“Where Is the Voice Coming From?” is the title of a short story written by famed Mississippi author Eudora Welty on the day civil rights activist Medgar Evers was murdered outside his home in Jackson, Miss., during the summer of 1963. Welty’s story describes to a T the racial climate in much of the United States 52 years ago. Unfortunately this irrational hatred, so powerfully portrayed by Welty, still lingers today.
What is this “voice” that would impel someone to randomly murder people in a movie theater or church Bible study? What can head off these malicious voices and the actions stemming from them? My practice of Christian Science has shown me that everyone has the God-given ability to discern the source and nature of thoughts that come to us, and to reject malevolent ones.
Even in biblical times people questioned the source of hate. The Psalmist asked, “Why do the heathen rage, and the people imagine a vain thing?” (Psalms 2:1). The Apostle Paul, often beaten, stoned, imprisoned, and even once left for dead as he went about his ministry (see Acts, Chaps. 14, 16, 20, 21), identified the source of this hatred as the “carnal mind,” which he defined as “enmity against God” (Romans 8:6, 7).
It is useful if one can tell the difference between the suggestions of the carnal mind and the goodly ideas flowing to consciousness from what Mary Baker Eddy, the Discoverer and Founder of Christian Science, identifies as the divine Mind – a term she uses synonymously for God. The prophet Jeremiah tells us, “I know the thoughts that I think toward you, saith the Lord, thoughts of peace, and not of evil, to give you an expected end (29:11). These thoughts from God come to us only as spiritual ideas – such as love and intelligence. So, it behooves us to question if that which we are holding in consciousness are God’s thoughts or temptations from the carnal mind. Spiritual ideas have power and authority behind them; they are healing, harmonizing, and progressive.
Jesus gave us a parable about choosing our thoughts carefully: “the kingdom of heaven is like unto a net, that was cast into the sea, and gathered of every kind: which, when it was full, they drew to shore, and sat down, and gathered the good into vessels, but cast the bad away” (Matthew 13:47, 48). It is up to the individual to distinguish good thoughts – thoughts that can bring only blessings to everyone – from bad, harmful thoughts. Christ Jesus also counseled his followers “what I say unto you I say unto all, Watch” (Mark 13:37). Watch what you hold in your consciousness about your fellow man.
Mrs. Eddy, likewise, advises: “Watch, and pray daily that evil suggestions, in whatever guise, take no root in your thought nor bear fruit. Ofttimes examine yourselves, and see if there be found anywhere a deterrent of Truth and Love, and ‘hold fast that which is good’ ” (“The First Church of Christ, Scientist, and Miscellany,” pp. 128-129). In so doing, the harmful “voice” is vanquished.
Even those who feel a strong sense of self-justification to do something hateful and harmful can experience awakening and redemption. Mrs. Eddy states “If you believe in and practise wrong knowingly, you can at once change your course and do right” (“Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures,” p. 253). This is a God-given ability that each of us possesses, because we were each made by God in His image. Accounts of persons who have turned from self-will, self-righteousness, lust, covetousness, revenge, hatred, etc., to carve out admirable lives grounded in love, peace, kindness, good deeds, and spiritual progress are proverbial. These persons are model citizens in virtually every community.
As we become more alert to discern what we are nurturing in consciousness about our fellow man, who is in reality the spiritual idea of God, it becomes more apparent whether what we are holding on to are Godly conceptions or temptations from the carnal mind. And since thinking always precedes action, choosing thoughts from God becomes a game changer, blessing ourselves and everyone around us.
A verse from a hymn gives a beautiful summary of the whole matter:
Give me, O Lord, an understanding heart,
That I may learn to know myself in Thee,
To spurn the wrong and choose the better part
And thus from sinful bondage be set free. (James J. Rome, "Christian Science Hymnal," No. 69)
A version of this article ran in the July 31 issue of The Clarion-Ledger (Jackson, Miss.).