For centuries, people of different races, creeds, social status, sexes, and even political leanings, have encountered varying degrees of discrimination from those offended by them. Some types of discrimination seem almost to verge on being harmless, while others have filled our world history books with vile records of "man's inhumanity to man."
The bizarre and unconscionable beating of Matthew Shepard in Laramie, Wyoming, apparently triggered because he was a homosexual, jolted me to recognize the crying need to pray deeply and earnestly about the age-old, entrenched thought-patterns of discrimination.
I thought about one man's long-ago encounter with angry, self-righteous, "law-abiding" members of his community and synagogue - who, when they found a woman committing adultery, took up arms to beat her to death with stones.
The members of her community were offended by her lifestyle. Also, their religious law, which they so sincerely felt came from God, demanded that she be unmercifully beaten for this act. What else could they do but stone her?
Yet, these people paused for a moment, turned to this upstart young preacher, and threw the problem at his feet. They wanted to know what this man, who had been putting forth many new and startling views of God's laws - and with such authority - would say they should do.
The man, of course, was Jesus, and his first response was to stoop down and write on the ground. Perhaps he was praying about the issue. When he turned to the crowd, he asked them to examine their own lives (see John 8:1-11).
I don't think he was simply trying to get those people to point an accusing finger at themselves. He may have been alerting them to recognize that what troubled them must be dealt with first in the consciousness of every individual; that viciously condemning anyone wouldn't resolve the issue, but merely cause destruction.
Could it be that Christ Jesus' pure spirituality enabled him to look beyond the situation, to hold his own thought steadily to what he knew to be the fact about every man, woman, and child's spiritual nature as the child of God? Yes, it was this recognition of everyone's original and innocent identity that not only saved the woman from harm, but also delivered the people from committing an act of murder.
And what about us? Can we put into practice this profound lesson in our times - deal as successfully and sensibly with the polarization and self-justification and hate crime of the 1990s as Jesus did 2,000 years ago?
Why not? He passed the torch to us to do the works that he did, express our own original Christlikeness, and put love for God and our neighbor first on our daily to-do list.
Through heartfelt prayer, we, too, can vigorously condemn hatred or any evil as no part of our nature or the nature of our fellow beings as children of God. If inclinations to hurt someone assail us, we can pray - literally slam our mental door shut and keep out these unwelcome intruders. We can identify ourselves and others as innocent, the spiritual offspring of our wholly good and perfect Father-Mother, God. We can discriminate between our own wrong and right thinking. Choose the right. And see that our actions follow suit. We can trust the law of God to govern and redeem each and every individual.
The founder of this newspaper, Mary Baker Eddy, established it on the grounds that it would "injure no man, but ... bless all mankind." She strongly recommended the power of prayer to end (ultimately) all discrimination, all hate crime: "For many years I have prayed daily that there be no more war, no more barbarous slaughtering of our fellow-beings; prayed that all the peoples on earth and the islands of the sea have one God, one Mind; love God supremely, and love their neighbor as themselves" ("The First Church of Christ, Scientist, and Miscellany," Pg. 286).
As we all join hands in this kind of prayer, our hands and our hearts will be too full to throw stones!