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Civil rights and regeneration

THOSE of us who found ourselves in the midst of the civil rights battles of the American '60s still wrestle with powerful recollections whenever those days are reawakened by national remembrances. We defended standpoints with high feelings only to see them upstaged by clashes of wills and weapons. Costly sacrifices were both made and asked. Orderly lives were upset. Downtrodden lives were uplifted. A momentum of change moved through the neighborhoods of our lives in those days. But most important, human events were stirred by that overriding divine demand for progress, a demand that anchors justice not in willfulness or pride but in God's great healing love.

Mary Baker Eddy, the Discoverer and Founder of Christian Science, says, ``When pride, self, and human reason reign, injustice is rampant.'' She continues: ``Individuals, as nations, unite harmoniously on the basis of justice, and this is accomplished when self is lost in Love--or God's own plan of salvation. `To do justly, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly' is the standard of Christian Science.'' 1

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Out of all the anguish and sacrifice of that period, the civil rights of men and women were advanced. Yet there remains today much hatred and prejudice. It's clear that profound, lasting change for the better can only grow out of deep moral and spiritual regeneration.

Christ Jesus counseled his apostles, ``He that taketh not his cross, and followeth after me, is not worthy of me.'' 2 He clearly stressed those spiritual values that, when lived, always bring us into harmony with God's government and imbue human experience with divinely derived harmony and direction. ``Human law,'' Mrs. Eddy notes, ``is right only as it patterns the divine. Consolation and peace are based on the enlightened sense of God's government.'' 3

Reformation and regeneration need to occur within each life as it is touched by the Christ, by God's healing, saving power. Although many brave lives have forwarded the cause of universal harmony and offered models of unselfish humility, our own lives, one by one, are the proving grounds for the good that lasts in society. And only as our lives abandon self-centered and self-righteous priorities and yield to God's authority, do they truly change for the better.

As one assigned to write about the civil rights struggle of the '60s, I early found myself confused. At first I was drawn to the side of those demanding change. Then I felt sorry for those who were so frightened and intransigent in the face of change. I urgently needed a sense of balance and clarity in order to accomplish my work. I found that clarity as I prayed to understand more of man's relationship to God, of everyone's actual, spiritual selfhood as God's likeness, governed by divine wisdom, blessed by universal divine Love. I became less caught up in the conflict at hand and more the clearheaded observer I needed to be.

After one all-night riot experience that involved mob violence and confusion, a report in which accuracy, balance, fairness, and thoroughness were essential came forth with unexpected ease. Prayer had displaced fear. Spiritually based reason had quieted emotion. I gained a certainty about God's presence. My thought became quiet under Spirit's natural authority. There were to be other days and nights of similar stress, but never again was there uncertainty about the deep meaning of such experiences or the lessons they were teaching. As the riot condition around me abated, I realized that no clash can stifle our ability to know more of God's presence and that the God-derived peace found within does touch others.

Our individual regeneration, our own recognition of God's government and our yielding to it, is the basis for progressive change. I was comforted by the truth that it is only God who, as the Psalmist wrote, ``forgiveth all thine iniquities; who healeth all thy diseases; who redeemeth thy life from destruction; who crowneth thee with lovingkindness and tender mercies.'' Truly, ``the Lord executeth righteousness and judgment for all that are oppressed.'' 4

In the midst of crisis, mine and the nation's, man's natural, constant relationship to God took on new meaning for me. And to doubt this meaning has been impossible ever since. 1 The First Church of Christ, Scientist, and Miscellany, p. 283. 2 Matthew 10:38. 3 Miscellany, p. 283. 4 Psalms 103:3, 4, 6. DAILY BIBLE VERSE Thus saith the Lord, Keep ye judgment, and do justice: for my salvation is near to come, and my righteousness to be revealed. Isaiah 56:1

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