On 9/11, choosing life and hope

A Christian Science perspective: Bringing hope to 9/11 remembrance.

As Americans pause with reverence today to remember 9/11, these words of Moses offer guidance: “Today I have given you the choice between life and death, between blessings and curses. Now I call on heaven and earth to witness the choice you make. Oh, that you would choose life, so that you and your descendants might live!” (Deuteronomy 30:19, New Living Translation.)

While that blue-sky September day was shrouded in the senseless loss of innocents, it also marked a day when lives were saved and people throughout the world were brought together with a singular purpose: to preserve peace, with many people choosing to focus on good to combat evil. That day was a wake-up call to rally for the freedom that democracy represents.

The US Declaration of Independence proclaims that our Creator gave everyone certain inalienable rights, among which are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. The Monitor’s founder, Mary Baker Eddy, referred to God as a “gentle presence” full of “peace and joy and power” (“Poems,” p. 4). In an article called “Prayer for Country and Church,” she expressed the following sentiment during a time when the United States was at war with Spain: “May our Father-Mother God, who in times past hath spread for us a table in the wilderness and ‘in the midst of our enemies,’ establish us in the most holy faith, plant our feet firmly on Truth, the rock of Christ, the ‘substance of things hoped for’  –  and fill us with the life and understanding of God, and good will towards men” (“Christian Science versus Pantheism,” p. 15).

A right understanding of God begins with the knowledge that God is unstoppable Life, that goodwill and peace have inestimable power, and that as God’s children we express this never-ending life. This spiritual concept gives us a basis for viewing others through a prism of love, rather than of hatred or judgment. God’s love for you and me, present and expressed in our individual lives today, is evidence of the Christ, and it provides us with ideas to make our love practical, even in the face of evil. Relying on divine Love reveals the “table” that is spread in the wilderness of sorrow and war, where goodness and virtue spring up to sustain hope.

There are countless examples of people throughout history who have striven to sustain peace and hope, because it is our true nature to do so. In spite of news to the contrary, there are inspiring accounts of those, who in the midst of war, bring this hope to their nations. Consider the 17-year-old Iraqi pianist who was born and lived in Baghdad and one day formed a small idea for peace. Zuhal Sultan looked around her war-torn city and wanted to make a difference, so she decided to found the country’s first National Youth Orchestra.

Yes, there were young people in Ms. Sultan’s midst who were persuaded to join a movement of hatred and violence, but, she says in an interview, “Despite the violence, there were many young people promoting hope, peace, and trying to live a normal life.” That’s when the idea came to her to start the youth orchestra, despite having no knowledge of how to do this, no resources – just the idea and the hope.

Today, the orchestra continues to tour and flourish, entirely funded by global sponsors. “It is there to spread understanding and peace, so conflict can disappear,” the now 24-year-old says. She was named the Euphrates Institute Visionary of 2015 (“Visionary of the year 2015,” Euphrates.org).

As we reflect on 9/11, prayer can impel us to have the spiritual vision needed to view ourselves and others with the motive to bless and heal. That includes all those who are working to establish peaceful relations and creative solutions for our global community. Speaking, living, seeing through the lens of divine Love will guide our actions and help to end strife. We each can do our part to dissolve divisions built by hatred and ignorance by choosing life – every day.

In a poem called “Love,” Mrs. Eddy offered these comforting words:

Thou to whose power our hope we give,
Free us from human strife.
Fed by Thy love divine we live,
For Love alone is Life;
And life most sweet, as heart to heart
Speaks kindly when we meet and part."     [“Poems” p. 7]

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Dear Reader,

About a year ago, I happened upon this statement about the Monitor in the Harvard Business Review – under the charming heading of “do things that don’t interest you”:

“Many things that end up” being meaningful, writes social scientist Joseph Grenny, “have come from conference workshops, articles, or online videos that began as a chore and ended with an insight. My work in Kenya, for example, was heavily influenced by a Christian Science Monitor article I had forced myself to read 10 years earlier. Sometimes, we call things ‘boring’ simply because they lie outside the box we are currently in.”

If you were to come up with a punchline to a joke about the Monitor, that would probably be it. We’re seen as being global, fair, insightful, and perhaps a bit too earnest. We’re the bran muffin of journalism.

But you know what? We change lives. And I’m going to argue that we change lives precisely because we force open that too-small box that most human beings think they live in.

The Monitor is a peculiar little publication that’s hard for the world to figure out. We’re run by a church, but we’re not only for church members and we’re not about converting people. We’re known as being fair even as the world becomes as polarized as at any time since the newspaper’s founding in 1908.

We have a mission beyond circulation, we want to bridge divides. We’re about kicking down the door of thought everywhere and saying, “You are bigger and more capable than you realize. And we can prove it.”

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