cover image God's Perfect Child: Living and Dying in the Christian Science Church

God's Perfect Child: Living and Dying in the Christian Science Church

Caroline Fraser. Metropolitan Books, $30 (561pp) ISBN 978-0-8050-4430-0

Freelance writer Fraser spent her childhood practicing the teachings of Christian Science. She was told that she was ""God's Perfect Child"" and that any errors she made, including being carsick every Sunday as she and her family traveled to her grandparents' house, were due to her ""Mortal Mind."" Although she left the church before she entered college, Fraser acknowledges that Christian Science is ""profoundly complex"" and ""worth understanding in its own right."" She sets out in this scintillating religious history to show the good, but especially the harm, that Christian Science has done. She opens with a brief biography of Mary Baker Eddy, the founder of Christian Science, whose Science and Health is studied reverentially by church members. She reveals Baker Eddy's fear of the material world and the ways in which she fashioned this fear into a religion that resists the advances of the scientific age. Fraser traces the development of Christian Science from a small sect to today's large political and religious organization that attracts numerous followers eager to embrace its messages of human perfectibility and self-reliance. In the course of her history, the author also briefly examines the lives of some famous Christian Scientists--Doris Day, Carol Channing and Mr. Ed's Alan Young--and their contributions to the church. But, Fraser's history is also a rousing expos . Not only does she reveal what she sees as Mary Baker Eddy's neuroses, but she also delves into what she calls the church's ""pernicious"" teachings that illness is not real (it's only the ""Mortal Mind"" obscuring the ""Divine Mind"") and that people can heal themselves without the benefit of medical help. Fraser combines episodes from her own experience with an evenhanded historical analysis in this first-rate social and religious history. (Aug.)