Helping to stop tyranny, intolerance, and bloodshed

The ongoing situation between Israelis and Palestinians may make us wonder, Can peace truly be achieved? This article from the column’s archives, written in 2014, highlights a spiritual basis for lasting peace that remains very relevant today.

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When tensions between political and/or religious groups flare up in hot spots around the globe, as in the current escalating crisis between Israelis and Palestinians, it’s tempting to think that what’s needed is to change people’s thinking about each other. We may think that one side needs to stop seeing the other as an enemy, or as unworthy, untrustworthy, unjust, aggressive, oppressive, unforgiving, or hateful, in order for a crisis to be resolved and a peace process to gain traction.

And perhaps that’s true. But the root of the problem may go much deeper. It may be that what’s primarily needed is a change in people’s thinking about God – about the nature of the divine power or intelligence that governs the universe.

In her book “Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures,” Mary Baker Eddy writes: “Tyranny, intolerance, and bloodshed, wherever found, arise from the belief that the infinite is formed after the pattern of mortal personality, passion, and impulse” (p. 94). An anthropomorphic concept of God, portraying the Supreme Ruler as sometimes unjust or arbitrary in His power-wielding, would logically imply that man, made in God’s image, tends to act tyrannically, too. Believing that God favors one people over another would make intolerance and bloodshed logical and legitimate. And holding an image of God as emotional and impulsive would sanction human actions devoid of reasoned consequence.

Inspired Scriptures show us a very different concept of the Divine, however. The prophet Balaam declared, “God is not man, that he should lie, or a son of man, that he should change his mind” (Numbers 23:19, English Standard Version). Balaam also stated that God had given him a commandment to bless, not curse, His children. And while some Old Testament writers did suggest that God plays favorites, others glimpsed His all-inclusiveness and impartiality. “Have we not all one father? hath not one God created us?” asked the prophet Malachi (2:10).

Christ Jesus set the standard of prayer with the words “Our Father,” and noted that our divine Parent “makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust” (Matthew 5:45, ESV). Isaiah prophesied, “And it shall come to pass in the last days, that the mountain of the Lord’s house shall be established in the top of the mountains, and shall be exalted above the hills; and all nations shall flow unto it” (Isaiah 2:2). And he added that the recognition of this all-embracing power would bring peace: “Nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more” (2:4).

The New Testament defines God as Love, and Christian Science teaches that this divine Love is Principle – infinite, universal, impartial, and all-inclusive. This concept of God deprives tyranny, intolerance, and bloodshed of all sanction, for divine Love could never cause or justify or permit such evil or harm for its own creation. Knowing the supremacy of Love as the Principle or intelligence that causes, upholds, and governs all life in the universe, one could never permit oneself – or even have any desire – to indulge in impulsive, passionate sectarian violence or revenge.

But how can we bring this concept of God to light in a world that seems rife with violence? We can pray to know that underneath the surface appearance of things, God is revealing Himself to His whole family through the unstoppable, irreversible activity of the Christ, the divine influence in human consciousness. No individual, nation, or group of people can be left out of that divine embrace and truth-knowing. As we become convinced of this in prayer motivated by love, we can expect to see evidence of it in our global community, including an abatement of tyranny, intolerance, and bloodshed.

Originally published on July 14, 2014.

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