A recent letter from the Universal House of Justice (via the Secretariat) responding to a question from an individual Baha’i addresses the question of racial prejudice and the priority that the Baha’i community should place upon its elimination in the US.
We don’t have the actual question but from the reply we can infer that it juxtaposed the prominence that Shoghi Effendi placed upon it with the more recent exhortations from the UHJ and ITC on the “framework for growth”:
You indicate that some friends wonder whether the Guardianâ€™s statement characterizing racial prejudice as â€?the most vital and challenging issue confronting the Bah??â€™? community at the present stage of its evolutionâ€? still applies to the racial situation in the United States, since it was written so long ago. The House of Justice has determined that it is not productive to approach the issue in this manner, as it gives rise to an implicit and false dichotomy that, either what the Guardian said is no longer important, or it is so important that it must be addressed before or apart from all other concerns
Ultimately the House sides with themselves on the issue, writing that the framework for growth takes precedence:
Only if the efforts to eradicate the bane of prejudice are coherent with the full range of the communityâ€™s affairs, only if they arise naturally within the systematic pattern of expansion, community building, and involvement with society, will the American believers expand their capacity, year after year and decade after decade, to make their mark on their community and society and contribute to the high aim set for the Bah??â€™?s by â€?Abduâ€™l-Bah?? to eliminate racial prejudice from the face of the earth.
I’m a bit puzzled by their claim that:
Even if such a community were to focus the entirety of its resources on the problem of racial prejudice, even if it were able to heal itself to some extent of that cancerous affliction, in the face of such a monumental social challenge the impact would be inconsequential.
Because one of the most famous quotes from Shoghi Effendi on teaching is this:
Not by the force of numbers, not by the mere exposition of a set of new and noble principles, not by an organized campaign of teaching – no matter how world-wide and elaborate in its character – not even by the staunchness of our faith or the exaltation of our enthusiasm, can we ultimately hope to vindicate in the eyes of a critical and skeptical age the supreme claim of the Abha Revelation. One thing, and only one thing, will unfailingly and alone secure the undoubted triumph of this sacred Cause, namely, the extent to which our own inner life and private character mirror forth in their manifold aspects the splendor of those eternal principles proclaimed by Bah??’u’ll??h.
The Bah??’? Magazine – Star of the West, September 1925, Vol. 16 No. 6, page 538
Doesn’t that explicitly contradict the UHJ? Especially since Shoghi Effendi excludes “an organized campaign of teaching – no matter how world-wide and elaborate in its character” and posits that the extent to which we live the Baha’i principles in our lives is the key? wouldn’t a community that “mirrors forth” the principle of the unity of mankind, with no racial prejudice, ultimately “secure the undoubted triumph” of the Cause?
As always, I’d like to hear your thoughts. For your consideration, here’s the full letter: