Wednesday, April 14, 2010

A Question on Voting

It didn't really come in as a question, but more as a statement. A letter actually. Almost like a thesis. Except that it didn't seem all that well researched.

Basically, it was about voting in Baha'i elections: Aren't there other considerations, besides the ones I listed?

That primary list, again, is as follows:
  • unquestioned loyalty
  • selfless devotion
  • a well-trained mind
  • recognized ability
  • mature experience
 The secondary list is:
  • age distribution
  • diversity
  • gender
While I thought this was rather comprehensive, some questions did arise about qualifications that people inadvertantly seem to use.

One example raised in this letter is the skill of being a gifted speaker. For some reason, it sometimes appears that people are voted in based on their ability to do this.

While this is a very valuable skill, the question arises if it is a sign of a well-trained mind. It may well be, but there are still four other primary factors to consider. I can think of many gifted speakers who do not exhibit mature experience, much less selfless devotion. Remember, Hitler was an astonishingly gifted speaker.

For me, it comes down to the question of how they are using their talents and whether or not their actions are in accord with their words. After all, "Let deeds, not words, be your adorning."

Long overdue aside: This raises another question that has come up over and over again. "Isn't it just enough to live the life? After all," some will say, "the Master said, 'If we are true Bahá'ís speech is not needed'. So why should we teach with words?"

Yes, that may be, is my personal response, but you must look at that quote in context. First, in the context of 'Abdu'l-Baha's life, He wrote continually, and spoke to many thousands of people. If He is the Master, should we not follow that example, as much as we are able? Second, in context of the quote itself, He is talking about those who speak good things, but do not act on their words. This, He says, we must not do. Our actions must show the truth of our words. If we say that we want love and sincerity in the world, then we must be loving and sincere.

Oh, and many people say that it you don't need to believe in God to do good deeds. Well, that is true, but the Master addresses that, also. In Some Answered Questions, He says, "Know that such actions, such efforts and such words are praiseworthy and approved, and are the glory of humanity. But these actions alone are not sufficient; they are a body of the greatest loveliness, but without spirit."

He speaks at length about the importance of tying the love of God to those actions in order to make them "perfect and complete". I often think of it in my own mind as that house that is built without a foundation. It may be beautiful and spacious and wonderful, but it is not complete.

OK, where was I? Oh yes, other criteria people sometimes use for voting.

There is nothing wrong with speaking well. It is a gift that should be used in service to humanity, and in the path of the Faith, but by itself is not enough, to me. Anyone that I would consider voting for (assuming, of course, that there are more than nine or ten eligible people in the area), must have demonstrated a degree of unquestioned loyalty over the past year, or so. They need to have shown some selfless devotion, or at least what I would perceive it to be.(Really, I'm not trying to judge people, just sort out these criteria the best I can.)

Any of the arts on their own, outside of the personal experience of working with someone, do not, in my opinion, demonstrate the qualities needed for a member of an institution of the Faith. They are tools that can be used for the Faith, but are not necessarily good on their own. (Countless musicians and performers, both good and bad, come to mind, to start with.)

Some other criteria that have been mentioned are things such as degrees from universities, or a high position in a good company. To that, I would merely point out that there are many fine examples of people in the history of the Faith who have violated the Covenant who were in those categories. Of course, there are also many fine examples of Hands of the Cause, or members of the Universal House of Justice, who had those qualities, but on their own, again, they are not enough. They must be accompanied by those other attributes mentioned, as well as humility. For it is always the ego that leads one to the violation of the Covenant, and when you speak with those esteemed members of the Universal House of Justice, or read the stories of the Hands of the Cause, you neever see a trace of ego there.

It always seems to come down to the question of character. What virtues are they exhibiting? Are they demonstrating a spiritual life?

In fact, it is just like trying to find a partner in life. You must become thoroughly acquainted with the other person's character. When voting, I believe that you should be at least very well acquainted with the character of the people in your community.

Like all things in the Faith, we need to use the criteria set forth in the Writings, and not those standards that are "current amongst men".

Oh, and a last minute addition - A friend of mine, over coffee, pointed out that there are some who base their vote on how well someone serves the friends. I'm sure this is only a few people, and cannot imagine it being a significant number, but still, I found it interesting. This, once again, is like those people who are gifted public speakers, or well-trained as business managers. They are great qualities and skills, worthy of admiration and appreciation, but they are still not part of the qualities mentioned by the Master or Guardian. I prefer to keep to their list.

But that's just me.

No comments:

Post a Comment