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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 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, 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

 

Wednesday
Jul082015

Anger, hope and context in the news

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 news outlets depend on anger, fear and other emotions to keep readers returning.

Ferry owner in Philippines charged with murder of 59 people after overloaded boat capsizes!

The fate of Europe is at stake in Greek vote!

 “Naturally the news badly needs its audience to feel agitated, frightened and bothered a lot of the time,” de Botton observes, “yet we have an even greater responsibility to try to remain resilient.”

Resilience: The capacity to recover quickly from difficulties. The capacity to remain hopeful despite troubles.

Anger actually can be a signal of resilience, de Botton notes. It is “at root a symptom of hope, the hope that the world can be better than it is.”

So maybe what readers are really saying when they respond to the news with anger is that they want hope. Not hope in the vague sense of “I hope things get better (but I doubt they will)” but realistic hope based in clear-eyed logic and a grounded faith that we are not helpless before evil.

Context often helps. If we realize that solutions are not always being ignored, difficult decisions truly are difficult, and people sometimes do have the best of intentions, we can be a bit more patient. John Yemma, The Christian Science Monitor’s recently retired editor, writes a weekly column for the paper that shows a masterful touch with context, especially history.

The Monitor’s approach to context aims to give people hope, in part, by reducing the scare factor in evil. A good example is a recent article about the Yemen civil war from staff writer Dan Murphy, where he marshals expert help from other news outlets to explain the complex influences that threaten to tear Yemen apart. It would be easy to create a new front for anger and fear in an article about Yemen. Instead Murphy lays out the situation in calm, rational tones, which in turn make evil something that can be more readily dealt with through prayer.

This approach is rooted in the religion behind the paper. Evil, in words that Mary Baker Eddy, the founder of the Monitor as well as of the Christian Science church, used about sickness, is not “a self-constituted material power, which copes astutely with Mind [God] and finally conquers it.” In Christian Science, evil has no intelligence, power, substance or life because God, who is Love, is the only real cause. This is the basis for not fearing evil but healing it. It’s the same approach Christian Scientists believe Christ Jesus took, and it’s the approach many take to the news – trying to bring divine power to bear on events through prayer.

Good context helps.

Saturday
Jul042015

The Greek referendum: The productivity of good works

The Greeks are in trouble in part because of their generous retirement benefits. Too many unproductive people drawing too much from the public till. But as with everything else in the news, this issue can be taken higher and point up a way that all of us, Greek or not, can help with a solution.

Is there really any such thing as retirement? To stop working is to die. We all have many things we can do as we get older to make the world better. The idea of retirement is really just an opportunity to change the focus of our work to some other productive activity.

And for that matter, if work after retirement can be brought to a higher level, so can work before retirement. Really, the problem is not retirement at all. It’s underemployment. In my career I’ve seen many more people who are using a tiny fraction of their capacity in their work than people who are pushing themselves higher and doing more and more valuable things.  

We need a more productive idea of work.

In my own work life, when I’ve considered hiring people, I’ve always looked for those who don’t have dreams. I don’t mean they shouldn’t be ambitious. They absolutely should. But their ambitions should be less personal and more to do something new and valuable for others, to help others deal with the difficulties of life more successfully. I want people who can put their own desires aside and work for others, knowing that their own needs will be met in abundant ways if they do that well. Someone like that is a pleasure to work with, inspires others, produces good products and is constantly improving. A good life, a productive life, as I see it, is determined by how much good we do for others.

I’m asking myself today, Am I being as productive as I can? If I can demonstrate better today than yesterday the productivity of good works, and bring those works as close as possible to the expression of divine Love, it will help make it possible for Greece and the European Union to find the solution to this financial crisis. I really believe that, even though my only contact with Greece in my life is a week of vacation on Crete a few years ago, and an exchange student, Stathis, who lived in my family’s home when I was in high school and kept us all in stitches.

Thursday
Jul022015

A new definition of marriage

Marriage is a human institution, defined and sanctioned by governments. It has to be if it’s going to have legal standing. Most religions regard marriage as sacred, but since it’s not necessary to be religious to get married, it makes no sense to be offended if governments choose to let more people in on the benefits.

The nature and demands of love have not changed, however. Divorces appear to be at an all-time high, but marriage is still about commitment, patience, hope and selfless love. That’s where we should be focusing now, on strengthening the idea of marriage itself. And one good way to do that is to dig deeper for a more meaningful relationship with our one true and everlasting partner, God.

This will enable us to be better partners in whatever relationships we find ourselves.

The purpose of life is to rise ever higher so we can do more good for humanity – to break through and break down the barriers and limitations of a material way of viewing things and demonstrate the healing power of divine Love. Ideally, pairing up with someone will help us do that. And pairing up with God as well can help us do it in even greater ways. A profound relationship with God – the fruit of constant, spiritually alert prayer – opens the way to deeper insight, wisdom and spiritual power and shows a path to a more effective love for humanity.

Instead of regretting that the place of marriage seems to be slipping, we should go higher now and understand the fundamental marriage as the union of man with God. Then we can bring the power of that realization into our relationships and communities and make them stronger. We need to protect love with divine fortifications if we want to preserve its purity for ourselves and our children.

Sunday
Jun282015

What might have been

The tone was remarkable. At the first court hearing back on June 19 of Dylann Roof, the admitted shooter of the nine members of the Emanuel AME Church in Charleston, South Carolina, several families expressed forgiveness of the young man for taking the lives of their loved ones.

Not everyone has reacted similarly. A prominent African-American writer described in The New York Times why she could never forgive Roof. The sentiment is understandable and shared by many, especially given the glaring hatred that pours out of Roof’s writings, discovered after his arrest. But refusal to forgive represents a response that has not proved very helpful in the past in correcting problems. As other writers have observed (here’s one from The Atlantic and another from The New Republic), forgiveness can be much more powerful than retaliation, especially if given, not from an emotional desire simply to “move on,” but from a deep, Christian sense of love.

I can’t help but think of what happened almost 14 years ago and how the U.S., as a government and a nation, responded. Three passenger planes were flown deliberately into buildings in New York City and Arlington, Virginia on September 11, 2001 (another was apparently intended for a building in Washington but was diverted by the passengers and crashed into a field in Pennsylvania), killing thousands. The planes had been hijacked by Middle Eastern terrorists. And the response from the President to the media and the general public was outrage and clamor for revenge. The military launched attacks on Afghanistan, the suspected home of those who ordered the attacks. Thousands more lives were lost. Eventually the U.S. carried the campaign to Iraq, raising the numbers of dead into the hundreds of thousands. And still the war on terror goes on, with no end in sight.

One wonders how history might have changed if, instead of the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, the terrorists on September 11, 2001 had flown their planes into the Emanuel AME Church in Charleston.

Wednesday
Jun242015

Revising history

It’s not difficult or inappropriate to trace the tragedy of the Emanuel AME Church shootings in Charleston, South Carolina to the unhealed wound of slavery in the United States. Many prominent writers, such as New York Times columnist Paul Krugman, have done it. The connection was made implicitly by Governor Nikki Haley of South Carolina when she gave support for removal from the state capitol grounds of the flag of the Confederacy. For those who aren’t American, the Confederate States of America was the group of rebellious states, including South Carolina, that from 1860 to 1865 fought (and lost) a Civil War to defend their way of life, which happened to include slaves.

The flag is still a symbol of defiance for some Americans and a symbol of slavery for others. But slavery today is more than symbols. We see its lingering effects in many forms, from the economic disparity between black and white families to the vicious hatred toward the nation’s first black president. Millions of slave descendants, struggling to escape what Times columnist Krugman calls “our nation’s original sin,” are still seeking the full benefits of being American.

You and I can help America rise above the lingering effects of slavery and wipe the record clean. As South Carolina Senator Lindsey Graham said, “...the problems we have today in South Carolina and across the world are not because of a movie or because of symbols, it is because of what is in people’s hearts.” That’s where healing can begin.

The Christian Science Monitor’s founder, Mary Baker Eddy, had an unusual view of history. “The human history needs to be revised,” she once wrote, “and the material record expunged.” She wasn’t advocating rewriting history the way oppressive regimes do to justify themselves. She was saying that we can heal the sorrow and pain of the past in our lives by rising to a spiritual view of life as God sees it and has given it to us. We have a right to reject the sentence of material history. We are not trapped in the past, or by it. “Now are we the sons of God,” the Bible puts it. Every one of us, whether our ancestors were slaves, slave owners or something else.

How long do Americans have to suffer for this great sin? As long as it takes for us to move beyond it. In his Second Inaugural Address in 1865, when the Civil War was close to the end but still burning, President Lincoln issued a warning: “...if God wills that [the Civil War] continue until all the wealth piled by the bondsman's two hundred and fifty years of unrequited toil shall be sunk, and until every drop of blood drawn with the lash shall be paid by another drawn with the sword, as was said three thousand years ago, so still it must be said ‘the judgements of the Lord are true and righteous altogether.’" This is not the curse of an unmerciful God. It is the promise of salvation from the evils of the past. Sometimes suffering is part of the route to get there.

The Civil War needs to wrap up. Let’s get to work cleansing our hearts and wiping them clean of racism. We have a right to revise history until it no longer divides us and holds us back.