Spiritual listening amid the political fray

A Christian Science perspective.

Navigating the media landscape in order to be a well-informed citizen and voter sometimes feels like going to a rock concert – the decibels keep rising. From tweets to talk shows, blogs to sound bites, everyone has something to say and everyone wants to be heard. It’s enough to make one long for the biblical vision of Revelation when “there was silence in heaven about the space of half an hour.”

How do we stay involved but not overwhelmed? Informed but not inflamed?

I take a cue from something Christ Jesus said to the clamoring crowds that followed him: “He that hath ears to hear, let him hear." To me, that speaks to the need to develop spiritual listening skills that take in divine thoughts, ideas, and inspiration. In Christian Science, the term “spiritual sense” conveys this deep listening. More than a passive process, it involves a relinquishing of human opinion (which is apt to err in judgment and mistake the motives of others) and the adoption of a heart and mind receptive to truth, love, and divine wisdom – spiritual qualities derived from God, the one infinite Spirit.

No one illustrated spiritual listening better than Jesus himself. He certainly needed to. Nearly every day he faced an ominous, largely political campaign to discredit him. Religious leaders and unbelievers wanted to shout down and overturn his message of hope and healing. Yet he persisted. The Bible records that Jesus often withdrew to pray quietly – to listen to what His Father was telling him. He said meekly, “[M]y Father is greater than I." Because he was God’s own Son, the Messiah, or the representative of God to humanity, he was thoroughly tuned in to God’s all-knowing nature. He was also empty of self-will, ego, and pride. “As I hear, I judge,” he said, “and my judgment is just; because I seek not mine own will, but the will of the Father which hath sent me."

Would that we all had listening ears like that! More than ever, today’s supercharged political climate needs quiet thinkers and listeners. Yet Jesus knew and prayed that his followers could “be with me where I am." That is, they, too, could express a measure of spiritual awareness and unity with their Father-Mother God, the all-wise Mind.

Such spiritual capacity comes by degrees. Little children gradually develop their ability to listen to a parent or teacher. But more important than paying attention to a person is the cultivation of a mental equanimity or poise that stays attuned to God despite outer commotion, emotionalism, or fear-engendering predictions. Fortunately, we can increasingly practice spiritual listening, because we are, in fact, the image and likeness of God, as the Bible states in Genesis. Our purpose as “image” is to reflect – to manifest or to make apparent – our originating source, or Deity, and His qualities of wisdom, grace, understanding, and righteousness. What a reward for listening! In this way, listening to God becomes true prayer, demonstrating God’s goodness. Mary Baker Eddy, the discoverer and founder of Christian Science, once wrote: “The intercommunication is always from God to His idea, man” (“Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures,” p. 284).

Interestingly, spiritual listening does not distance us from the world but engages us more constructively with it. It involves not merely hoping one particular candidate or policy will prevail, but acknowledging the absolute fact of God’s supremacy and control, and that God’s “will be done in earth, as it is in heaven,” as Jesus spoke (Matthew 6:10).

Reflecting God’s wisdom, shining with His love, we’ll recognize more clearly the word of truth when we hear it, spiritually and humanly. We’ll be more selective in our news sources, more broad-minded and critical in our ability to penetrate tough subjects in their layers of complexity. We’ll take the time to tackle the finer points of an issue and be less eager to rush to judgment. We’ll come to see the advantage of following these statements from Proverbs: “He that hath knowledge spareth his words” and “he that shutteth his lips is esteemed a man of understanding” (Proverbs 17:27, 28).

And finally, we’ll keep our peace and serenity. As obedient children, governed by spiritual sense, we’ll look up to God, our divine Parent, for His thoughts and messages, unique to each one of us but designed to bless the whole world. In so doing, we’ll strengthen the fortress of our own consciousness with a sense of divine Love’s presence and care.

And when the decibel levels rise, we will be able to say with St. Paul, “[N]one of these things move me”  – nothing can keep me from my joyful and unswerving trust in the one infinite God, Good, whose hand is “stretched out upon all the nations."

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Dear Reader,

About a year ago, I happened upon this statement about the Monitor in the Harvard Business Review – under the charming heading of “do things that don’t interest you”:

“Many things that end up” being meaningful, writes social scientist Joseph Grenny, “have come from conference workshops, articles, or online videos that began as a chore and ended with an insight. My work in Kenya, for example, was heavily influenced by a Christian Science Monitor article I had forced myself to read 10 years earlier. Sometimes, we call things ‘boring’ simply because they lie outside the box we are currently in.”

If you were to come up with a punchline to a joke about the Monitor, that would probably be it. We’re seen as being global, fair, insightful, and perhaps a bit too earnest. We’re the bran muffin of journalism.

But you know what? We change lives. And I’m going to argue that we change lives precisely because we force open that too-small box that most human beings think they live in.

The Monitor is a peculiar little publication that’s hard for the world to figure out. We’re run by a church, but we’re not only for church members and we’re not about converting people. We’re known as being fair even as the world becomes as polarized as at any time since the newspaper’s founding in 1908.

We have a mission beyond circulation, we want to bridge divides. We’re about kicking down the door of thought everywhere and saying, “You are bigger and more capable than you realize. And we can prove it.”

If you’re looking for bran muffin journalism, you can subscribe to the Monitor for $15. You’ll get the Monitor Weekly magazine, the Monitor Daily email, and unlimited access to CSMonitor.com.