Documentary “I Am” Explores The Unity & Interconnectedness of All

The documentary “I Am” is the surprising work of Hollywood director Tom Shadyac, better known for slapstick comedies. “I Am” is about his own personal journey and transformation from the typical Hollywood elite with a 7,000 square foot mansion to a gnawing feeling that there is more to life.

Shadyac’s sense of humour still shines through as he doesn’t take himself too seriously even when he is asking essential life questions.

The film starts off by asking, What is wrong with the world and what can we do to fix it? What is humankind’s basic nature?

At times the film veers into new age pseudo-science like the Global Coherence Initiative or yogurt in a petri dish being affected by Shadyac’s emotional state. But the main thesis is the interconnectedness of all things and the consequences that has for everything.

As a Baha’is the documentary was both maddeningly frustrating to watch and uplifting. Frustrating because the unity and oneness of manking, and therefore, its interconnectedness is self-evident to us through our theology and to see it require exposition seems a tad pedantic.

Uplifting because through efforts like this, it is evident that while there are many things wrong with the world, an ever advancing civilization is slowly becoming cognizant of this truth. While it may seem imperceptible at times, such an enlightenment is gaining momentum and will inevitably envelop every single human.

Watch the full documentary “I Am”

Happy Naw Ruz: Baha’i Era 168

Source: Spring by morning_rumtea

The Divine Springtime is come, O Most Exalted Pen, for the Festival of the All-Merciful is fast approaching. Bestir thyself, and magnify, before the entire creation, the name of God, and celebrate His praise, in such wise that all created things may be regenerated and made new. Speak, and hold not thy peace. The day star of blissfulness shineth above the horizon of Our name, the Blissful, inasmuch as the kingdom of the name of God hath been adorned with the ornament of the name of thy Lord, the Creator of the heavens. Arise before the nations of the earth, and arm thyself with the power of this Most Great Name, and be not of those who tarry.

Baha’u’llah, Gleanings from the Writings of Baha’u’llah

Who Owns the Expanding Lakeshore at the Wilmette Temple ?

An interesting development on the Lake Michigan shoreline adjacent to the Baha’i Temple at Wilmette is presenting a challenge to the Wilmette Park District and the Baha’is of the United States.

Over the past 40 years what used to be merely a thin sandy beachfront has grown to become about two acres of land. That’s large enough to fit two football fields or more than 87,000 square feet.

The issue hinges on whether the new land was created as a result of natural processes or whether it was man-made. If it is deemed to be natural, then the Baha’is will continue to have ownership of it. If it is shown to be a result of artificial origin, then the it will default to the state of Illinois.

To view a larger aerial view of the area with the disputed lakefront area marked by a red rectangle, click the image below:

Wilmette Beachfront Dispute

What complicates the situation further is that the Army Corps of Engineers dredged up sand from the lake and deposited on the south beach in 1976 and 1978 with the express purpose of expanding the beach area. Another similar project was done in 1980.

The size and location of the new real estate makes it very valuable. Especially as a de facto expansion of the Sheridan Shores Yacht Club. There has been no official move by the Wilmette Park District to claim ownership. That would most probably begin a lengthy legal dispute.

Wilmette Lake Michigan

For more information, see this recent Chicago Tribune article.

BBC Radio Hosts Frank Discussion on the Baha’i Faith

Recently BBC Radio 4’s “Beyond Belief” program hosted by award winning host and producer, Ernie Rea held a surprisingly frank discussion on the Baha’i Faith.

ernie rea

Ernie Rea

This type of program is rather rare but hopefully not for much longer. Usually media mentions of the Baha’i Faith tend to be public relations type story plants which announce an important milestone or event like the recent completion of the multi-year renovation of the Shrine of the Bab.

Most general media audiences are not familiar with the Baha’i Faith making it a low priority for most journalists. Even more esoteric are the relatively new challenges and frictions within the worldwide Baha’i community.

This program features Denis MacEoin, a Babi, Baha’i and Muslim scholar who left the Faith in the 1980’s as a result of the infamous clashes that occurred between academics and various persons within the Baha’i institutions at the time. Although he was half a world away, MacEoin participated in the LA Baha’i Study Class of the mid to late 1970’s. Ernie Rae’s panel also includes Moojan Momen and Lil Osborn, both Baha’is. As well as Fidelma Meehan, a member of the National Spiritual Assembly of the Baha’is of the United Kingdom who recounts how she learned of the Faith in university. The complete audio of the program and transcript is below. I welcome your thoughts and comments.

It make more sense to listen or read the program before reading my reactions. Several important points jumped at me as I listened. First, I’m surprised that someone as knowledgeable as MacEoin would claim that the Bab wasn’t really concerned about the next Manifestation of God. I’m also surprised that MacEoin says that the Bab was the first to lay claim to being the “Mahdi” or Qaim, the 12th Imam or the Hidden Imam. There were in fact 8 previous claimants going back as far as the 8th century and 6 other claimants after the Bab – Mirza Ghulam Ahmad, the founder of the Ahmadiyyiha movement being the most famous and successful among this group. Even today there are people making the claiming.

It is also surprising that neither Momen nor MacEoin take this opportunity to raise the issue of Momen’s irredeemable paper “Marginality and Apostasy in the Baha’i Community” which resulted in an unprecedented editorial response from the publication declaring:

This incident clearly points to the absence of a code of research ethics in our ?eld. The fact that so many individuals felt a need to protest against what they perceive as misrepresentation illustrates the need to take potential dangers to the in-tegrity of persons more actively in to account in the review process and editorial decisions. Possibly, we need to change our procedure in cases where people are targeted in ways that go beyond the usual forms of scholarly discussion (such as in reviews). The editors of Religion have begun discussing the possibility of dedicating a special issue on research ethics in the study of religion(s).

Religion subsequently published several responses, including one from Denis MacEoin, (as well as Momen’s own rebuttal): Challenging apostasy: Responses to Moojan Momen’s ‘Marginality and Apostasy in the Baha’i Community’

It is unfortunate that the discussion about the “paradox” of the exclusion of women from the House of Justice does not touch on the points raised in such papers as The Service of Women on the Institutions of the Baha’i Faith. Of course I don’t expect Momen, Osborn or Meehan to bring it up but MacEoin doesn’t either.

Momen’s defense of the Baha’i institutions is equally puzzling when he claims: “All of the institutions of the Faith are elected…”. Only one pillar out of two is elected, the other is appointed. Furthermore, in recent years we have seen a phenomena where the appointed bodies have come to have more prominence and clout. And the members of the Universal House of Justice sourced from the very same group of individuals the House of Justice itself appoints! This circular administrative order at the top of the Baha’i leadership is most definitely not “democratic”. Point to MacEoin – if anyone is keeping score.

The claim that the Baha’i Faith envisions the world governed by one world government does not mean that that government would be either Baha’i in nature or a theocracy. For more, see Baha’i Views on Church and State. The treatment of Baha’i publication review is equally superficial with no acknowledgement that the Faith is now engaged with a dynamic global audience that is able to ascertain fact from fiction and to differentiate between a person’s opinion or actions and the official policies of their respective religious authority. Do you think any of the 99% of the Catholics who use contraception need to be coddled about how one individual Bahai’s opinion about a matter may not necessarily match with that of the Universal House of Justice?

Another golden opportunity would have been the paper written by another member of the NSA of the UK, Barney Leith arguing that it is now time to do away with publication review (written in 1995!): Baha’i Review: Should the ‘red flag’ law be repealed?

Of course many other fascinating points of discussion were also ignored. For example, the view of the Baha’i Faith on homosexuality.



Ernie: Hello, members of the Baha’i Faith hold to three cardinal beliefs: the unity of God, the unity of religion and the unity of humankind. Human beings are here to learn to love God and to be of service to others; universal principles. But Baha’is have suffered dreadful persecutions for their beliefs in places like Iran, Egypt and Afghanistan. So who are the Baha’is? what do they believe? and why do they attract such opposition in some Islamic countries? and what challenges does modernity pose to their own principles of equality and tolerance?

Joining me to discuss the Baha’i Faith are Lil Osborn, herself a Baha’i and whose book on the Baha’is in Britain will soon be published. Moojan Momen a Baha’i researcher and writer and Denis MacEoin a senior editor of the Middle East Quarterly who used to be a Baha’i but has left the Faith.
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Baha’i Fast: Sunrise, Sunset Hours at High Altitude

northern lights

Baha’is who are at high elevations might have a tough time fasting from sunrise to sunset. Of course, this is because when you are far, far away from the equator, the usual day night cycle is skewed.

To clarify this issue, the Universal House of Justice has explained that in such cases, Baha’is are free to depend on the clock to set the time of prayer and fasting.

For more see this letter from the NSA of Canada which contains the quote from the House of Justice:

9 March 2012 / 8 Loftiness 168

Dear Baha’i Friends,

As you may be aware, in high latitudes where there is great variation in sunrise and sunset times during the course of the year, the times of prayer and fasting can be determined by the clock. The National Spiritual Assembly’s policy is that the hours for sunrise and sunset in communities north of 60 degrees latitude will, year-round, be 0630h and 1800h respectively.

The National Assembly received an inquiry from an individual believer regarding whether it is mandatory for the friends living north of 60 degrees latitude to follow the clock during the Fast or whether they may choose to follow the sun. The National Assembly sought the guidance of the Universal House of Justice and we are happy to share the following reply:

“As you are aware, Baha’u’llah states that it is permissible in high latitudes to observe the laws of prayer and fasting in accordance with the clock rather than with the rising and setting of the sun. The House of Justice has left it to National Spiritual Assemblies to make the decision as to which areas of their countries and for which months of the year the beginning and ending of the Baha’i day are to be reckoned by the clock rather than by the sun and to fix the times to be observed for fasting, bearing in mind that the daily period of fasting lasts about twelve hours. By this ruling it is possible for the believers in the high latitudes to use the same standard for both prayer and fasting as well as for fixing the ending of each day in the Baha’i calendar, in determining the time for the starting of each Holy Day, and the holding of the Nineteen Day Feasts.

“The friends will, naturally, abide by the decision of the National Assembly. However, there can be no objection if a person chooses to fast for a longer period according to the hours of actual daylight. The decision of the National Assembly determines when the friends may apply the special provision for high latitudes; it does not compel them to do so.”
(From a letter written on behalf of the Universal House of Justice to the National Spiritual Assembly of Canada dated 5 September 2011)

We send you the National Assembly’s best wishes during these special days of fasting.

With loving Baha’i greetings,