HARDLY a day goes by that we don't see something on television or in newspapers that relates to the quest for liberty somewhere in the world. Some seek to be freed from the slavery of apartheid, others from corrupt or despotic leaders. The fact that the United States will shortly be celebrating its independence for the two hundred and thirteenth time is a opportunity to ask ourselves just what liberty is. The precious nature of liberty is not lost on those nations for whom it is still more an ideal than fact. For them it represents more than a political system. It is an idea, a concept of man's freedom from slavery and subjugation.
In this deeper sense, even those who may think of themselves as living in ``liberated'' nations are not yet fully free. For some of us, the road to slavery may be one of deception and dishonesty. We may be allowing ourselves to be enslaved by addiction to drugs, gambling, promiscuity. Sickness and disability are also slave masters, forcing us to lead limited lives.
Sometimes the erosion of our freedom is so gradual that we do not even realize it is being worn away until conditions seem unredeemable. Yet like the American revolutionaries, we can overthrow our oppressors. And we achieve this goal through following the teachings of Christ Jesus.
When Jesus came, the impact of his teaching and healing was revolutionary. For the first time someone was showing people their spiritual freedom from the tyranny of sin, sickness, and death. He was not afraid of the political or the religious authorities, because he understood that man's relationship to God is the primary truth on which all real existence is based.
The freedom that he offered was not the freedom of political tracts. Jesus told those who believed in him, ``If ye continue in my word, then are ye my disciples indeed; and ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.''1 This truth is that man is spiritual, the child of God. And God loves His children -- all of them.
What Jesus taught is still relevant today. In fact, Mary Baker Eddy, who discovered and founded Christian Science, was convinced through her own experience of Christian healing that Jesus' teachings -- if followed fully -- would enable us to heal as he did. She also saw, however, that achieving this freedom was no easy task. She writes, ``The history of our country, like all history, illustrates the might of Mind, and shows human power to be proportionate to its embodiment of right thinking.'' And she continues, ``Legally to abolish unpaid servitude in the United States was hard; but the abolition of mental slavery is a more difficult task.''2
Physical oppression is generally easier to spot than mental slavery. The outward effects of a government's torture of its citizens are sooner or later visible. Yet to come to grips with the mental attitudes that lead to such conditions is challenging because these underlying causes are often invisible. Apathy, fear, greed, and ignorance are some reasons why tyranny can flourish. Habitually accepting evil is another, as when, for instance, a person becomes accustomed to hating someone or accepting some illegal activity or putting up with dishonest officials. Eventually, it becomes difficult to think of doing anything other than what we are used to.
This is where prayer can help us to break free. God is, in fact, our Father, and we can turn to Him in every need. But more than this, He is all-loving and all-knowing Mind. This Mind is infinite, not finite. And because Mind is all-powerful, it cannot be enslaved. As the children of Mind, God, we must be like Him. Therefore, we must be spiritual and free.
We prove this to be true when we begin to think of ourselves as spiritual ideas of the one Mind. Our view of life changes. The enslaving habits and proclivities of matter-based thinking become more obvious and repugnant to us. We see how often the desire for a few drinks or drugs relates to a mental condition such as depression, anger, or frustration. And we begin to recognize that beyond this limited, material picture there is another way of living -- one that liberates.
As we acknowledge our relationship to God, we affirm that He cares for us as our Father. By praying to feel His presence in our lives, we change our focus from the material to the spiritual. We begin to reject the belief that we can be programmed to slavery through drugs, acceptance of cruelty from others, or willful indulgence in sin. As we do this, the slave masters of materiality gradually begin to lose their grip on us.
When one gets accustomed to thinking in spiritual terms and to responding only to God, it doesn't take a lot of effort to begin to think of one's friends and even the world in those terms. For example, one time I was with two colleagues in a meeting with the dean of the college where we worked. He was extremely difficult to work with. Sometimes he was simply tyrannical.
At this meeting, he was insisting that we do something that was not only impossible but of questionable wisdom. So I prayed to know that the intelligence of Mind, God, was present and was governing the situation. As I did this, the atmosphere in the room quieted. In a few minutes and with no persuasion on our part, the dean reversed what he had been demanding of us.
Obviously these are small examples. But we have to start somewhere. And these little liberations do help our world. Each time one of us refuses to be enslaved, he or she has lessened to a degree the apathy, fear, or ignorance that are the basis of all slavery. Each time we reach out in prayer for our world, claiming its freedom and its government by God, not by oppression, the forces of liberty are strengthened.
1John 8:31, 32. 2Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures, p. 225. You can find more articles like this in the Christian Science Sentinel, a weekly magazine.