Elections and good government
A Christian Science perspective: How can we support the establishment of good government, wherever we are?
A lot of people are disappointed with the US election results. Many others are thrilled by a challenge to what they see as outdated approaches to government. I’ve found it helpful to think of what has happened, and what is happening in the political upheaval going on in many parts of the world, as a shaking of the foundations of how we look at government.
I have lived or worked in countries with governments ranging from authoritarian to democratic, and have found that turning to God when life seems confusing or out of control is a tremendous source of calm, and also inspires ideas to help get through dicey situations. At one point, I found myself working in a country that was in the midst of tremendous upheaval caused by one government trying to replace another. Danger seemed to be everywhere, with soldiers in the streets and forces of resistance hiding in the shadows. My colleagues and I could very easily have found ourselves caught in the middle.
But I never stopped praying, applying what I had learned in my study of Christian Science. Through that study and prayer I understood that God’s government was the only one ultimately in authority, as God’s governance of the true, spiritual universe is supreme. On that basis, I prayerfully insisted none of us were vulnerable mortals subject to forces beyond our control, but were permanent, indestructible, spiritual ideas of God (see Genesis 1:26, 27), governed by God alone. My colleagues and I were able to complete our jobs safely and to return home as planned.
When we left the country it was still struggling, but I felt our safety was evidence of the impact of understanding that God’s just and intelligent government is already established. The human process of establishing and maintaining government can be a messy one, but when we come to see God’s supremacy as a permanent spiritual fact, it can serve as a step of progress toward the point where the saving power of Christ, God’s loving Word, is seen and felt right here on earth. “I will overturn, overturn, overturn, it,” the Bible points out: “and it shall be no more, until he come whose right it is; and I will give it him” (Ezekiel 21:27). This overturning is not destructive, but the revelation of God’s goodness to all.
Christ Jesus lived under an oppressive human government and theological hierarchy, but he never wavered in his conviction that God’s eternal government was the only real controlling force. No matter what the ruling powers tried to do to stand in his way and prevent the people from following him, Jesus operated under a different authority, showing that good could not be prevented or limited in any way. And he told his followers how to make that government their own through prayer: “When thou prayest, enter into thy closet, and when thou hast shut thy door, pray to thy Father which is in secret; and thy Father which seeth in secret shall reward thee openly” (Matthew 6:6).
Human government is not cause but effect: It reflects where thought is in society. I’ve come to see that the best way to support good government is to put our weight on the side of divine government and insist that only God is governing His spiritual creation. Which political party, which person, which elements of society are on top at the moment bear little relevance to the eternal fact that God’s government nurtures and protects spiritually the harmony of all existence.
Mary Baker Eddy, the Monitor’s founder, was very careful about partisan politics. “I am asked, ‘What are your politics?’” she once wrote. “I have none, in reality, other than to help support a righteous government; to love God supremely, and my neighbor as myself” (“The First Church of Christ, Scientist, and Miscellany,” p. 276). Human action, including voting, has its place, but these actions can do the most good when inspired by love for God and for our neighbor. In this way we can be part of the immensely important work of establishing increasingly good government.
In the aftermath of any bitterly fought election, we can trust that God is governing His universe, including us and all His spiritual creation. This doesn’t mean we ignore what goes on in the world. It means that we prayerfully contribute to the opening of thought to see evidence of God’s goodness, in government and throughout the world.