Oil spill: moving beyond blame

A Christian Science perspective.

A discharge of liquid and gases forced BP to remove the containment cap used to capture oil in the Gulf of Mexico Wednesday, at least for a while. While the cap has been replaced, news of setbacks in containing the oil isn’t encouraging, as the increase in oil flow only adds to the existing challenge. Meanwhile, US House majority leader Steny Hoyer is asking the White House to call an oil spill summit to address the danger that the oil mass will be picked up by the Gulf’s loop current, head around Florida, and travel up the East Coast.

If this were a summer disaster movie, it would be filled with drama – good guys, bad guys, possibly some competent women, and a few scientists to whom no one was listening. This latest episode would be “just one more thing” to build up the story.

No one really wants to build up this story, however. While the twists and turns of the efforts in the Gulf of Mexico could lead one to dwell on the things that have gone wrong or could go wrong, and to doubt that a solution can be found, it would be more helpful to seek out what good has been done, and to be grateful for the honest efforts of those who are working in an environment that is hostile and in large part unknown.

Their situation reminds me a little of a time when Moses and the children of Israel were confronted by a strong army. Their own soldiers went forth, but Moses recognized that their real support could come only from God. Through this prayer, he felt led to hold up his hands during the battle. When Moses became tired and had to put his hands down, the battle went against his people. So two of his closest helpers stood beside him and held up his hands, until the victory was won.

We have an opportunity to “hold up the hands” of those who are working to solve this mammoth problem. One way to do this is to refrain from the temptation simply to denigrate BP and its management. Mistakes were made, and there will have to be a reckoning in that area. But it can be a just reckoning that isn’t vengeful and meets the needs of all concerned.

Prayer can also include those who are working with the robotic equipment, the ones who are looking for new solutions and experimenting with them, and others who may be engaged in dangerous tasks that require alertness, intelligence, patience, and skill. And prayer should also address the atmosphere of criticism that seems to be swirling around the enterprise – as well as feelings of self-justification on the part of so many, be they oil executives, commentators, the public, or politicians on both sides of the Atlantic.

These heated emotions and doubts have nothing to do with the essential goodness each individual actually reflects. But sometimes spiritual growth is needed in order to bring that essence to light. In her “Miscellaneous Writings 1883-1896,” Mary Baker Eddy wrote: “The human affections need to be changed from self to benevolence and love for God and man; changed to having but one God and loving Him supremely, and helping our brother man. This change of heart is essential to Christianity, and will have its effect physically as well as spiritually, healing disease” (pp. 50-51).

What Moses saw and felt in the midst of the battle was the presence of God’s power to save, and his helpers saw the vital importance of supporting the people in the battle who were putting their lives on the line to protect others. The situation in the Gulf has its own parallels with that experience, and uplifted prayer can preserve and protect those who are striving so earnestly to stop the spill.

It’s even possible that the “change of heart” away from criticism and disparagement can have “its effect physically as well as spiritually,” by providing a more peaceful mental environment where it is easier to discover the solutions that are so urgently needed.

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