How we can “hold crime in check”

I began to see that my responsibility to stop crime was through prayer.

Originally published for the Christian Science Sentinel online on October 27, 2022

As I sat in the driver’s seat of my rental car with shards of broken glass surrounding me from a break-in resulting in the theft of my laptop, I attempted to sort out why and how this had happened. Six other cars had also been vandalized that night in the same well-lit parking lot. A police officer on the scene admitted watching it on his cruiser’s webcam and apologized for the fact that the police were not equipped to deal with the crime wave gripping his city. This incident occurred just a day after I had witnessed a fellow airline passenger verbally assaulting a flight attendant, about which I’d been asked to testify.

While these experiences may be mild compared with violence others have suffered, I felt they were a call to me as a Christian and a metaphysician to learn how to more effectively address and heal these alarming violent trends through prayer. Given the increase in certain types of criminal activity, to be passive or uncaring was not an option. 

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In the Christian Science textbook, Mary Baker Eddy speaks of an ongoing fermentation in human thought and makes a stirring call to action: “. . . wicked minds will endeavor to find means by which to accomplish more evil; but those who discern Christian Science will hold crime in check” (Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures, pp. 96–97).

Although I had been a student of Christian Science for many years, I was unsure precisely what the author meant by her call to “hold crime in check.” Was she suggesting that Christian Scientists enlist in law enforcement careers? While that is a noble calling, I felt sure there must be a broader and deeper meaning to her demanding statement, since the focus of her discovery was Christ-healing.

I felt sure there must be a broader and deeper meaning to Mary Baker Eddy’s call to “hold crime in check.”

Mrs. Eddy did not shy away from addressing crime in her writings. The word appears 48 times in her published works. In one case she even describes her visit to the prison cell of a presidential assassin: “I visited in his cell the assassin of President Garfield, and found him in the mental state called moral idiocy. He had no sense of his crime; but regarded his act as one of simple justice, and himself as the victim. My few words touched him; he sank back in his chair, limp and pale; his flippancy had fled. The jailer thanked me, and said, ‘Other visitors have brought to him bouquets, but you have brought what will do him good’ ” (Miscellaneous Writings 1883–1896, p. 112).

What was it Mrs. Eddy brought to the prison cell that day? As a devoted follower of Christ Jesus and the Discoverer of the Science behind his teachings and healing works, Mrs. Eddy knew God as wholly good and all-powerful. And she knew that He governs His children with divine and supreme justice, making man—the true selfhood of each one of us—incapable of sin or sickness. It was this knowledge that effected the moral change recognized by the assassin’s jailer. 

I researched the Bible and Mrs. Eddy’s writings to understand better what her call to hold crime in check really meant for me. I also studied antonyms for the word crime. Surprisingly, almost all were spiritual and moral concepts, such as goodness, virtue, justice, trustfulness, morality, and obedience. This led me to a new and more enlightened understanding that crime is primarily a theological problem, not just a societal one. In this light I began to see that my responsibility to stop crime was through prayer.

When interrogated, criminals sometimes refer to having had an impulse not their own or say that they don’t really know what motivated them. These admissions reinforce the importance of prayer in stopping even the tendency or desire to perpetrate something evil, which is clearly foreign to man’s true, God-created nature. Considering this, I began to see that my prayer could be preventive also, promoting safety and security for all.

Even the tendency or desire to perpetrate evil is foreign to man’s true, God-created nature.

With that, I accepted my calling as one of diligent, unrelenting daily prayer affirming that God, good, is the creator and that man, God’s child, is inherently innocent and free of any evil influence, force, or contagion. I specifically affirmed that man is free of any supposed illegitimate, subtle, pernicious power of evil to influence or embolden him to do things contrary to his spiritual nature and destiny. Under God’s control, which is not optional, man cannot desire to harm himself or others. Rather, the influence of divine Mind impels him to do good to his fellow man. To assertively and confidently declare and know this was the call I began to heed. I could see the urgency, especially at this period, for these prayers, and I expected them to have a practical effect.

Several times during my years of government service when serious threats of physical harm were uncovered, they had to be handled with serious human preventive and protective steps, but I also addressed them prayerfully. On one occasion, we learned that a group of protesters that had obtained a public permit to march intended to throw bottles of blood at our group. The decision was given to me as to whether or not we should proceed to the public park where this march was to take place. I knew I had to commune with the divine Mind, God, for an answer. That week’s Bible Lesson from the Christian Science Quarterly gave me the confidence to order that we should be present for the event. Our visit to the park was peaceful and productive, and the protesting group did not even materialize. 

Another time, on an official visit to another country, I was mistaken by the authorities of that government for a threatening individual. The police threw me up against a wall and held me against my will. Though I tried to persuade them of their mistake, they did not release me. Finally, I calmed down, and this idea came to me: My actual identity is a child of God, and knowing that would be my best defense in securing my release. By pivoting to this spiritual perspective and not resisting physically, I was immediately released amid apologies by the security forces.

The world is crying out for an end to the pain caused by high levels of crime in our communities. Taking up spiritual arms and praying for an end to the terror gripping so many is a most responsible and needed strategy that can and will meet with success. To “hold crime in check” through diligent prayer is, I believe, what Christian Scientists are being called to do, and such prayer is something every spiritual seeker can join in doing.

Image and Inspiration
February 6, 2023

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