Zero tolerance for harm

A Christian Science perspective.

“Accidents will happen,” or so the saying goes. This year has seen its share of prominent examples that would seem to support that claim, including the oil rig explosion in the Gulf of Mexico, the Upper Big Branch mine collapse in West Virginia, and two deadly train crashes in India, which also leads the world in traffic fatalities. A March report from the Russian Emergency Ministry predicted a rise in accidents this year throughout Russia, attributable to industrial accidents and explosions resulting from faulty equipment.

In other areas, the news is somewhat brighter. China’s road deaths have been falling significantly over the past decade. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration reports that since 1979 the per capita number of traffic deaths in the United States has decreased by 35 percent. says the Swedish automaker Volvo announced publicly that it has set out to eliminate all deaths and serious injuries in its vehicles by the year 2020. According to the company’s senior manager in safety strategy, Jan Ivarsson, “Zero is the one and only alternative for us.... we can’t accept that people are killed or injured just because they want to transport themselves from A to B.”

It’s heartening to find people and companies rejecting the idea of inevitable injury and death. But is it possible to go further? Is it reasonable for humankind actually to eliminate accidents themselves? In other words, must we take it as a given that, even if the personal, societal, and environmental harm they cause can be mitigated or eliminated, “accidents will [still] happen?”

One definition of "accident" offers some particularly interesting insights. This word, which dates from the late 14th century, derives from the Latin for “happen, fall out, fall upon.” And an evolution took place, whereby the meaning changed from signifying “something that happens, an event,” to “something that happens by chance,” to “mishap.” Evidently, an accident did not originally signify something evil or harmful.

This points to a much larger, biblical truth that rests at the very center of Christian Science teaching – a concept that offers much inspiration in the prayer to eliminate accidents and their effects from human lives. It’s not too much to say that, in the same way that harm is not part of that original definition of accident, neither is it inherent in our very identity and existence as God’s sons and daughters. Before the dream of existence in matter, as described in Genesis 2, clouded the facts of creation, no destruction, pain, suffering – no “mishap” – existed. The events, the happenings, that took place were all beneficial and whole. God created all and pronounced it “very good”: the earth, the heavens, the creatures, and the “male and female” – man made in God’s image.

“If man was once perfect but has now lost his perfection,” wrote Mary Baker Eddy, who discovered Christian Science, “then mortals have never beheld in man the reflex image of God. The lost image is no image. The true likeness cannot be lost in divine reflection. Understanding this, Jesus said: ‘Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect’ ” (“Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures,” p. 259). Many individuals have proved that when a spiritual understanding of one’s perfect reflection as God’s likeness forms the basis of prayer, healing happens, including the healing of injuries attributable to accidents. Many have been freed from traumatic memories of violence and injury, to the extent that they have said it was as though an accident never took place.

And to God, this has always been the fact. In the words of Science and Health, “Accidents are unknown to God, or immortal Mind,....” That passage continues with something that speaks directly to the underlying belief about accidents, including the previously mentioned definitions: “... and we must leave the mortal basis of belief and unite with the one Mind, in order to change the notion of chance to the proper sense of God’s unerring direction and thus bring out harmony” (p. 424).

Accepting the chance of good fortune implies the possible opposite as well – whereas, all chance and luck, good or bad, exist as a “notion,” a misconception that we are separate from our Creator and moving vulnerably in a material world of happenstance. The Science of Christ proves that as such misconceptions disappear from our thoughts, their harmful consequences disappear as well from our lives and the lives of others we hold in prayer.

In the effort to protect ourselves and our families, and the world at large, from sudden harm and random misfortune, we can realize a little more each day that chance happenings are unknown to the divine Mind that is God, and therefore impossible in the existence of all that Mind has created, right down to the very grains of ocean sand. Holding prayerfully to the truth of Mind’s ordered, conscious, harmonious control – in which chance has no foothold – will continue to be an important means of helping not just to shield humankind from harm, but ultimately to eliminate random instances of misfortune and destruction.

From an editorial in the Christian Science Sentinel.

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