A SENSE of community is a remarkable thing. Not only can it produce tolerance for differentness, but it also brings strength and unity for accomplishment. Many believe, though, that community is deteriorating. There is plenty of evidence to support such a conclusion -- crime, drug traffic, terrorism, gangs. Yet some refuse to join in the doomsaying. In a book called Warming Fires: The Quest for Community in America the author some years ago caught the spirit of the trend. He wrote: ``Today, I believe, we are being offered good news that is...momentous and liberating. It is the message that we are henceforth free to care for one another. It is the assurance that caring itself is reason enough for the human enterprise. It is the discovery that nothing else matters as much. It is the promise that caring will go on, indeed flourish, amid the troubles of civilization. For some of us, and I include myself in this number, the ultimate guarantee of the matter is that God cares for us, and that we act out that divine care, make it real, as we care for others.''1 That kind of caring is genuine responsiveness to a deeply felt, inner spiritual impulsion. For Christians the Apostle Paul made the distinction when he said that if he gave all his goods to the poor and had not charity, or love, little was actually happening.
It is an old lesson that takes on new life as we think through its full implications. A city or community is not just buildings and streets; it is essentially a community of thought. We contribute what we are to the mental atmosphere. Either we add our portion of fear and suspicion, scorn and division, or we get on with giving the selfless love that is real and substantial. This latter contribution is the most significant one that anyone can make.
Christian Science emphasizes the value of remembering that the actual source of this love is divine. As the Bible tells us, ``Beloved, let us love one another: for love is of God.''2 And this fact of divine Love newly recognized can bring out so much more of community and the brotherhood of man. Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures by Mary Baker Eddy, the Discoverer and Founder of Christian Science, makes the point: ``The great miracle, to human sense, is divine Love, and the grand necessity of existence is to gain the true idea of what constitutes the kingdom of heaven in man. This goal is never reached while we hate our neighbor or entertain a false estimate of anyone whom God has appointed to voice His Word.''3
Hate simply can't coexist with any strong realization of the practical power of genuine, original Christianity. It doesn't really matter a great deal who is being temporarily used by hate, suspicion, or other tools of division. Those who are strengthened through prayer on a scientific and spiritual basis can refuse to give anyone over to what attempts to possess them individually or as a community. What is most needed, then, is the growing understanding that whatever has been built of community has its basis in the fact of divine Love's care. We can take this reality as the new, utterly practical basis for building more community. It makes sense to enlarge our comprehension of why there is community at all -- and why there can naturally be so much more.
1James Sellers, Warming Fires (New York: The Seabury Press, 1975), p. 163. 2I John 4:7. 3Science and Health, p. 560.
This is a condensed version of an editorial that appeared in the January 15 issue of the Christian Science Sentinel.