I have recently moved to another state, which has involved spending quite a bit of time with government offices, such as the DMV (Department of Motor Vehicles). In the past, as a government employee, whenever I had something to take care of in a government office, I assessed with a critical eye how things should be improved for the customer, so I could make improvements in the agency I worked for. I wanted to ensure everyone was treated fairly. Now, having left my 25-year career in government, I’ve often felt as though I’m just the customer, in line and on hold, with no higher purpose.
But I’m realizing there’s much more that is required of us than taking a limited, passive position when it comes to supporting government. Indeed, there is much we can and should do, beyond voting, paying taxes, and following laws, to support good governance in our community, town, state, nation, and world. Students of Christian Science recognize the importance of acknowledging the spiritual reality of God’s harmonious and permanent government. This spiritual perspective is available to all who seek it, and it shows us that true government originates in God and lifts thought beyond human self-interest.
In Christian Science versus Pantheism, Mary Baker Eddy, the Discoverer and Founder of Christian Science, included a section called “Prayer for Country and Church” beginning on page 14. It reads in part, “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.” This prayer for our leaders is not a prayer for personality or party; rather, it is a prayer for the office, and those who hold office, to be led by divine wisdom.
Mary Baker Eddy’s instruction to pray for the divine presence to give wisdom to those in office lifted my work from a personal, limited view of self-interest.
Throughout my career in multiple levels of government, I took up Mary Baker Eddy’s instruction to pray for and support the office of those I worked for and with. I found this prayer provided a greater sense of purpose in my work, and put government service in proper context. Many in government and politics limit their service by viewing their work as serving an agency, a political party, or an interest group—to the exclusion of others. For me, Mary Baker Eddy’s instruction to pray for the divine presence to give wisdom to those in office lifted my work from a personal, limited view of self-interest, to serving and acting according to my highest sense of right, expressed in integrity, justice, and love. I prayed to replace a self-centered, limited view of elected officials and others in government with a more selfless, God-centered view. This perspective doesn’t focus on or react to political opinion or party; it strives to see and acknowledge, through spiritual sense, that in actuality God’s government, the law of Love, is in action everywhere.
Early in my career I learned firsthand how to eliminate baseless criticism and cynicism from my thought, and elevate constructive dialogue and governance, by turning to spiritual truth. Part of my job was to provide budget and fiscal analysis for political appointees. At times I found some of these political appointees to be self-serving—often getting in each other’s way and inhibiting the work some of us were trying to accomplish.
In one particular case, during a change in presidential administration, rumors abounded about one particular appointee as being ruthless and horrible in his treatment of staff members. My colleagues and I were not looking forward to working with him, and we spent a fair amount of time commiserating about how awful it might be!
On a phone call with my parents one weekend, I lamented about being in a possibly untenable position. My parents listened, and then my dad said: “That’s easy enough to fix. Change your thinking.” As I thought about his comment, I realized I had been impressed and captivated by the cynicism of others, and I had taken that cynicism and made it my own. I hadn’t stopped to turn to God and pray about it, which was something I knew I could do.
Earlier that morning during the service at my church, a branch Church of Christ, Scientist, the First Reader had read the By-Law from the Church Manual titled “A Rule for Motives and Acts.” The last sentence reads, “The members of this Church should daily watch and pray to be delivered from all evil, from prophesying, judging, condemning, counseling, influencing or being influenced erroneously” (Mary Baker Eddy, p. 40).
It was humbling, to say the least, to realize that I was zero for six on that score. I was erroneously prophesying about, judging, and condemning someone whom I had never even met, and I was basing my judgment on hearsay, completely void of spiritual reasoning. Further, I was perpetuating this picture by commiserating with others.
That evening, as I prepared for the week ahead, I resolved to see things differently, or “change my thinking,” as my dad had advised. I turned to prayer, and endeavored to live consistently with my prayer. I decided I was going to look through the lens of divine Mind, replacing the mortal view with the spiritual reality. Mary Baker Eddy writes in Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures, “The crude creations of mortal thought must finally give place to the glorious forms which we sometimes behold in the camera of divine Mind, when the mental picture is spiritual and eternal” (p. 264).
I decided I was going to look through the lens of divine Mind, replacing the mortal view with
the spiritual reality.
The image I had accepted into my thinking of this appointee was crude and spiritually incorrect. Turning away from the rumor and hearsay of others, I thought instead about how God sees man as His very own image and likeness, as recorded in the Bible. In Truth we are all His children, and because of this, it’s natural for us to work together in harmony, with one Mind guiding us, and to be impelled by Love in all that we think, say, and do.
During that week, every time a suggestion or rumor crept into my thought about this individual, I would dismiss it and replace the suggestion with what I knew was true of God and man.
When it was almost time to meet this gentleman, I was actually looking forward to it, and I wasn’t disappointed. I found that rather than being ruthless, he seemed like a teambuilder. To me, he was exacting and thorough, and willing to go the extra mile to help his team get it right. During my time working with him, I learned quite a bit about keeping focus and not getting distracted by the mindless noise of rumor and conjecture. I found, too, that my view of other appointees changed as rumor and gossip gave way in my thinking to seeing my colleagues as God sees them, as His spiritual offspring, loved and essential to His creation.
Paul’s letter to the Philippians shows us how we can keep our thought about government officials elevated: “Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things” (4:8).
We might not come across many individuals in our day-to-day lives that are committed to this higher view. The article “Taking Offense,” included in Mrs. Eddy’s Miscellaneous Writings 1883–1896, provides wise counsel that is applicable today as we interact in our communities and families. We are reminded that “there are a thousand million different human wills, opinions, ambitions, tastes, and loves,” and are urged to “go forth into life with the smallest expectations, but with the largest patience; … determined not to be offended when no wrong is meant, nor even when it is, unless the offense be against God” (p. 224). “Unless the offense be against God,” it says—not if it be against one’s politics or some other human opinion.
As we ask ourselves how we can improve government at all levels, the answer doesn’t lie in human will and opinion. Mary Baker Eddy’s words in 1908 remain relevant today: “I am asked, ‘What are your politics?’ 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).