Virtues

Help us create a Charter for Compassion

People of all nations, all faiths, all backgrounds, are invited to contribute.

By recognizing that the Golden Rule is fundamental to all world religions, the Charter for Compassion can inspire people to think differently about religion. This Charter is being created in a collaborative project by people from all over the world. It will be completed in 2009. Use this site to offer language you'd like to see included. Or inspire others by sharing your own story of compassion.

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(Thanks to Philippe at Baha'i Thought for alerting me.)

Playthings of the Ignorant

Have you ever done what I was doing the other night – gone through an old photo album and been horrified at the clothes you were wearing?

What was I thinking? How could pink leg warmers ever have been attractive? Or pastel-toned lycra shell-suits? Not to mention the hairstyles! What was that windswept Farrah Fawcett look doing on my head? Why didn’t anyone tell me how awful I looked?

The fact is everyone else looked just as awful! We were the dedicated followers of fashion as the song goes.

And what choice did we have? We bought what we bought because it was there - and there was no internet shopping. Now we can surf websites anywhere in the world and get what we want. And yet today, despite the choice, we’re still heavily influenced by those in the know about ‘what’s in’ and ‘what’s out’.

{josquote}Rather than being manipulated all the time into what others want us to be, Bahá’u’lláh’s advice is to adorn ourselves with good deeds and a praiseworthy character.{/josquote}

I remember being teased at school because I was still wearing flares when everyone else had had their bellbottoms taken in to leg-hugging, spray-on tightness. Then, sure enough, in the late 1980s, flares were back. And then they disappeared. And then re-emerged, only to be replaced last year by skinny jeans, which - just as soon as you’ve laid on the floor and wriggled yourself into them - are out of date and now need to be replaced by turn-ups or some other such fad.

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Let us choose better political action rather than inaction

Sen Mcglinn is a Baha’i writer and scholar I have long admired. He has a post up on his weblog, “For the betterment of the world,” where he discusses the issue of political involvement. In particular, he teases out the idea that in postmodern societies, political involvement is not the same as involvement in partisan political and ideological movements that were part of the Modern experiment.

{josquote}I cannot help but be convinced that God’s favour and blessings are on the people who take up the challenge of working good in the world.{/josquote}

It is a very good post. People from different faith (incl. humanist) backgrounds are called to work with each other to better society in various spheres (individual, family, nation, global). It shifts us beyond the backward-looking myopic view of bounded traditionalism; the dualistic vision of fundamentalism; the aggressive anti-religious secularism of modernity; and the empty nihilism that can spring out of postmodernism.

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For the betterment of the world

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Following a discussion of libration theology on the Talisman list, This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it., one of the participants wondered whether “religions that discourage active political involvement” do in fact simply favour the powerful. Could it be that religions “that don’t preach open revolution” do more than might appear, by preaching compassion in an apolitical sense, so encouraging a sense of the oneness of humanity that gets at the root of the problem?

“Discouraging active political involvement” on the one hand and preaching “open revolution” on the other are two extremes. But there is a middle ground: the Bahai Teachings encourage political and social activism, where it is possible without partisanship. The Bahais are intended to be in the party of progress, the party for the betterment of human condition, and they share this stance with many people of all religions. Baha’u'llah writes:

“All men have been created to carry forward an ever-advancing civilization”
(Gleanings from the Writings of Baha’u'llah, section CIX, p. 214)

{josquote}Virtues are universal, the relative values of the virtues — the sphere of values — is particular.{/josquote}

“to carry forward an ever-advancing civilization” in the original is islah-e ‘aalam. Elsewhere the Guardian translates the same phrase as “the reformation of this age”, “rehabilitate the fortunes of mankind,” the “betterment of the world” and “to reconstruct the world.” This is the programme of what I call “the party of progress.”

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The Ghost of Gordon Gekko

Remember that Michael Douglas/Charlie Sheen movie from the 80's, "Wall Street". In the film, Michael Douglas' iconic character Gordon Gekko famously sings the praises of greed. "Greed is good" he says. Apparently a whole lot of folks believed in Gekko's philosophy and now Americans find themselves in a big financial mess, with the "Depression" replacing "Vietnam" as the most common historical analogy on people's lips. Timothy Egan puts it nicely in the New York Times today:

"There is certainly a food chain of greed, from the lowliest house-flipper in the Southern California exurbs to the Hamptons hedge fund manager. We all put reason in a box and buried it for a time. But before $700 billion is committed to a secretary whose decisions “may not be reviewed by any court of law or any administrative agency,” as the original draft of the bailout states, it’s worth remembering where the biggest heist took place, and how Wall Street dragged down the rest of the country once before. You could hear the echoes of history in Tester’s question, riding the fierce urgency of now at a time when the Great Depression and all its gloomy atmospherics are in the air again." (Read the whole thing here)

Baha'u'llah put it this way:

"Say: If ye be seekers after this life and the vanities thereof, ye should have sought them while ye were still enclosed in your mothers' wombs, for at that time ye were continually approaching them, could ye but perceive it. Ye have, on the other hand, ever since ye were born and attained maturity, been all the while receding from the world and drawing closer to dust. Why, then, exhibit such greed in amassing the treasures of the earth, when your days are numbered and your chance is well-nigh lost? Will ye not, then, O heedless ones, shake off your slumber?"
(Baha'u'llah, The Summons of the Lord of Hosts, p. 201)

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