It was the flak jacket that did it. I've been following the debate on gay marriage and civil unions thoughtfully. I've been saddened by the deep divisions it has caused in some churches. But when I read about a minister who had donned a bulletproof vest - just in case - before addressing a conference of church people on the subject, I knew it was time to be more than a concerned spectator. I believe that deep and unselfish prayer has the power to unify and heal society as the world finds its way through this issue.
In her book "Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures," Mary Baker Eddy, the Monitor's founder, pointed to four actions that have consistently moved humanity's progress forward: prayer, watching, working, and self-immolation. "Prayer, watching, and working, combined with self- immolation, are God's gracious means for accomplishing whatever has been successfully done for the Christianization and health of mankind," she wrote (page 1).
Monday, as a state Supreme Court decision allowing same-sex marriage takes effect in Massachusetts, people may want to consider how prayer, watching, working, and self-immolation can bring peace and healing to all.
Prayer. Prayer is a way to feel God's comforting love embracing everyone in the world. In the privacy and deep humility of our prayers, we can pray to see creation the way the Bible says God does - as His very good image (Gen. 1:26, 31). God is pure Spirit, above any material description. Spirit's creation reflects its nature. This divine nature includes wisdom, clarity, love - everything good. This is how I want to view every man, woman, and child. Seeing people as the manifestation of divinity - rather than as merely physical, psychological, or sexual beings - invariably helps to restore one's faith that God protects and governs everyone.
Watching. Most people set a high value on justice and principled action. Living up to those values requires close watching of one's everyday thoughts. Consider the transforming effect on society of 10, 100, or 1,000 people asking themselves regularly, Is what I'm thinking true in the eyes of the divine Spirit?
Observers who explore the world of spirituality and healing can discern progress even in the middle of what looks like conflict and confusion. Their ability to point out signs of God's activity in the world - such as the evidence of justice, integrity, and compassion - contributes to progress. Honest watchers look for opportunities for spiritual growth in themselves, and their example encourages similar self-examination and openness in others.
Working. It takes work to gain more spiritual outlooks, which in turn result in clearer direction for social advancement. With regard to conflicting views of what many consider to be moral issues - and these include a broad array of subjects such as genetic engineering, capital punishment, and the ethics of war - much more may be needed in the area of understanding the Scriptures more spiritually.
Religious teachings guide the actions of huge numbers of people around the world. Yet literal readings of Scripture that define human beings as a mixture of spirit and matter, good and evil, sometimes make confusion and conflict inevitable.
Mary Baker Eddy, the Discoverer of Christian Science, found in the Bible a purely spiritual view of identity that brings healing to bodies, minds, and even social institutions. Such a view answers a deep longing people have to know their innocence and worth as God's likeness. Readers of Scripture who strive to gain and live its spiritual meaning, and who find gentle ways to aid others to do so, help heal division in the world.
Self-immolation. Effective spiritual and social reformers share this spiritual trait. People who sacrifice self- justification and self-righteousness for patient, persistent love and listening contribute to peace instead of polarization. They have faith in the triumph of good. As Mary Baker Eddy put it, they "knock instead of push at the door of human hearts ..." ("Miscellaneous Writings 1883-1896," page 303). And progress results for humankind.
For online discussion of this subject, see www.spirituality.com .