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 – Going Crazy At Branch Church

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. 


Earache Story (Part 1)

One evening, my younger son had an earache when he was a toddler. He had them every now and then. One of my brothers used to get those too, but my step mom taught me that “at some point he just outgrew those.” She told me that after the pain of an earache is gone, it drains out, and they are “healed.” My son had probably several of those – a painful ear that drained out the next day, and then was “healed.” I called a Practitioner one time because his ear hurt. It was late at night, and I sat in my rocking chair, holding my precious toddler, and trying to “keep my thought calm.” He kept putting his finger in his ear and screaming. I could barely hear the practitioner talking to me on the phone over the screams of my son. After a while, my son calmed down and went to sleep. I never saw drainage, and thought, “well, that’s just a healing in a different way.” (This story continues, but it comes up – after I left the branch church as a member. This story is “to be continued.” See: Earache Story – Part 2)

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My “crazy” ideas, and the best events I have ever orchestrated in my life.

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As my boys grew up, I became more and more involved in Christian Science branch church work. I organized the annual lecture for our church, I created a dedication ceremony for our new building from scratch. I bought a new dress and gotten my hair done for the occasion, and baked 2 enormous, beautiful cakes. I expected 100 people to attend, and I think we got less than 30 people; to say “I was disappointed” would be a gross understatement.

At the time, I was on the church board. When I was on the board, a gal we all knew who had been a long time member wrote to us and said something like, “I am gay. You didn’t knowingly choose someone to be a gay SS teacher, and I am giving you the opportunity to ask me to leave.” While the whole LBGTQ idea is anti Christian Science historically, we as a church board, were actually quite progressive. We wrote her an easy letter saying, “We love you for who you are. We didn’t even need to discuss this or vote on it. We invite you to participate in this church now and any time in the future in any capacity that you would like.” She felt so incredibly loved by our letter. She had truly expected to be booted out of the church. We absolutely accepted her. I felt like I was working on bringing the branch church into the future.  (That member wasn’t there much longer. She moved away, moved back, joined a different branch church, then left that one too. I feel like there are layers upon layers in each of our stories, and none of us discuss them with each other. Each of us on our own little island.)

While this branch church was progressive when it came to loving a member who was gay, that church was ultra traditional, in that it didn’t allow memorial services or weddings in it. (Why would we need a funeral or memorial service when we don’t believe in death? The person didn’t die. They just “sailed in a boat and went over the horizon!” Why would we commemorate something that never happened?) This same church also only used to let Readers read only from the actual books (“The (KJV) Holy Bible,” and “Science and Health” by Mary Baker Eddy). But now that church allows even A.A. Meetings in the building, memorial services, HOA meetings, and if a Reader wants to read from their electronic device, they are welcome to do that too. It’s a fairly progressive church. They even allow memorial services there now too, though they are called, “Celebration of Life,” and look a whole lot like a regular church service with a small “testimony” time, when people can share memories of the deceased.

When my youngest son was in Kindergarten, I started up a Vacation Bible School (VBS) for Christian Science children. A friend of mine and I ran that for a few years. It was a wonderfully progressive thing to do with the children. One hour per week of Sunday School to learn “The Bible,” with kids not even showing up ½ the time didn’t feel like enough. So having a solid week of VBS for kids in the summer felt like a great idea. I went to almost a dozen local branch churches and recruited Sunday School teachers, students and volunteers to come from those places to be a part of our VBS.

You might be surprised to learn that at first, so many church members blasted me about this (can you imagine someone who professes to be a vocal part of a church they think is “The highest form of Christianity,” arguing with someone who wants to teach the children “The Holy Bible” in church?

Too many members actually said, “is that even allowed in our church?”

Seriously? (They were referring to the idea of having a camp for a week, from an insurance perspective. The insurance people thought the people who called to check were completely daft. They said: “you want to teach a Bible camp at your church? It’s your building, and that is a church activity, of COURSE your insurance policy covers it!”)

It was totally bizarre to me that Christian Scientists would wonder if we could teach The Bible to kids on days other than Sunday. They felt the only time to teach kids about The Bible was for that 1 hour every Sunday, and a VBS is just something that is simply not done at a Christian Science Church. I pointed out that we would be teaching The Bible to our children. I pointed out that The Manual of The Mother Church says, “The Sabbath children should be taught the 10 Commandments, the Beatitudes, and The Lord’s Prayer.” I pointed out that Christian Science teaches us that “the sabbath is every day; not just Sunday.”

“The first lessons of the children should be the Ten Commandments (Exodus 20: 3-18), The Lord’s Prayer, and its Spiritual Interpretation by Mary Baker G. Eddy (Matt. 6: 9-14), Sermon on the Mount (Matt. 5: 3-11).”

 

The Manual of The Mother Church by Mary Baker Eddy, Article XVIII. Section 11.

I was shocked at how much explaining I had to do to convince people that this was an ok thing to do, and that it would be a good idea. I had passion for this project, and it kept me full of energy to keep pushing for it. I found it interesting that the people who had been my biggest resistance eventually became my biggest supporters.

Parents loved it! They donated money to cover all the costs like snacks, crafts, paper, etc. It was really a nice experience for the kids. That was one of two times when I felt completely supported in one of my “crazy” ideas for the church.

Another crazy idea I had, was to run with an article I saw in The Christian Science Journal, called “Church Alive.” The Journal called on all branch churches to run with the theme “Church Alive” and do an event the weekend of Annual Meeting (the weekend before the first Monday in June). I had an instant vision of what it would look like. It was a beautiful vision, and I thought, “let’s do it! The Mother Church asks us to do this; let’s do it! It will be wonderful!”  (Yeah, I’m crazy like that.)

Well, I brought it up to the members at my branch church. This branch church is proud for being the “largest branch church in the state.” (Most of the members do not come to meetings, and don’t show up for church services and haven’t in YEARS and need to be removed from the rolls. But the church seems to love the prestige of being “the largest branch church” so they keep the rolls stacked like that. That feels deceptive to me, but, that’s another story for another blog post.)

Well, I got so much push back on it. The board took forever. The article had come out in the fall, maybe in October. I had until June. To me, this was plenty of time. I had planned my entire wedding in 5 months, I could easily do this.

The decision finally came in late March: “Yes! Go for it!”

I remember rolling my eyes and thinking, “finally!”

After the decision came, I kept getting a lot of people saying “it’s too short of a time line! We can’t do it!”

I wanted to scream, “if you all had said ‘yes’ earlier, it wouldn’t be that short of a time line! Remember Jesus getting across the sea in that boat instantaneously? Christian Science teaches that ‘time is limitation.’ Stop believing in time!” But I just had to keep my mouth shut and let them grumble and show them we could do it & it would be fabulous.

TIME. Mortal measurements; limits, in which are summed up all human acts, thoughts, beliefs, opinions, knowledge; matter; error; that which begins before, and continues after, what is termed death, until the mortal disappears and spiritual perfection appears.

 

Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures by Mary Baker Eddy, p. 595

I wrote to all the people I knew at all the area churches – there were about a dozen within our tri-state area. I got so much response! I had meetings at our branch church. Together with all the volunteers from the area churches, we found speakers, workshop leaders, 200 attendees, and we catered lunch including vegan options for everyone. The entire lunch experience went flawlessly, which is really saying something. People marveled at the wonderful lunch experience, which still strikes me as funny.

We hired a musician from Boston to come and do a performance during the day, and we also gave him the opportunity to do a well-attended concert the night before. The day of our “Church Alive” conference, this musician sang “Siyahamba” with my very young son on stage, showing everyone how easy it is to sing the new hymns. (There is an incredible amount of resistance in the membership to sing from the new Hymnal Supplement. Also “Siyahamba” is one of the coolest spiritual songs ever, and I think it has become the hymn of the current generation of Christian Science kids.)

The whole event was to take place the Saturday before Annual Meeting (Annual Meeting is in Boston every year, on the first Monday in June). We saw the brand new community center that we were renting for the event for the first time the Thursday before that. I found out that day, that they had audio-visual capabilities. I developed a whole powerpoint, musical videos, and slide shows and everything after I found out the audio-visual capabilities. I also figured out how to stream a video of The Board of Directors talking to our audience through the audio-visual equipment. I had never done anything like that before. I figured out all of that in 2 days.

It was amazing, if I do say so myself. I consider the entire event to be one of my best shining moments in my life. To recap: I pulled together a team of volunteers and an amazing conference attended by about 200 people in the span of less than 3 months, and I did all of the amazing audio-visual in just 2 days. We not only stayed in budget, we also made a bit of money on the endeavor. I think that’s pretty darn cool.

The one thing that went completely askew was the one time in the group when I had to sadly “let them learn the hard way.” We had 2 choices for our keynote speaker. We could go with a very forward thinking Christian Science Teacher and Lecturer from another state (we had the money to fly her in) who is incredibly creative, or we could go with a local practitioner everyone knew who had started up 2 branch churches from scratch. The second woman had been a Sunday School teacher of mine, and everyone loves her. She’s wonderful and intelligent and kind and funny. However, she is not dynamic, and she is not a public speaker or a lecturer.

I have a leadership quality that lets the group decide, and then I get behind the decision. I don’t cause waves or hard feelings by saying, “you’re wrong here, you’re choosing the wrong option.” I pushed a little, but they were very set on having this local woman be the speaker. So, we had the local speaker come. She sat down during her keynote presentation. She read her speech from her own handwritten notes. Her speech was in no way dynamic, and it was very hard to listen to. Apparently, it had a lot of really great ideas and points in it (I couldn’t hear it from my seat in the back, but people who heard it & wrote on the comment cards, said she had a lot of great things to say). And almost every single feedback form we got for the day had high marks in every single area, except that the key note address was “not dynamic” and “hard to listen to.” That was the only failure of the day. I am not sure if I would push more next time, but it was interesting to observe this group do that to themselves.  They chose a “known” over a better alternative that was “unknown,” even though their group leader had passionately and lovingly told them which option would be the better option. They just couldn’t trust or have faith in the idea. And it made me feel sad for them.