Watching Casablanca yet again, it’s easy for me to see why this 1942 black and white film remains a Hollywood classic. One by one, the main characters discover how selfless love triumphs over tyranny in its many forms—selfishness, self-indulgence, self-justification.
In a pivotal scene, the locals in a crowded café endure the nationalistic singing by a group of foreign soldiers. Breaking away from a personal effort to win safe passage to another country for himself and his wife, a man steps up to lead the band and tells them to play an anthem of freedom while he sings it. His courage emboldens everyone else to stand and sing in solidarity with him, and they soon drown out the soldiers.
Three enduring lessons emerge. Courage is the natural byproduct of unselfed love. Putting a collective cause higher than one’s own needs is heroic. And out of small acts come far-reaching victories.
What does this have to do with church? Everything.
Seeing in Jesus’ ministry the practical antidote to all human suffering, Mary Baker Eddy has established our Cause as “the greatest and holiest of all causes” (Miscellaneous Writings 1883–1896, p. 177). It could be said that every member of this Church is standing up and singing for humanity’s freedom, and every act of service for church can have an immense effect.
Christian Science isn’t a system of spiritual healing limited to improving one’s own life but is challenging the ultimate tyranny of fear, materialism, and human will. It is redeeming one and all from all the effects of the carnal mind, from all that would claim separation from the one divine Mind, God. Church organizes our collective resistance to the most entrenched systems of thought and attitudes of oppression. And its success begins with each one of us.
We’re asked: “Have you renounced self? Are you faithful? Do you love?” (Mary Baker Eddy, Miscellaneous Writings, p. 238).
From working through contentious issues in business meetings to coming together to staff a Reading Room or host a public lecture, our church work is an ongoing demonstration of one Mind. Time and again, personal agendas yield as Sunday services are prepared for by Readers, musicians, and ushers. Sunday Schools welcome the youth of the community with volunteer teachers whose unselfed love cherishes every student. At Wednesday meetings, courage trumps self-consciousness as members share their own experiences of Christian healing. And every time a member is willing to offer healing prayer for another’s needs, it advances the Cause as nothing else can. But it takes all of us being “all in.”
So when we rise to sing a hymn together, let’s look around. We’re standing with those whose quiet heroism of selfless love is changing the world.
Robin Hoagland is a member of the Christian Science Board of Directors.