Ever wonder how misunderstandings get started or continue to be perpetuated? In his recent espionage novel, “The Tourist,” author Olen Steinhauer has presented a view of Christian Science that regrettably feeds existing misperceptions and even creates new ones.
Since it is a New York Times best-seller and the film rights have been purchased by actor George Clooney’s production company, I’d like to clarify a few questions for some who have read the book or may see the anticipated future movie.
By the way, this novel is not the source of the just released movie of the same name starring Johnny Depp and Angelina Jolie. That is a different movie.
The following questions (based on pages 57-61 of the novel) highlight a few of the erroneous assertions about Christian Science in the novel:
1. Question: Why is a world-class assassin–presented as a Christian Scientist known as “The Tiger”–explaining his actions by quoting Mary Baker Eddy’s statement, “The Science of Christianity makes pure the fountain, in order to purify the stream?”
I have no idea. In this context, the quote seems completely out of place. “The Tiger” also quotes, “To suppose that sin, lust, hatred, revenge, have life abiding in them, is a terrible mistake. Life and Life’s idea, Truth and Truth’s idea, never make men sick, sinful, or mortal.” This is another passage from “Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures” by Mary Baker Eddy, but it is a gross misinterpretation to use it to justify killing someone!
2. Question: “The Tiger” ends up being the target of an assassination attempt himself. According to the novel, his would-be assassin apparently believes a sure way to assassinate a Christian Scientist is to inject him with AIDS, because he’ll die before seeking medical care! Is this true?
No, it is not true! To Christian Scientists, including me, Christian Science is the most effective and reliable form of health care. Thousands of people around the globe have been healed by practicing its spiritual prayer-based method. These healings include medically-diagnosed cases of disease considered incurable.
To read of AIDS cases healed through Christian Science alone, visit a Christian Science Reading Room and ask for the July 22, 2002 issue of the “Christian Science Sentinel.”
Christian Scientists decide for themselves what is the best form of health care to use. No church doctrine prohibits them from making this decision.
3. Question: “The Tiger” notes that “Faith talks you into doing things you might not want to do.” Is that true of Christian Science?
This fosters the tired rumor that Christian Science is some kind of cult. It’s not. Like me, the Christian Scientists I know are independent, pragmatic thinkers who are not prone to being manipulated into actions or beliefs that they themselves don’t support or agree with.
The novel also presents the idea that it is the practice of Christian Scientists to go outside and kneel under trees to pray. What nonsense!
4. Question: “The Tiger” noted that “God has seen fit to strike me down . . . .” Does God do this?
In Christian Science, it is never God’s will that anyone should suffer, die or be struck down. The Christian Science textbook, “Science and Health” is filled with ideas of what God is and what He does for mankind. What you will find is a loving, caring God who is ever-present and all-powerful. Angry and vengeful is not how God is defined.
Conclusion: The way Christian Science is presented in “The Tourist” is absurd, even comical. Yet to many readers who may not have heard of Christian Science, such misinformation may inhibit them from seeking the effective prayer-based healing it affords.
The world needs greater religious understanding, not more confusion. I sincerely hope Mr. Steinhauer will provide a more accurate portrayal of Christian Science if he decides to include it in his future novels. And I also hope that the screen writers for the George Clooney movie will wisely edit this portion of the plot.
To gain more accurate information about Christian Science, please go to christianscience.com or visit your local Christian Science Reading Room.