After two decades of withering battles over money, medicine, and media, the First Church of Christ, Scientist, the "mother church" of the Christian Science movement, is angling for new ways to promote its theology and controversial healing practices.

During the past 20 years, the group has been embroiled in several high-profile cases in which members were prosecuted for withholding medical treatment from children who later died (CT, Oct. 4, 1993, p. 53). These cases were generally reversed on appeal, and the group has waged a successful fight to strengthen legislative protections for Christian Science parents. A foray into mass media—buying a television station in Boston, financing a cable tv news network, and launching a mass-market monthly magazine—resulted in hundreds of millions of dollars in losses and a need for the church to borrow from its pension-fund reserves (CT, April 26, 1993, p. 54). In July, the group announced those debts had been repaid. The church also reported $302 million in cash on hand, up $51 million from the year before.

Christian Science is gaining fresh exposure thanks to the aggressive marketing of Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures, the 132-year-old seminal work by the movement's founder, Mary Baker Eddy. The textbook has sold more than 100,000 copies annually over the past five years, with a 10 percent gain in sales reported for 1997. According to Eddy's teaching, God is "all-in-all." Science and Health states: "The only reality of sin, sickness, or death is the awful fact that unrealities seem real to human, erring belief, until God strips off their disguise. They are not true because they are not of God."

INTEREST IN HEALING: In August, 1,800 college students gathered in ...

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