A meaningful response to violence

A Christian Science perspective: Prayer grounded in divine Love is the very foundation of the right kind of action.

It isn’t always easy to know what to do about violence. Anger may be the first reaction when we hear of an attack on the innocent. We may be frightened if we or our loved ones face some injustice. But I’ve found that prayer can be an incredibly powerful way to find protection and peace when dealing with threats to safety.

Several years ago, when my husband was still single, he came home very late one night. As he entered the apartment building, a man standing outside also entered. When they got in the elevator together, he realized the man wasn’t a neighbor. The stranger did not press a floor button. My husband began to feel uneasy. He got out on his floor, and the elevator doors closed behind briefly, but then opened again. The man was following him to his apartment.

My husband did not have enough time to run to his door. In that moment he turned from the fear to God, divine Love, to see this man in a spiritual light. The shift in his thought was acute, as he prayed to see the man as God’s very own spiritual expression – pure and tender, the way God made him and all of us.

My husband pivoted and walked toward the stranger.

“Can I help you?” my husband asked.

“No.”

“Would you like a glass of water?”

The man agreed and came into the apartment with my husband, who was continuing to pray to see the man as divine Love’s very reflection. As he drank, the man told my husband he should not let strangers into his home because it was dangerous. In this particular instance, my husband had felt impelled to let this man into his home. He explained a little about how he often prays to see others as God sees us, innocent and spiritual.

After about 10 minutes of discussion, as if the man were waking from a dream, he shook his head and said: “What am I doing here? I shouldn’t be here.” And he left after hugging my husband, an unusual gesture that shows deep gratitude or affection in the country where we live.

This illustrates how prayer can be more than something we do with our eyes closed in a quiet room and words recited in places of worship. It can be a very practical resource we always have at hand. In the case of my husband, it was his first response to a potentially dangerous situation. It was humble yielding to divine Love as the only power and source of action, and it had a tangible effect. It dissolved his fear and resulted in a discernible presence of harmony.

The Bible says, “My child, give your mind to me and let your eyes keep to my path” (Proverbs 23:26, Common English Bible). Prayer that begins with God – infinite, all-powerful, spiritual Love – instead of dwelling on a problem, serves to lift our thought to what God sees and knows: only good.

This is not ignoring violence; it is humbly affirming that divine Love is the only real power, and that the violence that appears in a person, place, or thing is in fact a lie about spiritual reality, a suggestion that Love is less than all-powerful good. God’s creation, which includes all of us, is spiritual, eternal, pure, safe, and free of evil, because that is the nature of Love. This means that violence is not inevitable, and that no one is destined to commit or suffer acts of violence. “Everything that is in the world – the craving for whatever the eyes see ... is not of the Father but is of the world. And the world and its cravings are passing away, but the person who does the will of God remains forever” (I John 2:16, 17, CEB).

This kind of living prayer requires humility and a willingness to turn from a focus on fear to the view of each other as God knows us – spiritually innocent, not victimized by vulnerability, fear, or hate. And because our innocence comes from our divine Father-Mother, it is protected by His, Her, infinite and all-powerful reach.

We are not helpless in the face of violence. Prayer is the very foundation of the right kind of action, grounded in divine Love. And thoughts and prayers affirming the spiritual reality that’s true for everyone can bring about harmony, safety, and solutions.

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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.”

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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.

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