I grew up in the 1970s when clashes over civil rights were sometimes daily fare on the evening news, with images of conflict seeming almost commonplace in what appeared to me as an unreal world far from my living room. Decades later, the city where I live and work has been a focal point of similar images with clashes between protesters and police in Ferguson, Mo. This type of conflict is no longer a two-dimensional image, but very present in my experience.
My daughter and I have several friends from the Ferguson area from years of her joyously studying dance in a highly integrated fine arts school in St. Louis, not far from Ferguson. As I view the concerned faces of people on both sides of the conflict, I see the neighbors of friends whom we love. I long to pray effectively to support the healing of this neighborhood, as well as any place where conflict among people gets in the way of peace and prosperity.
How do we pray for a solution to racial conflict that eludes resolution? I’ve learned from my study of Christian Science that we can start by acknowledging the biblically based fact that we are all the children of God, and therefore we are all brothers and sisters, equally loved and cared for by our Father-Mother, divine Love. We are made in the image of this divine Love, reflecting its infinite goodness. In the New Testament book of Galatians, the Apostle Paul was questioned by the early Christians about whether Gentiles who had customs and practices that were different from their own traditional Jewish customs should be included in their new church. Paul admonished them to realize that every person was equal in the sight of God. He wrote, “There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female: for ye are all one in Christ Jesus” (Galatians 3:28).
Seeing that all men, women, and children have full equality, because all are truly the spiritual expression of God, having the same Mind, which was in Christ – this lifts thought from the misconception of a world in which there are many minds, some good, some evil, and in which some receive more good than others because of heritage, race, culture, or economic circumstance. Paul’s admonition to the early churches counters the human tendency to judge according to the material senses and instead gain a clear understanding of God’s abundant, impartial love for all of His creation, and the necessity of praying to perceive and love the God-given individuality of everyone.
The healing of injustice is a fundamental pillar of Jesus’ teachings, as taught in the Sermon on the Mount. The master Christian’s message to the crowd still rings true today with this promise: “Blessed are they which do hunger and thirst after righteousness: for they shall be filled” (Matthew 5:6). The storm of anger and conflict will be stilled when we allow into our hearts the ever-presence of God’s wisdom and love, which speaks to everyone with the calm reassurance of God’s care for each of us. We are inseparable from that care because of our unity with God. When we understand that God is truly the only presence and power governing His children and meeting every need, fear and suspicion give place to forgiveness and the expectancy of good.
In “Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures,” Mary Baker Eddy, who discovered and founded Christian Science, writes: “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” (p. 340).
As we pray to understand that God is the omnipotent, infinite source of good, and that every one of us is eternally embraced in God’s goodness – and always has been – a material view of a history of oppression and injustice is replaced with the spiritual understanding of everyone’s true heritage as the honored and beloved child of God. This understanding is what brings healing, paving the way for progress.
At times the images on the news are alarming, especially when anger seems to rule rather than the motive to seek solutions.
There are many instances of people wanting to do good in the unfolding events in Ferguson: Churches, youth leaders, and city-wide neighbors are actively reaching out to the community to seek nonviolent means of protesting. Recently it was reported that even a motorcycle gang was stepping up to help mediate a peaceful solution. It is important to be grateful for these signs of goodness, and we can be persistent in praying to acknowledge the presence of the wisdom and love that God is constantly imparting to all creation.
Our ongoing, devoted prayer to see that the material sense of man and its conflicts is not, even now, the reality – but that all of us have one Mind, God, and are governed by this Mind – can bring resolution to racial tension and conflict. It can help restore human rights and humanity’s God-given birthright of peace. We do not have to be mere observers of the human scene but can be active contributors to the healing of communities and nations, when we choose to embrace and celebrate the presence and power of our loving Father-Mother God, who is always with us to heal and to save.