The daily “Letters to the Editor” offer a window on a worldwide community of readers and thinkers, pondering the subjects of the times and caring enough to write a public response. These letters provide a lively forum where people from all over the map — both geographically and figuratively — weigh in with opinions about what The New York Times editors have chosen to publish for general consumption — as both news and opinion. And the opinion columns tend to draw a lot more, well, opinions.
Mr. Kristof’s recent column, “Message to Muslims: I’m Sorry,” seems particularly provocative to me, as a religious blogger (double entendre intended). In it Mr. Kristof apologizes to Muslims for the pervasive outpouring of vituperative comments about them, their religion, their beliefs, and their rights. As is the norm in his case, he presents a cogent case for his concern, backed by his own personal experiences traveling throughout the Muslim world. But in the end, his plea is a basic one — for tolerance and mutual respect.
In a less eloquent way, one might say, as to a small child, Let’s all take a time out here. Let’s pause for one moment and…well, and do what?
How about getting quiet and listening? If we aren’t ready to listen to one another, let’s start by listening for the quiet voice within that speaks to our hearts and governs and guides our consciences. In Christian Science, as in many religions, that would be called prayer.
The Founder of Christian Science, Mary Baker Eddy, was a woman of proud New England heritage, raised in the Congregational church and in a home where the Bible was a central focus of family dinner-table discussions. Mrs. Eddy went on to build upon that heritage when she discovered the scientific rules underlying the healing exemplified and demonstrated by Jesus Christ and later documented in the New Testament. Her discovery is generally known by the name, “Christian Science,” but here’s what she wrote in Science and Health about naming it, referring to herself, as author, in the third person:
The terms Divine Science, Spiritual Science, Christ Science or Christian Science, or Science alone, she employs interchangeably, according to the requirements of the context…. It may be said, however, that the term Christian Science relates especially to Science as applied to humanity.
In making this distinction, I think she expressed her great appreciation and love for humanity — by identifying it with the highest form of kindness, the Christly love expressed by Jesus. Mrs. Eddy herself endeavored to be the consummate Christian. Late in her life, when she was way up in years, she found herself needing to respond to the same kind of vituperative comments aimed at her and her church that we see in today’s media aimed at Muslims and their leaders. She wrote:
Did you catch that nuance? ” …make them THY friends….” She’s referring to God there, right? She isn’t asking that her relationships with the media be mended or that her enemies become her advocates. Nope.
I think, instead, she wants for them what she considers the highest form of relationship and companionship there is — a deeper relationship with God, a friendship and closeness characterized by love and patience and mercy, which derive from God. She wishes for her enemies that they know the touch of God’s grace. In doing so, she was following Jesus’ example and teaching, as stated in his Sermon on the Mount: “Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you….”
That’s a tall order, but one we can perhaps all aspire to. Who will write that in a letter to the editor?