A higher sense of human rights

A Christian Science perspective: On elevating the human rights for all.

It’s been three years since the inauguration of the Canadian Museum for Human Rights in Winnipeg, a museum devoted to helping people understand human rights and to promoting respect and dialogue. Since September 2014, some 860,000 people have participated in its exhibits and programs.

In the development of the recognition of human rights, the adoption by the United Nations General Assembly in 1948 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights stands out as a significant moment. But a survey of human rights in history might reference Hammurabi’s Code, Magna Carta, and various national versions of a bill of rights in countries around the world.

The founder of The Christian Science Monitor, Mary Baker Eddy (1821-1910), had a great interest in human rights. Raised in a Congregationalist home in New England, she turned not to history but to the Bible and to Jesus for a sense of human rights, grounded in what she understood spiritually. Beyond a view of God as distant, judgmental, and unpredictable, and beyond a view of religion as denominational and limiting, she found in the Bible moral direction, health, freedom, and equality for all.

Through decades of Bible study and by overcoming adverse experiences, she came to understand that it’s actually God’s will that His/Her children be selfless, pure, holy, and well. In fact, it is our divine right. Beyond theory, Mrs. Eddy was able to prove and teach this concept through a morality that wasn’t moralistic and a spiritual sense of peace and health that goes higher than the absence of conflict and disease. She saw that what makes every person totally individual and worthy of respect is that each shines as a unique spiritual expression of the Divine.

She understood Christ to be the true idea of God as infinite, unopposed Love, a model that everyone can progress toward – in line with what the Apostle Paul had written in the Bible: “There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female: for ye are all one in Christ Jesus” (Galatians 3:28).

Indicating the scope of what the true sense of God can do for human rights and society, Eddy wrote: “One infinite God, good, unifies men and nations; constitutes the brotherhood of man; ends wars; fulfils the Scripture, ‘Love thy neighbor as thyself;’ annihilates pagan and Christian idolatry, – whatever is wrong in social, civil, criminal, political, and religious codes; equalizes the sexes; annuls the curse on man, and leaves nothing that can sin, suffer, be punished or destroyed” (“Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures,” p. 340).

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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.”

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