Reaching beyond racism

A Christian Science perspective on daily life.

Racial division and fears are not unique to the United States. As events in Rwanda and other parts of Africa have shown, rivalries between tribes, ethnic groups, or religions also keep people apart. Fear, which is so often at the heart of such differences, leads to devaluing individuals – no matter what their color – and classifying them as "other."

This outlook can't be accepted, especially when the world so needs everyone's talents. Everyone has a role in making peace, saving energy, providing honest leadership, healing ills. Instead of suppressing some individuals and reaping a harvest of frustration, hatred, and war, we can, with our prayers, help unleash their talents and lift off limitations imposed by popular thought.

Senator Barack Obama's expected victory in becoming the Democratic candidate in this year's campaign for US President has made history. It's one example of how longstanding limitations are being lifted. Many African-Americans see a role model whom the nation could elect to its highest office (The New York Times, June 5). But some people point to signs that blacks are still the object of hatred among other races, and some have voiced fears for Mr. Obama's safety.

Spiritual solutions offer help. While the cause of racism may often be identified as prejudice within certain groups, it can be traced back much further. The Bible records an illustration of what might be called the "First Separation." The serpent who tempted Eve promised her something good that was separate from God. The wrong choice to eat of the fruit from the tree of good and evil led, according to this account, to humanity's separation from Paradise, the fratricidal rivalry between Cain and Abel – and every mortal ill that followed.

These errors of perception present a false history, described in the second chapter of Genesis, which speaks of God creating Adam out of dust and then – while Adam was sleeping – making Eve, and everything else, from the same material substance. In this Adam-dream, rivalry and division are the norm.

Throughout history, people have worked hard to overcome separation and inequality. But to eliminate racism, we need to eliminate the Adam-dream. Christian Science explains that this is possible because the dream is illusory. It never existed as a reality in the first place. Waking to the truth reveals this in practical ways.

"In the universe of Truth, matter is unknown," Mary Baker Eddy explained in "Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures." "Hence the eternal wonder, – that infinite space is peopled with God's ideas, reflecting Him in countless spiritual forms" (p. 503). But how to obtain even a tiny sense of infinity? A first step is to leave material identity out of the equation. When we do this, and identify ourselves and others spiritually, racism, ethnocentrism, gender discrimination, and other forms of separation begin to fall away.

God values all His creation. Not one of us is purposeless, random, irrelevant. None of us can threaten another. This spiritual fact applies to everyone, regardless of age, color, body type, gender, ethnic background. As "God's ideas," we are spiritual, all on a level – infinite and Love-rich – playing field. We are brothers and sisters; knowing this helps set everyone's talents free.

Proving this isn't always easy. The material view threatens to poison even the best efforts. But Jesus' ministry lifts up a standard. He chose a Samaritan to define a true neighbor. He spoke with, and stood up for, women. He operated outside his cultural group, helping a Syrophoenician woman, whose daughter he cured, and a Roman centurion, whose servant he healed.

In many communities, there may not be opportunities to participate in interracial dialogue or to work toward mutual understanding. But each of us can pray to break down the separation that arises because of racial, ethnic, and tribal differences. Each of us can defend the safety of our neighbors. Each of us can strive to give up thinking of "them" as "other" and to see them instead as our brothers and sisters, equally beloved ideas of God.

Adapted from the Christian Science Sentinel.

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