Safety and freedom: Inseparable
Much news during the pandemic has focused on the controversy between what’s considered safe behavior and the freedom to pursue normal activities and earn a living. How can society find the unity that’s needed to move forward?
I found clarifying direction one day in some words I saw on a T-shirt: “Begin within.” This spoke to me of two key spiritual teachings on how to find answers to anything important. First, instead of judging or fearing other people’s behavior, I can begin within to see how my thoughts and actions can contribute to healing. Second, I can find safety and freedom within God, the universal Mind, in which “we live, and move, and have our being” (Acts 17: 28 ).
In the view of life as material, dangers and strife arise over who wins and loses good. But in the spiritual view of life, safety and freedom and all that is truly good are inalienable rights of everyone. “Inalienable” rights are those that can’t be taken away. But rights that are inalienable also can’t be forfeited—that is, not even given away by choice. God-given rights belong to everyone—are included in our nature.
These rights include the knowledge that we actually live in God—in Spirit, not matter. Everyone’s true life is spiritual, an expression of God that can’t be threatened. Beginning to grasp this fact certainly makes us feel safer, and it also changes how we think about freedom. Freedom isn’t doing whatever we personally want to do; it’s fulfilling the purpose God gives us—to express healing love to others. Even when we or others act out of fear or selfishness, this doesn’t take away our true, God-derived nature. Goodness is innate to everyone and must finally win out in everyone by the supreme power of Love, God.
Some people have lived under very threatening and confined conditions and yet have described feeling both safe and free. One example is German theologian and minister Dietrich Bonhoeffer. While in prison facing execution by the Nazis, he wrote letters and poems that have become famous. One of those poems was translated and adapted for a hymn that includes these lines:
We’re steadfastly protected by Your power,
Encircled in the caring arms of Love.
Together, we are sharing all our days now,
And year by year come blessings from above.
(Christian Science Hymnal: Hymns 430–603, No. 594 )
It’s empowering to think that someone in that situation could feel protected by and encircled in God’s love. Bonhoeffer was isolated from family, friends, and all that would be considered normal life, yet he describes even amid these circumstances feeling protected, sharing good, and receiving continuous blessings. Instead of resenting the prison guards, he was cheerful and kind to them, and in turn won their respect, friendship, and even love.
The awareness of God’s love and power is freedom. This awareness grows stronger as one works at it every day—praying to know and love God, and oneself and everyone as God’s expression. Love isn’t some grand abstraction. It’s put to the test daily. One test many find hard now is following restrictions on social interaction. They wonder why the fears of some should force others to give up the freedom to do as they see fit.
Freedom isn’t doing whatever we personally want to do; it’s fulfilling our God-given purpose to express healing love to others.
As is often the case, spiritual teaching goes counter to human reason and willfulness. For example, Paul writes, “Bear ye one another’s burdens, and so fulfil the law of Christ” (Galatians 6:2 ). If following government guidelines removes a burden of fear from others, it can’t harm the one doing it out of love. Nor can it take away anyone’s right to trust God’s protection and power. That freedom is inalienable and would only be surrendered by trusting something else instead.
One Christmas morning years ago I was healed of a contagious sickness as I prayed to give up my dislike of someone. Celebrating Jesus’ birth made me think of the power of divine Love that he showed the world. I wanted to feel that Love. The dislike dissolved, and so did the sickness. I was glad the symptoms left, but so much more glad for the wonderful freedom of loving.
Mary Baker Eddy, the Discoverer and Founder of Christian Science, described a path of progress toward both safety and freedom: “Striving to be good, to do good, and to love our neighbor as ourself, man’s soul is safe; man emerges from mortality and receives his rights inalienable—the love of God and man” (The First Church of Christ, Scientist, and Miscellany, p. 200 ).
Guest Editorial Writer