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A better approach to bureaucracy--part 1

September 17, 1985



THE mammoth city, state, and federal buildings in the city where I now live have at times seemed to me towering symbols of cold, unresponsive bureaucracy. This is a far cry from their counterparts in the small town of my recent past. Because of that contrast, and because of stories I had heard about endless hours spent waiting in lines, I postponed for as long as possible, after moving, the reregistering of my car and the obtaining of a new driver's license. I'm sorry to say that when I finally did call the department of motor vehicles with a series of questions, my dark attitude about bureaucracies in general prejudiced my thinking about that call in particular. My thoughts went something like this: ``I'll probably get some totally bored bureaucrat who's lacking in interest and courtesy.'' Hardly a promising outlook. Perhaps not surprisingly, I got what I expected. At the end of the conversation, as I hung up in frustration, I realized what I had just don e. Although considering myself an earnest Christian, I had just approached an individual on the phone with a most unchristian view of him. In a very profound sense, responsibility for the repair that needed to be made didn't lie primarily with the individual at the other end of the line but with me. I went to work on some basic recasting of my thought. Actually, Christ Jesus sternly rebukes a harsh view of our fellow beings, instructing, ``First cast out the beam out of thine own eye; and then shalt thou see clearly to cast out the mote out of thy brother's eye.'' 1 Was he advocating that we paint over faults with an undiscriminating, benevolent gloss? No. The truly Christian view of another is one that goes right to the core of his being, identifying his true selfhood as made in the very image and likeness of God, and rejecting anything evil as ungodlike and therefore, in the final analysis, untrue. Because God is the one universal Mind, man in His likeness naturally includes intelligence and clarity. As the reflection of Love, another Biblically based name for God, man expresses warmth and peace. These God-bestowed qualities are what characterize our genuine spiritual nature. To hold to this Godlike view of man is Christian and more winning. Mary Baker Eddy, the Discoverer and Founder of Christian Science, writes of Jesus' view of man and its powerful effects: ``Jesus beheld in Science the perfec t man, who appeared to him where sinning mortal man appears to mortals. In this perfect man the Saviour saw God's own likeness, and this correct view of man healed the sick.'' 2 Well, with this more telling view of man, I picked up the telephone and tried the department of motor vehicles again. A sunny voice came on at the other end. Not only did this woman answer all my questions in a clear and helpful manner; she even suggested a location nearer my home that could help me, and went on to add the time of day when I would avoid the lines. The registration and licensing were taken care of without delay or difficulty. My skating through a government bureaucracy with relative ease isn't the whole story, of course, nor even the heart of it. The point is, the better view of man has a transforming effect on our own consciousness and experience. Man is the image of a perfect God. But it takes our seeing this to be true to make things really happen. We need prayerfully to discern those Godlike qualities, despite the surface appearance. In proportion as we do this, we find individuals, including those in burea ucracies, responding with greater care and thoughtfulness. Frustration recedes. And we, acting on the basis of that clearer view, efficiently and effectively take care of whatever rightly needs to be accomplished. Obviously, this isn't all there is to say about a better approach to government bureaucracy. Tomorrow we'll take up the same topic in this column and focus on a better approach--not to just the individual in the bureaucracy--but to the system itself. 1 Matthew 7:5. 2 Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures, pp. 476-477.

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