Pop the bubbles of division
There is an element of inevitability in a bubble: It’s only a matter of time until it bursts.
Recently, a podcast from The Christian Science Monitor pointed to the overarching need for unity rather than everyone sticking to their own bubbles—such as social media groups, political affiliations, or trusted news sources—in the face of epic national struggles (see “The day the sports world’s bubbles burst,” csmonitor.com, August 28, 2020).
The image brought to thought the iridescent soap bubbles my children and I so enjoy. We watched with anticipation this summer as the wind moved them in unexpected directions, causing them to float up and out of our backyard. Some made it pretty high.
But: Every. Last. One. Popped.
What bubbles are you comfortable in? The political bubbles that we float around in here in the United States have names such as Democrat, Republican, Libertarian, progressive, conservative, populist, et cetera. Speaking from my own experience, I know that self-identifiers such as these can come to feel safe and comfortable. And if truly honest, we may also find ourselves feeling indignant toward people in the other bubbles: How can they think the way they do? The government, the economy, schools, health care, (fill in the blank), would be infinitely better without “them” around. Our own bubble sometimes gets pushed by a storm of human passion to places we otherwise wouldn’t have imagined going on our own. We may even mentally accuse others of being clueless, valueless, even godless.
But as the Monitor piece pointed out, “The truth is this: There are no bubbles.” Pop.
In this period surrounding the presidential election in the US, this profoundly simple statement, which closes the podcast, is worthy of conscience-convicting attention. It also succinctly explains what I needed to learn when I was working daily with politicians to pass an important bill through the US Congress.
Each of us can commit to seeing others as God knows them, even when—especially when—we don’t agree.
The bill had to do with ensuring individuals’ access to the health care they find most effective, and years of work by many dedicated people had gone into the bipartisan effort. But session after session it kept running into roadblocks, sometimes failing to pass at the very last second, despite prior indications otherwise.
How easy to become incensed at the people who thwarted the bill—and even more tempting to be consumed by theories of why and how they’d been able to stop it.
But throughout those years of meeting with Members of Congress and their staffs, our team prayed to see the people across the table from us as God’s creation. We purposefully recognized the spiritual unity of everyone as God’s children, regardless of political affiliations.
An earnest line in the Christian Science Hymnal asks God to “take my lips, and let them be / Filled with messages from Thee” (Frances R. Havergal, No. 324, © CSBD). And in Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures, Mary Baker Eddy, the Discoverer of Christian Science, confirms, “The intercommunication is always from God to His idea, man” (p. 284).
God’s message for us all is one of unity and love. Even in a hyperpartisan, power-hungry environment, each of us can commit to seeing others as God knows them, even when—especially when—we don’t agree on policy.
There’s a basis for doing this that’s firmly grounded in the First Commandment to have only one God, and in what God’s onlyness and allness imply for our lives and our governments. The notion that there is any other God than Love (see I John 4:8), or that this loving God could create “bad actors” worthy of despising, is a bubble just waiting to be popped. The spiritual fact is that we are all made in the image of the one divine Love.
The impact of this kind of bubble-free thinking and acting can be transformative. It almost takes my breath away to consider the effect of Eddy’s elaboration on what it means to obey the First Commandment: “Thou shalt love Spirit only, not its opposite, in every God-quality, even in substance; thou shalt recognize thyself as God’s spiritual child only, and the true man and true woman, the all-harmonious ‘male and female,’ as of spiritual origin, God’s reflection,—thus as children of one common Parent,—wherein and whereby Father, Mother, and child are the divine Principle and divine idea, even the divine ‘Us’—one in good, and good in One” (Miscellaneous Writings 1883–1896, p. 18).
We have the choice and the God-given ability to not be drawn in to fear-inducing bubbles.
Something of this divine “Us” was crucial for my colleagues and me to understand when we suddenly received word of one last opportunity to pass the bill. There was little time, a lot of ambiguity about the situation, and rumor of firm opposition. But we have the choice and the God-given ability to not be drawn in to fear-inducing bubbles. As I took that prayerful stand and affirmed God’s allness, the many next steps needed became quickly and gently clear.
Spiritual ideas felt like angel guides over those next few hours:
The government of God, Love, is always operating, and its “wind” is blowing to bless all. The Glossary of Science and Health, which gives spiritual definitions of biblical concepts, defines wind in part as “that which indicates the might of omnipotence and the movements of God’s spiritual government, encompassing all things” (p. 597).
“This fight I’m in is not of flesh and blood / The weapons that I need are in Your love.” This lyric from the song “Soul’s Anthem” (Tori Kelly, Kirk Franklin) sang in my thought. Our primary job is to reflect God’s all-embracing love, to bring “every thought to the obedience of Christ” (II Corinthians 10:5). There truly is not a spot where God, Love, is not—not even a back room on Capitol Hill. Love permeates all.
No child of our Father-Mother God can be at odds with Her love, unreceptive to the truth of our spiritual existence. This is Love’s bubble-bursting gift to each of us. What’s more, divine Love’s agency isn’t dependent on individual persons, because Love is All-in-all, expressing itself throughout creation.
As I quietly loved these ideas, my thought shifted. I tangibly felt that Love was everywhere, filling every nook and cranny of the Capitol grounds, historic hallways, elegant committee rooms, and beyond. Love is the only legitimate activity and presence. It was a glorious vision of the universality of divine government. I basked in it.
A few hours later, we learned that the bill had been included in a larger legislative package that had unusually broad support from both Republicans and Democrats. It passed with nearly unanimous approval and was signed into law by the President shortly after.
At a time when political passions are raging, the spiritual fact remains that God, Love, is All. This is a fact that never pops. We are Love’s children. We are divinely able to see, express, and experience God’s limitless love. So whether we’re eligible to vote or not, we do have an important choice to make: whether to be captivated or not by the bubbles that would limit us and others, as though there could be such a thing as an “other” in God’s, Love’s, creation—someone that is unloving, unloved, or unlovable.
The truest identifier of each of us is our nature as Love’s spiritual idea and reflection. This is the unifying truth that Jesus lived to show us and longed for us to follow. It brings progress that flows outward, unhindered. This is what warrants our full-throated vote of approval: “. . . the ever-present Christ, the spiritual idea which from the summit of bliss surveys the vale of the flesh, to burst the bubbles of earth with a breath of heaven, and acquaint sensual mortals with the mystery of godliness,—unchanging, unquenchable Love” (Miscellaneous Writings, p. 328).