The castle door I was looking at, which led down a few stone steps to where the slave ships had been, once served as the point of no return for many of the millions of Africans forcibly transported to the Americas. It was chilling to feel the dank walls of the castle dungeons.
The tour I took of the Cape Coast Castle in Ghana moved me deeply, and the most touching part of the tour was the young tour guide’s final words. His plaintive plea that visitors move their hearts beyond hatred and indifference to universal brotherliness and love still rings in my ears almost 10 years later.
There are still all kinds of slavery in the world, from the tragic enslavement of individuals to the more subtle loss of freedom to enslaving habits. The call to abolish slavery in every form remains. I’ve found hope in something the prophet Isaiah wrote about 3,000 years ago: “Is not this the fast that I [God] have chosen? to loose the bands of wickedness, to undo the heavy burdens, and to let the oppressed go free, and that ye break every yoke?” (Isaiah 58:6).
Christian Science brings the perspective that above all human conditions, situations, and history, the eternal nature of every individual is spiritual, free, and always progressing. This is because God is infinite, unopposed Love and creates us in His image and likeness. On this basis Jesus healed and reformed people. As we understand more of our present spiritual freedom, it leads us to greater freedom in our lives and empowers us to help others prove their freedom, too.
A friend of mine needed to gain that liberating understanding of her spiritual freedom while at university some years ago, when her boyfriend became increasingly demeaning, controlling, and abusive. He constantly criticized and belittled her and didn’t support her academics, extracurricular activities, preferences, or moral choices. He told her that “cool girls drink” and pressured her into having sex. She resisted, but only to a degree, and then felt bad about that. But she also knew that her boyfriend’s behavior was unacceptable.
The turning point came when one day he got angry at her for no reason, and in front of other people slammed her against a wall and yelled at her. She went home knowing things had to change.
And they did change, though not easily. My friend knew in her heart that true happiness and freedom come from God and His love alone. We can never be robbed of these gifts.
The Bible illustrates that. It includes many accounts of people finding freedom of all kinds, including from other people, circumstances, heartbreak, and disease. In an extended passage in her main book, “Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures,” the discoverer of Christian Science, Mary Baker Eddy, discusses the liberating power of God that the Bible reveals (see pp. 224-228). She describes how Jesus showed the way for all to find their freedom as children of God, infinite Spirit.
The Bible’s message of divinely demonstrated freedom has given humanity a higher platform of human rights. In the face of divine Love, oppression falls. A truer sense of our spiritual nature as reflections, or offspring, of this divine Love paves the way for us to tangibly experience this.
That’s what my friend found. Her realization of the potential for healing grew stronger than the feelings of shame. She gradually but finally found the courage to stay away from the man and realized that she didn’t even have to talk to him at all. She slowly began to put her life back together and went on to marry. She has a wonderful husband and son and remains unburdened by that previous relationship.
Everyone has a right to refuse limiting, enslaving thoughts. We do this by taking a stand at each moment, including this moment, to accept as legitimate only thoughts that God intends for us – light-filled thoughts that banish fear of being controlled or a desire to control another. And no matter how oppressed or cast down we may feel, we can listen for those freeing thoughts that God is always providing us. Divine Love, by its very nature, delivers from mental anguish and oppression and guides to freedom and dominion.
In this respect, I find the hymn “Amazing Grace” so inspiring, not just because of the words themselves, but because the man who wrote them, John Newton, ultimately renounced his former profession as a slave trader. God’s truly amazing grace enables us to find our own mental freedom and to help others find theirs. That grace – that freely given, unopposable love of God – “break[s] every yoke” and empowers us to show forth brotherliness and love.