How do we bridge the political divide?
The April 26 online Monitor’s View titled “Take fearmongering out of US politics” (CSMonitor.com) proposes that removing alarmist rhetoric from election campaigns is a key step in fostering constructive, collaborative discourse between parties. It also offers a simple “North Star” that anyone, anywhere on the political spectrum can follow: Let civility be your guide.
Civility, both in thought and speech, may seem like a given when it comes to reaching across party lines. But how do we activate this quality when “negative partisanship” seems so all-pervasive – not just in political ads, but also on social media?
My study of Christian Science has taught me that spiritual qualities such as compassion and genuine love are necessary to promote civility – and that they come into expression through an understanding of the nature of God. The Bible states that “God is love” (I John 4:8). And in “Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures,” Mary Baker Eddy defined our relationship to Love when she wrote, “Love, the divine Principle, is the Father and Mother of the universe, including man” (p. 256).
It follows, then, that as children of Love, our own nature must be loving and benevolent, and not prone to destructive or hostile behavior. The creation cannot be unlike the creator. Love’s offspring – Love’s image, or idea, of itself – reflects only Love.
These are basic spiritual facts, but their implications are profound. And perceiving the presence of God’s universe, where nothing exists but Love and its manifestation – infinitely diverse, but universally characterized and supported by Love – requires a commitment on our part to rise above the fray, political or otherwise, and to look deeply into Love’s pure reality.
I saw the healing effects of doing so when I was thrust into a work project with someone who seemed to be on the opposite side of the political spectrum – at least as far as office politics was concerned. Though I was always civil, and worked hard to find common ground, it bothered me that inside, I felt antagonistic toward this individual. His views seemed irreconcilable with mine. And though the project made progress, I didn’t feel it was coming together as well as it could.
I was praying, though. And one day it occurred to me that Love, being One, didn’t have two sides. It knew only its own infinite individuality – harmony expressed as unity.
As a musician, this idea was tangible and beautiful to me. I thought of the notes in a chord: individual, but blending perfectly according to the principles of music. And I knew that the divine Principle, Love, held its own ideas eternally in the same kind of productive, harmonious relationships.
In prayer, I turned away from conflicting agendas and challenging personalities, away from the clash of wills and flaring passions, and affirmed that Love’s harmonious being, of which we are all a part, was the only reality. Gradually, I felt a shift taking place in my thought. Instead of reacting to what this other person said, I found myself turning to God to understand what Love was expressing in its ideas, and how Love was governing.
As a result, I began to understand my co-worker’s communications in a new light. I guess you could say that I started to hear what he was really saying – which wasn’t always apparent by the words he used, but which I became attuned to as I saw both of us as included in, and expressing, that Principle of harmonious being. The project came together quickly after that, and with a depth and artistry that I hadn’t thought possible. In the end, we found more than common ground; we found an inspired solution that blessed everyone.
Civility in political discourse – or across any kind of perceived divide – is a necessary and helpful first step in changing the tone of the conversation. But we have the assurance that something even greater awaits us. Here’s the promise in Mrs. Eddy’s own words: “ ‘Let there be light,’ is the perpetual demand of Truth and Love, changing chaos into order and discord into the music of the spheres” (“Science and Health,” p. 255).
As we understand more clearly that nothing within Love could ever be antagonistic – because how could Love be divided against itself? – we’ll witness the dawn of true unity and the progress that naturally results.