In recent weeks, the world has witnessed multiple tragic events following political upheavals.
The assassination of Benazir Bhutto in Pakistan has heightened the country's ethnic tensions, and the conflict has amplified calls for political and social reform. Meanwhile in Kenya, postelection violence has driven thousands from their homes and businesses. While calm apparently has returned in some parts of the country, an estimated quarter of a million have been made homeless by postelection violence.
Throughout history, people have been forced to flee their homes when violence and oppression have made life unbearable. A haven may offer food, water, care, and shelter. But perhaps the refugee's most elemental need – and the one thing that actually makes a haven worth seeking – is the rule of law. In fact, without the protection afforded by the rule of law, humanitarian aid offers only temporary relief, uncertain security, and a bleak future.
Does the rule of law exist only in stable democracies? Or does it rather exist as an idea – an intrinsic spiritual desire – within every individual? Stable governments evolve as the desire for equity under the law displaces those animal and tribal instincts that exist in every human culture. Much is being said about "change" in the long-playing American presidential campaign, but there's no more significant change to be working and praying for than the quelling of animality and the advance of peace-loving spirituality within the human family.
To scratch and claw for advantage is, sadly, human (again, witness the negative and often ruthless political advertising). But the craving for unity, equal justice, and evenly shared blessings of order and harmony has divine origins – and this urge exists right where base human traits are having their field days and generating the ugly headlines and pictures. "The divine must overcome the human at every point," wrote Mary Baker Eddy, following that promise with this one drawn straight from Jesus' teachings: "Love must triumph over hate" ("Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures," p. 43).
Jesus could not have walked unharmed through a mob bent on throwing him off a cliff had he not prayerfully, and lawfully, cut through the anger and violence to perceive the higher nature of those surrounding him. At another time, Jesus couldn't have healed a wild and demented man if he hadn't seen the purer, stronger reality of the man's innate goodness and clarity. Go and spread the word of healing, he said. The higher law of God that governed Jesus, and those he encountered, restrained animal impulses in those moments. Prayer today can improve thought and behavior in the same way.
As a student of the Scriptures, Jesus would have known Malachi's piercing questions: "Have we not all one father? hath not one God created us? why do we deal treacherously every man against his brother ... ?" (Mal. 2:10). There is one universal God, one Source, one Father who is also Mother, one all-motivating Soul. God's law of same-source origin awakens in the human heart its love of equity; it opens wellsprings of compassion.
Advancing the rule of law is far different from misguided attempts to replace civil and criminal codes with literal religious codes. Wider peace and surer social progress will take hold as the Decalogue and the Christ-command of loving others as we love ourselves do their transforming work within individual hearts and minds.
Laws of life and harmony that are genuinely spiritual – of the Spirit – know no denominational boundaries. They benefit as evenly as the sun shines. To love and follow these laws is as natural to humanity as turning toward the sunlight is to the leaves of a tree.