New views on action from a former activist
A Christian Science perspective: Spiritual understanding impels God-governed action.
In many parts of the world there is a lot of focus on activism that promotes justice and reform. I admire many individuals throughout history who have done noble works and courageously taken a stand for humanitarian issues, such as equal rights for all.
I’m also beginning to discern that there’s a spiritual understanding of action and justice that makes a difference in how effective activism is. To me, the crucial distinction is whether we see ourselves or God, as the source of the good we can do. Do we rely on a human mind, will, or power of our own? Or do we understand, moment by moment, that it is actually the infinite wisdom and goodness of God that gives us wisdom and justice and action; and do we turn to God meekly and prayerfully before we make decisions or take steps?
During my career, a strong part of how I identified myself had been as an “activist.” But when I learned of the teachings of Christian Science, I experienced an intense period of sorting through my thinking about a lot of things, especially my identity. I found I could give up a personal, material sense of myself for a clearer and more humble understanding of my spiritual individuality as an expression of God. I also appreciated learning that this surrendering doesn’t in any way weaken or diminish us. Instead, it does the opposite. Mary Baker Eddy, who discovered Christian Science, wrote, “This scientific sense of being, forsaking matter for Spirit, by no means suggests man’s absorption into Deity and the loss of his identity, but confers upon man enlarged individuality, a wider sphere of thought and action, a more expansive love, a higher and more permanent peace” (“Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures,” p. 265).
I also found and appreciated stories of people in the Bible who challenged mainstream thinking and stood up to injustices in mighty ways. What I especially learned from their stories, and began to practice more diligently myself, was a strong reliance on and closeness to God – in other words, humility.
This understanding has translated into a more continual surrendering of human will, and praying before and while taking action. I wait until I can feel a strong sense of rightness and conviction about a decision – until I feel confident that my thought has yielded to God – before going forward. This doesn’t mean that I’ve gotten it right every time. But whenever I recognize that I’ve made a misstep, I just pray and listen more, and trust that the effect of God governing my life will adjust things and help me correct my course.
The results of these changes in my understanding include letting myself be led into and out of various jobs, and sometimes I’ve taken what turn out to be valuable steps in my work before I knew why they would be beneficial to me or others. Not long ago I even gave up, without looking back, a decade-long career in a field of work I cared deeply about to pursue a new direction that felt progressive and more right.
Christ Jesus declared his utter dependence on God in his statement, “I can of mine own self do nothing” (John 5:30). With this new understanding of man’s spiritual identity and relation to God, I’ve given up the human label “activist” and instead recognize that spiritually we are activated by God.
With this prayerful and trust-filled grounding, we can expect that whatever we are inspired to do will contribute in a significant way to justice, health, and harmony for others, as well as for ourselves.
This article was adapted from an article in the May 1, 2017, issue of the Christian Science Sentinel.