In his seminal work, “God Passes By” Shoghi Effendi summarized the Baha’i Faith into approximately a dozen principles which are “the essential elements of that Divine polity”. Among these is “the adoption of a universal auxiliary language”.
This idea was proposed by Baha’u’llah as a practical method to increase unity in a linguistically fragmented world. In the Tablet of Ishraqat (Splendours) Baha’u’llah writes:
The sixth Ishr??q is union and concord amongst the children of men. From the beginning of time the light of unity hath shed its divine radiance upon the world, and the greatest means for the promotion of that unity is for the peoples of the world to understand one another’s writing and speech. In former Epistles We have enjoined upon the Trustees of the House of Justice either to choose one language from among those now existing or to adopt a new one, and in like manner to select a common script, both of which should be taught in all the schools of the world. Thus will the earth be regarded as one country and one home. The most glorious fruit of the tree of knowledge is this exalted word: Of one tree are all ye the fruit, and of one bough the leaves. Let not man glory in this that he loveth his country, let him rather glory in this that he loveth his kind. Concerning this We have previously revealed that which is the means of the reconstruction of the world and the unity of nations. Blessed are they that attain thereunto. Blessed are they that act accordingly.
This is another in a series of articles exploring homosexuality within the Baha’i Faith. The first was delving into the historical and semantic context of the infamous excerpt in the Aqdas where Baha’u’llah refers reluctantly to the “subject of boys”.
Unfortunately the exact practice that Baha’u’llah was referring to cryptically is still being practiced today in Afghanistan. You can watch the PBS domentary following the above link as well as find a brief update on the situation from this recent Washington Post article.
Image credit: Barat Ali Batoor
Societal context is important because what we might consider salacious or inappropriate today, may very well have been the norm in another society. This is not an issue of ‘morality’ because that concept is very malleable throughout history. Not too long ago, slavery was not only considered normal, it was sanctioned by the prevalent religion. In Islam we have an institutionalized form of prostitution (nikah al-mut’ah) and it is a little known fact that polygamy is possible within the Baha’i Faith.
Wakashudo and Lycurgus
I provided a brief exposition of the Sambia tribe in Papau New Guinea. But there are many other examples to draw upon to illustrate the same point. In Japan, samurai and their apprentice would enter into a “brotherhood contract” which involved homosexual physical intimacy although not exclusively so (both were able to also have relations with women). The special relationship involved much more than physical intimacy. The samurai as mentor trained his apprentice in bushido, social etiquette and they were both honor bound to each other for life.
In a recent discussion we looked at the question of growth in Baha’i communities. While it may be relatively easy to calculate the size and growth rate of an individual Baha’i community from the regular annual reports which show new enrollments, resignations, and deaths, coming up with an accurate aggregate national number is not so easy.
I know of no National Spiritual Assembly which shares this information in their annual reports. An alternative source is the government census data, as Steve pointed out in the comments section of that previous article.
In the US unfortunately we do not have access to census data because Public Law 94-521 prevents the US Census Bureau from collecting such information. So we must rely on third party or academic sources.
One such source is the Religious Congregations & Membership Study. The 2010 results of this study are shown below:
From it we can learn a few interesting facts: Most Baha’i communities are located in large cities or metropolitan areas. There is an almost complete penetration of US geographically with very few counties without a Baha’i presence. The West and East coast has high concentrations of Baha’is with central US states having less concentration. And for the most part there has been no major decadal change in Baha’i US population, with new declarants balancing losses.
South Carolina along with Arizona and New Mexico seem to be ‘hotspots’. Another source confirms South Carolina as the state with the highest per capita Baha’i population: