What was Eddy’s response to the Russo-Japanese War?
Russia’s February 24 invasion of Ukraine shocked the world. We wondered what our collections could tell us about Mary Baker Eddy and an earlier conflict: the 1904–1905 war between Russia and Japan, fought on land and sea in East Asia.1 As the leader of the Christian Science movement, how did she respond—particularly in marshaling the “special prayer” of church members?
Mrs. Eddy made a public statement regarding the war in The Boston Sunday Globe, published on Christmas Day in 1904. In an article titled “Is the Reign of Universal Peace Drawing Near?” that consisted of statements from well-known figures such as Andrew Carnegie and Julia Ward Howe, her contribution was headlined “How Strife May be Stilled.” Her opening paragraphs were terse. “War is in itself an evil, barbarous, devilish,” she observed. Later in the article, she echoed words she had written in Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures:
Christ’s Christianity is the chain of scientific being reappearing in all ages, maintaining its obvious correspondence with the Scriptures and uniting all periods in the design of God.2
The Globe may have focused Eddy’s attention on that distant conflict. It was still raging on June 13, 1905, when she sent an unusual request “To My Church,” which was published four days later in the Christian Science Sentinel: “Dearly Beloved: — I request that every member of The Mother Church of Christ, Scientist, in Boston, pray each day for the amicable settlement of the war between Russia and Japan; and pray that God bless this great nation and those islands of the sea with peace and prosperity.”3
Two weeks later, the Sentinel published another request from Eddy, which some found surprising:
“HEAR, O ISRAEL: THE LORD OUR GOD IS ONE LORD”
I now request that the members of my church cease special prayer for the peace of nations, and cease in full faith that God does not hear our prayers only because of oft speaking, but that He will bless all the inhabitants of the earth, and none can stay His hand nor say unto Him, What doest Thou? Out of His allness He must bless all with His own truth and love.
Mary Baker Eddy4
This instruction raised considerable comment in the public press. As a result, a statement appeared in the July 13 Boston Herald, where Eddy explained the reason for changing her initial request. It was republished in the July 22 Sentinel: “In no way nor manner did I request my church to cease praying for the peace of nations, but simply to pause in special prayer for peace.” This change had come, she continued, because “a spiritual foresight of the nations’ drama” had “presented itself” to her. And she “cited, as our present need, faith in God’s disposal of events.”5
The “drama” that Eddy foresaw may have played out just 60 miles from her Concord, New Hampshire, home. As biographer Robert Peel pointed out, not long after Eddy’s July statement, “Russian and Japanese representatives, as the result of the mediatorial efforts of Theodore Roosevelt, had come together [on August 9] for a peace conference in Portsmouth, New Hampshire.”6
How did Christian Scientists react? A letter to Eddy that September, from Morris Weber of Roseburg, Oregon, told of a struggle to gain his own “faith in God’s disposal of events.” He wrote, “I was born and raised in St. Petersburg, Russia, and ever since the beginning of hostilities, I have tried to view the situation from a Christian Science standpoint.” But he admitted, “with every Russian reverse the mental struggle within my self was very severe, for I love the Russian people dearly.” His letter continued:
When you asked us to pray for the conclusion of peace, a sense of utter inability to do so took hold of me. But from experience I had learned to obey you and I did then. Great peace came to me in that hour, for I could see Russians and Japanese alike as God’s children, perfect and eternal, and this conviction ruled out all prejudice and let Love reign supreme.
‘There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female, for ye are all one in Christ Jesus.’7
Eddy wrote one word on the envelope of Weber’s letter: “Peace.”
The Globe asked for another statement from Eddy, which was published in the paper on August 30. It said, in part:
War will end when nations are ripe for progress. The treaty of Portsmouth is not an executive power, although its purpose is good will towards men. The government of a nation is its peace maker or breaker….
While I admire the faith and friendship of our chief executive in and for all nations, my hope must still rest in God, and the Scriptural injunction, — “Look unto me, and be ye saved, all the ends of the earth.”8
On September 5, 1905, Japan and Russia signed an armistice, ending their 19-month-long conflict.
- For a summary of the Russo-Japanese War, see Encyclopedia Britannica, “Russo-Japanese War,” Top Questions drop-down menu https://www.britannica.com/event/Russo-Japanese-War, accessed 3/7/2022.
- Mary Baker Eddy, Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures (Boston: The Christian Science Board of Directors), 271.
- See Eddy to The First Church of Christ, Scientist, 13 June 1905, L00432. This letter was later republished as “The Prayer for Peace” in The First Church of Christ, Scientist, and Miscellany (Boston: The Christian Science Board of Directors), 279.
- Eddy, “‘Hear, O Israel: the Lord our God is one Lord,’” Christian Science Sentinel, 1 July 1905, 708; later reprinted in Miscellany, 280.
- See “Mrs. Eddy’s Requests,” Sentinel, 22 July 1905, 756; reprinted in part as “An Explanation,” in Miscellany, 280–281.
- Robert Peel, Mary Baker Eddy: The Years of Authority (New York: Holt, Rinehart and Winston, 1977), 256.
- Morris Weber to Mary Baker Eddy, 8 September 1905, IC722a.89.018.
- Eddy, “Practice Golden Rule,” Boston Daily Globe, 30 August 1905, 4; republished in Miscellany, 281–282.