Since stepping into the full-time practice of Christian Science healing, the opportunities have grown gently to do my part in shaping society and the public in new and unexpected ways. Boy, am I grateful for this wealth of encounters. We are meant to shine and share what has been given to us. The goal is to move forward unselfishly and actively the unfinished project of a peaceful society of equals. In Bible talk this would be called to establish the kingdom of heaven on the earth. This project is being realized as we speak.
Zoom in into one of those special moments. A building moment. This time not in the town-hall or a workshop by the interfaith activities of Berlin. This time in the famous Werkstatt der Kulturen, "a place of presentation and representation; of local and global, traditional and contemporary cultural practices and arts. In a world where local and global issues are inextricably linked to international migration stories, the Werkstatt der Kulturen celebrates cultural difference!" (from their mission statement). The Werkstatt is for decades also home for a unique and astonishing biographical workshop of individuals from many different faith traditions and philosophies.
The topic for a public event was the veil, a contentious topic in many Western countries. Here issues are linked such as women's rights, conformity to Western standards, religions and their practices as well as traditions and backgrounds. The headline we had chosen was: "Can I show the world who I am?"
After a beautiful reading by Fereshta Ludin, a German teacher with Afghan roots, daughter of the Afghan Ambassador to Saudi-Arabia and later an asylum seeker in Germany, who had brought the veil in front of the German Supreme Court, the podium was joined by Aaron Hammel, the representative for inter-religious dialogue of the Central Council of Jews, and Alexander Bischkopf, a historian and political scientist, working for the Humanist Forum and a proclaimed atheist. I took the chance to bridge the reading and the discussion by a short introductory talk. There are many perspectives on the veil and the complex relationship between individuality and society. I spoke about how fear needs to be handled and how important it is to speak with instead about each other. Most individuals feel that there is some aspect in their lives they need to defend, which sets them apart, and the debate was opened by the insight that each one of us on the podium, at different times in history, would have risked their lives for professing their convictions.
The question "Can I show the world who I am?" is a world-issue, of course, it takes courage, wisdom, and confidence to do so. And a society that accepts variety as an asset not a threat. One evening in front of a Berlin audience cannot solve all problems, of course. But it is one piece in a large puzzle. To me, as a woman but also as a Christian Science practitioner I try to be what Mary Baker Eddy encouraged us to be - "a public-spirited citizen" (Miscellaneous Writings, p. 147). That evening I represented also Christian Science - and Christianity at large. No difference there. Who would have imagined this to be possible even ten years ago?
What I took away from this remarkable evening are four insights, and I feel we need all four of them as we work devotedly to pacify and elevate heated public debates on religion, immigration, racism, and the unconditional equality of woman.
First: If you want to learn something about someone, don't speak behind their back. Ever. Generalizations betray us. Don't try to imagine or explain what the other is thinking or knowing - prefer to let everyone speak for him- or herself. If you wonder what Christian Science healing is all about ask any Christian Science practitioner and not a tabloid reporter, fortuneteller or the cookie monster.
Second: Develop a keen interest in the issues of our time and don't judge. You may be astonished or amazed, sometimes even puzzled. But don't judge. Get to know the people who live a different religion or world view than you do, learn something about other religions and reach out with a helping hand if for some reason their religious practice is under scrutiny. Joseph Beuys wrote in his manifesto "Everyone is an artist" (excerpt):
"Learn to observe snails. Plant impossible gardens. Invite someone dangerous to tea. Make little signs, that say “Yes” and distribute them around your house. Be a friend of Freedom and Uncertainty. Look forward to dreams. Cry during movies. Swing yourself as high as you can, on a Swing by Moonlight. Refuse to be “responsible”. Do it out of love. Take lots of naps. Give away money. Do it now. The Money will follow."
Third: Live a compassionate life. We don't need to understand why to someone atheism matters or the veil matters or Ganesha matters. Interest, compassion, and mercy are practical expressions of love which is a natural resource, everywhere, and can be used in a sustainable way. Our heart overflows with love for humanity because Love, God, is truly all. Love is God and God is Love. She/He doesn't have favorites.
Fourth: Adopt Mary Baker Eddy's wisdom and relax. She writes:
"What we love determines what we are. I love the prosperity of Zion, be it promoted by Catholic, by Protestant, or by Christian Science, which anoints with Truth, opening the eyes of the blind and healing the sick. I would no more quarrel with a man because of his religion
than I would because of his art." (from The Independent, 1906)
My world has grown bigger, friendships have developed, my sharing of Christian Science has become even more free and joyful. Because I see it more and more as a kind of basic law, the Science of Life. Since opening up to interfaith activities, invitations are pouring into my life from churches and synagogues, and mosques and temples, I didn't even know existed, and as I cannot accept all of them due to my full work schedule, I decided to accept at least a few: I am going to celebrate the shiite Iftar with a community of Shia Islam in Berlin (the vice-chancellor of Germany will give an address, too), enjoy an evening of reverence and devotion with the Ba'hai community (and I was asked to bring and share inspiration from Christian Science), and attend the Aarti celebration by the German Hindu community.
If you can't work for civic issues where you are, you can start seeing the world through the eyes of another individual. That's a start. Four minutes of time spent with someone opens a new world. See for yourself this short video by Amnesty International, done in Berlin. Unscripted encounters between mostly Syrian refugees and people living in Berlin from different European countries.
Who is writing?
In my work as Christian Science practitioner and writer I draw on listening to God and listening to people.