Another look at the housing crisis

A Christian Science perspective on daily life.

Last week, President George Bush signed into law legislation designed to bring some relief to American homeowners threatened with mortgage foreclosure. But as this newspaper reported, "[B]y the time the federal government gets ramped up, help may not be forthcoming until next year."

The article described the legislation as "partly designed to pull some 400,000 homeowners out of foreclosure. With more than 2 million foreclosures expected this year, who will be saved?" ("Big housing bill: no rescues soon," Aug. 1).

While the legislation may bring some relief, the question "Who will be saved?" moves one to pray for a more spiritual, more universal, and more immediate solution to specific questions of housing. Where better to look than the Bible? This holy book contains many parables and metaphors, sometimes using the word "house" to mean "consciousness."

Using the word in this way, Mary Baker Eddy, the founder of this newspaper, interpreted the conclusion of the 23rd Psalm spiritually: "Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life; and I will dwell in the house [the consciousness] of [Love] for ever" ("Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures," p. 578). Far from ignoring today's housing problems in the US and inadequate housing throughout the world, this understanding reminds us that it is in our thinking, our consciousness, where we actually live and have our eternal being.

Some time ago, a woman and her husband yearned to own their own home, but they didn't have the money for a down payment. They were just barely meeting current living expenses, which included a modest amount they paid to rent their apartment. At that time, when applying for a loan, strict attention was paid to the family income and whether the applicants would be able to make the monthly mortgage payments.

One day, the woman went to see a Christian Science practitioner, an individual who devotes his or her full time to healing others through prayer. The woman communicated the dissatisfaction that she and her husband were feeling with their living arrangement. When she left the practitioner's office, that discontent was completely gone. She gained a peaceful sense that they really did live in the kingdom of heaven, or "the consciousness of [Love]" right then.

To her amazement, the next day, a friend, who had formerly been her employer, confided that her family was moving out of state and selling their property, which had two houses on it. They had sold the larger house, and she asked the woman, whose financial situation she understood, if she and her husband would like to buy the smaller house. She went on to say that she would not ask for a down payment and would charge only a minimum interest on the mortgage, which they would arrange directly with her rather than a bank. The deal was soon completed, and the family, now with two young children, moved into a home of their own. And they were always able to pay their monthly mortgage.

Some analysts have assessed today's crisis as a result, in part, of greed and bad judgment that led some lenders to provide loans to home buyers who couldn't afford the monthly payments. The unhappy outcome is a good reminder to both seller and buyer that people's motives for their actions will be clearer and purer as they turn to God for direction, putting aside their personal desire for a certain outcome.

While the motivation in the experience recounted above was obviously an expression of love by the seller, we can call upon the qualities of love, unselfishness, good judgment, and fairness to govern all mortgage transactions.

To walk down a street where houses are abandoned because of threatened or in-process foreclosures moves one to pray for all who have lost their houses, and to affirm that they have never lost their homes – their place in Love's presence. Their true house is the "consciousness of Love," and we all dwell there forever. Prayers affirming this age-old teaching help bring solutions and peace to individual situations.

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