It’s amazing to me to think that in the Christian Science church, prejudice could ever have taken such a foothold as to cause a need for specifically black churches. Such prejudice seems to go entirely against the ethics of Christian Science. I’ve heard stories of blacks sitting on one side of the church, and whites on the other side, but you weren’t even at the same church!
Well, let’s move ahead a few decades. In 1980, I was appointed the first African American lecturer on the Christian Science Board of Lectureship. I was just about to go on my first lecture tour. It was a Friday, and I was leaving home on the following Monday. But then I got a call from The Mother Church, saying, “Bettie Thompson, we’ve got some sad news. There’s a church in Oklahoma that has canceled.”
Here I was all excited, and I had butterflies in my stomach as I was about to leave on my first tour. But I was just told, “A lady called and said when the church got your material in the mail, they discovered you were black.”
From the August 2013 issue of The Christian Science Journal
UNCONFINED AND UNCONDITIONAL HEALING
From the September 18, 2006 issue of the Christian Science Sentinel
THE TEACHINGS and healings of Jesus, the master Christian, powerfully affected people during his lifetime. And even now they inspire people of many different cultures, races, economic and educational backgrounds to do good. Yet having come from a non-Western/non-Bible-based upbringing, I concluded that denominations were making more effort to monopolize Jesus’ teachings through the establishment of their own creeds and rituals, than to proclaim that his message of love was universal.
I’d been living in the United States for 15 years when I first encountered Christian Science. What attracted me to its teaching was its focus on a healing practice based on Jesus’ message—on primitive Christianity. I discovered that Christian Science does not wrap up his teachings in cliques and ritualism. And I wondered why I’d never seen it this way before.
Love and Truth must be universal to all humanity—to all kinds of individuals.
The ideas in Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures, written by Mary Baker Eddy, appealed to me. It seemed to me that she was saying God is universal, unconditional, and perfect Love, and that His children are His exact spiritual reflection, equally precious in His eyes, with equal access to truth. So I concluded that Love and Truth (both names for God in Christian Science) must naturally embrace all humanity.
Because of his radical inclusiveness, nothing stopped Jesus from mingling with the so-called sinner, in spite of harsh criticisms based on the Jewish rabbinical law of his time. If Jesus condemned the separation of people into classes deemed worthy and unworthy, respectable and unrespectable, clean and unclean, I wanted to find out whether I, too, could adopt this radical view.
I came from a society in Japan with lots of obvious, as well as unspoken, codes of conduct and rituals. I felt I’d discovered in Christian Science a long-awaited discipline to free me from their lingering effects. Despite many well-intentioned teachings, Shinto, the religion indigenous to Japan, as well as Buddhism, can create a basis for discrimination of those felt to be unclean or abnormal. When I was growing up, women were considered nominal in Japan, as in many societies, and forced to subscribe to certain social expectations. So when I came to see that through his understanding of God, Jesus broke many codes, social barriers, and taboos, I felt God’s love must be universal and unconditional. Reading how Jesus healed the so-called unworthy, proved to me that for all time, God values and loves every single child, man, and woman, no matter how imperfect others may think they are.
The Gospels relate how Jesus, counter to Jewish law and his upbringing, healed outsiders and outcasts, those rejected by his own Jewish laws and upbringing—people such as a Roman centurion, a woman from Tyre, a woman with a hemorrhage, an adulteress, and lepers. I felt so included and at home as I learned that the truth by which Jesus healed is inclusive of everyone.
After beginning the study Christian Science, I recalled a time when I was in grade school in Japan. Everybody made fun of a certain teacher and hated him, not because of his teaching but because of his looks. One day I had felt a surge of love for this man because I saw unspeakable beauty in him. At the same time I’d had the following thought: How beautiful it would be to love someone, everyone, unconditionally. Now, as I thought of this short but very memorable event, it made more sense to follow Jesus’ recommendation to be like a child who has not learned to judge (see Luke 18:15-17).
I continue striving to be that child—to establish within myself the view of God and man that Jesus held, and to see only God’s spiritual creation, perfect and whole. Doing so, each of us can experience unity with God. Jesus’ teachings show the way, at the same time guarding against the danger of discriminating against and judging others. Jesus established one law of universal and radical Love. Christian Science unlocks this law, so all can experience renewal, transformation, and healing.
Durring the very first Christian Science church service I attended, the soloist sang “Amazing Grace.” This song tells how the universal love of God saves even a “wretch like me.” No boundaries, cliques, discrimination, fear, ignorance, or judgmentalism exist in the teachings of Jesus. Turning to his example to find spiritual answers has been a life-giving experience for me. This Science of Christ shows me that I can completely trust a God of universal and unconditional love.
May Love its holy influence pour To keep us meek, and make us free; And bind its tender blessing more Round each with all, and all with Thee.
—Nathaniel L. Frothingham
Christian Science Hymnal, No. 214