (By the way, this is right after the story where Jesus washed the feet of his disciples, and told the disciples that “the servant is not greater than his lord” – John 13:16.)

John 13:

 

 

Jesus Washes the Disciples’ Feet

 

So when he had washed their feet, and taken his garments, and sat down again, he said unto them, Know ye what I have done to you? Ye call me, Master, and, Lord: and ye say well; for so I am. If I then, the Lord and the Master, have washed your feet, ye also ought to wash one another’s feet. For I have given you an example, that ye also should do as I have done to you. Verily, verily, I say unto you, A servant is not greater than his lord; neither one that is sent greater than he that sent him. If ye know these things, blessed are ye if ye do them.

 

 

A New Command I Give You 

 

 

Jesus saith, Now is the Son of man glorified, and God is glorified in him; and God shall glorify him in himself, and straightway shall he glorify him. Little children, yet a little while I am with you. A new commandment I give unto you, that ye love one another; even as I have loved you, that ye also love one another. By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another.

 

The members never let these two kind gals join the church. My patience with the membership started wearing thin when they wouldn’t fight for the right of these two girls to join the church they had grown up in and sincerely loved, simply because they were on medicine for long term problems they had. Their being on medicine wasn’t anyone’s business, anyway! It certainly wasn’t any of my business that they were on medicine. Who cares? They are good people and deserve to be loved and cherished and appreciated for their wonderful qualities.