Division or divine vision?

A Christian Science perspective: Territorial disputes between neighbors or neighboring nations do have a solution.

Soon after South Korean President Lee Myung-bak made his surprise first visit to the disputed islands in the East Sea – known to the Japanese as the Sea of Japan – and a small group of Chinese-Taiwanese landed on yet another island whose ownership is disputed, a TV commentator said it was quite normal to dislike those who live in neighboring countries. On top of that, to Japanese people’s surprise, it was reported that Japan was listed as the No. 1 most disliked (to put it mildly) country, according to opinion polls taken in Korea.

Many Japanese viewers, I’m sure, were shocked to hear that, because so many of them love to visit Korea, love “K-pop” (Korean popular music), and love to watch Korean soap operas. We have many person-to-person exchanges, and during my own visits from Japan to Seoul, I have never felt I was a target of dislike or hatred.

So, not wanting to simply accept division and hatred as the norm, I checked a website that lists countries that claim ownership of disputed territories, and, sure enough, many disputes are between neighboring countries. Is it inevitable and permanent? I don’t think so. The same website lists disputes that have come to some sort of resolution. Many experts on negotiation have been working hard to move away from conflict toward cooperation for the future generation. There is an overall commitment to bring harmony and peace to the disputed areas. 

How can we rise above the political, historical, and emotional bondage?

No matter how expert we are at negotiating, one of the most practical tools for establishing harmony is to think more from a spiritual perspective. Spiritually, we can trust that real prosperity is gained from bringing the kingdom of heaven here on earth into each country. Christ Jesus said, “The kingdom of God is within you” (Luke 17:21). Jesus knew God was seeing His universe now within each one of us, and he lived accordingly. Being aware of this kingdom within us brings more peace and healing. Jesus, whose life and work brought peace and healing to so many – and his teachings continue to do so – chose to see more of what God saw – good in everyone, everything, every moment.

The founder of the Monitor, Mary Baker Eddy, wrote in the textbook of Christian Science: “Our Master taught no mere theory, doctrine, or belief.... His proof of Christianity was no form or system of religion and worship, but Christian Science, working out the harmony of Life and Love” (“Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures” p. 26).

As a student of the Bible, I was aware of Jesus’ charge to love our neighbors as ourselves, so I asked myself, “Who are my neighbors?”

Well, those who welcome me when I visit Seoul are my neighbors. I immediately e-mailed my friend there, who is also a student of Christian Science, requesting him to consider forming a prayer team to see through the mist of hatred and obscurity. The reply was almost immediate, as if he’d also been thinking about this. He began by saying, “I was thinking of what I should do as a man created by God.” And he concluded his letter: “Let us do everything possible through prayer and love for a harmonious resolution of the dispute. And let us exchange ideas from now on. Thank you deeply time and again.”

Since this first letter, other friends have joined together to see the universal brotherhood under one God. And no matter how hostile people seem on some TV footage, we cannot afford to lose sight of the highest and most harmonious view that God has – the perspective of divine good.

Instead of division, we can witness unity between countries and people.

Instead of seeing the borders that appear to separate God’s children, we can strive to see everyone as living in harmony as God’s children – as His beautiful expression.

Instead of division, we can think and talk more about these views of reality, these divine visions.

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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.”

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