Quelling anger, finding common ground

At a time when “common ground” and “politics” too often seem mutually exclusive, there are sparks of hope (see today’s Monitor Daily article on this topic). Today’s column explores a spiritual basis for unity, civility, and progress in the political arena.

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Has hostility become a constant? Does party loyalty now equal contempt for the opposing party? Do these attitudes so corrode interparty dialogue that finding consensus and compromise is now nearly impossible?

It might be too easy to trace the hostility back to where we get our news. After all, a significant segment of viewers turn to media outlets that deliver the news with a political slant built into their coverage. But while such journalism may fan the flames, it did not light the blaze of ferocious partisanship. Anger has smoldered across the political landscape for some time now.

It wasn’t always the case. For the last half of the 20th century, or at least much of it, Washington politicians, including those from the far right and far left, got along on a personal and social level. They had dinner together, even attended the weddings of one another’s children. When it came time to do the business of the nation, they often found room for compromise. Sure, not everyone agreed, but more often than not, middle ground appeared when needed and government functioned.

Is the present anger and polarization on the political landscape irreversible? Or could a shared spiritual reality, accepted as a commonality of unmatched importance, have a unifying effect, serving as the basis for bridge-building and maybe even extinguishing some of the anger?

With utter simplicity, the Scriptures rhetorically ask, “Have we not all one father? hath not one God created us?” (Malachi 2:10). This Old Testament promise of one Father, one creator, gets reiterated time and again in the New Testament. For example, the first two words of the Lord’s Prayer, the prayer Christ Jesus left for all humanity, are “Our Father.”

This shared spiritual parentage is a strong foundation for true bridge-building. However, there’s more to this idea, too. The one God, our one divine Father, is also the one Mind, or source of understanding. He is the one Principle, or source of harmony. This harmony of divine Principle, God, promotes a civility that once looked extinct.

Each of us – politicians and non-politicians alike – can hold to these ideas, letting the divine Mind, God, good, lead us forward rather than giving in to hostility. In this way, the embers of animosity begin to cool. The possibilities for coming together begin to warm. The pursuit of common goals grows more realistic. We begin to see more clearly that having the unity of Principle that leads to unity of purpose is normal and natural. Ultimately, not even the most dramatic of human events has a unifying power that matches the Divine. In a single embrace He gathers us all in.

Opening our thought to this spiritual reality doesn’t require abandoning our political convictions. Rather, it opens the door for connecting links to show up where before there were none, for those of various political persuasions – and those of no political persuasion – to deepen their appreciation for whatever common ground they share.

Mary Baker Eddy, the discoverer of Christian Science, waged a decades-long campaign to bring spiritual healing to every arena of life. She wrote in her primary work, “Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures,” “With one Father, even God, the whole family of man would be brethren; and with one Mind and that God, or good, the brotherhood of man would consist of Love and Truth, and have unity of Principle and spiritual power which constitute divine Science” (pp. 469-470).

May humanity realize this more fully, and see anger on the political scene begin to ebb, common ground start to surface, and better government dawn.

Adapted from an editorial published in the Jan. 11, 2010, issue of the Christian Science Sentinel.

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“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.

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