National Spiritual Assembly (United States) Letter – April 8, 2007

I did a double take when I read this excerpt from a letter dated April 8th 2007 sent by the National Spiritual Assembly of the Baha’is of the United States:

Our assessment of the Bah??’? community’s spiritual vitality and prospects for growth inspires our confidence that ?the elements required for a concerted effort to infuse [our country] with the spirit of Bah??’u’ll??h’s Revelation? are robust and capable. Public awareness and receptivity to the Bah??’? Faith are high, tens of thousands of Bah??’?s are trained in the core activities, well over 1,100 children’s classes are held regularly, 41 programs of intensive growth are in operation, and Local Spiritual Assemblies and cluster agencies evince increasing vigor in their pursuit of the Plan’s goals. Nevertheless, as we reported last year, growth remains low. The past 10 years have witnessed a 50 percent decline in enrollments.

I know, I know, as usual many will think that I’m making this up. Save your darts for the pub and see the letter for yourself.

I believe it was George Santayana who said:

A fanatic is one who, having lost sight of his aim, redoubles his efforts

Being less eloquent than Santayana, I scratch my head and say, wtf?

When will the group think end? when will they pull their head out of the sand and realize that what they’ve been doing simply is… not… working.

When?

When we have an 80% drop in enrollments? when we actually start seeing a drop, not in enrollments, but in the actual Baha’i community membership?

I’d really like to know what it would take wake these people up!

They seem to be so sound asleep that a gong banged centimeters away from their ears wouldn’t in the least disturb their slumber.

nsa-robert-c-henderson-hard-at-work.png
Do not disturb. NSA member at work
  • Priscilla Gilman

    You wrote:

    “When we have an 80% drop in enrollments? when we actually start seeing a drop, not in enrollments, but in the actual Baha’i community membership?”

    Do you know what the withdrawal rate is? I have always wondered and wished it would be published in the AB with enrollments. Myabe it is now and I’m just out of date. Depending on the withdrawal rate the membership could be shrinking.

    Of course, if the new people are staying at a higher rate and being more active then a smaller number of enrollments could mean more for the community. But then, if this was happening they probably would have said so.

  • Priscilla Gilman

    You wrote:

    “When we have an 80% drop in enrollments? when we actually start seeing a drop, not in enrollments, but in the actual Baha’i community membership?”

    Do you know what the withdrawal rate is? I have always wondered and wished it would be published in the AB with enrollments. Myabe it is now and I’m just out of date. Depending on the withdrawal rate the membership could be shrinking.

    Of course, if the new people are staying at a higher rate and being more active then a smaller number of enrollments could mean more for the community. But then, if this was happening they probably would have said so.

  • Brendan Cook

    Baquia and Priscilla,

    These numbers are especially distressing when we consider that the population of the United States as whole is growing. There may very well be a situation in the United States much like there is in New Zealand, where relative to the population as a whole the number of those enrolled in the Faith actually shrinks.

    What will happen if this trend continues? I would like to think that it will serve as a wake-up call. But what I fear will happen is far different. I fear that people will begin to blame people like Baquia and myself. If we were more positive, it will be said, the community wouldn’t be where it is. And so those who merely indicate that there is a problem may be fingered as the problem itself. It’s not that Ruhi has serious flaws, it’s the people criticizing Ruhi that are the problem. It’s not that decisions like the Kalimat Boycott and the disenrollment of Sen McGlinn endanger the integrity of the Faith, it’s that people like Baquia and myself need to be quiet about it. This is how I fear people will think.

    And what will happen in the meantime? I hope this isn’t true, but my guess would be more of the same. Enrollments decline, old members drift away, and more good news about how well the Core Activities are going and how many people have completed the Full Sequence of Courses. And the current policy towards dissent will continue too. They’ll continue to boot people like Sen McGlinn and deny enrollment to people like me, but what will that do? You don’t solve a problem by treating the symptoms. Breaking every clock in your house won’t stop the passage of time, and removing every dissenter won’t change the issues we represent.

    We’ll see what story the coming decades tell.

    Brendan

  • Brendan Cook

    Baquia and Priscilla,

    These numbers are especially distressing when we consider that the population of the United States as whole is growing. There may very well be a situation in the United States much like there is in New Zealand, where relative to the population as a whole the number of those enrolled in the Faith actually shrinks.

    What will happen if this trend continues? I would like to think that it will serve as a wake-up call. But what I fear will happen is far different. I fear that people will begin to blame people like Baquia and myself. If we were more positive, it will be said, the community wouldn’t be where it is. And so those who merely indicate that there is a problem may be fingered as the problem itself. It’s not that Ruhi has serious flaws, it’s the people criticizing Ruhi that are the problem. It’s not that decisions like the Kalimat Boycott and the disenrollment of Sen McGlinn endanger the integrity of the Faith, it’s that people like Baquia and myself need to be quiet about it. This is how I fear people will think.

    And what will happen in the meantime? I hope this isn’t true, but my guess would be more of the same. Enrollments decline, old members drift away, and more good news about how well the Core Activities are going and how many people have completed the Full Sequence of Courses. And the current policy towards dissent will continue too. They’ll continue to boot people like Sen McGlinn and deny enrollment to people like me, but what will that do? You don’t solve a problem by treating the symptoms. Breaking every clock in your house won’t stop the passage of time, and removing every dissenter won’t change the issues we represent.

    We’ll see what story the coming decades tell.

    Brendan

  • http://www.whitehanky.blogspot.com White Hanky

    O my! Baquia, your photo is so (old term here) RIGHT ON!
    It brings to mind one of the anecdotal stories about a European NSA having an ‘emergency’ meeting over the lack of respondents to their latest Teaching Plan. Their receptionist came bustling in, apologizing for the interruption to tell them that ‘there was a young man who had literally come in off the street and was wanting to know about the Faith.’ She was told to ‘tell him to come back later, as they were very busy trying to figure out how to attract more people to the Faith.’
    WH

  • http://www.whitehanky.blogspot.com White Hanky

    O my! Baquia, your photo is so (old term here) RIGHT ON!
    It brings to mind one of the anecdotal stories about a European NSA having an ‘emergency’ meeting over the lack of respondents to their latest Teaching Plan. Their receptionist came bustling in, apologizing for the interruption to tell them that ‘there was a young man who had literally come in off the street and was wanting to know about the Faith.’ She was told to ‘tell him to come back later, as they were very busy trying to figure out how to attract more people to the Faith.’
    WH

  • http://bahaisonline.net Steve Marshall

    Baquia wrote:

    When will the group think end? when will they pull their head out of the sand and realize that what they’ve been doing simply is… not… working.

    Oh Baquia, there you go again, using crude measures like results rather than focusing on the quality of the plan. Other bloggers don’t make the same mistake:

    We can now witness the amazing flexibility of the global Baha’i community, as it has accepted, within a short time period, the Institute Process as its primary activity. Not only have its institutions fully embraced, but its individual adherents and their communities are now focusing their energies on this plan. Intelligence is distributed across the globe as each community makes its ownexperiences, of which the learning is shared with the world-wide community. A simple example of this is the development of the Ruhi Institute in Columbia that has now been accepted by every local community across the globe.

    Brendan wrote:

    There may very well be a situation in the United States much like there is in New Zealand, where relative to the population as a whole the number of those enrolled in the Faith actually shrinks.

    Hi Brendan. I expect you’re right, but the only useful data I have is from the census, and that data is for self-declared religious affiliation, rather than for enrollments. The self-declared Baha’is in NZ are not only declining as a proportion of the population, they have been declining in absolute numbers as well:

    Year – Number
    1991 – 2,865
    1996 – 3,111
    2001 – 2,988
    2006 – 2,772

    I get the NZ Baha’i newsletter. Every month there are from 1 to 8 new enrollments, and births seem to keep pace with deaths. What isn’t mentioned is the numbers of adults and youth in the ‘gone-no-address’ or ‘inactive’ files, who presumably are still counted as enrolled, but who have drifted away from the community. Many of them may still self-identify as Baha’is, but that’s where the drop in number is coming from, I think.

    White Hanky wrote:

    She was told to ?tell him to come back later, as they were very busy trying to figure out how to attract more people to the Faith.’

    In the early 80s I was on a national committee that co-ordinated children’s camps. We asked a community to host a camp and it said it couldn’t because it wanted to carry out a big teaching event for the same period. It hadn’t decided what that event was, and was waiting for inspiration. We thanked the community and looked elsewhere for help at that point. If the community couldn’t figure out that children’s camp might be its “big teaching event”, then there was no point in pushing the issue. :-)

  • http://bahaisonline.net Steve Marshall

    Baquia wrote:

    When will the group think end? when will they pull their head out of the sand and realize that what they’ve been doing simply is… not… working.

    Oh Baquia, there you go again, using crude measures like results rather than focusing on the quality of the plan. Other bloggers don’t make the same mistake:

    We can now witness the amazing flexibility of the global Baha’i community, as it has accepted, within a short time period, the Institute Process as its primary activity. Not only have its institutions fully embraced, but its individual adherents and their communities are now focusing their energies on this plan. Intelligence is distributed across the globe as each community makes its ownexperiences, of which the learning is shared with the world-wide community. A simple example of this is the development of the Ruhi Institute in Columbia that has now been accepted by every local community across the globe.

    Brendan wrote:

    There may very well be a situation in the United States much like there is in New Zealand, where relative to the population as a whole the number of those enrolled in the Faith actually shrinks.

    Hi Brendan. I expect you’re right, but the only useful data I have is from the census, and that data is for self-declared religious affiliation, rather than for enrollments. The self-declared Baha’is in NZ are not only declining as a proportion of the population, they have been declining in absolute numbers as well:

    Year – Number
    1991 – 2,865
    1996 – 3,111
    2001 – 2,988
    2006 – 2,772

    I get the NZ Baha’i newsletter. Every month there are from 1 to 8 new enrollments, and births seem to keep pace with deaths. What isn’t mentioned is the numbers of adults and youth in the ‘gone-no-address’ or ‘inactive’ files, who presumably are still counted as enrolled, but who have drifted away from the community. Many of them may still self-identify as Baha’is, but that’s where the drop in number is coming from, I think.

    White Hanky wrote:

    She was told to ?tell him to come back later, as they were very busy trying to figure out how to attract more people to the Faith.’

    In the early 80s I was on a national committee that co-ordinated children’s camps. We asked a community to host a camp and it said it couldn’t because it wanted to carry out a big teaching event for the same period. It hadn’t decided what that event was, and was waiting for inspiration. We thanked the community and looked elsewhere for help at that point. If the community couldn’t figure out that children’s camp might be its “big teaching event”, then there was no point in pushing the issue. :-)

  • Craig Parke

    What has happened in the Baha’i Faith is truly fascinating. I think in the future there will be many books written about it. The psychological needs of a very tiny professional lifetime incumbent cadre class very firmly entrenched at the top who have subconsciously gamed the electoral processes of the Faith has single handedly killed all individual initiative at the grass roots level everywhere in the world.

    The only sanctioned way to teach the Faith now is exclusively through a system of very poorly written idolatrous comic books originally devised to teach the Faith in a socially impoverished failed narco state full of human beings dumber than a bag of depleted uranium hammers. That something like this could ever happen is really quite astonishing.

    It is as radical as the Neocon hijacking of the government of the United States by gaming the electoral process there also.

    The only thing that could save the Faith now is legislating strictly enforced term limits at evey level starting with the UHJ’s and NSA’s. That happening would require extraordinary courage and leadership at the top to even recognize the gravity of the situation. There is very little courage and certainly no leadershoip whatsoever in the Baha’i Faith now. There is only completely lockstep groupthink in a kind of spiritual communism where every believer is asked to check their individual spirituality, individual insight, and certainly their individual intuition in life at the door. So no kind of change is going to happen. Not even if everything is completely and totally run into the ground. No one will say the Emperor has no clothes and it will just go on an on to constant financial crisis and then eventual stunning and profound collapse.

    This state of affairs is why over seven people I have known totaling over 210 years of service have left the Faith in the last few years. Completely dedicated long time Baha’is who served on LSA’s, DTC’s, were dedicated pioneers, and on NSA’s in various countries around the world at one time or another who are now gone in total disgust. Enough is enough. The psychological and emotional abuse of the rank and file in the Baha’i Faith has reached the breaking point. The Faith belongs to the individual believers NOT to the think tank people at the top. It is not that Judgment Day is coming. Judgment Day IS here.

    There is a good line in the fine film “BOYS ‘N THE HOOD”.

    “NEVER GIVE YOUR RESPECT TO PEOPLE WHO DO NOT RESPECT YOU.”

    Alot of people are now coming to that principle of life.

    The people currently at the top of the Baha’i Faith will never figure anything out nor will they ever have the will to act. So the free fall of the Baha’i Faith will continue without any effort whatsoever to come to grips with anything.

    So it goes.

  • Craig Parke

    What has happened in the Baha’i Faith is truly fascinating. I think in the future there will be many books written about it. The psychological needs of a very tiny professional lifetime incumbent cadre class very firmly entrenched at the top who have subconsciously gamed the electoral processes of the Faith has single handedly killed all individual initiative at the grass roots level everywhere in the world.

    The only sanctioned way to teach the Faith now is exclusively through a system of very poorly written idolatrous comic books originally devised to teach the Faith in a socially impoverished failed narco state full of human beings dumber than a bag of depleted uranium hammers. That something like this could ever happen is really quite astonishing.

    It is as radical as the Neocon hijacking of the government of the United States by gaming the electoral process there also.

    The only thing that could save the Faith now is legislating strictly enforced term limits at evey level starting with the UHJ’s and NSA’s. That happening would require extraordinary courage and leadership at the top to even recognize the gravity of the situation. There is very little courage and certainly no leadershoip whatsoever in the Baha’i Faith now. There is only completely lockstep groupthink in a kind of spiritual communism where every believer is asked to check their individual spirituality, individual insight, and certainly their individual intuition in life at the door. So no kind of change is going to happen. Not even if everything is completely and totally run into the ground. No one will say the Emperor has no clothes and it will just go on an on to constant financial crisis and then eventual stunning and profound collapse.

    This state of affairs is why over seven people I have known totaling over 210 years of service have left the Faith in the last few years. Completely dedicated long time Baha’is who served on LSA’s, DTC’s, were dedicated pioneers, and on NSA’s in various countries around the world at one time or another who are now gone in total disgust. Enough is enough. The psychological and emotional abuse of the rank and file in the Baha’i Faith has reached the breaking point. The Faith belongs to the individual believers NOT to the think tank people at the top. It is not that Judgment Day is coming. Judgment Day IS here.

    There is a good line in the fine film “BOYS ‘N THE HOOD”.

    “NEVER GIVE YOUR RESPECT TO PEOPLE WHO DO NOT RESPECT YOU.”

    Alot of people are now coming to that principle of life.

    The people currently at the top of the Baha’i Faith will never figure anything out nor will they ever have the will to act. So the free fall of the Baha’i Faith will continue without any effort whatsoever to come to grips with anything.

    So it goes.

  • Bill

    Will the Baha’i community grow faster if it embraces the stones you throw and your derision?

  • Bill

    Will the Baha’i community grow faster if it embraces the stones you throw and your derision?

  • http://www.bahairants.com Baquia

    Bill, I throw no stones at the Baha’i community. How preposterous! I love my Faith and our community.

    If I may be seen to be ‘throwing stones’ it is at idiocy, corruption, group-think and injustice. If I may seem to be ‘deriding’ anything it is those things which are worthy of contempt and derision by every Baha’i.

  • http://www.bahairants.com Baquia

    Bill, I throw no stones at the Baha’i community. How preposterous! I love my Faith and our community.

    If I may be seen to be ‘throwing stones’ it is at idiocy, corruption, group-think and injustice. If I may seem to be ‘deriding’ anything it is those things which are worthy of contempt and derision by every Baha’i.

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  • RonPrice

    I posted an introduction to the paradigmatic shift in the Baha'i community, the new culture of learning and growth that is at the heart of this paradigm, some 24 months ago. I did this posting at several internet sites and have updated/revised that post in these last two years. It seemed like a good idea to give readers some specific steps on how to access this now revised article, what is now a book of 100,000 words and 210 pages, at Baha’i Library Online(BLO). The Association for Bah??’? Studies New Zealand in 2007 launched its open access, internationally oriented, peer reviewed electronic periodical OJBS: Online Journal of Bah??’? Studies, but in January 2009 that initiative was discontinued. One of its first issues would have been devoted to an exploration of this new paradigm.

    In this two year period(10/07-10/09) there have been many thousand views of this analysis, this statement on the new paradigm at the few sites where it has been posted. In addition to googling “Baha'i Culture of Learning and Growth” and accessing this article in the process at several internet sites, readers can find this article at BLO by clicking on the following:
    http://www.new.facebook.com/profile.php … 134&ref=mf.

    Readers can also access the latest edition of this article at BLO by taking the following steps: (i) type Baha’i Library Online or Baha’i Academics Resource Library into your search engine; (ii) click on the small box ?By author? at the top of the access page at BLO; (iii) type ?Price? into the small box that then appears and click on the word ?Go;? and then (iv) scroll down to article/document item #46 and (v) click on that item and read to your heart’s content. When your eyes and your mind start to glaze over, stop reading. The article can be downloaded free and you will then have access to a revised article, a 210 page, 100,000 word context for all this new paradigmatic terminology that has come into the Baha’i community in the last 14 years.

    The statement is a personal one, does not assume an adversarial attitude, attempts to give birth of as fine an etiquette of expression as I can muster and, I like to think, possesses both candour and critical thought on the one hand and praise and delight at the process on the other. I invite readers to what I also like to think is ?a context on which relevant fundamental questions? regarding this new paradigm may be discussed within the Baha’i community. It is also my intention to update this article in the months and years ahead. One of the advantages of the BLO site is the freedom it gives to a writer to update the article right on the site in an ongoing process as new insights from major thinkers in the Baha'i community and information from the elected and appointed institutions of the Cause comes to hand.

    If time and the inclination permit, check it out. No worries, no obligation, just if it interests you. You may find the piece of writing too long as I'm sure many readers do. You may also find it too personal due to the fact that I attempt to answer the question: ?where do I fit into this new paradigm?? I do not raise the question: “what is wrong with this paradigm?” But I do give voice to the thrust of many of the criticisms that have been raised in the first 14 years(1996-2009) of its operation. After a few paragraphs of reading, you will get the flavour of the exercise. Just keep reading if your mind and spirit are enjoying the process.

  • RonPrice

    Don't click on http://www.new.facebook.com/profile.php … 134&ref=mf…as I advised above. I just tried it and it will not give you the result I had anticipated it would. And so readers can access the latest edition of this article at BLO by taking the steps as I advised above, namely: (i) type Baha’i Library Online or Baha’i Academics Resource Library into your search engine; (ii) click on the small box ?By author? at the top of the access page at BLO; (iii) type ?Price? into the small box that then appears and click on the word ?Go;? and then (iv) scroll down to article/document item #46 and (v) click on that item and read to your heart’s content. When your eyes and your mind start to glaze over, stop reading. The article can be downloaded free and you will then have access to a revised article, a 210 page, 100,000 word context for all this new paradigmatic terminology that has come into the Baha’i community in the last 14 years.

  • fubar

    Consciousness unfolds at high and higher levels through the ages, to meet the “coherence needs” of a culture at a given time. Old and new spring from the same “ever-present origin” (Gebser: Ursprung und Gegenwart).

    http://www.integrativespirituality.org/postnuke

    One becomes enlightened on the deepest levels by letting go of the Somethingness then going though the Nothingness to the Allness.
    – Rochelle Strider

    If bahai does not meet the coherence needs of the time, it will do into the dustbin of history.

    Do not shoot the messenger.

  • fubar

    I found Ron's essay here:

    http://bahai-library.org/file.php?file=price_cu

    I hope that works for everyone else.

    Ron's comments about group think are good, and his observations about bipolar disorder are interesting.

  • RonPrice

    Try this simple link—with thanks to fubar:

    http://bahai-library.org/file.php?file=price_cu

  • fubar

    Consciousness unfolds at high and higher levels through the ages, to meet the “coherence needs” of a culture at a given time. Old and new spring from the same “ever-present origin” (Gebser: Ursprung und Gegenwart).

    http://www.integrativespirituality.org/postnuke

    One becomes enlightened on the deepest levels by letting go of the Somethingness then going though the Nothingness to the Allness.
    – Rochelle Strider

    If bahai does not meet the coherence needs of the time, it will do into the dustbin of history.

    Do not shoot the messenger.

  • fubar

    I found Ron's essay here:

    http://bahai-library.org/file.php?file=price_cu

    I hope that works for everyone else.

    Ron's comments about group think are good, and his observations about bipolar disorder are interesting.

  • RonPrice

    Try this simple link—with thanks to fubar:

    http://bahai-library.org/file.php?file=price_cu