We were on our way home from church on a December morning when my father suggested we stop at the local airport, which had a restaurant, for a light lunch. While we were eating, we heard the news of the attack on Pearl Harbor on the small radio behind the counter. My parents drove home in silence.
This memory of a 12-year-old came to mind when I heard of the attack on the World Trade Center Sept. 11. In the weeks since then, the event has seemed to grow in significance to rival December 7. (I thought I was too old to experience another December 7!) With each war, the weapons grow more destructive. And in this war, if one wants to call it that, the nations of the world face a new phenomenon. They are engaged not in battling another nation but in fighting a conspiracy that has no single venue. What, under these circumstances, any sensitive individual must be asking himself, can I do?
Toward the end of her life, the founder of this newspaper, Mary Baker Eddy, was frequently asked to comment on public issues. At one time she wrote, "For many years I have prayed daily that there be no more war, no more barbarous slaughtering of our fellow-beings ..." ("The First Church of Christ, Scientist, and Miscellany," pg. 286). In thinking about her statement, I had to face the question of whether praying for peace is actually a demand made on me in the present situation.
Few of us are called on to do actual fighting. And, as much as we read or listen to the news, it is difficult to sort out all the factors or try to construct solutions to past injustices - many of which are more serious than we may have imagined, especially when viewed from the perspective of other cultures. But just as I am learning from the study of Christian Science that the solution to any individual problem is a prayer centered on God's allness and love for His creation, I can take the mental stand that even a problem as big as a war does not lie outside of God's control.
Such a prayer does not ask God to be on "our" side. Such a prayer acknowledges God's love for all His children, for all races, and the activity of God, the divine Principle, as a divine adjudicator able to resolve human injustices. Such a prayer acknowledges that God, as divine Mind, operates universally and controls the thoughts and motives of all His children. It acknowledges the presence, everywhere, of divine Love, another word for God. And where Love exists, neither fear for ourselves nor hatred of others can gain a foothold. Many other thoughts have come to me in praying for peace. But they have come only as I have begun to think of it as my individual obligation.
Is such a prayer fatuous? Not if we pay attention to the advice Jesus gave in what we recognize as the Beatitudes, when he said, "Blessed are the peacemakers: for they shall be called the children of God" (Matt. 5:9). Wars themselves may seem to solve a problem for a time. But most wars breed hatred that in turn fosters future wars. Thus, while war as self-defense may be necessary, we need to pray for the wisdom, love, and forgiveness that can heal the wounds of war and redress legitimate grievances.
Few of us are combatants under arms. Few of us sit in councils where negotiations take place. And very few of us would even pretend to understand all of the complexities of some of the issues behind the present scene. But if we realize the importance for the entire human race of ending all war and the causes of war, each of us can humbly pray to see that the activity of God is present in human affairs and is able to end hatred and fear. This, in fact, is our individual battle station.
For yet a little while, and
the wicked shall not be:
yea, thou shalt diligently
consider his place,
and it shall not be.
But the meek shall inherit
the earth; and shall delight themselves in the
abundance of peace.
Psalms 37:10, 11