Managing Editor of tmcyouth.com. – The First Church of Christ Scientist
November 12, 2010
I am writing to you in response to your email dated 10/25/2010.
I appreciate and respect your concern for how we address youth regarding spiritual matters. My commitment to Christian Science is life-long and I have been through class instruction. Further, I also have a great respect for the role and responsibility of a practitioner. My grandmother, whom I loved dearly, was a Christian Science Practitioner, and I have the greatest respect and love for the writings and teachings of Mrs. Eddy.
My motive in leaving comments on the blog has been three-fold:
1. To raise awareness of a serious problem: gay youth and suicide;
2. To question the impact Lois Carlson’s article has had on LGBTQ Christian Scientists: Does this article assault the spirit, however good its intentions might be, and contribute to antigay stigma; and
3. To offer resources that are service-oriented, nothing outside of the Church’s mission.
We are both agreed on the question of spirituality and its relevance to gay youth. However, by posting Lois Carlson’s article, “Considering Same Sex Lifestyles,” there is a (questionable) presumption of authority. Beginning with the very first paragraph, Carlson sets the tone by addressing conversion therapy in a way that demeans the LGBTQ community and happens to be contrary to established clinical fact. Carlson’s point about self-control is valid. However, as she also says, heterosexuals can be as promiscuous as homosexuals. Yet the article is titled “Considering Same Sex Lifestyles”.
The “perception” of this article is as one blogger put “this is the Christian Science Stand Point.” However, Christ Jesus and Mrs. Eddy never spoke out against homosexuality and The Ten Commandments are silent on this issue. Not once, but twice Mrs. Eddy quoted the eminent homosexual, William Shakespeare’s universal truth: “To thine own self be true.” This was so important to Mrs. Eddy that she repeated this monumental quote twice. I would like to suggest that this quote should have been the starting point of Carlson’s article.
Further, Virginia Harris stated when she was chair of The Christian Science Board of Directors that there is no official policy on homosexuality as they are individual decisions and not for the Church to decide (CNN Larry King Live 5/4/2001). The Christian Science Monitor even wrote a commentary titled “Homophobia hurts straight men, too – The suicide of college freshman Tyler Clementi painfully spotlights the dire consequences of homophobic bullying on gay men. But a homophobic culture that condemns male affection and emotion as “gay” hurts all men – and our culture at large” (October 6, 2010).
The Christian Science Monitor also prints these words from Mrs. Eddy on its masthead: “To injure no man, but to bless all mankind.” Gay teens are four times as likely to commit suicide
as their straight peers (Massachusetts Risk Study, 2006). Another study says that family rejection makes them 8.4 times more likely to attempt suicide (“Family Rejection as a Predictor of Negative Health Outcomes,” Dr. Caitlin Ryan, 2009). I wonder what the percentage is for religious rejection? These studies take us back to Mrs. Eddy’s words: “To injure no man, but to bless all mankind.” As seen in some of the blogs – the article resulted in people leaving Christian Science which was their hope. Hope is the major weapon against suicide.
Words can kill the spirit. Christian Science needs to grow instead of retrench. As a church, we need to “feed the hungary, heal the heart.” The church should be a safe haven or sanctuary for gay youth and adults. What, Amy can I, you, we as a church do to help reduce the narrowness, coldness, detached and judgemental, (and at times, ignorant) approach of the past? This is a great opportunity for healing not only for the church but also for those yearning brothers and sisters who love (or feel drawn to love) that Science that is so healing to every heart. There are souls in distress throughout this country, especially young people, some of whom have committed suicide. Carlson’s article does not address their spiritual pain or the physical consequences that come from it. The comments and resources I have left in the blog have been an attempt to address these shortcomings. I have cited church leaders and sources from mainstream media that would be accessible to any adult or youth. As a church, we need to consider how our commitment to spirituality can be relevant in the world in which young people live. What would Mrs. Eddy say? She addressed this topic in her rebuke of Mrs. Woodbury. “When Mrs. Woodbury offered advice to her students in regard to the sex relationship in marriage, Mrs. Eddy wrote that it is not for either of them to advise others on the most intimate of personal matters” (Robert Peel, Mary Baker Eddy – The Years of Trial, page 262).
I am also listing below a portion of number six of the 500 Watching Points for Advancing Students of Christian Science by Gilbert Congden Carpenter, C.S.B. written in Providence, R.I. during the period, 1929-1942. Following the example and teaching of Mrs. Eddy, Carpenter questions if real goodness can come out of self-righteousness. He understands that true goodness is divine. Mrs. Eddy was our greatest teacher in this lesson, and I hope these words move your spirit as they have moved mine.
What the world calls sin does not shut man off from God as effectually as what the world calls goodness, which is largely self-righteousness. When a mortal finds that his actions are sinful, he is apt to become dissatisfied with himself and with material existence, so that he yearns for God; whereas the self-satisfied follower of creeds and doctrines feels very little spiritual hunger, or dissatisfaction with matter. We conclude, therefore, that self-righteousness is the more dangerous state of thought as far as spiritual growth is concerned … Self-righteousness may be called the sin against the Holy Ghost, since it is a sin against man’s spiritual nature, and is far more serious than those sins against society, for which mortal mind has decreed punishment … It is reported that Mrs. Eddy once declared that she would rather have a church member to work with who was forty per cent good, than one ninety-five per cent good. Such a statement would be anomalous unless we interpret it to mean humangood …. The prodigal son was perhaps forty percent good, in contrast to the ninety-five percent good of his elder brother. Yet behold the latter’s attitude when the prodigal returned! He malpracticed on him, was jealous of the way he was received, and acted as if he wished that his brother had never been redeemed; when as a matter of fact, the Egypt experience was the necessary process through which the prodigal son learned the worthlessness and nothingness of all materiality. Since nothing concerning the claim of evil could be learned in the Father’s house, and this knowledge was necessary in order to help poor humanity, it had to be learned in Egypt" Then when the prodigal returned, he was ready to be united to his Father’s purpose and work with Him in redeeming mankind … Mrs. Eddy had many experiences with the elder brothers in her church work. She knew that they make most of the trouble. Many times she saw them attempt to throw back into the stream of mortal mind those valiant swimmers struggling to reach the shore,—perhaps the very ones she was striving to save. Who can blame her for crying out against this most heinous of all sins, namely, the belief in human good—when the only true goodness is divine?
Finally, the African American writer Octavia Butler captures the power of religion: “Religion kept some of my relatives alive, because it was all they had. If they hadn’t had some hope of heaven, some companionship in Jesus, they probably would have committed suicide, their lives were so hellish.” LGBTQ people, especially the youth who are being bullied, are now in the same position. If we demean them and make them think they are sinners, we are pushing them out of the church, taking away their hope, and pushing them toward shame and suicide. Thus, our church becomes just like so many others (condemning, frightening, and ultimately unnecessary to growth in grace). This should not be the mission of our church. I offered my views about antigay stigma and suicide from my personal experience back in my July blog. Do you see what is now happening? How many more are suffering in silence? Religion used against LGBTQ youth and adults “causes colossal damage to the soul.” These words were spoken by a young girl who committed suicide after being rejected by her mother and her religion. When someone commits suicide from bullying of any kind the entire world loses.
What would Mrs. Eddy do and say? Wouldn’t she take them in her arms and love them? Can’t we do at least that much? Can’t we offer a cup of cold water — a small request from a church which professes to inculcate all of Christ Jesus’ teachings? I think we could advance the cause of Christian Science by being less judgmental and more loving. If Mrs. Eddy expected us to solemnly promise to do unto to others as we would have them do unto us, shouldn’t that “golden rule” apply to Boston’s approach to gay youth as well?
I am reaching out to you as an ambassador not as an activist. I am also writing to you in a spirit of humility and love and as someone who has been touched by suicide. I share your commitment to presenting spiritual ideas to young people. However, Carlson’s article falls short in this regard. It does nothing to address or heal real problems affecting youth and may be harmful to those struggling with their sexuality. I’d be happy to offer additional insights to you and Lois Carlson on this important issue.
Respectfully submitted with Truth, Wisdom, Love, and Sincerity,
Vice President, Emergence International
cc Emergence International Board of Directors
The Christian Science Board of Directors – Boston
The Christian Science Monitor
Dr. Palmer – President & CEO Principia College
Lois Carlson, C.S.B.
From: tfccs tfccs <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Sent: Mon, October 25, 2010 5:17:41 PM
Subject: FW: [Blogs] Please moderate: "Considering same sex lifestyles"
Hi Rob —
I’m writing to you about the links that you’re posting on the "Considering
same sex lifestyles" blog. You’ve posted quite a few links to other
websites in the comment section and we’ve let them stand, but it’s not
something we generally allow on the site. It is a youth site and we need to
be careful about where we’re sending minors. We just don’t have the staff
to vet all the sites to make sure they’re the kind of places that parents
would feel comfortable having their kids visit.
The purpose of the comment section is to share spiritual ideas from a
Christian Science perspective. That’s really the purpose of the entire
site, to be a place where people can share spiritual ideas and to support
another with spiritual truths. We don’t expect people to agree with one
another as you can see from all the comments on this particular blog, but I
do think it’s important to stick closely to our designated purpose. I do
understand that you feel passionate about this topic, you’ve certainly
shared a lot. I do hope you’ll understand the direction we need to go now.
Please feel free to contact me if you have any questions.