From the Press
From the October 26th, 1918 Christian Science Sentinel, featuring a letter to the editor of The Boston Herald from Bicknell Young
Services were conducted in accordance with the usual order, both morning and evening, yesterday [Oct. 6], at The First Church of Christ, Scientist, in Boston. The appeal of the emergency health committee of Boston that the churches of the city be closed, in accordance with the desire to prevent large assemblages of people was referred to briefly at both services when the following announcement from The Christian Science Board of Directors was read from the pulpit:
“In her volume, The First Church of Christ, Scientist, and Miscellany (p. 116), Mrs. Eddy writes, ‘At a time of contagious disease, Christian Scientists endeavor to rise in consciousness to the true sense of the omnipotence of Life, Truth, and Love, and this great fact in Christian Science realized will stop a contagion.’
“This church is maintaining its services to-day as a most effective way in which its large congregations can continue to be of help to the community by attaining through the church services a clearer sense of the omnipotence of divine Love and the impotence of aggressive evil at a time when disease is being so industriously promoted as it is through the common avenue of mesmeric fear.
“True Science unveils the fact that the mortal mind is the source of contagion and that the ailments evolved by that so-called mind can infect and contaminate only as its dis-eased images are held before the thought and paraded before the excited imagination preliminary to having them outlined and expressed on the body through fear and apprehension.
“It is the solemn duty of every Christian Scientist to enter at once the active service of his country and of humanity, to stop this drive of the ‘enemy’ intended to destroy health and life and to paralyze progress and righteous efficiency in this vital hour of the world’s history.
“Mrs. Eddy has said (Miscellaneous Writings, p. 229): ‘A calm, Christian state of mind is a better preventive of contagion than a drug, or than any other possible sanative method; and the “perfect Love” that “casteth out fear” is a sure defense.'”
The attitude of the church in this and similar instances also is explained in the appended letter to the editor of The Boston Herald from Bicknell Young, First Reader of The First Church of Christ, Scientist, in which he comments upon the present epidemic and the angle that has been taken toward it as to church services:
“It is most extraordinary and ironical that in a Christian country whenever there is talk of doing away with public gatherings the churches and saloons are invariably mentioned together. Whether they are classed together or not depends, one may suppose, upon the point of view. But at any rate there is nothing to show that the health of the community would be either conserved or improved by such methods. On the contrary, according to the views of the best physicians, people are no more safe cooped up in their dwellings than they are in commodious and well ventilated theaters, halls, or churches, and from the standpoint of those who seek to find the real root of disease, anything which tends to alarm the public serves to spread disease and to increase its violence.
“One only needs to travel about the streets of Boston these days to see how fear has gripped the whole community. If one were disposed to perpetrate a very bad pun one might truthfully say, ‘Fear is the grip.’ The fact is that influenza breeds in fear and feeds on fear. To some extent the doctors and nurses see this and urge people to be courageous, but with little effect, seeing that there is little faith in a fountain that sends forth both sweet waters and bitter. After fear of influenza has been promulgated for weeks in advance, it is found that in some instances the sick are neglected by their relatives through fear of contagion; and then the demand is suddenly made upon them that they be fearless, and they are assured that simple precautions will make them safe, and it is even hinted that the influenza is not necessarily contagious. Why so late with these assurances? Why were they not given out beforehand, instead of the flood of suggestion whereby the public mind became prolific soil for the mental germs of influenza?
“A letter from a friend in a training camp near Chicago says that one day the camp physicians had minute descriptions of the symptoms of influenza, and warnings as to the danger from it, given out to the camp. Prior to that time there had not been a single case. Next day there were several cases, and before long several hundred. Clearly this is a mere suggestion, and it looks suspiciously like enemy propaganda, to which the doctors lent themselves, unconsciously of course. Is it not possible that this so-called epidemic is just that very thing? If the community could see it that way, how long would they be afraid? If people are to get rid of influenza, they need to have something to think of other than influenza. The fact is that influenza is primarily a mental disease. The prevailing material methods will make headway against it only in the measure that they inspire faith and confidence. The utterly helpless attitude of the health authorities and physicians generally seems to indicate that they are hopeless to overcome the disease, and are convinced that it must run its course and wear itself out.
“Those who look beyond matter for the cause and cure of disease see that the great need of the hour is pure Christianity, and yet at the very time when the gospel of Christ in all its practical strength and helpfulness is most needed it is proposed to close the churches.
“Among the clergymen whose opinions have been sought, to say nothing of thousands who have not been consulted, are consecrated men who have devoted their whole lives to the Christian religion as they understand it. They number among their congregations thousands of devout men and women. Is there no healing unction in all this? Is it possible that the services in these churches and the prayers of these people are so remote from God that these churches must be closed and these pentecostal petitions made to cease because of the fear of germs? Which is greater, God or germs? ‘Choose you this day whom ye will serve.’
“The irony of the situation is sufficiently obvious; but without further comment, if it be true that the churches at a time like this are so dominated by the fear of matter that they close their doors and refrain from their customary Christian mission when the need is greatest, let them be closed not for a Sunday or two, but forever.”