Thursday, January 16, 2014

Where are We?

"So what do we do about it?"

That was the most asked question regarding those last few posts.

Well, before I look at that, I want to look a bit more at where we actually are. I mean, we all know that it's pretty bad out there, but are we really aware of what it is that we are seeing? I know I am not. And the reason that I say that is because I just read some passages in Shoghi Effendi's book, The World Order of Baha'u'llah, that pointed out many things I've been seeing, but have been unaware of. There are many things he pointed out way back in the 1930s that I am still amazed at seeing today.

To begin, he cautioned the Assemblies to "watch lest the tool should supersede the Faith itself, lest undue concern for the minute details arising from the administration of the Cause obscure the vision of its promoters, lest partiality, ambition, and worldliness tend in the course of time to becloud the radiance, stain the purity, and impair the effectiveness of the Faith of Bahá'u'lláh." In other words, I think what he is saying there is that we need to really be aware of the purpose of the administration of the Faith. It is just a tool to bring down the blessings and light of God. Now it is quite the amazing tool, but it is still just a tool. Of course this is only my own personal opinion, and nothing official, but I think he really saw where the world was heading, and the trends of thought that would be prevalent. So even before it became an issue, he warned us to guard against the sort of rigid thinking that is really quite prevalent today. He knew that we would, of course, be influenced by the world around us, and took many steps to help us see that these influences not "stain the purity" of the Faith.

Just a few pages later, a couple of years later in time, he once again helps us refocus on what is happening. He knows it is so easy to get caught up in the technology and toys of our time, and get down-heartened by the problems resulting from this technology. He probably saw the extremes of problems we would be facing, and knew we would be wondering how we will ever get through it all. He also knew that we would be wondering about the technology itself, asking ourselves if we should divorce ourselves from it. With a single sentence he clarifies: "Might not the bankruptcy of this present, this highly-vaunted materialistic civilization," he writes, "in itself clear away the choking weeds that now hinder the unfoldment and future efflorescence of God's struggling Faith?" The very technology that is so wonderful, and at the same time so damaging, might just be exactly what is needed to clear the way for the growth of the Faith. In other wards, we should always see the good in things, and use them to the best of our ability.

Some blame the problems of the world on tech, others on corporations, and some of the particular group that they happen not to like. But Shoghi Effendi is very clear. He writes that "the fundamental cause of this world unrest is attributable the failure of those into whose hands the immediate destinies of peoples and nations have been committed, to adjust their system of economic and political institutions to the imperative needs of a rapidly evolving age..."

He goes on, "Are not these intermittent crises that convulse present-day society due primarily to the lamentable inability of the world's recognized leaders to read aright the signs of the times, to rid themselves once for all of their preconceived ideas and fettering creeds, and to reshape the machinery of their respective governments according to those standards that are implicit in Bahá'u'lláh's supreme declaration of the Oneness of Mankind..."

But to merely name it is not the same as explaining it, and so he proceeds to explain what that principle implies. It "is no mere outburst of ignorant emotionalism or an expression of vague and pious hope", nor simply means fellowship amongst all nations and peoples. "It implies an organic change in the structure of present-day society, a change such as the world has not yet experienced... It calls for no less than the reconstruction and the demilitarization of the whole civilized world -- a world organically unified in all the essential aspects of its life, its political machinery, its spiritual aspiration, its trade and finance, its script and language, and yet infinite in the diversity of the national characteristics of its federated units."

But again there is a caution, for these problems are not due to one side or another in the various political games played by the people in the world. It is due to the structure of governance itself. The Guardian says that we are to adhere to this "principle... which involves the non-participation by the adherents of the Faith of Baha'u'llah... in any form of activity that might be interpreted... as an interference in the political affairs of any particular government." Regarding the various controversies surrounding any of these governments or parties, he says, "In such controversies they should assign no blame, take no side..."

Given these cautions, and these insights, he then defines the cause and the effect of the problems facing the world. The cause, quite simply, is "as a result of human perversity", which has quenched the light of religion in people's hearts. When this quenching occurs, the problems begin. "Human character is debased, confidence is shaken, the nerves of discipline are relaxed, the voice of human conscience is stilled, the sense of decency and shame is obscured, conceptions of duty, of solidarity, of reciprocity and loyalty are distorted, and the very feeling of peacefulness, of joy and of hope is gradually extinguished." (You may remember that quote from the previous article.)

As if that wasn't enough, he goes on to explain the results of all this, the signs that we see so clearly today: "The recrudescence of religious intolerance, of racial animosity, and of patriotic arrogance; the increasing evidences of selfishness, of suspicion, of fear and of fraud; the spread of terrorism, of lawlessness, of drunkenness and of crime; the unquenchable thirst for, and the feverish pursuit after, earthly vanities, riches and pleasures; the weakening of family solidarity; the laxity in parental control; the lapse into luxurious indulgence; the irresponsible attitude towards marriage and the consequent rising tide of divorce; the degeneracy of art and music, the infection of literature, and the corruption of the press; the extension of the influence and activities of those 'prophets of decadence' who advocate companionate marriage, who preach the philosophy of nudism, who call modesty an intellectual fiction, who refuse to regard the procreation of children as the sacred and primary purpose of marriage, who denounce religion as an opiate of the people, who would, if given free rein, lead back the human race to barbarism, chaos, and ultimate extinction -- these appear as the outstanding characteristics of a decadent society, a society that must either be reborn or perish."

And here it is very interesting to note what he mentions, and what he doesn't. I'm not going to go into it here, but will look at this list a bit more closely in another article. I think this one is long enough.

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