Detroit, bankruptcy, and hope for the future

A Christian Science perspective.

A few years ago I was running the last leg of the Detroit Marathon along the new Riverwalk that runs along the Detroit River. As I ran alongside hundreds of others, I watched the boats and scanned the shores of Windsor, Ontario, just across the river. Cruising past the majestic Renaissance Center, the home of General Motors, I drew close to the finish line and felt a sense of pride in my town and a great hope for the future of this city.

Another big moment of hope in the future of my hometown came this week as city and state government leaders announced that Detroit was declaring Chapter 9 bankruptcy after a long battle to try to fix fundamental financial trouble. It may be hard to see how our residents can be hopeful, given that “bankruptcy” by definition signifies complete financial ruin. But as for many corporations and municipalities in the United States, bankruptcy laws can offer a new beginning and a chance to be forgiven our debts.

The media reports that decades of mismanagement and even corruption in Metro Detroit have led us to this place. But through these difficult years, there has always been a strong undercurrent of the grit and determination and soul that once made this city one of the greatest industrial centers in the world.

We saw this determination in business leaders who donated millions of dollars and countless hours of their time to invest heavily in the city’s rebirth; in local celebrities who started charities, one after the other, to give back to their hometown; to residents who wouldn’t leave their city even when the lights were literally turned out. As we look forward to what is predicted to be some very rocky years, I can almost feel Detroiters standing shoulder to shoulder with a sense of hope in transformation and healing.

At the same time, however, many residents worry about the stability of their already depleted city services and how deep the cuts will be in the pensions for the approximately 30,000 retirees and current city employees. So how is it possible to look at bankruptcy as progress and not as a death knell for the city they wish to save? For me, faith in progress is rooted in my understanding that this declaration of bankruptcy is not giving up but rather it’s a catalyst to ignite much-needed and certain transformation.

Behind this instrument of transformation, or any other solution for healing, is not an emergency financial manager, or the local or state government, but rather, our Father-Mother God, who knows our needs before we ask and provides an environment in which we all can thrive. Rather than seeing this move as a frightening step into an unforeseeable future, we can instead know that every step toward healing in Detroit, and in other ailing cities around the country, is governed by God, our divine Principle. God, who can be defined as infinite Mind and divine Love, is a constant source of ideas and solutions to meet our every need.

The founder of The Christian Science Monitor, Mary Baker Eddy, pointed out in her work “Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures,” “Divine Love always has met and always will meet every human need” (p. 494). In the same book she said that it is not man’s wisdom, but divine Love that “inspires, illumines, designates, and leads the way” (p. 454).

While we may not be able to see what is coming next, we can quiet fear and support a resolution by expecting progress and by expecting that just the right solutions will become apparent. In the Bible, at an even greater time of uncertainty and fear, Jesus reassured his disciples with the reminder that God did have a secure plan and place for each of them. While not even Jesus knew the details of that plan, experience had taught him that we could place our trust in God, the only Mind, to devise a plan that would meet our needs and bless us all.

This message from the Bible reassures me and gives me hope: “Let not your heart be troubled.... In my Father’s house are many mansions; if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you” (John 14:1, 2, New King James Bible).

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