Freedom for all – a universal right and a universal truth

In light of Martin Luther King Jr. Day this Monday, today’s contributor reflects on the role of reformers in the world and how their efforts, in order to be truly effective, must be based on the universal truth that freedom is the divine right of everyone.

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One day, when my grandson was in sixth grade, I was reading a favorite children’s chapter book aloud to him at bedtime. It was the fictional story of a boy named Johnny Tremain, who was an apprentice to a silversmith during the days leading up to the American Revolutionary War. We got to the place in the book where Johnny overhears the meeting of men such as Samuel Adams, Paul Revere, and James Otis Jr. as they make the final commitment to the Revolution and must clarify exactly why they will fight for this cause.

Otis stands up and eloquently explains that it is not enough to fight for their own personal religious and political liberties, but that everyone, even those who oppose them, must be freer because of their struggle. He declares: “We give all we have, lives, property, safety, skills ... we fight, we die, for a simple thing. Only that a man can stand up” (“Johnny Tremain,” Esther Forbes).

As I read this sentence to my grandson, my eyes filled with tears and I set the book in my lap. I was moved with a sudden awareness that, to be truly transformative and successful, every fight to relieve oppression must be based on the universal truth that freedom is a divine right for all.

My thoughts went briefly to notable reformers like Mohandas Gandhi, Martin Luther King Jr., and Nelson Mandela, and I felt that this was indeed true of these men, that they had fought for a greater sense of liberty for everyone, even those who opposed them. King, for instance, once said, as recorded in a collection of his sermons called “A Gift of Love”: “One day we shall win freedom, but not only for ourselves. We shall so appeal to your heart and conscience that we shall win you in the process, and our victory will be a double victory.”

Then my thoughts went to Christ Jesus, who initiated the greatest revolution of all time. During his three-year ministry on earth he challenged the basic acceptance that man (male and female) is material, subject to inharmony, and governed by material laws that declare the necessity of disease, discord, and death. He transformed the lives of those struggling with moral lapses and disease through the spiritual understanding that this assumption of material being is a fundamental error, and that we are indeed, as the first chapter of Genesis declares, made in the perfect image and likeness of God, Spirit. And he didn’t just do it for his followers and those that loved him – he taught: “Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you” (Matthew 5:44). Jesus’ mission was to show all humanity how to be free.

Finally, my thoughts went to a reformer, Mary Baker Eddy, whose revolutionary thoughts brought a whole new spiritual perspective to the nature of science, theology, and medicine. She glimpsed the true purpose of Jesus’ mission. She worked tirelessly to carry his message forward into this age through healing and teaching.

I could hear these words from her primary work, “Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures,” ringing in my thought: “Truth brings the elements of liberty. On its banner is the Soul-inspired motto, ‘Slavery is abolished.’ The power of God brings deliverance to the captive. No power can withstand divine Love. What is this supposed power, which opposes itself to God? Whence cometh it? What is it that binds man with iron shackles to sin, sickness, and death? Whatever enslaves man is opposed to the divine government. Truth makes man free” (pp. 224-225).

All of this flowed through my thoughts in a minute or so, and then I looked up at my grandson, who was quietly and intently waiting to see what Grammy’s tears were about. “You’ve probably wondered,” I said, “why Grammy and others like her devote their lives to spiritual healing in Christian Science, when the currents of worldly thought oppose it and flow strongly in the direction of finding solutions in matter for every problem. Well, we do it so that even those who oppose us will be freer. We do it because there is no true freedom for anybody except the freedom that is true for everybody. We do it so that everyone may stand up to materialism and its limitations and find the kingdom of heaven, of harmony, at hand!” Now there were tears in my grandson’s eyes, too.

With Martin Luther King Jr. Day around the corner, my heart goes out in thanks to every reformer who has worked not only for his own freedom but for the freedom of us all. Each one who takes this stand is taking a stand in some measure for the divine fact that freedom is a universal right because it is a universal truth.

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