Emily Faulkner, a global studies major, lives at a unique intersection of thought. On the one hand, her major has exposed her to an in-depth analysis of some of the most pressing issues facing our planet. On the other, her study and practice of Christian Science have taught her that the most effective problem-solving doesn’t begin with a deep dive into the problem but with a solid understanding of God and God’s goodness—which in turn can bring healing. The Sentinel’s Jenny Sawyer sat down with Emily to talk about how it’s possible to stay informed about global issues and still pray about them effectively.
Jenny: When we first chatted about this topic, you mentioned that there’s one word in particular that you feel it’s critical to understand correctly in order to both stay informed and pray productively about global challenges. That word is denial. Can you share a little about how that word has two very different meanings, depending on the context—thinking about global issues or praying as taught in Christian Science—in which it’s being used.
Emily: In my studies lately, I’ve found that there’s a tricky—but important—distinction. As applied to global issues, denial is a reaction often motivated by fear or by feeling powerless to do anything to resolve a problem. People often either pretend problems don’t exist or turn a blind eye to them when they don’t feel equipped to handle them.
I recently took a class on global issues, which exposed me to problems including violence against women, poverty, climate change, and so on—issues that touch the whole world. Even though these issues will probably never touch me in the same extreme way they affect many others, it seems to me that we have a responsibility to our brothers and sisters on this planet to have our eyes open to what’s going on. We can’t be in denial about the existence or scope of the challenges people are confronted with.
But as a Christian Scientist, I’ve learned from my own healings that healing doesn’t work too well if you’re caught up in the details of the problem. If you’re deep in the problem, then you’re not very aware of God, since God is all good and has nothing to do with problems; He doesn’t cause them to exist. And that last statement is a denial of a different kind; it denies the ultimate reality of anything that isn’t good. It’s knowing God’s goodness and the all-power of good that solves problems—that heals.
Jenny: Yes, it’s a denial that’s doing something positive, right? Because if you’re busy acknowledging the supremacy of God, that doesn’t leave room for an acknowledgment of another power apart from good.
Emily: Right. So sometimes it’s made me ask the question, “How do you acknowledge people’s struggles and exercise compassion while you’re also denying the existence or power of anything besides God’s ever-present, healing love?”
Recently, in my study of Christian Science, I’ve come to realize that Jesus was never in denial about the existence of problems. He didn’t ignore them; he didn’t gloss over them. And yet, he never got bogged down by people’s problems; his response was always to heal them.
We’re facing some daunting global problems, but Love is providing answers.
I’m thinking of the story of Jesus talking to the woman by the well and intuitively knowing her history. He said to her, “You are right in saying, ‘I have no husband’; for you have had five husbands, and the one you have now is not your husband” (John 4:17, 18, New Revised Standard Version)—discerning that she hadn’t led a moral life. So Jesus perceived the thing that needed healing, and he wasn’t afraid to call it out. If he’d denied that problems existed, he wouldn’t have discerned her need for reformation. Yet he also had the clear spiritual perception of God’s power, grace, and love that forwarded the healing and redemption of that woman.
Jenny: From what you’re saying, I wonder if the common denominator between an awareness of world issues and a perspective that heals is love. Love that inspires us to care enough about others to want to help. Love that propels us to pray persistently in a way that doesn’t just skate over the surface of an issue but really gets down to the “root evils” at the base of some of these global problems.
Emily: Jesus told his followers that what’s most important is to love God and love your neighbor as yourself—so, yes. I think that means not ignoring the bad stuff, and not just letting it rush by you in the headlines, but actually stopping to pray when you’re confronted with these global challenges.
For me, the act of stopping to pray is based on the fact that there is an answer, and that my prayers will be answered because they’re based on the understanding that God is good and has all power. It’s not just listening for ideas from God that comfort me in my own bubble of relative safety and then moving on; it’s listening for ideas that are the spiritual antidote to whatever the problem is. Not only does this kind of listening stop us from being reactive, but it also allows answers, solutions, and healing to come to light.
Jenny: So what do you think can help us stay informed without moving into that reactive or overwhelmed place that you mentioned?
Emily: This is one of the reasons I love reading The Christian Science Monitor: It helps me reconcile my dual desire to be both globally and spiritually aware. It always feels like the Monitor looks at issues through a spiritual lens, or at least a progress-oriented lens, which more naturally turns me to prayer. And when I’m in that place, it’s easier to be informed as well as spiritually responsive to that information.
The Monitor also helps me process the news more productively because it really tries to avoid a polarizing approach to journalism. So I can read a story and not feel so much of that self-righteous impulse that comes up for all of us—the “I’m right and they’re wrong” reaction to the way various individuals or nations are dealing with difficult issues. The problem with that approach is that the moment our own “I” gets involved, God suddenly vanishes from the picture.
On the one hand, we may genuinely believe that we have the answers. But on the other, if we’re focused on our views, our opinions, our rightness (and everyone else’s wrongness), it shuts the door on the infinite intelligence and wisdom of God. Self-righteousness actually cuts us off from the best solutions and puts the burden on us. And I think it’s in that place where we also start feeling reactive and overwhelmed.
What I love about Christian Science is that it explains that the universal law of Love—Love being another name for God—is in operation for all of us, blessing all of us. So that means there have to be solutions that don’t involve one side winning and one side losing. I love the way Mary Baker Eddy explains this in Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures: “Love is impartial and universal in its adaptation and bestowals. It is the open fount which cries, ‘Ho, every one that thirsteth, come ye to the waters’ ” (p. 13).
We’re definitely facing some daunting global problems, but to me this passage says that we also have an opportunity to see and experience that divine Love is constantly in operation and providing answers. This requires everyone’s alertness and active prayer—our love. But we’re up to the challenge. Because each of us is made in the image and likeness of Love, we each innately know how to love.
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