More than a thousand people, mostly from Charlottesville, Va., devoted at least a portion of last weekend in an effort to search that college town for missing University of Virginia student Hannah Graham. Even before Ms. Graham disappeared, the subject of concern over the safety of women from sexual violence was a topic much in the forefront of thought at the University of Virginia as well as on other campuses around the United States.
While not everyone may be able to go out on a search to find Graham, there is something that each of us can do: Prayerfully support the efforts to find Graham and pray for the establishment of true safety and protection for all young women from sexual violence in college communities.
But in a situation as challenging as the disappearance of a young woman, what is the approach to prayer that can support and protect not only the victim, her family, and the community where the incident occurred, but all who fear they could be vulnerable to such attacks?
As taught in Christian Science, prayer begins with an acknowledgment of God as Father-Mother, as omnipotent, ever-present Mind, and of God’s idea, man (which includes all men and women), as the spiritual, perfect reflection of this Mind. If we dwell in God, as the Bible tells us in I John 4:13, then in God, or Love, man is forever safe and good, expressing the nature of Love. The spiritual fact is that God governs all harmoniously, and prayer in Christian Science helps us understand and demonstrate this reality, which in turn brings this perfect, spiritual view to light in our experience. Christian Science teaches that however dark and difficult a situation may seem, God, divine Love, is always present, caring for and protecting His sons and daughters, and this includes protection against sexual violence. Those endeavoring to practice Christian Science can prayerfully strive to bring out the truth of God’s all-powerful government, which is in control of every circumstance, no matter how extreme. As the Bible affirms, “God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble” (Psalms 46:1).
No individual can be separated from God. Because we are all the expression of God, we have the ability to hear God’s voice and feel His healing presence: “The inaudible voice of Truth is, to the human mind, ‘as when a lion roareth.’ It is heard in the desert and in dark places of fear” (Mary Baker Eddy, “Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures,” p. 559).
Concerns over sexual violence have been the subject of a continuing discussion on campuses throughout the US. This dialogue usually presupposes that man’s nature is material and vulnerable to being the victim or the perpetrator of sexual violence. But the first chapter of Genesis states that “God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them” (Genesis 1:27). That is the spiritual fact of man’s nature.
So man, reflecting God’s image, is the perfect, spiritual idea of good, who cannot be influenced to act in a way that is harmful to others. As Mary Baker Eddy states in Science and Health: “In Science man is the offspring of Spirit. The beautiful, good, and pure constitute his ancestry. His origin is not, like that of mortals, in brute instinct, nor does he pass through material conditions prior to reaching intelligence. Spirit is his primitive and ultimate source of being; God is his Father, and Life is the law of his being” (p. 63). An understanding of this spiritual fact brings healing.
The words of Psalm 91 can be a comfort and inspiration for many seeking an assurance of God’s protecting power to keep young women safe in college communities. Verse 2 of Hymn 99 in the Christian Science Hymnal, speaking of God’s all-powerful protection, interprets the psalm as follows:
His tender love and watchful care
Shall free thee from the fowler’s snare,
From every harm and pestilence.
He over thee His wings shall spread
To cover thy unguarded head.
His truth shall be thy strong defense."
The earnest and sincere prayer that affirms spiritual truth in regard to the disappearance of Graham and others can have a protecting, healing effect. Through increasing spiritual understanding, we can further enlarge and deepen our prayers as we work toward the healing of sexual violence in college communities.