It was the 1960s, and the Vietnam War was raging. Like many members of my generation, I very much wanted to help bring it to an end. I felt impelled to pray about the conflict, but it was hard to believe that the prayers of one college student could have any real impact on such a formidable problem.
Then the subject came up in my Christian Science Sunday School class. The other students and I asked our teacher whether one person’s prayer could really have an effect on pressing global issues, particularly those, like war, that have plagued humanity throughout history. Our teacher assured us that it could, and she gave each of us an assignment: Go and stop a war.
I had never heard anything so outrageous. How could an inconsequential person like me – a college student – stop a war? While I was by no means a radical, I had been supporting the peace movement for some time, and my association with it had left me certain of one thing: Ending a war is a long and complicated process.
But I was inspired by a statement by Mary Baker Eddy, the discoverer of Christian Science: “You have simply to preserve a scientific, positive sense of unity with your divine source, and daily demonstrate this. Then you will find that one is as important a factor as duodecillions in being and doing right, and thus demonstrating deific Principle. ... Each of Christ’s little ones reflects the infinite One, and therefore is the seer’s declaration true, that ‘one on God’s side is a majority’ ” (“Pulpit and Press,” p. 4).
What did it mean, I wondered, to be “on God’s side”? Mrs. Eddy said that it is to understand our unity with God. To me this meant refusing to see God’s creation as fractured, split, or warring, and instead seeing all of His children as whole, complete, dwelling forever in unity. With God there are no sides, no divisions. There is only God, the infinite One.
As it happened, it wasn’t long before I had three opportunities to put these ideas into practice. The first came on Monday morning, when I climbed aboard the jammed city bus to go to school. The atmosphere was fractious.
I decided to stop a “war” right there. I saw that because God’s love for His creation is infinite, boundless, there was enough room and grace for everyone. And I actually experienced a heartfelt love for every individual on that bus.
Right away, the whole group calmed down, and the rest of the trip was perfectly harmonious.
That was a powerful taste of what it means to allow myself to be the expression of divine Love, God, whose presence was more than powerful enough to transform the mood on the bus.
My next opportunity to “stop a war” – to see and demonstrate man’s unity with God – came a short time later at a meeting to address issues between students and faculty at my college. The conversation devolved into a tense standoff.
Once again I prayed, acknowledging God as the one legitimate Mind. That meant we were united as the expression of divine Mind, as children of God, as brothers and sisters.
All of a sudden, an entirely new solution to one of the issues was proposed, and it was quickly determined to be acceptable to everyone. Then that happened with the next issue. And the next. Before long, every difference that had divided us was resolved.
It is within God’s power to resolve any conflict. To truly be on God’s side means to let go of any preconceived idea of how a conflict should be resolved, and to acknowledge the infinite power of Love, allow ourselves to be the expression of it, and let Love do its job.
Not long after this powerful experience, I participated in a large protest against the Vietnam War. It was troubling when we saw a phalanx of police officers approaching on horseback. This was an era when not all antiwar demonstrations ended peacefully.
I turned to God in prayer. This time it occurred to me that I needed to identify myself as more than a member of the “peace generation” – to acknowledge my true, spiritual identity as the individualized expression of the infinite One. That was really who I was. And that was who everyone else was as well.
That doesn’t mean that we can’t have our own points of view or expressions of individuality. But humbly acknowledging and striving to demonstrate man’s unbreakable unity with God brings unity to the human scene. And even one individual can help bring that about through prayer.
So how did the confrontation end? The police simply turned around and left. Then the protesters dispersed, too.
It’s not always easy, of course. But one on God’s side really is a majority. Each one of us can make a powerful contribution to stopping wars – and preventing them from starting – right where we are. We can all be peacemakers.
Adapted from an article published in the Feb. 23, 2015, issue of the Christian Science Sentinel.