Conquering a fear of others
A Christian Science perspective: At the heart of racial tensions is the need to conquer fear.
In the aftermath of the Dallas shootings and all the tragedies leading up to it, much is being preached about the need for peace, respect, and love – all of which are deeply needed. But underlying all the prejudice, aggression, and hate that seem to fuel these attacks is fear, and it must be addressed.
Fear blinds intelligent reasoning, hinders judgment, and fuels hate. When we fear someone, doesn’t it imply that we identify that person as harmful in some way? The very individual who we claim as someone to fear – whether it’s a gang member, a police officer, someone in religious garb, or someone of a different ethnicity – is, on a deeply spiritual level, truly God’s son or daughter, who God loves and appreciates (see Romans 8:16). And as we begin to glimpse something of this truth, this real identity that God gives to all of us universally, we also begin to lose our fear of other people.
When I moved to an area overwhelmingly populated by members of a race different from mine, I immediately learned just how caring and good my neighbors were. If I sensed any menace at all in people around me – or rather, sensed their assumption that I would identify them as menacing – I refused to be afraid or identify them with evil of any kind. This allowed me to mentally address the tension and dissolve any animosity that seemed to be there.
Once our family was walking down a path late at night. I heard footsteps behind us, and as I slowly pushed our baby in a carriage, following our little daughter, I paused to let the person pass. But he did not pass. He stopped in the dark and waited for us to move on. It was clear he was following us, and I remembered that the path we were on was a place where muggers were known to prey. My heart began racing, because we were not near our home, and once there, to get safely inside, we had two heavy doors to unlock and maneuver through. I prayed, pleading for God to help us, and realized in prayer that I needed to identify whoever was behind me, not as a mugger, but as a person who needed to be loved. At once I was flooded with an overwhelming compassion for this individual, and I felt something of his real identity as God’s child. In that divine warmth of love, all fear drained away. I saw that God loved him, and that God’s power would alleviate whatever suffering was leading him to target a young family.
We came to the streetlight by our front door, and I turned around to see a man trembling and sweating. I said with all my heart, “Can I help you?”
He was taken aback. “I need money,” he said.
“Well, how much do you need?”
He said he needed enough for a car. I had to laugh, because we had barely managed bus fare, which I told him. But I asked my husband, who was unlocking the door, if he had any to spare. My husband said sure, he might have some. The man said, “Uh, that’s OK.” I said, no, if he needed some money he should have some, and gave him the coins my husband passed along to me. I said warmly, “Now you take care.” He looked amazed and said sincerely, “You too. You take care, too.” He smiled appreciatively and walked away.
The awful motives, grievances, and grudges that feed the justification of fear or hate cannot stand against the power of God, who is Love.
The founder of this newspaper, Mary Baker Eddy, who discovered Christian Science, wrote, “The very circumstance, which your suffering sense deems wrathful and afflictive, Love can make an angel entertained unawares” (“Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures,” p. 574). She based this statement on her inspired understanding of the Bible, which showed that “there is no fear in love; but perfect love casteth out fear” (I John 4:18). Christ Jesus proved this and asked that we follow in his way. He passed through murderous mobs and even forgave the people who crucified him (see Luke 4:28-30 and Luke 23:33, 34, respectively). He said of our Father, who is Love itself, “For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, for ever” (Matthew 6:13).
In every thought, in every encounter, every individual has the opportunity to prove this.