BASTILLE Day, last Tuesday, marked an anniversary of the beginning of the French Revolution. Looking at some of the social pressures we feel today and comparing them with that period bring out some thought-provoking parallels with our times. One writer, speaking of that period in history, says that the social problems "were more complex than the differences in tax burdens and the gap between rich and poor. He points out that "the acquisition of desirable places in the social hierarchy was practically clo sed to new families, no matter how much wealth or education they might have, and upward social mobility was extremely sluggish.
This lack of opportunity, coupled with other pressures and severe injustices, lay behind the explosion of violence and terror that accompanied the French Revolution. We have seen violent outbursts in the Los Angeles riots and elsewhere in North America and the world. But instead of being dismayed by them, we can learn from the lessons of the past and pray for a spiritual revolution in thought that will bring genuine peace and practical answers to these severe human problems.
Prayer is an important first step because it turns us to God, the Father of all creation and the source of all good. Reliance on God is truly revolutionary because turning to infinite Spirit enables us to reject the material limitations that make us feel helpless. And the best example of how God helps and heals humanity is given in Christ Jesus' ministry. Jesus never let himself be limited by finite measures. In one case, Matthew's Gospel records, he and his followers fed more than four thousand people w ith only seven loaves and a few fish. Through prayer, these resources were sufficient for all to be filled--and there were leftovers. In another case, related in Mark's Gospel, a man's child died before Jesus was able to come to the house and heal her. The situation looked hopeless. But Jesus told her father, "Be not afraid, only believe. And the girl was raised from the dead.
These two Biblical accounts show that lack and even the apparent death of hope do not need to limit our prayers. Just as Jesus turned to God for inspiration, direction, and healing, we can turn to this loving Father for solutions to today's problems, in our own communities and elsewhere.
The prayer we may find most effective is the one given by Jesus and called The Lord's Prayer. It begins, "our Father. This one statement immediately unites us all, no matter what our background. As we accept our unity within this one spiritual family, we find that we can love each other more readily.
Still, there are things that we canand don't have to--accept in our lives. Hatred, selfishness, dishonesty, are just a few. These argue that limitation rules the day and that the only way to get what we need is to fight with others for it. Each of us may be tempted to accept such mortal elements as supposedly necessary strategies for survival. But as we understand our unity with God, we see that they are ultimately ineffective. Their attractiveness fades and finally disappears.
This occurs because we are beginning to live as the fully spiritual and free children of the one God, Love. Hatred becomes more difficult to indulge, and fear loses its grip as we begin to reject the picture of an evil "other and to recognize all as in truth the children of God.
For example, several years ago my car broke down in a strange city. I was a white woman, alone, in a predominantly black neighborhood, and night was not far off. Several black men started toward me. Although I have had many interracial contacts, the rough neighborhood in an unfamiliar city and the serious nature of the problem with the car made me feel quite fearful. And in my anxiety I locked myself out of the car.
I prayed to know that there was only one God, one Father, governing all of us and that we could be in harmony. As I turned wholeheartedly to God, I did feel His presence and I saw it expressed in an unexpected way.
The first man to get to the car turned out to be a minister, and when he and I were able to speak kindly to one another, the others--whose faces had been more suspicious and less friendly-- suddenly became warmer. By the time the repair truck came, I had learned many things about their lives, had met some of their children, and had even heard about some of their aspirations. It was an experience that I still cherish.
Each of us can choose how to respond to events. We can opt for love as Christ Jesus taught it. Such a spiritual response will help to determine the course of the social revolution and head it toward more harmony and opportunity for all.
Mary Baker Eddy, the Discoverer and Founder of Christian Science, speaks of the material drives that must be given up in order for healing to take place. In her Miscellaneous Writings she says: "The pent-up elements of mortal mind need no terrible detonation to free them. Envy, rivalry, hate need no temporary indulgence that they may be destroyed through suffering; they should be stifled from lack of air and freedom.
These destructive elements, not people, are what need to be stifled in order for the spiritual revolution toward brotherhood to take place. And each of us can recognize the inherently spiritual nature of man and his freedom from any tendency toward evil of any kind. As we pray this way, we find that we are less tempted to indulge the mortal characteristics that lead to violence.
Each time we view events in which destructive elements seem to be in control, let's pray to find God's presence in our lives and in the world, moving it toward peace. This commitment to spiritual--not material--revolution will bring healing to our world.