RECENTLY I've watched and listened as my ten-year-old son's social and political awareness has come alive. He loves political cartoons and listens regularly to world and national news. Sometimes he's simply outraged. ``They just can't do that!'' he may cry. Doesn't that sense of righteous protest spring from the purity and directness that we so often identify with childhood? Must such innocence disappear as children grow and understand ``the ways of the world''? Naturally, every child grows up. But real innocence lies deeper than childish naivet or inexperience. And it never needs to end. That's because genuine innocence is a spiritual quality, a specific description of the way in which God creates man. We often think of innocence as including an open love of good with no idea that anything wrong or evil exists. It's that simple, wholehearted acceptance of honesty and purity as the way things ought to be that makes a child's innocence so appealing.
But, as we all eventually learn, it's not enough to be ignorant of the injustice that plagues human experience. Take the Biblical story of Daniel, for example. Daniel was thrown into a den of lions because he persisted in worshiping God. Being innocent of wrongdoing wasn't enough. Daniel's spiritual innocence was sufficient to protect him from harm, however, because it rested on a basis of trust in God, good, to deliver him. As he explained when he was released unharmed the next day, ``My Go d hath sent his angel, and hath shut the lions' mouths, that they have not hurt me: forasmuch as before him innocency was found in me.''
No doubt Daniel knew full well what the lions could do! His ``innocency,'' then, must have been on the spiritual level, made stronger and clearer through his steadfast worship of God.
Isn't it odd that such a valuable quality as innocence is commonly viewed as diminishing as we mature? This certainly isn't an accurate view of the spiritual innocence that makes trust in God so natural. Instead of innocence shining brightly in a child, then quickly disappearing in the teen and adult, the Godlike quality grows stronger as we grow spiritually. Jesus' healings stand as models of the power of God, good, over evil. And doesn't Christ Jesus' resurrection demonstrate the power of spiritual in nocence to overcome even the gravest of physical threats -- even the hatred and violence that would try to crush out good?
The world, of course, often equates innocence with not knowing the full picture. The truth is, when considered rightly as a quality of God, innocence can't be separated from knowledge, because it can't be separated from God, who knows all. Spiritual innocence makes us harmless as doves (we can't help it!), but we will also be wise and safe ourselves, for Jesus said, Matthew tells us, ``Be ye therefore wise as serpents, and harmless as doves.''
For this to have any practical impact on our lives, however, we need to see that spiritual innocence is part of an entirely spiritual concept of man and life as God-created. Understanding man's spirituality is the key to finding the innocence that preserves. Mary Baker Eddy, the Discoverer and Founder of Christian Science, says, in Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures, ``Through discernment of the spiritual opposite of materiality, even the way through Christ, Truth, man will reopen with the key of divine Science the gates of Paradise which human beliefs have closed, and will find himself unfallen, upright, pure, and free, not needing to consult almanacs for the probabilities either of his life or of the weather, not needing to study brainology to learn how much of a man he is.'' As we begin to recognize that innocence is part of our genuine, spiritual nature, we'll see that there really is no end to our innocence.