Wednesday, December 23, 2009
Friday, March 13, 2009
It might be true that I've been trying to be part of a fellowship that revolves around contempt for everything the House of Justice is promoting. I'll be considering that possibility and what to do about it. It might mean backing away from that fellowship somehow.
I do not imagine that it means backing away from my friendships with some of the people in that fellowship.
Saturday, March 7, 2009
Off line, I'm working mostly on three lines of action:
1. Learning Chinese, to improve my capacity to develop friendships.
2. Memorizing verses about hearts possessed by God, and doing things in the right spirit.
2. Improving my practice of continual attention to doing things in the right spirit, and responding favorably to other people doing that.
Friday, March 6, 2009
For White Folks: How To Become An Ally
In a comment:
Today POC face the institution of slavery.Exactly. Slavery is alive and well today in America, complete with dogs, guns and ropes. I've seen it close up with my own eyes. One thing that's missing in the above outline is the work that inmates do for a few cents a day. and where they do it. They are obviously not in prison because of being considered dangerous criminals.
Ame13: Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted, shall exist within the United States, or any place subject to their jurisdiction
Now, considering the amount of drug convictions.
Considering the amount of people in prison.
Considering that most dealers and users are white…. but the people who get arrested for drugs are not.
I see some discussion here about the hazards of working with white allies. This is very unfamiliar territory to me. I have a vague idea of what that means, but if it's what I'm imagining, then I have very little experience with it. As far as I know I've never been involved in the kinds of activism that use white allies. That isn't at all what I've ever tried to be or wanted to be, and even if I did, I wouldn't know where to start.
I have seen firsthand some of the things I see people complaining about here, in myself and in others.
I keep thinking of Angela Davis's book Women, Race and Class.
As I see it, no amount of discussion, by itself, can bring someone who doesn't live under a non-white race label, to see what people are up against who do, and how people living under a white label benefit from that and help perpetuate it. I don't see that awakening happening without certain kinds of experiences.
I can see how tempting it might be to just exclude "white people" altogether from collective efforts to end oppression and/or counteract its effects. I can see that it might even be a good idea, some of the time, in some circumstances. It might not be possible for anyone living under a white label to avoid ruining everything if we're allowed to go wherever we want to, whenever we want to. I imagine it would needlessly impede progress to exclude all of us altogether, all the time, from what other people are doing.
Now I'm thinking of Davis's book again, and Sojourner Truth's "Ain't I a woman?" speech.
For example, thinking and talking about oppression and what to do about it, using the exact same race classification system that is being used to excuse and camouflage it, with all the fire and smoke and red herrings that come with it, drawing the exact same lines, might do more to help perpetuate it than to help stop it.
I see the classification system itself, with its effects on people's ideas and feelings towards each other, and on their reactions to other people's adversities, as part of what helps perpetuate the oppression. I see much better ways to think and talk about oppression and what to do about it, without using that classification system.
Tuesday, March 3, 2009
The link to this post from RVCBard's blog puts this post in a context which might misrepresent and stigmatize me, so I want to fill in some things that are missing from that context.
Some time ago I started studying Bard's blog because my son said he thought we might have some interests in common. It seemed so to me, after I read some of her posts. It had nothing to do with trying to be a white ally.
In all of my personal relationships, I'm trying to learn to be a better friend and companion, and to offer the kind of encouragement and support that really helps. That includes my relationship with Bard.
Over a period of several months I've worked my way through her blog from the beginning, trying to learn what it's all about, trying to do the exercises she proposes, trying to learn what I can from her and to find ways to serve her interests. I've been imagining that some of my responses were helpful because she has explicitly told me so. All along, I've commented in her blog, responded to her comments in mine, and devoted some posts here to subjects she has brought up. I've tried to respond completely and transparently to all of her questions. I've studied everything she has said about what kind of help she's looking for, and tried to learn to offer that kind of help.
I was thrilled by the implications of her post about her play as a black play, and I said so. I wrote a post linking to it because I would like other people to see it. She posted a question in a comment to that post, and in response I poured out my heart, just saying everything that came to mind, without trying to organize it, and without considering what false implications anyone might draw from it. It was a very personal answer to a very personal question from someone who seemed to me to have friendly intentions. I'm reproducing that post and the comments here, because they're an important part of the context of this post.
Wednesday, February 25, 2009Here is the original content of this post:
A New Reality
"This piece I'm working on now is thoroughly Black yet creates a world rooted in myth, religion, and art - expressions drawn from the depths of human existence - and White people are not at the center or at the root of it."
RVCBard, My Play as a Black Play
Posted by Jim Habegger at 6:18 AM
What was it about that post that connected with you so much?
March 1, 2009 9:15 AM
Jim Habegger said...
Pretty much everything. What you're saying about your play, and your thoughts and feelings about it. The way you seem to feel about it is as thrilling to me as what you're saying about it.
". . . a play that is by and about Black people without it being about Being Black [in America]."
". . . thoroughly Black yet creates a world rooted in myth, religion, and art - expressions drawn from the depths of human existence - and White people are not at the center or at the root of it."
"My Play, a play written by a Black woman and about Black people, does not define Blackness as the fucked up shit White people do to us, but as our stories, our songs, our beliefs, and our rituals as they are passed across generations through words, through blood, and through spirit.
"My play, a play written by a Black woman about Black people, does not express its Blackness as tragic, ridiculous, enraged, pathetic, or simplistic but as creative, enchanting, fluid, complex, and heroic.
"My play, a play written by a Black woman and about Black people, does not reflect Blackness as shown in mass media, but as it is lived on an individual and collective level.
"My play, a play written by a Black woman and about Black people, does not recreate history or document life as it is today, but creates the world anew through a lens colored by the deeper currents of the human experience.
"My play, a play written by a Black woman and about Black people, does not downplay its Blackness to make it more palatable, more 'universal,' but assumes universality from the start.
"My play, a play written by a Black woman and about Black people, does not set out to make a statement about The Black Experience, but to invite you - all of you - into a new reality."
"Do you have any idea how fucking rare that is?"
"Do you have any idea what this means?"
March 2, 2009 12:28 PM
I find your response very interesting in light of the fact that, in the status quo, White people are deeply uncomfortable with the world not revolving around them. So how does that influence or change your connection to this piece?
March 3, 2009 6:10 AM
In a comment to the post before this one, RVCBard wrote:
"I find your response very interesting in light of the fact that, in the status quo, White people are deeply uncomfortable with the world not revolving around them. So how does that influence or change your connection to this piece?"
I decided to respond to that in a new post.
The first thought that comes to my mind is two lines from a poem that I wrote for the Just Poetry Slam in Richmond:
"You could call me White, but it's not cut and dried. It doesn't quite match all my feelings inside."
"That isn't it. I'm not ashamed of my face, but who I am can't be reduced to one race."
Another thought that comes to mind is about the time when I asked around, trying to find out what makes a person black, and I thought about doing some research to try to find one of my black ancestors, looking for some substantiation I could use to call myself black. I even went to the NAACP, to see if anyone there could tell me what makes a person black.
On another topic, but not totally unrelated, I did some research once to find out if I could reasonably call myself bisexual, so I could come out as bisexual in my Baha'i community.
Another thought is about the bio that I wrote for Bridges Across the Divide. Bridges Across the Divide is about divisions over gays and homosexuality (two entirely different subjects in my mind), but there was a lot in my bio about racial issues. Besides, I see a lot of overlap between gay issues and racial issues. And gender issues.
Here's an extract from the bio:
"We're going to live in a black neighborhood."
That was my then 21-year old daughter, in the plane, in August 1997. The white suburbanite family I belong to was on the way to live in the U.S. after 14 years in Martinique as pioneers for the Baha'i Faith. My then 19-year-old son, my wife, and I pondered a few seconds, and said "Yes, of course."
One of our central concerns, in trying to make ourselves useful in God's plan, is helping to bring together people who have been divided from each other by racism. None of us knew what good it might do for us to move into a black neighborhood, but we all felt called to do it.
My feeling at the time was, "Somebody gotta do something besides talk." After we were there for a while, I found some ways to explain what we were doing there. One is that one of my responses when I see people being abused, is to try to put myself in the line of fire, try to make myself a target for the abuse.
Some years ago I noticed that putting White People at the center of the universe is popular not only among white people, but also among their detractors. As I see it, making White People the source of all evil, and treating racism as exclusively a White problem, helps perpetuate the evils. I started thinking about how to get White People away from the center of everything. One of my ideas was, in order for White People to move away from the center, they need to have someplace else to go. I started practicing and promoting interest in our European cultural heritages. As I see it, that would also help respond to the problem of White People not getting it when they see other people affirming their cultural heritages. It's like "Why do you want to accentuate our differences like that?"
That brings up another insight that I learned, of all places, from a White supremacist. I see some well-intentioned White people imagining that all the people of the world are really White People inside. That seems to me to explain some things about well-intentioned White People, that often baffle other people.
Another thought that comes to mind is that it wasn't enough to try to integrate people from other cultures into White society. We also need to integrate White people into other cultures. It looks to me like that idea makes people in other cultures just as uncomfortable as it makes White People, with good reason: a fear of White People taking over.
Another thought is that racism is not only between White People and other people, and discounting the racism between other people is another way of perpetuating the problems.
Wednesday, February 25, 2009
RVCBard, My Play as a Black Play
Wednesday, February 18, 2009
In its 2007 Ridvan message, the House of Justice wrote:
"The first year of the Five Year Plan bears eloquent testimony to the spirit of devotion with which Bahá’u’lláh’s followers have embraced the framework for action presented in our message of 27 December 2005 and their commitment to advancing the process of entry by troops. Where this framework has been applied coherently in all its dimensions in a cluster, steady progress is being achieved, both in terms of the participation of the believers and their friends in community life and in terms of numerical growth, with some clusters reporting enrolments in the hundreds every few months and others in scores. Vital to this development has been a heightened awareness of the spiritual nature of the enterprise, together with an increased understanding of those decision-making instruments that are defined by the principal features of the Plan."
In that message of 27 December 2005, it wrote:
The elements required for a concerted effort to infuse the diverse regions of the world with the spirit of Baha'u'llah's Revelation have crystallized into a framework for action that now needs only to be exploited.
So the purpose of the framework for action is a concerted effort to infuse the diverse regions of the world with the spirit of Baha'u'llah's Revelation.
Our 26 December 1995 message, which focused the Baha'i world on a path of intense learning about the sustained, rapid growth of the Faith, described in general terms the nature of the work that would have to be undertaken in meeting the challenges ahead. As a first step, Baha'i communities were urged to systematize their efforts to develop the human resources of the Cause through a network of training institutes. While every national community took measures to create institutional capacity to perform this essential function, it was not until the outset of the Five Year Plan that the significance of a well-conceived programme of training became widely appreciated. The introduction of the concept of the cluster made it possible for the friends to think about the accelerated growth of the community on a manageable scale and to conceive of it in terms of two complementary, reinforcing movements: the steady flow of individuals through the sequence of institute courses and the movement of clusters from one stage of development to the next. This image helped the believers to analyse the lessons being learned in the field and to employ a common vocabulary to articulate their findings. Never before have the means for establishing a pattern of activity that places equal emphasis on the twin processes of expansion and consolidation been better understood. Indeed, so consistent has been the experience with intensive programmes of growth, implemented on the basis of this understanding in divers clusters, that no cause for equivocation remains. The way forward is clear, and at Ridvan 2006 we will call upon the believers to steel their resolve and to proceed with the full force of their energies on the course that has been so decidedly set.
It looks to me like the framework for action is about intensive programs of growth, implemented on the basis of a steady flow of individuals through the sequence of institute courses and a movement of clusters from one stage of development to the next, in a concerted effort to infuse the diverse regions of the world with the spirit of Baha'u'llah's Revelation. I note that it says "implemented on the basis of," and not "exclusively limited to."
In presenting to you the features of the coming Five Year Plan, the subject of your deliberations in this conference, we will review the record of recent accomplishments of the Baha'i world and indicate how current approaches, methods and instruments should be carried to this next stage. What the analysis will make evident is that the wholehearted response of the individual believer, the community and the institutions to the guidance they received five years ago has raised their capacity to new levels. The continued development of this capacity will remain essential to the aim of advancing the process of entry by troops--the focus of the Baha'i world through the final years of the first century of the Formative Age.
It looks to me like the framework for action is about developing the capacity of the individual believer, the community and the institutions, for a concerted effort to infuse the diverse regions of the world with the spirit of Baha'u'llah's Revelation.
After the introduction, there are four headings:
- The Individual
- The Community
- The Institutions
- Intensive Programs of Growth
It looks to me like the framework for action is about the roles of individuals, communities, institutions and intensive programs of growth, in developing our capacity for a concerted effort to infuse the diverse regions of the world with the spirit of Baha'u'llah's Revelation.
- Attitudes and qualities to be developed: sense of initiative and resourcefulness; courage and audacity; consecration, zeal, confidence and tenacity; spirit of enterprise.
- A sequence of courses that seeks to build capacity for service by concentrating on the application of the spiritual insights gained through profound study of the Writings.
- Intense effort to extend the training to hundreds of thousands more over the five years of the Plan.
- A steady increase in the exercise of individual initiative, disciplined by an understanding of the requirements of systematic action in advancing the process of entry by troops, pursued in a humble posture of learning within the framework defined by the Plan.
- Closer association with people of many walks of life, engaging them in earnest conversation on themes of spiritual import.
- Sharing a portion of Baha'u'llah's Revelation, adapting the presentation to the seeker's needs, employing direct teaching methods that draw on the Writings to offer the message in a manner both forthcoming and inviting.
- Learning to assist others also striving to tread a path of service.
- Steady multiplication of study circles, devotional meetings and children's classes.
- Enrollment of a percentage of new believers in the institute courses.
- A graceful integration of the arts into diverse activities.
- Home visits.
- Cluster reflection meetings.
- Learning woven into the fabric of decision making.
- Strengthening appreciation for systematic action: a unified vision of growth based on a realistic assessment of possibilities and resources; strategies that lend structure to it; plans of action commensurate with capacity; necessary adjustments while maintaining continuity; building on accomplishments.
- Opening certain aspects of community life to the wider public.
- A nurturing environment in which each individual is encouraged to progress at his or her own pace without the pressure of unreasonable expectations.
- Collective action governed more and more by the principle that Baha'u'llah's message should be given liberally and unconditionally to humanity.
- Endeavours being made to reach receptive populations with the teachings of the Faith.
- An uncompromising appreciation for a diversity of backgrounds and for the strength it confers on the whole.
- Maintaining focus on the Plan, without neglecting special needs and interests, and without dropping any essential activities.
Friday, February 13, 2009
I keep wanting to write about something that keeps bothering me in some people's behavior.
That's exactly what's bothering me in their behavior: They keep writing about something that keeps bothering them in some other people's behavior.
I want to examine this behavior of mine, because it occasionally leads to something like "Jim's List."
I started wondering again what's bothering me, and what to do about it, but I don't think that's what I need to examine now. I've done plenty of that already. I don't see my efforts to understand what's bothering me, and to consider what to do about it, as problems in themselves. The problem I see is wandering off sometimes into unhealthy ways of responding.
That's exactly my problem with what I see them doing!
It might not be very complicated. Maybe I just need more practice in paying attention to my alarms, and stopping when they come on.
Thursday, February 12, 2009
- Fred mentions freedom of conscience.
- Baquia mentions unity in diversity, decentralization, personal and independent initiative, unfettered investigation of truth, free expression of our perception of it, qualitative aspects of the community, administration as a tool rather than as a substitute for the Faith, and open and transparent due process.
- Alison mentions what she calls "the movement within."
- Wahid mentions truth, freedom, justice and working with downtrodden people.
Wednesday, February 11, 2009
Momen has drawn heavily on research inspired by Bromley's studies of contested exits from the high-tension New Religious Movements (NRM) founded in the 1970's . . . However, the Baha'i Faith can not usefully be treated as a cult . . .
I also discovered that Momen himself touched on it:
The manner in which Baha'i apostates have deliberately sought to position the Baha'i community as a cult-like group, a "subversive group" in the terminology of Bromley (1998b), at exactly the time that the Baha'is themselves are trying to position the community as a main-line religion, an "allegiant group" in Bromley's terminology, is a phenomenon that, although commented upon in other papers regarding other groups (see for example Johnson, 1988; Richardson, 1988), has not been studied in any detail.In my understanding of Bromley's terminology, Momen's paper itself positions the Baha'i community as a "subversive group," by calling some former members "apostates" and specifying that it uses Bromley's definition. To be fair though, I want to point out that he also argues against viewing it that way:
In Bromley's typology, the Baha'i Faith would therefore be regarded in the West as an allegiant organisation or, at most, a contestant organisation.. . .
The Baha'i Faith has a number of features that militate against its being categorised as a subversive group. As noted above, converts are not isolated in separate communities; continued contact with one's family is encouraged; those who are not "us" are not considered necessarily bad and those who are "us" are not necessarily good; those who wish to leave can do so freely by indicating their desire to the relevant Baha'i institution. There is a strong leadership but it is vested in elected councils rather than charismatic leaders. Individuals are free to hold their own theological opinions as long as they do not press them to the extent of forming schisms. Furthermore, since the 1920s, the Baha'i community has been striving to achieve allegiant status by seeking where possible the official status of a recognized religion (by seeking for example official recognition of Baha'i marriages and having Baha'i holy days recognized by being exempt from attendance at work or school); making legal incorporations of its local elected councils; and obtaining charitable status.
Sunday, February 8, 2009
". . . by using the social science model and vocabulary he has chosen, it is Momen who is implying that the Baha’i Faith is a cult!"
After reading a preview of The Politics of Religious Apostasy, I agree. I would say that in the context of David Bromley's terminology, which Momen uses in his paper, calling some former members of the Baha'i Community "apostates," and their mutual encouragement and support an "oppositional coalition," puts the Baha'i Community in the category of "subversive organizations," along with "some of the more controversial alternative religious movements, radical rightist and leftist political movements, and various forms of underground economies."
I don't see the Baha'i Community that way, and I don't want to encourage others to do so, so I won't use the word "apostates" any more for any members or former members of the Baha'i Community.
Friday, February 6, 2009
The idea was to spend time with people, doing things that interest them. I've been trying to read people's blogs, and participate in their discussions, sometimes by commenting in their blogs, sometimes by responding in mine. Sometimes it's been hard for me resist temptations to wander off in contentious directions.
I had chosen one person's blog for sustained and systematic efforts, and I will continue that.
2. Reading people's blogs, learning from them, learning to offer encouragement and support that really helps, and helping them find and use support networks.
That will continue with one person. I haven't started on the part about helping the person to find and use support networks.
3. Looking for the best spirit and fruits I can find, in something I've scorned.
I might try that with the interests of the US government, of Microsoft and of the music and movie industries. That might include trying to find some good in the American hegemony movement, and in the "intellectual property" movement.
4. Series of posts about the framework for action and the views of my AO apostates.
Suspended until after my break.
5. Series of posts in my Deeds Not Words blog, about the framework for action and the people of Baha.
Suspended until after my break.
6. Helping to transmit encouragement, support and learning through walls of prejudice and over gulfs of estrangement, between my apostates and other people who are interested in the writings of Baha'u'llah.
I haven't really started trying to develop friendships with people who might be divided from my apostates. That might have to wait until after my break.
7. Fred's parliament of poets.
That might have to wait until after my break.
8. Learning to ignore signs of disapproval of my ideas and interests, and of what I'm doing with my life.
I haven't really been working on that much. I need to think about that some more.
9. Rediscovering Baha'u'llah.
I've been neglecting that recently. I might spend more time on it during my break.
Thursday, February 5, 2009
Saturday, January 31, 2009
Friday, January 30, 2009
- Their contents
- The ways they're conducted
- The ways they're used in Baha'i growth plans
- The context in which they're used in Baha'i growth plans
- The reasons they're used in Baha'i growth plans
- Their effects on individuals and communities
In this post I'll list the titles and summaries of the current series, from the Ruhi Resources site:
1. Reflections on the Life of the Spirit is the first in a course sequence designed to raise up human resources capable of fostering the growth of the Baha'i Community with efficiency and love. It provides insight into spiritual matters, imparts knowledge of the Faith, and helps develop skills and human resources for Service.
This course has three main purposes for the participants:
* understanding the Baha'i Writings in order to fulfill the obligation of studying the Writings every day
* developing the required attitudes toward prayer, and acquiring the habit of memorizing them
* understanding that the true significance of life is to be found in the development of the soul
2. Arising to Serve is the second in a course sequence designed to raise up human resources capable of fostering the growth of the Baha'i Community with efficiency and love. The units of the Ruhi Institute aim, in their entirety, at achieving three overall objectives: providing insights into spiritual matters, imparting knowledge about the Faith, and helping to develop specific acts of service. The units of Book 1 basically seek to help the students gain insights into certain spiritual matters. Book 2 is largely concerned with skills and abilities for specific acts of service.
3. Teaching Children's Classes, Grade 1 is designed to develop the capabilities needed to conduct children's classes. It is the third in a course sequence designed to raise up human resources capable of fostering the growth of the Baha'i Community with efficiency and love.
3A. Teaching Children's Classes, Grade 2 is the second in a series in the area of the spiritual education of children and youth. It follows Book 3 and, in many ways, is a continuation of it. It offers thirty lessons for youngsters entering the second year of a Baha'i educational program, which the teacher is expected to apply to the particular circumstances of his or her class. The material in the book is also intended to help those who, though not interested in teaching formal classes, wish to develop some of the skills related to child education and gain a more profound understanding of its dynamics.
4. The Twin Manifestations is the fourth in a course sequence designed to raise up human resources capable of fostering the growth of the Baha'i Community with efficiency and love. The three units that comprise Book 4 are devoted to helping students acquire a thorough and systematic knowledge of the lives of the Bab and Baha'u'llah.
5. Raising up Animators of Junior Youth Groups is in development.
6. Teaching the Cause is the sixth in a course sequence designed to raise up human resources capable of fostering the growth of the Baha'i Community with efficiency and love. The units of the Ruhi Institute aim, in their entirety, at achieving three overall objectives: providing insights into spiritual matters, imparting knowledge about the Faith, and helping to develop specific acts of service. After Book 2's initial introduction to teaching and having now gained some practical experience, the participants in the program are no doubt eager to embark on a more in-depth exploration of the subject of teaching in Book 6.
7. Walking Together on a Path of Service. The main sequence of courses (Books 1-6) offered by the Ruhi Institute is designed to impart to the participants the knowledge, qualities and skills that would enable them to serve as tutors. The aim of Book 7 is to prepare tutors who can effectively introduce these books to others.
5. Encourage Baha'is, on line and off line, to investigate for themselves what the House of Justice is promoting, by reading the relevant messages.
6. Help Baha'is, on line and off line, learn to distinguish and separate the interests stated in messages of the House of Justice from possible interests of its members and representatives, of Baha'i celebrities, and of members and representatives of other Baha'i institutions,
Some people might wonder why anyone who sees nothing but harm in what the House of Justice is promoting, and who thinks it's wrong for any Baha'is to promote or support anything that it's promoting, would want to encourage Baha'is to read its messages, and consider its interests.
I would argue that:
- If Baha'is who choose to serve the interests of the House of Justice learn to investigate for themselves what it's promoting, and learn to distinguish and separate its stated interests from possible interests of its members and representatives, of Baha'i celebrities and of members and representatives of other Baha'i institutions, it will be an improvement, even from that point of view.
- Many Baha'is would be much more open to investigating for themselves what the House of Justice is promoting, and separating its interests from the interests of its members and everyone else, than they would to ignoring its interests.
- It would be hard even for Baha'i vigilantes to argue against it.
2. Post articles in Internet forums and blogs about what's wrong with the Baha'i community.
3. Try to change the way Baha'is think about the administration by writing articles and books about it, and finding ways to get them past the censorship to as many Baha'is as possible.
4. Encourage Baha'is, on line and off line, to ignore signs of disapproval of their ideas and what they're doing with their lives, from anyone, including Baha'i celebrities, and Baha'i institutions and their members and representatives.
5. Encourage Baha'is, on line and off line, to investigate for themselves what the House of Justice is promoting, by reading the relevant messages.
6. Help Baha'is, on line and off line, learn to distinguish and separate the interests stated in messages of the House of Justice from possible interests of its members and representatives, and of Baha'i celebrities, and of members and representatives of other Baha'i institutions,
8. Investigate what other faith communities have done to address this problem (see RVCBard's comment).
7. Some combination of the above.
I would welcome any other ideas about how to respond to the scenario of fictional view x.03.
Baha'is could be doing a lot more good if they followed their own interests and ideas, instead of what the House of Justice is promoting. Everything the House of Justice is promoting is harmful and contemptible. No one has any better reason for promoting or supporting it than a false understanding of "infallibility" and the Covenant. The only things preventing anyone from promoting their own interests and ideas are censorship and repression by the House of Justice, and other people's false understandings of the Covenant.
Any comments from any direction will be welcome.
(They're impoverished imitations of the Christian Alpha course that took off in the early 1990's). Their whole essence is is blind and unquestioning imitation in action or belief. They're a jumble of authenticated Baha’i texts, pilgrims notes and the commentary and interpretation of the authors of the courses, with no distinction between them. They consist of (nothing but) reading, writing answers to questions, repeating, and memorizing. They're based on an unquestioned assumption that a systematic and standardized curriculum is better. They became sacrosanct in a very short time because they're the only such courses mentioned repeatedly by name by the House of Justice and the ITC in their official communiques, and they have strongly recommended them and aggressively promoted them. (No one has any better reason for promoting or supporting them). They have crowded out other activities like the Mashriq’ul-Adhkar, charitable and SED projects, deepenings and teaching projects. Any criticism of the weaknesses of Ruhi is interpreted as a direct criticism or attack on the House of Justice and the ITC. Any member of the Faith who doesn't participate is branded as covenantally weak. That is having poisonous effects on the Baha’i world which will increase.
In the Ruhi courses there is no interest in reaching out to the world and connecting with other people and groups with similar values; no interest in seeing how we can help those in need, or those less fortunate; and no interest in truly deepening in the Writings through independent investigation of truth. There is no interest in Baha'u'llah or Abdu'l-Baha. There is no room for imagination, intelligence or creativity. Communities become desperately and passionately preoccupied with how many of their members have done how many courses. Mind-numbing drivel passes for wisdom. You can see what they are like by attending a Jehovah's witness Bible study class.
Now I'll list the statements, and indicate where I agree and disagree.
- (Impoverished imitations of the Christian Alpha course that took off in the early 1990's).
Maybe. I don't know anything about the Alpha course.
- Their whole essence is is blind and unquestioning imitation in action or belief.
I disagree. The falsity of that can be seen by examining all the books.
- They're a jumble of authenticated Baha’i texts, pilgrims notes and the commentary and interpretation of the authors of the courses, with no distinction between them.
- They consist of (nothing but) reading, writing answers to questions, repeating, and memorizing.
I disagree. There is much more to them than that, as anyone can see by browsing through all the books.
- They're based on an unquestioned assumption that a systematic and standardized curriculum is better.
I'm not sure what that means. Unquestioned by whom? Better than what, for whom, and for what purposes? If it means that the only reason anyone has for promoting or supporting them is because they're systematic and standardized, I disagree.
- They became sacrosanct in a very short time because they're the only such courses mentioned repeatedly by name by the House of Justice and the ITC in their official communiques, and they have strongly recommended them and aggressively promoted them.
- (No one has any better reason for promoting or supporting them).
- They have crowded out other activities like the Mashriq’ul-Adhkar, charitable and SED projects, deepenings and teaching projects.
I see people being pressured to participate in the Ruhi courses and and a few other activities, and to give up doing anything else.
- Any criticism of the weaknesses of Ruhi is interpreted as a direct criticism or attack on the House of Justice and the ITC. Any member of the Faith who doesn't participate is branded as covenantally weak. That is having poisonous effects on the Baha’i world which will increase.
Maybe, on line. I haven't seen that off line. What I have seen is disapproval of anyone not participating in the courses and a few other activities, and disapproval of anyone doing anything else. I agree that the effects are poisonous
- In the Ruhi courses there is no interest in reaching out to the world and connecting with other people and groups with similar values; no interest in seeing how we can help those in need, or those less fortunate; and no interest in truly deepening in the Writings through independent investigation of truth.
- There is no interest in Baha'u'llah or Abdu'l-Baha.
I disagree. The falsity of that can be seen by examining all the books.
- There is no room for imagination, intelligence or creativity.
I disagree. The falsity of that can be seen by examining all the books.
- Communities become desperately and passionately preoccupied with how many of their members have done how many courses.
Maybe. I've seen a preoccupation with steadily increasing the numbers, at the expense of quality, but I haven't seen anything desperate or passionate about it.
- Mind-numbing drivel passes for wisdom.
I've always seen that in the Baha'i community, everywhere. I don't see what it has to do with the Ruhi courses.
- You can see what they are like by attending a Jehovah's Witness Bible study class.
- I disagree, and I'm speaking from experience.
In a later post I'll describe the courses as I see them, from my own experience with them starting in the late 1980's or early 1990's.
Wednesday, January 28, 2009
"I'd hoped blogging would be a way to get the more aesthetic conversations I crave."
"There are things beyond the topic of the day that I'm interested in. Things like experimentations in form and content, problem-solving for shoestring budgets, balancing theater with 'real life' responsibilities, deepening and expanding our theatre vocabulary, giving ourselves more tools to understand and evaluate avant-garde work, etc."
I've longed for that too. Someone to talk to about what I've been doing, who shows some interest. Someone who has some interests in common with me. Talking to each other about our ideas and experiences, we would enjoy each other's company, and feel encouraged and supported, and learn from each other.
I've also thought a lot about how I might offer that kind of companionship, encouragement and support to others. I've been thinking of that separately from wishing for that kind of companionship for myself. Now, considering how I might offer that kind of support to rvcbard, the two ideas came together in my mind.
First, I thought of asking her some questions, to learn how to have the kinds of conversations with her that she would like to have. Then I had some doubts about whether she could see me as the kind of artist she would like to have those conversations with. Then I thought about what I might do to try to find people for me to talk to.
Then it came to me that a conversation like that does not have to be confined to one person's blog. What a person posts in her blog might be influenced by what she reads in my blog, and what I post in mine might be influenced by what I read in hers. She might not see the connection, or I might not see the connection, in any specific post. Even so, we are learning from each other, and that conversation between us might feel encouraging and supporting to both of us, even if we never comment in each other's blogs.
I've always been aware of conversations going on between blogs, but I've never thought of it happening with companionship and mutual support conversations. That might happen more easily than companionship and support conversation within one person's blog.
That opens up new possibilities for me, for ways to look for traveling companions. Look for bloggers with interests similar to mine, and read their blogs, and invite them to read mine.
Sunday, January 25, 2009
23 year old Norikiyo Satoh, an elite warrior who served the retired emperor, became a Buddhist monk and called himself Saigyo. His reasons for becoming a monk are not known.
However, it is said that the actual person was quite different from the rustic image one might have of a wandering Buddhist monk and hermit. He had connections with the highest authorities of his time, such as the retired emperor Suitoku, worked with Taira no Kiyomori as a warrior, met with the first Shogun, Minamoto no Yoritomo, and left us with many episodes from his time as a political coordinator, at which he worked even after becoming a monk.
He was, of course, also a famous poet. Since his death, his life has become legend in Japan. But where can we find the true Saigyo? Perhaps in the "suffering spiritual flower" of his poems. ..
"Chang'an is an ancient capital of more than ten dynasties in Chinese history. Chang'an literally means "Perpetual Peace" in Classical Chinese. During the short-lived Xin Dynasty, the city was renamed "Constant Peace" (常安, pronounced the same way in Mandarin Chinese); yet after its fall in the year 23 AD, the old name was restored. By the time of the Ming Dynasty, the name was again changed to Xi'an, meaning "Western Peace", which has remained its name to the present day."
The Mogao Caves (aka Mogao Grottoes, Caves of the Thousand Buddhas, or Caves of Dunhuang) are a system of Buddhist cave temples near the city of Dunhuang in Gansu province. They were a center of culture on the Silk Road from the 4th to the 14th centuries and contain a religious artworks spanning that entire period. There are about 600 surviving cave temples, of which 30 are open to the public.
"Hanuman , known also as 'Anjaneya' (son of Anjana), is one of the most popular concepts of devotees of God (bhakti) (devotion to God) in Hinduism and one of the most important personalities in the Indian epic, the Ramayana. His most famous feat, as described in the Hindu epic scripture the Ramayana, was leading a monkey army to fight the demon King Ravana."
"The temples of Angkor, built by the Khmer civilization between 802 and 1220 AD, represent one of humankind's most astonishing and enduring architectural achievements. From Angkor the Khmer kings ruled over a vast domain that reached from Vietnam to China to the Bay of Bengal. The structures one sees at Angkor today, more than 100 stone temples in all, are the surviving remains of a grand religious, social and administrative metropolis whose other buildings - palaces, public buildings, and houses - were built of wood and are long since decayed and gone."
- More and more people doing more and more good, for themselves and for everyone else.
- Peace, justice, beauty, kindness and companionship growing and spreading to more and more people.
I'm imagining that that includes:
- People seeing the possibilities and pursuing them. That includes arts, crafts, sciences, and individual and community development and service.
- People turning to God. That includes putting His prescriptions fully into practice, and developing and using His institutions as He prescribes.
- People encouraging and supporting each other in promoting their own evolving ideas and pursuing their own evolving initiatives, individually and together.
- People working together on evolving local, national and international community goals, plans, programs and projects.
- Evolving training, mentoring, encouragement and support programs and networks to help people develop and apply their knowledge, wisdom, vision, qualities and capacities.
- People improving their capacity to see where and how they might do the most good, in their own initiatives and in local, national and international community programs and projects.
- Inclusion of people of all ages, including children, in all of the above.
- Other things that I won't list now, or that I haven't thought of yet.
One question I see is, how will people measure progress, in their own initiatives and in community programs and projects?
The time frame of effects to measure range from immediate to hundreds of years or more. Some of the good that people want to do can be seen immediately, or within a few minutes, hours, days, weeks, months or years, and from their own experience or their familiarity with the experience of others.
Some effects of our actions and activities, on ourselves and the people around us, are easy to see. Some other effects, rippling out into the world, locally, nationally and globally, and combining with others, might be impossible to sort out.
Maybe effects decades or centuries in the future, and on communities, can be estimated by testing theories about community development in voluntary experimental communities. Some ideas might need to be tested in a community with members from every corner of the world and every corner of society, who have turned to Baha'u'llah and agreed to subordinate all other purposes to His, and to put His prescriptions fully into practice in that context.
Some ideas might need to be tested in other kinds of communities, including ones whose members are interested in the writings of Baha'u'llah but who don't agree to subordinate all other purposes to His, and to put His prescriptions fully into practice in that context.
Some ideas might need to be tested in other kinds of communities, with other ways of looking at Baha'u'llah, including rejection, or not even considering Him at all.
Some experimental communities might be highly organized and incorporated, with an administration which evolves very slowly. Others might be accidental fellowships with no administration at all.
Some experimental communities might include or embrace others. For example, a community of people who are interested in the writings of Baha'u'llah, which does not require unqualified commitment to His purposes, might include or embrace one which does.
Friday, January 23, 2009
"I simply hope that by voicing these thoughts, I can come to grips with the spiritual challenges that I am wrestling with personally."
Okay. That helps me put her rants into perspective.
Unity equated with conformity and uniformity in the Baha'i community, sterile group think, excessive centralization, depreciation of personal initiatives, obstacles to investigation and expression, neglect of qualitative aspects, neglect of mystical and spiritual dimensions including the Dawning Place, worship of Shoghi Effendi and the House of Justice opacity. I see all that.
"As Baha’is, we are asked to share our concerns, criticisms and feedback directly with the institutions of the Faith. Unfortunately, this does not seem to be working. It is a most human need to want to be heard and acknowledged.When Baha’is, like myself, do not feel that the institutions fulfill this need, they reluctantly seek other channels. This is not motivated by malice, but by extreme frustration and a hunger for justice."
I see a need for that too, and that also helps me put her rants into perspective.
A way of trying to work things out, and to be heard and acknowledged.
Wednesday, January 21, 2009
2. Encourage Baha'is to investigate for themselves what the House of Justice is promoting, by reading the relevant messages, before accepting or repeating what anyone else says about it.
Maybe, if Baha'is see those two ideas being promoted by people who see nothing but harm in what the House of Justice is promoting, and from people who see nothing but good in what it's promoting, at the same time, it might have some impact.
Tuesday, January 20, 2009
Some people who agree with some of what Baha'u'llah says, but who disagree with what He says about Himself, might want to be part of a community of like-minded people, possibly including some members of the recognition community. It seems unfair to me (in both senses), unhealthy and contrary to *everything* Baha'u'llah was promoting, to insist on using the recognition community itself for that purpose, against its constitution and the will of its administrators.
A question arises about how such communities might develop without being stigmatized in the recognition community. My first thought is that it might not be possible for any collective activity associated with Baha'u'llah to develop outside the recognition community without being stigmatized within it. In my experience it's hardly even possible for any new activity associated with Baha'u'llah, collective or not, to develop *inside* the Baha'i community without being stigmatized. Short of that, I have some ideas about how to minimize adverse reactions to alternative Baha'i communities.
Some people who agree with some of Baha'u'llah's purpose might themselves have doubts about creating alternative communities, because of its potential divisiveness. I don't see that it has to be divisive, if it's done in the right spirit, certainly not in terms of Baha'u'llah writings. As for what Abdu'l-Baha and Shoghi Effendi said about schisms, that might be more debatable, but I still don't see that it excludes alternative communities for people who are interested in the writings of Baha'u'llah.
Another question is what to do for people who were raised in the recognition community, who disagree with the whole reason for its existence. It isn't enough for me to say that they are welcome to withdraw. It seems to me that the community has some responsibility to sympathize with their dilemma, and help resolve it.
- Look deeper into what Baha'u'llah says about Himself, and about His role in human well-being and progress.
- Practice and promote serving the stated interests of the House of Justice, sharply distinguishing them from the possible interests of its members and representatives, the interests of members and representatives of other institutions, and the interests of Baha'i celebrities.
To improve my practice of what I'm promoting, I'm trying to look deeper into the views of my Baha'i Watch journalists about Baha'u'llah, about the betterment of the world, about the best possibilities in life, or about whatever is close to their hearts.
Monday, January 19, 2009
I see three ways of using writings of the House of Justice that need to be clearly distinguished, in order to avoid discouraging individual initiatives.
1. One way is to study them in a thoughtful, sympathetic and self-questioning way, looking for ideas about how to serve Baha'u'llah's purposes.
2. Another way is to use them as exhibits in discussions about what's wrong with the Baha'i Community.
3. Another way is to use them in responses to attacks on the Faith.
I imagine that all three ways can serve Baha'u'llah's purposes if they are done in the right spirit. I mostly use them the first way.
Those three ways of using them might naturally lead to different ideas about what they mean. My own study in the first mode has reinforced my interest in appreciating, encouraging and supporting every person's initiatives, regardless of how well anyone thinks it fits into what the House of Justice is promoting. Some of the interpretations I've seen from people using the other modes seem to me to reinforce an impoverished view of the what the House of Justice is promoting, and fear of doing or promoting anything outside of it. Of course if that's what a person really thinks after careful investigation, I would want her to feel welcome to say so. Obviously, if I'm really serious about encouraging individual initiative.
I would just want people to be aware of how those interpretations might discourage individual initiative, and consider how to help counteract that effect. One way might be to encourage people, at the same time, to:
- ignore signs of disapproval of their ideas and interests from members and representatives of institutions.
- investigate for themselves, from its own writings, what the House of Justice is promoting.
"However, what is essential is for such roles and functions to take shape within the framework for action that has been elaborated in the message dated 27 December 2005 to the Conference of the Continental Boards of Counsellors."
Apart from that, another argument might be that the interests stated in this message seem to be exclusively about the framework for action. A person might use that as an argument that the House of Justice has no interest in anyone doing anything outside of the framework.
Going back to the recommendations in the report, they all look to me like recommendations for regional and local institutions, and cluster agencies. None of them look like recommendations to individuals. The House of Justice is responding to recommendations for institutions and cluster agencies. Here is the full context of what it says about roles and functions taking shape within the framework for action:
"In this light, what must be recognized is that the most recent sharp decline from some 2,000 to 1,000 annual enrollments occurred between 1997 and 2003, a period during which an appreciation for the provisions of the global Plans had not yet been fully gained in the United States and, as a result, emphasis was being given to certain kinds of measures to proclamation through the media, to initiatives designed specifically for and by Local Spiritual Assemblies, to inspirational appeals intended to capture the believers' imagination and stir them to action, and to extensive analyses of diverse topics. It should be clear, then, that a return to such measures will not serve the needs of the American Baha'i community. This is not to suggest that there is no room for proclamation in the plans of action, for example, for a cluster in which the institute process is sufficiently advanced and in which new souls need to be attracted to firesides and core activities. Nor is it to diminish the importance of the evolving role Local Assemblies play in the new realities being created at the grassroots. However, what is essential is for such roles and functions to take shape within the framework for action that has been elaborated in the message dated 27 December 2005 to the Conference of the Continental Boards of Counsellors."
What I understand from that is that it wouldn't help for institutions and cluster agencies to go back to emphasizing the kinds of measures that were being emphasized between 1997 and 2003.
The House of Justice says explicitly that this does not exclude proclamation in the plans of action.
It also looks to me like what the House of Justice is discussing here is the plans of action for clusters, not for individuals. It says that it is essential for the plans of action for clusters to take shape within the framework for action.
Next: What exactly is the framework for action?
"Yet, there is a pervasive feeling of confusion and dislocation among many Local Spiritual Assemblies, including those in 'A' clusters."
"We are concerned that feelings of disempowerment and mixed signals regarding roles and responsibilities are robbing the current Plan of the spiritual benefits that flow from the wholehearted participation of these divine institutions, and the many significant contributions these highly capable Assemblies could make to the progress of the teaching work in a number of areas of the country."
"In many areas, exclusive focus on the two essential movements has led to misunderstandings as to the kinds of activities that are permissible for the friends to be engaged in and that are consistent with the Plan. The result is a narrowly defined model of growth that permits a small range of initiative, allows little creativity, and accepts few real innovations."
"The problem we face is that proclamation is widely considered to be inconsistent with the framework for action in the Five Year Plan, making it difficult to engage the friends in serious discussion of the uses of media to generate seekers in advanced clusters."
"We are concerned that - notwithstanding the persistent emphasis the House of Justice has placed on the importance of having an outward-looking orientation - hardly a word is spoken about who seekers are, what they want, or how they experienced their contact with the Baha'i community."
"Another limiting factor is that our discourse about teaching does not sufficiently take into consideration issues of broad social concern."
"However, throughout the country the visionary messages of the past and present are seldom mentioned or employed in the service of teaching, although they remain relevant to broad social concerns."
"Today, this sense of mission is often challenged by a narrow understanding of Five Year Plan strategies and tactics and an all-too-often inflexible system of implementation."
"We feel a particular need for flexibility and innovation in reaching out to young people-Baha'is and others—as well as to populations that have shown historic receptivity to growth."
What I'm considering here is possible counterarguments to my idea that discouraging people from promoting their own ideas and pursuing their own initiatives, is contrary to the stated interests of the House of Justice. One possible counterargument is the response of the House of Justice to this Annual Report.
The report mentions:
- Misunderstandings as to the kinds of activities that are permissible for the friends to be engaged in and that are consistent with the Plan.
- A narrowly defined model of growth that permits a small range of initiative, allows little creativity, and accepts few real innovations.
- A narrow understanding of Five Year Plan strategies and tactics and an all-too-often inflexible system of implementation.
- A need for flexibility and innovation.
- Giving the friends a freer hand to act.
- Supporting the full expression of unity, self-organization, initiative and innovation.
- Supporting a wider range of initiatives with the core activities at the hub.
- Encouraging cluster initiative.
Now I'll look at the response from House of Justice.
Friday, January 16, 2009
"I seek to sift, ponder, and sum up not only American historical experience but the human experience of the major regions of the globe under the impact of modernism."
"Homer and Virgil from our Greek and Roman foundation; Dante, Spenser, and Milton hail from the Judeo-Christian West; Rumi, Attar, and Hafiz step forward from Islam; Tu Fu and Li Po, Basho and Zeami, step forth from China and Japan; the poets of the Bhagavad Gita and the Ramayana meet on that plain; griots from Africa; shamans from Indonesia and Australia; poets and seers of all ages, bards, troubadours, and minstrels, ancient and modern, major and minor, hail across the halls of time and space."
"Undergirding my writing is the gradual, continuing development of international federal institutions. The defeat of communism and the numerous crises since then demonstrate that the slowly, painfully evolving authority of the United Nations remains the only hope for a comparatively peaceful world."
1. Emphasize vision at the local level.
The friends need constant reinforcement of the great spiritual processes at the heart of Baha'u'llah's revelation—"souls must be transformed, new models of life thereby consolidated." They must be inspired to relate the seminal teachings of our Faith to the great problems of society. And they must be given a freer hand to act. Analysis, planning, and strategic focus are essentials to growth, and there is no doubt about the importance of acquiring such skills. But they are matters of the intellect, and are secondary to matters of the heart in inspiring commitment and initiative.
People will make sacrifices for a great purpose that they will not make for activities. A focus on activities at the expense of vision will yield a community that is rule-bound and prone to conflict, where a culture of learning and innovation are nearly impossible, where individuals are treated as "insiders" or "outsiders" according to perceptions of their obedience to direction, and where expression of legitimate concerns is viewed as uninformed or disloyal.
A sense of vision and purpose, complemented by a practical strategy for accomplishment, inspires unity, self-organization, initiative, and innovation. We see each of these elements in the "framework for action" of the Five Year Plan, and we are wholeheartedly confident that support of their full expression will inspire a wave of teaching that will bring dramatic results.
2. Encourage the participation of Local Spiritual Assemblies through emphasis of the full range of guidance on the role of Assemblies in the Five Year Plan.
3. Support a wider range of initiatives with the core activities at the hub.
Experimental approaches to media proclamation, fireside campaigns, innovative responses to seekers' needs and preferences fit easily within the "framework for action" and would stimulate the release of a great storehouse of energy among the friends. The core activities of systematic engagement with the Word of God, communal devotions, and the spiritual education of children and junior youth will always remain the foundation of Baha'i community vitality and will only be strengthened by the complementary activities of the friends.
4. Encourage understanding among the friends and institutional members of the complementary function of centralized Baha'i schools and neighborhood classes.
The community must learn that both are needed and both should be multiplied. The friends must also learn to appreciate the complementary relationship between Ruhi Book 3 and the Core Curriculum. Ruhi Book 3 provides 15 lessons for children ages five and six. The Core Curriculum extends the Baha'i education of children for seven years providing systematic education on topics including the Central Figures, the Covenant, Baha'i history and social teachings, dealing with peers, and learning to teach the Baha'i Faith. These two approaches must be harmonized to gain the full benefits of our efforts.
5. Engage in a deeper examination of the factors contributing to current growth.
In our experience at regional and cluster meetings, it is routinely assumed for purposes of analysis that all enrollments in any given cluster can be attributed directly and only to the core activities. Further investigation almost always yields a far more complex picture that includes proclamations, firesides, striking innovations in approach, and other types of activity that go unacknowledged.
The Native American Baha'i Institute (NABI) is a good example of the benefits of broadening the scope of our work. The National Spiritual Assembly and its agencies have worked closely with NABI for many years, and some Counselors have called the cluster that is home to NABI the most advanced cluster in the United States. The core activities are thriving on the Navajo reservation with high levels of non-Baha'i participation. They serve as the foundation of a variety of services and teaching activities that are designed to meet the specific needs of the resident populations. Special gatherings, social and economic development projects, social services, teaching projects, and other activities complement the core activities to sustain the advancement of growth in that cluster. These must all be taken into consideration to get an accurate picture of the NABI formula for growth.
6. Encourage evaluation of our implementation of the institute training process.
To date, the achievement of 6,000 tutors in the United States has not yielded growth in enrollments, nor is the growth of the core activities themselves commensurate with the number of Baha'is who have completed courses (for example, only seven percent of those who have completed Book 1 have started devotional gatherings).
We are firm in our belief that tutor accompaniment is an important part of the solution to improving the Ruhi Institute program's effectiveness, but perhaps other ingredients are also necessary. Careful assessments could be instructive to our understanding of the dynamics of the courses' effectiveness with Baha'is and with seekers, and would, of course, be sent to the Universal House of Justice for its consideration.
7. Encourage cluster initiative.
8. Promote unity and mitigate conflict about the process of growth.
The FACT (Faith Communities Today) Study on the dynamics of growth and decline in American congregations, in which 742 Local Spiritual Assemblies participated, noted that conflict on teaching methods and roles are primary impediments to the growth of faith communities. We fear that the widespread feelings of confusion and dislocation among Spiritual Assemblies are significant factors impeding our growth at this time. This year, withdrawals (369) from Baha'i membership have risen 30 percent. Our Office of Community Administration reported that this unfortunate increase in withdrawals is partly attributable to the growth of conflict in the community.
In its conclusion, the report mentions a letter from the House of Justice dated 19 May 1994. In that letter I found this:
"A new burst of energy would accrue to the operation of the Three Year Plan if the friends, both individually and collectively, could feel a greater sense of freedom to engage in a wide range of activities originating with themselves. Even if you are doing nothing deliberately to discourage such freedom, their accumulated impression of institutional disapproval, however derived, and their fear of criticism are, to a considerable extent, inhibiting their exercise of initiative."
I'll come back to that later.
Next: The 19 April 2007 letter from the House of Justice, in response to the annual report
I've been thinking that it's contrary to the stated interests of the House of Justice to depreciate and discourage initiatives outside of the framework for action. In its 19 April 2007 letter to the US National Spiritual Assembly, it looks to me like the House of Justice has done precisely that.
I'll be looking deeper into that.
Tuesday, January 13, 2009
According to Shoghi Effendi, entry by troops will be a prelude to mass conversion, which will "revolutionize the fortunes of the Faith, derange the equilibrium of the world, and reinforce a thousandfold the numerical strength as well as the material power and the spiritual authority of the Faith of Baha'u'llah."
(Shoghi Effendi, Citadel of Faith, p. 117)
According to the House of Justice, entry by troops has already started (See note below). That might be a reason for putting it at the center of some worldwide community activities. I can see some possible value for Baha'u'llah's purposes, in promoting some common activities for all Baha'i communities, with a common goal of accelerating that process. As I see it, the problems that I see my critical writers associating with the framework for action, arise from administration/celebrity worship and abusive bandwagons. That includes members and representatives of Baha'i institutions disapproving of Baha'is doing anything besides what they see as part of the framework, and other people falling in line.
Accelerating the process of entry by troops might continue to be a central goal for worldwide community activities until mass conversion begins. One central goal used to be the establishment of functioning Baha'i communities and institutions in every corner of the world and every corner of society. Maybe the next center of activity will be accelerating the process of mass conversion. After that, maybe it will shift to building the world commonwealth.
Some form of a world super-state must needs be evolved, in whose favor all the nations of the world will have willingly ceded every claim to make war, certain rights to impose taxation and all rights to maintain armaments, except for purposes of maintaining internal order within their respective dominions. Such a state will have to include within its orbit an international executive adequate to enforce supreme and unchallengeable authority on every recalcitrant member of the commonwealth; a world parliament whose members shall be elected by the people in their respective countries and whose election shall be confirmed by their respective governments; and a supreme tribunal whose judgment will have a binding effect even in such cases where the parties concerned did not voluntarily agree to submit their case to its consideration. A world community in which all economic barriers will have been permanently demolished and the interdependence of Capital and Labor definitely recognized; in which the clamor of religious fanaticism and strife will have been forever stilled; in which the flame of racial animosity will have been finally extinguished; in which a single code of international law -- the product of the considered judgment of the world's federated representatives -- shall have as its sanction the instant and coercive intervention of the combined forces of the federated units; and finally a world community in which the fury of a capricious and militant nationalism will have been transmuted into an abiding consciousness of world citizenship -- such indeed, appears, in its broadest outline, the Order anticipated by Baha'u'llah, an Order that shall come to be regarded as the fairest fruit of a slowly maturing age.
(Shoghi Effendi, The World Order of Baha'u'llah, p. 40)
Note (added 15 January 2009):
Announcement of the Nine Year Plan
October 1963, To the Followers of Baha'u'llah throughout the world
"We stand now upon the threshold of the second epoch of 'Abdu'l-Bahá's Divine Plan, with the outposts of the Cause established in the remotest corners of the earth, and having already witnessed the beginnings of that entry into the Faith by troops promised by the Master Himself."
Monday, January 12, 2009
I'll start by saying that I love, I cherish the framework for action that I see my House of Justice promoting. I see it being partly appropriated by abusive bandwagons, but in my view that does not lessen its value for people who are not carried off in the bandwagons.
Next, I'll elaborate on something I touched on in an earlier post. I see Baha'is responding more, possibly much more, to the interests of members and representatives of Baha'i institutions, and of Baha'i celebrities, than to interests explicitly stated in messages from the Universal House of Justice. As I've said before, I imagine that encouraging Baha'is to distinguish the stated interests of the House of Justice from the interests of its members and representatives, and members and representatives of other institutions, and to give priority to the stated interests of the House of Justice, would help remedy the defects I've seen discussed by my critical writers.
I also want to say that I don't measure the interest of my House of Justice in any activity by how much of its writings it devotes to that activity. It might have just as much interest in some activity that it rarely mentions, as in some activity that it mentions in most of its messages, and discusses extensively.
In distinguishing the stated interests of the House of Justice from those other interests, I don't mean to say they have nothing in common. I mean that I see some consequential differences between them. In some ways I even see them diametrically opposed to each other.
It might look to some people like the Baha'i community has abandoned all its educational programs except the Ruhi courses. Again, that impression might be a result of celebrity worship and bandwagon abuse. I have seen some of those initiatives stalled, and people diverted from them, but they're a long way from being abandoned. They are continuing and evolving, and the Ruhi courses themselves are evolving. Anyone who is looking for something better, and experimenting with other ideas, is serving some of the vital interests of my House of Justice.
The idea that every member must participate in the study circles and core activities, is contrary to the interests of my House of Justice.
"My principal wish is that the faith will emerge from obscurity and gain currency with the masses. I assume that this is also the dream behind the current institutional teaching plans and their goal of mass growth. But I do not believe that the goal will be achieved in the way that they are going about it - although, it's not for me to say that it won't."
I don't see that as the only aim, or even the primary aim, of the current framework for action. I see it more as a way, for people who are interested, to improve their capacity to contribute to the betterment of the world.
"I think the way forward on this is to capture the imagination of the masses through the vehicle of popular culture."
That might be a good way. It looks like a good way to me. As I see it, people who are working on that are serving vital interests of my House of Justice, no matter how much their initiatives are depreciated by members and representatives of Baha'i institutions.
"But probably what will happen - and this is based on the way I understand God to have worked in the past - is that some event - and we won't be able to predict what it will be - will suddenly take the interest of the media and the people and, to our amazement, overnight it'll be talked about globally."
We may not be able to predict the specific event, but I've thought it might somehow be associated with the arts.
"But, ideally, if the spirit of revelation were allowed to take root in the hearts of the believers, instead of lying latent under the constraints of an imposed, prefabricated religious expression, innovative believers would eventually create expressions of the faith that attracted popular culture."
I'm not sure if the "imposed, prefabricated religious expression" means the institutional teaching plans mentioned earlier. Some examples of what I see constraining Baha'is, in relation to the framework for action, are an impoverished view of what the House of Justice is promoting, a worship of the administration and of Baha'i celebrities, and abusive bandwagons. I see all of that as contrary to some of the interests stated in messages from the House of Justice, and as part of the shackles that it says have been preventing the religious spirit from bringing to bear the healing influence of which it is capable.
"Currently, however, Baha'i scholars exist in a ghetto area of the Baha'i community; for the all-encompassing plans offer Ruhi as the only acceptable means of learning about, and understanding, the faith, and require everyone to participate wholesale in the core activities. There is no space for vain, time-wasting activities, such as studying the original languages, translating, studying history (that's all accounted for), studying Baha'u'llah's more mystical and obscure tablets, or writing materials that explain to Westerners the religious and philosophical context of the writings."
Again, that impression might be a result of administration and celebrity worship, and abusive bandwagons, which would lose their power if Baha'is learned to distinguish the stated interests of the House of Justice from other interests.
"But these materials will be needed, not just if the faith lights a spark in popular culture, but when declarants that are coming into the community now later fall prey to doubts, either because they have bad experiences with the Baha'is or because they find out that the faith teaches things they don't like, and want to know more. They won't be looking for Ruhi; they'll want real answers to real questions and we who've been round the block and know the landscape have a responsibility to be there for them."
That will serve the interests of my House of Justice very well.
- what they see as harmful consequences of Baha'is following the House of Justice.
- what they see as wrongdoings, misguided interests, malicious motives and harmful intentions of the House of Justice.
As a reminder, by "my critical writers" I mean some people I'm personally interested in who continually write about defects in the Baha'i community and its institutions.
It might help to give some examples of what I mean by serving the interests of my House of Justice, and I've already given a few in some of my posts. I might give some more. I have some new ideas after reading Haleh Arbab's paper.
It might also help to consider the issues of wrongdoings of the House of Justice, and signs of malicious motives and harmful intentions, in relation to what I'm proposing:
Here are some examples of what some people have seen as wrongdoings of the House of Justice, and signs of malicious motives and harmful intentions:
- Refusal to discontinue the review policy
- Responses to "A Modest Proposal"
- Responses to the Service of Women paper
- Messages to some people in the dialogue/Talisman movement, finding fault with their behavior
- Responses to the Majnun post
- Messages about a campaign of internal opposition
- Removal of some people from the membership
- Various messages about the study of the Baha'i Faith
I would like to invite my critical writers to experiment with encouraging Baha'is to serve the interests of my House of Justice. I'm suggesting that doing so might:
- Improve their own lives
- Improve their own efforts for human progress
- help remedy the defects in the Baha'i community that I've seen my critical writers discussing.
- help improve what the Baha'i community is doing for human progress
I would like to invite my critical writers to consider these questions:
1. If they are right in their views about wrongdoings, malicious motives and harmful intentions of the House of Justice, does it follow necessarily that I'm wrong about the good it might do to encourage Baha'is to serve the interests explicitly stated in messages from the House of Justice, without regard for the interests of its members, as I have been doing?
2. If I'm right about the good it might do, would their views about wrongdoings, malicious motives and harmful intentions of the House of Justice argue necessarily against doing it?
Sunday, January 11, 2009
With nets of wonder,
I chase the bright elusive butterfly of love."
- Bob Lind
In Generation of Knowledge and the Advancement of Civilization, Haleh Arbab says:
The founders of FUNDAEC decided early on that issues related to the generation, application, and flow of knowledge need to be approached with a much more sophisticated conception of development, one which recognizes that no enduring change can be brought about without the full participation of the people themselves—they must be the real protagonists of the development process. If indeed that is the conception to which one adheres, then it is no longer acceptable to view the development of a people merely as the object of academic study. Rather, development should be the object of learning of an institution that somehow belongs to the people themselves and which enables them to promote and systematize their own learning. Every developing region, FUNDAEC suggested, is in need of an institution devoted to the formal generation, application, and propagation of knowledge, not necessarily in the forefront of modern science and technology, but in areas where the natural and social sciences must together tackle specific problems of specific people. It then set out to create such an institution in a particular region, an institution that over the years came to be called University for Integral Development. In the context of development as capacity building, the essential function of this university is research, action, and training that are related to the entire spectrum of processes of social, economic, and cultural life of the population it serves. It is not concerned with mere academic activity, but with research carried out with the participation of the population in the very spaces where they are engaged in such undertakings as agricultural and industrial production, marketing, education, socialization of values, and cultural enrichment.I like that vision very much.
I would like to add something to that vision about attending to divisions that arise between the community and other people, and to people who are adversely affected by the behavior of the community. That seems to me to be an inseparable part of moving towards the unity and justice envisioned in the writings of Baha'u'llah. That has been part of my lifework, in the margins of the Baha'i community and of other communities, on line and off line.
"They [Spiritual Assemblies] must endeavor to promote amity and concord amongst the friends, efface every lingering trace of distrust, coolness and estrangement from every heart, and secure in its stead an active and whole-hearted cooperation for the service of the Cause."
(Compilations, NSA USA - Developing Distinctive Baha'i Communities)
The administrators of the Faith of God must be like unto shepherds. Their aim should be to dispel all the doubts, misunderstandings and harmful differences which may arise in the community of the believers."
(Compilations, NSA USA - Developing Distinctive Baha'i Communities)
For example, I've seen Auxiliary Board members depreciating any initiative which they do not see as contributing to the current growth plans. That is diametrically opposed to the interests of my House of Justice.
As a reminder, "my House of Justice" is short for "Baha'u'llah's House of Justice as I understand it."
Generation of Knowledge and the Advancement of Civilization
While I was searching for a good link to that, I learned about the Scholarship and Community Building conference of the Association for Bahá’í Studies–North America.
Scholarship and Community Building
-Arvind Auluck-Wilson • Dialectics, Materialism and Religion: Bahá’í Faith and the Advancement of Civilization
- Susan Brill de Ramirez • For a Postcolonial and Post-Diasporic World: The Progressive yet Ancient Heuristic of the Conversive
- A. Jane Faily • The Heart and the Art of Community Building: A View of Recent Psychological Research Relating to Community Development
- Frank Fahdad Fani • The Role of Intuition and Logic in Science Research
- Geza Farkas • Divine English: The Guardian and the King James Bible
- Gerald Filson • Evolving Relationships: Communities of Scholars and External Affairs Work
- Michael Karlberg • The Press as a Consultative Public Forum
- Kathleen Kettler Lehman • Planet Bahá’í: Reflections on an Online Community
- Timothy Kraft • The Role of Science in an Ideal Community
Saturday, January 10, 2009
- It might help remedy the defects in the Baha'i community that I've seen them writing about.
- It might help improve what the community is doing for human progress.
- It might improve their own lives.
- It might improve what they're doing for human progress.
The censorship, repression, bandwagon abuse, monopolization of people's time, and worship of Baha'i administration that I've seen discussed in revitalization writings, are all diametrically opposed to the interests of my House of Justice.
- A person who has ideas he thinks are contrary to the views of the House of Justice, and tries to promote them while learning to do it in accordance with Baha'u'llah's purposes and prescriptions, is serving the interests of my House of Justice. That includes promoting the inclusion of women on the House of Justice, gay equality, discontinuation of the review policy, election reform, a Guardian after Shoghi Effendi, and reconsideration of the infallibility, role, functions and policies of the House of Justice, Shoghi Effendi, Abdu'l-Baha and Baha'u'llah.
- Maligning, scolding and pestering anyone, including people who are campaigning against the House of Justice, is diametrically opposed to the interests of my House of Justice.
- Shunning former members is diametrically opposed to the interests of my House of Justice, regardless of the views they're promoting, and regardless of whether they withdrew or were removed.
- Practicing friendship with former members who have been removed by the House of Justice, is serving the interests of my House of Justice.
- Supporting and encouraging members in initiatives that are not derived from community goals, no matter how much they are depreciated by members of Baha'i institutions, is serving the interests of my House of Justice.
- Refusing to participate in Ruhi courses, after sympathetic and self-questioning consideration, is serving the interests of my House of Justice.
- Passing in a ritual round of prayers that you didn't volunteer for, is serving the interests of my House of Justice.
- Refusing to treat any of the writings of the House of Justice as authoritative interpretations of the writings, is serving the interests of my House of Justice.