Recently I was watching some of Frank Capra’s classic film “Mr. Smith goes to Washington.” Jimmy Stewart plays the part of an idealistic young senator confronting the corruption of a ruthless political machine. It’s a story about how one decent, honest individual’s stand for what’s right triumphs over wickedness in high places. I was struck by something that Jefferson Smith’s mentor in the film said to him. This man was a veteran senator Smith greatly admired but who had become corrupt. He said that “this is a man’s world” and that “you have to check your ideals outside the door like you do your rubbers.”
It’s a pretty negative concept of manhood – as though “a man’s world” were synonymous with dishonesty, greed, and perpetual compromising with evil. It’s as if he had also said: “There’s no place for decency, no place for goodness and noble motives in this world, not if you’re going to be anybody or accomplish anything. Real manhood conforms to the world’s ways.”
It may be challenging sometimes not to feel pressure to conform, even in small ways, to what the world says is fashionable or simply the way people behave, even if it’s morally questionable. Yet the Bible counsels, “Be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God” (Romans 12:2).
So much in Christ Jesus’ teachings, reflected in the New Testament as a whole, urges us to let go of old ways of thinking and doing, and to cultivate greater purity and innocence – qualities that characterize the man and woman that God created in His own likeness. Such qualities express our actual nature.
The materialism of worldly thinking belittles innocence. It puts down a state of thought that embodies something of the spiritual mindedness that Jesus taught and illustrated. But the very qualities that worldliness would suppress are what confer genuine strength and dominion. They help ensure progress on the most solid of foundations because they have a divine source. They’re from the one almighty God and therefore carry with them the power of God, of unopposable Spirit. It’s natural to express these qualities because each of us is truly the outcome of God, His spiritual image, not a sinful mortal personality who feels at home with sensuous, earthbound thinking.
Referring to mortals, Mary Baker Eddy, the Discoverer and Founder of Christian Science, says in the Christian Science textbook, “Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures”: “They are slaves to fashion, pride, and sense. Sometime we shall learn how Spirit, the great architect, has created men and women in Science. We ought to weary of the fleeting and false and to cherish nothing which hinders our highest selfhood” (p. 68).
When I was performing in comedy clubs for a time, it was difficult to find more than an occasional comedian who didn’t feel compelled to use crude language, at least a little, or to tell off-color jokes. There was a strong tendency to conform to a low standard, not only because performers felt that it was a way to get a response from the audience, but because it was considered a normal expression of manhood and womanhood. My act was clean, and whether the response to that was positive or negative on a given night, I felt it was a helpful influence.
Christian Science points to the spiritual reality of man in God’s image as the basis for thought and action and as the standpoint for healing whatever is unlike the divine nature. True manhood has nothing to do with worldly ways or, on the other hand, naiveté. It expresses purity, innocence, wisdom, spiritual strength, and all the other Godlike qualities that are essential to our individual salvation and to the well-being of humanity. Striving to live in harmony with this standard isn’t, ultimately, a matter of choice but of who we really are. And that’s a blessing to all.