Well, yes, from my point of view there was a minor miracle on Newsnight last week. The BBC’s nightly “current affairs, investigative programme” has miraculously – because it surely wasn’t intentional! – promoted Mary Baker Eddy’s venerable and vibrant classic on Christian healing.
The almost as venerable and vibrant news programme showed a LARGE copy of Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures just above Kirsty Wark‘s head for the entirety of her discussion with biographers Hilary Spurling and Adam Sismon .
This “precious volume” (as its author Mary Baker Eddy once described Science and Health) even received double exposure, since it also appeared behind Hilary Spurling, the author of “Matisse the Master“.
A closer scrutiny of this background image suggests that BBC set designers take a broad brush approach to matching image content with interview content. (But who am I to complain!) The interview was a lively discussion about the popularity of biographies, and while the accompanying image falls into the broad category of “books”, a closer inspection shows they are mainly self-help titles, rather than biographies.
It is, in fact, just as much of a miracle that Science and Health should be included in this particular backdrop, since it is not strictly a self-help title in the commonly understood sense of that phrase. While Christian Science does powerfully bring help and healing to its individual reader, it is totally distinct from self-centred visualisation techniques or positive thinking. Christian Science prayer to God is biblical: “not my will, but thine, be done”. These are the exemplary words spoken by Jesus, although Science and Health helpfully unpacks the fact that God’s will is always for the good of one and all: the kind of good that blesses not only the one praying but others equally.
Consequently, as Christian Scientists find their spiritual understanding of God brings healing to themselves and their families the natural tendency is to think increasingly about how to apply that healing power more broadly. Rather than promoting self-help, such spiritual growth leads inevitably to the question of how to help others and it nurtures a desire to support progress in the kind of issues on which Newsnight so diligently reports.
Nevertheless, whether or not it was intentional, and whether or not Science and Health actually belongs in the picture featured, thank you Newsnight set designers! For those who love the healing power of Christian Science, it was kind of affirming to see this much-loved friend on national TV. And for those who don’t yet love it, perhaps this inadvertent product placement will have spurred the curiosity of someone, somewhere, to do what Newsnight does so well: investigate. In this case that would mean investigating the promise of primitive Christian healing as practised by Jesus and his disciples, and as more recently revived by the thoughtful scriptural probings of Mary Baker Eddy.
All of which brings to mind a comment that another Newsnight presenter, Jeremy Paxman, once made to a press reporter about the Bible, and his desire to understand it better. This book is all about doing just that. So, Mr Paxman, if you want to bring your forensic questioning skills to the reading of a book on the Scriptures, this is the one I would most heartily recommend.