Christian Science and the Constitution
Image courtesy of the National Archives.
We have sometimes been asked whether Mary Baker Eddy ever said that Christian Science could only have been founded in the United States, because of its Constitution and Bill of Rights.
Examining our collection, we find no specific references to this assertion in anything Eddy said or wrote. However, she did write about US laws and their relation to the history of the country, both before and after her discovery of Christian Science.
In Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures, she compared the teachings of Christian Science to the American Declaration of Independence:
Like our nation, Christian Science has its Declaration of Independence. God has endowed man with inalienable rights, among which are self-government, reason, and conscience. Man is properly self-governed only when he is guided rightly and governed by his Maker, divine Truth and Love.1
Eddy also saw special significance in the coincidence of her discovery of Christian Science in 1866 with the Civil War and the end of American chattel slavery in 1865:
The voice of God in behalf of the African slave was still echoing in our land, when the voice of the herald of this new crusade sounded the keynote of universal freedom, asking a fuller acknowledgment of the rights of man as a Son of God, demanding that the fetters of sin, sickness, and death be stricken from the human mind and that its freedom be won, not through human warfare, not with bayonet and blood, but through Christ’s divine Science.
God has built a higher platform of human rights, and He has built it on diviner claims….2
On February 29, 1880, Eddy gave a lecture titled “Bill of Rights for 1880” at Hawthorne Hall in Boston, speaking of the Constitution’s protection of individual freedom.3 She also referred to the Constitution and Bill of Rights in Science and Health and in her sermon The People’s Idea of God. In all these cases, she invoked the founding documents as the basis for legal protection for the practice of Christian Science healing.4 These passages include references to the Commonwealth of Massachusetts and the city of Boston, where she headquartered her church:
I love Boston, and especially the laws of the State whereof this city is the capital. To-day, as of yore, her laws have befriended progress.5
The star of Bethlehem is the star of Boston, high in the zenith of Truth’s domain, that looketh down on the long night of human beliefs, to pierce the darkness and melt into dawn.6
Massachusetts and its capital had been founded by Puritan settlers, and Eddy referred to her own Puritan heritage and to that Protestant movement in her writings: “The author’s [Eddy’s] ancestors were among the first settlers of New Hampshire. They reared there the Puritan standard of undefiled religion. As dutiful descendants of Puritans, let us lift their standard higher, rejoicing, as Paul did, that we are free born.7Inasmuch as the Christian Scientist Association (the association of Eddy’s students) was founded on the nation’s centennial anniversary—July 4, 1876—this statement, recorded in the Association’s minutes, might be of interest:
Mrs. Eddy said is it not interesting to know this Association was established just 100 years after our nation declared its independence, and will it not be interesting 100 years hence to regard the history of this higher form of Christian freedom? We shall grow stronger and better as a body, as we become better individually.8
- Mary Baker Eddy, Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures (Boston: The Christian Science Board of Directors), 106.
- Eddy, Science and Health, 226.
- Eddy, “Bill of Rights for 1880,” 29 February 1880, A10082.
- Eddy, Science and Health, 161; Eddy, The People’s Idea of God (Boston: The Christian Science Board of Directors), 10.
- Eddy, Pulpit and Press (Boston: The Christian Science Board of Directors), 7.
- Eddy, Miscellaneous Writings 1883–1896 (Boston: The Christian Science Board of Directors), 320.
- Eddy, No and Yes (Boston: The Christian Science Board of Directors), 46.
- Christian Scientist Association minutes, 14 February 1883, EOR10.