ENGAGING WITH THE CHRISTIAN SCIENCE MONITOR
The object of the Monitor is to injure no man, but to bless all mankind.
—Mary Baker Eddy, The First Church of Christ, Scientist, and Miscellany, p. 353
The Christian Science Monitor
THIS WEEK marks the first 100 years The Christian Science Monitor has been fulfilling its mission "to spread undivided the Science that operates unspent" (The First Church of Christ, Scientist, and Miscellany, p. 353). But did the Monitor really begin with its first issue on November 25, 1908? No. It was a concept—an idea—that Mary Baker Eddy, the newspaper's founder, had nurtured in her heart for at least 30 years! And the Monitor is an idea that continues to live in the hearts of its readers, editors, and publishers today.
The first time this idea of a newspaper published by Christian Scientists bubbled up publicly was probably in the 1878 edition of Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures, Mrs. Eddy's revolutionary book on Christian Science healing and theology. "We have not a newspaper at our command through which to right the wrongs and answer the untruths, we have not a pulpit from which to explain how Christianity heals the sick," she wrote, "but if we had either of these, the slanderer and the physician would have less to do, and we should have more" (p. 166). The following year, Mrs. Eddy addressed the need for a "pulpit"—she founded the Church of Christ, Scientist. But the newspaper had to wait.
When Mrs. Eddy launched the Church's first magazine in 1883, the monthly Christian Science Journal, she again cited the need for a newspaper that didn't frighten its readers with descriptions of disease. "An organ from the Christian Scientists has become a necessity," she asserted. "After looking over the newspapers of the day, very naturally comes the reflection that it is dangerous to live, so loaded seems the very air with disease. These descriptions carry fears to many minds, to be depicted in some future time upon the body." The Journal's purpose was to "counteract" this imposition on public thought. But it did this as a metaphysical magazine, not a traditional newspaper. It was packed with articles and healing accounts that "put on record the divine Science of Truth" (The First Church of Christ, Scientist, and Miscellany, p. 353).
Still, the idea of a newspaper persisted with Mary Baker Eddy. On August 20, 1898, she wrote to William McKenzie, Chairman of The Christian Science Publishing Society's Board of Trustees: "The dignity of our cause and the good of the students demand of us to publish a weekly newspaper" (L04871B, August 20, 1898, The Mary Baker Eddy Collection, The Mary Baker Eddy Library). And the Trustees responded with the first issue of The Christian Science Weekly (later named the Christian Science Sentinel) in less than two weeks!
The new weekly was, again, a metaphysical magazine, "intended to hold guard over Truth, Life, and Love" (The First Church of Christ, Scientist, and Miscellany, p. 353). But there was something different. Each issue led with a "Current Events" column, featuring snippets on everything from the return of troops from the Spanish-American War to new trolley lines in rural America. Why secular news? So Christian Scientists could be "fairly well informed as to the more important facts of general interest," the "Salutatory" explained (The Christian Science Weekly, September 1, 1898).
It was another decade before the newspaper Mrs. Eddy envisioned became a reality. For her, it was a decade of cross-bearing—with a lawsuit by a former student, a public attack by Mark Twain, the "Next Friends" competency suit, and unrelenting persecution from The New York World and other media known for attack-dog journalism.
But there were also triumphs. Mrs. Eddy founded the German Der Herold der Christian Science in 1903, "to proclaim the universal activity and availability of Truth" (The First Church of Christ, Scientist, and Miscellany, p. 353). And she won the court cases.
Finally, in 1908, the newspaper concept she'd treasured so long took shape. The Christian Science Monitor was, in McKenzie's words, "our Leader's gentle reply to persecution" from the press (McKenzie to Christian Science Board of Directors, January 25, 1932, The Mary Baker Eddy Collection).
Her request to the Christian Science Board of Directors on July 28 "to start a daily newspaper called Christian Science Monitor" came like a lightning bolt (L00596, The Mary Baker Eddy Collection). "Let there be no delay," she instructed the Trustees along the same lines. "The Cause demands that it be issued now" (L07268, August 8, 1908, The Mary Baker Eddy Collection).
For Mrs. Eddy, the Monitor shone as a spiritual idea. John Flinn, the first editorial writer, wrote, "... The Christian Science Monitor ... was purely a spiritual concept of Mary Baker Eddy" (December 21, 1926, The Mary Baker Eddy Collection). Delegating to others the business plans, formats, and staffing for the new daily, she focused on laying the spiritual foundation for the first Monitor, which was assembled in a whirlwind four months. This foundation included the key elements that still underpin The Christian Science Monitor—and impel forward the idea it represents—in the 21st century.
A CHRISTIAN SCIENCE PERSPECTIVE
In 1908, Mary Baker Eddy was as emphatic as she had been a quarter-century earlier that her newspaper should be "edited and published by the Christian Scientists." Those chiefly responsible for setting the paper's vision, and implementing it, should represent the Christian Science point of view. They should see the Monitor as part of the unified Church publication system Mrs. Eddy had founded for the salvation of humanity—including the Journal, the Sentinel, the Quarterly Bible Lessons, the Herold. And they should share the fundamental conviction that God's law of good must ultimately triumph over evil, disease, disaster, materiality.
Does this mean Monitor writers preach and moralize about the news—or infuse their reporting with Christian Science metaphysics? No. It simply means that they report the real news of the day—however sobering—with hope, clarity, idealism, even-handedness, spiritual insight, and compassion. And they seek solutions. Only one daily article offers an overtly "Christian Science" inspirational message—and is clearly identified as such.
But Mrs. Eddy was adamant about the name for the paper: The Christian Science Monitor. Some Church officials, including Editor in Chief Archibald McLellan, argued with her right up to the day before publication that the words Christian Science should be dropped. Eventually he conceded: "It is no use. The name will have to be The Christian Science Monitor and none else" (Irving Tomlinson Reminiscence, The Mary Baker Eddy Collection).
And Mrs. Eddy expected faithful Christian Scientists to support the Monitor. "My desire is that every Christian Scientist, and as many others as possible, subscribe for and read our daily newspaper" (Christian Science Sentinel, November 21, 1908). For her, there was a natural synergy between studying Christian Science and applying its theology to world events. After all, it's the Science, along with the demonstration of the Science, that promotes spiritual growth—and healing solutions in individual lives as well as in the world. She wrote an avid Monitor reader: "Stick to your text, and you will stick to your newspaper, and text and paper will carry you onward and upward" (Christian Science Sentinel, December 11, 1909).
Current Managing Publisher Jonathan Wells agrees. "An ongoing, daily relationship with the Monitor is a real opportunity," he says. "It not only provides focus for our prayers, making us better healers, but it also illumines progress and achievement in the world, giving us a reason for hope, and evidence that our prayers have impact."
'TO SPREAD UNDIVIDED THE SCIENCE THAT OPERATES UNSPENT'
These words by Mrs. Eddy in the Monitor's first editorial, suggest the universality of its mission. For one thing, she expected the Christianly Scientific standpoint of the paper to be a leavening influence in the world of journalism. McLellan pointed out, however, that this "reform in journalism" depended not just on the Monitor, but on the Christian Scientists reading it. Only if they supported the paper—with prayer and subscriptions—would its "success" as the "ideal newspaper" be assured (Christian Science Sentinel, October 17, 1908).
There was a larger sense, too, in which the Monitor was to "spread undivided the Science." Both its subject matter and its audience were to be global, not just Boston- or US-based. McLellan's staff was global, and the Monitor today continues to maintain bureaus around the world. Also, from early on, subscribers have naturally included an international audience, and people from all age groups. Above all, Mrs. Eddy wanted the Monitor to "reach the homes of the people," including children.
Christian Science Publishing Society Trustee Chair Judy Wolff says this about the current Monitor reach: "This amazing mission is deeply appreciated and sorely needed today. It cuts across religious, cultural, and national conditions, touching the hearts and minds of many thoughtful readers." In fact, for the year ending August 2008, the Internet audience on csmonitor.com alone has averaged 1.8 million unique visitors per month (as measured by Omniture HBX)—the largest audience in the history of the publication.
'TO INJURE NO MAN, BUT TO BLESS ALL MANKIND'
These words, which Mrs. Eddy used to describe the "object" of the Monitor, spell "healing"—the simple Christian act of blessing humanity, including one's enemies, with pure love (The Christian Science Monitor, November 25, 1908). They highlight the Monitor's purpose to alleviate sin, sickness, and even death by confronting them with the God-derived qualities of mercy, truth-telling, invincible hope, fearless solution-finding. These are qualities that the Monitor nurtures in its readers, too—qualities that bring comfort, reconciliation, and healing. Qualities that propel humanity forward.
The Monitor also blesses humankind by celebrating its triumphs—its successes in everything from peace-negotiating to weed-pulling, from the sublime to serendipity (check out the Monitor's "Backstory"!). And from each disaster-recovery or environment-restoration or character-turnaround feature, you and I learn to appreciate more the advance of human progress. To expect good things to happen.
It's not surprising that the Monitor quickly became a favorite with prison officials wanting to give their inmates hope, according to McLellan. In fact, Mrs. Eddy herself donated a Monitor subscription to an inmate (see L13610, January 20, 1910, The Mary Baker Eddy Collection). And she loved the story of a man healed of consumption after learning about Christian Science through buying a Monitor at a Boston train station (William Rathvon, February 9, 1910, The Mary Baker Eddy Collection).
In 1990, after being released from prison in South Africa, Nelson Mandela, on a visit to Boston, went to see the Church that published The Christian Science Monitor, which he had read during years of imprisonment. He met one of the Readers of the Church and the Editor at that time, Richard Cattani.
Current Editor John Yemma says this about the Monitor's past century of reporting: "I sometimes think of the Monitor as Truth's outpost in the world. From its reporters and editors comes news of challenges that need the Christ thought—and evidence of the progressive uplifting of humanity. One hundred years of Monitor pages tell the story of mankind's struggles and triumphs, of freedom's march and the unfolding of scientific achievement, of the flowering of the arts and the power of the individual."
Perhaps this is what The Christian Science Monitor is demanding of all Christian Scientists at this time—that we advance enough spiritually to bear witness to the full and flexible unfoldment of the Monitor's mission.
'FIRST THE BLADE, THEN THE EAR, THEN THE FULL GRAIN IN THE EAR'
Early on, Mary Baker Eddy proposed this American Standard Bible quote from Mark 4:28 as the Monitor's motto. To her, this parable of Jesus was "prophetic" of the ultimate "prosperity" and productivity she expected the newspaper to enjoy, despite all the predictions to the contrary when she first announced she was founding a daily named The Christian Science Monitor (see L08470, March 5, 1910, The Mary Baker Eddy Collection). The Monitor, she knew, was destined to come to full fruition as naturally as seeds sprout—and eventually yield a crop of grain.
The magnitude of the start-up expenses for the Monitor did come as a "surprise" to Mrs. Eddy, and so she directed the Trustees to proceed modestly with the new Monitor project, requiring that they first pay off the debt on the newly built Publishing Society. But she was confident that the Monitor could and would, like seed, "begin in a comparatively small way and grow into bigger things with the progress of time" (L07269, August 14, 1908, The Mary Baker Eddy Collection).
Editor McLellan explained the motto this way: "It expresses the high ideal set before the staff of the Monitor by its Founder,—a lofty purpose, for whose accomplishment they are to strive; patiently and persistently tilling the soil of human thought day by day, until by and by the field shall be crowned with ripened grain, and they shall hear the 'Well done, good and faithful servant'" (McLellan, October 1910, The Mary Baker Eddy Collection).
Today, this motto promises continually unfolding progress for the Monitor as an idea in Mind. "Spiritual ideas unfold as we advance," Mrs. Eddy wrote in Science and Health (p. 361). As you and I advance in our practice of Christian Science, therefore, the idea of the Monitor will develop in our experience as surely as it did in Mary Baker Eddy's experience. Perhaps this is what The Christian Science Monitor is demanding of all Christian Scientists at this time—that we advance enough spiritually to bear witness to the full and flexible unfoldment of the Monitor's mission. This spiritual advancement on our part may actually be the best way to keep the Monitor "abreast of the times," as Mary Baker Eddy required of all the periodicals she founded (Church Manual, Art. VIII, Sect. 14). And our collective spiritual progress, in turn, will do so much to advance humanity—to truly "spread undivided the Science which operates unspent." CSS
FOR MORE ON THIS TOPIC
To hear Mary Trammell and John Yemma speak on this topic, tune in to Sentinel Radio during the week of November 22–28, 2008.
For a listing of broadcast locations and times, go to www.sentinelradio.com. To purchase a download of this radio program, #847, go to www.sentinelradio.com and click on Audio Download Store.