As a lifelong student of Christian Science, movie star and Pecos- area ranch owner Val Kilmer said Thursday his beliefs have saved his life a few times.
The prayerful oversight of a practitioner a healer similar to physicians in Western medicine helped him weather what he believed was a heart attack, Kilmer said.
"I've drowned; I was flat-line" and was healed, he said.
Kilmer, who may be one of New Mexico's better-known Christian Scientists, spoke during a formal opening of "This is Woman's Hour," an educational exhibit on the life, faith and achievements of Church of Christ, Scientist, founder Mary Baker Eddy at Santa Fe Community College on Thursday night.
Kilmer, who had intended to introduce Gov. Gary Johnson, arrived several minutes after the governor left the event. Johnson proclaimed Thursday as "Mary Baker Eddy Day" in New Mexico.
He spoke at the event because Kilmer asked him to, Johnson said.
Kilmer has submitted to examinations by medical doctors to be insured for film roles, but he demonstrated the sensation of the exam by touching the microphone.
The crowd, which included members of the First Church of Christ, Scientist, in Santa Fe, roared.
Eddy's work paralleled the efforts of other early day founders of the women's civil rights movement in the United States.
At the age of 45 alone, impoverished and paralyzed below the waist from an accident in her early 20s Eddy read a New Testament chapter portraying the healing spirit of Christ. She grew stronger and seven years later wrote "Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures."
The traveling exhibit, tied to the 150th anniversary of the first Women's Rights Convention, also portrays Eddy's belief and work for equality between men and women.
Her writings often emphasized that men and women are equal in the sight of God.
Kilmer, in a question-and-answer session with more than 100 people who had gathered at the opening, said Eddy's life's work and teachings constantly guide him as a believer, father and actor.
"I love the freedom it represents and the radical notion that we can rely on God," Kilmer said.
His faith also provides "the preventative surgery" that includes stability and a sense of harmony, he said. Acting requires keeping an open mind, as does practicing his belief, and both take a lot of vigor and discipline to prepare, he said.
"Mary Baker Eddy said, 'The truth should cost something,' and it's benefited me virtually every day," he said.
Whether observers of the exhibit believe in Christian Science or not, the vigor of Eddy's work, including the founding of both a college and the Christian Science Monitor, show that the woman was passionate about moving forward and speaking her mind, said Elizabeth Cahn, program services coordinator of the Women's Resource Center at the University of New Mexico.
"She really thought she had something to give to the world," Cahn said.
International speaker Joni Overton-Jung said Eddy's role in the early women's movement has often been overlooked but so has much of the work of several "voices" during that time.
Her drive to communicate her ideas that an individual's spirituality carried a powerful force may have come from her own early years spent powerless and ill, she said.
"She was a woman who had no money and rose out of obscurity and ill health to become one of the most powerful women of this century," Overton-Jung said.
Copyright Albuquerque Journal May 10, 2002