Overcoming the fear of contagion
As our horses walked calmly along the trail, my fellow riders and I enjoyed a fun spring outing. Then, suddenly one of the horses spooked for some unknown reason, swerving and bolting frantically down the path. The other horses followed suit. There was no apparent reason for this panicked, out-of-control behavior, but because one of them had felt fear, they were now all exhibiting it.
I never did learn what had alarmed that horse, but it was a lesson for me in how contagion appears to work. Fear can be unwittingly picked up and acted out. In other words, a mental condition finds expression in what we experience.
In her primary work, Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures, Mary Baker Eddy, Discoverer and Founder of Christian Science, tells of a tragic occurrence that illustrates this point: “A man was made to believe that he occupied a bed where a cholera patient had died. Immediately the symptoms of this disease appeared, and the man died. The fact was, that he had not caught the cholera by material contact, because no cholera patient had been in that bed” (p. 154).
How could that have happened? Apparently, even in the absence of the physical presence of the disease, a fearful state of thought brought about what the man perceived as inevitable.
According to the teachings of Christian Science, when it comes to contagion, fear is typically the main thing that needs to be discerned, handled, and faced down courageously. It may start with a broad fear that something could hurt us or society at large, then evolve into a more specific fear that a certain condition exists and is present or nearby to threaten us, and then escalate into a dread that this condition has been activated against our well-being.
So how can we protect ourselves and others from fear of contagion that could lead to unwanted physical consequences?
We can start by praying to know and feel that God, divine Love, is the only cause of all that exists. The Bible reassures us, and illustrates, that there is no other source nor origin of being than God, who is all good. The prophet Isaiah assures us, “The Lord of hosts hath sworn, saying, Surely as I have thought, so shall it come to pass; and as I have purposed, so shall it stand” (Isaiah 14:24). Later, Isaiah confirms that God is gracious and just, and has mercy, compassion, and blessings for all who look to Him (see Isaiah 30:18).
We can prevent the onset of a fear that anything besides God is present or has power.
When we understand that God is Love and has only good in store for His children (meaning all men, women, and children), we can prevent the onset of a fear that anything besides God is present or has power. “Since God is All, there is no room for His unlikeness. God, Spirit, alone created all, and called it good. Therefore evil, being contrary to good, is unreal, and cannot be the product of God” (Science and Health, p. 339). Evil, a.k.a. disease or discord of any type, cannot have substance or power if God, good, never made it.
One day many years ago, one of our children came home from school with symptoms of chickenpox, which another child in her classroom had been diagnosed with. I made our child comfortable, and also began to pray with this statement from Science and Health: “There is but one primal cause. Therefore there can be no effect from any other cause, and there can be no reality in aught which does not proceed from this great and only cause” (p. 207).
Knowing that the sole cause of all being is God, good, I felt free from the fear that there could be a cause of anything that could, in turn, cause a harmful effect. And although our daughter exhibited mild symptoms of this condition, it did not last long.
Over the next week or so, though other children in the family exhibited similar symptoms, I felt confident that the true identity of each one as a child of God was safe in the health and harmony of divine Love. While we kept the children home from school in compliance with school guidelines, none of them experienced pain or aftereffects from this experience. Soon, all were again busy with their regular activities.
I complied with the requirements of the program, praying to understand that I couldn’t suffer any side effects.
Mary Baker Eddy, the Founder of the Christian Science movement, who was devoted to sharing the healing method of Christian Science with humanity, did not take a strident stand against use of vaccinations, but noted, “Rather than quarrel over vaccination, I recommend, if the law demand, that an individual submit to this process, that he obey the law, and then appeal to the gospel to save him from bad physical results” (The First Church of Christ, Scientist, and Miscellany, pp. 219–220).
This was what I felt led to do upon graduation from college, when I joined the United States Peace Corps and was posted to a part of the world that required multiple vaccinations. While I was confident at that time of my own safety and well-being as the spiritual idea of our all-powerful, all-loving God, I complied with the requirements of this program and accepted the immunizations. I was praying to understand that I couldn’t suffer any side effects from this well-motivated cooperation. I am grateful to say I did not.
When we hear reports of contagion in our country or around the world, we can help alleviate fear and any supposed aftereffects by affirming right in the moment that God is present everywhere, a mighty force for health and harmony, and the source of only goodness and well-being. As God told Abraham, “Fear not, Abram: I am thy shield” (Genesis 15:1), and “I am with thee, and will bless thee” (26:24).