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Quenching the volcanoes of partisanship

From the October 29, 2012 issue of the Christian Science Sentinel

First appeared as a Web original on August 29, 2012

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With the presidential elections ramping up in the United States, and other important elections worldwide, most of us are aware of the incessant political attack ads on TV and in other media. These can have a corrosive effect not only on the political process but on individual lives and society as a whole.

While it may seem necessary to pick sides, what I’ve found I most need is the desire to express righteousness—not self-righteousness but the divine nature that includes humility, wisdom, judgment, even forgiveness. That makes it easier for me to pick God’s side—to put aside my personal feelings and seek His guidance. 

I’ve also found it helpful to love my neighbors and to be sensitive to the feelings of others, even if I don’t necessarily embrace their ideas. While we need to make decisions, we don’t need to judge others or to think less of them if they don’t think as we do. From my own experiences, I’ve learned the need for mental alertness so that I don’t let other people’s influence move me to accept ideas that aren’t natural to my own thinking.

“When we wait patiently on God and seek Truth righteously, He directs our path,” writes Mary Baker Eddy in Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures (p. 254). It is the one infinite divine Mind, the unrestricted and infinite intelligence, that is the source of all good and healing ideas. 

In a practical way, President Abraham Lincoln confirmed this truth when he responded to an associate who said that he prayed that God was on his side. Lincoln said, “Sir, my concern is not whether God is on our side; my greatest concern is to be on God’s side, for God is always right.”

Every individual—including candidates and voters—is, in fact, the perfect child of God. This means that no one can be separated from right reasoning and sound judgment, even if things don’t always turn out according to one’s own expectation. I learned this some years ago when I ran for public office.

A mid-term vacancy occurred in a congressional district, and the governor called a special election to fill it. Within an hour of the governor’s announcement, I released a statement that I would be running for this special election with the expectation that I would become a member of Congress. 

Such elections require a highly focused, short, local campaign, and I had reason to believe that I was the leading candidate since I was well-known in the community as a political activist with significant business experience. But my lead in the race changed rapidly as the campaign went on. I was attacked through newspaper ads, radio talk shows, campaign flyers, verbal lies and smears. 

These claims were so radically different from who I really was that my friends assured me they did not know the man being described in this attack. And neither did I.

During this period I had daily early morning telephone contact with a Christian Science practitioner. We considered the specifics of the daily reports and prayed together for my protection and safety. We worked with citations from the Bible and Science and Health.

The Church Manual’s guidance for “Alertness to duty,” “Daily Prayer,”and “A Rule for Motives and Acts,” by Mary Baker Eddy, also inspired our prayers (see pp. 42, 41, 40). And we worked with one verse each day from Psalm 91.

I will never forget the day we prayed together with the fifth verse: “Thou shalt not be afraid for the terror by night; nor for the arrow that flieth by day.” We paid special attention to the spiritual protection that prevails against an arrow—the arrow of aggressive mental suggestion, of malicious malpractice, the poison pen. Mary Baker Eddy describes such evil influences as animal magnetism and through her writings makes clear that it is powerless before divine Love’s omnipotence. 

When our visit was over for that day, I departed for my first appointment. I took a shorter route than usual, driving along a back road from the foothills where I lived. It was a beautiful sunny morning. As I approached a turn on this narrow road, I stayed close to my side of the overhanging cliff because I could not see around the curve. When I did get around that point an oncoming car was in my lane.

My immediate thought was “Here comes the arrow!” I was not afraid of that arrow. That is what the practitioner and I had specifically prayed about less than an hour before. It was a moment for me to trust God with all my heart. 

It would take too long to give all the details, but both cars were destroyed by the head-on collision. I was immediately knocked out. I didn’t hear the sound of the crash. I had no sensation, felt no pain, and realized that I was sinking into total darkness. I heard an angel message, or inspired thought from God: “Do not move until you control your thought.” As I fought to do this, what came to me was to recite “the scientific statement of being” from page 468 of Science and Health. Although this is something I knew by heart, having recited it many times, in that moment I could not even cite the first line. 

I kept fighting to find the right words—starting over and over. Finally I got all the way through, and then started the struggle again. I felt like I struggled forever. The third time was very clear and very calm. I was inspired to feel the power of those words.

Our prayers, affirming the presence and power of good, give us spiritual discernment, not only about who to vote for but also in making other choices. 

I found that I was unhurt, and not long after that, I was able to call the practitioner and my wife from a nearby home. The other driver was taken to the hospital, and each time I thought of her during that day, I declared that the Truth that saved me was also the Truth that would protect and save her also. 

That night, after a long day of campaigning, I met her and her husband, and we had a pleasant and supportive visit. She had made quick progress and was well enough to be released from the hospital the same day. Three weeks later, I was invited to her home for a reception with her friends and neighbors. She even endorsed me as her candidate of choice. This event was the confirmation of a perfect and complete healing for this situation, demonstrating harmony and the rule of loving my neighbor as myself.

To this day I still have that deep sense of gratitude for God’s protection and His guidance that “thou shalt not be afraid … for the arrow that flieth by day.” This lesson has stood me in good stead in the years since, and has been one of the most valuable “life lessons” of that campaign.

As a result of the aggressive, negative campaign against me, I slipped into third place and didn’t get elected. Yet while I was outspent and pounded by the other candidates, I was at peace because of my feeling I had won the greatest victory possible: I had not been hurt in the car accident. I had overcome the fear of the arrow that flieth by day.

Another lesson learned was that personal ambition is not a sufficient motive. With a genuine sense of humility, I was learning to subordinate human self to the will of God, to listen and follow God’s guidance.

I also learned again the daily need for prayer and protective work for myself and for the world. 

We must not accept any suggestion of a power opposed to God. This mortal thinking, or animal magnetism, has no foundation in God or spirituality. Each of us, as the perfect reflection of the perfect Father–Mother God, is able to defend ourselves from evil thoughts and influences. 

Our prayers are essential if we wish to protect all who are involved in this highest secular calling.

Our prayers, affirming the presence and power of good, give us spiritual discernment, not only about who to vote for, but also in making other choices. And our prayers are essential if we wish to protect all who are involved with this highest secular calling—the public servants meant to help others in our society and communities.

In a democracy it is perfectly normal to be active in a political party of our own choice. Or we may find ourselves with an inherited tradition of always voting for a certain party. 

Whatever our preference, it is important to be part of God’s party, the party that knows, “Divine Love always has met and always will meet every human need” (Science and Health, p. 494). This fact supports right reasoning, right ideas, and sound judgment to further the cause of good government.

Then how do we respond to the negative ads that are so aggressively active in current campaigns? When we hear them, see them, read them, we are individually responsible for what we take into our thought. Do we accept these negative attack ads as real, truthful, unbiased? Do we repeat the points as our own? Or do we see clearly that the intent is to injure someone, to destroy their influence—their political base—to keep the attacked individual from presenting his or her ideas?

Daniel had this kind of experience. He was the victim of a conspiracy to remove him from high office, and the king was tricked into having him thrown into a lions’ den. Daniel trusted God, and God closed the mouths of the lions so that the next day Daniel emerged from the den unhurt (see Daniel 6:1–23).

The Bible advises, “A soft answer turneth away wrath: but grievous words stir up anger” (Proverbs 15:1). When we take our stand along spiritual lines, we are helping to eliminate willpower, overwhelming zeal, religious judgmentalism, and aggressive animosity and hatred toward others. This spiritual atmosphere of thought guides us, protects us, and supports good government. This is our safety and protection, and a fitting service to our fellow citizens and our nations.

Jack Lindsey is Chairman and CEO at Sun Belt International, Inc., and Sun Belt Water, Inc. He lives in Boston, Massachusetts.

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