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KUOW Newsroom

How do Christian Scientists deal with the pandemic?

Correction, 10 a.m., 4/10/2020: In our broadcast, we incorrectly said CDC director Robert Redfield was affiliated with the Church of Christ Scientist. He is not.

One thing that's been helping some people get through the pandemic is their faith. The Church of Christ Scientist was founded in 1866 in Boston and looks to prayer for healing. Lance Madison is part of the church in Washington state, and he spoke to KUOW’s Angela King.

Lance Madison: Christian Science is based squarely on the Bible. The founder of the church was a New England woman named Mary Baker Eddy. And she was a devout Christian and lifelong student of the Bible and was driven to find deeper answers to the problem of human suffering, and what she called the problem of being. Jesus words, “He that believeth on me, the works that I do shall he do also,” are to us a promise of healing for us right here and now. And she took those words to heart, and Christian Science believes that healing in the spirit of Jesus, words and works is instrumental to Christian practice.

Angela King: What are the church's teachings about medical interventions, for example, like the use of antibiotics?

Madison: What's important to us is that each individual be healthy, well and safe. And that's how we understand God to have made all of us. Our church does emphasize that members and their families must make their own choices, responsible choices about health. We generally look to prayer for healing because it involves not only a physical cure, but meaningful spiritual and moral growth and renewal. And we do respect medical professionals and share their desire to heal, to relieve suffering. And we respect the official guidance and public health directives, especially at a time like this.

King: You talk about healing when a church member becomes ill. What are the recommendations?

Madison: Again, our goal is the health and well-being safety of each individual. But Christian societies are accustomed to turn to God in prayer first, because we felt from our own experience that this kind of rigorous prayer is not only effective, but it can be transformative. Our church does have a care system to support individuals who need healing. A Christian Scientist can call on a Christian Science practitioner to pray with them and or a Christian Science nurse to provide non-medical nursing, such as feeding and bandaging. So in a contagion context, such as we're facing now, clearly we think that it's important to respect the official requirements and also just be aware of the practical concerns of our neighbors. It's a simple matter of adherence to the golden rule, treating others as we would want to be treated right.

King: But if you are not seeking straight medical treatment that you might receive from a traditional hospital, how can you reassure members of the community that this may not be a problem for your neighbor?

Madison: Folks need to be assured on this. My observation is that Christian Scientists and Christian Science churches are very, very law abiding and considerate of their neighbors. We respect the recommended closure as a social distancing, the hygienic guidelines.

King: But some may argue that you're not helping the community by not seeking out traditional medical treatment.

Madison: Well, I think, again, we're not talking about just doing nothing. We find that our prayerful spiritual treatment is effective. And I think the record supports that. I think alleviating fear is doing something. And that, in fact, is what other religious representatives are trying hard to do.