Let me talk about a covenant.
No, I promise to make it interesting, and this isn’t Covenant with a capital C. It’s a covenant between the leaders and the rest of us. It’s an often-unspoken understanding that leadership involves doing a lot of listening, consulting and making changes as well as just plain making smart decisions.
The Baha’i Faith requires a lot of its followers. For example, there’s a requirement to wholeheartedly support a decision even when people don’t agree with it. So that’s one half of the covenant—an agreement by those who are led, not only to be obedient, but also to be supportive—even when they don’t buy the idea.
The other half of the covenant is that leaders must act like servants—”trustees of the Merciful One”, as Baha’u’llah puts it. He’s turned top-down into bottom-up: Leaders are charged with the responsibility of being responsive to the needs of the community and putting them first.
Radical, huh? Baha’u’llah seems to be saying, and I may be reading too much in here, LSA members should be less concerned about what the NSA thinks of a decision than what the community thinks of it.
In theory, the Bahai Faith has a very devolved decision-making process. In theory, ideas expressed
- at the feast, or
- to a local assembly, or
- to delegates to national convention,
filter up through the system—some reaching as far as the House.
In theory, an individual will have opportunities to appeal any decision, because it will come from their local assembly, or occasionally their national assembly—and thus can be appealed at least once, but usually twice.
Unfortunately, the Baha’i Faith has become very top-down and one-size-fits-all:
- Feast has become a vehicle for the NSA to promote its latest programme,
- Bahais are removed from membership by the House with no recourse to appeal, and
- any ideas that don’t fit the current narrow Ruhi framework don’t get anywhere.
Result: Individuals feel manipulated and disempowered. I think it’s because the covenant (the little one) has been somewhat forgotten.