INNOCENT children, women, and men held hostage against their will often become pawns in political situations. An Irishman, Brian Keenan, a teacher in Beirut who was captured and held hostage for over four years, spoke of his ordeal at a news conference after his release. He commented wryly, "I continually told myself that they could only take my liberty, not my freedom.There are other kinds of oppression too that keep people in prison. Is there anything that can be done to snap such chains of oppression? The Bible can offer amazingly contemporary-sounding accounts of those who turned to God for help in times of oppression and were set free. David and Elijah are examples from the Old Testament. And Christ Jesus proved that even the walls of a tomb could not cut him off from God's all-powerful love. The Master's understanding of his oneness with his Father enabled him to triumph over death. His resurrection proved decisively forever that man in God's likeness is spiritual and indestructible, and that God, Spirit, is able to free people from hatred, cruelty, and even death. In fact, the story of the beginning of Christianity illustrates that men and women can experience an inner freedom which is not dependent on human ordinances or mere obedience to external codes but which rests on divine law and the reality of man's relationship to God as His offspring. Christ--the true idea of God, which Jesus demonstrated so consistently--can still cut through oppression's chains. Mary Baker Eddy, who discovered and founded Christian Science, longed to help mankind find lasting freedom from all kinds of tyranny. She saw that liberty is gained by a fuller understanding of God as the Father of all and the only lawgiver, as the Saviour taught. In Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures she writes: "Human codes, scholastic theology, material medicine and hygiene, fetter faith and spiritual understanding. Divine Science rends asunder these fetters, and man's birthright of sole allegiance to his Maker asserts itself. Prayer reaches beyond the parameters of self to the spiritual reality of man's true freedom and dominion as God's image and likeness. Prayer removes seemingly insuperable obstacles; it shows us that God's omnific power is adequate to break down imprisoning walls and set captives free. There is a vivid illustration of this in the book of Acts. The Apostle Peter, who had been preaching Christianity in Jerusalem, was thrust into prison on the orders of Herod. But the narrative says that "prayer was made without ceasing of the church unto God for him. One night, even though Peter was chained and held between two soldiers, "the angel of the Lord . . . smote Peter on the side, and raised him up, saying, Arise up quickly. And his chains fell off from his hands. The apostle then followed the angel to the iron gate that led to the city, which opened of its own accord and Peter was free. Christian Science shows that prayer is practical. It can break through physical barriers that appear to hold people in bondage. Our individual prayers and those of our churches make a very real difference today in helping free humanity from all kinds of oppression.
This is a condensed version of an editorial that appeared in the January 14 issue of the Christian Science Sentinel.