"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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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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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