"Somewhere in the Bible it says "Vengeance is mine, says the Lord". And often people console themselves with that when a heinous crime has been committed, or when they think about the people who have done the worst possible evil, heads of state mainly. Top of the list is Hitler, or Bin Laden, or Pol Pot, Mao, Stalin, the North Korea gang, Pinochet and more.
"People like to think that they who do these things will wind up in hell, as divine punishment. Is there a divine retribution for them, or will God just let them keep on until they get it and repent, since the only power of evil is to self-destruct?"
This was posed to me following my recent "Angry no more" lecture. There are a couple of questions raised here - Is God a vengeful God? and, Does God know and punish sinners? Here is my response. Stay with me to the end. Don't let the first sentences fool you into thinking that God doesn't take on and take down evil.
God is divine Good, pure Spirit, infinite Love, resplendent Soul. Just as Light isn't vindictive toward the darkness it displaces, God, pure good, doesn't avenge evil. Light knows light and only light. God is conscious of Himself and all that He manifests. Nothing is real or permanent outside of God and the infinite manifestation of His goodness.
God is All, and that allness is the exterminator of anything unlike good. Just as light eliminates darkness through it's simple presence, eliminating moral and physical darkness isn't an act of destruction for divine Good; it's an act of simply being God.
So where did the darkness come from if it isn't part of God's allness? Darkness is a false perspective; it's not a thing, it's the suggestion of an absence of light.
Darkness is often self-imposed. Take my cat, for example. She loves light, even seeking it out. But she also closes her eyes tightly when the sun is shining on her. The light doesn't disappear, and she can't avoid its effects; but the darkness she experiences may seem very real to her with her eyes closed to it.
If one is duped into believing that God is distant, that good is far off, that good can be subverted and changed into its opposite, or that one is not good as God's image, he is holding a false view of the divine Light in and around him.
Sin is Bible vocabulary for negativity, for evil thoughts and deeds.The Bible teaches that sin is punished. It also teaches that man is redeemable from sin. Christ Jesus illustrated this redemption by forgiving and turning people's hearts from sin. Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures points out one of the basic tenets of Christian Science: "We acknowledge God’s forgiveness of sin in the destruction of sin and the spiritual understanding that casts out evil as unreal. But the belief in sin is punished so long as the belief lasts." (Mary Baker Eddy, p. 497)
It is important to note that God doesn't do the punishing. A sin belief punishes itself. Sin is self-destructive. The belief punishes itself, induces suffering on itself, until the belief is released. "Vengeance is mine" is an attempt to to explain this phenomena of self-destructive evil by blaming the discomfort on a human-like and angry god.
To the question of "people like that," whether they will ultimately be redeemed, it is important to note that mortals don't become children of God. Mortality and its conditions of evil passions and appetites, depraved will, cruelty, hatred, revenge, have no life in them to redeem.
If there is not a single morsel of morality - some slight indication of humanity, honesty, affection, compassion, hope, faith, meekness or temperance in a Hitler, than that Hitler was never a man. (Man, in this sense, is the generic term for manifestation or child of God.) In such a case he would be classified, and would always remain, a figment of what Christian Science denotes as animal magnetism, the anti-Christ, generic evil, or complete darkness. However, If there is any slight indication of humanity there - whether we have personally ever seen it or not - that makes him redeemable.
Fortunately, we don't have to worry about if or how a Hitler is or isn't transformed or changed. Whether man or a figment of animal magnetism, the divine and irrevocable law of progress will sort out the true facts, redeem the real and wipe out entirely that which is unlike God.
Darkness never wins in a contest with Light. Light, and the good that constitutes God and His creation, conquers all.
For a beautiful illustration of how pure good overcame the darkness and evil of the Holocaust, check out my earlier post titled "I will love, if another hates."
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Seeking out and finding God isn’t a one shot deal. Just like the true sense of being "born again" happens over and over on the spiritual journey. Spiritual rebirth, coming from a new view of God and His creation, is continuous.
Looking for God involves more than becoming spiritually centered. It's not just the search for spirituality, but the search for Spirit - the divine Source of all spirituality - that moves us forward. Spirit is the center and circumference of being - of all true being. Find God, or Spirit, and you find yourself as the wonderful, spiritual reflection of God.
I teach Christian Science, giving a course on the true nature of God and the nature of man. Of course it is also a course on healing through prayer. But I often find there is a struggle to pay attention to what God is long enough to really get anywhere. And yet, finding God is fundamental to healing through prayer. It is like the human mind has already consented that God is too much to know, too difficult or ultimately unknowable.
Attempts to find God are often made through looking to the reflection, instead of finding the reflection through God; in other words, through looking to man and creation to have a greater sense of what God is, instead of looking to God to understand what creation is – which is a more scientifically Christian method. Jesus always started with what the Father - his Father, our Father - was seeing, saying or doing, in his instructions on prayer.
It is believed that looking at God is like looking at the sun – one can’t do it for very long - if at all. It’s easier to look at what the sun is shining on and to appreciate the beautiful sunny day, than it is to look at the sun itself.
Now I am not suggesting that we all go out with bare eyes and look at the sun, but I will suggest that through a proper lens, scientists are able to look at the sun, to study that sun, to research that sun, to see and know details of that sun perfectly safely and for prolonged periods of time, without damage.
Well, the lens through which we can safely, surely look at God, and really see the depth and breadth of what God really is, is the lens of the Christ - the Science of Christianity that details God's infinite power and goodness. There is no risk, no danger in exploring the outer reaches and inner depths of what that God is, through the lens of this Science. There’s also no risk of missing out on discovering the perfect reflection because you are working out from the Source, rather than up to it.
Sometimes finding God boils down to a simple question of vocabulary. In the Glossary of Scriptural terms in the Key to the Scriptures part of Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures, Mary Baker Eddy gives a definition for God that exposes the divine from many angles. She wrote: “God. The great I AM; the all-knowing, all-seeing, all-acting, all-wise, all-loving, and eternal; Principle; Mind; Soul; Spirit; Life; Truth; Love; all substance; intelligence. (587:5)
That one definition alone gives everyone a jumping-off point to exploring the true nature of God.
Gertrude Stein wrote in her book Everybody's Autobiography (1937), "It takes a lot of time to be a genius. You have to sit around so much, doing nothing, really doing nothing."
I must say I do agree. At least it can look that way to an observer. And it often feels that way to the one going through the process of sitting, thinking, squirming, waiting, wondering, gazing out the window, staring at the wall, clipping fingernails, thinking... all the while waiting for some outward sign of forward movement.
Oh, how many times have I experienced just that. Each time I think I will discover some new way to circumvent the process. And then, here we go again.
A couple of years ago, I was in the middle of what looked and felt like a "doing nothing" patch. I had been staring at the walls for a decent chunk of time as January dragged into February. When it looked like February might pass into March without much to say for it, I reached out to a Christian Science practitioner for help.
Christian Science practitioners (like me) pray for people to help them out of stuck places in their lives. I wasn't sure what I was looking for from this prayer, other than the ability to trust that all this quiet, and thinking, and sitting, and doing nothing but scrutinize my white walls, was OK... And to know that I wasn't nuts. Because, frankly, I wondered what was wrong with me that nothing seemed to be going on in my life.
So she prayed for me until I saw the reinforcing power that develops in deep periods of quiet. I would describe what I saw this way:
Think of the formation of a wave. A wave develops well under the surface on the ocean floor. The current (think undertow, when it happens near the shore) pulls back, and finally pushes up, propelling the water forward with amazing force. We glory in the beauty of the activity on the surface, not always recognizing the invisible, silent, essential build-up of strength that precedes it.
I turn to Mary Baker Eddy for a clear description of the metaphysics of this wave development. She wrote, "Beholding the infinite tasks of truth, we pause, — wait on God. Then we push onward, until boundless thought walks enraptured, and conception unconfined is winged to reach the divine glory." (Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures, 323)
No matter what it looks like on the surface, something powerful is happening.
I have been a pusher all my life. But I love to think now of these strength-yielding pauses. I believe it is absolutely essential to allow oneself the mental space - white wall space - to pause, to be - to think and wonder and even squirm (!), - as one waits on the onward push of God, omniactive good.
Its not really a time thing. I have had pauses that last but a second before the next breakers of inspiration jettison me forward onto the shore of some new adventure or activity. Others have been long. Really long. What looked, up close, to be a two month pause a couple of years ago, was really the last momentum-gathering undertow at the end of a six year deep-think pause. But the force of that build-up has carried me through some of my most productive and interesting years yet.
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A blog reader sent me the link to this 10 minute sermon given last Sunday by Nadia Bolz-Weber at her church, House for All Sinners and Saints, in Denver, Colorado, where she is the founding pastor. She makes some really helpful points, so I am passing it along to you as the Prayer MOJO post for this week. I recommend that you listen to, rather than read, her message, because preaching is a spoken art form.
To hear her sermon, be sure your speakers are on, and click the button:
If you prefer to read the sermon, the following is the intro. A link at the end will take you to her full text.
"A couple hours ago on Facebook, Catherine posted that she had just seen a snake on her hike. As her pastor I thought it best to reply, “If it starts talking, don’t listen.”
"This likely came to mind since I was editing this very sermon about Adam and Eve. The story of the Garden of Eden is what is called an origin story and every culture has theirs. Origin stories tell us how the world came about and where we came from and other important things like why snakes don’t have legs. We think we might know our origin story really well, but in the Genesis account of the Garden of Eden, there actually is no mention of sin, or a fall, or Satan, or temptation, and I hate to break it to you but there wasn’t even an apple involved. Which means the cultural understanding of the story of the Garden of Eden is slightly corrupted. This is due in part to the countless paintings throughout the history of Western art which for some reason portray a tree and a snake and an extremely white Adam and Eve holding a Red Delicious.
"See, for generations folks have called the tale of Adam and Eve and the serpent and the forbidden fruit “The Fall from grace” or “The story of Original Sin."
"That's a little weird to me. Like, God created the heavens and the Earth and animals and it was like, this awesome all-inclusive primeval club-med for Adam and Eve – they ran naked through the warm sunlight of an idyllic paradise and everything was theirs for the taking – except for that one tree that they were told to steer clear of. And this absolute paradise in the garden between God and Humanity lasted approximately 20 minutes. Until Eve had a chat with a talking snake and then disobeyed God and ate the forbidden fruit. And because Eve, ate some fruit she was told not to, now all of humanity is cursed and this so-called original sin of Eve’s became sort of like a sexually transmitted disease.
"Because now, according to this version of what the story is about, every person born after that inherited original sin from Eve. That’s right. Eve messed it up for everyone by eating some piece of fruit God told her not to. Which feels kinda unfair to her and kinda unfair to us. But this is what we are told the story is about.
"See, religion has taught many of us that the story of Adam and Eve is a story primarily about their disobedience. And that the fracture in the relationship between God and humanity is caused by us breaking God’s arbitrary little rules. So it feels like maybe religion was established just so we could be certain about what rules we need to follow in order for our relationship with God to be a loving, peaceful one.
"But this week, after reflecting on several conversations I’ve had with many of you about your lives and identities and the struggles we all have to hear the truth of who we are, well, I started to wonder if the real damage to the relationship between Adam and Eve and God wasn’t the rule breaking nearly as much as it was in allowing themselves to believe lies about themselves and God. See, the serpent lied to them about who they were and who God was and like all the most dangerous lies, these lies the serpent told were just close enough to the truth to be really destructive...." Find full sermon.
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MOJO. I love that word. I hope it doesn't get put on the passé list of overused words before I get a chance to own it for awhile. I only just looked up its meaning and added it to my cool expressions for confidence, assuredness, talent and resilience. At least that is what mojo means to me.
Today's post is the first in a new Thursday Series focusing on Finding your Prayer Mojo and praying with inspiration and effectiveness. I often hear "I don't know how to pray or what to think about when I pray." This series is designed to keep the subject of the how and what of prayer front and center and to nourish your confidence.
In the words of a hymn, "Prayer is the simplest form of speech that infant lips can try." (Christian Science Hymnal, #284) It's that idea of simply thinking about God that you will find in these "Seven Ways to Find your Prayer Mojo."
W.O.W. = Walk on water. Peter did it. He stepped out of the boat. That showed his willingness to master limitation. Fear might have tried to sink him, but Peter did walk on water with a helping hand.
This year my resolution is a little different. No more thinking small. Sure, I would like to eat better, move more, and drop off unecessary habits that waste my time. But rather than focus on the minnows of limitation nipping at my toes, I would like to go after the big fish of fear that would tell me I can't get out of the boat and express my unlimited potential for good. And I think I can do this in four steps.
When I was six years old, this question popped up in my thought: “Would I be me if my mom and dad hadn’t had me?” An answer came, swift and unequivocal. “Yes”. I don’t remember that I thought about it much at the time, or that I told anyone about it. But I do remember that it made me feel good.
I grew up and kept busy with square dancing and voice lessons and 4-H projects. As busy and happy as I was, another question bounced around in my thought from time to time: “What is God?” I loved my church and Sunday school, yet as often as I asked, no clear answer came. I knew the Bible promise, “Seek and ye shall find; knock and it shall be opened unto you.” (Matt. 7:7) So, I sought and knocked and waited.
Fast forward to my college years. My roommate and I decided we would tackle the question "What is God," and keep at it until we found an answer. One night, we looked out the window into the starry night and thought. And thought. And thought. Finally, my roommate blurted out: “God is!” We stared at each other. OK. That had to satisfy for now.
It was my turn to drive when a friend and I were passing through a high hilly area on a road trip in Great Britain. Let me set the scene: I was a new driver, driving on the left side (that is the wrong side of the road for an American), on what could only be considered a one lane passage way with a sheer drop-off to nowhere and no shoulder in this section for pulling over. Rounding a blind curve, probably driving too fast for the road conditions, we were confronted with a flock of sheep crossing the road and a large truck barreling head on towards us. There was nowhere to go and no way to stop to avoid a collision...
I have practiced Christian Science professionally in
some form since 1979.
But my journey with
Christian Science started
in a Sunday school
where as a young child
I was taught the Scriptures and some simple basics
of Jesus' method of
scientific Christian healing.
A significant experience
at the age of twelve
opened my eyes to
the great potential
of this practice.
After impaling my foot
on a nail,
I prayed the way I had learned
in Sunday school.
the pain stopped
and healing began.
By the next morning the wound had disappeared completely.
the great potential
of Christian Science,
there would be no