Did Christian Science prayer bring down the Berlin Wall? Probably not, yet that seems to be the message of a speech church leader Virginia Harris delivered at the Mother Church's annual meeting, held jointly in Boston and Berlin last month.
Speaking to the faithful, Harris explained that she and other officials had made repeated efforts to visit and encourage Christian Scientists in East Germany, and that in April 1989 they gained a verbal commitment from the Communist government to allow the public practice of Christian Science. Then, ''on November 3, 1989, official recognition was granted to Church of Christ Scientist by [East Germany],'' she said. ''Over the next days, the last and largest peace marches took place. We saw firsthand the power of prayer and a people who intuitively knew that freedom was their birthright. Then we all know that on November 9, six days after the official recognition of Christian Science, the Wall fell, and freedom became a practical reality.''
I asked Marc Fisher, a Washington Post reporter who was in East Germany when the wall fell, to comment on Harris's speech. ''Can you spell `delusional'?'' he answered in an e-mail. ''The East German Communists, in the waning days of their regime, indeed did make some concessions to religious groups, and East German Lutheran ministers led the courageous street demonstrations that stood up to the East Berlin regime and its Soviet overseers. Christian Scientists were at best a blip on the screen; most East Germans lumped them together with the Mormons and the Scientologists as weird American cults that they really had no time for. Christian Scientists played no role whatsoever in the fall of the Berlin Wall or the reunification of Germany.''
Church spokesman Gary Jones says Harris's speech ''was building up to something. She indicates multiple factors were at work, converging at one time. When you look at it fairly, she wasn't pointing at any one thing.'' You can reach your own conclusions by viewing Harris's remarks on the church's website, www.tfccs.com.