Spiritual education of our children
To a Christian Scientist, the right education of a child begins with a recognition of the child’s real identity—his whole and complete individuality as the offspring of God, the spiritual idea of perfect Mind. One’s great desire, as parent or friend, is to help the young person to recognize and bring out more clearly his true individuality—his intelligence, talents, capabilities, and worth—as the child of divine Love, the image of God. The absolute basis on which this approach rests is summarized in the Christian Science textbook, Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures, where Mary Baker Eddy writes, “Man is God’s reflection, needing no cultivation, but ever beautiful and complete.” 1
What is needed is practical demonstration of this truth. A scientific understanding of man’s real identity and true relationship to God is the door to wisdom, the fountain of wisdom, the essence of wisdom. It is a source of strength, well-being, and guidance in the vicissitudes of life. The teachings of Christian Science abound in providing not only this incomparable spiritual foundation but also the means of its daily demonstration and proof.
Success in this demonstration requires a practical sense of priorities. The most basic and important education of a child or young person is spiritual and moral. It is of a more intimate and fundamental nature than the usual group activities. It cannot be left to schools or summer camps, peer pressures or television; even the spiritualizing influence of our Sunday Schools needs positive support from the home. Right education has to do with character building—not so much with what our young people know but with what they are.
All this is especially important in an era when pressures and propaganda tend to demean the role of parenthood (especially motherhood), and when the experts say the weight of influences on the minds of our children has shifted radically away from the home. With outgoing spiritual affection, a parent or mentor can counteract today’s pervasive materialism with the deep, pure understanding of God’s goodness and availability, and of man’s spirituality as His reflection. Such unselfish affection can enable us to put the most important things first by helping a child to replace vulnerability with spiritual strength.
Unselfish affection can enable us to put the most important things first by helping a child to replace vulnerability with spiritual strength.
The guidance available in Christian Science is both abundant and specific. For example, we read in Science and Health, “The entire education of children should be such as to form habits of obedience to the moral and spiritual law, with which the child can meet and master the belief in so-called physical laws, a belief which breeds disease.” 2
Here is a wise safeguard against the lax permissiveness that would leave a child unguided, undisciplined, and ultimately confused. It is also a safeguard against personal authoritarianism, the false concept of discipline that exercises mortal will and personal compulsion, and ultimately falls short. Obedience to Principle and spiritual law is the basis of intelligent self-government. It is the foundation of conscience and self-control. If “the entire education of children” is to meet this standard, should it not begin in infancy and continue all the way to adulthood?
Since demonstration is at the heart of Christian Science, our children need to learn from the outset the utility and provability of divine Truth. The textbook states: “Parents should teach their children at the earliest possible period the truths of health and holiness.…
“Jesus loved little children because of their freedom from wrong and their receptiveness of right.” And continuing on the next page, “Children should be taught the Truth-cure, Christian Science, among their first lessons, and kept from discussing or entertaining theories or thoughts about sickness.” 3
Purity and receptivity are conducive to spiritual healing. In countless instances children have healed themselves through Christian Science, or have participated in the prayerful work themselves with encouragement and metaphysical help from a parent or Christian Science practitioner. There is no substitute for such firsthand proofs of the efficacy of Christian Science. They are a far stronger bulwark than any theoretical knowledge of this Science, when a young adult encounters intellectual skepticism or persistent doubts.
The unselfed companionship of a parent or friend in working with a child, patiently helping him to learn how to heal in Science, is vital in establishing a strong spiritual foundation. Any notion that children, including Sunday School pupils, cannot or should not be taught how to heal through the scientific understanding of God is a fallacy.
Of particular value in this era of wide-open mass media are the words from Science and Health “Children should be allowed to remain children in knowledge, and should become men and women only through growth in the understanding of man’s higher nature.” 4
Such an observation takes on special timeliness right now, when university officials have been reporting dangerously increased stress, depression, and demoralization among college students and some psychologists are saying that conditions in our society are “forcing children to grow up too fast, to achieve too much in school and sports and to undertake adult responsibilities before they are ready.” 5
In countless instances children have healed themselves through Christian Science.
At first glance some might assume the words quoted above from Science and Health to be outdated at a time when childhood innocence seems mostly lost. But, on the contrary, the need to foster our children’s “growth in the understanding of man’s higher nature” gains redoubled force and urgency. Thus our Leader’s statement is particularly timely. A young person’s increasing grasp of man’s spiritual origin and nature—and his understanding of Truth that enables him to gain dominion over sensual suggestions and temptations—need to at least keep pace with his worldly knowledge.
Here the wisest help and most perceptive support of parents and Sunday School teachers are requisite—not only for those in the adolescent years but also in the spiritual education of younger children, and of young adults.
It is a truism that a good example is the most persuasive of teachers. Our example can find expression in our prayers. We can pray for our children and the young people for whom we are responsible. And it is imperative, above all, that we put our ideals into practice in the way we conduct our lives and demonstrate the Science of being.
Christ Jesus said, “Suffer little children, and forbid them not, to come unto me: for of such is the kingdom of heaven.” 6 The goal of our prayerful lives must be to bring to light the kingdom of heaven that the Master taught is within us all.
Reprinted from the October 31, 1983, Sentinel