My prayerful protest to injustice and inequality
Many people who participate in social protests are motivated by a deep desire to take action—to remedy what feels like injustice or unfairness in society. In my case, that’s what led me as a university student to get involved in protest marches.
Back then, I felt that my only choices were either to push my feelings aside and give in to a sense of helplessness or to get involved peacefully in protest marches. I chose the latter. I don’t recall whether these marches had any effect on public policy, but participating in them gave me the satisfaction of doing something and helping to keep the issues I cared about alive in public thought.
While I no longer participate in protest marches, I am still vehemently protesting injustice through my study of Christian Science, and so my mode of protest is modeled after Mary Baker Eddy’s explanation of how Christ Jesus healed. She wrote in Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures: “Jesus beheld in Science the perfect man, who appeared to him where sinning mortal man appears to mortals. In this perfect man the Saviour saw God’s own likeness, and this correct view of man healed the sick” (pp. 476–477 ).
Whenever acts of injustice appear in my day-to-day experience, I employ persistent prayer as my form of protest.
“Perfect man”? What a radical departure from the concept of man I used to believe in—man as a mortal, inclined to behave either justly or unjustly, depending on the circumstance. With Science and Health as my guide, I have learned to “put off the old man” (see Ephesians 4:22–24 ); in other words, to put off a matter-based view of life and instead to recognize man’s God-reflected nature as spiritual, as wholly good, loving, and merciful. So today, whenever acts of injustice appear in my day-to-day experience, I employ persistent prayer as my form of protest and separate mortal man’s unjust behavior from the individual’s God-reflected spiritual identity.
My prayers have also been inspired by how people in the Bible dealt with injustice. One example that inspires me is the story of Abigail, Nabal’s wife, whose wise and decisive actions helped dissolve anger and subsequently saved her household from destruction (see I Samuel 25 ).
At the beginning of the chapter, we find young David who, with his hundreds of men, kept Nabal’s large flock of animals safe. The appreciative shepherds described the protection they received as “a wall unto us both by night and day, all the while we were with them keeping the sheep” (verse 16 ).
So when it was sheep shearing and feasting time at Nabal’s, David sent men to ask for provisions of food in return for the protection provided. Nabal, drunk and belligerent, bluntly refused. Filled with thoughts of revenge, David began leading his men toward Nabal’s property, intending to decimate it. When Abigail learned what had transpired, she discreetly ordered her workers to quickly prepare an appropriate supply of provisions.
When she met David, she humbly asked forgiveness for her husband’s behavior. Poised and fearless, she reminded David that his real character was good, and was one in which “evil hath not been found in thee all thy days” (verse 28 ). Her spiritual perception of David’s identity must have uplifted his thoughts, and he accepted the provisions and blessed her, saying, “Go up in peace to thine house; see, I have hearkened to thy voice” (verse 35 ). The original plan to strike in anger was stopped.
I’ve read that some Bible scholars consider Abigail to be a pacifist. From a Christian Science perspective, I think there was something very “active” going on in her thought. Abigail’s spiritual-mindedness and compassionate actions exemplified these ideals described in Message to The Mother Church for 1902: “The spiritually minded are inspired with tenderness, Truth, and Love” (Mary Baker Eddy, p. 8 ). We can strive to emulate these qualities and cultivate the kind of spiritual-mindedness that averts and derails any attitudes, overt or latent, that get in the way of fair treatment for all of God’s children.
There are plenty of opportunities for each of us to pray about injustice in whatever form it appears in our lives. This certainly was the case in terms of confronting social injustice when my work as a college professor and mentor-supervisor to student teachers took me into different school settings, where the inequity in educational resources between rich and poor school districts was startling.
In one particular district, the children came from economically disadvantaged homes. For example, they had to be provided with breakfast as the very first activity of the day. It soon became clear that in more ways than one, these students were not as prepared for learning as those from more economically advantaged homes.
I knew from experience that these children would require a level of instruction that was active and hands-on in order to engage them in learning the material. I felt moved to help the children and often prayed deeply to know that each child at school, regardless of economic status, ethnicity, or race, had a divine right to a good education. And they were already and always were God’s children—complete, whole, and loved. What I could do was bring to the table those qualities that Abigail from the Bible expressed: humility, love, grace, spiritual-mindedness, and a strong conviction to follow God, Spirit.
At times, when I encountered teaching that didn’t engage the students or give them a fair chance, I prayed for God’s guidance. I trusted that the attributes of divine Love—justice, mercy, and wisdom—were in operation and would be manifested in the experience of the children in God’s own way.
Prayers to heal injustice are a vital expression of Christly love for mankind!
I recall one time when I supervised a teacher who’d worked in schools with vast resources, and now he was working with students who didn’t have many advantages. As I listened to his teaching, which was by rote and not engaging, my heart sank. It was clear to me that he wasn’t connecting with the students. He didn’t seem to understand how essential it was to consider their specific needs. Although his intent wasn’t malicious, to me this was an example of social injustice and educational inequality playing out in the classroom. Since I’d seen him teach before and knew he could teach well, I asked him, “What’s going on?” I found out that he had some low expectations of this group of children.
Having deeply prayed about these issues before—that each child was naturally receptive to divine Mind, reflected that Mind, and was worthy of our best efforts—I was guided to help the teacher drastically adjust his ongoing lesson plans. Going forward, he ended up consistently and joyfully applying his own creative concepts to his teaching, and the children happily responded. What a difference! The transformation was quite deep. He even asked me for teaching references after he finished this job and let me know how much this experience had helped.
This taught me that having the moral courage to take a stand for what we feel is right activity, to help others, is a Christian duty. It obeys the Golden Rule of doing unto others as we would have them do unto us (see Luke 6:31 ). Surely, each sincere and rightly motivated effort to improve the lives of others can be thought of as a spiritual response to this appeal from Second Thessalonians 3:1: “Finally, brothers, pray for us—that the word of the Lord may spread rapidly, and that it may be honored the way it is among you” (International Standard Version).
What a poignant reminder that prayers to heal injustice, and the resulting actions we may be guided to take, are a vital expression of Christly love for mankind!