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Following the example set by the question-and-answer columns in the early Journals, when Mary Baker Eddy was Editor, this column will respond to general queries from Journal readers—such as the one above—with responses from Journal readers. It will not cover questions about how to interpret statements in Mrs. Eddy's writings. There's more information at the end of the column about how to submit questions.


From the April 2006 issue of The Christian Science Journal


When friends say that the disasters around the world are God's doing, how can a Christian Scientist reply without making it a contentious issue?

A1 While people of all kinds of religious backgrounds often agree that God is Love, there are some differences in individual understanding about just what this means. One thing we can probably agree on is the idea that God's love can be seen as an eternal provision in the midst of and following dire circumstances or disasters.

The Bible tells of many people who proved this provision of God's love. Abraham showed what faith and trust in God does, as he created a great nation in formidable times. In great extremity, Moses received the Ten Commandments, by which God assured His people of eternal salvation. And Joseph proved God's omnipresence in every conceivable sort of disaster: family feuds, slavery, imprisonment, betrayal, famine. All of these examples show that the important thing is not so much the origin of the problem, but that one can always rely on God when confronted with a problem—no matter how hopeless the circumstances. And that God, now just as then, will deliver His people.

It's also tough times like these that cause people to band together in the spirit of brotherhood for the greater good of helping those affected by disaster. Again, this is evidence of God's daily provision. And this is precisely what's at work globally today as countless individuals listen to God for ideas on how they can help. People around the globe are offering, with heartfelt generosity, great ingenuity, energy, and compassion in the form of shelter and other havens, food and clothing, education and transportation, and of course unceasing prayer for those in need. Is this not unmistakable evidence of God's ongoing love being expressed? So in this way, today's unselfish efforts are proof of God's eternal love and omni-active good.

A2 I wrote the book on trying to choose the right words. And one thing I've found is that the best response does not set up a debate, but tries to shift the focus of the conversation.

I've also noticed that people can get restless when I'm slowed up in meticulously crafting a response or in considering how they'll perceive my explanation. So the key is to keep my thought focused on the presence of God as I'm sharing my perspective.

The temptation is to think that we need to try to change the other person's mind, maybe without even realizing that this has been our motive all along. But here it's the Christian Scientist's opportunity to know that the change we're looking for is in our own view of the other person. Even though it can look like there is a potential for disagreement, that's incorrect, because God, the divine Mind, is actually the Mind of everyone. Our objective in conversation should be to become more aware of this present fact.

The result of all this is that I often give short responses, or even no response on some occasions. Other times, I do find myself giving answer that could be considered potentially contentious. But that's all right, because when you're focused on recognizing the divine intelligence that's there, and not on whether you are successfully changing someone's mind, the contention doesn't feel so intense or personal.

With regard to the specific question about God causing disasters, one way I've responded is to mention something I once heard the late Fred Rogers, the great children's television-show host, say. As a Presbyterian minister, Mr. Rogers seemed to focus people on God and on how people express God's love. In the face of disaster, he would tell kids to keep their eyes on the helpers.

And with this kind of response, we're all hopefully moving from disaster to magnifying our awareness of God's goodness.

A3 This is how I might answer a friend: These pictures of suffering and tragedy touch my heart, also. And, just like you, they also make me think about God. But I find God to be the solution and antidote to suffering, rather than the cause of it.

When catastrophe came to my city in the form of two hurricanes last summer, I was brought face to face with the question of what reality actually is. Do we live in a world of matter and uncontrollable forces? Or is God—as Mind and Spirit, as good itself—the source and substance of all that is real and permanent? I've found that consciousness and experience go hand in hand, and so it is important for me to daily choose the spiritual fact of God's law of good and let that govern my life. This brings surety and peace.

I know that this law of good is not just for me, since God is a universal and impartial God. And, actually, I think that the good news of the New Testament affirms this. In healing the multitudes, calming the storm, and providing food for so many in the wilderness, Christ Jesus showed us that it is the nature of God to heal and bless.

When people rejected Jesus, and his disciples suggested that he should call upon God to send destruction to them, Jesus rebuked them, saying, "Ye know not what manner of spirit ye are of. For the Son of man is not come to destroy men's lives, but to save them" (Luke 9:55,56).

We all want to see a lessening and finally an end to disasters, to wars and calamities of every sort. If we acknowledge together that the good in our lives comes from God, are grateful for it, and look for it everywhere—while feeling that love of God in our hearts—then we are in a position to see this as true for the whole world.

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