Last month, Slate, an online magazine, posed this question to its readers: "How is America going to end?"
What the magazine described as a "weeklong thought experiment on the United States' demise" attracted over 60,000 participants, a good number of them from outside the US, including about 15 percent from Slate's Russian site.
Among the top proposals were the possibility that terrorists would obtain nuclear weapons with which to attack the US; an Arab-Israeli war would expand into a larger war; oil would become too expensive to extract; and China's decision to unload its US Treasury notes would wreak havoc with the US economy.
It's sobering even to think of people spending a week envisioning the demise of a major nation. And given the world's state of affairs, with a major war on in Afghanistan, Iraq still making its way toward stability, and uncertainties about Iran, things can look fairly dark even without this "experiment." Dwelling on the material scene, however, is not the way Christian Scientists approach foreboding conditions. Among other things, they look to the Bible's examples of how other God-loving people faced sobering conditions and overcame them.
One of the most powerful examples is from the book of Acts. Paul and Silas had been preaching the Gospel when they were arrested and thrown into prison. They were treated roughly, and the prison keeper, told to keep them "safely," put them in the inner prison and in chains. Escape looked impossible, and who could know what tomorrow would bring? They wouldn't be the first Christians to pay with their lives for their faith. But at midnight – that darkest of hours – they chose to sing praise to God. The Bible doesn't report what they sang, but it might have been something in the spirit of this hymn:
High to heaven let song be soaring,
Borne on faith's triumphant pinion;
Free from sin, our hearts adoring
Yield themselves to Love's dominion ("Christian Science Hymnal," No. 112)
Instead of being cowed by their accusers, Paul and Silas yielded to God's power. And through proof of His tangible presence with them, they were set free from that prison (see Acts 16:26). You could say faith's "triumphant pinion" had lifted them above their captors, and evidently brought them to a new place spiritually.
In one of his parables, Jesus told of a midnight hour that separated those prepared for spiritual life from those who focused on materialism. Ten virgins were invited to a wedding feast. Five took oil in their lamps – were spiritually prepared for the time when the bridegroom, or Christ, would come. The other five were foolish and took no oil. When the bridegroom arrived – at the midnight hour – there wasn't time to go buy oil, and the foolish virgins were shut out of the wedding.
Speaking of this parable, Mary Baker Eddy wrote, "In Christian Science the midnight hour will always be the bridal hour, until 'no night is there.' The wise will have their lamps aglow, and light will illumine the darkness" ("Miscellaneous Writings 1883–1896," p. 276).
This statement declares with conviction that humanity's darkness can be defeated, and that all are expected to be saved. However long the quest for the needed illumination takes, each of us will be sustained in the process. And the bridal hour also includes those who at this moment may seem worlds away from the truth of God. Yet, they, too, can be set free from prison; they can know God's love and be transformed by it. To help this change come, we need to desire and strive to eliminate the unloving, fearful thoughts that deny Christ's healing power. Instead of arguing against the power of good, the human mind needs to be redeemed, freed of envy and other destructive thoughts.
Each individual has the power to sing at the midnight hour and to prove the presence of light even in the midst of deepest shadows. This proof may involve singing mentally or audibly at the bed of pain, or standing firmly on truth in the face of dishonesty, neglect, or frustration. But these and other accounts of God's power to heal in the darkest of times strengthen us.
Perhaps the most important lesson is that it isn't our personal, human power that will save humanity but our obedience to the Christ – to the messages God speaks to each consciousness. As the hymn continues:
Sing, till all the world rejoices,
Sing! for fear no more enslaves us.
From th' accuser's mocking voices
Christ, our mighty Counsel, saves us.
Christ, the Counsel who argues on behalf of Love, Truth, Life, transforms thought. Christ lifts hearts and destroys darkness. Each of us can know this presence and bless ourselves and others by its unquenchable light.
Adapted from an editorial in the Christian Science Sentinel.