Taking down the real enemy

It can seem there’s no end to the destructive influences in the world. But the recognition that evil has no legitimacy in God or any of God’s children can shift our thought from focusing on a problem to finding a solution.

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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.

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Dear Reader,

About a year ago, I happened upon this statement about the Monitor in the Harvard Business Review – under the charming heading of “do things that don’t interest you”:

“Many things that end up” being meaningful, writes social scientist Joseph Grenny, “have come from conference workshops, articles, or online videos that began as a chore and ended with an insight. My work in Kenya, for example, was heavily influenced by a Christian Science Monitor article I had forced myself to read 10 years earlier. Sometimes, we call things ‘boring’ simply because they lie outside the box we are currently in.”

If you were to come up with a punchline to a joke about the Monitor, that would probably be it. We’re seen as being global, fair, insightful, and perhaps a bit too earnest. We’re the bran muffin of journalism.

But you know what? We change lives. And I’m going to argue that we change lives precisely because we force open that too-small box that most human beings think they live in.

The Monitor is a peculiar little publication that’s hard for the world to figure out. We’re run by a church, but we’re not only for church members and we’re not about converting people. We’re known as being fair even as the world becomes as polarized as at any time since the newspaper’s founding in 1908.

We have a mission beyond circulation, we want to bridge divides. We’re about kicking down the door of thought everywhere and saying, “You are bigger and more capable than you realize. And we can prove it.”

If you’re looking for bran muffin journalism, you can subscribe to the Monitor for $15. You’ll get the Monitor Weekly magazine, the Monitor Daily email, and unlimited access to CSMonitor.com.