From tyranny to democracy - peacefully

Bringing a spiritual perspective to daily life

The terrible massacres in Indonesia, the brutal killing of both Muslims and Christians, can bring on feelings of despair.

Look around a busy food court in in New York or San Francisco filled with chatty shoppers, college students, and business people on their lunch breaks. There are several different religious denominations represented by the people present. They aren't thinking of killing each other. People of different races sit next to each other. They happily chat together, even smile kindly at each other.

Yes, there's still racial and religious strife in this country. But we're more at peace. One reason may be that our democratic system of government has been in place and stable for more than 200 years now. Contrast that with Indonesia, emerging from decades of authoritarian rule.

Other nations that have recently moved beyond undemocratic government have found chaos and destruction ensuing, such as the former Yugoslavia. It's as if someone somewhere is mockingly saying: "You see, strong-armed government was needed to maintain order; take it away and everything falls apart. I told you so!"

People struggling under tyranny aren't likely to buy this conclusion, however. They know from experience that tyranny itself is evil. Tyranny never truly holds hatred or prejudice in check because evil cannot contain itself. Pouring gasoline on a raging fire will not contain the flames. A strong-armed approach to government may temporarily subdue violence and ethnic tensions on the surface, but it fans their flames in the hearts and minds of people. It sends the message that a "might is right" approach to government is legitimate. And it falsely asserts that the just and merciful law of God is absent in some areas of the world.

By contrast, an understanding of the universality of God's law subdues aggression by revealing the impotence of human willpower to truly govern. That's one of the things Jesus proved when he passed unharmed through an angry mob intent on hurting him. Even in his healing of the sick, he fought the evidence of a legitimate evil. His life demonstrated that spiritual law, or divine government, is never absent.

In the light of this, you could say that any evidence of a vacuum of government in the wake of the ouster of a tyrant could be called a law of false association. Like trying to associate the words of "Raindrops Keep Falling on My Head" with the melody of "My Way." It doesn't really work. They don't fit together. Similarly, to associate brutal chaos with the transition out of autocratic government is to falsely associate two incongruent events. They don't fit together, and they leave Spirit, God, out of any assessment of the situation. It's not inevitable that chaos fill a period of transition to democracy, because God, good, is the sole cause, always. We can contribute to healing by knowing the universal truth of God's government. Monitor founder Mary Baker Eddy defined this government in the following way: "God's law is in three words, 'I am All;' and this perfect law is ever present to rebuke any claim of another law" ("No and Yes," pg. 30).

This law that God is All rebukes any vacuum of authoritarian government filled by lawlessness, chaos, and violence. In reality God's government already fills the universe with peace, harmony, security. In our prayers, we can know that God's government is the true, governing cause at every moment, in every place, whatever the prevailing social and political circumstances seem to be.

Because this kind of prayer is based on the law of God, it will benefit the people of Indonesia, Kosovo, and other countries struggling with these transitions. In truth there is no law vacuum. The authority of God, of good, is present in every country.

Now these are thy servants

and thy people, whom thou hast

redeemed by thy great power,

and by thy strong hand.

Nehemiah 1:10

(c) Copyright 2000. The Christian Science Publishing Society

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