Pride or Prejudice?

IN the large city I live near, one can hear Greek, French, Spanish, Cambodian, and a host of other tongues spoken. There is substantial ethnic pride among all groups (including the English-speaking cultures) and much sharing of customs. Almost anything that helps us to find common ground is good and useful. But sometimes instead of encouraging unity, pride gets twisted into another track -- one that encourages pride as a mask for prejudice against other ethnic, religious, or racial groups. Often, the basis for this warping is fear -- fear that the other group will get more advantages, will take away one's job or housing, will ``overrun'' the schools and affect one's children.

Such feelings are not new, of course. As long ago as the days of the prophets and of Christ Jesus there were groups, even among the Jews, who were especially proud of their heritage and looked down on others who didn't share that background. Since Samaritans were among the despised groups, Jesus' parable about the Good Samaritan -- who acted wisely and compassionately where a priest and a Levite had not -- had an added impact for his listeners.

Throughout the New Testament, however, it is clear that Christ Jesus, the disciples, and other early Christians were striving to open people's thoughts to a more universal sense of God's love for all humanity. Paul expressed this universal love succinctly when he wrote to the Galatians: ``There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female: for ye are all one in Christ Jesus. And if ye be Christ's, then are ye Abraham's seed, and heirs according to the promise.''

No matter what our ethnic, racial, or religious background, each of us has a heritage of good and of love from God. In truth you and I -- and everyone -- are actually spiritual ideas of God, of divine Mind. As Mind's ideas, we can never be separated from our creator. Whether we are Albanians, Liberians, or Brazilians is not the deciding factor in the good that God gives because He knows man in spiritual, not material, terms.

Since God is infinite Love, His good can never run out or be insufficient. As we understand ourselves to be ideas of infinite Love, we begin to see that our relationship to Love is direct. We don't need to get God's love through someone else; nor can another deprive us of His love. By the same token, however, we need to understand that we cannot deprive others of God's goodness. Since good is infinite, it doesn't deprive me if you are given something wonderful. The good you experience is uniquely yours from God. Nor does others' progress deprive us of the good meant for us.

The key to proving this is our capacity to love our neighbor as Christ Jesus said we are to do. Sometimes this requires deep self-examination so that we can see beyond ethnic, racial, or religious barriers and find the common spiritual likeness that joins all of us together. As Mary Baker Eddy, the Discoverer and Founder of Christian Science, says in Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures, ``We should examine ourselves and learn what is the affection and purpose of the heart, for in this way only can we learn what we honestly are.''

When we see that, special as our ethnic heritage is, we have a deeper, spiritual inheritance that comes to us from God, we will be learning ``what we honestly are.'' And as we explore this heritage, seeing how it brings us together in mutual respect for each other and for God, we will find the fears of loss at the hands of others beginning to lift from our shoulders. We will be seeing that ethnic hatreds have no place in a world where love of our neighbor brings each of us permanent peace and happiness.

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