When computers go CLUNK in the daytime

Originally printed as an editorial in the Christian Science Sentinel

The recent plague of destructive cyberworms brings to mind the oft-quoted line from the Walt Kelly comic strip, Pogo: "We have met the enemy and he is us."

Not that we're all creatures with idle hands laboring in the devil's computer workshop. Computer viruses and worms are usually the work of a tiny, skilled, and confused cohort. No, the real enemy lies in human nature - or more accurately, in the words of the Monitor's founder, Mary Baker Eddy, "the swinish element in human nature" ("Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures," page 272).

In a 19th-century world that revered decorum, she did not mince words. But because she profoundly loved the human family and its spiritual promise, she devoted herself to liberating people from self-destructive mentality and behavior.

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To Mary Baker Eddy the reformer, the central purpose of religion and spirituality was the rooting out of the destructive elements of human nature - such as hatred, jealousy, greed, selfishness.

She often referred to these more generally as "sin," in the biblical meaning of that word as whatever is "off the mark" from God's original and purely spiritual creation, made "in His likeness." At the core of Christian Science is the allness of a good God, and the goodness of His children.

The creation and willful spread of computer viruses is criminal behavior, although in the long run it may be even more beneficial to recognize such behavior as elemental sin in that broader sense. It's the underlying sin that needs to be healed if society is to be bettered. If sin isn't fully corrected, it is repeated. It multiplies by imitation, as more people try the next cool and nefarious stratagem on their computers.

To heal sin - whether it's a personal difficulty or a culture-wide plague - calls for systematic, heartfelt prayer. And appealing to God's care and presence, one naturally begins to discover more of what it actually means to be made in the likeness of one infinite Spirit. Thoughts that are foreign to a spiritual creation are uncovered and evicted. While the collective effect of all appeals for restored wholeness may not be measurable by conventional means, we are convinced this wholeness is real, possible, and profoundly needed.

Intentional, spiritually intelligent love - the power that enabled Christ Jesus to heal darkened minds - can change for the better the mentality of those who would intentionally or ignorantly harm others. "Jesus' demonstrations sift the chaff from the wheat," Mrs. Eddy wrote in Science and Health, "and unfold the unity and the reality of good, the unreality, the nothingness, of evil" (page 269).

We all have sifting to do. We all can be frustrated when e-mail services and office computer systems go down, and when hard drives, servers, or contact lists are invaded.

But anger won't help. Love will - love as compassion for anyone who might be deluded into misuse of intellect. A spiritual love can also move one to find ways to reach those who have been shunned. It can penetrate even self-sealed fantasy worlds in which someone might see hacking or writing virus programs as just another game or a harmless protest - and be blind or insensitive to the consequences.

Destructive thoughts and actions are unnatural to God's creation. We're actually spiritual beings - not born into sin, or victims of genetic "bad data," or the sum of hereditary predispositions. Human nature's destructive elements aren't always rooted out quickly, by hitting a delete key. But just as darkness can't resist dawn, errors inevitably give way to a growing awareness of God's substantial goodness.

"And God saw every thing that he had made, and, behold, it was very good." This stirring conclusion to Genesis 1 comes before the contradictory unreality show of man made from dust that prevails in subsequent chapters. Genesis 1 is just 31 verses long. But what a program for a wholly different, wholly good life. A program that overrides even the most complex of human machinations with the brilliant clarity of God's omnipotent goodness.

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