For childlike purity in a war-weary world

A Christian Science perspective.

A quick pass through the local mall reveals a troubling observation – this year’s wearable fashion has a harder edge. Is this another example of a war-weary society? In a recent conversation with a journalist friend, I was struck by some of our shared observations. People feel less secure, find it harder to contradict what they’re seeing because war imagery is all-pervasive, and spend a lot more time worrying than they might have in the past. Nearly half of the Oscar contenders for 2009’s “Best Picture” award deal with the subject of war. Donald Margulies’s play “Time Stands Still” even addresses the “rush” one might experience in a war zone.

Has the United States and the rest of the world lost its innocence? Are we tacitly accepting a new normal, a normal that involves constantly looking over our collective shoulder to see what atrocity will be committed next? Is humanity hunkering down and securing its home turf, ready for endless wars?

As I considered this, my thought rested on my friend Charlotte, who spent most of her career as a first-grade teacher.

Like the children she taught, Charlotte maintained a palpable innocence and purity. One day, she relayed an experience that really touched my heart. She met with a situation where she could have taken offense, could have even become jaded by it. Instead, she chose to deal with it in an unassuming, kind, and forgiving manner. A man who observed this mocked Charlotte for her childlikeness that he interpreted as naiveté. She kindly said to him, “You’ve got it all wrong. I work hard to maintain this attitude.”

Rather than allowing ourselves to become jaded by world events, wouldn’t we all be happier and feel more secure if we worked equally hard to maintain our childlikeness? Too often our world makes a mockery of purity and innocence, and yet Christ Jesus saw they were necessary to entering – and staying in – the kingdom of God.

It was no easier in his day to imagine that one could choose to reside in the kingdom, yet he repeatedly promised that it was possible. To illustrate, he placed a small child in the midst of his disciples and said, “Verily I say unto you, Except ye be converted, and become as little children, ye shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven” (Matt. 18:3). The Monitor’s founder, Mary Baker Eddy, believed that humility illustrates the Golden Rule, a central rule in the practice of Christian Science (see “Miscellaneous Writings 1883–1896,” p. 337).

We, too, will never realize we’re in the kingdom without adopting a childlike attitude toward ourselves and the rest of the world. To do so requires that we persistently elevate thought above the visual images we find in the media, to see that a benevolent God capably governs His own universe of ideas. Every one of us possesses a childlike purity that enables us to live in perfect harmony.

Charlotte had it right.

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