Passing the torch of racial equality

A Christian Science perspective on daily life

The loss of Coretta Scott King a few days ago has reminded me both of all that was achieved by the Civil Rights movement of the 1960s and of the work that remains to be done before true equality will be established in the United States and in many other countries around the globe.

Hard as it is to admit, the riots in France last fall, and the uneasiness among other European countries with large immigrant populations, as well as racial strife in the US and other parts of the world, make clear that there's a long way to go before we will reach the goals of equality set by Mrs. King's husband, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

Political and social solutions are being pursued. But to achieve lasting peace and a firmer foundation for equality, these responses need a spiritual basis.

To some, this may not seem practical. Although Mary Baker Eddy was writing over 100 years ago, her observation is right on target today: "This is a period of doubt, inquiry, speculation, selfishness; of divided interests, marvellous good, and mysterious evil" ("Miscellaneous Writings 1883-1896," p. 237).

How is it possible to bring together "divided interests," to replace the doubt, speculation, and selfishness with a commitment to truth?

One answer that I've found increasingly meaningful in my own life is the conviction that obedience to the First Commandment can truly right all wrongs and provide sure light on the road, however dark it may become.

The commandment is introduced by this statement: "I am the Lord thy God, which have brought thee out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage," and reads: "Thou shalt have no other gods before me" (Ex. 20:2, 3).

The struggle for freedom has had dramatic moments, and the exhibits geared to February's commemoration of Black History will vividly show many of them.

Yet to a large extent we still face the same issues, just on a different plane. Mary Baker Eddy articulated the new struggle this way: "Legally to abolish unpaid servitude in the United States was hard; but the abolition of mental slavery is a more difficult task" ("Science and Health and Key to the Scriptures," p. 225).

This mental slavery can take many forms: the feeling of hopelessness and lack of opportunity that poisons the ghetto and mean streets, the belief that one can't strive for a higher goal because one has to cling to the job or position that one presently has, the feeling that opportunities have passed one by. Perhaps even the feeling that the quest for equality is futile.

Those feelings deny the power of God to release us from bondage. But there is encouragement in the assurance that we have already been "brought ... out of the house of bondage." To me, it is saying that God has already saved us. It's our inability to perceive that freedom that keeps us enslaved.

And the answer is to have no other gods, to allow no person, thing, system, or burden make us believe that achieving our full sonship and daughtership with God is possible to others, but not to us. Each of us is created in the image of God, of divine Spirit, and is endowed with everything we need to fulfill our purpose in life. But we have to claim that right as our own by seeing ourselves daily in those spiritual terms.

Each of us can make our own journey to freedom, accompanied by the same promise - the freedom from bondage that is already ours. Each day, I learn more about my own freedom from ways of thinking that would keep me from knowing myself as God's likeness, that would deny His goodness and love for me and all others. And every time that I am able to reject mental slavery, I - and all others who are doing this - contribute to equality for all and for each other.

If we work together, we can free the world from mental slavery. That's a worthy acknowledgment of the hard work of people like Dr. King and his wife and many others who have gone before us.

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