Monday, January 12, 2009

Some thoughts after reading Alison's hopes for the future

Hopes for the future

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.


Alison wrote:

"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.

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