Ethnocentric or God-Centered?
IN the wake of the tragic, apparently racially motivated murder of a teenager in a New York City borough, a resident commented despairingly that the city ``is one nationality against another.''1 Sadly, these words might describe other locations as well -- places as large as countries and as small as neighborhoods. Ethnic pride can have a positive effect, helping to give a sense of belonging and self-esteem. And society as a whole can be enriched and strengthened by ethnic diversity and an appreciation of both the uniqueness of and commonalities among different ethnic groups. But when pride hardens into exclusivity, suspicion, or hatred, it disrupts the fabric of daily life in little and big ways, and can lead to tragedy.
The Bible provides a surer route to belonging and self-esteem -- one that does not undermine the respect for others so essential to a stable society: ``Look unto me, and be ye saved, all the ends of the earth: for I am God, and there is none else.''2
Because ``there is none else'' than God, divine Love, who is only good, all creation is subject to His supreme authority. In the face of God's all-power, the rivalry and divisiveness of human factions must ultimately submit to the brotherhood of man as God's spiritual offspring.
What would prevent us from seeing these facts more clearly is a mistaken view of God. In Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures, Mary Baker Eddy, the Discoverer and Founder of Christian Science, writes, ``Because of human ignorance of the divine Principle, Love, the Father of all is represented as a corporeal creator; hence men recognize themselves as merely physical, and are ignorant of man as God's image or reflection and of man's eternal incorporeal existence.''3
As the Bible teaches, God is Spirit, unchanging, infinite Love, and man is His beloved likeness, wholly spiritual, expressing Godlike qualities such as wisdom, goodness, purity. To understand something of this truth helps free us, to a degree, from looking solely at material characteristics to define our own or others' identity. Instead, we look to God to learn more of our spiritual selfhood. We do this by aligning our thoughts and deeds more closely with His law of good. Centering our lives more wholeheartedly on God helps us to see more fully man's God-given capacity to discern the spiritual truth that material views of God and man seem to obscure.
A traveler had a simple experience that helped him glimpse something of the effectiveness of acknowledging the brotherhood of God's children. He was lost in a country where he couldn't speak the language. Yet as he stood on a busy street, praying to know what to do, he was encouraged by a great feeling of brotherhood that stemmed from his understanding of the spiritual fact that all those around him were really his brother, since in their true spiritual identity they were all God's offspring. He felt at home.
Shortly, a native of the country, apparently sensing his need for help, spoke to him. When he didn't understand, the questioner patiently tried a second language, which he was able to understand. His questioner showed him where to get the bus he needed and, since it was not yet due, invited him to a caf as his guest.
The traveler, a Christian Scientist, felt that in this small incident he and his new friend had been guided by the Christ. And later, in his job teaching students of many different lands and races, he found that what he was learning of the unbroken brotherhood of all God's children and of God as man's true universal Parent, brought greater joy and harmony to his work. As differences arose, he found that he was better equipped to resolve them peaceably.
Christ Jesus proved that in our genuine spiritual identity, we all -- every one -- belong to God, are completely loved by Him, and are governed only by His supreme law of good. Understanding fully God's love for man, Jesus did not exclude from his healing and teaching even those whose culture or class was despised by his countrymen. And with unsurpassed brotherly love, he charged his followers, ``Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature.''4
Brotherly love is not a naive hope. As we center our thoughts more consistently on all-powerful divine Love and listen for Christ, Truth, to lead us to a fuller awareness of our true relationship to God and to each other as God's children, we can increasingly give up negative reactions to ethnic differences. The result will be a growing respect for man's spiritual identity and an enlarged capacity to put brotherly love into action.
Mrs. Eddy writes, ``Spirit diversifies, classifies, and individualizes all thoughts, which are as eternal as the Mind conceiving them; but the intelligence, existence, and continuity of all individuality remain in God, who is the divinely creative Principle thereof.''5
In prayer, we can insist on the spiritual fact of man's oneness with God, which brings brotherhood to mankind. This not only enriches our own lives but contributes immeasurably to fostering genuine harmony in our neighborhoods and our world.
1The Washington Post, August 26, 1989. 2Isaiah 45:22. 3Science and Health, p. 13. 4Mark 16:15. 5Science and Health, p. 513.
BIBLE VERSE: I bow my knees unto the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, of whom the whole family in heaven and earth is named. Ephesians 3:14, 15