What can dedicated spiritual thinkers do to uncover and repudiate the underlying cause of violence? Recent events in Libya, Egypt, Tunisia, and Yemen have prompted many questions regarding security, hate speech, and religious tolerance.
I love this call to action from a hymn by Irving C. Tomlinson:
A voice from heaven we have heard,
The call to rise from earth;
Put armor on, the sword now gird,
And for the fight go forth.
The foe in ambush claims our prize,
Then heed high heaven’s call.
Obey the voice of Truth, arise,
And let not fear enthrall.
(“Christian Science Hymnal,” No. 5)
Mary Baker Eddy, who discovered Christian Science, offers clear, intelligent ideas on how to focus our prayers during times of upheaval and violence. Comparing malicious hatred to a serpent, she described what motivates violent acts not as individuals but as evil – masking itself as person, place, or cause. She wrote: “The serpentine form stands for subtlety, winding its way amidst all evil, but doing this in the name of good.... It is the animal instinct in mortals, which would impel them to devour each other....
“This malicious animal instinct,... incites mortals to kill morally and physically even their fellow-mortals, and worse still, to charge the innocent with the crime” (“Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures,” pp. 563-564).
Numerous articles that describe terrorist groups as “hijacking” the religion of Islam allude to this “animal instinct.” The real need, then, is to renounce the evil (the “wicked one”) rather than fixating on the individuals or groups involved. The words “impel” and “incites” are instructive here because they indicate the innocence of even those who lend themselves to violent or extreme causes.
From the cross, Christ Jesus declared the blamelessness of man, and in so doing, he laid bare the real instigator of the crucifixion. He prayed, “Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do” (Luke 23:34). Understanding that the individuals involved were being used as tools, he repudiated the root cause – evil (devil, the “accuser,” etc.). His Christly willingness to love his brother man in the face of malicious hatred insulated him from the effects of the violent acts aimed at his destruction. The purity of his love for God and His sons and daughters proved for all time that love triumphs over hate, innocence over guilt, and good over evil.
The “foe in ambush” is whatever lures humanity to turn its thoughts inward toward self: self-will and self-justification, personal culture and history. It attempts to obscure the urgency of exposing and destroying the real cause of violent, hateful acts by personalizing evil – giving “the accuser” an identity – while loudly proclaiming humanity’s guilt. It masquerades in the self-importance of “I am, I want, I feel,” resisting submission to “I AM,” which is God (see Exodus 3:14). It substitutes emotional reaction for productive reasoning. Naiveté, ignorance, apathy, lethargy, or apology (which excuses intolerance and hatred in the name of history, culture, or nationalism) must be cast out in favor of alertness, wisdom, clarity, intelligence, and genuine understanding.
“Many are willing to open the eyes of the people to the power of good resident in divine Mind [God], but they are not so willing to point out the evil in human thought, and expose evil’s hidden mental ways of accomplishing iniquity....
“Who is telling mankind of the foe in ambush? Is the informer one who sees the foe? If so, listen and be wise,” Mrs. Eddy wrote (Science and Health, p. 570-571).
Our Creator has endowed each of us with the courage and willingness to be alert, listen, and take up this work with joyful energy and obedience to His command.
In the kingdom of heaven, which Christ Jesus assures us is “at hand,” evil has no power, no presence, and no identity. Prayerfully unmasking evil, we will begin to see its powerlessness in the face of the omnipresence and omnipotence of God, good.
Listening for the “voice from heaven,” the “foe in ambush” cannot “claim our prize.” We can indeed “heed high heaven’s call,” and “Obey the voice of Truth, arise,/ And let not fear enthrall.”