Beyond debate and dialogue
A Christian Science perspective.
When I reach for the “off” button on my media device, it’s sometimes because I’ve heard and seen enough. We’re in an election cycle where the airwaves are heated with rancor and partisan bickering. We’re also witnessing a dynamic change in the way people communicate, with the advent of Twitter, Facebook, and YouTube enabling individuals to become their own public broadcaster. This has led to the start-up of social movements around the world and the ability to quickly influence public opinion at home and abroad.
It’s easy to get caught up in this tidal flow of information. How can we navigate our way through it, and think clearly enough, so that our contribution to the dialogue promotes progress and healing?
Ignoring the media is not the answer, because I’d like to contribute to the resolution of the world’s problems. But I’m finding that this demands lifting thought above the attention-grabbing headlines and being receptive to the spiritual facts about God’s creation. These facts are found in an inspired reading of the Bible, which reveals man as spiritual and good (see Genesis, Chap. 1), and as naturally drawn to God, man’s source of light. The Bible says, “Ye are all the children of light, and the children of the day: we are not of the night, nor of darkness” (I Thessalonians 5:5). As children of light we can be attracted only to the light – to goodness, to whatever uplifts and inspires thought.
Yet the world tells us something different: that the more sensational or controversial a story, the more appealing it is and the more likely it is to draw an audience. Challenging such assumptions can be the starting point in healing impositions like this which attempt to bring down the level of discourse and thought. Mary Baker Eddy, who discovered Christian Science, made this arresting statement: “In a world of sin and sensuality hastening to a greater development of power, it is wise earnestly to consider whether it is the human mind or the divine Mind which is influencing one” (“Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures,” pp. 82-83). Rather than allow opinions to influence thought, or media headlines to darken our outlook and become the story line to our day, I’ve found it helpful to affirm that God, divine Mind, is the only influence in our lives.
Each day brings opportunities to prove this and to discern the spiritual innocence of every man, woman, and child. God-derived qualities such as integrity, love, health, artistry, and intelligence manifest themselves day-in and day-out, and this is certainly worthy of our attention.
There have been periods in my life when a growing understanding of contemporary issues made me more critical of people and events in the news. Also, I would chafe at the opinions and commentary of certain media personalities and their political ideologies, found at both ends of the political spectrum. Sometimes my anger stemmed from the fear of their harmful influence on society. I would be drawn into arguments over various social and political issues, feeling justified in my remarks and ready to score a point. However, very seldom did I leave a conversation feeling satisfied or at peace.
When I realized that contentious discourse – being audience to it or engaging in it – didn’t contribute to the healing of individual or collective thought, I decided to change course. I tried to use the day’s headlines as a springboard for affirming what is spiritually true about government and economy, the environment and the health and safety of humanity. Debate and dialogue can be useful in the exchange of ideas when done with respect and a willingness to move conversation forward. However, finding solutions through civil and progressive discourse, rather than friction or incivility, meant spending more time in prayer, yielding to a deeper understanding of God and His creation.
I was ready to move beyond the battlefield of political opinion and mentally engage not with the media pundits but with spiritual ideas – the word of God, the healing message of Christ, Truth. Exercising my God-given spiritual sense in seeing the world through God’s eyes, rather than making judgments about people and organizations or drawing conclusions that furthered a certain political ideology, was a way I could lovingly and figuratively put my arms around my family, my friends, and the world.
The example of Jesus has been instructive. He conducted his healing ministry in the midst of political and religious struggle, and allowed himself to be influenced only divinely. He blessed and healed others with a fresh sense of God’s mercy.
We can contribute to the public weal by following Jesus’ example. Whether the day’s headlines or heated political commentary comes to us through high definition or stereo, a tweet, or a web page, we have an opportunity – even a duty – to offer a prayer-based response that will carry us, and our community, forward.