Occupy Wall Street, tea party: Do we join in?

A Christian Science perspective.

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According to polls, tea party and “Occupy Wall Street” protesters agree on some things. They both share some common feelings – fear and anger that the country is heading in the wrong direction and jeopardizing our economic security. Some even agree on the solution! A recent WSJ/NBC poll found 38 percent feel that power of both corporations and government needs to be cut back.

Fear and anger often dominate the political stage, featuring butting opinions, exaggerated rhetoric, political slogans, and oversized personalities. People on both sides become offended, emotions erupt, huge demonstrations dominate the news, and too often nothing changes. Asking, Why did this happen? and, How can we fix this? are good first steps. The question is, Can protests be more than just noise? Can they accomplish real change? Yes.

Monitor founder Mary Baker Eddy wrote, “When the heart speaks, however simple the words, its language is always acceptable to those who have hearts” (“Miscellaneous Writings 1883-1896,” p. 262). This language of the heart can apply to Occupy Wall Street, the tea party, or our own cause or protest. Instead of reacting with our own turbulence, we can translate these protests with our hearts. This can help us find calm and possibly glimpse some common ground.

Jesus did this. Mrs. Eddy wrote this about him: “He plunged beneath the material surface of things, and found the spiritual cause” (“Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures,” p. 313). Jesus watched and listened with his heart, compassion, and patience, more than with his eyes and ears. Watching and listening with our heart, our intuition, and our love, we, too, can plunge beneath the political fray that may repulse us, and sense perhaps some glimmers of legitimate issues and valid ideas. This gives us a basis to support rather than to criticize.

Here are a few ways to look at these protests with our hearts:

First, we can help put fear aside. Fear is a poor motivator. It stifles creative ideas and critical thinking, both useful skills in finding answers. Fear weakens and drags everything down. We can replace the negative energy of fear with hope, faith, and ultimately a heartfelt conviction that progress is inevitable.

Elements of hope, faith, and spiritual conviction, not fear, are already active and present within everyone’s heart. They form the real spark of rebellion impelling protests against evil of any kind. They are seen in the intuition that keeps insisting that good triumphs over evil. They constitute our real identity as sons and daughters of an all-powerful, all-good God. These kindled fires of hope, faith, and spiritual conviction chase away fear’s darkness and stagnation. Cherishing these elements of character as the real nature of everyone, we’ll see courage, conviction, and progress steadily replacing fear.

Second, we can help remove anger and hate. While fear slows or stops progress, these emotions throw it into reverse gear. Anger and hate destroy, tear down, and injure in the name of doing good. When indulged, they maneuver us and others from the express lane to the U-turn lane, heading away from our destination.

The Bible tells us we are “rooted and grounded in love” (Ephesians 3:17). If we find ourselves (or someone we know) heading in the wrong direction, gripped by irritation, resentment, or hostility, we can mentally pull over and hear this Scripture say something like this: “No, these negative feelings, plans, or directions don’t belong to you or anyone. Nothing can uproot the kindness and charity and tenderness God has planted in each of us. Everyone is free to turn around right now and start making real progress.”

Third, we can help keep the focus on ideas, issues, and solutions, rather than on people and personalities. Blaming unjust situations on a specific individual – linking the problem to a person instead of to an issue – doubles our trouble. Fear, hate, and anger harden hearts and viewpoints, freeze out fresh points of view, and condemn a person to permanent wrongdoing. This tends to entrench evil rather than bring reform.

Passionate action “rooted and grounded in love” gets more traction. Striving to dissolve fear, anger, and hate softens and opens hearts and minds on all sides and fosters reformed views and actions. The love in our hearts will often speak more loudly and more effectively than the words we choose. Hearts on every side of an issue can then be touched and changed for good.

We can all do better by more closely following Jesus’ approach – plunging beneath the surface, watching and listening with our heart instead of our head to protests and protesters. Beneath the commotion and noise and personalities, we can practice letting our heart listen to their hearts.

We all have fears to overcome, motives to uplift, and people we need to love more. We all are protesters in some way. Let’s join hearts with other protesters throughout the world in a common goal to make things better. Letting our hearts speak out to other listening hearts – this is a good way, and a satisfying way, to make a difference.

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