Recently I attended a “debate watch party.” The debaters were two candidates running for a national public office. When the debate began, it was clear from the applause and sighs that I was surrounded by like-minded people, those who supported my candidate over the other one. Although we all seemed to agree that our candidate won the debate, I was also aware from the post-debate discussion on local television that both sides felt they could claim that their candidate had been the winner.
The analysts gave a clear reminder that our country is going through a time of polarization, with strong divisions between those with opposing viewpoints, even among families and friends. And times of intense political polarization often lead to a perception that those on the other side of the political fence are enemies. It can even lead people to think that the “other” is just plain evil. During such times our typical response might be to just “hide out” with our allies in what becomes an echo chamber of our own opinions and emotions.
Yet Christ Jesus provided a road map for how to treat others when he identified the two great commandments: Love God, and love your neighbor as yourself. As a student of Christian Science, I frequently ask myself, “How can I follow Jesus in this way and see tangible healing in my life?”
I had an opportunity to put this concept of “love God, love your neighbor” to the test during a previous election cycle. One of my Facebook friends posted a statement implying that we should embrace an outcome with which I strongly disagreed. Although it is usually my policy not to get entangled in politics on social media, I was strongly tempted to respond with a snappy, hard-edged reply to her post.
Thankfully, I took a “prayer pause” and sought to correct my own thinking to see that she (and those who thought like her) did not represent some vaguely dark and evil “other,” but that, in reality, we all belonged to one spiritual family where all of us are children of the one infinite Parent, divine Love. Following this line of reasoning, we see that our true nature, and that of our neighbor, expresses Love’s spiritual nature and is innocent, loving, and good.
Holding to this spiritual reality, we can discern what needs to be addressed and healed in human experience, while not losing sight of what’s true about God as well as what’s true about ourselves and our neighbors as God’s children, governed by His/Her goodness. For me, I’ve found that consistently studying the Bible as well as the writings of Mary Baker Eddy helps keep my thought uplifted and equipped to deal with the challenges of the day.
I rethought my response to her post and chose instead to respond by posting a Monitor article about the same issue my friend had posted about, but which addressed it in a healing, unifying way. What joy I felt when she responded with a “thank you” and chose the big, happy “Love” Facebook Reaction for the posted article!
Can we change the tendency to think in terms of “us” and “other” and instead adopt a more inclusive perspective that embraces all humanity? Mary Baker Eddy, who founded Christian Science, wrote, “The vital part, the heart and soul of Christian Science, is Love” (“Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures,” p. 113).
Our true spiritual nature is loving and inclusive of all God’s children, not just those holding the same human opinions as ours. With our inherent spiritual vision we can see everyone – from humble day laborers to world leaders – as reflecting the goodness of divine Love and bring a healing influence to the aggressive material picture of polarization. There is, in reality, no “other,” just the oneness of divine Love and its creation, where each individual is essential to the beautiful tapestry of God’s goodness for all.
Knowing this uplifting, God-inspired truth encourages us to reach out to a neighbor or friend who thinks differently than we do, find common ground, and, through spiritual understanding, discover that God guides and loves all of His/Her children. Entertaining loving, Christly thoughts of man’s spiritual individuality, we will no longer resign ourselves to an echo chamber but will shine forth brightly like the city Jesus referred to that “cannot be hid” because it is “set on an hill” (Matthew 5:14). We can all help lessen the intense division of our times and exemplify the practical effects of those two great commandments to love God supremely and our neighbor as ourselves.