I was visiting Priscilla’s blog and noticed that she hadn’t updated in a while. Her last entry is an interesting one.
From the Ridvan 167 (2010) message, the Universal House of Justice writes:
…we feel compelled to raise a warning: It will be important for all to recognize that the value of engaging in social action and public discourse is not to be judged by the ability to bring enrolments. Though endeavours in these two areas of activity may well effect an increase in the size of the Baha’i community, they are not undertaken for this purpose. Sincerity in this respect is an imperative. Moreover, care should be exercised to avoid overstating the Baha’i experience or drawing undue attention to fledging efforts, such as the junior youth spiritual empowerment programme, which are best left to mature at their own pace. The watchword in all cases is humility. While conveying enthusiasm about their beliefs, the friends should guard against projecting an air of triumphalism, hardly appropriate among themselves, much less in other circumstances.
The bold is my own emphasis. Priscilla’s commentary on this is interesting and difficult to refute. She points out that if the community at large erred on the part of pride, triumphalism or ‘overstated’ the Baha’i experience, then they were only following the tone and words of the Universal House of Justice in their previous letters and messages.
Specifically she points out a triumphant mention of the spectacular growth of the Baha’i community in Guyana in the 1990′s as it reached 6% of the country’s population. Subsequently, it declined to 0.1% and it isn’t clear if the 6% was accurate to begin with or if it was, what exactly accounted for the sudden implosion (which – in contrast to the growth – was never brought up or explained by the UHJ).
The commentary is in audio form
but there is a technical issue which prevents the file from playing. Hopefully this will be resolved soon and you’ll be able to hear her views (technical issue is fixed now):
The above excerpt from the Ridvan message is written within the context of teaching efforts. But it is also true in a general sense as well.
Recently the US NSA had taken the Orthodox Baha’is to court. They lost the original case and then the appeal of that ruling. Last year they were then denied again when they filed for a re-hearing of the trial. The only avenue remaining was to petition the Supreme Court.
The 90 day filing period for such a petition ended last week without it being filed. So it seems that finally, the UHJ and the ITC (and by proxy, the US NSA) is letting this matter rest.
The initial case was without merit and pursuing it was foolish. But listening to Priscilla’s commentary made me think. Was the Universal House of Justice being ‘humble’ when it took a tiny splinter group to court for using the name Baha’i?
Or was it conceited and vain to get so tangled up within the Kingdom of Names? to busy oneself with this trivial earthly detritus and lose sight of the spiritual principles animating the Cause?
How much time and resources were devoted to this petty legal misadventure? how much ego was involved to pursue the matter over 3 years when it was clear as day that there was no basis for it? how much money was devoted to this? what worthy and noble projects were sacrificed in its place?
And why is this not communicated to the community at large? to what end are the legal setbacks and the final failure of the case held from the community? would such secrecy and opacity continue had the result been different and the NSA had won?
These are the questions I ponder.
As well, there is clearly a contradiction at work here. On the one hand, officially, the Baha’i Faith is presented as a united religion; as the only religion which, thanks to the Covenant, has been able to withstand the devastating schisms that afflict other religions. On the other hand, if we for a moment occupy an objective and neutral perch, this legal action is obviously taken by one ‘version’ of the Baha’i Faith against another.
To be fair, the Baha’i Faith has not shattered into thousands of splinter groups like other religions. There is one main group (usually referred to in academic circles as the Haifan Baha’i Faith) which contains the vast majority of the adherents. Other than this there are only a handful of other groups, each with extremely small adherents (40 or less). But to say, as many Baha’is do, that the Baha’i Faith is unique and united is a falsehood, as this court case and many other facts clearly demonstrate.