Meeting terrorism with prayer

THE images have come pouring into our living rooms. Images of hostages--whether taken in Iran a few years ago, kidnapped in the last year and a half in Lebanon, or seized on the flight out of Athens airport. The result is that we sometimes wind up feeling just what terrorism would want us to feel: helplessness. Sometimes, rage. What we need to do--and can do--is help through prayer, prayer that digs down deep into the Christly soil of divine justice, forgiveness, and redemption. Such prayer needs to spring from the unshakable conviction that the real nature of man is utterly spiritual, that he is not subject to brute force but is governed and sustained by the law of God. The prayer with which Jesus met those who saw themselves as his enemies can show us the way to free ourselves and others from captivity of every kind. That's because it's based on an understanding that God will help. ``It is neither Science nor Truth which acts through blind belief, nor is it the human understanding of the divine healing Principle as manifested in Jesus, whose humble prayers were deep and conscientious protests of Truth,--of man's likeness to God and of man's unity with Truth and Love,'' 1 writes Mary Baker Eddy, the Discoverer and Founder of Christian Science. In another place she writes, referring to Christian Science, ``It shows the scientific relation of man to God, disentangles the interlaced ambiguities of being, and sets free the imprisoned thought.'' 2 In the garden of Gethsemane, Jesus rebuked Peter's rash action in cutting off the ear of one who had come to imprison the master Christian. He reached out to heal the stricken man.3 In the words and deeds of Jesus during the night and day that followed--and throughout his three-year ministry--we can gain valuable understanding about the most potent way to meet the threat of terrorism. He taught his disciples to pray, ``Forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors.'' 4 And he showed, by his handling of antagonistic forces, and incontrovertibly by his resurrection, that his form of forgiveness went far beyond simply dismissing an offense. He clearly recognized that man in his true spiritual being, as the reflection of divine intelligence and Love, can neither take a hostage nor be a hostage. Neither a Roman prison nor a Jewish grave could hold the manhood that Jesus naturally expressed as the Son of God. After the resurrection and ascension, Peter explained that Jesus rose from death ``because it was not possible that he should be holden of it.'' 5 This doesn't mean that we condone terrorism--clearly it should be condemned as inexcusable. But we need to gain a clear view of man's true nature as God's likeness, and see the enemy in impersonal terms, in order to deal with it most effectively. In the face of terrorism the actual enemy is not a band of law- less mortals but that carnal-mindedness which is the antithesis of divine law; and the actual intended victim is embodied in those God-derived qualities of independence, lawfulness, reason, and concern for individual rights that are represented in just government and that can never be overthrown. Governments may need to act decisively at times to curb terrorism. But it is up to the individual to find the healing, forgiving love--love springing from at least some perception of man's actual, spiritual nature--that will act to free captives and captors from the belief that man can ever be imprisoned. Such prayer-based love works to free those held prisoner in the same way that Peter was freed from prison by an ``angel of the Lord'' when the church prayed in his behalf.6 Today we stand as friends of all those threatened by terrorism, urged to action and yet wondering how we should act. Do we draw a sword of revenge in our own thought? There's an infinitely better, more powerful course of action to take. We can see fear and a sense of helplessness dissolve before the steady conviction that shadowy pretenders to power cannot possibly imprison man, the image and likeness of God. Then, freed from fear, we can regard the unwitting puppets of the carnal mind with the utmost love and forgiveness. Far from ``doing nothing'' or ignoring evil, such prayer is a powerful help. Through our prayers we can help set the captives free. 1 Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures, p. 12. 2 Ibid., p. 114. 3 See John 18:10, 11; Luke 22:50, 51. 4 Matthew 6:12. 5 Acts 2:24. 6 See Acts 12.{et

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