View from the Pew
Mistakes need not define your life’s path
Christian Science lecturer David Stevens' message to some of his audiences is "You don't have to be defined by your worst choice in life."
Stevens, of Petaluma, Calif., is on a national speaking circuit for his denomination, talking at universities, hospitals and churches and to community groups. He weaves his religious belief with his professional background as a teacher, athletic coach and college counselor who focused on nurturing the capabilities of students.
"A few years ago, I got praying about men's spirituality and how I could support that. I got calls from churches that were in prison ministry or were supporting men's groups dealing with drug and alcohol treatment, domestic violence.
"I try to give people a spiritual perspective on who they are," said Stevens in a telephone interview. "I tell them everyone qualifies to think of himself or herself as a child of God."
In recent years, he has taken that message directly to people whom society has labeled and locked up for their bad choices. He gives seminars in a Southern California Drug Court program that gives convicted offenders an option of rehabilitation instead of a jail sentence.
Stevens will speak on Oahu next week. "A Spiritual View of Yourself is Transforming" is the topic of a lecture at 10 a.m. next Saturday at McCoy Pavilion at Ala Moana Beach Park. The talk is free and open to the public, sponsored by the First Church of Christ, Scientist of Honolulu.
He will also speak Friday at Halawa Correctional Facility and Sunday at Onelauena, the state transitional housing for homeless people at Kalaeloa.
Stevens said the core of his message is from Christian evangelist Paul's letter to the Romans: "Do not be conformed to this world but be transformed by renewing of your mind."
"We start with an identity that is inherently spiritual, as opposed to a material, physical profile. A spiritual perspective gives a person what it takes for a fresh start, to see themselves in a new light and act that way."
"I talk about their status as a child of God, with an inheritance of all the qualities of love and goodness that Christ Jesus embodied. It strips away labels. The perspective Christian Science brings is to open up the concept of God, bringing out the Biblical idea of God as truth, love, intelligence ... to see what it means to be made in the image and likeness of this."
Stevens recalls an inmate who told him, "I'm a third-generation addict, what good could I possibly be?" -- and another who said he defined himself in terms of violence.
"Participants have said the spiritual perspective gives them what they need to stay clean and sober and hold onto their families. A woman told me, 'I know who I am. I look in the mirror and tell myself, you are a loved and beautiful daughter of God.' "
The "tough love" court program "has been strengthened by the spiritual component, it can be seen statistically," Stevens said. He added that 80 percent of the people who go through the Drug Court program in Redlands, Calif., succeed in rehabilitating themselves, while two-thirds of the prison population will return to substance abuse, violence and crime.