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A Problem That Can’t be Easily or Immediately Resolved

It is difficult for the friends always to remember that in matter[s] where race enters, a hundred times more consideration and wisdom in handling situations is necessary than when an issue is not complicated by this factor.  (Shoghi Effendi, Pupil of the Eye, p. 87)

A lot of my friends have been participating in protests or changing their Facebook pages to honor the death of George Floyd and other black and indigenous people killed unjustly.  A lot of people are posting articles and videos, libraries are posting books to read.  Some are suggesting that if you don’t take action and speak up, you’re part of the problem.  I haven’t felt inspired to do any of these things and the more guilt-inducing messages I read, the less I want to.  Yesterday I saw a post on Facebook – I don’t know who to attribute it to – which said exactly what is in my heart:

Some of us are quiet because we don’t know what to say.  Some of us are quiet because we recognize our lack of understanding.  Some of us are mourning, as you mourn.  Some of us are listening with our hearts, and intentionally keeping our mouths closed.  Some of us are sincerely pondering what we’re hearing and seeing.  Some of us value your actual experience more than our own priviledged perspective.  Some of us are searching our own hearts.  Please don’t mistake our quietness for apathy.

This is a complex problem which effects all of us on the path to oneness.  Bahá’ís have the spiritual solution, and we’re learning how to implement it.  I’m grateful to learn more about my white priviledge, steeped as I am in it and unable to see it on my own.  I like knowing that a hundred times more consideration and wisdom in handling situations is necessary, because with God’s help, and little by little, day by day, I’ll do my part in tearing these walls down in my own life.

Knowing there are many ways to make a difference, and that I can find my own, I am grateful!

What jumped out for you as you read today’s meditation?  I’d love it if you would share so we can all expand our knowledge of the Writings!

If you liked this meditation, you might also like my book Fear into Faith:  Overcoming Anxiety

 

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White Privilege in the Face of Injustice

Let the white make a supreme effort in their resolve to contribute their share to the solution of this problem, to abandon once for all their usually inherent and at times subconscious sense of superiority, to correct their tendency towards revealing a patronizing attitude towards the members of the other race, to persuade them through their intimate, spontaneous and informal association with them of the genuineness of their friendship and the sincerity of their intentions, and to master their impatience of any lack of responsiveness on the part of a people who have received, for so long a period, such grievous and slow-healing wounds. (Shoghi Effendi, Advent of Divine Justice, p. 40)

As I watch in horror as a week of protests, in the wake of yet another black man senselessly killed by a white police officer, led to rioting and looting across America, I hear a lot of my white brothers and sisters wonder what we can do.  I’m glad Shoghi Effendi has made it easy for those of us with white privilege to find a place to start.  If we look at this quote as a series of steps we can take, we can examine our actions.

  1. make a supreme effort in their resolve to contribute their share to the solution of this problem
  1. abandon their usually inherent and at times subconscious sense of superiority

How can I do these things?  There are many sites online giving lots of ideas.  I can start there, to educate myself and find ways to change my behaviour.

  1. correct their tendency towards revealing a patronizing attitude towards the members of the other race

This can include deeply hurtful statements like:

  • I don’t see colour.
  • My best friend is black.
  • All lives matter.
  • There’s only one race – the human race.
  1. persuade them through their intimate, spontaneous and informal association with them of the genuineness of their friendship and the sincerity of their intentions

I can find ways to form genuine friendships and include them in activities.

  1. master their impatience of any lack of responsiveness on the part of a people who have received, for so long a period, such grievous and slow-healing wounds

I can let go of any expectation that they can simply just “get over it”

Knowing there are concrete steps I can take to change my behavior, instead of protesting, I am grateful!

What jumped out for you as you read today’s meditation?  I’d love it if you would share so we can all expand our knowledge of the Writings!

If you liked this meditation, you might also like my book Letting Go of Anger and Bitterness

 

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Showing our Aloofness

Increasingly, as time goes by, the characteristics of the Bahá’ís will be that which captures the attention of their fellow-citizens. They must show their aloofness from the hatreds and recriminations which are tearing at the heart of humanity, and demonstrate by deed and word their profound belief in the future peaceful unification of the entire human race. (From a letter dated 26 October 1941 written on behalf of Shoghi Effendi to an individual believer, in Living the Life, p. 17)

In the past few weeks, there has been an explosion of craziness around people hoarding items like toilet paper in fear of the pandemic.  Pictures abound about grocery stores with empty shelves and people fighting over the last item of something.  Has the world gone mad?  Bahá’ís definitely have an opportunity to show the world that we have something to offer in the days ahead.

As we work to elevate the conversations around us, let us remember that God is in charge and everything that happens is bringing us closer to uniting the world.  The governments of the world are learning from the lessons of those countries who have gone through it before us.  China is lending a hand to Italy.  Italy is educating the west about how to prepare and the west is listening and taking action.  People everywhere are going into voluntary seclusion.  Neighbors are reaching out to neighbors.  This is exciting news!  If we can figure out how to make a united effort as individuals and governments to overcome this hurdle, surely we can make a similar effort to stop global warming, end war and achieve world peace at last.  If a world crisis which affects everyone on the planet can give us the impetus to overcome our inertia and move forward to what might be our promised collective destiny, then I say bring it on!

Knowing I can demonstrate my profound belief in the future peaceful unification of the entire human race during this crisis, I am grateful!

What jumped out for you as you read today’s meditation?  I’d love it if you would share so we can all expand our knowledge of the Writings!

If you liked this meditation, you might also like my book Learning How to Forgive

 

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Witnessing the Tokens of Divine Assistance

The more they strive for harmony, the greater their progress; the more they exert effort to achieve unity, the more they will witness the tokens of divine assistance.… (From a Tablet of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá—translated from the Persian, from Give me Thy Grace to Serve Thy Loved Ones, Compilation for the 2018 Counsellors’ Conference, [15])

I’ve long thought that it doesn’t matter what we accomplish for the Faith in terms of activity or results but what does matter is the efforts we make towards love and unity.  This newly translated quote seems to back this up.  According to `Abdu’l-Bahá, we only make great progress when we strive for harmony and we only get divine assistance when we’re exerting effort to achieve unity.  I wonder what would happen in our Bahá’í communities if this was the focus?

Recently I heard tales of wonderful things happening in Sydney Australia, so much so, that the Canadian NSA sent representatives from the learning sites to Sydney to find out how they did achieved so much.  They came back with glowing reports of a community where everyone’s efforts are encouraged, where everyone has a place in the Plan, where encouragement and love are highly valued and gossip and negativity aren’t heard.  That’s the kind of Bahá’í community I want to be involved in.

Knowing there are places in the world where love and unity are encouraged, I am grateful!

What jumped out for you as you read through today’s meditation?  I’d love it if you would share so we can all expand our knowledge of the Writings!

If you liked this meditation, you might also like my book Learning How to Be Happy

 

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The Beauty of Diversity 

Thus should it be among the children of men! The diversity in the human family should be the cause of love and harmony, as it is in music where many different notes blend together in the making of a perfect chord. If you meet those of different race and colour from yourself, do not mistrust them and withdraw yourself into your shell of conventionality, but rather be glad and show them kindness. Think of them as different coloured roses growing in the beautiful garden of humanity, and rejoice to be among them . . . (‘Abdu’l-Bahá, Paris Talks, pp. 53-54)

This quote seems to be whole crux of the Bahá’í Writings, where Bahá’u’lláh’s goal is to unite all of mankind.  When we truly understand this self-evident truth, we will recognize our oneness.  I often wonder why this is so difficult to understand.  We love different colours and shapes in a garden.  We love the many different species of plants and animals.  We love a variety of textures and tastes in our food.  We love a variety of notes in music, so why is it so difficult to see different coloured human beings as different?  Why do we feel suspicion and mistrust?  Why, even in multicultural cities, do we withdraw and hang out with our own “kind”?

It’s easy for me to get caught up in questions like this and spiral into hopeless, helpless despair.  Fortunately statistics can help pull me out of this funk.  Slowly, we are moving towards Bahá’u’lláh’s great vision. Thanks to ‘Abdu’l-Bahá’s encouragement of the marriage of Hand of the Cause Louis Gregory, (an African-American man) and Louisa Mathews, (a white British woman) in 1912, interracial marriage is much more common today than ever before.  Even though the ban on interracial marriage didn’t end in the US until 1967, many advances have been made since then.  Today, 17% of married couples today are interracial.  Just a little more than 25 years ago, 63% of nonblack adults opposed interracial marriage. Today, that number is only 14%.[1]

By 2043, the Census Bureau predicts that the United States will become a “majority-minority” country[2], in which no racial group makes up more than half of the population.  As we move closer to a majority-minority status, people of different races will interact more frequently.  Please God, let this end the legacy of discrimination.

Knowing that as the world gets smaller, people are embracing cultural differences in many ways, I am grateful!

What jumped out for you as you read through today’s meditation?  I’d love it if you would share so we can all expand our knowledge of the Writings!

If you liked this meditation, you might also like my book Letting Go of Criticizing Others

 

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[1] https://www.creditdonkey.com/interracial-marriage-statistics.html

[2] https://www.huffingtonpost.ca/2015/05/07/majority-minority-america_n_7205688.html

Baha’is and Baptism

When my son was born, I was a new Bahá’í (of 2 years), and my husband was Anglican.  I had a vague idea that Bahá’ís didn’t baptize their children, but believed that unity in the family was a higher principle, so my son was baptized in the Anglican church and raised as a Bahá’í.

It would have been helpful to know this guidance at that time:

Children of such a union may be baptized if the Christian parent so wishes; from the Bahá’í point of view the baptism has no effect. It must be emphasized, however, that the Bahá’í parent, while perfectly free to attend the baptismal ceremony, should not undertake any commitment or vow contrary to Bahá’í law and should not surrender her parental right to impart the Bahá’í teachings to her child.  (Universal House of Justice, Lights of Guidance, p. 139)

I promised to raise my child in the Anglican church, believing that to raise a Baha’i child was also to raise a Christian, Moslem, Jewish child.  Now I wonder if this is the same kind of dissimulation Baha’is in Iran are rejecting when they are asked if they are Moslem and they say no?  On the surface, they could answer yes, because Baha’is believe in all Faiths, but they don’t.  I didn’t have anyone I could talk to about this back then, so I was on my own.  Fortunately I did not have to surrender any parental right to impart the Baha’i teachings to my son, otherwise I never would have gone through with it.

I wondered how many other families might be in the same situations, so I turned to the Writings to see what they had to teach us.  Let’s have a look!

In the past, baptism was used to awaken people:

Reflect, also, that baptism in the days of John the Baptist was used to awaken and admonish the people to repent from all sin, and to watch for the appearance of the Kingdom of Christ. (Abdu’l-Baha, Some Answered Questions, p. 94-95)

Children don’t derive any spiritual benefit from baptism.  In fact, many of them become agitated and ill.

But at present in Asia, the Catholics and the Orthodox Church plunge newly born children into water mixed with olive oil, and many of them become ill from the shock; at the time of baptism they struggle and become agitated. In other places, the clergy sprinkle the water of baptism on the forehead. But neither from the first form nor from the second do the children derive any spiritual benefit.   (Abdu’l-Baha, Some Answered Questions, p. 95)

In this dispensation we don’t need a symbol of repentance and seeking forgiveness from sins:

No, this baptism with water was a symbol of repentance, and of seeking forgiveness of sins.  But in the cycle of Bahá’u’lláh there is no longer need of this symbol; for its reality, which is to be baptized with the spirit and love of God, is understood and established.  (Abdu’l-Bahá, Some Answered Questions, p. 91)

Baptism doesn’t cause spiritual awakening or conversion – it’s only a custom we follow:

Other peoples are amazed and wonder why the infant is plunged into the water, since this is neither the cause of the spiritual awakening of the child, nor of its faith or conversion, but it is only a custom which is followed.  (Abdu’l-Baha, Some Answered Questions, p. 95)

Religious laws are changed in accordance with the changes and alterations of the times:

Question. — Is the ablution of baptism useful and necessary, or is it useless and unnecessary? In the first case, if it is useful, why was it abrogated? And in the second case, if it is useless, why did John practice it?

Answer. — The change in conditions, alterations and transformations are necessities of the essence of beings, and essential necessities cannot be separated from the reality of things. So it is absolutely impossible to separate heat from fire, humidity from water, or light from the sun, for they are essential necessities. As the change and alteration of conditions are necessities for beings, so laws also are changed and altered in accordance with the changes and alterations of the times.  (Abdu’l-Baha, Some Answered Questions, p. 93-94)

Material water doesn’t purify the heart:

For material water does not purify the heart of man; no, it cleanses his body.  (Abdu’l-Bahá, Some Answered Questions, p. 91)

Real baptism is through the divine teachings and the exhortations of Baha’u’llah:

The performance of baptismal celebration would cleanse the body, but the spirit hath no share; but the divine teachings and the exhortations of the Beauty of Bahá will baptize the soul. This is the real baptism. I hope that thou wilt receive this baptism. (Abdu’l-Bahá, Baha’i World Faith, p. 390)

It’s the heavenly water and spirit which makes the human heart good and pure:

But the heavenly water and spirit, which are knowledge and life, make the human heart good and pure; the heart which receives a portion of the bounty of the Spirit becomes sanctified, good and pure — that is to say, the reality of man becomes purified and sanctified from the impurities of the world of nature. (Abdu’l-Bahá, Some Answered Questions, p. 91)

Real baptism removes evil qualities such as anger, lust, worldliness, pride, lying, hypocrisy, fraud, self-love, etc.:

These natural impurities are evil qualities: anger, lust, worldliness, pride, lying, hypocrisy, fraud, self-love, etc.  Man cannot free himself from the rage of the carnal passions except by the help of the Holy Spirit. That is why He says baptism with the spirit, with water and with fire is necessary, and that it is essential — that is to say, the spirit of divine bounty, the water of knowledge and life, and the fire of the love of God. (Abdu’l-Bahá, Some Answered Questions, p. 91)

When we’re baptized this way, we will become filled with eternal bounty:

Man must be baptized with this spirit, this water and this fire so as to become filled with the eternal bounty. Otherwise, what is the use of baptizing with material water? (Abdu’l-Bahá, Some Answered Questions, p. 91)

Baha’is don’t act as godparents either:

Your Assembly understands that a conscientious Bahá’í couple must not have their children baptized, nor should Bahá’ís ordinarily participate as godparents in a baptismal ceremony for this also may seem to imply their affiliation with the church.  (Universal House of Justice, Lights of Guidance, p. 143)

For parents who are looking for a spiritual baptism ceremony to welcome the newly arrived babe, they can consider a naming ceremony:

Thou hast asked regarding the naming of children: When thou wishest to name a babe, prepare a meeting therefor; chant the verses and communes, and supplicate and implore the Threshold of Oneness and beg the attainment of guidance for the babe and wish confirmated firmness and constancy; then give the name and enjoy beverage and sweetmeat. This is spiritual baptism.  (Abdu’l-Baha, Tablets of Abdu’l-Baha v1, p. 149-150)

This would not be an official public ceremony, and would not involve any ritual:

We have no ‘baptismal service’ in the Cause, such as the Christians have. There could be no objection, however, for the friends to come together on such happy occasions, provided they do not hold an official public ceremony, and provided also they strictly avoid any uniformity and rigidity in all such practices.  We feel that this activity should be left to the discretion of the parents.  (Universal House of Justice, Lights of Guidance, p. 138)

How has this helped you understand the topic better?  What’s been your experience?  Post your comments below.