How I’m praying about gun violence
After recent mass shootings in Atlanta, Georgia, and Boulder, Colorado, I wanted to pray more effectively about gun violence. A Bible passage came to mind. It talks of the “weapons of our warfare” (II Corinthians 10:4) as mental and spiritual. It continues, in The New Testament in Modern English by J. B. Phillips: “Our battle is to bring down every deceptive fantasy and every imposing defence that men erect against the true knowledge of God” (verse 5).
To understand how these spiritual weapons, which I understand to be divine truths, can break down the deceptive arguments or thoughts that lead to violent acts, I looked up references to weapons in the Bible; in the writings of Mary Baker Eddy, the Discoverer and Founder of Christian Science; and in the Christian Science Hymnal.
The Bible assures us, “No weapon that is formed against thee shall prosper” (Isaiah 54:17). The healing truth of what God is and creates is the offensive and defensive “weapon” to which we all have free access right now. As infinite, ever-present Love, God creates each of us as His pure, spiritual child. The infinitude of God’s presence leaves no room for anything opposite to Love. This means that there is actually no enemy or threat to conquer. This spiritual truth defuses whatever would claim to attack good, since the infinite goodness of God and His creation means there is no genuine place for evil intention in anyone.
Acknowledging this truth moves us forward to embrace all in our prayers, including the would-be perpetrators of crime. We can know that God always has a peaceful and loving answer for whatever challenge someone may feel they are facing. Affirming the ability of others to perceive these God-revealed solutions to their needs can dissolve the anger and fear that may otherwise tempt them to act violently.
One of the proposed solutions to gun violence in the United States is to require background checks for potential gun buyers. In regard to this, thinking spiritually about the concept of “background” has been most helpful to me. The word background denotes not only a person’s life experience, knowledge, and education, but also an antecedent—something that happened previously and can lead to future events. To me, the highest sense of the word antecedent is everyone’s forever background as a child of God. A child of God inherently reflects qualities of God, good, and the active expression of this goodness would never injure another, but can only bless.
For my job as a federal employee, I was subject to background checks to ensure that I was mentally competent and not vulnerable to corruption or foreign influence. This was a safety measure to ensure that both the work and those around me would be protected. So, I have loved pondering a spiritual sense of background checks. I see them as our daily thought-checking to determine how we are seeing ourselves and others. If we are seeing everyone as a child of God, we are contributing to a broader sense of protection, a more universal love, which helps to promote practical solutions that bless and protect all.
There’s a “Daily Prayer” in one of Eddy’s books, the Manual of The Mother Church. This prayer provides a daily background check for us, our families, our communities, our nations, and our world: “ ‘Thy kingdom come;’ let the reign of divine Truth, Life, and Love be established in me, and rule out of me all sin; and may Thy Word enrich the affections of all mankind, and govern them!” (p. 41).
This inspired daily background check enables us to think and act in ways that help to disarm what Christian Science defines as error: the thoughts that seem to govern us that don’t come from God. Seeing in prayer that all lives are truly governed by God, good, we see the unreality of such thoughts. This can help to dissolve the anger, hate, fear, mental issues, and loss of control that may otherwise boil up in an individual and explode in actions that include gun violence.
In an article republished in her Miscellaneous Writings 1883–1896, Eddy writes, “When the good fight is fought, error yields up its weapons and kisses the feet of Love, while white-winged peace sings to the heart a song of angels” (p. 204).
Peace and love are surely needed today. We might not see the results in the news if our prayers have contributed to someone, somewhere, feeling this peace and love and refraining from carrying out a planned shooting. But what we can see is the healing power of such prayer in our own lives, which gives us confidence that our prayers can touch others and have a positive effect.
During the time I was praying with this newfound inspiration about background checks, my hand was badly scalded when a slippery bowl of soup tipped over as I removed it from the microwave. But, armed with this new sense of my spiritual background, I turned away from the hand to focus on the spiritual sense of who I am—the forever safe and loved child of God. I was sure that this spiritual “weapon” was sufficient to address the situation. No frustration or self-criticism could boil over in me, and no hot soup could harm me.
In less than fifteen minutes, all evidence of the burn was gone, and I could move my hand freely. The error of material-mindedness was totally deprived of its weapons—fear and injury—and I was well, and remained so.
The Bible passage quoted at the beginning of this article concludes, “We even fight to capture every thought until it acknowledges the authority of Christ” (verse 6, Phillips). Thought acknowledges the Christ-power, which was best exemplified by Jesus, when it yields to and expresses God, Truth. Don’t we want to be alert and stay armed all the time with Christ, Truth—with God’s weapon of understanding Love’s omnipotence—knowing that God’s action is good only and blesses all people? What could support us and our world more than being armed by Love and consistently watching our thoughts to check that we are affirming everyone’s true, spiritual background and identity? When we do this, we help others live up to their true nature and potential as children of God, and so reduce violence from guns and other weapons.
Holding to a vision Eddy gives in Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures of “one Father with His universal family, held in the gospel of Love” (p. 577), we will be blessed by an increase of peace and harmony.