Flavin's Corner

Culture Cult

"Do you really want to hurt me?  Do you really want to make me cry?"
c.1982 Virgin Records and O'Dowd, Hay, Craig, and Moss.

     From time to time situations develop where it's necessary to speak up and
out on certain events or issues.  A suburban Boston library, which I frequent,
has installed a public display featuring the New England-born Mary Baker
Eddy, the founder of Christian Science.  The display seems to resemble a
window at a nearby Christian Science "Reading Room," with its stacks of new
paperback copies of Eddy's Science and Health: With Key to The Scriptures,
and features a poster proclaiming "She Never Gave Up!"  I was insulted by this
blatant ad-campaign for an anti-science cult and wondered why the library put
up such a display instead of concentrating on local history and perhaps
displaying a 1875 first edition or other pertinent memorabilia.  I've always
regarded Christian Scientists as rich New England whacks.  A "culture cult"
that is way past its expiration date.  So, I spoke up regarding the display...

     My complaint against the library display is threefold in that Eddy's
anti-science cult preaches against modern medicine and they encourage parents
to let their sick children die, an association of Eddy with the 19th century
women's movement is desperate Christian Science revisionist propaganda, and
the overall layout of the display implies an unchallenged support for this cult by
the public library.  I suspected, as Eddy was indeed a unique New England
figure, that my problems with the display mainly concerned its biased
promotion of her book, Science and Health: With Key to The Scriptures, and
not with Eddy herself.  It's not the subject, but the bias of the display.  It's

     I immediately wrote the director of the library with my concerns.  As the
snail-mail takes a day to get delivered, a short time must be allowed for the
composition of a reply, and then another day for the reply to be sent back, I
figured I'd have to wait 3-5 days.  During that time I telephoned the Boston
office of the ACLU, the American Civil Liberties Union, to inquire about the
legality of the display and my right to disagree with its placement on public
property.  A case-worker listened sympathetically and offered to write-up my
complaint, but informed me the investigative process would take at least a
couple of weeks.  I declined the opportunity to begin a formal complaint and
elected to wait for a reply from the director of the library.  The reply arrived
exactly 5 days from the mailing of my letter.

     The director wrote: "The informational display you complained about was
prepared by the local Christian Science church, not by the library or its staff.
During its first few days in the library, this display did contain elements of
proselytizing that are not permitted by our exhibit policies.  When I became
aware of these elements, I requested that they be removed.  As of this
afternoon, I believe the display meets the guidelines on content the library
trustees have established for exhibits in our cases."

     Upon viewing the latest version of the display, to the best of my memory
(as I didn't take any photographs), the only change is in the stacks of new
copies of Science and Health: With Key to the Scriptures.  I believe there were
originally 2 or 3 stacks of several copies each and the current display only
contains a half-dozen copies.  Only a half-dozen?  And a blow-up of the cover?
And then a couple of other mentions of the title on other posters?  A dozen or
so examples of a controversial book and its title which Christian Scientists
regard as on par with The Bible seems to be religious advertising and NOT
simply "informational."

      Putting the anti-science aims of this cult aside for the moment, I suspect
much of the impetus behind this display is that next month (March) has once
more been designated as "Women's History Month," and because of the 1995
election of Eddy to the Seneca Falls, NY based 'The National Women's Hall of
Fame' and a current exhibit featuring her, the Christian Scientists who installed
the display at my local library likely wish us to regard Eddy as...  Well, it's not
clear.  I guess THAT'S my complaint.  [Click  here for more info and a copy of
the Congressional Resolution, and here  for more on the Seneca Falls' exhibit.]

     Now, somehow (and I'm at a loss to explain WHY), Mary Baker Eddy has
been grouped with such stalwart activists as Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan
B. Anthony, and is listed in 'The National Women's Hall of Fame' as, "...the
only American woman to found a lasting American-based religion, the Church
of Christ (Scientist)."  Ouch!  Playing the god-game, becoming a millionaire by
telling parents not to take their sick children to the doctors, and believing
yourself mentioned in St. John's Revelation, gets you into 'The National
Women's Hall of Fame', and a public display at a local library?  Hmmm...  I
suspect stinky politics here... [Note:  Eddy believed herself to be the "woman"
of Revelation 12 and that her book was the "key" of Revelation 3:7.]

     Our country, though defending a separation of "church and state," has
always struggled with the various agendas of religion (and cults).  The
"framers" of our Constitution were nearly all Freemasons, yet an anti-Masonic
political party existed between 1821 and 1840.  The mid-19th century
invention of Mormonism produced an unsettling racist and revisionist history
which motivates many in government to this day.  Eddy's cult has produced
officials in the FBI, CIA, and other branches of government, with the two
Nixon-henchmen Ehrlichman and Haldeman being familiar to most everyone.  I
wouldn't be surprised if Hubbard's Scientologists are making political inroads.
Religion, power, control...  And peace, love, and understanding?  Nope, not
with these groups!

     At a 1901 speech in Boston, Eddy said: "Had not my first demonstrations
of Christian Science or metaphysical healing exceeded that of other methods,
they would not have arrested public attention and started the great Cause that
to-day commands the respect of our best thinkers. It was that I healed the deaf,
the blind, the dumb, the lame, the last stages of consumption, pneumonia, etc.,
and restored the patients in from one to three inter-views, that started the
inquiry, What is it?"  Crap, I would answer...  Quackery, charlatanism,
anti-science, unhealthy, and God-game money-making.

     But, if 'The National Women's Hall of Fame' wishes to honor such a
woman, who am I to disagree?  I'm just a guy...  And if my local library wants
to put up a display for adults and children which implies support for them not
to seek out modern medicine and immunizations, why should I care?
...Because it's wrong.  Now I just have to figure out what to do about it.

preparing for the second round,

For my 7-24-98 column, "Broad Shoulders," which discusses the Seneca Falls
celebration of 150 years of the women's rights movement, click here.

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