- File Size: 1105 KB
- Print Length: 383 pages
- Publisher: Nebbadoon Press (March 6, 2012)
- Publication Date: March 6, 2012
- Sold by: Amazon Digital Services LLC
- Language: English
- ASIN: B007HWMBTW
- Text-to-Speech: Enabled
- Word Wise: Enabled
- Lending: Enabled
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,258,209 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
The Christian Science Monitor: Its History, Mission, and People Kindle Edition
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In the decade of the 1950's and early `60s, a flood of books came into being about some aspect of Christian Science. Some of them are still gathering dust in present day reading rooms that were active in those years. Christian Science in the 50's was at its zenith in members and churches. This was also a good time for writers of Church/Monitor history. There was much to be proud of.
Most of the books that came out in mid-20th century were about the life and/or teachings of Church founder, Mary Baker Eddy. With few exceptions, books concerned with Church history ended their story in 1910. Two notable exceptions were Norman Beasley's "The Continuing Spirit" (1956) and Erwin D. Canham's "Commitment to Freedom" (1958). Both Canham and Beasley penned four books each between 1950 and 1962. But there were many other books and not all writers were Christian Scientists. Charles Braden's non-authorized, yet highly insightful, "Christian Science Today" (1959) gives a balanced view from an outsider's point of view. I suspect none of the authors dealing with Christian Science history up through the 50's had any idea of the magnitude of problems that would beset the Church and the Monitor in the second half of the 20th Century and beyond.
Perhaps it was the seemingly difficult conditions in the Church from the 1960's to the present that would have made writing history about an institution for spiritual healing such a formidable task. There were few books in the past 50 years dealing with Church and/or Monitor history. The Monitor was in the red starting in 1962 and hasn't yet climbed out. And many other problems would surface. Few writers felt equal to the job.
Keith Collins, apparently, was not fearful of the challenge.
For his first three chapters there is little that is new to many Christian Scientists. Most of Mrs. Eddy's biographers have woven the Monitor's founding deeply into her life story. Collins contends the day Mrs. Eddy died was when "the struggle to define the Monitor's identity began in earnest." (p: 63)
But instead of writing about the void of Mrs. Eddy's absence, he plunges right into World War I. From this point on Collins takes his readers into what some may see as a dilemma: how to be a force for good amidst "appalling death and destruction." (p: 64) At the same time he begins to offer constructive criticism. He didn't feel the paper was helping readers pray effectively. "The writing [of that time] lacked the spirit of forgiveness and love," Collins said, "which Christian Science teaches must also be present to heal." Identifying shortcomings like this are found throughout the book.
Collins is at his best when he gives in-depth and vivid descriptions of the main players at the paper. For the most part, he focuses on each editor and Pulitzer Prize winner for the Monitor. Collins is most interested in the metaphysical approach that reporters took to their work. He was fascinated when he saw that shine on the pages of the Monitor. For that reason he is unusually kind to Frederick Dixon (Editor 1914-1922) moreso perhaps than any other editor, with the exception of Erwin Canham, the longest serving editor in Monitor history.
"Rather than treating difficult news as a disease, which one had to turn readers away from to minimize their fear, Dixon approached the problems of the world as sin, calling out what he saw as the underlying errors of thought and exposing their hidden ways of doing evil. He believed Christian Scientists had an important role to play in pointing up and condemning sin and in helping the world work in more productive directions."
His favorite reporter seems to be Takashi Oka.
Collins goes into great detail about Oka: his childhood, how his family found Christian Science, how he came to be a writer, etc.
Oka's method was a kind of metaphysical reportage, based not only on reporting what he saw and heard but also in what he perceived to be spiritually true in a universe where one Mind, or God, rules.
"It was an approach to journalism that could work for the Monitor in any economic environment. . . . [W]hen times were tight . . . Oka's style of perceptive and healing journalism could help the Monitor fulfill its role in a powerful way. It could help lift Monitor readers out of vulnerability of shallow and prejudicial thinking and give them courage to do something about mankind's problems.
In 1979 Takashi Oka became the Monitor's first correspondent in China. "As when he first entered the Soviet Union . . . [h]e prayed. What came to him was the need to become clearer about the Monitor's purpose in the world. The Monitor itself, he decided, was a prophet:
"Any world condition that requires healing needs to be healed first in individual consciousness. On a day when the news seems particularly alarming, the greatest contribution a person could make might be to refuse to be overwhelmed by the horror or the enormity of the problem. . . . To the extent that one prays in this spiritually assertive way, one can help lift a little corner of the blanket of fear that often seems to smother the world in regard to many situations."
A refreshing aspect of Collin's book is his candor in discussing differences at the Monitor, both among the staff and the paper with its readers.
In the years immediately after the litigation of the early 1920's the Monitor felt a need to take sides closely in line with readers' positions. For that reason it endorsed Herbert Hoover twice. This was not only because readers' favored Hoover. Collins said, "the issue was largely Prohibition, which Hoover [and Monitor's readers strongly] favored."
A half century later the Monitor had an important choice to make when it was presented with portions of the Pentagon Papers that included "embarrassing details about decision-making during the Vietnam War." After studying the papers, Editor John "Hughes sat down with the [CS Board of] Directors and convinced them that publishing the Papers was the right thing to do." Reaction from readers was mixed.
Readers became more upset a few years later when Hughes didn't "back off" on reporting the Watergate scandal. "Now," wrote Collins, "the Monitor was breaking with the political views of its core constituency, and for some, it would be a signal that the paper was no longer theirs."
In time the Monitor was looking for a different audience beyond its core constituency. In January 1989 the Directors and Trustees announced plans to telecast the Monitor on cable TV 24 hours a day. But the Church would be "spending down its fortune." Some of the strongest dissent in its history made its way into Mrs. Eddy's Church. Collins handles the internal problems following mass resignations with matter of fact reporting. As bad as things were for the Church and its newspaper, I found it invigorating that such dissent, from not long ago, could be so detailed in a Church approved book.
While I loved what Keith Collins wrote, there seem to be some glaring omissions.
In 1960 the Monitor went through what might have been its most partisan period. John Kennedy and Richard Nixon were running for the presidency. The Monitor as I recall well from college days was unrelenting in its attacks on the Roman Catholic Kennedy. The newspaper was close to becoming a Republican mouthpiece, with several hard hitting editorials against Kennedy. On the news pages, coverage sometimes reached Nixon 60%, Kennedy 40%. It was rarely, if ever, 50-50.
I was also disappointed that Collins did not bring up modern social issues, the culture wars and especially equality for LGBT people. The five years (1985-1990) of negotiations Monitor Radio (an arm of the newspaper) had with a San Francisco radio station must've caused deep dissent among the newspaper's staff. This would seem especially true just before the Monitor caved in to KQED-FM and agreed publicly not to discriminate against hiring gays in its broadcasting division.
These are just some thoughts I had about the book which I heartily recommend to anyone interested in the Monitor's history.
Bruce Stores is author of "CHRISTIAN SCIENCE: Its Encounter With Lesbian/Gay America", (iUniverse, 2004, 248 pages) and "THE ISTHMUS: Stories From Mexico's Past 1495 - 1995" (iUniverse 2009, 360 pages)