Thursday, January 7, 2010

The Martyrs and Administrators

I have been asked a few times why I don't address every question I am asked (what I'm sure they mean is why don't I answer their questions, as they have no idea what anyone else is writing me).  The answer, really, is quite simple.  Most of the time I have no idea how to respond.  I could, of course, answer truthfully and honestly, but it just seems easier not to say anything.

Of course, there is, also, a second reason, and it may seem a bit more obscure, but it is very real to me.

You see, I live in Canada.  I was born in the United States, but I now live in Canada, and both countries, along with Greenland, are the recipients of the Tablets of the Divine Plan.  We are also the "spirtual descendants of the dawn-breakers".

I have given a lot of thought as to what that might mean and still have many more questions, but I will share what it means to me at this time in my development.  It means, to me, that I should study the lives of those breakers of the dawn and try to emulate them as best I can.

But who are the dawn-breakers, and what did they do?  Well, simply put, they were the early believers in the Bab who sacrificed everything in order to see this promised day come about.  They believed in the vision of the Bab so much, that they were willing to dedicate their entire lives to see the establishment of this new, universal religion.  They knew, however, that they were not able to merely talk about these wonderful ideals, but had to live them, instead.

Despite the perversity of the culture in which they lived, so rife with corruption and hatred, fanaticism and ignorance, they remained positive and optimistic about the future.  They stood out amongst their contemporaries by their upright character and noble virtues.

I could go on and on about how marvellous they were, but it might get tedious.

So what does this have to do with me?  Obviously, not a lot, as I don't show anywhere near the quality of character that they did, but it does have one important story I feel I need to learn from.

At a time when there was so much hatred shown towards them, just after the miraculous martyrdom of the Bab, Himself, two young idiots (to put it as mildly as I am capable) committed an act that has forever stained the history of this noble faith.  They were two young Babis who were "driven by a frenzy of despair to avenge" the martyrdom of the Promised One.  Despite the counsels of Baha'u'llah, and His strong advice to not commit so heinous an act, they decided to try and assassinate the Shah, whom they mistakenly blamed for the death of the Bab.  Because of their disgraceful act, over twenty thousand Babis lost their lives.

As we here in North America are the descendants of those valiant souls who gave their lives for this Cause, I do not wish to be the one about whom those in future will look back and say, "What an idiot."  (I'm sure I give enough people cause to say that, for many other reasons.)

Today, there are many Baha'is in some countries on this planet whose very lives are currently in danger by virtue of their faith, alone.  I do not wish to cause them any possibility of harm.  And so, out of concern for them, there are some questions and issues that I will not touch.

All of this, however, touches upon another question, that I feel is important: What is a martyr?

So much has been written in the media lately about the "martyrs", more appropriately called "suicide bombers", who bomb themselves along with others, that I feel the word has lost some of its power.  In fact, I would even say that many people are seriously disturbed when they hear abut martyrs, due to the inaccuracy of this term in that context.

(Here's the history lesson for today) The word "martyr" comes from the Greek word "martus", meaning "witness".    A martyr, by definition, bears witness to something with their life.  They are, in the face of death, willing to continue to profess their faith, even though they prefer life.  They do not seek death, but they do not shy away from it.  Death is always imposed upon them by external forces, due to their unwillingness to recant their faith.

In the Baha'i context, Baha'u'llah affirms the high station of those willing to sacrifice everything in order to remain true to their beliefs.  They are neither fanatics nor zealots motivated by any political or personal motives, but rather inspired by the desire to see the truth of Baha'u'llah's teachings put before the world.

But in all of Baha'u'llah's praise for the sacrifice of the martyrs, one thing really stands out to me: His response when someone asked to be allowed to shed their blood for the Faith.  Baha'u'llah wrote the following:
Today the greatest of all deeds is service to the Cause.  Souls that are well assured should with utmost discretion teach the Faith... This martyrdom is not confined to the destruction of life and the shedding of blood.  A person enjoying the bounty of life may yet be recorded a martyr in the Book of the Sovereign Lord."

You see, it is our service to the Faith and to humanity today, here in North America, that is called for, despite any opposition we may face.  Some may question if Baha'u'llah is who He says He is.  Others may wonder why we bother with the daily prayers, or with fasting.  But we can stand in contrast to the world around us and let our lives be a testimony to His truth.

I had often wondered how we could be the spiritual descendants of the Dawn-Breakers if we were not called upon to shed our blood, and now I know.  We are called to shed our sweat and our tears, not our blood.

There is another interesting statement from Shoghi Effendi, when he tells the youth "your generation must provide the saints, heroes, martyrs and administrators of future years."  Why are they in that order?  And it is not the only time those groups of people are placed in that order.  There is another letter in which he refers to "the vast multitude of the heroes, Letters, martyrs, hands, teachers and administrators of the Cause", and a third in which he lists them as "heroes, martyrs, teachers, pioneers and administrators".

Why are the administrators always placed at the end?

I believe it is because of their sacrifice in building this new world order.  Many of these administrators give up their careers, their free time, almost everything in order to build this "Kingdom of God" on earth.  It is through their service, followed swiftly by the services of the teachers and pioneers, that the Golden Age, the time of world peace dreamed of by the poets and visionaries of old, promised by all the Prophets of every faith, will come about.

It is for this, and many other reasons, that I hold so dearly our precious Spiritual Assemblies, and regard so highly the work done by all their members.

So, when I am asked a question that does not seem appropriate to answer, or one that I am unable to answer, this is what goes through my mind.

As a last point, I am sometimes asked about my very personal beliefs.  Do I believe in the Virgin birth?  How do I understand the reality of Jesus' miracles?  And really, it is no one else's business.  My personal beliefs in these and similar matters do not have any effect upon how I live my life.

I am reminded of that gentleman who asked Baha'u'llah a series of questions, and was provided with the answers found in Tabernacle of Unity.  Most of his questions were answered with the phrase, "Be anxiously concerned with the needs of the age ye live in, and center your deliberations on its exigencies and requirements."

Perhaps, when I'm asked a question along those lines, I should just reply with that sentence.
Or maybe I'll just copy all those questions that come in like that into an article some day, and answer them all with that line, once and for all.
Then again, perhaps not.  It might discourage some of the questions from coming in, and then what would I do for fun?
I don't know.   (Hmm.  That was both truthful and honest.  Wow.  I'm good.  I can still answer any question, even after all this time.)

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