Government: What does God have to do with it?

A Christian Science perspective.

The Gospels don’t record Jesus talking politics. The closest he came to it was in the temple when the chief priests and scribes tried to have him arrested by Roman soldiers. They asked him, “Is it lawful to give tribute to Caesar, or not?” He replied, “[B]ring me a penny.... And he saith unto them, Whose is this image and superscription? And they said unto him, Caesar’s. And Jesus answering said unto them, Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s” (Mark 12:14-17).

The election season is an exciting time, filled with hopes and hypotheses about what an individual or a party can do to make life better for the country. The excitement isn’t entirely positive; we worry about what people from the “other” party may do should they get into office, and we hope that “our” candidate will keep his or her promises and fix things that we think are wrong with government. In this time of debate and media inundation of different points of view, it’s easy to lose sight of God. What are the things that belong to God when it comes to politics and government?

I find an answer to that question in this statement from Monitor founder Mary Baker Eddy: “One infinite God, good, unifies men and nations; constitutes the brotherhood of man; ends wars; fulfils the Scripture, ‘Love thy neighbor as thyself;’ annihilates pagan and Christian idolatry, – whatever is wrong in social, civil, criminal, political, and religious codes; equalizes the sexes; annuls the curse on man, and leaves nothing that can sin, suffer, be punished or destroyed” (“Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures,” p. 340). In other words, the entire process of government rightfully belongs to God.

Like Christ Jesus, Mrs. Eddy attributed all real power to God, and suggested that unless we begin our reckonings from the standpoint of God’s omnipotence and consistent presence, we can’t reach meaningful and realistic conclusions.

It looks very much as if government is run by groups and individuals with varying degrees of goodness – as if our own good depends on the vagaries of human personalities. Looking around at all the evidence to support that view, we may accept the notion that everything belongs to “Caesar.” Yet, the First Commandment urges us to think differently. In effect, it says, Don’t let anything you encounter be bigger to you than God.

When we practice First-Commandment thinking, we find that lesser claims to power tend to fall away before the more solid fact of divine Principle. As it turns out, divine Love actually is the biggest and most authoritative force in human life, and that is true for us all, regardless of politics. The first words of the Lord’s Prayer go to the heart of the spiritual sense of government: “Our Father.”

What is best and most real in all of us is our shared inseparable connection to God, good. We can experience not only the aspiration of those words, but we can be moved by their inspiration to let government begin with our own real and valuable spiritual sense. As with a pebble dropped into a pond, the ripples will head outward, blessing all they touch.

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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.