Lincoln and a lesson in liberty

A Christian Science perspective: The movie "Lincoln" provides some insights on the slavery we fight today.

The recent hit film “Lincoln” depicts the mighty struggle that took place behind the battlefields of the US Civil War, in the political and legal arena of the US Congress in 1865. The film has resonated deeply with audiences – maybe because they have recognized striking similarities between the political climate of 1865 and that of today. The issues might be different, but the impassioned political polarization is very much the same.

After seeing “Lincoln,” readers of the Christian Science Sentinel and the Monitor might gain new appreciation for this sentence from Mary Baker Eddy’s book “Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures”: “Legally to abolish unpaid servitude in the United States was hard; but the abolition of mental slavery is a more difficult task” (p. 225).

You might ask, what could possibly be more difficult than the arduous political battle that took place in the US to legally abolish slavery? “Lincoln” makes clear just how daunting this struggle was. And another question: Just what constitutes “mental slavery” in the first place?

Mrs. Eddy goes into elaborate detail on these points. Based on the teachings of Jesus, Science and Health speaks of mortals as still being in “bondage to material sense” and calls for a universal freedom for all people from “the fetters of sin, sickness, and death” (pp. 225-226). These “prison chains” certainly fall under the category of “mental slavery.” Whatever forms sin, sickness, and death take, they are overbearing and oppressive conditions of thought that would keep us from living free and joyous lives.

So, what makes their abolition so challenging? After all, if they are so undesirable, one could argue that finding freedom from their grasp should be easy. Yet doing so requires a major mental shift and a deep consecration to God. It entails breaking free from materialism and finding satisfaction in spirituality.

This can feel like an uphill fight – as if defeating the heavy pull of materialism in society is a losing battle. Yet this effort puts us on the right side of history. Abolitionists were on the right side of history, by doing their part to bring freedom to slaves. Yet at first it may have seemed far easier for them to give up the fight and keep the status quo. Their struggle required immense courage.

This is equally true in our battle against mental slavery and materialism. It may seem easier to simply go with the flow of a material, mortal life. But a genuinely moral life is one that rises up with the omnipotent, omnipresent power of divine Love to overthrow materialism. It is one that recognizes the rightness in winning freedom from sin, sickness, and death, because this freedom brings real and lasting joy.

The good news is this: If history gives us any clue, we’re guaranteed to prevail in this fight. Good always wins. Each step we take in the battle, each prayer we pray for triumph over sin and for health instead of disease, brings us a little closer to the ultimate victory – permanent and perfect peace.

From an editorial in the Christian Science Sentinel.

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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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