Growing beyond ‘us and them’
As soon as I was old enough to watch the nightly news I was introduced to a world split between left- and right-wing viewpoints. My dad stood staunchly on one side of that political divide, and I “inherited” his “us and them” worldview. In fact, the first time I was old enough to vote in an election, “them” prevailed with a decisive victory, and I literally cried myself to sleep as election night results rolled in.
It was almost two decades before “us” got back into power, but in that time my priorities had been shifting away from identifying with a particular political worldview. I had been introduced to Christian Science, and as I gained in the spiritual perspective it teaches, I saw my identity in a different light. The model of manhood and womanhood it presents is God as divine Mind reflected in perfect, spiritual expressions of that Mind. And as I strove to identify myself and others in this way—as pure reflections of the one Mind—I saw that things that didn’t square with this model, including the “us and them” political thinking I’d grown used to, had to disappear through spiritual growth.
That didn’t mean my interest in politics had ended. Voting, keeping apprised of public policy developments, and keen news watching continued unabated. Playing an appropriate part in civic life was never in question. What was in question for me was where I was investing my hope for humanity’s progress. I felt increasingly inspired to trust God as an ever-present source of the answers needed to address local, national, and international concerns, and a line in a psalm captures why I felt that way. It says, “Great is our Lord, and of great power: his understanding is infinite” (Psalms 147:5).
Who wouldn’t want an infinite understanding to lean on in the face of complex issues? I saw I could play a part in resolving problems by being willing to listen in prayer for healing ideas from that boundless, divine source to apply to humanity’s challenges.
I experienced how practical this can be in a community group I belonged to. At one of our regular meetings, hosted by local police officers, the police themselves came under fire from those gathered. Criticism was fierce, and we left the meeting with a pronounced sense of “us and them” like a dark cloud over our heads.
Preparing for the next meeting, I left home anticipating more of the same. Yet, as I made my way there I recognized I had a choice. Even though I was part of the community and cared deeply about its concerns, I could take a higher role in the hall as a healer. That meant that, rather than resigning myself to another “us and them” standoff, I could walk through the door as a witness to the one “us” that I knew would be present, namely God and His children—children who are unified by their common reflection of the divine Parent.
The journey from heartbreak at an election result to a heartfelt spiritual response to humanity’s needs is one we can all take.
And that’s what I found that evening. The volatile issue became a nonissue. Good humor, mutual respect, and unity characterized the meeting, as it did in further such occasions I attended. From then on I went prepared to be a witness to our unity in God. I made it a commitment to see past the opposite optics of a bunch of independent human minds potentially at loggerheads with each other—a picture constantly painted by the common belief in a mind apart from God, which the Bible calls the carnal mind. This false sense of mind seems to act—subtly or blatantly—in opposition to spiritual progress. And although I was awakening from its relentless claim that “us and them” thinking is inevitable, I also recognized the need to make a discipline of knowing this spiritual truth in the face of compelling contrary evidence.
Today, polarized political anger tries to impress us constantly. We might even feel drawn into perpetuating it. But we can instead mentally embrace all humanity in the opposite recognition of this spiritual fact given by Mary Baker Eddy in the Christian Science textbook, Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures: “The divine understanding reigns, is all, and there is no other consciousness” (p. 536).
This is the basis on which we can each continually challenge “us and them” thinking in ourselves, especially as hot-button issues hit the headlines and tug at the heartstrings.
That’s not to say we shouldn’t take steps we feel impelled by compassion to take. But if anger wells up, and especially if we’re tempted to air it, we can pause and ask ourselves, “Does this help me to offer a healing impetus by perceiving divine goodness to be in control where the problem appears to be?”
If not, and if we truly want to heal rather than stir thought, let’s lay aside angered reaction as a diversion from the greater contribution we can make in quiet communion with God. In the silence of spiritually calmed thought we can see that it is the belief in an even deeper polarization that underlies all that’s troubling us, and that’s the belief in two competing universes. The one is material, variable, and vulnerable to segmentation. The other is the unified creation of pure and perfect Spirit, in which all are permanently enwrapped in, and expressions of, God’s love. Gaining in our consciousness of the latter as humanity’s sole reality lifts us to be healers who can bring to light unity where discord seems to reign and restore health where sickness appears to be—enabling us to break through all kinds of material limitation.
The journey from heartbreak at an election result to a heartfelt spiritual response to humanity’s needs is one we can all take. It has a powerful impact to know that there is no polarized creation emanating from the divine Mind. And whatever “us and them” gaps seem to separate us disappear in the understanding that there is truly only that one Mind.