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Richard A Nenneman
A SPIRITUAL JOURNEY: Why I Became A Christian Scientist

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[Description-Contents] [Description-Preface] [Additional Extract]

Richard A. Nenneman, former editor in chief of The Christian Science Monitor, writes in Part 1 about his spiritual development, drawing upon the works of Ralph Waldo Emerson, William James, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, and others. Part 2 is his autobiography, published posthumously. Paperback 6"x9".

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Contents: PART ONE:
Preface
Chapter 1 My Religious Background; Importance Of Religion; Early Interest In Christian Science
Chapter 2 Ralph Waldo Emerson
Chapter 3 Thoughts About God and Jesus in the Middle Ages
Chapter 4 A Concept of God for Today
Chapter 5 Eschatology-The Meaning of Jesus
Chapter 6 The Hebrew Scriptures
Chapter 7 William James
Chapter 8 Dietrich Bonhoeffer
Chapter 9 Relating to Other Religions
Chapter 10 Church as Community
Chapter 11 The Christian Science Church
Chapter 12 Finding Your Own Way

PART TWO
Autobiography 1929 - 2007
An Appreciation by David Cook
Bibliography

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PREFACE
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I became motivated to write what follows by wondering just what two of my grandchildren are learning in Sunday School each week. Do the discussions they have instill in them a keen sense of ethical conduct? Does it make them begin to think about what the word "God" means in their own lives? Do the discussions in Sunday School have a direct connection with how they acted--and reacted--to the events in their lives during the following week?

Then my thoughts went back to my own Sunday School days, first as a preteenager in what I would call a moderately evangelical Protestant church, and later for almost a year in a Christian Science Sunday School. I realized that between my preteen years and the last year of my teens I had made a remarkable spiritual journey. We do not always make that journey in our teens. And for many of us, the concerns of religion do not seem to count for much until later in life. We are too busy maturing both physically and mentally. As young adults, getting started with a career and at some point finding a life companion preoccupy us. It may be only when we are thirty or forty that we discover the importance of a spiritual link in our lives that can make a major difference in all that we set out to do.

So, although I began writing this as a rather long letter to my grandchildren, I realized when I had finished it that it might not have meaning for them for several more decades. With that in mind, I have tried to describe my own religious pilgrimage in terms that may be helpful to those of any age. And it is a pilgrimage. Although I am a student of Christian Science, my own vision, or understanding, of spiritual reality continues to evolve.

In the first two chapters I explain the important influence of my religious parents and the writings of Ralph Waldo Emerson. Then, after the four sections dealing with concepts of God, Jesus, and something about the significance of the Hebrew Scriptures, I jump to modern times and another American philosopher, William James, who came at the end of the nineteenth century. James has been important to me for at least three reasons. First, like Emerson, his style is engaging. This is most easily recognized in The Varieties of Religious Experience. There is an old canard that claims James wrote philosophy like a novelist, while his brother Henry, the novelist, wrote novels like a philosopher. The Varieties tells of religious experience in terms of real people. Second, and more important, James recognized the validity of some forms of spiritual healing. At the very least, he recognized the ability of religious faith to revitalize lives. Finally, I am impressed by his regard for his own conviction and the courage to act on conviction.

This is what led me to include a chapter on the German theologian, Dietrich Bonhoeffer. Of course one could choose a myriad of individuals who have given their all, as he did, for their convictions. But my generation grew up during the Nazi period and World War II. Those years have formed the background to our entire adult lives to this day, and trying to understand how a civilized country like Ger-many was even partially seduced by Hitler has always intrigued me. So the story of Bonhoeffer finds its way into the otherwise very American approach to religion. He was a man, as I say, of whom James would have been proud.

The final four chapters all seemed necessary to me because of the times in which we live. Relating to other religions would not have been a serious topic for most people a century, or even two generations, ago. Today, instead of having come through a century that would make all the world the "Christian Century," as the magazine was called, we have entered a multipolar religious world. It is not the diabolical misuses to which some Muslims have put their own religion that concerns me here. Rather, there is a need for genuine appreciation for the faiths that have nurtured and continue to nurture the lives of millions of their adher-ents, as well as a need to think about how we relate this appreciation to our own religious beliefs and practice.

I address the issue of whether one can develop a spiritual life alone. There are huge differences among church congregations in the United States today. They range from megachurches with several thousand members to small groups of ten or fifteen. Even when we acknowledge the need to meet as people engaged on a similar journey, the ways in which we do that can be vastly different. Church needs to be mutually supportive, and at its best, it is. But it is also on occasion divisive or competitive, which is why there are individuals who prefer to get their church on television or not participate at all.

Finally, how can one progress in developing a sense of God's presence, which to me is what religion is all about? In the case of Christian Science in particular, in which one's convictions demand action, demand some kind of practice that follows on the conviction, where can one find help and encouragement in a society that, at least on a superficial level, is overwhelmingly secular, hedonistic, and materialistic?

If the spiritual life is actually the primary demand on us, as I believe it is, what kind of practices can we follow that will help us promote its attainment?

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ADDITIONAL EXTRACT
Pages 12 - 14
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"At this point it may be the right time to tell you how I became interested in Christian Science. It was not a sudden "conversion" at all; it was not an epiphany. My interest in it grew from a variety of sources: my two cousins who were Christian Scientists and whose general enthusiasm and zest for life had always intrigued me; my closest friend in high school (he went on to Yale and I saw him frequently during those New England years), who happened to be a Christian Scientist and whose mother was just entering the public practice of Christian Science; my freshman philosophy course at Harvard, in which we discussed the contradictions between a belief in an omnipotent God and a sinful humanity; the closeness to Boston and my visiting The Mother Church early in the autumn of my first year at Harvard.

But it was not until the next summer, when I took down my father's copy of Science and Health from his bookcase and began to read it, that my curiosity grew to the point where I realized that the basic concepts Mrs. Eddy was explaining, page after page, were concepts that made sense to me. There was the emphasis on knowing rather than believing. There was her definition of God, which I will discuss later on. Probably the most important concept to me at that time was her distinction between Jesus and the Christ.

To try to position it very roughly, Christian Science was not the liberal Protestant theology, with its emphasis on the ethical demands of Christ Jesus. Nor was it the old-fashioned evangelical Christianity, which depended on man's acceptance of the belief that he was guilty of something and had to be "saved." In a broader sense, it was both: It was demanding of one's behavior, of both one's personal and social ethics, and it was evangelical in the sense that it demanded a complete change of consciousness about what man really is.

To pursue my interest in Christian Science, I enrolled in the Sunday School at The Mother Church after Christmas vaca-t-ion in January 1949. I was nineteen years old, and Christian Science Sunday Schools are available for anyone until the age of twenty. I hoped, when I enrolled, that I would be put in the class with Erwin Canham, who at that time, as editor of The Christian Science Monitor, was Mr. Christian Science in Boston and already a nationally known figure. I was initially disappointed. The superintendent assigned me to the class of a Boston dowager, Mrs. Gertrude Eiseman. It seemed to me that she wore the same dull navy-blue dress every Sunday, and I imagined her to be a dutiful middle-class widow doing her bit to teach us teenagers. She took a keen interest in each of the kids in her class. Learning that I was new to Science, she wrote me short letters each week, showing me how I might approach the main points in the weekly Bible Lessons we were studying. Then she occasionally invited several of us to her apartment for lunch. Two of us, Tom Griesa, who has been a distinguished federal judge in New York for over thirty years, and I, played the piano, and we would occasionally play for her. Being a college student, away from home, these occasional visits--and meals--with her solidified a friendship that lasted until she passed on at almost the age of one hundred in 1986.

What I found out over time was that she was a very wealthy woman who had decided, after her husband had passed on, to devote the rest of her life to the study of Christian Science. She was in the public practice and kept an apartment in one of Boston's oldest hotels. She frequently had her meals brought to her room. One time, years later, my wife and I were eating with her at the Ritz Carlton in Boston. We sat talking after dinner, and then she prepared to get up and leave. I noticed that the waiter had not brought the check and asked if she needed to sign something. "Oh," she said, "they never give me a check." Of course, I had been wrong about that dull blue dress--she could have worn a new one every week!

Christian Science comes to people in myriad ways. Most people think of Christian Science in terms of its emphasis on spiritual healing. This quite clearly was not what inter-ested me as a young man. It was its explanations of the na-ture of God and of Jesus' mission that seemed to answer the questions I had at the moment.

... for me, the point that Christian Science emphasizes is that spiritual reality is the only, or ultimate, reality. It made real for me St. John's vision of the new heaven and new earth in the final chapter of Revelation. It threw light on what Jesus said when he told his disciples that the kingdom of God was here--within. And in glimpsing this reality, of mentally living within it, spiritual healing becomes a natural occurrence."

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