From indignation to inclusiveness

When opinions diverge, the pull of self-righteousness may sometimes feel irresistible. But recognizing all of God’s children as inherently good opens the door to inspired, harmonious progress toward solutions.

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At a meeting hosting an international panel of guests, an audience member was very sure of the superiority of one side of a polarized global debate. She explained how the issue was playing out locally, and presumed the panel would endorse her view of what was right.

Diplomatically, one of the panel members said of the local folks’ varying views, “They might all be right.” Another panelist gruffly piped up, “Or they might all be wrong!”

Navigating today’s world can feel like that. Many people in complex situations are so convinced of their rightness that they are harboring a heightened sense of others as the sinners rather than heeding biblical counsel to “work out your own salvation” (Philippians 2:12). Key to this salvation is a willingness to recognize and rise above the ways in which we seem to be missing the mark at living our innate goodness.

The avenues for succumbing to the temptation to feel a moral superiority and circulate such views are greatly enlarged in this digital era. But doing so is nothing new. In the public square of his day, Christ Jesus roundly rebuked religious leaders for criticizing the trespasses of others while ignoring their own moral failings.

Their assumed rightness impelled them to rage against the one individual who was always right and never wrong because his every word and action stemmed from his oneness with the flawless divine Mind, which is God. Jesus understood and exemplified God as infinite good, thus showing that good is natural to each of us as God’s spiritual expression. The capacity to discern right from wrong is innate because we reflect the all-knowing infinite Mind, in which there is no room for wrong.

Clearly, any moral superiority we entertain is alien to this higher identity. Self-righteousness – like the debilitating sins of anger, dishonesty, selfishness, resentment, and egotism – does not express what we truly are. All these stem from being mistakenly persuaded that there’s more than one Mind and that we can have a separate mind that sees both good and evil as real. This is the flawed conclusion of the limited and distorted physical senses, which convey the false claim of our separation from God’s infinite goodness.

Rather than resigning ourselves to this limiting perception of our identity, we can pray to see ourselves and others through spiritual sense. That is, we can pray to see what God sees and yield to the Christ – the inherent spiritual goodness that Jesus saw in himself and in all. And we can anticipate this forever present and active Christ bringing to light evidence of that goodness in our daily interactions and in broader issues of concern.

The Bible steers us in this direction. For instance, Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount outlined what are known today as the Beatitudes. These “supreme blessings” identify qualities – such as humility, purity, and peacemaking – that offer a timeless road map to feeling our oneness with God and seeing how to live this oneness in practical ways. As Mary Baker Eddy, who discovered Christian Science, put it: “To my sense the Sermon on the Mount, read each Sunday without comment and obeyed throughout the week, would be enough for Christian practice” (“Message to The Mother Church for 1901,” p. 11).

Central to this practice is our capacity to be healed and to be healers. Recognizing and adopting the clarity outlined in the Beatitudes supports healing. It deepens our spiritual understanding of God’s nature as purely good and opens our hearts to this divine goodness reflected by one and all, in which neither sin nor sickness is any part of us.

Every gain in moral clarity is a step away from the self-righteous indignation that would limit our lives and self-center our love. It’s a step toward fully embracing the unlimited love native to us as God’s children, in which we reflect divine Love’s all-inclusive care. Far from weakening our influence on issues of concern, this shift spiritualizes and broadens it, and supports the emergence of divinely wise and innovative solutions.

Perhaps the sweet words of the speaker at that conference were correct. We are all right! Not in the human opinions we entertain, but in the Christliness that is our true nature. Lifting our perspective to this true view, we begin to see that we are God’s loved offspring. And whichever “they” we might be tempted to stand in judgment of, so are they!

Adapted from an editorial published in the Sept. 27, 2021, issue of the Christian Science Sentinel.

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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.