Doing the right thing – it’s natural

A Christian Science perspective: A response to the Monitor’s View editorial ‘The road ahead for VW after its emissions deception.’

When I read the Monitor editorial about Volkswagen’s emissions deception, I thought of a statement by Mary Baker Eddy, who discovered and founded Christian Science: “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). It’s such a simple yet profound idea. It suggests that doing the right thing is natural and that past behavior has no power to prevent someone from adopting a higher, Godlike standpoint of thought and action. The editorial refers to another company that was involved in a corruption scandal a number of years ago and has since made good progress in becoming an example of integrity.

Of course, there can’t be a sugarcoating of unethical behavior or a disregarding of its harmful effects. At some point every immoral thought and action has to be faced and overcome, because it’s contrary to God’s nature as infinite Love, pure Spirit, eternal Truth – and to our own true nature as His spiritual, perfect likeness. It’s contrary to divine law. Yet the Bible, speaking of Christ Jesus’ mission, says reassuringly, “God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved” (John 3:17).

Behind Jesus’ healing, saving works was his clear perception of each individual’s authentic selfhood as something far different from a sinful mortal giving in to harmful impulses. Jesus condemned sin unequivocally. Yet he understood that, as the Bible teaches, man is actually God’s image, as perfect as his creator, not attached to or identified with any phase of evil. That’s what enabled him to free others from sin and disease.

Reading news about questionable or downright bad behavior can be challenging. You might ask, “Why can’t people simply do the right thing?” Christian Science helps us see that doing the right thing is natural, the outcome of who we really are as God’s children. The temptation to do wrong is a gross deception that can never truly benefit anyone, and no one needs to be fooled by it or give in to it. Nothing can ever be gained by acting contrary to the law of God, the law of good. Wrongdoing is inevitably exposed and punished by divine law. As Jesus said, “There is nothing covered, that shall not be revealed” (Luke 12:2).

We can help to counteract sin through prayer that holds firmly to the truth of man as the upright, spiritual image of God, whose every need is supplied by God. And, of course, our own progress in defeating ungodlike tendencies is a great benefit to humanity. Referring to childlike virtues such as innocence, which Jesus commended, Mrs. Eddy says, “What grander ambition is there than to maintain in yourselves what Jesus loved, and to know that your example, more than words, makes morals for mankind!” (“Miscellaneous Writings 1883-1896,” p. 110). This is valuable guidance for the well-being of all.

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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.

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