Having a heart that embraces all
A Christian Science perspective: How can we love in the face of religious intolerance?
“When the heart speaks, however simple the words, its language is always acceptable to those who have hearts,” wrote Mary Baker Eddy, the Discoverer and Founder of Christian Science in “Miscellaneous Writings 1883-1896,” p. 262. It’s natural for all of us to “have hearts” and to sincerely want to reach out and care for each other – across cultural, racial, religious, and national lines. Sometimes, however, even if we want to love others, it’s hard to know how to begin. It’s as though we can’t make ourselves love, and frankly, at times, we may even feel afraid of someone.
This is one of the reasons I find Mrs. Eddy’s discovery of divine Science to be so important. Her teachings help us move our hearts from just trying to love emotionally or through human goodness to actually having a spiritually based understanding of why it is our God-given nature to love. She also explains why it is counter to our nature to feel hatred.
After repeated healings of others through prayer alone, Mrs. Eddy turned to the Bible for an explanation. There she learned – from the teachings of Christ Jesus and the writings of Paul that state, “for we are also his offspring” (Acts 17:28) – that because there is only one God, we, as His offspring, are from the same source. God, the all-knowing divine Mind, is our Father and Mother. The offspring of infinite Mind, God’s children, must then have one Mind and must express God’s good, innocent and pure nature – instead of having competing minds with separate agendas and wills.
This is the wonderful redeeming truth about each one of us: As God’s spiritual reflection, we each come straight from Love and reflect His love. We are one. And we are all good. To know ourselves or someone else in any other way is to believe in a mistaken sense of identity. The more clearly we understand the fundamental truths of God, Love, as the source of all being, the more clearly we will be able to see the true spiritual identity of ourselves and others as God’s image. Mrs. Eddy has helpful statements in her book “Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures,” such as, “It should be thoroughly understood that all men have one Mind, one God and Father, one Life, Truth, and Love. Mankind will become perfect in proportion as this fact becomes apparent, war will cease and the true brotherhood of man will be established” (p. 467). She also writes, “Truth not error, Love not hate, Spirit not matter, governs man” (p. 420).
This scientific understanding undergirds our ability to love and nurtures our good hearts, which want to find the good in all people and a common ground to work from. My friend, a Christian Scientist with a big heart, found common ground through her understanding of God, divine Love, when she married a Muslim man. She prayed deeply about the oneness of God, the one infinite Mind, and how natural it was for all their family members to express His universal love. Even though their religions were distinctly different, my friend speaks fondly of her mother-in-law, a devout Muslim. She happily shows me photos of their Iranian family embracing American family members when they have opportunities to visit.
I prayed recently to have a more scientific and thorough understanding of the oneness of God, divine Mind, that Mrs. Eddy speaks of when I was feeling anxious about attending an interfaith meeting. We were there to discuss the topic of justice. When I walked in the door and saw the sea of diversity represented there, the Bible’s instruction came to my thought, “Have we not all one Father? Hath not one God created us?” (Malachi 2:10) The stress I was feeling disappeared, and I was able to sit at a round table of 10 with those of other faiths, including a Roman Catholic, Muslim, Presbyterian, and Hindu. None of us had previously met. It was an honest and constructive exchange of perspectives and concerns. We spoke to each other with open hearts. I left with an overwhelming sense of gratitude for the warmth and true brotherhood I felt.
It reminded me of a phrase my then-4-year-old child prayed one evening – our family has since adopted it as a tradition when we say grace: “God bless everyone we know and everyone we don’t know.” Simple words. The open heart that embraces us all.