God’s Perfect Child: Living and Dying in the Christian Science Church. Fraser, Caroline, 1999, Henry Holt, NYC
A review by mkhuggins
I read this book from cover to cover. It is, by far the best written book on Mary Baker Eddy and her church of any other book I have read. Fraser begins at the beginning and leaves no stone unturned while she she does not dawdle with speculation or unnecessary side trips either. There is something relentless about her step by step by step approach that doggedly moves past and turns over every single rock in her path. The chronological sequence is easy to read and keep track of names and happenings. She covers a lot more material than any other book on Christian Science and its founder, and she doesn’t get stuck anywhere and overdo any section. Her tone is utterly reasonable. She never gets arch and supercilious as Gill did, gushy like Wilbur. ( I won’t review that one because I can’t waste time to read it all) defensive, and over explanatory, as does Peel.
Each rock she turns over is probably worthy of amplification, but it is up to a reader to follow up. She sums one thing up after another well enough to get the idea. Her description of Mary’s childhood is simple and straightforward without being unkind. Just the facts, and what a relief that is after drowning in Gill and Peel’s torrents of verbosity. They both take so much time and spend so many words on anything controversial, that you just get tired of reading it.
I have not yet read any other book that covers the events after Mary’s death so thoroughly with the tension between the two arms, Church and Publishing. The Board of Directors is a scary entity from the beginning and apparently bears much responsibility for the ‘radical reliance’ stance, even though her textbook has some definite caveats. The BoD has been tyrannical, shortsighted, insular, reactionary and dishonest. I never did like them and now I have a much better understanding of why. They have made one foolish choice after another for over 100 years, now and they still aren’t at the end of their ropes, though they are pretty close. I don’t think the BoD has ever done anything loving and kind in its corporate life.It has been driven from one fear to another, but of course that is exactly how the founder was herself. I read with delight the bumblings of the BoD when they ran through the entire fortune of the church in barely a decade, and had nothing to show for it. I wish Mary had just wasted the money on her loser relatives, it would have been far less dangerous to the world.
The Christian Science church is a zombie trying to animate the corporate body of Mary Baker Eddy.
Finally her description of the current New Age world and naming the descendents of the CS theology so clearly, was the first I have seen any biographer do and it is thorough. Almost everyone mentions Unity’s founders, but she makes the relationship between such spinoffs as Louise Hay (whom I detest) and the course in Miracles -another fad that was like Mary Baker Eddy philosophy couched in a vocabulary that does Blavatsky justice, but I never new any one who actually finished the course. Of benefited from any other paid workshop like EST from Werner Erhard to Lynn Andrews, both of whom cheated by taking a bit from here and there and suckering people to pay to learn it. They may not have killed anyone but one of those “borrowers” did kill several people in a plagiarized, fake sweat lodge ceremony in Sedona. Someone Ray. Some of those guys get so high on themselves they go nuts.
That world is the same world of the Psychic Wars, the Spiritualists, the mesmerizers, the gurus, the health cures as it was when Eddy broke from it. Her break appeared to take Christian Science out of the realm of the quacks and the mediums and gave it (a false sense of) respectability by becoming a respectable religion, which the BoD appears about ready to undo by reentering the world of the psychic wars and beliefs in witchcarft. Oh. That’s right. Christian Science always did believe in witchcraft under the alias of malicious animal magnetism. On second thought, maybe this is the only way for the church to go; they would automatically become the “Big Guy” in the New Age world- they are still bigger than Scientology, right? LOL!
It is with a huge sigh of relief, that I return to the post-enlightenment, science-based view of the world.