The humanitarian within each of us

A Christian Science perspective: A response to the Monitor editorial ‘When fishermen rescue migrants – and nations.’

In a Christian Science Monitor editorial called “When fishermen rescue migrants – and nations,” it was deeply moving to read that the fishermen of Southeast Asia are often considered of low social status, yet, “[I]n recent weeks, a number of them have led a quiet revolution in the region. With an empathy born of their humility, they have rescued hundreds of people fleeing persecution or acute poverty in Myanmar and Bangladesh. By their example, they helped force Indonesia and Malaysia to stop turning away the boat people and provide temporary shelter.” One of the fishermen interviewed stated, ‘If we find someone in the ocean we have to help them no matter who they are. The police did not like us helping, but we could not avoid it. Our sense of humanity was higher.”

Reading about the tender, generous, and courageous humanitarian efforts of these fishermen stirred me to consider the spiritual basis for our sense of humanity. My study of Christian Science has shown me that each of us is actually the spiritual offspring of God, of divine Love; and as Love’s offspring – Love’s image and likeness – we each have an intrinsic care for others deep within us. It may sometimes seem latent in human character, but the divine fact is that selfless love comes from our spiritual connection to God. This love is what moves us to reach out and extend a helping hand to those in need of aid – regardless of differences in race, color, creed, or social status. The driving force behind every selfless desire to help is divine Love, which is always present, ever giving, and always expressing itself in man, Love’s offspring.

The humanitarian efforts of the fishermen have made me consider Jesus’ well-known parable of the good Samaritan. The Samaritans, too, were looked down upon, yet it was the Samaritan man who compassionately stopped to lend a helping hand to the man who was destitute, in danger, and had been stranded by the side of a road – after two highly regarded men passed by (see Luke 10:33). In this same parable, Jesus exposes selfishness, self-importance, small-heartedness, and pride – destructive qualities that are no part of man’s true nature – that convinced the other men to turn their backs on the stranger in need. There is a Christly spirit within each of us, the expression of divine Love, that counteracts selfish tendencies and impels us to put aside our own concerns to help a fellow traveler in life’s journey.

The Southeast Asian fishermen were clearly putting aside their own concerns to help others. And, perhaps, their actions challenge the humanitarian within us all to ask, “How can I love those seeking refuge and what can I do to help?” As we are motivated by divine Love, our thought will turn toward real solutions. We will find a new reserve of energy and resources to respond to this demand. The answers will be practical.

Christian Science discoverer Mary Baker Eddy writes: “Love is not something put upon a shelf, to be taken down on rare occasions with sugar-tongs and laid on a rose-leaf. I make strong demands on love, call for active witnesses to prove it, and noble sacrifices and grand achievements as its results. Unless these appear, I cast aside the word as a sham and counterfeit, having no ring of the true metal. Love cannot be a mere abstraction, or goodness without activity and power. As a human quality, the glorious significance of affection is more than words: it is the tender, unselfish deed done in secret; the silent, ceaseless prayer; the self-forgetful heart that overflows; the veiled form stealing on an errand of mercy, out of a side door; the little feet tripping along the sidewalk; the gentle hand opening the door that turns toward want and woe, sickness and sorrow, and thus lighting the dark places of earth” (“Miscellaneous Writings 1883-1896,” p. 250).

As we each still the human tendencies of pride and fear, we will find that silent, ceaseless prayer and unselfish deeds will come forth from the light of divine Love in our hearts and prove our inherent love for humanity.

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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.”

If you’re looking for bran muffin journalism, you can subscribe to the Monitor for $15. You’ll get the Monitor Weekly magazine, the Monitor Daily email, and unlimited access to CSMonitor.com.