The recent hit film Lincoln depicts the mighty struggle that took place behind the battlefields of the United States Civil War, in the political and legal arena of the United States Congress in 1865. The film has resonated deeply with audiences—maybe because they have recognized striking similarities between the political climate of 1865 and of today. The issues might be different, but the impassioned political polarization is very much the same.
After seeing Lincoln, readers of this magazine might gain new appreciation for this sentence from Mary Baker Eddy’s book Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures: “Legally to abolish unpaid servitude in the United States was hard; but the abolition of mental slavery is a more difficult task” (p. 225).
You might ask, what could possibly be more difficult than the arduous political battle that took place in the US to legally abolish slavery? Lincoln makes clear just how daunting this struggle was. And another question: just what constitutes “mental slavery” in the first place?
A genuinely moral life is one that rises up with the power of divine Love to overthrow materialism.
Eddy goes into elaborate detail on these points. Based on the teachings of Jesus, Science and Health speaks of mortals as still being in “bondage to material sense” and calls for a universal freedom for all people from “the fetters of sin, sickness, and death” (pp. 225–226). These “prison chains” certainly fall under the category of “mental slavery.” Whatever forms sin, sickness, and death take, they are overbearing and oppressive conditions of thought that would keep us from living free and joyous lives.
So, what makes their abolition so challenging? After all, if they are so undesirable, one could argue that finding freedom from their grasp should be easy. Yet doing so requires a major mental shift and a deep consecration to God. It entails breaking free from materialism and finding satisfaction in spirituality.
This can feel like an uphill fight—as if defeating the heavy pull of materialism in society is a losing battle. Yet this effort puts us on the right side of history. Abolitionists were on the right side of history, by doing their part to bring freedom to slaves. Yet at first it may have seemed far easier for them to give up the fight and keep the status quo. Their struggle required immense courage.
This is equally true in our battle against mental slavery and materialism. It may seem easier to simply go with the flow of a material, mortal life. But a genuinely moral life is one that rises up with the omnipotent, omnipresent power of divine Love to overthrow materialism. It is one that recognizes the rightness in winning freedom from sin, sickness, and death, because this freedom brings real and lasting joy.
The good news is this: If history gives us any clue, we’re guaranteed to prevail in this fight. Good always wins. Each step we take in the battle, each prayer we pray for triumph over sin and for health instead of disease, brings us a little closer to the ultimate victory—permanent and perfect peace.