Today’s contributor considers how a spiritual approach to “protest” isn’t a secondary option but one that actively supports and even impels positive change.
When one encounters injustice or something else just plain wrong, it can stir a protest from deep within. To take exception to and challenge evil is a normal response, but are some methods of protest more effective than others?
I have found that an approach based on Christ Jesus’ teachings can help move protest beyond mere outcry to a fruitful healing stand that supports and even impels positive change.
Years ago at work I encountered a policy that I felt could negatively impact clients. I brought the problem to the attention of my superiors, but to no avail. The policy remained. Undeterred, I decided to raise these concerns with my colleagues, hoping that a collective protest among us could force management’s hand and lead to course correction. But this resulted only in the censuring of my colleagues. After all this, I stood alone in my protest.
Frustrated and disheartened, I reached out to a friend who was a Christian Science practitioner to help me know what to do next. It is not the job of Christian Science practitioners to offer advice, but they do encourage and support one’s prayers to find spiritual solutions to problems. This practitioner pointed out to me the emphasis that Christian Science places on the power of unspoken thoughts. Monitor founder and Christian Science discoverer Mary Baker Eddy wrote: “Thoughts unspoken are not unknown to the divine Mind. Desire is prayer; and no loss can occur from trusting God with our desires, that they may be moulded and exalted before they take form in words and in deeds” (“Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures,” p. 1).
I began to realize that while I had been resting all my expectations of change on whether or not my perspective was being heard and accepted by other people, God always hears the sincere heart’s desire. This realization enables us to elevate our concept of “protest” from a mere argument to a deeper understanding of and trust in God – the one true Mind of His creation, including each of us – as good.
I saw that a more Christly, prayerful approach to protest could bring the needed healing to the situation. Jesus’ teachings helped me see that in the attempt to solve problems it is important to pray for oneself rather than for a personally desired outcome, because what we perceive as another person’s (or an organization’s) problem may be a “mote” or speck of dust compared to an enormous “beam” that is impeding our own clear vision (see Matthew 7:3-5).
I recognized that the “beam” in my eye was the fear that a bad policy had more power than God did. I realized that I could protest against that fear rather than the policy. I didn’t want to ignore the policy, but for the moment this seemed the more pressing need. So I prayed to more fully understand God’s presence and power to care for His creation.
I found peace as I realized that everyone’s safety and security, including that of the company’s clients, rests in our inviolable relation to God, who cares for all the conditions requisite for our well-being. I further recognized that the company’s management was also safely cared for by the one divine Mind. This Mind sends inspiration to each one of us in a way we can understand.
Soon a client found a workaround that completely exempted her from the effects of that particular policy. Other clients followed her lead – a fact observed by management, precipitating a change in policy that ultimately benefited the company and clients alike.
Prayer isn’t a sidestep to protest. It isn’t a cop-out or a backup move when actions don’t seem to be producing the change we would like. Devoted, heartfelt prayer that opens one’s heart to God’s good governance and care of His creation is a unique, powerful, and Christly form of protest. It can lift us out of an excessive focus on problems, bringing the inspiration that comes from a greater awareness of Mind, God, as the source of right and just solutions.