I was intrigued by a recent Monitor article describing how Estonia has developed a comprehensive system for preventing foreign interference in its democracy in the wake of destructive rioting and cyberattacks, evidently orchestrated by Russians, in 2007 (see “Cybersecurity 2020: What Estonia knows about thwarting Russians,” Feb. 4, 2020).
Uncovering whatever deception and manipulation of public thought may be going on is a good first step in combating evil in the world. The discoverer of Christian Science and founder of this news organization, Mary Baker Eddy, encouraged alertness to evil’s attempts to provoke discord while remaining hidden. Using the term “animal magnetism” to refer to the deceptive, mesmerizing nature of evil, she writes: “The mild forms of animal magnetism are disappearing, and its aggressive features are coming to the front. The looms of crime, hidden in the dark recesses of mortal thought, are every hour weaving webs more complicated and subtle” (“Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures,” p. 102).
The good news is that we are well equipped – even divinely empowered – to counter evil. Based on the Bible, in particular Jesus’ teachings, Christian Science defines God as purely good and supremely powerful, neither creating nor sanctioning evil in any form. God has created everything as spiritual, and sees it as totally good. In one of his parables, Jesus explains evil as coming from “an enemy” in the dark of night, “while men slept” (see Matthew 13).
Exposing evil as having no divine authority or part in God’s creation doesn’t mean ignoring or taking a naive approach to it. On the contrary, it enables us to respond more powerfully, by making a critical distinction between the evil itself and the person or group of people who seem to be giving it life and power. Because if everything God created, including man (meaning each one of us), is actually spiritual and good, then evil is not personal at all. To define it as a person or group is to leave evil still hiding behind a mask, making it look like it has intelligence, power, and influence.
Instead, we can ask, What is the real enemy at the bottom of it all?
In the last chapters of the Bible, the sum total of all evil is epitomized by a great red dragon maliciously intent upon destroying good. In effect, it stands for the notion that there is a power opposed to God, good, and that it can win against God. But the dragon, identified as a deceiver, was “cast out into the earth” (Revelation 12:9) – into dust, nothingness – and the reign of God, or good, was realized.
Here is a model of hope for humanity. Whatever tries to tear us apart, to divide us, to destroy all that is good, to claim that it’s more powerful than God, is a liar. And when it’s exposed as such, it can be proved powerless.
A friend of mine had trouble with a neighbor who was expressing hostility toward him. The situation escalated to the point where it was interfering with my friend’s work. In an effort to restore calm, he was spending so much time analyzing comments and composing emails, it seemed he couldn’t think about anything else.
My friend was also praying, though. And as he did it became clear to him that the root of the problem wasn’t a person needing to be mollified. It was impersonal evil that would fixate his attention on antagonism, so preventing him from doing anything useful.
Recognizing this evil as powerless to stop God’s expression of good in all His children (including the neighbor) brought my friend peace and dominion over being drawn in by the trouble. He was no longer intimidated. This mental victory occurred completely within his own prayer-lighted consciousness. Shortly after, he found an appropriately firm but cordial way to respond to his neighbor, who in turn replied respectfully. The verbal attacks ended.
It’s a small example in the grand scheme of things, but to me it’s encouraging evidence that ultimately, evil has no inherent ability to stop or reverse the activity of good, of Spirit, God, who is infinite and has no legitimate opposite. And the same rule applies to big things. Divine Spirit cannot be divided, torn apart, pulled down, or destroyed. Neither can His creation, His expression of good.
Alertness to destructive influences and their underlying illegitimacy will help us stop being dismayed by evil and instead prove, little by little, the powerlessness of evil and the God-empowered nature of good.