The “Atonement as Defense” is a section of A Course in Miracles that calls us to defend the truth by denying the power of error to hurt us in any way. We know that we are deferring to error – or the power of wrong-minded thinking – whenever we feel doubt or fear. These feelings impede our miracle-working abilities. They render the Atonement inaccessible. They block the way to Heaven.
We tend to think of denial in terms of its negative negative connotations – i.e., its use to hide the truth. Alcoholics deny the affect their drinking has on family members and so never get sober. Teachers deny their intellectual arrogance is intimidating students and so the students never ask for help and never learn to the fullest of their or their teacher’s potential. On this view, denial creates a vicious circle that only repeats the fundamental error. Healing never happens.
However, A Course in Miracles explicitly states that there is also a way in which denial can be used positively. If we use it to deny the ability of error – alternatively called a lack of love or sin – to injure us, then we are using it appropriately. Indeed, to deny the power of error is to tacitly affirm the power of truth and love. This is the right use – a Christ-minded use – of this tool.
How do we learn to use denial in defense of truth and love?
The means are easier to understand after the value of the goal is firmly established. It is a question of what it is for. Everyone defends his treasure, and will do so automatically. The real questions are, what do you treasure and how much do you treasure it? Once you have learned to consider these questions and to bring them into all your actions, you will have little difficulty in clarifying the means. The means are available whenever you ask (T-2.II.3:2-7).
This echoes the beautiful passages in Matthew’s Gospel about where we “lay up” our treasure.
Lay not up for yourselves treasures upon earth, where moth and rust doth corrupt, and where thieves break through and steal: But lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust doth corrupt, and where thieves do not break through nor steal: For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.
And a few sentences later, the helpful reminder that a person cannot “serve two masters:”
. . . for either he will hate the one, and love the other; or else he will hold to the one, and despise the other. Ye cannot serve God and mammon.
Or, as the course puts it: “The Atonement is a total commitment” (T-2.II.7:1).
Thus, in A Course in Miracles, we are invited to clarify our intentions. We are being asked to set a very specific goal of healing. If we can set our eyes on Heaven – if we can recognize that our sole problem is that we believe we are separated from God and that repairing that perceived separation is the only healing that matters – then the means to achieve will be made instantly available.
We should submit all things – work, relationships, prayer, parenting, health – to this one test: What is it for? Does it serve the separation or or does it serve salvation? If it serves separation, then let it fall to the wayside without a second thought. Allow only that which furthers the goal of salvation to be in your life. No compromises!
We are called to simplify our lives so that we might focus exclusively on returning to God. Nothing else matters. And the return is not complicated, either. The means are actually already given to us. But setting this goal – making this our one objective to the exclusion of all others . . . that is a big deal. That is a challenge. We can delay making it for a long time. We can forget to make it, or forget we made it.
Focusing solely on our return to God can seem impossible. It can seem like the work of spiritual super heroes and heroines. We’re not saints – we’re just ordinary people. I’ve got to make dinner, put the kids to bed, talk to an editor about a story I’m working on, prepare for the next class. This is how life works. Are we actually supposed to give up those aspects of our lives?
In fact, we are called to bring order to our living, so that we might better remember and bring to application our sole focus on ending the separation and remembering our identity in and as love. This order appears in the ordinary circumstances that comprise our living; nothing changes but how we view our living. That is what the miracle does: it brings order to our perception in order to remember love.
The miracle turns the defense of the Atonement to your real protection, and as you become more and more secure you assume your natural talent of protecting others, knowing yourself as both a brother and a Son (T-2.II.7:8).
Our continual efforts to save and be saved are not without fruit. We make progress in time and that’s okay. Our awareness of the active protective value of the Atonement – God’s Love – increases in time and as it does we are able to extend our knowledge of it -and its security – to our brothers and sisters. We become servants unto their own experience of salvation.
Thus, this section then is an opportunity to reflect on our commitment to awakening and to our brothers and sisters as collaborators in salvation. It is a road map to help us a) measure that commitment and b) bring it better into application.