Faces on Faith: Outrunning mortality
My book club recently read and discussed the book “The Immortalists” by Chloe Benjamin. Set in l969 in New York City’s Lower East Side, the Gold children hear about a traveling psychic who can predict your fortune. Ages 13, 11, 9, and 7, the kids seek out the fortune teller, and one by one, hear her predictions. The novel explores how the children plan their lives around their predicted death dates. What isn’t clear is whether she has paranormal powers and can actually see their futures, of if they are so mesmerized by her morbid sharing, that their life choices are tragically framed by their belief in her prophecies. This leads us to ask: If you knew the date of your death, how would you live your life?
At the same time, the movie “Heaven is for Real’ was playing on television. Based on a true story, a young boy has a near death experience, and tells his father, who is a local pastor, “It’s beautiful there, dad. I sat on Jesus’ lap.” When the congregation turns on the pastor, for his fascination with the after-life, he asks them: “As Christians, don’t we believe in heaven as something we can experience?”
When my husband and I attended a Celebration of Life service for city of Sanibel Planning Director Jimmy Jordan, Rev. Dr. Ellen Sloan spoke extensively about immortality, and the choir sang about the joy of Jimmy “goin home.” Years ago, while visiting Sanibel, I attended a memorial service conducted by Rev. Dr. Randall Niehoff, who told the congregation that we should weep when a child is born and rejoice when he passes on, suggesting that we will be welcomed by our departed loved ones who are all around us.
While mainstream religions have similar views of heaven and immortality, Christian Science suggests that heaven is here. The founder of Christian Science, Mary Baker Eddy, writes in her textbook “Science and Health With Key to the Scriptures”: “The divine Principle (God) and idea (man). constitute spiritual harmony – heaven and eternity.” She continues: “As mortals gain more correct views of God and man, multitudinous objects of creation, which before were invisible, will become visible. When we recognize man’s spiritual being, we shall behold and understand God’s creation – all the glories of earth, and heaven, and man.”
As people of faith, we don’t need to “outrun mortality,” since a life full and glorious, radiant with light and joy, awaits us, and we can catch glorious glimpses of this, whenever we commune with God.
June Sieber is affiliated with the Sanibel Christian Science Church.