Wednesday, February 25, 2009

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

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

What exactly is the framework for action the House of Justice is promoting?

I started this some time ago, and never finished it. Now I need to take a break. I'll post this as it is. Maybe I'll finish it some time.


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.

The Individual

- 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.

The Community

- 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

Examining some questionable behavior

I'm examining some recurring questionable behavior of mine, which reached a low point in my "Jim's List" post.

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

Status of projects

Two of my projects involved a series of posts about the framework for action along with another topic. The other topic in my Deeds Not Words blog was going to be passages in the writings of Baha'u'llah addressed to the "people of Baha." The other topic in this blog was going to be related to the interests of my Baha'i Watch journalists. Now, more specifically, I'm thinking of writing about values they mention in their discussions of what's wrong with the Baha'i community. For example:

- 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

Not apostates: another look

In the previous post I quoted Baquia saying "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!" Baquia commented that she got the idea from Karen. I read Karen's post that she pointed me to, but I didn't see that idea in it. Then I searched on the Internet to see if anyone else had noticed, and it looks to me like Sen did. In his response to the journal that published Momen's paper he wrote:

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

Not apostates

In her commentary on Momen's "Marginality and Apostasy in the Baha’i Community," Baquia wrote:

". . . 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

Status of projects

I might need to take another break from Internet discussions for a few months. In case there's anyone reading this blog who might be interested, here is the status of some of my projects:

1.Developing friendships.
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

Myths about the Ruhi courses

One way I see to help dispel myths about the Ruhi courses is to look through Book 7. Another way is to read what the House of Justice and the International Teaching Center have actually said about them, in their own words. One way to do that is with the Ocean Library.