PETALUMA, Calif., Dec. 5, 2015 – If nothing else, the cover of Thursday’s New York Daily News is provocative.
“God Isn’t Fixing This,” reads the headline, in reference to the recent mass shooting in San Bernardino, Calif., and the reluctance of politicians to respond with anything but prayer for the victims. “As latest batch of innocent Americans are left lying in pools of blood,” it continues, “cowards who could truly end gun scourge continue to hide behind meaningless platitudes.”
A harsh indictment, to be sure, not just of politicians, but also of prayer. Even so, it made me wonder if there’s anything more that I, a praying person myself, might do to help end the epidemic of gun violence.
I’m not a politician, so obviously I’m in no position to propose some new law. And honestly, I don’t know if I have what it takes to accurately assess whether such a law is really the best solution. What I do have, however, is the ability to take something I’ve been doing for decades and ask myself if I can be doing it any better.
“For prayer to be powerful, it has to be done right,” suggests columnist Kyle Wingfield on the Atlanta Journal-Constitution website, pointing to the sort of prayer we read about in the Bible that demands complete and unconditional surrender to God’s will. “Maybe if more of us did it the right way more often, more non-believers would take more comfort in our words when we offer them.”
This makes a lot of sense, that is, as long as when we’re talking about surrendering to God’s will it’s not with any sense of uncertainty about how things might turn out, but with a deep-seated trust in God’s goodness and unshakable care for his creation – the God we’re told in the New Testament that “never changes or casts a shifting shadow” (James 1:17); the God I’ve come to understand not as the proverbial “man in the sky” but as an always present, wholly benign and divine principle.
Such surrender may also involve giving up whatever notions we may have about the way this divine principle works. For instance, rather than jumping to conclusions as to whether God is personally responsible for some tragedy in my life, I find it helpful to consider whether it’s something he’s even aware of; something that in his infinite wisdom and grace he would even allow.
Although I don’t have the statistics to back me up, generally speaking I’ve found that to the degree I remove any blame from the Almighty, the quicker and more completely I’m able to recover and the less adversity I experience going forward. The “fix,” then, becomes less about getting God to “do something” and more about my willingness to see what he’s already doing, the progress and healing he’s already inspiring.
As tough as it was to read, I’ll give the Daily News credit for bluntly, if inadvertently, invoking the words of one of this country’s great religious leaders in encouraging me to think more deeply about my response to violence: “Not human platitudes, but divine beatitudes reflect the spiritual light and might which heal the sick,” writes Mary Baker Eddy – an assurance that most certainly includes not just the physically and mentally sick, but the violent as well, paving the way for us all to experience a greater and more permanent peace.
Eric Nelson writes about the link between consciousness and health from his perspective as a practitioner of Christian Science. He also serves as the media and legislative spokesperson for Christian Science in Northern California. Follow him on Twitter @norcalcs. Continue the conversation on Facebook.