Many will be pausing this week to remember the events of September 11, 2001. While reassessing the impact of the damage and response, it helps to keep in mind the immeasurable - the power of desire to keep moving toward something resembling a better world. The global silent majority is hungrier than ever for peace and order.
There was some small hint of a better world in the way New York, Detroit, Cleveland, and other places responded to the Big Blackout in the northeastern US and Canada - in the calm and order that prevailed, in acts of kindness.
The recent suicide bombings in Jerusalem and Baghdad make it harder to detect the hints of hope for peace and peaceful transition.
But the darker it gets, the more we yearn for light.
The seeds of peace are there, in those cities, in the hearts of their people, as surely as the one Maker loves us as one creation.
A Hebrew psalm urges, "Pray for the peace of Jerusalem" (Ps. 122:6), and then promises prosperity to those who love the city. Jerusalem has meaning beyond its history of turmoil. It represents the universal idea of dwelling together under the control of one God. We all live in Jerusalem. We're all responsible for its peace. Jerusalem embraces New York, Baghdad, even a town of 200 in northern Vermont.
I can't remember now the issues that divided our hometown a few years ago, but that plea to pray for peace in Jerusalem came to my wife and me as an imperative to make a silent contribution toward peacemaking. We can't always see the immediate impact of prayer, or measure it, but I'm convinced that only God's transforming influence can change the thinking that divides and incites. And sectarian violence isn't confined to global flashpoints where major religious groups are in conflict. It exists wherever people allow themselves to be divided into feuding camps and clans.
It requires a person's consent to see others as "the Other." What is the fatal attraction to otherness - to hatred of those who are different? How are strong feelings about identity and deeply held religious or ideological beliefs manipulated to trigger violent acts?
A century before scientists researched the nocebo effect - the phenomenon of negative, fearful thoughts causing harm - Mary Baker Eddy investigated mental evil, or "animal magnetism," as she termed it. She saw that those who do not defend themselves spiritually against evil motives can be harmed or made to harm others, solely by mental means.
She wrote that this mental influence "impels mortal mind into error of thought, and tempts into the committal of acts foreign to the natural inclinations. The victims lose their individuality, and lend themselves as willing tools to carry out the designs of their worst enemies, even those who would induce their self-destruction" ("The First Church of Christ, Scientist, and Miscellany," page 211).
Hearts go out to families devastated by suicide bombings. But how different might the response be to the threat of bombings if it were understood that those who strap on bombs, or drive explosive-laden trucks, are also victims? I don't mean victims in the pop psychological sense. Evil is evil, but God didn't make it and doesn't send it. Suicide bombers are really victims, also, because they're driven by hypnotic, malicious deception to believe that killing people in God's name is a blessed act.
More defense is going up. Malicious force is being met with military force. These may be today's necessities.
But mental evil wants forceful reaction, in order to justify more evil. It's an endless deadly cycle.
For what are essentially mind-wars, the essential defense must be mental. The divine Mind disarms and destroys evil intentions. Ultimately, evil will be found to be finite, empty, ugly, a dead end. Good is, like its sacred source, infinite, substantial, compellingly beautiful, life-giving. That's the message of the Christ.
This week, and in weeks to come, may the awakening, hate-dissolving love of God comfort and move us all.