Monday, June 11, 2012

Why the Christian Science Church Is Self-Destructing

The last time I was in a Christian Science church, I looked across the empty pews over a scattering of blue tint white heads  to the First and Second Reader podium, staffed by two smiling obese women! It's not difficult to understand what has brought the Christian Science church to this moribund state!

In thinking back to my time as a Christian Scientist, my first recollection as a teen ager in the 1950's was the conflict over the "Monitor Youth Forums". The parents in the church would try to put these Forums together as a youth activity. But they were consistently torpedoed by the elderly members who would snarl "It's not in the Manual!"

Later on, proposals to send young people to Boston for the Biennial Youth Conference or to the Youth Camp in Colorado were met with similar self-righteous hostility!

When I joined the church as a young adult, my first duty was to teach Sunday School. With a few exceptions, church members considered teaching Sunday School something to be avoided at all costs. I remember one older member telling me "I've served my time teaching Sunday School! It's someone else's turn!" Yet the next thing she said was "Our churches would be fine if the young people would stay!" She didn't seem to grasp the linkage.

Even today, there is no standard curricula of instruction, nor any organized effort for what most churches call "Faith Formation". I was astounded to find some churches near retirement communities who would openly say "Well, dear, we have no young people in our church. So we don't have a Sunday School!"

I compared this to my time in the Marine Corps.  When I went to flight school, the instructors were at least second tour Marine Captains or Navy Lieutenants with extensive fleet and combat experience! Most of the instructors had thousands of hours of flight time, filled with sea stories, and had a good idea of what the students would need to survive!

The curricula was constantly updated and strengthened with feedback from fleet operations.  There might be an occasional "plowback", a newly minted flight school graduate who'd been returned to the school as a flight instructor. But his lack of fleet experience was painfully apparent to everyone! Yet, in the Christian Science church, "plowbacks" are the rule, not the exception. Is it any wonder that the "institutional memory" of the church has been lost? Is it any wonder that the number of listed Practitioners in the Journal has shrunk from over ten thousand in the 1940's to around three thousand (when I left the church in 2000)?

The Christian Science Church now reaps what it has sown. It has neglected "faith formation" and now sees the average age of its dwindling church membership climb in into the high 60's (or even higher by now!)  The rationalization of "well, Jesus changed the world with only twelve disciples" rings hollow, as well as its digression into politically correct gender issues, seemingly a last grasp for relevancy to reverse the decline. It's only a matter of time before the church disappears completely or morphs into something else entirely. As porky pig says at the end of the Warner Brothers cartoons, "B-dee, B-dee, B-dee, that's all folks!"

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