Morality in babies and guidance for adults
A Christian Science perspective.
One prevalent trend in thought these days is the general theme that many in fame’s spotlight – whether across the spectrum of sports, popular celebrity, scholarly mastery, religious service, or political achievement – eventually slide into various degrees of moral frailty and personal disaster. Though not a new theme, it seems very few days go by without hearing of a recognizable and sometimes well-respected individual’s moral demise.
It can seem perplexing that those with great gifts and talents can apparently squander them recklessly, even mindlessly. Didn’t their parents teach them well? Were they flawed from the start, or naively coerced? We might wonder who failed.
Contrast this with a concurrent emergence of thought recently in the news. On May 3, The New York Times featured an article called “The Moral Life of Babies.” For many years people believed that babies and toddlers take a long time to learn basic facts about the world, people, and morality. Studies conducted at Yale University have gathered evidence that overturns such assumptions and others long regarded as fact, put forth by Sigmund Freud and other well-known psychologists. According to the article, these early psychologists believed that “we begin life as amoral animals.” The recent, extensive tests given babies at Yale instead suggest that “humans do have a rudimentary moral sense from the very start of life.” Professor Paul Bloom, a member of the team of psychologists and students who designed and conducted the tests, stated, “I think one of the great discoveries in modern psychology is that this [long-held] view of babies is mistaken.”
Around the time Dr. Freud was coming to his conclusions in Germany, an American woman,
Mary Baker Eddy, was discovering a biblically based Science, Christian Science, that defined God’s creation, including God’s idea – you and me – as “spiritual and perfect” and “incapable of sin, sickness, and death.” These descriptions are excerpts from her answer to the question, “What is man?” in “Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures.”
Her premise and conclusion came from years of deep study to discern the spiritual sense of the Bible’s messages. It was that man, meaning the male and female of God’s creating, is innately and wholly good, the very manifestation of the loving and all-wise God. Sin, immorality, weakness, and so forth are not natural or innate to God’s offspring. They are impositions based on an inversion of divine intelligence, which she named “mortal mind.” Each of us is created to know good. And we wisely recognize and naturally reject evil because it is foreign to our inherent expectations and inclinations.
This divinely supported truth enables the earnest Christian heart to prayerfully peel away from oneself and from others – from neighbors, relatives, or the famous – an imposed and misdirected view of identity. We can lift off this heavy blanket called evil, by prayerfully peering into the goodness of our holy nature, which proceeds from God, good.
It is unnecessary for anyone to veer off the course of good when it is realized that we are supported by an established spiritual fact, based in spiritual reality – that man’s actual, self-possessed innocence is an incontrovertible, timeless truth. As Mrs. Eddy stated, challenging popular conceptions, “God could never impart an element of evil, and man possesses nothing which he has not derived from God” (Science and Health, p. 539). This fact simply needs to be claimed.
Doing so doesn’t invite the conscientious healer to avoid confrontation with apparent evil, but equips one to destroy it, as Christ Jesus did when he encountered and abruptly transformed the lives of so many. He retrieved Zacchaeus, for example, from dubious business practices which were righted through his encounter with his own true nature as God’s child, or the Christ. The Christ, the truth about man’s unity with good, properly identified Zacchaeus through beholding in him God’s integral goodness. It is never too late to discover one’s original righteousness and worth.
Inherent good not only belongs to each of us, but it is our right to see it in everyone. Doing this consistently constitutes habitual love, including the love with which we catch the eye of a baby and light up with mutual delight.
Adapted from the Christian Science Sentinel.