Wednesday, April 29, 2009

"They went to sea in a Sieve, they did"

She came into the room with the self-effacing ease and gracefulness of a loaded 18-wheeler tooling down the interstate. What she doubtless hoped would be a picture of radiant inner beauty was closer to a study in the limitations of cosmetics. If she gave me her moniker it whizzed by quick as a Sandy Koufax fastball. We got right down to business.

Q Why did we need another biography of Mrs. Eddy? You were chock-a-block with them before. Employees must stumble over boxes of them in the hallways. And who needs a better and more thorough and sympathetic biography than Robert Peel's excellent contribution?

A The world was crying out for a feminist treatment of her, and we didn't have one.

Q Must have been a pianissimo cry. Most of us never even heard a distant peep. Are you sure that what you didn't have, and wanted, was a bio with your fingerprints on it?

A Now, now, you sound jealous of what we produced.

Q Just what were you looking for? Someone like one of those pigs that sniff out truffles to snuffle for warts, shocking revelations, secret midnight trysts, and meaningless peccadillos? Or maybe to root up something really big that you could mount on the wall behind your desk with a tag underneath which says "She wasn't so special after all"?

A Ms Gill is a professional and well qualified researcher and feminist scholar, and that's what we wanted.

Q Yes, and if what she knows about Christian Science were reduced to an edible crumb, a hungry mouse wouldn't bother with it. She also has no respect for Mrs. Eddy or Christian Science. Nice qualifications.

A She can back up everything she wrote.

Q No doubt. I'm surprised she didn't find a flimsy accusation that Mrs. Eddy wore trousers like George Sand and Hillary or was once caught puffing on a hookah in the cellar of Pleasant View. Or maybe a "discovery" that she had tattoos on each shoulder, one reading "Free Love" and the other "George". If Ms Gill had done to Christ Jesus what she did to Mrs Eddy people would have been outraged.

A Mrs. Eddy is not Christ Jesus, and that's not a nice thing to say.

Q Neither is the book. And why is it that a non-Scientist with no real understanding of Christian Science or appreciation of and respect for Mrs. Eddy was allowed to graze at will in the MC archive pasture when lifetime MC members would be lucky to get a quick gander at it and probably be charged for the privilege to boot?

A We need to control access to those irreplaceable documents. We also didn't want anything to hinder or limit her research.

Q You mean anything like a humble and respectful attitude toward her subject, our Leader?

A This is a feminist biography.

Q In other words, bitchy.

A That's not fair. We wanted to bless the public with a full and unbiased contemporary picture of her.

Q And Peel didn't? Not butch enough or whatever for feminists? And jumping Jehoshaphat, that picture on the dust jacket! Who is going to want to know more about Mrs. Eddy or Christian Science when they see that, not that it matters in this instance? That picture will do about as much for her and Christian Science as the photo of Gov. Dukakis in the tank did for his chances of being elected President.

A Well, we think it's a nice picture. And in spite of your derogatory remarks, we had reports of long waiting lists at many libraries for this book.

Q That's because, as you know, some hostile religious groups and religious bigots heard the book had done a Lizzie Borden on Mrs.Eddy, and they wanted to feast on the carnage. Yes, nice job. The book only helped in adding to the ridicule and mockery directed at Mrs. Eddy and Christian Science.

A You surely don't expect me to agree with that assessment?

Q I know, "L'Eglise, c'est nous", but if you think the Mt. Rushmore act will cut it forever, you're mistaken. Has it never occurred to you that the spiritual, pure, and divinely inspired will always be a mystery, and ergo resented, by the materially minded, impure, and uninspired?

A What's your point? It wasn't our intent to deify her.

Q Obviously not. Just cut her down to size, take her down a few notches. Well, thank you for your time.

They went to sea in a Sieve, they did,
In a Sieve they went to sea:
In spite of all their friends could say.
* * *
But we don't care a button! we don't care a fig!
In a Sieve we'll go to sea!

Edward Lear, from "The Jumblies"


An appreciative Reader said...

Let me be the first to congratulate you for another bullseye, Blogger. Well done and much appreciated.

Nancy said...

Did you notice that in this Q-A session, that every time our blogger Christian asks a trenchant question the 18-wheeler turns it aside by saying "that's not nice"? Nice perception, Christian.

I want to direct your readers, if I may, to a web cast of the best CS lecture I've heard in years: and follow the link in the middle of the first screen that starts "Did you miss . . ."

It will be up until June sometime.

Near the Church Center said...

Absolutely marvelous wit! Oh did I laugh. Am telling people far and wide about your blog. You are a jewel for sure.

A Dallas reader said...

I applaud the good you are doing for CS. And for our dear Leader. Such love and respect shines out in what you write, especially in this blog post. Shame on TBD for allowing such a benefactor of mankind to be dealt with in the way the Gill book does.
Keep up your God-inspired giving!

From Dallas said...

It's me again. Know what I'm going to do? I'm so jazzed up by this blog entry, I'm going to print it and mail it off to the Board in Boston. Yes, I am. Just in case they miss it, which they may not, as notorious as "The Broken Net" is. But to be sure someone up there sees it. Hope it produces some shame in their wicked hearts.

Anonymous said...

I just can't get over how masterful a writer you are. I would call this a masterpiece. A most talented Christian Scientist we've got in you!

London (UK) said...

Bravo (again). When I think of what I owe that noble woman's discovery, it just thrills me that you are doing for loyal CS's around the world what Boston is not doing.
A wonderful offering!

From sunny Florida said...

You are something else. I think the reason I'm so dazzled by your blog is that you obviously are a professional writer and I am not. But I do believe you border on genius!
God keep blessing what you are doing for a great woman.

New York City said...

I feel certain that if our Leader were here, her heart would be warmed by what you are doing in her behalf. And her heart chilled by the reprehensible action by the Board of HER Church. But she wouldn't hesitate long; they would be run out of Boston by dark!

Fountain City, TN said...

You are so good at what you do. I have said this before, and no doubt, will again. I can't express enough appreciation to you for loving Christian Science and its Discoverer and Founder, Mary Baker Eddy, the way you do.
Love and thanks,

TMC employee said...

Love this website. And right-on comments. Directors wouldn't be run out of town; this would have happened long ago, so given over to anti-Christ as they have been. Their master is the prince of this world--money, title, power for themselves. But the reckoning is coming!

Anonymous said...

There is no doubt with many of us as to Whose servant you are, blogger. God is doing a much-needed work through you, and I say, may He bless you and keep you writing.

An Ohio friend said...

That Jumping Jesosaphat comment made me laugh right out loud. But it's so serious and sad. The photo on the cover of the Gill book alone could only have been authorized by Directors from evil motives. Awful!

C. S. (CA) said...

Thank you heaps for taking on Directors and that Gill! Abominable what they have done to a wonderful lady. To try to make a feminist out of her completely misses what she was and what she gave to the whole world.

Anonymous said...

Thank you, thank you, thank you for speaking up. If only more would do this, especially those entrusted with teaching. I feel so sorry for teachers who are bowing the knee to wrong. They must feel they are supping with the devil, so to speak. Not freedom of thought and expression, but abject servitude. To mere mortals!
Keep up your good work, blogger.

Anonymous said...

Except for paying my annual dues and attending the annual meeting every ten years or so, I have no official connection with the Mother Church. However, I do believe that the Gill biography is not the villain you are making it out to be. In order for Mrs. Eddy to be recognized by the general public for her incredible accomplishments and progressive thinking (and they are especially impressive given that she served them up in a time when the patriarchal hegemony was all but silencing most women!), a biography written by a female, scholarly, non Christian Scientist was needed. True, the bio does not provide a substantive accounting of Christian Science doctrine and does not, in every instance, show Mrs. Eddy in the best possible light as a human being, but Mrs. Eddy speaks well enough for herself explaining CS, and it is not necessary for Mrs. Eddy to be viewed as an infallible human being in order for her divinely inspired wisdom to be recognized. Although Gill does not give Mrs. Eddy the same kind of treatment that a card-carrying CS would, she is generally admiring and does model a way for other non-CS to recognize and value Mrs. Eddy's contribution to society. This is something that CS biographers like Peel could not provide. A book like this from a respected feminist academic like Gill has the potential to bring much positive attention to Mrs. Eddy (Mrs. Eddy was, after all, a radical feminist in her own right) and make it much more likely that her ideas will be circulated in courses of American history, religion, and culture. And, in that way, it has the potential to make Eddy's ideas known to some who might otherwise never hear of her.

C.S. Practitioner (NH) said...

Sorry, Gill apologist. God didn't require a New England intellectual to make our Leader's Discovery well known to mankind. Certainly it wasn't necessary to present her the way this awful biography does in order for hundreds of thousands to be healed through her teachings. You are way off the mark, and I'm sure you know it.

Un Ami said...

"L'Elise c'est nous"...c'est vrai! J'aime votre blog.
Merci beaucoup.
(Je parle un peu de francais.)

Honululu said...

Who in cares if the Discoverer and Founder of CS was a radical feminist! She was inspired by God to present the truths Christ healed by, to encourage radical reliance on God's great power. This is the only "radical" that matters.
As those in Jesus' day did not appreciate, verily, did not see his mission, so the Board does not see what Mary Baker Eddy's mission was. Or if they do, they have a wicked way of showing it.

A grateful reader said...

You are doing such a grand job. Do we need you telling it like it is. Keep hitting them with your considerable talent, scholarship, and dedication to CS.

Chicago said...

There are so many memorable lines in this blog post, don't know where to start. All told, a fabulous job. Such talent, such devotion to our religion. So glad the powers-that-be have not put you out of business.
Keep with it!

Anonymous said...

Now that the genie is out of the bottle it can never again be contained, so what can be done?

I am less disturbed by the Gill biography than I am about the C.S. Monitor, which could be doing so much good in this world but isn't, whether weekly, daily, online or print.

Anonymous said...

"A book like this from a respected feminist academic like Gill HAS THE POTENTIAL to bring much positive attention to Mrs. Eddy. . ."

I love the way these apologists for the Board of Directors are so completely divorsed from reality. This book is TEN years old. It has been on shelves for TEN YEARS. if it ever had the potential to do anything at all, it would have done it by now. Like I said, it's been TEN years. So lets stop arguing about how great an effect this book COULD HAVE. Thaat's just silly. Now, if you want to defend it, intellectual honesty requires that you provide concrete examples of the good the book HAS done. Ok, let's hear it . . . we're waiting . . . . No answer?

Ok now lets apply this logic down more broadly. You, no doubt say we need to present Christian Science in a way that's more "relevant" and in a language that people understand- without "C.S. jargon." Ok, done. We did that in 1987. Remember? We had a worldwide teleconference- To Live For All Mankind- Target: The Christian Science Board of Lectureship? Remember Ruth Elizabeth Jenks looking into the camera and saying, "Get ready, you will never see another Christian Science lecture like you've known again?" And we haven't. That was 22 years ago. How's it worked? more people at lectures? more people finding and studying Christian Science with all this "new" accessibility? Churches filling up? new branches forming? More people becoming Journal-listed? No? Oh. Well what has been the result?

What about markerting and peddling Science and Health? We started that in 1993 to get people to stop talking about that uncomfortable subject, the Knapp book. A year later in 1994 we came out with the trade edition with a new publisher's note to explain to today's reader that even though Mrs. Eddy was a 19th Century woman, her book can still be relevant today and a topical index so that people could look up references to issues contemporary readers care about like "wellness." Oh, and we took that old-fashoned cross and crown off the cover (how dreary). Lastly, we put it in every bookstore on three continents and shipped it by the crateload to medical schools. We did that from 1994 to 2006. Twelve years. How were those twelve years? Banner years for the Christian Science movement? Christian Science studied like never before? Churches filling up with flanneled, organic health-and-wellness junkies who found the book at the Whole-Life Expo? No? Hmmm. Strange. Maybe repackaging Christian Science isn't as effective as you think it will be, since we've actually been doing it for 3 decades and it HASN'T been effectivbe at all. In fact, any honest assessment would have to conclude that these have been the three most disastrous decades our movement has ever faced.

On another note. Has everyone heard that Elaine Natale Davidson, CSB, was excommunicated from The Mother Church? She was an associate editor of the religious periodicals in the late 80s. She, the other associate editors, and the Editor, Allison Phinney, resigned their positions in 1992 because the board was using the periodicals to defend their decision to violate the Church Manual and publish incorrect literature (the Knapp book) as authorised literature in order to gain a bequest. Later, in 2002, Mrs. Davidson wrote a complaint, "Matters of Conscience," to the directors. Her Journal listing was removed and her association disbanded. This week, they also excommunicated her. They are completely given over to error, and are allowing themselves to be handled by animal magnetism. Malicious animal magnetism. I can't remember what bound volume it was, but I think it was 1981 or 82 (Journal) where I read a beautiful testimony by Mrs. Davidson (who was Mrs. Natale at the time) regarding the healing of her son over a period of many years while he was growing up. This woman has the mettle of a genuine Christian Scientist. The board should be ASHAMED to excommunicate her. They aren't even worthy to kiss her feet. They are jealous, because each one of those directors had the ability to stand up for Principal in 1992, but none of them had the courage or spine to do it.

Anonymous said...

The problem seems to boil down to thinking they can "improve" on the structures Mrs. Eddy put in place.

One example: Mrs. Eddy didn't want her church to become a focused on a bunch of non church stuff like bake sales, social events etc. So what do they do, they build a MBE library where events are hosted nonstop. In my view that breaks the spirit if not the letter of Mary Baker Eddy's intent for her church.

Anonymous said...

No, the main problem has been Virginia Harris, who thinks she's the new Leader of the Christian Science Church. So much of the wrongdoing the past few years can be traced to her policies. And as I see it, she is still directing things from behind the scenes. The egotism is montrous and wicked and something God will deal with. I have no doubt of this! With the help of wonderful blogs like this one, more and more are waking up and standing up for what our true--and only--Leader left us.

Anonymous said...

Such love for Christian Science and its Discoverer/Founder comes through in your blogging, and I'm so grateful you're on the job.
God bless you for all you are doing!

An Appreciative Reader said...

One note on Elaine Natale Davidson: The BOD told her that her Association was dissolved but that was NOT their prerogative. They have NO AUTHORITY WHATSOEVER to disband an association. The associations belong to the Teachers. The BOD can consider such students "untaught" and deny them listing in the Journal, but THAT IS ALL THEY CAN DO. There is NOTHING in the Manual of the Mother Church that says the BOD "owns" the Associations. Thus, I believe Elaine Davidson is continuing her Association and actually is continuing to teach. Frankly, I'd rather be taught Christian Science by someone like her (I've already been "taught") than one of the Boston toadies. She is obviously a strong individual, but much of her strength can be attributed, I'm sure, to her being on the side of right. She is to be congratulated on her strength and courage.

An Appreciative Reader said...

Following up on "A Dallas reader"'s comment: I'm also going to print the blog entry and mail to Boston. How about we all do it--even those of us who "just" read the blog and don't comment. The Post Office needs more business and I think Boston might take more notice of a deluge--remember the scene from "Miracle on 34th St."??? How about a "Miracle in the Back Bay???"

Anonymous said...

Regarding Virginia Harris, et al. I seem to recall one Harvey Wood announcing in that 1987 teleconference that he was going to "lead" this church into the twenty-first century or words closely to that effect. I'd guess all those peas are from the same pod.

LowlyWise said...

I remember that teleconference and Harvey Wood, not because of anything he said but because he wore spooky white gloves that made him look like Mickey Mouse. He, or the film producers at any rate, also tried to coopt the monastery at Iona as somehow presaging CS. Clueless in Boston.

An Appreciative Reader said...

Yes, he was a little spooky and Mickey Mouse (apologies, Mickey!) to boot, wasn't he?

Anonymous said...

Let's not be Eve ensnared by the serpent! How many minds are there? Is there really a tree of good and evil? How many realities are there? Are we accepting duality? Is God omnipresent, omniscient and omnipotent, or is He finite and limited in his power and really needs our help to keep it all afloat? Are we all being obedient to the First Commandment, which "unifies men and nations..."? Brothers and sisters in Christ, let's lift ourselves - our thought - up from the earth!
DISAFFECTION: the absence or alienation of affection or goodwill; estrangement; disloyalty: Disaffection often leads to outright treason.

Anonymous said...

Having just discovered your blog today, I am probably contributing some thoughts no one will ever read--unless, like myself, they find their way back to this particular entry. But I just wanted to recommend, to those who find this comment, the Stephen Gottschalk biography, "Rolling Away the Stone." The sub-title is: "Mary Baker Eddy's Challenge to Materialism."
Whatever the Gill book lacks the Gottschalk book provides. I have tried several times to read the Gill book, but I keep coming to such grossly materialistic misinterpretations of Eddy that I just can't continue. It is not presenting Mrs. Eddy in a materialistic light that will create interest in her in the thought of the general public. But such erudition as Gottschalk exhibits will touch the searching heart with the truth of our Leader's discovery and gift to mankind, and that will draw the thirsty to the waters of divine Science, where they may drink of living waters such as Jesus offered the Samaritan woman at the well.
Mrs. Eddy was not too spiritual, nor her writing too scientific, for her to present the Science of Being to the world in specific and healing terms. I see no reason to dilute the potency of Truth in these days when materia medica and liberal socialism would try to inflict upon us all governmental control of our health care systems. Nothing less than Science itself can thwart the evil intent of those who would inflict upon us the further drugging of society without even a choice to refuse it.
One last thought, to those who deem Mrs. Eddy a radical feminist. I have to disagree, if by feminist one means the Leftist, pro-choice, radical movement that denies everything true womanhood consists of. Mrs. Eddy wrote that "Woman is the highest species of man, and this word is the generic term for all women.... This is the precious redemption of soul, as mortal sense, through Christ's immortal sense of Truth, which presents Truth's spiritual idea, man and woman." Unity of Good, pp 51-52. Mrs. Eddy’s feminist bent was to present the womanhood of God in its highest sense, the highest species of (generic) man.
There was nothing in Mrs. Eddy's sense of womanhood to relate to what is known in America today as the "feminist movement."
The Gottschalk book is published by Indiana University Press, 2006, and can be purchased at

Anonymous said...

Amen to that August 13th post! "Materia medica and liberal socialism": Now there's a horrifying combo, and it's what we're up against! And if Mrs. Eddy was a "radical feminist," then I'm a bald eagle! It's the C.S. Monitor's job to wake us up to this, but -- God help us -- that'll be the day.

Anonymous said...

Having read this piece and the subsequent comments, I see we are in bigger trouble than I thought. It is one thing to strongly oppose the directorship's actions. But it is another vastly bigger problem that the members have no clue how to take it up spiritually. I can only hope for the sake of the movement that most of these comments were either (a) ironic or (b) left by the blogger himself. But I fear neither is true and the state of the field really is as bad as that.