Science, Religion, and Splitting Infinity
Robbie and Leigh in Jamie Pachino’s Splitting Infinity at San Jose Rep. (photo: Robert Shomler)
Serving as a spokesperson for Christian Science, much of my time is spent correcting inaccuracies and misconceptions about my faith that appear in the daily press and, rarely but occasionally, the entertainment media. In one particular instance, however, I was pleased to find that few such corrections were necessary thanks, in no small measure, to the performance of one woman in Jamie Pachino’s stage play, “Splitting Infinity.”
The play explores the apparent conflict between science and religion; between those who rely solely upon mathematical and empirical evidence as a means of understanding the physical universe, and those who turn to prayer to connect with the infinite Divine. The characters employed include a Nobel laureate astrophysicist, her lover, a rabbi, and a devout Christian Scientist.
It would perhaps be tempting (if predictable) to pit one side against the other in this cosmic quest — the rational empiricists against the irrational religionists. And it might be equally tempting (and equally predictable) to create and cast stereotyped caricatures of the respective viewpoints presented. But this is not what I found in “Splitting Infinity.” Instead, I found that these characters actually had a lot more in common than not.
As I watched the play — paying particular attention to how Christian Science was both presented and portrayed — I was surprised to see a balanced, if not entirely accurate, presentation.
Sure, the scripting could have been better. For instance, none of the Christian Scientists I’ve ever known are categorically opposed to the medical profession, as was implied in the play. No Christian Scientist I know would ever knowingly allow their child to suffer. And no Christian Scientist I know would ever sacrifice their child in the name of religious dogma. That said, the woman who played the Christian Scientist did a commendable job of presenting a sympathetic character — thoughtful, intelligent, and caring.
What I saw in this character was a woman acting in consonance with her highest sense of right; a woman whose decision to rely solely on prayer for healing — and her expectation of healing — was born of her personal success in keeping her own diabetes at bay; a woman not unlike many of those in the audience perhaps facing similar challenges, similar crucibles, similar decisions.
The end of the play leaves the audience considering two symmetric if unanswered questions: Was the Christian Scientist betrayed by her faith in God? Was the astrophysicist betrayed by her quest to discover a Godless universe?
I won’t give away the ending (or my bias) by saying whether I agree or disagree with the answers presented, but I will say that I’m glad that Christian Science was at least included in the discussion. Rather than proliferating the idea that science and religion are absolutely and eternally incompatible, its practice has proven for me and countless others that, in the words of Albert Einstein, “Science without religion is lame. Religion without science is blind.”
Eric Nelson lives in Hayward, California and serves as the media and legislative spokesperson for Christian Science in Northern California. He also works as a Christian Science practitioner, helping those interested in relying solely on the power of prayer for healing.
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