CONFORMITY. Wanting to be popular. It's a feeling many of us may remember having as we grew up. The strongest impulsion to be the same as everybody else in order to be liked usually wears off. But the tendency can still be more of an influence in adult years than we might expect. Society generally frowns on what departs from its presently accepted opinions. Occasionally the frown deepens into specific opposition.
Mary Baker Eddy, who discovered and founded Christian Science, observes in Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures, ``To obey the Scriptural command, `Come out from among them, and be ye separate,' is to incur society's frown; but this frown, more than flatteries, enables one to be Christian.''
Not only may we encounter society's frown, but we must have it for a time. Why? Because a materialistic society's approval would mean our conforming to attitudes and values that ruled out being a real follower of Christ. Christianity and a desire to conform to the world do not go well together.
A friend of mine told me about something he learned one night when he was dealing with pain. As a Christian Scientist he turned first and instinctively to prayer. This prayer affirmed God's all-presence. It affirmed the harmony that must exist if God is all-powerful divine Love and so is holding His man and creation in Love. But my friend said he was surprised to find he was still busily thinking about a much more prevalent view of the physical body. In the midst of the difficulty, there he was -- at one level -- considering the prevailing view that spiritual truths probably had little relation to physical cause and effect in the body.
He was forced to stop and obey the spiritual rules he had learned through Christian Science. He remembered that pain is not really part of God's spiritual man and creation. It can be opposed and resisted with the truth of present divine reality. This presence of God's love began to feel tangible. Divine reality was so much greater and more significant than the misinformation the material senses were telling him that my friend responded to the truth. As he persisted on that basis, he found the pain stopped. It was as though someone had turned off a faucet.
The pull toward conformity would have us thinking that what is in fact a major Christianly scientific discovery is merely one point of view among many. But breaking away from the typically human estimate of material life for a very new understanding of God's universe, we begin to find out what God really means to man.
Mrs. Eddy didn't think she had discovered something no one else had ever known. She believed that Christian Science was what Jesus knew and what early Christianity had practiced, and that her discovery constituted the coming of the Comforter that Christ Jesus had promised to mankind.
What else could have empowered Jesus to do the works he did other than the laws of God, the Science of being? The Science of Christ reveals that God is infinitely more real than we have ``permitted'' Him to be. God could not be part of what exists, coexisting with an imperfect material universe; but Spirit, God, divine Love, must be the whole of being, the All-in-all.
To learn even in some degree that reality is spiritual is to let go of some of the impressions of the human mind. This enables us to come out and be separate from both frowns and flatteries. It makes us want to live in conformity with God.
This is a condensed version of an editorial that appeared in the June 18 issue of the Christian Science Sentinel.