Commentary A Christian Science Perspective

Praying to heal hate crimes

A Christian Science perspective: A prayerful response to cemetery vandalism.

  • Terese Reiter Messman

In the city where I live, St. Louis, a Jewish cemetery was damaged by vandalism, and the irreverence of this hateful crime was reported internationally. Later the same week, the hate crime was repeated at a Jewish cemetery in Philadelphia. In my sincere desire to see healing in my community and the world, like many others, I have been led to pray.

As a Christian Scientist, I have come to see the effectiveness of prayer to heal hatred and its resultant conflict. My prayers often start with the acknowledgment that “God is love,” as the Bible states, and “he that dwelleth in love dwelleth in God, and God in him” (I John 4:16). Earlier in Malachi 2:10 it says: “Do we not all have one Father? Did not one God create us?” (New International Version).

While the latter words are spoken in the context of a prophet rebuking his own people during a time of deep division, I have come to understand it as an idea that applies universally – that because there is one divine Parent, our Father-Mother God, we are all included in the spiritual, harmonious family of God. This means that no one, of a different background or race, is ever deserving of hatred. My study of Christian Science has shown me that a hateful view of others does not belong to anyone, because we are truly created as the spiritual reflection of divine Love, made to express qualities of care, cooperation, and respect.

We can hold to this true view of man whenever presented with images that would claim that Love’s qualities are not present. Mary Baker Eddy, the Discoverer and Founder of Christian Science, writes: “From Love and from the light and harmony which are the abode of Spirit, only reflections of good can come” (“Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures,” p. 280). Rather than being discouraged by division and victimization, we can each begin to see that hate is powerless against divine Love.

This inspiration guided me forward as I drove to the cemetery in my city. I had felt impelled to join those helping to clean up the vandalism, and saw the need to pray to overcome the tragedy and the sense that this kind of hatred for a group was a repetitive, burdensome weight on so many people.

A traffic jam that lengthened my drive gave me the opportunity to pray even deeper for a more uplifted, healing view, and this prayer led me to the realization that God’s divine, loving presence is what really fills all space. I prayed to know that where the darkness called hatred or fear appeared to define people, spiritual light could uplift their experience and illuminate their true nature. I could trust this biblical assurance: “There is no fear in love; but perfect love casteth out fear” (I John 4:18). I asked God to help me bear witness to the light of divine Love while serving at the cleanup of the site.

When I arrived, more than a thousand people of various faiths and ethnic backgrounds had turned up to help restore the cemetery. I felt a spirit of joyous cooperation and love permeate our cleanup. Spontaneous hugs and cheer were the order of the day, and our hosts expressed much gratitude for our help. To me, the outpouring of love was a deep and holy expression of divine Love radiating victory over the evil of hatred. National and international news reports affirmed the remarkable cooperative effort of people in support of those affected by this crime.

Although there’s much work to be done in resolving the issues that led to the vandalism, this tangible evidence of the light of divine Love dispelling the darkness of fear or hatred gives me hope to move forward. I’m encouraged to more consistently see that the true nature of man is to express the light of spiritual goodness, where fear and hatred have no place.

Science and Health says: “At all times and under all circumstances, overcome evil with good. Know thyself, and God will supply the wisdom and the occasion for a victory over evil. Clad in the panoply of Love, human hatred cannot reach you. The cement of a higher humanity will unite all interests in the one divinity” (p. 571).

Bearing witness to God’s infinite and impartial love reveals Love’s healing presence and redeeming care for all.