May 9, 2012 at 9:40 pm #61974
Hi friends, both already made, and yet to meet :-)
In my readings of recent threads in this space, as well as reading various news articles and other discussions on the various Christian Science forums, a common thread tying them together for me has been an emphasis on opinion or stance. It seems that opinions or fixed position statements are things that everyone is expected to have.
But is opinion really a necessary component to life?
Sure, my opinion helps me choose to see The Avengers over Cabin in the Woods, or helps me choose Fudge Tracks over Pecan Swirl.
But aside from those little areas – and maybe even including them – are opinions really all they’re cracked up to be?
It’s fair to say that anyone reading this forum has an interest in spirituality, and may even be a student of Christian Science. Something I deeply love about Christian Science is that it is the revelation of divine law – a law that is the effect of one God, good, divine Mind. Again, as most readers here will know, healing is a natural and normal fruit of the immediacy of this law. Healing is NOT effected by someone having a really great opinion. Healing is the revealing of the immediacy of God’s omnipotence.
So, before this gets too long to encourage conversation, here is my subject to invite discussion. My premise is that opinions are essentially worthless. So, if that is the case, how can we get to know each other, communicate together, have friends and acquaintances, if opinions are not in fact what “make us up”? What is it we are interested in getting to know and being with? Indeed, a deep motivating purpose for this discussion space itself is to encourage spiritual seekers to gather, encourage, and support each other. What is it that draws us together, if opinions aren’t really an aspect of divine Life?
Another way to put it might be, why are you friends with you are friends with? Is it only similar opinions and tastes which draw you to some or dissimilar opinions which push you away from others? Is there a reason, a real reason, that we could not all gather in peace together and all rejoice in the recognition of heaven? Is there a reason that Isaiah 65:25 could not be lived today?
Thanks so much for your time in reading this lengthy intro, and I’ll look forward to hearing your thoughts!May 9, 2012 at 11:14 pm #61984
Thanks John for bringing this issue to light. I had actually already been thinking about something similar earlier this evening. I was thinking with regard to a number of different issues, actually. I realized that, quite frankly, there are always going to be disagreements. I admit there is a day when truly there will be no disagreements at all, but humanly speaking, it is neither realistic nor helpful to expect that day any time within this generation. “But of that day and hour knoweth no man, no, not the angels of heaven, but my Father only.”
This is true even (and perhaps especially) in church. The measure of a good church, I think, is not necessarily by simply counting the number of people who agree, or who tacitly assent, or who perhaps quietly dissent to all the same human opinions. The measure of a good church is how we handle these inevitable, repeated and repeating disagreements. How we better learn to love each other. But I will add that I do not believe this cannot and should not include any compromise, whatsoever, on morality. If anything it should involve an elevation of morals.
As I’ve moved from being a part-time Sunday School teacher to a full-time Sunday School teacher, it’s been helpful for me to think of every person I encounter, even those who express viewpoints that I find foolish or vain, the same way that I think of my Sunday School students. Like… if this person were a young student sitting in my class on Sunday mornings, how would that affect how I think of them? This is not to say that I should condescend and think of them as being childish. But rather to say that I should have the same Christian affection for them as I would for my young students whose welfare I care deeply about.
You know, one other thing that you in particular, John, might want to ponder. I was reading the reminisce of Susan Harper Mims in the “We Knew Mary Baker Eddy” books this past weekend. In it, she talked about a time Mrs. Eddy was teaching some of her pupils about how Jesus “loved righteousness and hated iniquity” (a reference to Hebrews 1:9). She explained that simply loving righteousness is the easiest part of Christian Science. But she explained loving righteousness alone is not sufficient. To truly be Christlike, you have to learn to hate iniquity. And she explained that that is the much more difficult part of Christian Science.May 10, 2012 at 11:26 am #62006
Ideals are formed from experience. And they may not be things we’ve directly experienced, but some things are passed on by association. Those who shaped the American Constitution came to those ideals largely through their collective desire for freedom and protecting hard-fought freedom. I see nothing wrong with purposeful discussions. Everyone comes from a unique background and a forum is a place for discussion. It should be expected there will be some different viewpoints. The sharing and the listening are helpful for all of us. :-)May 10, 2012 at 12:26 pm #62027
One thing I’m really grateful for about these forums and discussions is the opportunity they present to see how others perceive what we are saying. It sounds like a couple of y’all heard me saying that I think everyone should agree – that peace is made up of everyone thinking the same thing, and that wide-ranging discussion is unhelpful. I do see why you could hear that from my post :-) So, in case that is what folks are hearing me say in my premise and question, let me say that that is not at all what I mean!
My whole focus and interest is on the kingdom of heaven. John 4:35 speaks of the fields, which, though some say will take a certain amount of time to harvest and enjoy, are in fact white to harvest now. What this tells me is that everyone’s discovery of, awakening to, and remembering of the presence of heaven is an individual opportunity, which is not either speeded or delayed by others. So, if that is the case, it would make sense (to me, anyways) that opinions about others aren’t really an aspect of our own reaping and reveling in heaven.
It’s really important to me that this discussion (and any discussion, really) not devolve into a hypothetical word game. Obviously everyone views the world through their own valid lens and experience, and that is what informs our own sharing, in these online conversations and in person. What I’m really wondering is, does the sharing of our ideals (or even opinions) need to devolve into a blasting of other people’s ideas? That’s my struggle, I guess – that so often, when we just banter around opinions, the conversation becomes quite an weight pulling us down, rather than an opportunity to live church. Since there IS no need to for anyone to agree, isn’t there a way in which we could have conversations and experiences where we just live boldly – ALL of us – and allow ourselves to share that boldness without either aggression or defensiveness?
I’m remembering how, when I took Christian Science class instruction, it wasn’t at all as if I’d been an empty bucket, and was now being filled up. It was so much more like remembering, like being encouraged and kindled to blaze brightly from the foundation that was ALREADY THERE! It makes me smile and feel so loved just to think of it! Now, certainly, that was just my experience, but I’ve found that healing is the same way – to see that perfect God and perfect idea is already here – and there isn’t a sick or sinful or sad mortal which we have to change somehow.
So, if we are already God’s ideas, then isn’t our job (in conversation, church, discussion forums, customer service phone calls, first dates, interviews…) to shine boldly and, in that shining, to encourage and kindle the flames of good already present? Rather than trying to make someone’s shining conform to your own shining?
THAT is what I mean when I say “peace:” that everyone is shining boldly, together. Agreement is irrelevant. Of course, since heaven IS that individual awakening, one’s own peace does not depend on others – but, if we each individually, courageously live peace, I’d think that peace would spread :-)
And a brief side note to Gordon: I really appreciate your point about loving righteousness and hating iniquity. I’m not really sure it’s relevant, though, to what I’m considering in this discussion, because I’m not talking about ignoring evil or pretending that bad stuff is good or acceptable. (I do see why you might think that was what I was saying, so I’m glad to get to communicate my thoughts in a different way!) Doesn’t the shining of God’s glory intrinsically illuminate God’s work – “in Thy light shall we see light” – and destroy the possibility of the conception of evil? You don’t heal someone by saying, “You have a problem. Let’s work together to get rid of that problem.” No, we heal by seeing that divine Love has already met (and made!) that dear individual, and we can love to see what God’s light illuminates. (S&H 365:15) Thanks so much for your devotion to absolute goodness and elevation of thought. Looking forward to hearing your continued input, if the inspiration strikes you to share here again :-)
Andy, I’m really glad you are here :-) I’m glad to get to shine with you – no need to lurk! I’m looking forward to enjoying more the light you have to shine!
JD, thanks for your sharing too. I hope I’ve made it clearer that I’m not against forums or conversations or ideals :-) I love them! I’ve always appreciated your forthright, humble, and steadfast sharings and shinings on these discussions, and am glad you’re hanging out in this one too! Your point about purposeful discussions is so key – and wouldn’t it be a clear awareness OF that purpose which would defend against a temptation to devolve into “my side, your side, battle!” instead of simply bold conversation?May 10, 2012 at 1:02 pm #62049
John, I know exactly what you mean about the feeling you get in class instruction that you’re just uncovering what was already there all along. To me it felt like “coming home.”
It’s quite common that people get involved in conversations as a way to vent, whether they realize it or not. The “blasting of others’ opinions” is what appears to be happening on the surface. But under that surface the obvious conclusion is that they’re really struggling with something. And often something that doesn’t want to be exposed. So they try to get it out in arguments. That’s where stillness and silent prayer really come in handy.
Oh, and by the way, I can think of times in my own life where others (practitioners, teachers, etc.) have essentially said, “You have a problem; let’s work together to get rid of that problem” in a very tangible way, and that has actually brought more healing to my own experience than anything else. Without getting into the details, I’ll just say that I wouldn’t count out those “tough love” methods until you’ve seen them work yourself.May 10, 2012 at 1:31 pm #62063
Yeah – cool, Gordon. That’s one of the many incredible fruits of one Mind, isn’t it? Every need being met – already met – in the exact right way. And I love your point about how the root of “blasting others” is often a challenge within their own thought. Right there, right in that temptation to blast back at them, is where that stillness and prayer illuminate what we need to know.
So, for me, the purpose of this conversation keeps on evolving. When those opinions and tearing others down starts flying, how have you all met those? How have you continued to shine boldly?
To be perfectly honest, this conversation has already been an opportunity for me to practice this :-) This is a topic I’ve been considering and praying about for a while, but it’s hard to start off these conversations sometimes. I have a great newfound respect for all the folks who start discussions – on this or any forum. This is actually a great opportunity, right here – to see more clearly that the only thing that makes up our identity is what God knows. There’s no label or expectation (from myself or others) that ever usurps or modifies what God has made.
What a great community in which to discover, encourage, and shine on more of who we each really are. Do you know Alex Cook’s rendition of “The Prayer of St. Francis”? Right now, I’m seeing this conversation, and this whole forum, as an opportunity to live out “O divine Love, grant that I may not so much seek to be consoled, as to console; to be understood, as to understand; to be loved, as to love.” Check out the whole song – I don’t know if Alex would appreciate me putting down all the lyrics or not so I’ll leave that for another time, or for Alex to do. Anyways, point being, what if that was our motive in conversation? Would that make things fluffy and nice-nice? Or is that prayer another way to look at shining boldly, and welcoming others to do the same? I would say the latter – what do y’all think?May 10, 2012 at 10:55 pm #62134
Here’s a thought. “In Christian Science mere opinion is valueless” (SH 341) It’s that word “mere” that catches my attention. What is a ‘mere’ opinion?May 15, 2012 at 2:24 pm #62379
Hey Ian! Great point :-) The 1828 Webster’s Dictionary defines mere as “this or that only; distinct from anything else.” So that sentence seems, to me, to be saying that opinion, just simply thrown out there, is irrelevant. It’s reminding me of Mary Baker Eddy’s statement, “It is neither Science nor Truth which acts through blind belief, nor is it the human understanding of the divine healing Principle as manifested in Jesus, whose humble prayers were deep and conscientious protests of Truth, – of man’s likeness to God and of man’s unity with Truth and Love.” (S&H p. 12)
If we think some good thought is just standing out there on its own, and it’s efficacy depends on how loudly we yell it or try to convince others of it, then we’re starting from a false premise. But if we acknowledge that all good is the immediate emanation of God, then every angel message is a revealing of what is ALREADY TRUE, and our “protests of Truth” are founded on a rock, then we can love to share and bask in those messages. Far from “mere opinion,” these are statements of Truth.
Thanks for that neat idea, Ian!May 19, 2012 at 4:46 pm #62833
I enjoyed reading your thoughts on this subject, but I must confess that I seem to be diametrically opposite from all of you on this topic of “OPINIONS”.
I guess that I am a few rungs down on the “ladder” to Heaven, but I find it difficult to relate to much of what has been said on this subject. If it weren’t for the different OPINIONS expressed by all of those who post on these blogs, then there wouldn’t be much of a reason to read what people have written. It would all be one big “gooey” blob of boring sameness.
Personally, I have enjoyed reading all of the different OPINIONS espressed on these blogs. As long as we are on this human and material plane of existence, then there will be many different OPINIONS expressed. I don’t care what the subject may be, the color to paint the walls of the church sanctuary, or whether homosexuality is sinful, etc., etc., there are bound to be OPINIONS.
Thank God for OPINIONS!!!May 19, 2012 at 9:21 pm #62837
You know that old story about the six blind men and the elephant? Each man is examining with his hands a part of the elephant, but because each can only “see” the one part, each gets a completely different idea of what an elephant is like. And because each has complete confidence in what his senses, limited though they are, have told him, each is unable to give credence to the others’ perspectives, and not one of them ends up with an accurate understanding of what an elephant is truly like.
But what if, instead of clinging so steadfastly to their own limited sense, these six had recognized that the big picture was so much bigger than any one of them could perceive on their own? What if, instead of concluding that the elephant must “look” the same from every angle, they respected and accepted their friends’ perceptions as being as valid (even though as partial) as their own? What if, instead of each one trying to characterize the elephant on his own, based on only what he alone had experienced, each took the others’ views into account to form their sense of what an elephant was all about? Wouldn’t they all then have developed a concept of “elephant” that was much closer to the truth?
I think Mrs. Eddy says that “material, conflicting mortal opinions and beliefs emit the effects of error at all times” (S&H 273) because human opinions and beliefs are ALWAYS based on limited, partial information and so cannot, on their own, represent the whole of Truth. But recognizing that doesn’t invalidate our individual views, partial as they all are. It just opens us up to accepting that others’ perspectives, though different, are equally valid and valuable. And by looking for and expecting to find elements of truth in those other perspectives, we can become each others’ supporters instead of detractors, and together move much closer to understanding the whole of Truth than we will ever be able to do on our own.May 21, 2012 at 9:51 am #62885
I read your response yesterday, but have just now (Monday morning) had the chance to respond. I thought your remarks were sensible and very well expressed. I especially liked your use of the old story of the blind men and the elephant, with which, of course, I was familiar.
I cannot really disagree with anything you said. The only reason I expressed myself so strongly in my previous post was that I felt that the other responses which I had read on this topic seemed to be advocating a kind of unrealistic, “wishy-washy” attitude towards the normal, healthy human expression of OPINIONS. There is nothing at all wrong in people having different OPINIONS on topics and to express them, otherwise, why even have these blog sites where contributors are invited to express their OPINIONS!May 21, 2012 at 10:05 am #62886
I loved Moving-Forward’s comments, but I actually especially LOVED Brad’s comments! I appreciate his boldness, and his willingness to get ones hands dirty, so to speak. Part of what I love so much about our church is that we can disagree, and still love each other. In fact, disagreement in many ways is a good sign because it indicates that people are thinking for themselves.
I’ve been thinking about a couple of things lately. First is the story from 1st Samuel, chapter 3. It’s the one where young Samuel heard the voice of God calling him three times, and each time mistook that voice as coming from Eli the priest. Samuel is finally instructed to respond by saying, “Speak, Lord; for thy servant heareth.”
Our Sunday School has been covering the books of Samuel, and just yesterday all the SS classes convened together to share with each other what they had been learning. One of the youngest classes gave a little presentation where the teacher of that class played the role of Eli, and a very young student played the role of Samuel. They both lied down on the Sunday School floor, and the student would periodically get up, walk over to the teacher, and say, “you called me, Eli?” So they did the whole thing as a skit.
It was pretty cute to watch, but actually I got an inspired idea from it that I had never considered before. I realized that Samuel was really being taught there was that he didn’t need to talk to God by proxy. This is a central belief in many other faiths such as Catholicism and Anglicanism — that you need to go through someone else of seeming higher spiritual authority, such as a priest, in order to commune with God. And unwittingly, I think we all (on MANY occassions!) have exhibited tendencies to want to seek approval from certain others, in order to validate our own opinions. But here I think Samuel was learning that he didn’t need to go to Eli as his teacher; the divine Principle was readily available to him directly.
It also just reminds me of one of the Master’s sayings:
“And do not call anyone on earth … ‘teacher,’ for you have one Teacher, the Christ.” –Matthew 23:9-10 (NIV1984)May 21, 2012 at 12:34 pm #62892
I love everyone’s thoughts…more than that I find it imperative to love each individual expression of Truth and Love. Each individual expression is a part of this vibrant and beautiful garden of Life.
Sometimes I think we confused the uniqueness and diversity of God’s expression with ever-changing human opinions. Are the two really the same?
Sometimes I really wonder if we should be in love with opinions — being able to share our opinions and hear other people’s opinions. I wonder if a love of opinion is actually a trick.
I’m not sure…this is just something I constantly find myself pondering…especially after reading things like this from Mrs. Eddy’s writings (See page 156:24-28 in Miscellaneous Writings 1883-1896):
Assembling themselves together, and listening
to each other amicably, or contentiously, is no aid to
students in acquiring solid Christian Science. Experi-
ence and, above all, obedience, are the aids and tests of
growth and understanding in this direction.
May 21, 2012 at 1:36 pm #62894
- This reply was modified 1 year ago by Ian.
I am really grateful to see what this conversation is encouraging us all to bring up and think about. I love this discussion forum and am grateful to see these insights about the act of conversating. Isn’t it all about motive? As Ian’s quoted passage brings up, are we gathering just to throw ideas in the middle of a pond and see what kind of thing we come up with? Or are we interested in living church – in cherishing each other and practicing seeing each other as God sees us, His beloved ideas? Obviously in conversation agreements or disagreements will come up. But is that the point, at all?
I had a lovely opportunity to chat with a good friend the other day for a long time. He was really interested in how I read the Bible (as a love story, and of one people’s growing understanding of God as Love, and of the message from God to each of His children directly about Her great work). I know my friend does not agree with that way of reading it, and I really appreciate getting to hear from him about how he reads and loves the Bible. That conversation was not about trying to “save” anyone, or convince anyone – it’s about practicing sharing confidently, expressing our mutual respect and friendship, and boldly shining our light and enjoying what it illuminates – just as I would hope that the conversations here would be (and often are!).
Brad, it seems like what you are hearing from my posts is that I want a fluffy agreement land. I’m not sure how else to say that that is not what I am suggesting :-) But I am glad that you are here and are sharing your love for life! Hopefully this post has clarified my thoughts a bit more and I am looking forward to our continued conversation, if you find it beneficial!
Moving Forward, I love that story and am excited to consider it’s deep relevance to so many things in my day!
Gordon, so neat to hear of your Sunday School’s projects together. I love the tie-in you are making with the immediacy of God’s presence and the fact that no intermediaries are necessary between God and man. Could you unpack for me a bit more what you are saying? Thanks!
Ian, I really appreciate your love for all of us :-) Thank you! I love that passage from Miscellaneous Writings and consider it every time before I post or read these forums. I love these forums so much – love the opportunity they present to practice seeing and living church – and that passage is so crucial to my growing understanding of when I can participate in a fruitful manner, and when I should step out.May 21, 2012 at 3:30 pm #62898
I came across the following passage this last weekend, as I’ve been reading through Prose Works:
Avoid for the immediate present public debating clubs.
This was an instruction Mrs. Eddy gave to her followers, and I’ve been thinking about its continued relevancy — and application — today. Christian Scientists, on the whole, tend to be thinkers. We tend to be people who can appreciate a good debate, and who like to form and express our own opinions. We tend to appreciate intellectually stimulating conversation. But it can be a great temptation to get too entrenched in arguments, where, as Ian said, we’re more in love with the opinions than with God. And that is why, I think, Mrs. Eddy instructed Christian Scientists to avoid it.
It’s too easy to forget to love people when too involved with debates. Both Jesus and Mrs. Eddy very consistently started every interaction with that remembrance of loving first, before disagreeing. And even if you’re completely sure that you are right and the other person is wrong, it’s still so vital to remember to love them first, otherwise (even if you are right!) you run the risk out of making an enemy out of them in your mind.
I listened to an audio chat titled Let the healing power of Christ touch your life, given by Lois Carlson a little while ago, and she pointed out something that I found fascinating. At about 44 minutes in, a questioner wrote in to ask this question:
Christ Jesus forgave those who crucified him, but he wasn't so forgiving, it seems, with the Pharisees. He called them hypocrites. What's the distinction there?
And Lois responded by saying this:
The Pharisees are the ones about whom Jesus said, "The kingdom of God is within you." I think, when he called them hypocrites, he was saying, "Don't kid yourself. You guys know better than that!" He's the one who honored that every jot and tittle of the law had to be obeyed. He's the one who loved the Old Testament and read it in the temples.
Another essay I’ve been reviewing lately is “Ways that are Vain” by Mrs. Eddy. And I can’t tell you how much I LOVE that essay! She noted a tendency in Christian Scientists, particularly about hot topic issues that seem to be at the whim of many different human opinions, to merely want everyone to agree with each other — to come to a “fluffy agreement land” just for the sake of unity — what she called a “false, convenient peace.” She goes onto say that there would be real unity, if Christian Scientists would realize the need to condemn specific error and not merely talk about how we’re all perfect and how “error” is bad in a vague or ambiguous way. Like I said, I am really loving this essay — mostly for its practicality! — and I would recommend it to anyone. It’s in The First Church of Christ, Scientist and Miscellany.
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