Disarming violence

One morning this year, a 12-year-old girl entered her school in a United States farming community and shot three people. Soon after, a brave teacher emerged from her classroom and, seeing who the shooter was, calmly walked—and talked—to her. In just minutes, the teacher had quietly taken away the handgun. Then she held and consoled this “very unhappy” girl until police arrived. Later, the teacher’s brother-in-law called her “a born mother.” He wrote in his blog, “Determination pushed her to act, but tenderness and motherly love—not force—lifted the gun from the girl’s hands to hers” (“How a teacher disarmed school shooter with motherly love,” The Christian Science Monitor, May 20, 2021).

Thankfully, no one was killed, and the injured have largely recovered. But what drives people, including a little girl, to resort to violence in the first place?

The author of a recent book about conflict resolution makes the point that the root problem in most explosive situations is what has been referred to as “the nuclear bomb of the emotions”: humiliation (see Stephen Humphries, “Is any conflict unsolvable? This author doesn’t think so,” Monitor, June 14, 2021). For some, the feeling of being degraded, of not belonging, or of not even mattering, seems constant. And when people believe their very identity is at stake, they will do just about anything to fight whatever or whoever is putting them down. 

But none of this is really news. Christ Jesus made this very point in his Sermon on the Mount: “You have heard that it was said to those who lived long ago, Don’t commit murder, and all who commit murder will be in danger of judgment. But I say to you that everyone who is angry with their brother or sister will be in danger of judgment. If they say to their brother or sister, ‘You idiot,’ they will be in danger of being condemned by the governing council. And if they say, ‘You fool,’ they will be in danger of fiery hell.” (Matthew 5:21, 22, Common English Bible). It is clear that thoughts are lethal long before the emotions, words, actions, and reactions they give rise to. 

In the same sermon, Jesus called on his audience to take a radical step, in mind and heart, to right these wrongs: “But I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who harass you so that you will be acting as children of your Father who is in heaven. He makes the sun rise on both the evil and the good and sends rain on both the righteous and the unrighteous. . . . Therefore, just as your heavenly Father is complete in showing love to everyone, so also you must be complete” (Matthew 5:44, 45, 48, CEB).

We’re made to live in loving relation to everyone because the God who made us is Love.

Our God-created selves are not at all given to violence, anger, frustration, or humiliation. These are no more native to any child, woman, or man as God’s creation than sickness is. We are, in fact, made to love, not hate or hurt—whether others or ourselves. And we’re made to live in loving relation to everyone because the God who made us is Love itself and the one real power. This is the only explanation for Christ’s continual call for love in his followers toward everyone—neighbor or stranger, family or foe.

Mary Baker Eddy’s primary work, Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures, explains that the Love Christ lived is universal and always sufficient: “The depth, breadth, height, might, majesty, and glory of infinite Love fill all space. That is enough!” (p. 520). This genuine, impartial goodness is inevitably peaceful and wise, prompting thoughts and actions that do not merely patch things up or appease bad motives, but resolve the underlying problem: a misapprehension of ourselves and one another as compromised or lost mortals, fearful and on our own. Love recognizes instead our eternal, unchanging oneness with Love, causing us each to be Godlike, spiritual, and as incapable of losing face as we are of losing our temper, our mind, or God’s care. 

The Christian Science textbook highlights the assurance this brings of safekeeping from both perpetrating and being victimized by human will and violence, providing a path forward for all: “Clad in the panoply of Love, human hatred cannot reach you. The cement of a higher humanity will unite all interests in the one divinity” (Science and Health, p. 571).

We can strive to recognize Love’s own in those we encounter and in ourselves, to exercise and grow in our Love-given patience, kindness, generosity, and affection. As we do, we will be able to face down the thoughts that would tempt us to feel unworthy or angry and to see through and disarm the dissatisfaction and other cries for help that silently claim to be our or another’s identity and to justify retaliation. 

Holy, pure, ceaseless love that emanates from God, which we each include, rejoices in the opportunity to cherish and uplift others. Allowing it to guide our heart and consciousness makes us peacemakers and peacekeepers. And it will help us all to abandon violence—in thoughts, words, and deeds—in favor of God and the motherly love that tenderly maintains each one.

Ethel A. Baker, Editor

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