The local evening news recently reported the gang-related shooting deaths of two more children in my city, echoing an article in the Monitor with this ominous title: “Chicago police use more deadly force as gang war heats up.” It’s not uncommon here for high-speed car chases to involve trading gunfire with police. There have already been 40 shootouts so far this year.
In thinking about this, I took interest in a report by Robert Wildeboer, a criminal and legal affairs reporter. Mr. Wildeboer discovered that the city of Toronto has about one seventh the number of murders of Chicago, even though the two cities are of equal size. He observed that a key difference is that the public in Toronto demands a crime-free society, and that this expectation filters through the neighborhoods, the news media, politicians, lawmakers, and law enforcement (“Under the gun: Murder in Chicago and Toronto,” Chicago Public Media).
To me, this observation suggests a striking possibility: that by refusing to accept erroneous behavior as legitimate, we can actually reduce it.
As a metaphysician, I’ve seen firsthand the advantages of adding the weight of my thought on the side of incorruption and order. Rather than thinking of a city, a government, or an individual as irredeemably corrupt, or concluding that violence is a part of life that will forever find new means of expression, I can insist that God’s constant influence of calm, clarity, integrity, and goodness is continuously having its effect.
A few weeks ago, a rash of robberies occurred on two streets in my neighborhood. Victims were approached from behind while walking on the sidewalk, and they were knocked down and their belongings were taken. When I learned of these incidents, I mentally protested that safety is the norm, and that fear cannot dominate in God’s kingdom. His children are not susceptible to crime, either as perpetrators or as victims. It never occurred to me to abandon my neighborhood to chaos – as a matter of fact, as I prayed I felt impelled to take a walk with my dog on those same two streets. It was a simple expression of a gentle, normal, fearless presence in the neighborhood that modeled in life what my prayer was affirming.
Over the next few days, the neighborhood rallied in unified protest and the perpetrators were apprehended.
Separating the crime from the individual is a fundamental in Christian Science. This can be a difficult point to reach – but if a violent act is thwarted without addressing the underlying cause in thought, the crime will continue and there will be a thousand others to carry it out. The prisons are already full.
Instead, each of us can think properly, prayerfully, about the issue of violent crime. Rather than responding with fear, we can insist that violence in our cities or our lives is not an unavoidable fact of life. And it isn’t – it’s an imposition without authority or power. There is no criminal intelligence. Crime is opportunistic non-intelligence. Our opportunity, and our responsibility to our neighbors around the world, is to reject the idea that crime has any spiritual legitimacy, and to separate it entirely from humanity. Mary Baker Eddy stated that “. . . those who discern Christian Science will hold crime in check. They will aid in the ejection of error. They will maintain law and order, and cheerfully await the certainty of ultimate perfection” (Science and Health, p. 97).
We can join hands in prayer with our neighbors around the world, including those in cities facing violent crime, such as the areas of Great Britain that have erupted in violence recently. Our spiritual reasoning resonates with something the Vietnamese monk Thich Nhat Hanh once wrote: “If I can say anything to you, it is to invite you to look deeply and recognize the real enemy. That enemy is not a person. That enemy is a way of thinking that has brought a lot of suffering for everyone. This is an opportunity for us to sit down, be calm, and do just that – identify the real enemy and seek ways to remove it” ("Peace Begins Here," p. 105).
When we succeed in separating crime from humanity, God’s children, we’ll realize that violence is not a “necessary evil.” This prayerful approach will not only enable us to support necessary and appropriate law enforcement measures to curb violence and give us safe cities and neighborhoods, but our communities will be filled with good citizens and neighbors, too. Our prayers will bring us closer to our rightful inheritance as Mrs. Eddy described it in “Miscellaneous Writings 1883-1896”: “Think of this inheritance! Heaven right here, where angels are as men ... and men as angels who, burdened for an hour, spring into liberty, and the good they would do, that they do, and the evil they would not do, that they do not” (p. 251).
Adapted from the Christian Science Sentinel.