“I exhort therefore, that, first of all, supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks, be made for all men; for kings, and for all that are in authority; that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and honesty” (I Tim. 2:1, 2) is the touchstone of this chat. Bruce makes the point that spiritually based prayer and action can be the most effective power in world affairs. He says, “Very few of us have the opportunity to serve in major leadership posts in our government, but we can all pray and through our prayers we can affect government. The love that we express in our lives and what we’re led to by our prayers, these deeds are also immensely effective.”
During the chat Bruce responds to questions such as prayer that will address feeling overwhelmed by national and international issues because they seem so big and beyond individual control. Other topics include concern over dishonesty, dissension, and hatred in and toward governments, addressing abject poverty in the world, helping to eliminate greed and corruption in government, no matter what the country, and how to respond to news media reactions to government decisions, and whether or not it’s possible to be involved in a protest and at the same time be praying for government.
Rosalie Dunbar: Hello, everyone. Welcome to another spirituality.com live question and answer audio event. My name is Rosalie Dunbar, and I’ll be your host for the next hour. Today we’ll be talking about “Prayer for progress in government,” and our guest is Bruce Fitzwater, a practitioner and teacher of Christian Science from Portland, Oregon. Bruce has been in this healing work for over thirty years, and has traveled widely as a member of the Christian Science Board of Lectureship for eleven years when he was at that work, and he’s also traveled since then. Bruce, do you have some thoughts to get us started?
Bruce Fitzwater: Well, thank you for the invitation to be here, Rosalie, and welcome to everybody who is out there listening. I certainly have enjoyed the time I’ve put in preparing for this talk, and I’ve learned a great deal, and I hope from your questions and our work today, why we can take some steps forward. I think that prayer for government often starts for Christians with a statement from I Timothy, and it says: “I exhort therefore, that, first of all, supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks, be made for all men; for kings, and for all that are in authority; that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and honesty” (2:1, 2). And that certainly starts us with the admonition from the Bible to pray, and of course, it’s not just standing there on its own. It’s completely consistent with the Golden Rule, and the love that Christ Jesus taught, and the love that is taught in other world religions. I have a friend who once wrote that, “This world would be a much better place, if more of us prayed for it to be so, and then acted consistently with our prayers.”
Rosalie: That’s a very interesting thought. What do you think the individual meant by that?
Bruce: Well, I think he was convinced, through a life of living prayer, that you not only would pray and see God’s love and get close to that love, but then continue to be consistent in your actions. And actions, of course, begin right with your thought. This spiritually-based prayer and action, I think, can be the most effective, potent power in world affairs. Very few of us have the opportunity to serve in major leadership capacities in our government. But we can all pray. And through our prayers we can effect government. And the love that we express in our lives, and what we’re led to by our prayers, these deeds, they also are immensely effective.
Rosalie: Well, I wonder if we could talk a little bit about the motives for prayer? Because sometimes people aren’t sure what to pray for, or they are very unsure about how to pray effectively.
Bruce: Well, I think the first thing to remember about prayer is that it’s an act of love. Prayer is an act of love, and an act of truth. It’s amazing how, when we do open ourselves to love and truth, we see things take place that we have no concept of. Let me give you an example. You noted that I’ve been in the Christian Science practice for some time, but when I started out I had an office in a big building, and one day I was sitting there praying, and I was praying about world events, for world peace. And it was a time that the Israeli and Egyptians had flared up—a conflict—and as I thought about it, I realized that I didn’t have a very developed concept of Egypt and Egyptians. I had been reading the Bible as a child, and the Egyptians were usually the bad guys. But I realized that wasn’t true. And so, there I was sitting there, and praying to open my heart to the love and the divine truth about Egyptians. And actually, Rosalie, I realized how silly this might look to someone, standing there—sitting in downtown Portland, Oregon, on the ninth story of an American bank building, and praying to love Egyptians. But I knew it was the right thing. Well, I can’t remember if it was the next day, or certainly not more than two days later, a woman came rushing into my office, and she was in tears, and she was an Egyptian.
Bruce: She was right off a plane from Cairo. She needed help, and I just felt that my opening here of love and truth to that nation, enabled her to find me, and enabled me to be of support to her.
Rosalie: Well, that sort of gets me back to the passage from Timothy that you read, because it sounds as though you’re saying that we should pray lovingly for the people who are in government--whether it’s our local government, or international, or national--just try to do everything we can to see them in God’s care.
Bruce: Yes. You know when we just step back, we realize that probably the principle statement that characterizes the demands of an individual, and was so approved by Christ Jesus, it was stated by Christ Jesus, was first to love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, soul, mind, and strength: and then to love thy neighbour as thyself (see Mark 12:30, 31). This is brought up again through the Golden Rule, “To do unto others as we would have them do unto us.” This Golden Rule is found in virtually all of the major religions in the world. And then we look at the Timothy statement, we realize that it starts with, “I exhort therefore, that, first of all, supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks, be made for all men.” And of course, men here is mankind--men and women. That it’s an admonition to pray for all mankind, and then it specifically goes into the treating and the praying for our leaders. And I think that when we put it in that context, we see: Well, of course, if we’re going to love our neighbor, and love all mankind, we certainly would include, then, the leaders, even of those countries that we think are foreign or alien to our interests, and to those leaders who have different political views, or even those who we think need a great deal of help in the line of just morality.
Rosalie: When we’re praying about these things, so what are we praying for? I mean, let’s say there is an issue that we feel very deeply about, what are we actually praying for? Are we saying, “Please let X happen?” Specifically—some human bill be passed, or some human action be taken?
Bruce: Well, that’s an interesting question. I think we can spend some time on that, and turn a number of pages. I think one of the interesting answers to this, is to take a look at what Mary Baker Eddy did in her life. She was the Founder of the Christian Science Church, and by the time this experience took place in 1904, 1905, she was a very prominent American woman, whose attention was brought to world affairs, and was expected to make important statements. And at that time, there was a war going on between Russia and Japan in Manchuria. And it had caught the world’s attention. And she had made some very strong statements about just the evils that are part of war, and when this flared up she asked her Church members each to “. . . pray . . . for the amicable settlement of the war between Russia and Japan; and pray that God bless that great nation and those islands of the sea with peace and prosperity” (The First Church of Christ, Scientist, and Miscellany, p. 279). And a few weeks later—her pupils began to pray, and her students began to pray, and those who were following her thought—she actually issued a statement that asked them to stop this special prayer. And later she explained that it wasn’t that they should stop praying specifically for the peace amongst nations—that should be a perpetual, daily effort, to establish God’s kingdom on earth. But she said—and this is an interesting statement—she said, through “a spiritual foresight of the nations’ drama” and that was her quote, that she had been led to see that the present need was for “faith in God’s disposal of events” (see pp. 280-281). And this concept that we’re really praying, in the words of The Lord’s Prayer, “Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done. . . .” And we’re not being as specific in our outlining of how that should take place.
Bruce: You know, the interesting follow-up on this was that—Mrs. Eddy was living at that time in Concord, New Hampshire—and this war, of course, was going on halfway around the world, but in 1905 when the peace treaty was to be signed, it was signed in Portsmouth, New Hampshire.
Rosalie: When she was living in New Hampshire.
Bruce: Yes, just really not far from her home, and the peace was brought about through the mediation of Teddy Roosevelt, and he received a Nobel Prize for that work. And so you see, the concept of, even when we specifically want something as broad as peace—I think a person can read this in different ways—but I think her settled view was that praying for God’s will to be done, that God’s wisdom is greater than ours, and we can trust “God’s disposal of events” when we are, ourselves, praying deeply, and acting in accordance with our prayers.
Rosalie: I think that brings up a point that we often talk about, in talking about Christian Science, which is that one of the synonyms Mrs. Eddy has attributed to God is Mind. If you think about all the little individual people, having their own opinions, and sort of trying to work out all those opinions and sort of mesh them into something, versus the one divine Mind that can see all and incorporates all that is good, then you could imagine that the one Mind, turning to the one Mind, sort of without outlining specifically, you know, “Please give me a Cadillac,” or whatever, would be more reliable because it understands all of creation.
Bruce: Yes, yes. Today’s governmental problems are immensely complex. There are many issues in them that one doesn’t understand, and I think frankly the legislators and even the world’s leaders don’t understand. Often people accomplish inadvertently things that are entirely opposite of their intention.
Bruce: When you look at some, I’d say, really big political questions, and you look at it in retrospect, one realizes that one hardly understands where you are in a situation. So consequently, specific ideas or directions for the world, rather than for your own behavior, is something I think we have to be somewhat—hold somewhat tenderly in our hand. We called it the Cold War, and this struggle between the Soviet Union and the West, and I remember when I was on the Board of Lectureship of the Christian Science Church, that I had the opportunity—this was in the early eighties—I had an invitation from East German Christian Scientists. And at that time the Church was not recognized, and even having a meeting of people together was prohibited.
Rosalie: That was in East Germany?
Bruce: In East Germany, yes. And it so happened that I was in Berlin on May Day, which was the national holiday, and so everybody had time off and they could travel. And so a group of students of Christian Science had come to an apartment house right in East Berlin itself, and they had assembled there. They’d actually brought some birthday cake so that they could argue it was a birthday party. And I was taken by a West Berlin citizen, and I didn’t even know exactly where we ended up. But there we were, and we were in this room, and we had to be very quiet, just so people wouldn’t discover that we were there. I presented a talk on Christian Science, and afterwards, why, we did have some of that cake, and began discussing more openly. I remember there was a man there who astonished me, because he said, “You just do not compromise with evil.” And frankly, I needed to learn that lesson in a way, because I was certainly intimidated by the East German State, and all that I’d read about the East German State and its power and its Stasi and all the rest of it. I was certainly dealing with some degree of fear about the whole experience. And I still remember how strong and clear that he said, “This is not powerful.” And boy, when you looked around, it seemed like this was, of all the communist states, the one that was going to hold up together. And then a few years later in 1986, the Christian Science lecturers had a month—a month of May—when we devoted lectures entirely to peace in the world. And The Christian Science Monitor had begun an essay contest of “How peace came to the world by the year 2010” that is, to this problem. And I went around to Sweden and to Germany and France and Holland and England and presented lectures—and it was the same time Chernobyl had blown up. And so there was this great sense of the terrible threat people were under, and the anxiety about it, and yet you were speaking of the power of peace. And to think that three years later—three and a half, four years later—the Berlin Wall would fall, the Soviet Union would go apart. No one had any idea of that. Now I’m sitting right in my office here, and on the balcony I have a piece of that Berlin Wall.
Bruce: And it just reminds me of how, even for someone like myself, who was endeavoring to see God’s power and see the truth, that that whole thing just changed its form in such a radical way. And it reminds me that there just isn’t anything, then, that is evil that has real power, that has real substance. And one of my first jobs is not to believe it.
Rosalie: Right, and not to be intimidated by it, either.
Rosalie: And that gets us back to why prayer for government is so important, because it is an opportunity to say no matter what’s going on, I know that God is taking care of our government, or our world, or whatever.
Rosalie: Now we have a question from Caleb in Chestnut Hill, Massachusetts, and this sort of ties in with what you were just talking about: “There’s a temptation to feel overwhelmed by the national and international issues facing us today, because they seem so big and beyond ourselves. How can we overcome these feelings which lead to apathy?”
Bruce: Well, thank you for your question. I think that the first thing to deal with there is fear. Fear is often subtle, and sometimes people run around because of fear, and sometimes they just lie down and think it’s overwhelming. I find that getting closer, just turning to the all-power of God, is certainly the first way to handle fear. I get a sense of God’s love for me. I get a sense of God’s love for the world, for the beauty and harmony. I think of that wonderful statement in Genesis, first chapter, where God sees everything that He has created, and, behold, it is very good. And with the strength of that conviction, I begin to realize that my personal sense of things is mistaken, and I realize that it’s that which needs to be transformed. Mrs. Eddy has a wonderful spiritual interpretation of The Lord’s Prayer, and in the statement that reads in The Lord’s Prayer, “Thy kingdom come,” she gives the spiritual interpretation of “Thy kingdom is come; Thou art ever-present” (Science and Health, p. 16). And then she goes on to interpret “Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven” as “Enable us to know,—as in heaven, so on earth,—God is omnipotent, supreme.” And this focus on “enabling us to know,” I think that is so much of the focus of our prayer. Open our eyes. It’s not that God needs to change. It’s not that His kingdom needs to change. It’s that the human sense needs to open to that wonderful sense of God’s goodness and harmony.
Rosalie: Now, Sarah, from North Kingston, Rhode Island, says: “Could you please address the problem of corruption in governments, worldwide?”
Bruce: Well, yes, and I think that is an issue to take up. I have a friend in Africa, who wrote me when I was preparing for this talk. He’s involved in praying for his government. It’s interesting—he said that there were three different situations that he saw as focusing his prayer. And one, was simply places where there was no government at all. And he compared that to this in the first chapter of Genesis—this “void” and “darkness” on “the face of the deep.” And he thought of, and prayed, that God really is moving “upon the face of the waters.” He said, as a result of that, he begins to see people trying to organize themselves, he sees that the young men are starting street organizations and night watches to protect against criminals. And then he began to take up this question of corruption, which you’ve just asked about. What he liked was this statement from Luke, and from, I think in Isaiah, too, that “Every valley shall be filled and every mountain shall be brought low and the crooked shall be made straight and the rough places made smooth” (see Isa. 40:4; Luke 3:5), that every valley of sin will be corrected. I think that we really have to support our politicians to help them overcome the temptation to yield to these things. There’s a politician from South America, from Brazil, who has written in the Christian Science periodicals, and he makes this point—in fact, I thought it was kind of a voice of hope—he quoted a local famous politician, a governor of Sao Paulo, a man named Mario Covas, and apparently it’s a phrase that really rings for him. It says: “It is possible to carry out politics with ethics, goodness, and honor.”
Bruce: And he said—this man writing—he said in order to remedy the situation, politics must be carried out with soundness, efficiency, morality. And that the politicians, really we must support them in their freedom from—or to enable their freedom from this kind of temptation. I was looking at another article by a Christian Scientist, this is a member of the US Congress, and he spoke of a time when someone came to him in his office, and wished him to vote a certain way on a bill, and told him that if he did, why he would receive a significant donation. The man writing, said that well, he’d already decided to vote that way for the bill, and he did. And a few days later this donation came in, and he returned it. He said it was so important, not just to not be corrupt, but not just to even appear to be corrupt.
Bruce: I think that praying to help politicians with corruption or any other kind of laxity, is a way of blessing our neighbors and loving our neighbors. And consequently, it’s not done with hatred or resentment. It’s done as a support, as a love, to realize that they cannot be profited by corruption. The world is not profited by corruption. And it really isn’t in their heart to do that, because they are also God’s child.
Rosalie: Now, Virginia from Massachusetts is writing: “Could you speak about how to balance the idea of special interests, that benefit one area or group with the good of the whole?”
Bruce: Well, that’s certainly something that we’re looking at often in the way politics seems to be carried out. There’s a statement from Mrs. Eddy that I certainly have found to be a major theme that covers so much, and it’s simply: “One infinite God, good, unifies men and nations; constitutes the brotherhood of man; ends wars; fulfils the Scripture, ‘Love thy neighbor as thyself;’ annihilates pagan and Christian idolatry,-- whatever is wrong in social, civil, criminal, political, and religious codes; equalizes the sexes; annuls the curse on man, and leaves nothing that can sin, suffer, be punished or destroyed” (Science and Health, p. 340). And I find that concept that when we recognize that there is one infinite God, good, this is what unifies men and nations—and that’s mankind and nations. And I think it’s from that standpoint that we can approach the appearance here of partisanship, and recognize that it really is not part of God’s government. And the clearer sense that we have of a certain faction, or a certain interest group having power, is a false concept. God alone has power. The love of God has power. And this is what one who is praying, comes into—comes into a deeper and broader sense of where power resides.I’m reminded of an experience—again, just a small experience—but this took place in Africa. I was traveling with my wife and I was at an airport that’s notorious for its corruption. I’d been talking with an Israeli man in the lounge—he was also a passenger on the same plane—and he was very well-informed about Africa, and I was learning a lot. And then we were separated—my wife and I—and we had to file single-file, kind of down a long corridor. And at the end of this corridor there was a high-ranking military man, who had a machine gun, and he had a large man on his left, and a large man on his right. He was just demanding bribes from each person who went through there. When I came up to him, I had my wife’s hand firmly, and he set his machine gun right at the base of my neck, on my collarbone. And he began to ask for money. Now there’s a special interest! [laughter] But, you know, I can honestly say I’d been praying so much, that I had compassion for that man’s problems. I realized that he probably is expected to support so many people at such a level far above his salary in his culture, that this is the way he thinks he needs to get that extra money. And I just smiled at him, I said some loving thoughts, and I just moved right on. Well, I was on the airplane, and just as soon as we took off and they said you could get out of your seat, this Israeli jumped out of his seat, and he ran back to where I was sitting. And he said, “You didn’t give him any money, did you?!” And I said, “No, I never do.” He said, “Well, you took a tremendous risk.” But I don’t think so. I think that we can oppose evil in its subtle forms. I think we can oppose it in its bold forms, when we are acting in accord with our prayer. And this can be effective. Now this is a small piece, but it’s one little drop, and if all the little drops fall, we have a fulfilling rain.
Rosalie: Yes. Well, I think that sense of spiritual strength is something that people long for. There’s so much fear that people are feeling, that to obtain that spiritual strength—can you explain a little bit more about what empowered your conviction that you could do that?
Bruce: Well, certainly I’d have to say the study of the Bible, I would have to say that the study of Mary Baker Eddy’s textbook, Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures, has been the foundation of the lens through which I have endeavored to see the world, and to work with it. Goodness, all of us are just at the feet of these tremendous truths—spiritual truths—and we’re just beginning to see their practice. But I have had the opportunity to travel, and in different situations, and I have seen the universality of this. I generally obey the laws of the land—it’s rare that I don’t—and even when I don’t I feel that it’s because I’ve been impelled by God, as in going into that East German situation, which was awkward. There was another situation in Africa that I found, again, quite moving. The country of Zaire in the mid eighties had been governed by a dictator for some time, and had refused to have an open religious activity for many churches, including our own. And we hadn’t had public talks there for over a decade. It just came to me very clearly that it was time to end that, even though I didn’t speak French to be able to lecture in it, it could be translated. And I just kept consulting to myself: Yes, this seemed to be the best thing. And I prayed about it. We were told that we would have to offer hundreds of thousands of dollars of bribes to a certain official to even have the opportunity to advance this idea. And, no, we weren’t going to—not the right way to do it. And so we just scheduled the lectures. I didn’t even apply for a work visa, but just a tourist visa. It kind of still amuses me, because I was praying and trusting, but I didn’t know what was going to take place. And though I had an early morning flight, and it was just humid, I wore a suit. Because I thought if I got off the airplane, and they began to question me, and take me up on this, that I didn’t want to just be sitting there in a light shirt. But beyond that, it went wonderfully. It was a wonderful, smooth trip, certainly the security agencies were all over my things, and checking through my room, and listening to us. But we had nothing to hide, we were open, and that just opened the door for the continuation of these lectures. And so, I feel that we all have, with an open sense of prayer, the opportunity to contribute to the widening, and the greater sense of freedom, that God gives man, and that each of us can do this. The energy and strength and love is really God’s, and we’re just carrying it out in our small, individual ways.
Bruce: You know, the concept of media is an interesting one. Media is a Greek word, and it means middle. The media is between us, we think, and the event. And so, we get a view that is limited to what they have carried to us. In Mrs. Eddy’s textbook, Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures, on page 115 she characterizes man as the idea of God. And she characterizes then idea from a definition from her Noah Webster dictionary, as the im-mediate expression of God—the immediate expression of Mind. And that is so, to me, perfect, that man realizes is not mediated. The immediate doesn’t just have to mean “in time.” It means “not mediated.” And that we can claim this direct relationship with Mind, with Truth, with Love. We can desire it, we can pray for it. And then I think we need the active effort, ourselves, to discern which human expressions of media do us the best job, and which combination of them help us understand the world. This is where I could certainly sing hymns to The Christian Science Monitor. The Christian Science Monitor is a wonderful international newspaper. You can subscribe to it, both as a weekly, or read it daily on the Web. I have found that over the decades it has been the most reliable source, the most balanced source of information about what is going on. It’s not my only source of news, by any means. But there are wonderful sources in the media. I try, myself, to find media sources which are not so, in a word, mesmerizing. That is, if I feel someone’s trying to convince me, or just to keep me listening to them, why I usually don’t follow those sources. Consequently, I think I’m a little bit old-fashioned. I rely more on reading, than I do on the media that’s radio or even television. But I think every individual can be led to—because they have the right to have that immediate relationship to truth—to find those places where they will get a clear enough idea that they can then act and pray from that standpoint.
Rosalie: Now, Jay from California says—he’s talking specifically about the United States, but I think it would actually apply to some other countries as well: “How can we help to unite our country? There seems to be so much emphasis in finding fault with the different parties in our government. How can we help to see that working for the common good is what is important?”
Bruce: Well, thank you, Jay. I go back to this “One . . . God, good, unifies men and nations . . . .” I think that when we recognize the brotherhood of mankind, and go out of our way to be, ourselves, just, fair, not to fall into criticism—unjust criticism—we certainly can be awake, we certainly can see if something is called something, and it’s not that. But that just serves, for me, as a basis for my prayer, my listening. But it doesn’t diminish my love. I certainly found some time ago that when I endeavored to practice speaking the truth with love, I just got along so much better, and things were so much more effective. Even when we have to tell people things that you think they may not like, if we do this with love, we find a greater receptivity, we find that we learn more ourselves, and I think we find greater change. The truth that we are all the children of one God, is what gives us the vision and the hope and the spirit that there is one Mind here, and that sets us out to demonstrate it step by step.
Rosalie: Now Jeremy from Washington State has sort of a multi-part comment here. He says: “Isn’t it true that what interferes with people in their desire to pray for the well-being of distant people or events is the idea that everything is separate from everything else? The idea that a prayer is like a pebble of love tossed into the pond of awareness is not very helpful, because the waves take time to move and may be far off from the shore one is concerned about. I’m more inspired by Einstein, Rosen, Podolsky, experiments which seem to demonstrate that things are connected right now, and everything effects everything right now. Would you speak about the idea that the effects of prayer are instant?”
Bruce: Yes, yes, that’s a wonderful point, and I think his analogy is quite good, that the effects here are non-local. One aspect, and another way to think about it, is the Internet. I mean the Internet has no center. There’s no real distance on the Internet from one place to another. And it gives us some sense of what omniscience and omnipresence is like. I told you the story about meeting the Egyptian woman coming into my office, and sometime later I was able to lecture in Cairo, and at some point someone asked me, they said there was a stray dog with mange in their neighborhood. People sort of took a little bit care of it, but it was in such bad shape that people didn’t take it in, and would I pray for that dog? And I thought: Well, boy, that’s the pebble idea of somehow giving a prayer to a dog who was sort of homeless and nameless in Cairo. It certainly isn’t like sending a guided missile to land on that dog, that you really had to know what the nature of being was. And I think that’s the key. Man, Mrs. Eddy characterizes, as the individual manifestation of existence, as the conscious identity of being. And that being is non-local. It doesn’t change from one place to another. There’s no center to that being—no geographical center to that being. And so, in prayer, we are standing in that being, looking out from that being, and that being is the same truth that is in Beijing or Lagos or Paris.
Rosalie: JT from Belvidere, California, has a question about anger. He says: “How do you focus prayer about the anger that seems to be handling many individuals in our country regarding the passage of current laws?
Bruce: That’s, I think, a very topical question. And I’ve been giving that some careful thought. I think the basis of anger often is a reaction to the belief that evil is real. It’s often a sense that there is something evil and powerful going on, that one is then afraid of, doesn’t feel one can deal with. There’s a wonderful statement from Mrs. Eddy from Science and Health where she says, “Mankind must learn that evil is not power. Its so‐called despotism is but a phase of nothingness. Christian Science despoils the kingdom of evil, and pre-eminently promotes affection and virtue in families and therefore in the community” (pp. 102-103). By having a deeper sense that actually God is the power, that the goodness is present right there of God’s creation, we no longer react to it. I sometimes envision a billiard ball on a big, slate-green felt table, that bounces on one of the cushions, and then it bounces off at a different angle, and then it comes on a third angle, and fourth angle, and pretty soon you don’t even know which direction it’s going.
Bruce: And, to me, that’s the way evil would work—that it comes in with one belief, and then it comes out this anger from that belief, and then it hits another, it comes off of another. And it’s clear that when we don’t have a sense of the power of evil, and we have a love to heal it, we’re able to stand, and mentally, and often humanly, speak the truth right where that sense of evil is claiming to be powerful. Show it its lie. But we do this in love. And we can do this in love without becoming martyred. We can do this in love with strength and clarity, with peace, with even being refreshed through carrying it out.
Rosalie: Judy from Renton, Washington is asking: “Why do you think so many countries seem to have governments that are retrograding in some ways? Progress seems to be evaporating. How can we pray to support the progress that has been made?”
Bruce: Well, that’s another wonderful question. I’ve been thinking about that question of progress. I feel that overall in the world, progress really is related to a clearer understanding of what God is. And I don’t mean just the Christian understanding of God, but what is real, what is powerful, what is the real substance of being, what is our creator? And I find that from that standpoint, I think there has been spiritual growth in the world in the times that I have been looking at it here for the last forty years. I remember in the late sixties, I was teaching at a university in Hong Kong. At that time, why, Americans couldn’t even go into China. There was tremendous poverty, there was an awful conflict we call the Cultural Revolution going on, with tremendous injustice—everybody agrees was horrible injustice at that time. While today, China is certainly struggling with, I think, what we might call materialism, or sort of the great god of wealth as powerful, there’s so much more freedom. There’s so much more clarity and understanding. You just couldn’t compare it. And that’s 1.3 billion people in the world. I think we see this in many other places. At times, we do see what seems to be retrogression. I think the breaking up of the Soviet Union blessed Russia, but I think that the different republics that have been established and countries, has been a step in the way of freedom for mankind. So I think you have to somehow, humanly, on these situations, you have to step back to see the progress—and the progress is not just economic development. But I believe there is a greater sense of goodness, a greater clarity, and I think that some of the things that are flaring up, are actually the reaction to that greater sense of good. It’s that which is not wanting to yield to it. Trusting in the power of love and goodness, is the basis of Christianity—and to continue to love, to recognize that everybody has that same love, they are in that love. That love is their Father-Mother. They know its power from top to bottom. It’s a tremendous effective force.
Rosalie: Thank you. Now Spence from Batavia, Illinois, says: “Is it not true that each of us can be confident that our individual prayer that God is the only Mind of every individual government official, and provides the only intelligence for decisions to be made according to divine Principle, that this prayer is powerful to bring about better legislation? Is it not true that we do not need to know all the particulars ourselves concerning problems, in order to help improve and implement good legislation and correct poor government?”
Bruce: Well, well said, well said. I think that’s exactly right. And I think we should endeavor to be informed. But yes, the complexity—and even when we think we know what we’re doing, often events turn out to change in a different direction. So, no we cannot base it on the human understanding of a situation, though we should strive for that—that greater sense of trust and love of one Mind, God’s goodness towards us, that’s certainly the basis.
Rosalie: Patricia from Tennessee has a follow-up question to something you said earlier. She says: “Mr. Fitzwater, you mentioned doing things with love, even if it’s not what another wants to hear. What is the definition of love in this context?”
Bruce: Well, [laughs] defining love, huh? Well, that’s quite a task. One of the ways that I approach working with love, is to think of the elements that are in love. One of the first elements—I think it comes from what I quoted in from Genesis that we love so much—”God saw every thing that he had made, and, behold, it was very good.” And so, to be in love, living in love, you really look out with God, and see very good. Now that doesn’t mean that the mortal sense of man, the human sense in front of you, is that very good, but it’s right there, and you’re relating to the very good. I think the second element of love that I value is just the nourishing and cherishing and caring that is there, that you not just love that, but consequently you want to support it. You want its good interest, and fulfillment of its individuality and identity. And I think even an element of love is what you could call bliss. It’s that you do this, in joy. You do this with a deep sense of its reality, and in the warmth of just caring, the loving happiness of caring. And I think, also, being in love, living in love, you must know the power of it. It’s not just a suggestion. It’s not just a human emotion. It is a clear, powerful presence. And so, that seeing very good, the desire to nurture, the sense of bliss, the consciousness of the power and goodness of love, I think when we act with those elements, we’re going to be bringing forth a harmony. Harmony that we may not outline humanly, but it’s going to be coming forth.
Rosalie: Dave from Lake Oswego, Oregon, says: “In the book Aftershock the authors forecast global financial meltdown. They offer financial prescriptions to protect yourself. How can we spiritually protect ourselves and the world?”
Bruce: Well, that’s a good question, Dave. I think it deserves a lot of thinking. My first thought, though, was that God is what is protecting the world. It’s God’s love that’s protecting the world. I don’t have the details of it right now, but there’s an unusual story in the Old Testament about carrying the Ark of the Covenant—the Ten Commandments—on this kind of bier they had. They were going across a river, perhaps the Jordan River, and it started to sort of be off balance, and someone went to steady them, and they were immediately struck down. The concept that has often come from that, the spiritual lesson, is that God’s ability to care is already established. It’s strong. And I think, yes, we can make our movements of thought and action to do what we think is best humanly, but I think to recognize that God loves, that God is the King, the Lawgiver, and the Judge—as the Old Testament states—that this is by far, to me, the strongest basis for establishing freedom from fear, and then the ability to act most wisely.
Rosalie: Now, we’ve got about, maybe about eight questions, and we can consolidate some of them, but I’m wondering, since we’re getting close to the end of our time, would you be able to give us some extra minutes, Bruce, so that we could at least get to a number of them?
Bruce: Well, thank you, yes, that’d be fine.
Rosalie: OK, good, thank you. One of the questions that is from Peter from Roswell, Georgia, says: “Please share some thoughts on how to pray in Christian Science about the abject poverty in the world, due to the presence of enormous greed and corruption, whatever the country.”
Bruce: Well, that’s another concept. This last economic downturn in America certainly brought the concept of greed to our thought—my thought, anyway—a good deal more than I had ever considered it before. To understand what is greed?, and to protect one’s self from living that, and begin to see that it doesn’t have power to hold man. In prayer I find it’s best to start with God, and not to start with our human perceptions. The strategy, overall, of prayer is to start with the spiritual understanding that we’ve been given by these wonderful prophets in the Old Testament, and by Christ Jesus, who had this tremendous understanding of God’s being. Start with that, and then bring that to bear on the human picture that we see before us, rather than starting with the human picture. So even though we’re looking here at poverty, I would start with, what is the nature of God, and the richness of God? We see this in Christ Jesus so often. The feeding—there’s a wonderful miracle, as it’s called, in the Bible of the feeding of the five thousand with a few baskets of bread, and the pouring of oil in the Old Testament out of a pitcher that was able to fill the whole village’s empty bottles and jars, and provide sustenance. We can’t begin with the concept that supply is limited, and that there are in God’s eyes poor people. Just to start with the truth that every individual is loved of God, cared for of God, surrounded by God’s love, and that they can wake up to that love, they can see it. Those who are responsible for providing them with a decent structure of government, those NGOs and other organizations, that can be helpful in the process of providing food and shelter and development—all of these can be stimulated best, I think, not by a look at the abjectness of the poverty, but by the insistence and love and affirmation that God’s goodness is present right there.
Rosalie: This is a little bit more tricky question. It’s from someone in California who says: “When there is a long pattern of insiders running government from behind the scenes, and leaders using unethical methods to achieve their aims, how can we affect change, and break these patterns of personal domination?” And that’s a pretty universal question when you think about some of the things going on in Afghanistan and elsewhere.
Bruce: Well, the previous mention of the word greed, is something that I think we really should be thinking about. The concept certainly has to do with taking more, wanting more, feeling you need more than you actually do, and doing this, then, in either ethical, or mostly unethical, ways. I think that as we can establish that even our rulers are cared for, that they are supplied, that there is no need for them to be putting away millions of dollars in bank accounts in more stable countries. As we become more ethical through our understanding of God to make that practice more difficult, as we have more honest individuals who are able to step in and stop the corruption of those who are going to government in order to take advantage of public funds. The politician from South America, Brazil, that I mentioned, in his article in the Christian Science Sentinel he made the point of working in his country to handle this problem of overseas sending of money to bank accounts, numbered bank accounts, different ways. I think cultures are changed, I know they are, and they’re changed through truth and love. God is real, and nothing else is—God and God’s idea. This statement from the Old Testament that “I will overturn, overturn, overturn it, . . . until he come whose right it is; and I will give it him” (Ezek. 21:27). And I don’t know exactly how that overturning will take place, but I know that I think, for the large part, we can live harmoniously and safely, even while it’s taking place. Is the human sense of the world a just place? No. Will it be soon? I don’t know. But my trust is that individuals can still find their harmony, they can still be fulfilled, and pray for, and be part of, the bringing forth of goodness. Right now, everyone can do that.
Rosalie: I’d like to just offer a really microscopic example of that sense of overturning. I worked for a major university for many years, and at one point the laws in the state where I was changed and we were required to provide information that could be potentially embarrassing to the university if it was written down in a form that would have to be turned over. I had a meeting with one of the administrators who was indicating to several of us that we were supposed to do things that would withhold this kind of information. As I sat there listening to it, it was so obvious that this was wrong, and absolutely could not be done, and should not be done, and I couldn’t believe that this good man, who was such a decent person, was sitting there telling us to do this wrong thing. So when he paused for breath, I said to him, and I repeated exactly what he told us, and I said, “Do you really mean that we should be doing this?” And he very adamantly and angrily said, “Yes.” And I had been praying—I should have said I had been praying with the concept that there really is only one Mind governing, and that Mind is good, and is lawful, and so forth. And so when he said very adamantly and angrily, “Yes,” I fell silent, and he was angry enough that he started talking again about why we needed to do this. And while he was talking, I continued to pray, and I just had this clear feeling that we absolutely had to obey the law, and that whatever the level of human law might be, that behind it there was a higher principle of truth that was important to be obedient to, and that there was just no way that I could be a part of anything that was not truthful. And so I was praying along these lines while this man was, again, speaking—and I want to stress that he was a wonderful man, a good, decent person, and yet here he was under the stress of circumstances telling us to do something that was not right. And so he paused for breath again, and I said to him, “Now I just want to be clear on this. What you want us to do is—and again, I repeated exactly what he was telling us. And he gave me this incredibly shocked look, and he said, “No! Why on earth would I tell you to do that?” And the whole thing was reversed. Now all I’m saying is this is a microscopic example, but it does sort of combine the sense of demanding truth, but also recognizing the goodness of the person, and just requiring that what is really true about that person, their goodness, to be there, and that people do respond. I know on a national level or an international level this is harder, because of all the other elements going on, but I just wanted to offer that as a small example of how it could work.
Bruce: That’s wonderful. It reminds me of a statement by a Christian Scientist who’s in the House of Representatives. He says, “Fair makes the only real difference for good. Fair is an affirmation of God’s government and dominion over our actions.” And he goes on to say, “Citizens’ prayers are important because representative government, re-presents—that’s re- (hyphen) presents the thoughts and actions of its citizens.”
Rosalie: Wow, that’s great!
Bruce: And so, your clarity in that situation, was able to bring clarity to the situation, and collectively our work to truly present what man is, and what we really expect of our leaders, and what we hold them to spiritually, and uphold them, ourselves, in that love, that will then allow them to be able to resist the errors of their office, or that could be characteristic of their office, perhaps, more readily.
Rosalie: Yes. Now, Peter from Georgia has sent us another message, and he says: “On the question of defining love, real love depends on a sense of discipline, so love must be firmness in the right, a concept applicable to actively loving our enemies, or those who need to be raised from corruption.”
Rosalie: Exactly, that’s exactly what I was thinking!
Bruce: I think that this is where I like the statement of speaking truth with love, because the truth here stands for the principle that Peter is speaking of, I think. And that we don’t step back from truth, but we don’t speak truth in anger, in resentment, in ridicule, in fear, in boastfulness. We speak it in love. And if when we have truth and love aligned, these qualities of God’s being are immensely powerful, and they’re complementary to each other.
Rosalie: Now, we have had a number of questions about people who are concerned about the direction of our government, and about the leaders who they feel may be unethical, or not able to be in government. And I have a question here from Mark in Antioch, California, that in a way offers threads of all those questions, and I thought maybe we could address that in this one question. Mark’s question is: “How can I pray to see progress from leaders that I feel have broken promises, and served special interests over my own?”
Bruce: Mark, I think one has to step, again, back a little further, and start with you’re living in God’s kingdom. You’re not a member of a country, deeply—I mean this is a human sense of being—but your being is with Christ in God. And you want to start with that freedom, and have your heart and soul informed by that, and feeling that freedom. And then bring that to bear to this issue about government. And as you bring it to bear, where is the power? What are we thinking is power? Is it money? Is it a personality? Is it some kinds of false ideologies? No. And this is where to acknowledge that power is truth. There’s a wonderful story in the Bible about Jesus after his resurrection, and it’s usually called the walk to Emmaus. And Jesus joins several of the disciples, but their eyes are so clouded over by their concern that he had passed on, that he had been crucified, that their movement was done, they didn’t recognize him. And yet, when he spoke with them, they said, “Did not our heart burn within us, while he talked with us by the way . . . ?” (Luke 24:32) And this “heart burn[ing] within us” is really what we can expect from everyone when truth is spoken, when truth is understood. It isn’t just another statement. It is a reality and a power, and that truth and love spoken, understood, lived, will turn and turn and turn. And even while the human sense of government is improving, you can be free, you can find your dominion. When I look at Mrs. Eddy’s life, particularly towards the end of her time with us in the first decade of the twentieth century, I think, you know she said, “I look out, and I see problems with monopoly and problems in religion and government,” but you could see she wasn’t afraid of these. She had a great sense of God’s ability and power to correct, to overturn. And I think that’s how we all live. At least right now, there is a horizon that we would love to see, a human horizon, brought forth, but in living in that love, in living in that truth, we’re bringing it forth. We can live in harmony now, and we can be supporting it the best way possible—the salvation of all.
Rosalie: We’ve got just a few more questions that we’ll take. This one is Barbara from Boise, Idaho: “Often Christian Science church members will make statements about our government and/or political parties that are negative. Mrs. Eddy said something about how she was not political. Isn’t it important that students of Christian Science be careful not to be caught up in accusations that are going around, and to be Christian Scientists first?”
Bruce: Well, I’m not the one here to lecture Christian Scientists! I did, in preparation for this discussion, pull up the Christian Science Manual, page 48, line 6. And it says, “A member of this Church shall not publish, nor cause to be published, an article that is uncharitable or impertinent towards religion, medicine, the courts, or the laws of our land.” And I feel that everyone has to understand that, read it for themselves, and follow it. It doesn’t mean that one cannot be respectfully critical, one cannot bring forth—show where there are mistakes, an error—but again, done with love. Her admonition here was the articles would be uncharitable, unloving, and impertinent. So the spirit in which this criticism is brought forth is important. It’s also I think important to note that Mrs. Eddy, when she was asked about her politics, she did say that in general, she supported good government, but that she didn’t really have a specific political view of things beyond democracy. She did ask in the end of her little pamphlet called, Christian Science versus Pantheism, she has a little prayer for the country. And she says, “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” (p. 14). So, that’s certainly a spirit that she brought forth in her work. Specifically in that question about politics, she says, “I am asked, ‘What are your politics?’ “ And then she says, “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).
Rosalie: Now, this is from someone who hasn’t told us where they are, but is asking: “Is it possible for one to be involved in a government protest, while at the same time praying for government?”
Bruce: Well, I certainly have, so, yes. I think the operative words there are uncharitableand impertinent. And if protest is a way of bringing attention to a specific problem, and it’s done lawfully and orderly and intelligently, and done in love—which doesn’t seem to characterize a lot of protests—but if it’s done as a way of making visible something that needs to be seen more clearly to the public, then I certainly wouldn’t say that this is in opposition to either prayer, or the admonitions that I understand to be in Christian Science.
Rosalie: Now, this is going to be our last question—and for all of those who tuned in late, and added questions, or whose questions weren’t exactly answered, I hope that you found answers within the questions that we have answered. I’ve tried to cover every general topic that was on the list of questions, and we’re certainly grateful that you were all here and felt free to ask your questions. We always want it to be an open door here. So this last question is from Missy in Jerseyville, Illinois, and she says: “Thank you for referring to the quote about ‘waiting on the logic of events.’ That is such a majestic concept, and, to me, implies humility and trust in God. Could you tell us what ‘waiting on the logic of events’ means to you? And maybe give us some ideas on ways we can live our lives in accord with this concept?”
Bruce: Well, thank you, Missy, that’s a wonderful question. I referred to the basis of prayer as starting with God’s love and God’s truth, and what the Bible speaks of as “that mind being in us, which was also in Christ Jesus” [“Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus” (Phil. 2:5)] and endeavoring to look out from that standpoint. And from there, what I can see is the nature of God—that is love, harmony, honesty, forgiveness, goodness. And those qualities become very real to me. Now those qualities are not specifically pictured in how an event should take place. In fact, I often don’t know, or even have an idea of how it should best take place, or even can take place. But my trust in God leads me to realize that those qualities, and many more, and the laws of God are present in this situation. And as I stand in that, then I trust the unfoldment, the changing in the human picture is being informed and modeled and molded by that spiritual power and truth. And sometimes it seems to be going the opposite direction that I would have thought, and then it turns around. Or I find out that the view I had initially, humanly, of the situation was quite different. To me, it’s staying with the divine qualities, staying with the divine truth, and holding that absolutely strongly. Staying away from as many human opinions as we can, and bringing that truth to bear and let it part the waters—overturn. Now, sometimes we do get a clear sense of a plan, and I feel, “Yes, that’s what I’m to do.” And so, I go out and carry it forth, but still in the context of realizing that is a temporal activity, but the spiritual laws and power are eternal, and that’s where I really abide.
Rosalie: Thank you, Bruce. I’ve been so grateful for all your answers, and I wonder if you have some thoughts to share with us before we close?
Bruce: Well, actually, what I’m feeling is just gratitude for your invitation, and the opportunity to think about these things, and to feel kind of a community with the people who have asked these questions. It’s raised questions for me. I’d like to know more about how to help those who particularly don’t seem to be able to help themselves, who seem to need it the most. I think I’d like to understand greed a little better, to make sure that I can detect it in my own thinking. I’d like to encourage people to trust, to see truth and love truth, and with truth and love, trust their power. Sometimes it seems to take longer than the human impatience to see the effect of it, but as one stands back, and sees it over experience, why this is the modeling power, it’s the dynamic power, it’s the inevitable, irresistible power that even governs the world.
Rosalie: And I do think our talk here has not been in vain. I think all of you praying together with us this afternoon have also helped the world’s governments, and I rejoice in your willingness to gather with us to have this conversation.
Bruce: Yes, thank you.
Rosalie: Today’s guest was Bruce Fitzwater, a practitioner and teacher of Christian Science from Portland, Oregon.