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A word about this blog

Daily News and Prayer is inspired by The Christian Science Monitor, one of the most important (and most underappreciated) newspapers in the world. Posts are usually (but not always) responses to articles in the Monitor (and occasionally other news outlets) about events and trends that call for prayer.

The blog's aim is to help strengthen humanity's collective confidence that we can triumph over even the most deeply entrenched evils, in ourselves and in the world.

Notifications: If you would like to be notified about new postings, please send an email to kscollins@gmail.com, with "Blog mailing list" in the subject line. I'll be sure to let you know each time a new item is posted.

Note on submissions: If you would like to contribute to this blog, I would be happy to consider your submission. It should be 500 words or less, very well written and fit the topic. Read several postings to get an idea of the subject matter and tone. It should also fit the audience, which is general, international and non-denominational.

Please email your submission to me at kscollins@gmail.com. I will get back to you as soon as I can. Please be aware that, while I appreciate the interest and efforts of anyone who wishes to write for the blog, publication is not guaranteed. If I feel your piece is promising but needs revision, I will let you know. Nothing will be published without your seeing the final copy.

Daily News and Prayer

"Ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free."

Christ Jesus

 

“We must not expect the world to improve much faster than ourselves.”

Will Durant

 

Tuesday
Aug042015

Solving problems, bridging borders

Two stories that are not news, but they have to do with prayer and international relations:

First, in my post of July 10 I said, regarding the global unity needed for successful climate talks in Paris in December, “if even a handful of us can break through the mesmerism of selfish interests and come to agreement somewhere important to us, the unity of seemingly intransigent parties on the global level will be that much more feasible because we have demonstrated that it is possible.”

I said that, for my part, I was going to focus on a disagreement I was having with a commercial establishment in another country and pray about it. Well, I’m happy to report that a day later the woman I was dealing with offered a compromise solution that was acceptable to me. Problem solved! Anyone else demonstrate the power of prayer to bridge cross-border differences?

Second, the other day I was in the town of Sion, Switzerland, which has some magnificent structures from the Middle Ages – a chateau, and a little town with a church – atop two peaks. See the picture next to the right. I had a couple of cameras as well as other paraphernalia over my shoulders, and during the afternoon dropped one of my camera cases somewhere. When it was time to leave I couldn’t find it. I walked all the way down the hill, but nothing.  

Immediately several thoughts were proposed by others around me: (1) It was gone for good; (2) I was pretty stupid not to keep track of it; (3) someone probably took it; (4) There was no obvious lost-and-found location on the grounds for someone to leave it; (5) Some of the people around that day were not the types who would turn something like that into a lost-and-found location anyway.

Not one to let thoughts like these go unchallenged, I decided to leave my group and make another climb to look for the case. This would also give me a chance to pray about it alone. As I climbed I looked; I was very calm. I prayed. I reached the top and still didn’t find it, so I started down again. For some reason I was not discouraged. And when I was almost at the bottom a woman ran up to me and said I seemed to be looking for something. When I said yes, I was looking for my camera case, she said her friend had found one and would be there in a minute. We introduced ourselves – I from the US, she from Portugal, her friend from Switzerland, and yes indeed, her friend had my case.

Another proof, to my mind, of the power of prayer to solve a problem and, at the same time, make differences in nationalities superfluous.  

Friday
Jul312015

Cecil the lion

A reader asked me to address the issue of the American trophy hunting dentist who lured a loved lion out of a preserve in Zimbabwe, then shot and killed it, planning to mount its head on his office wall. He has been blasted on social media as a bloodthirsty American with too much money and no regard for life.

Those who read this blog regularly, I believe, I feel an obligation to try to do something constructive when news gets rough. There’s a good Bible verse worth considering now (Isa. 11:6): “The wolf also shall dwell with the lamb, and the leopard shall lie down with the kid; and the calf and the young lion and the fatling together; and a little child shall lead them.”

Each of us can be that little child, nurturing in our own lives a state of mind that rejects both physical and mental violence. Until you and I can say that we will never seek violence of any kind against another being – never hate, never lie, never envy, never covet – it behooves us to just pray right now for how to bring peace where we live, and be humble.

 

Thursday
Jul302015

Looking back on the Watergate investigation

An occasional commentary based on Alain De Botton’s thought-provoking book, The News: A User’s Manual, about the role of news in modern society.

De Botton is a Swiss writer and philosopher – a philosopher of daily life, as some have called him. He is dedicated to taking a fresh look at things that we take for granted, and in 2014 he turned his eye on the news.

Many members of my generation have long held the Watergate investigation – the uncovering of the illegal actions of President Nixon and his aides in the 1970s by The Washington Post – as one of the best models for effective journalism. We assumed, especially after Robert Redford and Dustin Hoffman portrayed the Post’s heroic reporters Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein in the movie “All the President’s Men,” that a career holding the feet of the powerful to the fire was a career well spent.

The Post’s work was certainly brave and useful. It was one reason I ended up going to journalism school. But exposing the misdeeds of powerful people is only one type of journalism, and it is arguably not the most important. Are corrupt or incompetent individuals and institutions really the cause of all our problems? If all the bad people in positions of authority were exposed, fired, arrested and prosecuted tomorrow, would it change the world all that much?

Human thought would remain more or less the same, I suspect. People would still try to cut corners and get what they don’t deserve.

Good journalism goes deeper than the latest scandal. As de Botton puts it, “Properly conceived, investigative journalism should start with an all-encompassing interest in the full range of factors that sabotage group and individual existence.”

The problem, of course, is not really people but the human mind – or, more accurately, the “carnal mind,” the term used in the Bible to denote that element of human consciousness that is materialistic through-and-through, drowning in matter, fearing it, wanting it, being willing even to kill for it. In seeking to lift the human mind to better things, Watergate-style journalism has a role, but really just a small one. “The only honest purpose of unearthing and publicizing error is to make it less prevalent,” de Botton says. “Faced with corruption, idiocy and mediocrity, rather than remaining stuck at the level of gleeful fault finding in the present, the news should seek instead always to nurture greater competence in the future.”

Good news organizations go beyond “holding power to account” as a journalistic motive. The one I’m most familiar with, The Christian Science Monitor, certainly does. I like its objective: “To injure no man, but to bless all mankind.” It’s a good protection against thinking that taking down bad people is the real and long-term solution to anything. It can be useful sometimes. But news organizations, and each of us individually, whether journalists or not, should also take on the much more difficult task of lifting humanity as a whole.

Sunday
Jul192015

Giving peace a chance in Iran

If we see ourselves as living in a world of risk, where at any time someone, or something, may do immense harm and we can do nothing to stop it, then the new agreement with Iran is fraught with tension. Is Iran lying about renouncing development of a nuclear weapon, putting Israel and the rest of the world in greater danger? Will it use its new funds from the lifting of sanctions to sow more discord in the Middle East? Or is Iran finally going to feel secure and respected enough that it can safely assume an important and constructive role in the world?

The questions can’t be resolved politically. Each side will dig in over the next few months and insist its scenario is the likely one. As more months and years go by we’ll have a clearer idea what Iran will do, but leaving it all to chance seems unduly risky.

I don’t like leaving things to chance. I have prayed about this, as have many other people. I started by attacking fear. Fear makes people do crazy things. But insisting in confident prayer that God is perfect Love, and, as the Bible puts it, “perfect love casts out fear,” and working to keep fearful, hateful and other un-Godlike thoughts out of my view of the world (whether on the level of international relations or my personal life), I am trying to help make perfect love a reality, not just for me but for the world.

This agreement may comprise more than 100 pages of details, but our reaction to it can be pretty simple: God, divine Love, has been and is in charge of Her universe. As the Bible says, “[God] maketh wars to cease unto the end of the earth; he breaketh the bow, and cutteth the spear in sunder; he burneth the chariot in the fire. Be still, and know that I am God: I will be exalted among the heathen, I will be exalted in the earth.”

See The Christian Science Monitor for some good coverage.

Friday
Jul102015

Is a climate agreement possible?

From November 30 to December 11 this year, negotiators from scores of nations will meet in Paris to try to finalize an agreement to limit emissions of greenhouse gases that most scientists and governments agree are causing a rise in the earth’s temperature and changes in climate.

But near-unanimous agreement on the cause of climate change does not mean there is consensus on how humanity should respond. Many developing countries see the more prosperous nations as having built their wealth on restriction-free production and pollution, and they want the same freedom for themselves as they struggle to catch up. They also want financial help to cover the cost of converting to more modern, less polluting technology and adapting to a changing climate. They did not cause the problem, they say, and they should not have to pay to adapt to it or correct it.

Developed nations, for their part, see a growing portion of the pollution in the world now coming from the developing world, and no matter what happened in the past, they insist there is no hope of slowing climate change unless everyone plays by the same rules. As for giving financial help, there’s virtually no chance of that without agreement on emissions cuts.

On its own island, in a way, has been the United States, with some powerful business and political interests insisting that, even if climate change is happening, emissions aren’t causing it, and controlling them will just limit economic growth and throw people out of work.

Some of these rigid positions are starting to break down. The United States, led by the Obama Administration and some forward-looking businesses and politicians, is quietly making moves to limit greenhouse gases through both federal and state regulations. China, the world’s biggest polluter (the US is second) has agreed to cap its emissions growth by 2030, and experts are now saying it may happen even sooner.

Some developed and developing countries are also quietly working together in other venues than the main climate talks to do something about climate change. Last year at the UN Climate Summit in New York, the environment ministers of Sweden and Bangladesh joined together to author an article on the importance of one approach to emissions control.

But despite the good signs, there is still serious disagreement on the fairest way to deal with climate change. With less than five months to go to Paris, there’s not a lot of time to bridge the differences (although negotiators are trying). So maybe you and I can do something.

Here’s what I propose: To see unity in Paris, let’s see if we can find some of it ourselves. Where is unity needed in our lives? If even a handful of us can break through the mesmerism of selfish interests and come to agreement somewhere important to us, the unity of seemingly intransigent parties on the global level will be that much more feasible because we have demonstrated that it is possible.

But there is a catch: This has to be done through prayer, because defeating mental forces of disharmony through divine power is what will make the difference. Here’s a Bible verse to get started, whether thinking about our own situation or the Paris talks: “God, who is rich in mercy, for his great love wherewith he loved us, even when we were dead in sins, hath quickened us together with Christ, (by grace ye are saved;) and hath raised us up together, and made us sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus.”

For my part, I’m going to focus on a disagreement I’m having with a commercial establishment in another country. It’s tempting to label them intransigent, clueless about customer relations and other qualities that are often placed on this nationality. But I’m not going to do it. I’m going to pray with confidence and not let resentment or other emotions color my thinking about them or the situation (or myself).

I’d love to have your comments below as to what your plan is to bring out spiritual unity in your life -- for the sake of the Paris talks, and for your own sake, too!