By Ronald L. Musselman, CS
When presented with a new health situation, sometimes we have few precedents to rely upon. The current Covid-19 pandemic is one of those. We seem to be presented with inconsistent guidance from experts and governmental agents, as well as our own sense of what’s right as Christian Scientists. The issue seems to come down to following human steps for avoiding problems vs. holding purely to the divine fact that there are no erroneous elements in God and thus neither in us. If we listen to and heed the human advice, are we then admitting there is a problem and thus undermining our metaphysical work? This is an example of the relative (human) vs. the absolute (divine). Actually, it’s not so much “versus” as it is “with respect to.”
Mary Baker Eddy was well aware of the two as she was developing the statement of Christian Science in her textbook, Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures. Most of the statements in that text are relative statements; there are really very few absolute statements. Christian Science is essentially a translation of Divine Science for humans: “Spiritual sense is a conscious, constant capacity to understand God. ... Its ideas are expressed only in ‘new tongues;’ and these are interpreted by the translation of the spiritual original into the language which human thought can comprehend.”(1) Humanly we live in a relative world and need to be aware of its foes while maintaining our vision and awareness of perfection, our true residence.
Let’s shift to another venue for a moment. When we are advised to drive carefully it means to avoid problems that can be seen by an alert person. This is referred to as “driving defensively”: we are alert to our surroundings and anticipate what an inattentive driver might do. We don’t, for example, drive for extended periods in someone’s blind spot. We are aware of the principle of safety, and as such, avoid circumstances which could be unsafe. This doesn’t negate our confidence in our protection by Love and we wouldn’t consider defensive driving to undo Love’s protection.
Some time ago, my partner was driving with her daughter on a highway at a normal 75 mph. At that time, the thought came strongly to me of her absolute safety in Love. She went to change lanes to her left and her car kissed a car in her blind spot. She corrected her path quickly, but says she felt she wasn’t really doing the control. She had to quickly correct over-steer several times. Not done exactly correctly, this could have resulted in overturning her vehicle. Her daughter reports she was like Mario Andretti. In a few seconds, all was well. The other driver continued on safely as did my partner. I just buffed some black paint off her white car when she arrived home. We soon installed a small convex mirror on her left mirror to see the blind spot better. The lesson is, that while we wisely try to avoid problems, if we or someone close to us is tuned in to Love, we are well protected should a problem occur.
These days a new virus, SARS-CoV-2, seems to have crept into our blind spot and it’s necessary to be alert to its presence. It’s important to not ignore it, for as Mary Baker Eddy wrote, “Who is telling mankind of the foe in ambush? Is the informer one who sees the foe? If so, listen and be wise.”(2) Yes, if we are not alert in avoiding the foe, we can be protected from harm but it’s best to avoid collision with the foe or, in this case, the virus, in the first place.
Recent examples from the Mother Church illustrate these points. The Christian Science Monitor carried a piece by one of its global reporters about his difficult but eventually successful experience in a French hospital with Covid-19 (3). That seems to have been an alert to readers that there is a foe out there and to “listen and be wise.” Then, in the recent Mother Church Annual Meeting (4) the distancing the participants were practicing was emphasized with the from-home interviews, the relating of how a solo was produced remotely from three locations and an interview with the First and Second Readers (both CSB’s), sitting a clear distance from each other on one pew.
The story was told (5) of a state Committee on Publication who returned from travelling overseas and arrived back home with possible symptoms of Covid-19. When a fever developed, she went to a medical facility to be tested. She was told that she at least had pneumonia and the Covid-19 test results would be available in a couple of days. Applying Christian Science treatment immediately, her fever broke in the testing office. Continuing treatment, she was completely well by the time her test results were back which showed she had had Covid-19. The doctor seeing her was impressed and said to keep doing what she had been doing to get well.
While we only need a convex mirror to see cars in our blind spot, we need special tools to see and be aware of the presence of this new virus. Being aware of a virus in the populace is no more “anti-metaphysical” than being aware of cars around us on the highway. The tools have become more sophisticated than those in the 1930’s, though, when the “six-foot rule” was proposed. We now have new microscopes to see aerosols many times smaller and know that during talking and even more so during singing, those microscopic aerosols containing viruses can get thorough masks and be spread several times six feet and remain suspended in air for hours. In addition, since people can seem perfectly healthy but be carrying and transmitting SARS-CoV-2, it’s courteous and wise for everyone to wear a mask and stay perhaps 10 feet distant to lessen the likelihood of transference of the virus in either direction.
Just as we don’t fear driving while being alert to other drivers and lampposts, we need not fear any virus while being aware and cautious. When we tell little ones not to run with a pencil, we don’t expect that they will fear pencils. In all of these cases, we do our due diligence, then rest assured that we are protected. Returning to our first question, does heeding human advice about a virus diminish our ability to be spiritually protected? Does careful driving diminish our divine protection? Of course not! Defensive driving is akin to Jesus’ not jumping off the temple pinnacle because of his assuredness of protection.(6) Likewise with this current virus: we heed the alert to the foe and simultaneously see ourselves and others as fully protected in the “atmosphere of Love divine.”(7)
1. SH 209:31–32; 210:1
2. SH 571:10–12 (to .)
5. ref 4, at 1:36:10
6. Luke 4:9-12
7. CS Hymnal 144