If there is any venue where it is essential to be neutral, it is in the sacred region of the heart where prayer takes place. In this elevated sanctuary, thought can witness spiritual reality unembellished with personal agendas, emotion or habit. It is a place where personal will submits to the unchanging spiritual nature of things and the heart responds with a humble, “Thy will be done.”
But does this neutrality mean the spiritually-minded person cannot be committed to one side of a controversial issue in human affairs? In democratic countries, for example, there is an obligation to vote. Voting is essentially a partisan activity, even if one is not formally aligned with a political party. The voter registers approval or disapproval based on an assessment of which candidate or proposition best aligns with the voter’s honest convictions about the issues. To be fair in this situation means to thoughtfully consider all the positions in play before casting a ballot.
Sometimes the differences are stark and the consequences grave.
At times, there may be few significant differences among the various choices. Or the issues may not be seriously consequential. This does not diminish the importance of voting—the act of voting itself registers affirmation of the democratic process.
But sometimes the differences are stark and the consequences grave. In such cases, being “fair” isn’t always appropriate. Paul Krugman, op-ed writer for The New York Times, makes the point in a lighthearted way by using a hypothetical controversy about a claim that the earth is flat. It would be a distortion of fairness, he notes, if a news headline were to state: “Shape of Earth: Views Differ.” To be “fair” in such an instance would be to give the truth an equal footing with falsity, which not only trivializes respect for truth but attempts to change the facts.
more realistic, and more serious, controversies, the rightness or wrongness of a position may not be obvious at the time. Slavery, for instance, was an essential and accepted part of the US economy for two hundred years. However, when those whose love for humanity prompted them to speak out and take action, this evil institution was eventually seen for what it was and eliminated.
“Love is the liberator.”
Mary Baker Eddy, who lived at the time of the emancipation of the slaves in this country, acknowledges the sustaining power of spiritualized thought and actions in her book Science and Health: “The history of our country, like all history, illustrates the might of Mind, and shows human power to be proportionate to its embodiment of right thinking. A few immortal sentences, breathing the omnipotence of divine justice, have been potent to break despotic fetters and abolish the whipping-post and slave market; but oppression neither went down in blood, nor did the breath of freedom come from the cannon’s mouth. Love is the liberator.”
Reformers in all eras have not diluted their commitment to a just cause by deference to a false fairness. One notable reformer, Jesus, spoke out freely against injustices, indicting the highest levels of the reigning establishment. And history provides many other examples of bravery and courage on the part of those who “voted” in their thoughts and actions to save the victims of all forms of oppression.
Seek the divine perspective and hold to it.
For one who prays about public issues of consequence, then, the safest and most fair course is to seek the divine perspective and hold to it. This perspective reveals where the greatest good is to be found in human affairs. By definition this would have to include fairness, wisdom, compassion and so on. It stands to reason that the “will” of the divine Creator can be considered the state of spiritual reality, where all is under the control of an unbreakable law of harmony. Where everyone belongs to the household of divine Love and deals with each other in accordance with that Love. Where controversy does not exist because the divine will is always being done.
Such a view is indeed possible, though not always easy to achieve in the heat of controversy and partisan exchanges. Yet, those who pray regularly know that whatever effort is required—effort to turn away from the noise of emotion and controversy while turning expectantly to the divine Principle of harmony—that effort is worth it.
“The focus will shift from you to God, and you will begin to sense his grace.”
Eugene Peterson’s The Message Bible translation offers a refreshed voicing of the familiar statement from the gospel of Matthew, verse 6, where Jesus instructs his followers on how to pray: “Here’s what I want you to do: Find a quiet, secluded place so you won’t be tempted to role-play before God. Just be there as simply and honestly as you can manage. The focus will shift from you to God, and you will begin to sense his grace.”
This “grace” is the assurance that divine Love is at the helm of progress, whose powerful presence in human consciousness is leading and guiding the world toward eventual peace and harmony. Once this prayerful shift happens, you can re-enter the fray and work for the cause you espouse.
And if the majority decision is contrary to your choice, you can support it with the same kind of agenda-less prayer that seeks and cooperates with the divine will—even while you continue to support the cause you voted for.