Monday, April 18, 2011

A society-building power

The Baha'i community is consciously working to build a living model of a future world civilization. In so far as I know this is the first time that any group of people have tried to do this. The underlying conviction is that this is not only possible, but inevitable. Such a conviction comes from the belief that there is a power inherent in the Cause. There is ample objective evidence in the history of the Faith that can convince any unbiased observer of the existence of this inherent power. The Faith has faced enemies, both internal and external, and consisting of the combined forces of both the potentates and the most influential religious leaders. Yet at every phase of its life, the Cause has survived against all imaginable odds. This power is consistent with historical forces impelling humanity towards a new society.

In the eyes of Baha'is, the destiny of their Faith is intimately connected with success in building communities that are models of a new emerging world civilization. That is why we are so confident of the success, not only of our own efforts, but of the efforts of all those in civil society who work with us to assist in building new neighborhoods.

Below, we quote a few sentences from Baha'u'llah, then give its interpretation from the writings of Shoghi Effendi, and connect it to paragraph 13 of the letter of 28 December 2010 of the Universal House of Justice. You will see the source of confidence that motivates the Baha'is as well as so many of their close co-workers in the fields of education and development in every neighborhood and cluster, and gives us hope and a long-term vision that keeps us going.

Writing of the present day civilization, Baha'u'llah wrote: “... Its sickness is approaching the stage of utter hopelessness, inasmuch as the true Physician is debarred from administering the remedy, whilst unskilled practitioners are regarded with favor, and are accorded full freedom to act. The dust of sedition hath clouded the hearts of men, and blinded their eyes. Erelong they will perceive the consequences of what their hands have wrought in the Day of God.”

Explaining that the time is ripe, Baha'u'llah wrote: “This is the Day whereon the earth shall tell out her tidings. The workers of iniquity are her burdens… The Crier hath cried out, and men have been torn away, so great hath been the fury of His wrath. The people of the left hand sigh and bemoan. The people of the right abide in noble habitations: they quaff the Wine that is life indeed from the hands of the All-Merciful, and are, verily, the blissful.”

Then Shoghi Effendi provided an interpretation for the above passage. He wrote: "Who else can be the blissful if not the community of the Most Great Name, whose world-embracing, continually consolidating activities constitute the one integrating process in a world whose institutions, secular as well as religious, are for the most part dissolving? They indeed are “the people of the right,” whose “noble habitation” is fixed on the foundations of the World Order of Bahá’u’lláh—the Ark of everlasting salvation in this most grievous Day. Of all the kindreds of the earth they alone can recognize, amidst the welter of a tempestuous age, the Hand of the Divine Redeemer that traces its course and controls its destinies. They alone are aware of the silent growth of that orderly world polity whose fabric they themselves are weaving."

And again Shoghi Effendi wrote: "Conscious of their high calling, confident in the society-building power which their Faith possesses, they press forward, undeterred and undismayed, in their efforts to fashion and perfect the necessary instruments wherein the embryonic World Order of Bahá’u’lláh can mature and develop. It is this building process, slow and unobtrusive, to which the life of the world-wide Bahá’í Community is wholly consecrated, that constitutes the one hope of a stricken society. For this process is actuated by the generating influence of God’s changeless Purpose, and is evolving within the framework of the Administrative Order of His Faith."

Then the Guardian of the Baha'i Faith describes, in graphic detail, the transformation of society from the present broken conditions to its ultimate destiny in these words: "In a world the structure of whose political and social institutions is impaired, whose vision is befogged, whose conscience is bewildered, whose religious systems have become anemic and lost their virtue, this healing Agency, this leavening Power, this cementing Force, intensely alive and all-pervasive, has been taking shape, is crystallizing into institutions, is mobilizing its forces, and is preparing for the spiritual conquest and the complete redemption of mankind. Though the society which incarnates its ideals be small, and its direct and tangible benefits as yet inconsiderable, yet the potentialities with which it has been endowed, and through which it is destined to regenerate the individual and rebuild a broken world, are incalculable." [All quotes are from Shoghi Effendi, The World Order of Baha'u'llah, pages 194-196]

Some of the phrases from the above passages are quoted by the Universal House of Justice in paragraph 13 of its letter for the next Five Year Plan. I have only one question to offer for the study of this paragraph.

1.     Describe the vision of Shoghi Effendi for the society-building power inherent in the Faith. What obstacles or victories we might encounter along the way?

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