Faces on Faith: A religion that sees God as female
In 1879, in a period when women didn’t have the right to vote or even own property, a new England woman, Mary Baker Eddy, founded The Church of Christ, Scientist. Her motive, she wrote, was to “reinstate primitive Christianity and its lost element of healing.” Scoffed at and vilified by local pastors — all men — her remarkable healings eventually established a world-wide religion.
Because we recently celebrated l00 years of women’s suffrage, it seemed appropriate to feature a women who rose from an impoverished outcast to become the founder of a new religion. LIFE Magazine in 1907 described her as “the most famous, interesting and most powerful woman in America, if not the world today.” So what led Eddy to her vision of God as female? In her seminal work “Science and Health With Key to the Scriptures,” she wrote, “in divine Science we have not as much authority for considering God masculine, as we have for considering Him feminine, for Love imparts the clearest idea of Deity.” Eddy assigns seven synonyms to describe God: principle, mind, soul, spirit, life, truth and love, but it is love which plays a prominent role in all Christian Science healing. She writes: “If Spirit or divine Love bear witness to the truth, this is the ultimatum, and the healing is instantaneous.”
In the Journal of Feminist Studies in Religion, scholar Rosemary Corbett wrote, “Eddy participated in enlarging the place of women in the male dominated ‘sector,’ and when she was elected to the National Women’s Hall of Fame in l995, she was recognized for being the only women to found a lasting American-based denomination.”
Raised in a Methodist household by a Methodist minister father, it was natural to start our prayers, “dear heavenly Father.” But my journey into Christian Science, after a Christian Science practitioner saved my life in a Cleveland hospital while hemorrhaging during my son’s birth, brought me to a changed sense of God as Mother. Recently I’ve found myself starting my prayers, “Holy, Mother-Love,” especially after facing major challenges with my husband’s health and ensuing separation. A message from a Christian Science practitioner who was praying for both of us promises: “The tender ministrations of Love for each of you are indeed precious and powerful, to each in just the most specific and dear way. You both are complete and whole, embraced in divine Love. There is no lack in your home (consciousness) where you are both dwelling in Love. The divine is truly embracing the human in Christ affection and safety. Thy times are in her hands.”
A poem by Ken Cooper in the October Christian Science Journal, “Stand in purest light,” beautifully expresses divine love’s mothering care for each of us:
I need not fear the future, concerned by distant time.
For God is speaking now to me, to say that all is Mine.
In trust and strong obedience, I hear so clear Love’s voice.
It tells me all I need to know–there is no better choice.
I trust thee Father-Mother, right now I’m in Thy sight.
Thy love doth e’er surround me; I stand in purest light.
June Sieber is affiliated with the Sanibel Christian Science Church.