It Is God’s Will That You Be Tested

Spending time with Persian Baha’i ladies has some consequences. You eat delicious Persian food (rather, you’re forcefed it), you learn to hide your enthusiasm for said food (the Persian practice of “tarof”) and you hear a lot about God’s Will and “tests”.

I have nothing against Persian food but I’m beginning to develop allergies against the superstitious practice of calling everything “God’s Will” or “a test”.

For one, how are we to know what is God’s Will? Sure, the general broad strokes are obvious. They are in every religious dispensation. Don’t kill, be nice, don’t lie, etc. Those are God’s Will for us. That’s what He wants us to do. I have no qualms about those. They are clear.

But what about the mundane, everyday things. Was it God’s “will” that I be late for an interview? Was it God’s “will” that I forgot to call ahead and make reservations? That I burn the toast by forgetting to adjust the setting on the toaster?

I’m not so sure. Maybe it was the Big Guy’s will that those things happen. But then again, maybe they were a result of less than devine motives.

But many of the Baha’is that I spend time with have no doubts whatsoever. They know. And they want to tell you. Usually I just play along and don’t upset their perception of things. But sometimes I do venture to ask meekly, how exactly it is that they know. In those times, they blink and recover with: why… what else can it be? of course it is God’s will.

And then they smile at me as if I’m a total idiot incapable of telling the difference between yogourt and glue.

I keep thinking though that unless you have some sort of direct phone line to God, or are a Prophet you can have no conviction on the matter. But then again, saying “It may or may not be God’s will” just doesn’t have the same ring to it, now does it?

The other one is when they call difficult situations “tests from God”. This one gets me even more. I mean, how the heck do you know? Oh, we already covered that: what else can it be? Yes, ironclad logic. How did I ever miss that one?

Seriously though, I’ve heard this explanation when people are confronted by challenges in their life and slap the name “tests” on them. Going through a divorce? It is a “test”. Children misbehaving? yup, another “test”. And you guessed it, it was specifically tailor made by the Big Guy for you.

Again, not once do these people stop to ask how exactly they know or can prove that this is a “test from God”.

This insidious practice is seeping into Baha’i culture and I hate it. For one, it is supersition and we are to guard against superstition. When religion doesn’t agree with simple reason, something is wrong.

Also, using these superstitious labels, like “God’s will” or “test” causes one to become separated from cause and effect. To not feel personally responsible for our actions, our lives and the results that we cause. I don’t believe that God wants us to live that way. Some things may very well be God’s will or tests, but there is no way for us to know.

What’s more, living our lives as if most or almost everything is a test or His will, can cause one to feel disempowered. I’d rather live my life believing that some things are under my power and some things under His. Since I will never truly know which is which, I will simply live my life by giving it all I’ve got. By living my life to the fullest, by trying my darndest, by never ceding an inch. And letting Him sort it all out in the end.

Where someone else might simply sigh and say, “Well, it is God’s will…” and sit back, I will redouble my efforts or reflect on what else I can do, what other options I have and how I can learn from this for the future. I attempt to be proactive, a protagonist in my own life, rather than a puppet whose strings are pulled by divine decree.

Where someone else might call a situation a “test from God”, and feel vindicated or absolved from responsability, I attempt to reflect on how I contributed to the outcome, how I may react or act differently in the future and what I may do now to improve things. It may be a test, or it may not. That sort of thing is irrelevant to the matter.

Finally, another reason I strongly dislike this practice is that it can be a useful tool in the hand of a bully. Let’s say that a situation arises and you disagree with things or how it came to be. If you contact the institutions and let them know, like a good Baha’i is supposed to, you may get the short and sweet response that “it is God’s will” and that agitating for change would mean that you are making the situation “a test” for yourself.

Farfetched? Impossible? Not at all. This has actually happened.

Review of Baha’is In My Backyard

There is an interesting new film making waves in the Baha’i blogosphere recently. It is called “Baha’is in My Backyard” and it was made by a team of Israelis.

For the most part it is harmless exposure for the Faith, or as some may call it just another step in our “emergence to absurdity”. Of course, that hasn’t stopped the Baha’i Public Information Office from hyperventilating:

“We would like to point out that this program does not provide an accurate, well-researched or sympathetic portrayal of the Faith. It would be preferable not to promote the program among Baha’is or members of the public. Individual Baha’is should not be disturbed by the program, but remain assured that even negative publicity can lead inquirers to investigate the Faith in order to discover its true nature. If individuals receive any questions about the program, they should answer these in a straightforward and truthful way.”

The whole point of the film is curiousity. As a Baha’i living halfway around the world it may be hard for you to imagine this but Israelis, especially those living in Haifa are incredibly curious about the Baha’i Faith. But not in the way you imagine. What they want to know is what the heck is hidden under Mt. Carmel?

As neighbours they were there for all the clang, clatter and clamour of the incessant digging that went on for more than 3 years. Who would put such an extensive complex under a mountain? Other than Dr. Evil, of course. What possibly could they be doing in there? And why do Baha’is come from all over the world from all nationalities, creeds and colours, to disappear under Mt. Carmel?

Oh sure, the gardens are nice. They make great wedding picture backdrops and Israelis make full use of them as such. But that’s on the surface. What they are dying to know is what exactly goes on under the surface of Mt. Carmel? And this being the Middle East, you must realize that there is never a short supply of conspiracy theories and convoluted conjecture.

Having been inside the “mountain complex”, all I can do is tell the film makers that were they to actually venture inside, they would be bored to tears. Lets see, there are a few cafeterias, countless offices, a couple of halls and functional areas like dark rooms, cold rooms for storage of archival material, etc.

Here is a clip from the movie where they try to get in to see the inside of the Baha’i World Center by becoming Baha’is. Alas, their genius scheme is thwarted by the fact that Israelis who want to become Baha’is are politely declined (if they are really keen and sincere, they must leave Israel to become a Baha’i):

Review – Live Free or Die Hard

It being summer and summer having the requisite American blockbuster movie… I was dragged to go see ‘Live Free or Die Hard’.

The movie doesn’t disappoint by living up to what you expect: cars are demolished, bullets fly, chase scences abound and the good guys always – somehow – win. If you turn your active brain off for about 2 hours it can even be fun.

With my last few synapses firing, I chuckled that while the movie was full of macho bravado, the movie played Credence Clearwater Revival’s “Fortunate Son” twice.

For those that aren’t familiar with the song or would like to hear it again, here it is with an introduction:

As the above video mentioned, the song was one of the most favourite anti-war songs in the 60’s. But I think most people enjoy it simply for its outstanding quality and not the message its lyrics contain. Fascinating how we come full circle after 30 years and find that the song has relevance today.

Here is Fogerty’s on the inspiration and process for the song:

It’s a confrontation between me and Richard Nixon … The haves, the people who have it all. Not a positive image of the people who live up the hill, with their big cars. People I don’t respect. During the Vietnam War, these were the people who didn’t have to go to war. I was thinking about David Eisenhower, the grandson of Dwight, who married Julie Nixon. I always confused her with Tricia [Nixon]. I guess it’s easy to pick on somebody named Tricia. It sounds so silver spoon.

Anyway, I was showing the band the song. I didn’t have much. I knew the chord changes and could feel the energy. I had a title, “Fortunate Son,” but no song. Yet I was showing the band the structure, my normal gig as the musical director of the band.

So, I went into the bedroom, sat on the edge of my bed with a yellow legal tablet and my felt-tipped pen. Out came the song. “It ain’t me, it ain’t me, I ain’t no fortunate son.” I was screaming inside, very intense, but not saying a word. Out it came, onto three sheets of legal paper.

It took about twenty minutes. It was like vrooom — it just came right out.

I played that song at an antiwar protest. As I was walking in the hallway after our set, someone came up to me and told me what an awesome version we had played. I remember telling them, “Richard Nixon is a great inspiration.”

Nixon was always saying ‘peace with honor’ and ‘my country, love it or leave it,’ but we knew better ’cause the guy was obviously evil.

Here are the lyrics:

Some folks are born made to wave the flag;
ooh, they’re red, white and blue.
And when the band plays “Hail to the Chief,”
ooh, they point the cannon at you.

It ain’t me, it ain’t me;
I ain’t no senator’s son.
It ain’t me, it ain’t me;
I ain’t no fortunate one.

Some folks are born silver spoon in hand,
Lord, don’t they help themselves?
But when the taxman comes to the door,
Lord, the house looks like a rummage sale.

It ain’t me, it ain’t me;
I ain’t no millionaire’s son.
It ain’t me, it ain’t me;
I ain’t no fortunate one.

Some folks inherit star-spangled eyes;
ooh, they’ll send you down to war.
And when you ask ’em, “How much should we give?”
ooh, they only answer, “More, more, more.”

It ain’t me, it ain’t me;
I ain’t no military son.
It ain’t me, it ain’t me;
I ain’t no fortunate one.

It ain’t me, it ain’t me;
I ain’t no fortunate one.
It ain’t me, it ain’t me;
I ain’t no fortunate son.

Why We Don’t Have Peace in the Middle East – Part II

In the previous post I showed a clip in which a children’s television show teaches hatred of Jews to Muslim children. Here is the result of this systematic brainwashing.

The above video shows a clip from Saudi Arabia TV in which a three and a half year old girl by the name of Basmallah (literally her name means, “in the name of God”) is interviewed about Jews. Count how many times she is held up as a model for other children and called a “true Muslim”.

Any discussion of the current state of the Middle East as well as its future must include this blatant and widespread campaign of hatred. Unless it is eradicated nothing will change. Ever.

For more videos of what passes for news, children’s programs and televised entertainment, check out MEMRI.