VIOLENCE has the tendency to beget violence. It is not a healer, the resolver of conflict, or an aid to progress. Knowing this, community leaders and religious figures throughout the Los Angeles area have been calling for calm and peace since the riots Wednesday night.
Defusing racial tensions and healing long-standing social inequities require urgent attention. Many groups, along with government agencies, will work at this problem. But what can you or I do as individuals? What can we do right now?
One thing is to face up to our own prejudices or fears. Fear that we will never be treated justly. Fear of those who look different or whose background, nationality, or culture is different from our own. What guidance is available to uncover and remove the causes of such fears?
The Bible recounts some of the events in the life of Peter, one of Jesus' disciples, in the book of Acts. He was subject to the prejudices and sense of exclusivity that were common to his people. Yet as the influence of Christ Jesus' teachings deepened within him, his understanding of God widened. He discovered that God's love was impartial--bestowed on all equally. This contributed to a revolution within Peter, an overturning of lifelong prejudice against Gentiles.
Peter was compelled to reexam-ine his former views. He needed to yield to a diviner sense of man. Peter's feelings of racial superiority lessened in light of God's love and acceptance of all men. As this leavened his thought, he finally made this spiritual discovery: "God hath shewed me that I should not call any man common or unclean. . . . Of a truth I perceive that God is no respecter of persons: but in every nation he that feareth him, and worketh righteousness, is accepted with him. Are we willing to follow this course of thought and strive to see beyond race or nationality and recognize man's spiritual identity?
What brought about this revolution in Peter was not an awakened social consciousness but the rousing of his dormant spiritual consciousness. The divine influence of Christ, Truth, overcame and dissolved the educated prejudices from his past. The understanding that man is the creation of God, that he is the expression or image and likeness of God, provides a basis for seeing that the identity and nature of man are wholly separate from racial sterotypes. The Bible, in Malachi, raises the important question : "Have we not all one father? hath not one God created us?
Because, in truth, all are the children of God, we all have equal recourse to divine justice. We all have equal recourse to divine Love. We all have equal recourse to the healing influence of Christ, Truth. When we trust divine justice, God gives us the spiritual strength we need to overcome fear and prejudice.
The works of Christ Jesus teach us of our relation to God and our equality in His sight. "Now, as then, these mighty works are not supernatural, but supremely natural, writes Mary Baker Eddy, the Discoverer and Founder of Christian Science, in Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures. Then she explains, "They are the sign of Immanuel, or 'God with us,a divine influence ever present in human consciousness and repeating itself, coming now as was promised aforetime, 'To preach deliverance to the captiv es [of sense], / And recovering of sight to the blind, / To set at liberty them that are bruised.'
This divine influence provides the education and help we need. Education of all kinds is important in dissolving the prejudice that leads to injustice or violence. And history shows that the churches have led the movement for civil rights, for it is the rousing of man's spiritual sense that is most needed for progress.