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.