Race and what truly matters

A Christian Science perspective.

A recent Monitor feature considers racial progress in the United States. Mary Baker Eddy, who founded the Monitor, wrote this about measuring progress: “To ascertain our progress, we must learn where our affections are placed and whom we acknowledge and obey as God” (“Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures,” p. 239).

Ten years ago I found myself parked on the side of the road, pacing up and down a stretch of sidewalk, wrestling with that fundamental fact of progress, asking, “Where are my affections placed and whom do I acknowledge and obey as God?”

I had relocated to Atlanta from New York City, and on this particular morning was to be received as a new member of a dedicated and loving church of Christian Scientists.

As I headed to church that morning, I was blindsided by an overwhelming sense of dread and fear. I was suddenly asking myself if I could honestly be an active member in a congregation that looked nothing like me. I am black and the congregation was predominantly white.

“Someone is bound to say or do something that’s going to offend me,” I thought. “It might be better to go back home; you don’t have to be a member to support the church and community.”

I’d been regularly attending that church for more than a year, and the racial makeup of the congregation had never crossed my mind. Yet, on this day, 45 minutes before the service, I needed to answer that question.

Jesus’ counsel in the Bible, “Where your treasure is, there will your heart be also” (Matt. 6:21), is one of its central themes. My answer came as I identified my treasure, what was really in my heart.

I had recently been healed of a debilitating ailment through my study of Christian Science and the help of a Christian Science practitioner. After that healing, I felt I had to understand the Science behind it. That became the central and most important thing to me. It also happened to be the most important thing to the members of the church. That’s why the church’s racial makeup was never an issue for me. Learning more about God and His inseparable relationship to man was their treasure, too.

It was now clear to me that it wouldn’t have mattered what the congregation looked like; I was going to be a member of that church. With this renewed conviction, I got back into my car, went to church, and became one of its members.

I’ve grown immensely in my capacity to love and to do good since joining that church. The lessons learned have been great, but this one stands out in light of this discourse on race.

Each of us is made in the very image and likeness of God, and nothing – not race, not class, nothing – can stand in the way of our learning what that means for ourselves and for the betterment of humanity.

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