Ruhi: Mistaking Correlation for Causation

I’ve been catching up on the Baha’i blogosphere this weekend and I just read Alison’s thought provoking observations on Ruhi.

The thinking behind this all-encompassing Ruhi project appears to me like a cargo-cult mentality. Boiled down, it says: “If we build it, they will come”. In the late 19th century, peoples in the Pacific Islands believed that if they built structures associated with cargo, this would lead to cargo magically turning up. Wiki says: “The most famous examples of Cargo Cult behavior have been the airstrips, airports, and radios made out of coconuts and straw. The cult members built them in the belief that the structures would attract transport aircraft full of cargo. Believers stage ‘drills’ and ‘marches’ with twigs for rifles and military-style insignia and ‘USA’ painted on their bodies to make them look like soldiers.” You see, the cult members had no idea how cargo was actually made and transported to their islands. Instead, they associated its appearance with the appearance of spiritual beings with magical equipment.

I chuckled a bit reading that because Alison is an excellent writer and it made me see in my mind’s eye little jungle men marching in faux-uniforms pretending to be air traffic controllers or soldiers and what-not.

The fallacy that induced the cargo-cults is mistaking correlation for causation. That is, because A happened and then B happened… A must have caused B. So if we repeat A, we should get result B.

Or in simpler terms, because ice cream sales go up when it is hot and sunny, lets sell more ice cream, because then we should have a warm, sunny day.

When you stop to think about it, that is pretty much what happened. Ruhi was a small tiny project being developed and run in a few small villages in Columbia. The target audience was mostly illiterate to moderately literate rural folk. The results were good (I still haven’t seen any proof of this but let’s let it slide for now). So the creators of Ruhi thought they’d hit the secret method to win over the world to the Baha’i Faith.
cargo-cult-ruhi-march.png
Yet after giving Ruhi the benefit of the doubt for more than 10 years, it can not withstand even the most superficial scientific inquiry. Was Ruhi really successful in Columbia? How do we know it and only it was the reason that (allegedly) rural Columbians became Baha’i? How do we know there wasn’t another factor(s)? Has it been successful since? Has it been successful as an export? how and why?

The data offered from the Baha’i World Center is nil. Sure, there are anecdotal evidence: gloriously moving stories of 2 yak herders in downtown Gypjak taking Ruhi classes. But no hard data.

In fact, the only data we have comes from the national level. Like the recent one from the United States. And not only does it not provide any evidence of Ruhi’s efficacy… it in fact suggests that since Ruhi was introduced about 10 years ago, the Baha’i community has seen an accelerated rate of decline in enrollments and an acceleration in the rise of people leaving the Faith. Furthermore, according to the NSA, the “A” clusters, those cities and areas which are the apogee of the Ruhi system are showing no difference in growth or enrollments than other clusters.

Think I’m making all this stuff up?

Read the annual report from the National Spritual Assembly of the United States for yourself! Investigate the truth independently my good wo/man.

So all the hard data we do have is showing that a cargo cult mentality is an apt analogy for Ruhi. Why not? They are both unscientific and about as effective at bringing about the desired result.

But while cargo-cults in Oceana are a sociological oddity we can giggle at, Ruhi is really damaging the Baha’i Faith. It will take us years to realize just how much damage was inflicted. But by that time it will be too late.

This is why I asked previously:

“How will we know, specifically, if this whole Ruhi/core curriculum/institutes process is succeeding? what metrics will we have to watch? what time frame will have to elapse? is there any point or event or situation in which we may potentially acknowledge that it didn’t work? what would that be?”

But why waste time asking such silly questions? There’s a march at 1500 hours and I still haven’t finished polishing my bamboo rifle. So if you’ll excuse me… hep-two, hep-two, hep-two….

Love: A Dialogue by Brendan Cook

BahaisOnline.net is currently BahaisOffline.net

Apparently someone decided to use a DDoS attack against it and force it to be taken down. I’m glad to report that this situation is only temporary. Very soon Steve’s excellent site will be back up and dishing out off beat Baha’i news from around the world.

Until then, I’m going to do what I can to help out.

In that regard, here is the latest from Brendan Cook. It is a dialogue on love. Enjoy:

If you want to print it out and read it at your leisure, here is the printable format.

It is a summer day in the forests of the Canadian Northwest. Geron and Huios are sitting on the front porch of a small house built in a clearing among acres of poplar and spruce. They talk and look alike and it is clear they are father and son. Geron is greyer and bent slightly with age, but still looks much as he did when he was young. Beside them is a small portable CD player, with compact disc cases – The Times they are A-Changin’, Another Side of Bob Dylan, Bringing it All Back Home – scattered around it.

Geron: (sings)
Oh the time will come up
When the winds will stop
And the breeze will cease to be breathin’.
Like the stillness in the wind
Before the hurricane begins,
The hour that the ship comes in.

Huios: Thrilling words. Funny to think they were written because Dylan was angry that someone wouldn’t give him a hotel room.

Geron: You believe that? I’ve heard the story too, but I never took it seriously. And does it matter what he was thinking? For me and my friends that song was full of meaning – mystical, spiritual – it spoke to all of us. We didn’t agree about the details, but we all had the same feeling. ?The hour that the ship comes in? was the moment something wonderful would happen, something long-awaited and glorious. And we were sure it was coming soon. It was all tied up in the spirit of the times: I don’t think you could imagine if you weren’t there yourself.

Huios: Well, I think I can be excused. It’s hard to know the ?sixties firsthand when I wasn’t born until nineteen seventy-five.

Geron: Yes, but it was an important time for anyone who lived through it. There was the war, and civil rights, and the protests on campus. And of course the music. But what I remember most was the potential, the sense of what was possible. You could really believe that a better world was on the way. We knew it wouldn’t be easy, understand. We knew that there were powerful forces at work against us: nationalism, materialism, ignorance, indifference. But we thought we could beat them if we fought long enough and hard enough, if we were willing to pay the price. Anything seemed possible if we really wanted it. It was a time when you could hear ?the times they are a-changing? and hear a prophecy.

Huios: And you don’t now?

Geron: Well, it’s been forty years, and a lot of things haven’t lived up to their promise.

Huios: Like the Baha’i Faith?

Geron: I don’t see what’s the use of talking about that. I’ve moved on. That was part of my life for a long time, but it’s over now.

Huios: Is that it? It’s over now!? I don’t get it! How do you turn your back on something that was so important, such a meaningful part of your life? You were a Baha’i for all of thirty years; you fasted, prayed, and served on Assembly; you taught the Faith and you gave to the fund; but what matters most is that you believed, believed like no one I’ve known. Maybe every son thinks that about his father, but I thought that you would never change. You were my model of belief, your faith was like granite. And now I don’t recognize you. It’s as if that part of your life never happened. The Baha’i prayers used to be your lifeblood, and now you never open a prayerbook or recite any of the prayers you learned by heart, the same prayers you taught me when I was young. The words of Baha’u’llah, and Abdu’l-Baha were once so important to you, and now you never study them: for you they never existed.

Geron: Well I’ve moved on, that’s all. I thought I knew what it meant to be a Baha’i for many years, but now it seems I didn’t. The things you discovered in Toronto, all that we found on the internet: that settled it. When I signed my card, I thought I was joining something special, something different from all the religions that say they’re right and everyone else is wrong. I thought I was joining a community that would allow perfect freedom of belief. I thought that I could read the writings for myself and no one could ever say my reading was mistaken. But it was all a show: they sold me a bill of goods. They say they’re different, but underneath they’re like everyone else. The institutions of the Faith think they can decide who is a Baha’i and who isn’t: they can tell me I’m wrong if I don’t think they’re infallible or if I say shunning has no place in modern religion. They think that they and they alone have the way and the truth and the light. They think they have everything to teach and nothing to learn from the other faiths of the world: just like the Mormons I studied with, or the Catholic priest who tried to teach me catechism when I was twelve. I entered the Baha’i Faith because I thought I was getting one thing, and I got something else instead. I was deceived, but they couldn’t keep me. Once I found out that it wasn’t free and open and different, I was gone.

Huios: But it feels strange to hear you talk like this. You have your own life, I know, but you were also an important part of mine: you were the one who raised me as a Baha’i. You were the one who taught me about religion. I remember being six years old and sitting in your lap as you would tell me about God and His Manifestations. You read me the stories of Mohammed, and Buddha, and the Bab and Baha’u’llah, and all the other Messengers. You told me about Abdu’l-Baha and how he loved me and prayed for me, and you taught me to say my first prayers so I could pray for him in return.

Geron: You remember all that?

Huios: Of course I do. And I remember all the songs you’d sing to me. Songs about the heroes of Fort Tabarsi, and Abdu’l Baha, and about being world citizens. You’d take your guitar and sing:

Glory not in this that you love your country:

Glory but in this that you love mankind.

You are the fruits of but one tree

And the leaves of but one branch.

Geron: And I loved to sing those songs to you. I loved my children very much – until you have kids of your own you’ll never guess how much. And what I wanted more than anything was to raise you as world citizens. And why not? It was because of you that I found the Faith in the first place.

Huios: Me? That’s a lot to attribute to a two-year-old.

Geron: Haven’t I ever told you the story of what happened when you were born?

Huios: I think you have – a few times, actually. But go ahead. Let’s hear it once more.

Geron: Have I really told it so often? I don’t think so. And I never told it all the way through. But anyway, you’ve heard how I was interested in religion when I was younger – that’s why I attended catechism – but my interest trailed off as I got older. I had a lot going on in my life that didn’t give me much reason to believe in God. Going up to Canada to escape the draft, leaving school, thinking I might never come to back to the States to see my family: I was pretty bitter at the world and how it worked. And all the religions I’d looked at as a teenager, they really seemed the same to me. They would all say that they had the answers to any questions worth asking, and that everyone else was lost and misguided, or better yet on the straight road to Hell. My grandmother said prayers with me every night when I was little, but I knew that she loved me more than anything, and there was no love in any of these churches. So I stopped searching for religion for a while. And that’s where you entered the story.

Huios: Well, I can’t say it was intentional. Being born wasn’t something I gave much thought.

Geron: Wait until you’re a father and then you’ll see. Having children changes you, changes you could never expect. We’d been married quite a few years before we had you, your mother and I, and I don’t think I’d have wanted kids even then if she hadn’t pushed me.

Huios: I think I heard her tell me that. She basically insisted it was time to start a family.

Geron: That’s true. But it was a different matter when I saw you and held you for the first time. Then everything was different. You were so tiny that I could hold you in the crook of my arm: I can remember how you smelled and how you felt and how you looked up at me with a look of perfect trust.

Huios: You must have imagined that part. Babies that young can’t focus their eyes on anything. I probably wasn’t looking up at you so much as staring blankly.

Geron: Imagine it or not, that was what I felt. And with that feeling came an incredible rush of love, love like I never remembered feeling before in my life. I felt so much love towards the little baby in my arms it was almost intoxicating. The love seemed so strong that I tried to make sense of it, tried to understand where it was coming from. At first I thought it was coming from me, that the love rose up from somewhere deep inside. But then, all at once, I knew that this wasn’t true. The love wasn’t coming from me, but through me. I seemed to be standing in a tunnel of light, surrounded by light and suffused by it until it was shining through me like the sun through a clear glass.

Huios: That sounds like an analogy Abdu’l-Baha might have used.

Geron: And that could be why I responded to the Baha’i writings. But that came after. All I knew then was that the love I felt flowing through me and bathing my newborn son didn’t belong to me: I was only the vessel. And that changed how I saw the world within minutes. I knew, knew because I had experienced it, not read or been told, that the world of creation was alive with a love that was everywhere and shone through everyone and everything. That was when I decided to renew my religious journey. The love was so real that I knew I had to search and find and acknowledge the source.

Huios: And you thought that someone might be able to lead you closer to this source? An organized religion?

Geron: I’d had my doubts about religion before, but then I’d had my doubts about God, too. After you were born I gave everything a second look.

Huios: But you didn’t become a Baha’i at once, or at least that’s what I remember.

Geron: I didn’t know about the Baha’is. First I had to work my way through the other religions.

Huios: And the Mormons?

Geron: I looked at them, but I saw how they operate. They were friendly and helpful, and they welcomed me into their homes. But it still felt like I was a number, a potential Mormon and not a person. And they proved it, too. When I wouldn’t join, they lost interest in me.

Huios: And the Baha’is felt different?

Geron: It’s not hard to tell a person who really cares about you from someone who just wants to convert you. The Baha’is really cared. But I’m getting ahead of myself. The point is that it didn’t take me long to realize that this was something special.

Huios: How fast did you know you’d found what you were searching for?

Geron: I’d been looking for years, but when I found it I knew it at once. You might say I knew in the time it takes to open a prayer book. And maybe it’s better not to say that I found it but that I recognized it. The first time I was among Baha’is, I recognized the love I’d felt when you were born. And when I read my first Baha’i prayers they weren’t strange, they were familiar. The words were new, but what lay behind the words, the thing that turned them from words to prayers, this had been with me my whole life. At certain times I’d felt it more than at others, but it was always there. I felt it so deeply in the prayers that I spent all of my free time reading and reciting and learning them. It wasn’t as much discovering something new as rediscovering something familiar: I was seeing something I’d seen before, but seeing it clearly now instead of at a distance.

Huios: It sounds like you really loved the prayers.

Geron: I did. No one forced a prayerbook on me, but when she saw that I was interested, the woman who owned it, she gave it to me. And I stayed up all night reading that prayerbook. I’d start at the beginning and when I reached the end, I’d start over again.

Huios: That’s love, true love some might say. But this just brings me back to my question. If the prayers affected you this way, how can you set them aside so completely? I understand your disappointment with the Faith, because I share it. But I don’t understand why you let that disappointment embitter you.

Geron: Bitter? I don’t think I’m bitter, not at all.

Huios: How else when you cut yourself off from the past? What can it mean but that you’re bitter? If you only said a prayer or read a passage from the writings, if you only showed that these things still mattered to you, it wouldn’t seem this way. You said that the love you felt from the Baha’i community was real, that the love you read in the prayers was real. But when you turn your back on both, you’re saying it wasn’t real after all.

Geron: But what about all of the problems of the community? In the administration? You know all that’s gone wrong. Do you think I should have accepted these things?

Huios: Of course not. You should know how I feel after all I’ve written and told you. I agree there are problems. I agree that I could never shun someone, that no person or institution can be ?freed from error? in the sense of never being mistaken. And I know that the Baha’i Faith can’t save the world alone. But none of this matters here.

Geron: It doesn’t?

Huios: No. It’s all true and important in its place, but the fact remains that the love you found in the Baha’i community and in the Baha’i prayers was real. And it’s not just that it was real, it’s that it wasn’t an aberration or an accident. The love that felt so genuine to you springs directly from Baha’u’llah’s revelation, it’s the essence of everything that He wrote, everything that others wrote after Him. In a sense, you can say that whole Baha’i message is nothing but love, no more and no less. That’s what I hear Abdu’l Baha telling me.

    Love is the real magnet which attracts the hearts and souls of men, and consequently the purpose of the manifestations of God is to radiate the light of love from their hearts. That is why Jesus said, ?I am Love.? Thus it becomes known that the highest human station, the chief virtue, the cause of the greatest progress and prosperity which humanity can attain, and the divine perfection of the human race is love, which is the greatest favor of the Majestic One… All the Divine manifestations and prophets taught this truth, and the purpose of all of them was love.

Geron: I know those words, but I’m glad you mentioned them. I hadn’t thought about them for a long time. But I still don’t see what you’re trying to say. What does it matter if Abdu’l Baha said that, if this is what’s become of the religion he helped establish? What’s the use of all those fine words if Baha’is shun Covenant-breakers or if they can’t accept committed homosexual relationships? He can say all these noble things, but it doesn’t change that he set up an authoritarian religious structure, a pyramid of power with infallible leaders at the top. Abdu’l Baha talks about love, but the leaders of the Faith today are as fundamentalist as any in the world. Why does it matter what these ?Central Figures’ said?

Huios: Because it was how you taught me the most important lesson of my life. It was how you introduced me to the religion of love, how you discovered it yourself. It’s how we both learned to believe in religion without tolerating the abuses of religion, to reconcile reason with faith, to view every problem in terms of the common family of humanity. Words like those instructed us both.

Geron: But aren’t there any number of other religions that teach the same thing? I could have taught you the same if I’d raised you as a Christian or a Muslim. You could have learned about God’s love outside of any formal religious tradition.

Huios: Maybe. And maybe I could have known the same love I felt as a child from some other father. But I didn’t. You were my father, you and my mother were the ones who taught me what love was. It might have been someone else, but it was you. And it’s the same with Baha’u’llah and Abdu’l Baha. They weren’t the first to teach the religion of love, and they’re not the last, but the fact remains that they were the ones who taught you and, through you, who taught me. It was through Abdu’l Baha that I first read that love is ?the living link that unites God with man,? and ?the most great law that rules this mighty and heavenly cycle,? and ?the supreme magnetic force that directs the movement of the spheres in the celestial realms.?

Geron: All beautiful words: but look how it ends! When I became a Baha’i, I thought that the promise I’d felt in the sixties would be realized. We were going to unite the human race and make one family of the whole world. I thought that I would see the first signs in my lifetime, and that in yours or in your children’s it might be achieved. But it’s not going to happen. Love doesn’t stand a chance against ?do as we say’, inside the faith or in the larger world. Or do you think that it will end differently? Do you think the Baha’i Faith has any real chance of uniting the world?

Huios: You’ve heard me say it. The Baha’i Faith can never save the world alone. They’ve shut out too many people for that. If they want to help the world, Baha’is have only two choices. Either become truly open and find room for everyone who loves the prayers and the writings, or accept that they’ll always be a small religion, a minority in every country. But even if Baha’is won’t allow the Faith to be truly universal, they can still do a lot of good. They’ll just have to learn to work with others who share their goals even when they don’t share their beliefs.

Geron: Maybe the House should invite you to help: even if they don’t think you have Baha’i beliefs, they should know you believe in world unity.

Huios: I doubt that will ever happen. I don’t think I’m well liked in Haifa.

Geron: You’re probably right. And then what’s the difference between you and me? In the end you’ve given up on the Baha’i Faith too!

Huios: What’s different is that I haven’t given up on the promise of the Baha’i Faith – the promise you raised me with. And that’s a promise much bigger than any single teacher or movement. I’m talking about a promise that’s universal.

Geron: Universal? The only thing I see that’s universal is disappointment! People hoping for something that never comes! And it’ll only be worse by the time you’re my age. People are already noticing that Ruhi isn’t getting results, that all these ?A Clusters’ and ?cycles of intensive growth’ are leading nowhere. The American NSA says it in their report, the one the House ?corrected’ afterwards, the one they buried so deep you can only find it on a few websites now. People are beginning to see that something’s going wrong. Just think what they’ll say when nothing’s happened after thirty years!

Huios: I agree. At some point everyone’s going to have their doubts. And when you talk about universal disappointment, you’re actually very close to what I mean. I’m starting to believe that hope, and to some extent the failure of hope, is what defines the human condition.

Geron: I suppose that makes sense. If you look at history, there’s plenty of disappointment to go around.

Huios: Yes. And your generation was hardly to first to feel it. You weren’t the first to believe that the world was about to change forever and then feel cheated when it didn’t happen. When your father and grandfather were young, the socialists and the radicals and the men and women of the labor movement thought they were the generation that would change the world. They sang the International, and believed in the promise that ?a better world’s in birth? in the same way that you believed that ?the times, they are a-changing.? Before that it was the French Revolution, the Declaration of the Rights of Man and the Citizen. Wordsworth might have been speaking for idealistic youth in your day, mine, or any other when he wrote: ?bliss it was in that dawn to be alive, but to be young was very heaven.” And long before that, the first disciples of Jesus were sure that He would return in their lifetime and establish the Kingdom of God on Earth. You came of age hearing Dylan sing that ?the first one now will later be last,? but the idea’s much older. It stretches back long before the birth of Christianity. I’m sure it’s as old as humanity, or at least as civilization.

Geron: I suppose that there’s some consolation in knowing I’m not the first one to be duped. It’s at least a small comfort to think that others have been deceived before me.

Huios: But were they only deceived? Simply because nothing lives up to the expectations people set, does that mean all’s lost, that there’s no value in the dream? I think the reason you’re so bitter – and believe me that you are bitter – I think you’re bitter because you’ve placed your hope entirely in the future, in this case on the World Order of Baha’u’llah that it was supposed to bring. When you lost faith in that, you lost faith in everything else too.

Geron: And how else could it be? It’s what we all set our hopes on, even you. I know what you believed back in your teens. You hoped and waited and looked for signs with the rest of us. And now you know that it isn’t going to come, or if it did, it wouldn’t be anything like what we dreamed. In a way I’m glad the Baha’i Faith will never become the religion of the world. I wouldn’t want it to, not if it’s going to be religion of people who exclude and shun and control and follow leaders without thinking.

Huios: I agree. I wouldn’t want a World Order like that either. But even apart from that, even if the future had been what we thought it was, I think we set too much hope on it. It’s important to have goals, to know the direction we want to carry the world. But did we take it too far? I’m starting to think that this is the great mistake of all millennial movements, all these people who’ve dreamed of a new heaven and a new earth. They let their vision of the future push everything else aside. If you look too hard after what’s to come, you can lose sight of the present.

Geron: And are you saying Baha’is shouldn’t look towards the future? Good luck with that! You know enough to realize no Baha’i could ever accept it. Or can’t you guess how you’ll shock believers if you say you’re not concerned with the World Order to be established in the coming centuries? And you think you have trouble convincing them you’re a Baha’i now!

Huios: I can foresee their reaction well enough. But it won’t be the first time people have been shocked like this. I’ve got plenty of examples to follow. Take Eduard Bernstein…

Geron: Who?

Huios: Eduard Bernstein was the German socialist leader at the turn of the last century, the one Lenin attacked for ?corrupting’ the original teachings of Marx. Bernstein outraged everyone in his religion too – socialism is really a religion if you think about it. He wrote that the future society that European Marxists believed was coming wasn’t important, he wrote that ?the final aim of socialism means nothing to me.?

Geron: That could never be popular. Socialism is all about the future. It’s based on the theory that we’re entering a new stage of history. It’s all about uniting the human race: that’s what every socialist expects.

Huios: In that sense it’s a little like the Baha’i vision, isn’t it? And that’s why I admire Bernstein’s courage in saying what he did. He wasn’t afraid to declare that the thing everything else thought was essential didn’t matter at all. He didn’t care about the theoretical problem-free world to come, but about what men and women could do for each other in the imperfect here and now. ?The movement means everything for me,? Bernstein writes. He says that helping the human race today is better than worrying about an order that will only bear fruit, if it ever bears fruit, long after we’re dead. When most socialists were preparing for the ?final stage of history,? Bernstein talked about decent wages, education, and health care for his own generation.

I have at no time had an excessive interest in the future, beyond general principles; I have not been able to read to the end any picture of the future. My thoughts and efforts are concerned with the present.

Geron: And would you really say the same thing in a Baha’i context? Would you tell Baha’is to think only of the present?

Huios: A thousand times over. I’d repeat it high and low to every Baha’i of every description in every community on earth. Build the World Order of today, and let tomorrow take care of itself! Help others now, and leave the future to future generations! At its best, thinking so much about the future allows us to forget the problems of the moment.

Geron: Like the AIDS epidemic in Africa.

Huios: Precisely. We save up all our money for the Arc Project and shiny, showpiece temples when we could be bringing real help to real people in need. It’s like planning for twenty years ahead when people are sick and hungry at your door. And that’s not the worst of it.

Geron: It’s not?

Huios: Hardly. The worst thing about this fixation on the future is that it helps us justify things that have no justification. Because we’ve got to build the society of the future, we have to do unpleasant things in the present: shunning, disenrolling, denying due process. And it’s all accepted because these are the sacrifices we must make if we want tomorrow to be better. The current order is only embryonic, after all!

Geron: I wonder how long they’ll keep making that the excuse! But seriously, I might I agree with you, but don’t imagine anyone else will! It’s something they’re just not ready to hear. You’re asking people to give up on the World Order of Baha’u’llah. Why not go all the way? Why not ask them to stop calling themselves Baha’is altogether?

Huios: That’s certainly how many people will feel. It’s how everyone will feel who insists on understanding the World Order in the most literal sense, the people who imagine that Baha’is will convert every person on the planet and that the Universal House of Justice will rule the world from Haifa. But I’m not worried about them. I’m talking to you, and you already don’t believe any of that. I’m trying to show you how the idea of the World Order can have another meaning, one that still holds value for us after what we’ve come to believe.

Geron: And what value is that?

Huios: A spiritual one. The idea of the World Order is a spiritual concept, and I think it can be best understood in a spiritual sense. This is what Christians do when they view the Kingdom Jesus promised as something other than an earthly kingdom. They understand it as something in the present rather than the future, and as something raised up in the hearts of the faithful rather than in the physical world.

Geron: It’s a beautiful way of understanding things.

Huios: Baha’is could learn from it, too. Many of the first Christians thought the Kingdom was a physical kingdom, so it may be natural that most Baha’is still think the World Order is something visible and external that will be established in the future. But if you read the Baha’i scriptures, you’ll see that it doesn’t have to be that way. Do you remember what Baha’u’llah says about this in the Iqan?

Geron: Not everything.

Huios: Well, the relevant part is very brief.

The one true God… hath ever regarded, and will continue to regard, the hearts of men as His own, His exclusive possession. All else, whether pertaining to land or sea, whether riches or glory, He hath bequeathed unto the Kings and rulers of the earth.

There are many passages I could mention, from Baha’u’llah or Abdu’l Baha, but you can always find more if you want. I’m not going to try to convince you by piling up references to scripture. But there are enough of them – the place in the Aqdas where Baha’u’llah tells rulers he want to possess ?the hearts of men? and not earthly kingdoms is one more example I might give. There are enough examples to argue that Baha’u’llah wouldn’t want us to conceive His promise strictly in material terms. He invites us, I think, to reconsider this universal human dream – call it the World Order, call it the Kingdom of God on Earth, call it Socialism or even ?the hour that the ship comes in.? What kind of Kingdom will it be? When and where will it be manifested? If we reconsider our answers to these questions, we may reconsider this obsession with the future. What would it mean if the World Order wasn’t something off in the distance, several lifetimes away, but something taking shape inside us right now? We would still need to think about the future, to challenge the world to change, that will always matter. But we would also act differently if we believed that God’s dominion lies primarily in our hearts, and that the Kingdom of the Promised One of all ages is still not a kingdom of this earth.

Geron: So you’re saying that you believe in a spiritual World Order? But is that any different from denying it all together? You avoid saying you don’t believe by ?spiritualizing’ it, but it amounts to the same thing in the end. When you say the World Order can’t be realized on earth, isn’t that just giving up by another name?

Huios: Giving up on seeing it realized perfectly, yes. But that’s not the same as giving up on the direction, on the ideal. You remember back when Tommy Douglas held the office of premier here, back during the fight to get universal health care, first in this province and later across the whole country, how he’d end his speeches? He used those famous lines from Blake:

I will not cease from mental strife,

Nor shall my sword rest in my hand,

Until we have built Jerusalem,

In this green and pleasant land.

Geron: I remember it well. Tommy was a politician, but he was also someone with a religious perspective: he knew that helping people when they needed it was a spiritual duty. He said that this was what it meant to be a society that honored God.

Huios: He was a minister before he ever entered politics, so it isn’t surprising if he took a larger view of things. And the way he used those words underlines the point I’m trying to make. ?Until we have built Jerusalem.? The Kingdom is real enough: it’s just that it’s never complete. It’s always a work in progress, to be laid up brick by brick: it’s something we’re striving after, something we always seek but still stays just out of reach. Which is another reason I love the metaphor of Jerusalem. Because in a sense, we’re all pilgrims, each of us who follows God’s love and is led to the love of humanity. We’re all on a common road, and even if we never set eyes on the Holy City while we live, it remains our destination. Call it ?the goal of our desires,? to borrow words you taught me long ago.

Geron: Well, I guess that if those words have stayed with you, I must have done something right. They don’t inspire me any longer, but I’m happy if they have meaning for you.

Huios: They do. All of them: not only the words of the Baha’i Faith, but of every faith, and everyone without a faith who speaks or writes words of hope and comfort. Whenever I hear or read about the longing for a better world – it doesn’t matter if it’s today or thousands of years ago – my spirit lifts: not because the dream is ever realized but simply that it is and that it continues despite inevitable disillusionment. I think that this dream of bringing the love of heaven down to earth reflects what is best in us and most like God. And I have you to thank for introducing it to me: for the prayers and songs and the love you shared. You can say what you like about your time as a Baha’i, but don’t forget what you gave me during those years.

Geron: I won’t forget. And I’m glad to hear you tell me this. It’s good to know that I’ve left you something beside disappointment and failure. Your time’s going to come soon enough, and you’ll see that when you reach my age you’ll want to feel you have something worthwhile to leave your kids, something to pass on to the next generation. And I guess that if you still feel good about the world, if you’re not beaten down and cynical, then maybe I haven’t done so badly by you after all.

Huios: You’ve left me all that I could ask for. Have you ever considered formally resigning?

Geron: I’ve thought about it, but I don’t think I’ll do it. I’ve had my card this long, and I’ll probably keep it. If they can disenroll people who still believe in Baha’u’llah so sincerely, it’s a good joke to have them keep me on the rolls when I don’t believe any of it. I’ll go on getting Baha’i Canada and helping the LSA keep the books, and no one will be the wiser. I live too far outside of town for anyone to expect me at feasts or holy days. But maybe someday they’ll ask me why I don’t fast anymore.

Huios: That’ll be a long answer.

Geron opens the CD player, drops in a new disc, and selects a track. ?My Back Pages? begins to play, as Geron and Huios sit and listen.

Rainn Wilson on Real Time with Bill Maher

The Baha’i actor, Rainn Wilson, appeared on Real Time with Bill Maher on November 10th 2006. Rain was a guest along with CNN’s Candy Crowley, and infamous author Salman Rushdie.

If you’re not familiar with the show, it is a satirical look at the US political landscape. Bill Maher takes no prisoners as his acid tongue lashes out at the idiocy found in government, whether Democratic or Republican.

This show aired immediately after the elections for the congress where the Democrats regained majority. A lot of hopes were raised at that time that this would mean some changes for government policy. Especially towards Iraq.

Its interesting to hear Rainn making comments regarding politics. Hope he doesn’t get in trouble with his LSA for being politically active 😉

Oh and in case your are of the uber-sensitive disposition, be aware that this is a cable show (HBO) so there are some naughty words that you wouldn’t normally hear on American TV.

Don’t miss part #6 “New Rules”. Its probably the best part of the show!

Part #3

Part #1

Part #2

Part #4

Part #5

Part #6

Summer Breeze

dandelion-summer.pngYes, of course. You’re wondering what happened to your intrepid blogger. Did a misstep cause a temporary residence in a well? Or perhaps an abduction by aliens? or worse yet an insistent Ruhi collaborator who wouldn’t take no for an answer?

I’m afraid my life isn’t so melodramatic.

The only explanation I can offer is this: it is summer.

I know that will not be enough to mollify my 3 readers. But what can I say but the truth?

Which reminds me, what are you doing here? I mean, it is summer! The birds are chirping, the grass is green, the dandelions are waiting to be puffed out and much frolicking is on the agenda. Get to it.

If you insist on being cooped up in doors and reading a blog (blech!) then fine, I’ll see what energy I can muster to do a few updates.

But you should really do something about that frolicking. Its backing up in your agenda and that can’t be good for productivity.