It was 1970, and protests were erupting on college campuses across the United States. The shooting of 13 students at Kent State University by the inexperienced Ohio National Guard was the match that lit the powder keg of widespread discontent with the Vietnam War.
I was a senior when this took place, and my bucolic college campus was ignited into action. Although I was aware of unrest on other campuses, I never thought my college would become involved. But my school gave students the option of forgoing exams so we could use that time to participate in antiwar efforts instead.
I prayed deeply about the choice I had to make. I had a conviction that anger and inharmony are eradicated by love, but it seemed to me that many of my classmates were motivated by anger and hatred, not love. I also felt that some were taking advantage of the situation – not committed to antiwar efforts, but happy to be relieved of the responsibility of taking their examinations.
Ultimately, I didn’t feel impelled to join the protests, so it seemed most right to me to prepare for and take my exams, which is what I did.
During this time, a rash developed on my legs. I also began to recognize that I felt self-righteous about my decision, was harboring resentment toward my classmates, and felt disappointed that graduation festivities had been greatly curtailed.
I have often found prayer to be an effective action, so I turned to God for healing of my legs as well as my unhelpful thinking. This allowed me to see that my anger and prideful attitude were the result of seeing the situation from my limited mortal perspective, rather than considering God’s reality, the spiritual reality for all of us. For instance, the true nature of everyone (not just me!) as God’s spiritual offspring, inherently able to feel and express Christlike qualities of love, thoughtfulness, fairness, and truthfulness.
Mary Baker Eddy, the discoverer of Christian Science, wrote, “The calm and exalted thought or spiritual apprehension is at peace” (“Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures,” p. 506). As I earnestly prayed to gain this “calm and exalted” spiritual perspective, not only did I feel a deeper love and forgiveness toward my fellow students, but the feelings of self-righteousness lifted and the rash was healed.
After graduation, a friend of mine from a different college recounted how she had thought through the protests on her campus. I knew her to be sincere and thoughtful – and she shared that her own prayers had led her to be involved in the protests. My eyes were opened. I could see that she, too, had been sincere and well-intentioned in her decision.
I think about this experience whenever I catch myself thinking that my perspective is the best or only legitimate viewpoint. We each have a unique and direct relation to God, who guides each of us to fulfill the mission and purpose He is unfolding within us. There are many, many needs in the world that require different talents and perspectives. And we can turn to God to nurture our unique talents and discover how best to utilize them in service to God, good, and to our fellow men and women.
Whether or not we participate in a physical gathering in support of a cause, we can all take a stand for the spiritual fact that God communicates directly to everyone, and that everyone has a God-given capacity to hear and follow God’s direction. Mrs. Eddy also wrote, “Protesting against error, you unite with all who believe in Truth” (“The First Church of Christ, Scientist, and Miscellany,” p. 193). As we affirm in our prayers God’s ever-present love and see everyone as, ultimately, under God’s divine government of peace, justice, and fairness, we’re actively protesting against injustice, self-righteousness, and anger and for humanity’s God-directed progress.