When the Statue of Liberty approached its centennial, the celebration committee asked a world-renowned African-American artist to create a pastel depicting her experience with liberty. It was to be turned into a commemorative poster. The drawing showed a young African-American man in front of the statue – with a tear running down his cheek. The committee told the artist if she'd remove the tear they'd be happy to use the poster. She explained that the tear represented the dashed hopes of many for whom the American dream didn't apply. She couldn't, in good conscience, change it. This was more than 20 years ago.
Today, African-Americans fill more visible roles as actors, authors – including the most recent American to win the Nobel prize for literature – the president-elect of the United States, two of the latest secretaries of state, leading news anchors and talk-show hosts, along with numerous others. One could make a good case that Martin Luther King's dream that his children would not be "judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character" is being fulfilled. But while it's well to recognize and be grateful for progress, total freedom from prejudice still deserves our prayers. An honest look into our own backyards will reveal the need to challenge prejudice in our own thought, replacing it with a higher, more spiritual view of others.
Can any of us honestly say that we judge totally on the content of one's character, never on the basis of race, gender, religious practices, political leanings, social standing, or age? Yet, Christ Jesus expected exactly this kind of purity of heart from each of his followers, so much so that he said, "Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me" (Matt. 25:40). So every prejudice we entertain, no matter how miniscule it may seem, is not in accord with Jesus' teachings.
Here's how it works: Christly qualities comprise the content of one's character – qualities such as wisdom, grace, and kindness, to name a few. So when any of us look to a list of external factors – physical characteristics, for example – we fail to recognize and appreciate the spiritual substance of that person. Think about someone you love. Don't you find that the qualities they possess largely define what you love about that person? Now look at those you either fear or dislike. What factors hide their good qualities from you? What would happen if you didn't allow those factors to stand in the way of seeing that person's true Christly nature?
Prejudice must be healed in individual consciousness if we have any hope of healing it in the world. We must set aside educated beliefs and foundationless fears. We must choose to value the content of another's character – the Christ in everyone, which the Apostle Paul recognized as "the hope of glory" (Col. 1:27). Our prayer to purify our own thought will send out a ripple effect of good that can be felt not only in neighborhoods in Los Angeles or the South Side of Chicago, but also in refugee camps in Chad and religious enclaves in Iraq and Israel.
Mary Baker Eddy, who discovered the Science grounded on Jesus' teachings, recognized that "God has built a higher platform of human rights, and He has built it on diviner claims. These claims are not made through code or creed, but in demonstration of 'on earth peace, good-will toward men' " ("Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures," p. 226).
Too often, codes and creeds leave some individuals outside of what has come to be known as the American dream – the dream of equality for all. It's time for all humanity to claim that dream as a universal reality where everybody can realize their full potential and be valued for their gifts and graces. To do this, we must recognize the "higher platform of human rights" – that the content of our individual character rests squarely with the Christly consciousness that we each innately possess. And that we all benefit, both individually and collectively, by so purifying our own hearts that we're able to recognize those Christly qualities in others.