What makes a good citizenry?

A Christian Science perspective: Cultivating the good within ourselves to uplift society.

The outcome or effect of an institution is ultimately determined by the individuals making up that group. It stands to reason then that if we want our environment, our government, and our experience to be characterized by integrity, wisdom, equity, generosity, and so forth, we need to cultivate those qualities within ourselves. As Jesus explained in his Sermon on the Mount, spiritual qualities such as these are essential to successful living, and our thoughts, words, and deeds matter to the whole of our society.

There is great power in individuals taking responsibility for the world in which they live. I find it helpful to acknowledge in my prayers, for myself and the world I live in, that every good and right quality needed to build or sustain a great union of people is inherently present in all of us. This is based on the biblical teaching that God created us in His likeness, spiritual and good (see Genesis 1:26, 27, 31).

It isn’t always easy to take this responsibility. Sometimes the pull to feel helpless or hopeless about the direction in which our boss, our school district, our community leaders, or our legislators are taking us is incredibly mesmeric. We may feel frustration, apathy, and even hatred. But such unnatural tendencies to the man of God’s making need to be overcome in order to do our part in uplifting any situation.

At one time, I held a position of some influence in a company for whose workforce and products I had great respect. Over time, however, I became increasingly at odds with the policies of the owner and with the manner in which the employees were being treated. For two years I did what I could to help bring about needed changes and uplift morale.

When improvement seemed thwarted, I took steps to find a new job, but nothing materialized. During this time I was led to consistently pray for the welfare of my present company. I prayed to know that everyone involved was under God’s loving and intelligent governance.

Having had many experiences of such prayer – based on devotion to good – bringing healing results, I expected a satisfactory conclusion in this case. What ended up happening was far beyond what I could have anticipated.

Without public knowledge, it turned out this company had been up for sale during this period. It was purchased by a very progressively minded investor who went right to work correcting each of the issues that I had felt were damaging to its original success. Even though this result did not happen overnight, it was clear to me that devotion to the right ideal had forwarded the needed adjustments.

Wherever we are in the world, we can be a force for good – not by staying consecrated to a particular person, position, party, or sect – but by nurturing higher spiritual qualities in ourselves and seeing them in others. For example, when I pray about positions of authority, I earnestly acknowledge that all the attributes, capacity, wisdom, and right thinking needed to fulfill the requirements of that particular office are present. I pray that all affairs are divinely influenced by the one all-good, governing divine Principle, which is God.

My prayers are not asking for what I personally want or feel is the right thing to occur. Instead, they are honoring God as “the great I AM; the all-knowing, all-seeing, all-acting, all-wise, all-loving, and eternal; Principle; Mind; Soul; Spirit; Life; Truth; Love; all substance; intelligence,” a definition for God given on page 587 of “Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures” by Mary Baker Eddy, the Discoverer and Founder of Christian Science.

“A life or a nation is saved, in proportion to the predominance within of purity, patriotism, or other right motives; …” Mrs. Eddy told a group of her students (Irving C. Tomlinson, “Twelve Years with Mary Baker Eddy,” Expanded Edition, p. 98). Here, she was talking about the saving of a people being “in proportion to [its] moral weight.”

By cultivating the good divinely given to us, we are doing our part daily to ensure the world around us is moving in the right direction – to a place worthy of passing on to future generations.

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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.