Growing beyond ‘us and them’

As hot-button issues hit the headlines and tug at the heartstrings, today’s contributor explores the unifying effect of a sincere spiritual response to humanity’s needs.

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As soon as I was old enough to watch the nightly news I was introduced to a world split between left- and right-wing viewpoints. My dad stood staunchly on one side of that political divide, and I seemed to take on that “us and them” worldview. The first time I was old enough to vote in an election, “them” prevailed with a decisive victory, and I literally cried myself to sleep on election night.

It was almost two decades before “us” got back into power, but in that time my priorities had been shifting away from identifying with a particular political worldview. I had been introduced to Christian Science, and as I gained in the spiritual perspective it teaches, I saw my identity in a different light. The model of manhood and womanhood it presents is God, divine Mind, reflected in all of us, the spiritual expressions of that Mind. And as I strove to identify myself and others in this way, I saw that the “us and them” political thinking I’d grown used to didn’t square with this model.

That didn’t mean my interest in politics had ended. Voting, keeping apprised of public policy developments, and keen news watching continued unabated. What had changed for me was where I was investing my hope for humanity’s progress. I felt increasingly inspired to trust God as an ever-present source of the answers needed to address local, national, and international concerns, and a line in the Bible captures why I felt that way. It says, “Great is our Lord, and of great power: his understanding is infinite” (Psalms 147:5).

Who wouldn’t want an infinite understanding to lean on in the face of complex issues? I saw I could play a part in resolving problems by being willing to listen in prayer for healing ideas to apply to humanity’s challenges from that boundless, divine source.

I experienced how practical this kind of prayer can be in a community group I belonged to. At one of our regular meetings, hosted by local police officers, the police themselves came under fire from those gathered. Criticism was fierce, and we left the meeting with a pronounced sense of “us and them” like a dark cloud over our heads.

As I made my way to the next meeting I recognized I had a choice. Instead of resigning myself to another “us and them” standoff, I could walk through the door as a witness to the “us” of God and His children, unified by a common relation to the one divine Parent.

And that’s what I found that evening. The volatile issue became a nonissue. Good humor, mutual respect, and unity characterized the meeting, as they did in subsequent occasions I attended. From then on I made it a commitment to see past the optics of a bunch of independent minds inevitably at loggerheads with each other – to affirm our innate unity even in the face of compelling contrary evidence. As the unified creation of divine Spirit, we are all permanently wrapped in God’s love.

I’ve increasingly seen how this is a basis on which we can continually challenge “us and them” thinking in ourselves, especially as hot-button issues hit the headlines and tug at the heartstrings. That’s not to say we shouldn’t take steps we feel impelled by compassion to take. But if anger wells up, and especially if we’re tempted to air it, we can pause and ask ourselves, “Does this help me to offer a healing impetus by perceiving divine goodness to be in control where the problem appears to be?”

The journey from heartbreak at an election result to a heartfelt spiritual response to humanity’s needs is one we can all take. Knowing that there is no polarized creation emanating from the divine Mind has a powerful impact. And “us and them” gaps begin to disappear in the understanding that there is truly only one Mind, God – always at work.

Adapted from an editorial published in the May 14, 2018, issue of the Christian Science Sentinel.

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