A Christian Science perspective.
Occasionally I visit the city of Leipzig, the cradle of the peaceful revolution of November 1989 in what was then called the GDR (German Democratic Republic). There are still reminders of how the open political resistance against the East German regime began and how the demonstrators refused to be deterred, even when armed units of the police and military were summoned.
I also remember gathering up all my courage to join the protests in the city where I lived, and the fear about how the political regime would react to these forbidden gatherings. As more and more people supported the protests, the determination not to retreat grew. Soon this nonviolent revolution led to the collapse of the East German regime and, shortly thereafter, of the political system in the entire Eastern bloc of Europe.
One thing I learned from this experience is that we can’t sit passively by when faced with evil. Even if we can’t protest publicly, we can take a mental stand and be part of a silent – but hoping – majority. Each one within that majority, who is protesting against injustice, corruption, or some other evil, can insist on the power of higher ideas coming from their spiritual source, God Himself. This conviction, cherished in thought, will spread, and it will empower individuals to act on behalf of justice.
At the same time, we need to be alert to what political theorist Hannah Arendt called “the banality of evil.” In 1961, Arendt reported for The New Yorker on Israel’s trial of Adolf Eichmann, who was responsible for the murder of millions of Jews. During the court sessions, she came to the striking realization that this man wasn’t a demon or a monster, but an ordinary bureaucrat who insisted that he had only followed orders. From this experience, she warned that terrible atrocities can be repeated if people don’t claim their right to think.
Mary Baker Eddy, the Discoverer and Founder of Christian Science, knew well the power of thought. Courageously, she faced the scorn and bitter criticism that arose because she dared to understand man from a different basis than her contemporaries. Through her study of the Bible, she understood God as only good and loving, as omnipresent and omnipotent, and man as His perfect image and likeness.
Mrs. Eddy’s book “Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures” explains that we do not need to fear the manifestations of evil, which she often summarizes as sin, sickness, and death. She also wrote that even when we are not directly affected, we can’t simply look away from the suffering of others. In Christian Science, the answer to evil lies in understanding the manifold ways in which God expresses Himself in every man and woman. Each individual has a spiritual nature, and our prayers can appeal to this nature.
God gave man the ability to think clearly and to embrace good, not evil. Everyone can use this ability to resist wrong, to counter it consciously, and to minimize its influence on their own thoughts and actions.
Viewed from the basis of this Science, man is not controlled by despotism, stupidity, or blind obedience. If we are challenged by such temptations, we can gain strength from putting this statement from Science and Health into practice: “Resisting evil, you overcome it and prove its nothingness” (p. 446).
Trusting each individual’s ability to act morally, to think intelligently and with inspiration, can lead to positive changes, even in a “silent majority.” If there is even some certainty that those who are silent don’t agree to wrongdoing and don’t give in to the generally accepted power of evil, it is more likely that individuals will raise their voices audibly.
In this way the silent majority provides support for those who emphatically resist the influence of evil. Every contribution in the war against evil, against patronizing manipulation, is necessary. In fact, every thinking person has the power and responsibility to help counter the forces of evil – to prove that evil is powerless.
At the time of National Socialism in Germany, Oskar Schindler saved more than 1,000 Jews from the death camps, and people I know hid a woman from the Nazis. Christian Scientists, in spite of the threat of reprisals, studied this Science, which was forbidden under the Nazis and later under the Communists in East Germany. They practiced it for themselves and for others, even though they were under threat of arrest by the Stasi (secret police).
To me, they were putting into practice this passage from Science and Health: “Christian Science raises the standard of liberty and cries: ‘Follow me! Escape from the bondage of sickness, sin, and death!’ Jesus marked out the way. Citizens of the world, accept the ‘glorious liberty of the children of God,’ and be free!” (p. 227).
True liberty is God-empowered (see Galatians 5:1). Prayerfully supporting the efforts of those striving for freedom and exercising democratic rights such as voting, using social media and other means to interact with others, or recognizing that corruption has no power – these are examples of mental arenas where our prayers can make a difference.
My growing understanding of man’s inherent freedom as a child of God has led to a stronger conviction about the importance of each contribution to the cause of freedom from domination and a peaceful life under divine law.
Originally written in German, this article appeared in the German, French, Portuguese, and Spanish editions of The Herald of Christian Science.