The recent sentencing of a Stanford University student for sexual assault and his victim’s response that was recently trending on the internet has brought into focus the question “Do we live in a culture of rape?” Is it expected and dismissed lightly when rape occurs in our culture?
As an undergraduate at Stanford, one of the most memorable classes I participated in was a seminar addressing the topic “What does it mean to be civilized?” Discussions, led by a thoughtful professor, concluded that to be civilized meant to put others before yourself – to follow laws that protect others, whether they be traffic laws for physical safety or rules of etiquette for mental well-being. Successful civilizations around the world are saturated with this simple rule embodied in what is commonly known in Western culture as the golden rule. It was established by Judaic law in the Torah and brought out more clearly in Christ Jesus’ teaching to “love thy neighbour as thyself” (Matthew 22:39). The golden rule was certainly demonstrated by the Swedish cyclists who stopped at Stanford to help the woman in need.
So why would such a logical and inspired rule that blesses all not be followed? What influence takes people off track? The founder of this publication, Mary Baker Eddy, discusses an influence on mankind that produces “a mental haziness which admits of no intellectual culture or spiritual growth.” She writes: “The state induced by this secret evil influence is a species of intoxication, in which the victim is led to believe and do what he would never, otherwise, think or do voluntarily” (“The First Church of Christ, Scientist, and Miscellany,” pp. 211-212).
It was this haziness that was evident in a classmate of mine who sexually assaulted me and forced me to confront this issue head-on. I was frightened. I was in shock. I felt worthless, unprotected, and unloved. I turned to Christian Science for healing and found a Christian Science practitioner to pray for me.
I came to understand that my identity was truly spiritual, if God was Spirit and I was made in the image and likeness of God (see John 4:24 and Genesis 1:26, 27, respectively). This meant that no hazy, intoxicating, or evil influence could touch, destroy, or damage my true identity, because it was made by God, who is purely good and indestructible.
In her textbook on Christian Science, Mrs. Eddy defines God as “Mind” and asserts, “When we realize that there is one Mind, the divine law of loving our neighbor as ourselves is unfolded; ...” (“Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures,” p. 205). I saw that we are all truly spiritual ideas of Mind, both loved and loving under the law of God, who is divine Love – the law which inspires the golden rule. I gained a higher spiritual understanding of my real identity, and that of my assailant. This didn’t excuse his actions, but it helped me forgive him, which in turn helped me feel more at peace. The power of divine Love to remove dark memories and thoughts became real to me, and I truly felt Love’s presence embracing me. My feelings of worthlessness dissolved, and I saw that all love came from God and was permanent. I felt loved again.
To know that there is one God, one Mind, one Love, and that as His image our identity is entirely spiritual, frees us. It illuminates our thought and helps us see others in a more spiritual light, too, as children of God, expressing intelligence and unselfishness, rather than selfishness, lust, and hate. Acknowledging and understanding something of the spiritual law of divine Love strengthens us; it inspires our prayers and shows us that we are all held in the safe embrace and care of Love.