Good government starts with self-government
I threw the newspaper with the shocking headline onto the dining room table. Dismayed, I couldn’t read any further. A political scandal had been dominating news coverage for the past few days, and on this particular day a disclosure had come to light that took the improprieties to a new low.
I started to carry a basket of dirty laundry down to the basement, but I wasn’t really thinking about doing my laundry. I was mentally condemning the individual who was at the center of the scandal. Lost in my thoughts, and unable to see the stairs because of the laundry basket I was carrying, I started down the steps unaware that my cat was right in front of me, sound asleep. I stepped on him, inadvertently pushing him off the stairs. I lost my balance, twisted, and fell, landing on my shoulder on the basement floor. The fall knocked the wind out of me, and, for a moment, I couldn’t move.
Immediately I turned to God in prayer for help. As I prayed, a thought came to me in the form of a Bible phrase: “Stand upright on thy feet” (Acts 14:10 ), which is a phrase the Apostle Paul spoke with “a loud voice” when he commanded a crippled man to walk. It felt as if God was commanding me to stand upright and to do so immediately—to demonstrate my God-given strength and dominion. So, I obeyed, and I found that I could stand, although with much discomfort at first. As I stood up, that word upright rang in my thought. Another Bible passage came to me: “Mark the perfect man, and behold the upright: for the end of that man is peace” (Psalms 37:37 ).
Suddenly it dawned on me what had brought about the fall: I had been erroneously believing that some people are fallen from God’s love, that they are sinning mortals working against what is moral and good. I had been judging and condemning the person caught up in the political scandal as a fallen sinner. I had not recognized the individual in his true nature as an upright child of God, and now I had quite literally understood myself as fallen as well!
I felt led to forgive not only the politician but also myself.
I took a few minutes to pray about the political controversy and for all those involved in it. My hardened view was melted by pure, sweet thoughts from divine Love, which flooded my consciousness. I took a stand that everyone is actually upright, perfect, and lives in peace because in reality everyone is God’s pure expression, never outside of God’s loving presence; and God does not give His image and likeness the option to sin. Like a good parent, God loves all of His children too much to allow them to cause harm or be harmed. Knowing this spiritual truth encourages us to be more upright in our own thinking and lives. So as I prayed I trusted that God’s gentle and wise guidance would help me keep my thoughts purer and more loving.
With that prayer, the pain and stiffness I had been feeling simply left. I felt I could proceed to do the laundry, but then I heard an awful sound coming from my cat who was hiding in a space in the basement where I could not reach him. I became terrified that I might have injured him. I again turned to God and prayed for Him to show me that, as the expression of God, I could never actually hurt any one of God’s sweet, beloved ideas.
I knew from my experience as a Christian Scientist that Christ, Truth, the divine manifestation of God, reveals healing messages to us from God in a way we can understand. Mary Baker Eddy writes in Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures, “Christ is the true idea voicing good, the divine message from God to men speaking to the human consciousness” (p. 332 ). The tender Christ message that came to me in that moment of prayer was a simple one about the need for forgiveness.
I felt led to forgive not only the politician but also myself for the condemnation I had been harboring in my thoughts; to know that the supreme love of God, the Father of all, forgives us by destroying wrong inclinations and instilling in us the desire to do God’s will. God knows all of us only as His beloved children. This divine message of forgiveness was right on the mark, just what I needed. It set me in a new direction, opening the way for me to affirm that all are free to enjoy God’s blessing—to recognize and live in accord with their true goodness as God’s child.
I acknowledged that God does not gloss over sin, but God’s law of constant goodness, acting on human thought, overcomes and destroys sin, proving that wherever there is the one, sinless God (and God is everywhere), there can be no sin or sinner because sin can’t exist in the omnipresence of God’s love. As I prayed in this way, I felt absolved of my own sinful thinking, and I learned a valuable lesson: As sinful thoughts left me, so, too, could their seeming effects. My cat did not have to pay for my mistake, for my self-absorption and carelessness. Right then I could prove that both my cat and I were actually innocent because that was how God made and knew us.
Calmly, I sat on the floor near where my cat was hiding and spoke to him of God’s love and how that love guaranteed his safety and peace. Soon my cat emerged and jumped into my arms, purring. He seemed completely fine, which was an indication to me of God’s ongoing care.
This experience happened some years ago, and since then I have continued to see the need to better govern my thoughts in accordance with the teachings of Christ. In better governing my thoughts, I contribute to good government for all. I cannot stand in judgment and condemnation of others if I demonstrate that God, through Christ, is governing me and everyone. As Paul writes, I know that I must “bring into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ” (II Corinthians 10:5 ).
Recently I was considering how I can help heal political rifts that would harm effective government. To find answers, I researched the Scriptures and Mrs. Eddy’s published writings. I was particularly interested in reading what Mrs. Eddy had to say about government since she lived in an era that seemed to experience many of the same problems that we read of today—a divided country, political backstabbing, biased news reporting, and economic insecurities. It was clear that those difficult human circumstances did not dim her deep conviction in God’s government and the ability of everyone to experience it here and now.
She expected Christian Scientists to pray for government, as shown in this request: “Pray that the divine presence may still guide and bless our chief magistrate, those associated with his executive trust, and our national judiciary; give to our congress wisdom, and uphold our nation with the right arm of His righteousness” (Christian Science versus Pantheism, p. 14 ). Following Jesus’ example, Mrs. Eddy had an unwavering conviction in God’s ability to govern. She wrote, “Be firm in your understanding that the divine Mind governs, and that in Science man reflects God’s government” (Science and Health, p. 393 ). And, “It is safe to leave with God the government of man” (Retrospection and Introspection, p. 90 ).
The study I undertook showed me how God governs. He governs by being Himself. Since all creation is the emanation of God, and exists in and of God, then by governing Himself, God is governing all, including each one of us, who is His perfect image. Accepting that God governs our entire being, as He truly does, enables us to better express good self-government. As Mrs. Eddy states, “Man is properly self-governed only when he is guided rightly and governed by his Maker, divine Truth and Love” (Science and Health, p. 106 ), and, “Reflecting God’s government, man is self-governed” (Science and Health, p. 125 ).
That fall down the basement steps, and the quick healing that followed, was a wake-up call to me to remain upright in my thoughts about government, to pray for it, and to respect all who serve it. In times of scandal, extreme partisanship, or nasty elections, it is easy to get caught up in the seething current of thought, and even take sides and add to the vitriol. But we have a high calling to be healers for the world, including purifying politics and government.
Mrs. Eddy raised the bar on this subject when she was asked, “What are your politics?” Her answer: “I have none, in reality, other than to help support a righteous government; to love God supremely, and my neighbor as myself” (The First Church of Christ, Scientist, and Miscellany, p. 276 ). Praying to support a righteous government, while loving God and our neighbor, will help keep us above the fray, and bring healing to political challenges.