Love Means Rebuilding

First I want to tell you a quick story about a city. My city. Then we’ll talk about what it can mean for the growth of your local Baha’i community.

{josquote}Many older Baha’is think back longingly on the 60’s and 70’s as a kind of golden era when the community was bigger, more energetic, and it was changing the world.{/josquote}

My wife and I recently moved to Jersey City, New Jersey, so close to Manhattan that we’re staring it in the face every morning when we wake up. JC is the definition of an up-and-coming town — there are a handful of high-rises under construction at any given time, there are tempting new restaurant options every time we walk over by Grove Street, and tens of thousands of new people like us making it home.

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The Common Good

‘The common good’ is one of those phrases we trot out all too easily without considering in any depth what it might mean. When I was asked to give a short talk last November on the subject from a Bahá’í perspective, I had to give it some deeper thought than usual.

What, I wondered, is ‘the common good’? What is ‘good’ and who has the authority to say what is ‘good’? How common is ‘common’? Does everyone benefit from sharing the ‘good’ in question? Apart from a number of obviously common goods, such as the basic requirements for staying alive, don’t we have different needs?

{josquote} Everyone, young, old, female male, of any ethnic or religious or linguistic group, of any sexual orientation, of any place of residence, doer of good or evil, is included.{/josquote}

An online search on the phrase ‘common good’ throws up plenty of results, many of which serve to demonstrate the widespread lack of clarity about the concept.

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In defense of the committee

{josquote}It's cool to be consensual.{/josquote}

The brilliance of the individual and the stupidity of the group or committee is one of the most poisonous ideas in modern society.

Scandinavians are very much a consensus-driven people. They discuss a lot. Managers are not supposed to impose their will but rather encourage consensus. What an awful place. Their companies must be a joke, their societies a shambles; because we all know that anything that involves - snigger, snigger - a committee must result in total stupidity.

Except that they're not of course. Scandinavian societies are the most healthy, wealthy, best educated and most equal on earth. Are they perfect? Of course not. Because there is no such thing as perfection, just an endless work in progress.

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{josquote}...let me assure you that this was a singular thing, and guidance has come out about a more proper attitude towards homosexuality...{/josquote}

Have you ever noticed that we, in the Baha'i community, are just regular people? No, seriously. It's true.

While the Writings and the guidance may be astonishing in their scope and perspective, the community itself is just not up to that standard. I mean, how could we be? The standard is divine, and we are not.

I only mention this because I think it is very important. I have lost track of the number of people I have met who have not declared their faith because they felt that they couldn't live up to the standard set by the community. They felt that they just weren't good enough to be Baha'i. I've also met people who have been turned off to the Faith because they felt that we were just too stuck up, like we knew it all. Sad, I know, but true.

So what is it that we can learn from these comments? And more importantly, what can we do about it?

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Bringing Down the Barricades: the Art of Consultation

Something there is that doesn’t love a wall,
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . The gaps I mean,
No one has seen them made or heard them made,
But at spring mending time we find them there.

(‘Mending Wall‘, Robert Frost, Selected Poems, page 43)


In the closing decades of the last century the Berlin wall tumbled. Nor was it only in the landscape that we found this happening. Such collapses were and still are transforming our inscape as well.

The Bahá’í Revelation, Bahá’ís believe, has a crucial part to play in helping the dismantling of the barricades within and between people. We are a kind of catalyst in that it is by our transformation as Bahá’ís that this process will be accelerated and, even better, by borrowing our ideas and practices everyone, whether a Bahá’í or not, can join in the work of bringing down the barricades.

In the concluding post of the sequence on Conviction I threatened to return to some aspects of the Bahá’í prescription for living in a way that could, if given the chance by a sufficient number of people, change the direction of civilization for the better.

I’m now delivering on that threat and going to attempt to demonstrate that one exportable aspect unique to the Bahá’í life has an especially strong bearing on this problem of walls: consultation. There are others that I don’t mention here that would have the same effect. Another, meditation, which I will deal with very briefly, is not unique to the Faith.

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