Thursday, January 12, 2012

Becoming Sincere

Oh wow. I never expected such a response to that last article. Actually, it wasn't really in response to the last article, but rather to the quote in the last article. (I guess I shouldn't be surprised by any response to the Writings, should I?)

It all began with my wife. You see, dear Reader, I often read these articles to her before posting them. This not only allows me to proof read them, but also prevents some of the more bozoic things I may say from actually getting out there. (I think "bozo" should be fully... what do you call the conjugatory form for adjectives? You know, bozoid, bozoic, bozoness, to name just three.)

So I read this to her (and she did have me change one thing, for which I'm very grateful), and she kind of jumped in surprise at that quote from Baha'u'llah I put in the end. You know, the one about growing in steadfastness. Anyways, it sort of surprised her and I guess she wasn't the only one. I'm surprised by how many people wrote to ask "Why?"

Well, as you know, I don't really have a clue. I'm no authority. And even though I've been doing an intensive study of the Kitab-i-Iqan with my friend Samuel, that by no means makes me an expert. (Trust me. I'm not.) But it did mean that I had run across this quote many times, and was not surprised by it in the least.

Oh, I'm sorry. Which quote? Well, here is more of it than I quoted yesterday:
Wert thou to ponder a while, thou wilt recognize that, apart from all these established truths and above-mentioned evidences, the repudiation, cursing, and execration, pronounced by the people of the earth, are in themselves the mightiest proof and the surest testimony of the truth of these heroes of the field of resignation and detachment. Whenever thou dost meditate upon the cavils uttered by all the people, be they divines, learned or ignorant, the firmer and the more steadfast wilt thou grow in the Faith. For whatsoever hath come to pass, hath been prophesied by them who are the Mines of divine knowledge, and Recipients of God's eternal law.
I'm not going to analyze this in my usual manner, for there are two things that really caught my attention when I started thinking about it, and going through it line by line doesn't lend itself to exploring those ideas.

To start, I want to contextualize this quote. It comes about 30 pages before the end of this 250-some page book. Baha'u'llah has just gone through an incredible analysis of that quote from Jesus in Matthew 24, and has set forth a lot of the proofs of the Bab's mission. (Don't take my word for it. Read the Kitab-i-Iqan for yourself.) Now, He is telling us that in addition to what He wrote before this quote, the previous 220 pages, we can also look at the "repudiation, cursing, and execration" against this Cause as a further proof.

Really? Why? Or perhaps that should be, how?

Well, that seems to be the question many of us have. I would have had it, too, except that in my own dim state it never occurred to me.

So why would this be the case? (I won't even bother going into the differences between those three words. I'll let you look them up, instead.)

And this, dear Reader, is where I'm treading on thin ice. I won't guarantee that this is in any way accurate, and I know it is certainly not authoritative, but it works for me, and that's good enough. I'm sure many of you will write in with your own more cogent thoughts.

It seems to me that looking at the derogatory comments about the Faith, and the absurd ways in which people try to attack it, can serve two purposes. The first is that it helps prevent us from asking those same silly questions. For example, if someone asks how it can be true, "because my parents weren't Baha'i", then we know that this is just silly. If our parents were the judges for our own path then we wouldn't have free will. We would only have our parent's choice. And by this criteria, the early Christians should have stayed Jews. So this argument, that of maintaining the family tradition, doesn't quite hold water. By looking at it, I won't fall prey to it myself if it comes up in my own mind. It becomes another one of the questions that I can just cross off my list and not bother about.

Oh, another question that I've been asked in the past is, "If it's true, why haven't I heard about it before now?" Well, the answer, to me, is that you're hearing about it now, aren't you? Timing doesn't validate or invalidate the truth, so that's another question I can cross off.

I could go on and on here, but seriously, why bother? By looking at these various grumblings, it gets rid of all the niggling little questions that really shouldn't even trouble me all that much.

But then there is a second point: He doesn't ask us to ignore the silly little arguments that people toss our way. He asks us to meditate upon them. Wow. Talk about trust in our capacity.

How often have I heard people tell me that they don't want to read any of Baha'u'llah's Writings because they might tempt them away from their own faith? Is their faith really that shaky?

Baha'u'llah trusts in our capacity. He has confidence in our own abilities to discern for ourselves. he doesn't seemed to be concerned, for He is supremely confident in the truth of His own Message.

Of course, it is also a test by which the sincere are separated from the wayward. When we say that we believe, the tests truly begin. "Think because ye say ye believe ye won't be tested?" And if we can be swayed by the "cavils uttered by all the people", then our faith wasn't all that strong to begin with.

It seems to me that Baha'u'llah isn't concerned about our falling away from the Faith. And this, too, may be for a couple of reasons. It may be that He trusts us to remain firm, or it may be that He only wants those who are firm. I'm not sure.

But let me say, I've known many who have joined the Faith and then left it again, and they're still good people. I don't think that what they call themselves has made much of a difference to their actual journey. I've also known some who became Baha'i, and then violated the Covenant. Well, that's an ego thing, and I don't think that's related here at all.

I think Baha'u'llah's vision for us is far greater than being concerned with what we call ourselves. He seems more concerned with helping us grow spiritually. And while I believe that being Baha'i can help the most in that regard, I don't believe that it is the only path to God. Nor do I believe that we all have to have the same label.

But I do think we need to be sincere. And I think we need to be confident in what we have come to understand in our own life. If some silly arguments by others can sway us, then perhaps we need to get a bit more backbone.

When Baha'u'llah asks me to not merely think about these arguments, nor to ignore them, but to meditate upon them, to deeply consider them, then I am grateful for His confidence in my own ability. I know there is a lot more that can be said on this, but I think I'll just meditate on it for now.

1 comment:

  1. I see an answer to the question about "Whenever thou dost meditate upon the cavils uttered by all the people, be they divines, learned or ignorant, the firmer and the more steadfast wilt thou grow in the Faith," in the statement that follows it: "For whatsoever hath come to pass, hath been prophesied by them who are the Mines of divine knowledge, and Recipients of God's eternal law."

    One reason that we will grow firmer and more steadfast in the Faith, by meditating on the cavils, is because they fulfill prophecies.

    On the subject of cavils, but not on this passage, I've observed that, on the Internet at least, when are people who malign the Baha'i community and its institutions are left alone, they completely discredit themselves. The only thing that ever gives them credibility is their detractors. Everything their detractors say and do adds credibility to their allegations.