Social Action

Human rights, community development and the like

Fulfilling Faith: Crossing the Bridge Between Spirituality and Sustainability

Morvey Manshadi

I remember sitting at the Baha’i Center during a Nineteen-Day Feast in February 2010 when a letter was read aloud from the National Spiritual Assembly of the Baha’is of the United States regarding the newly established Seven Year Plan of Action on Climate Change, an interfaith collaboration with the UN. I specifically recall this paragraph,“The destabilization of the global climate system is in large measure a moral challenge, requiring humanity to develop a greater sense of stewardship and responsibility for the environment, as well as a greater awareness of the interdependence and oneness of all the earth's inhabitants. It is evident that human pressures on the environment are escalating, and perhaps no threat is as severe as that of climate change.”

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Is Usury Good?

Quentin Metsys, The money lenders (c. 1515)

My wife and I are currently studying the informal credit market in Morocco as part of a worldwide study aimed at improving the provision of microfinance. It has gotten me thinking about usury, a term which by the original Latin definition simply means the charging interest on loans, although more recently it has referred to the charging of unreasonable or deceptive amounts. So is usury good (going by the original definition)?

It has a mixed and controversial history. Since Wikipedia has an excellent recap of it, and since I just lost two hours worth of work writing about it, I will just give a brief outline. Some of the ancient civilizations, including Ancient Egypt and Mesopotamia saw it as legitimate and natural, within certain limits. More recently, philosophers, prophets, clergy, and others have considered it wicked and exploitative. The Torah allowed Jews to charge interest only to foreigners, which led to them being the primary financiers (and scapegoats) during much of the European middle ages when they were denied entry into most other occupations. Jesus never explicitly forbid it, although he did make numerous references to charity. The Quran on the other hand explicitly prohibited usury.

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An interesting Baha’i description

I’ve been doing a little research on the Baha’i religion, another Eastern-based belief system rapidly growing around the world. I thought I’d share this screen capture I took of how the largest Baha’i organization describes itself:

Screen shot 2013-06-07 at 11.47.59 AM

I find this to be rather interesting as we are seeing these words reshape and re-define mainline Evangelicalism. What do you think?

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Jesus for President—an Election-Year Special

{josquote}In short, President Yehoshua-ben-Yosef might well enact policies that would be anathema to many who invoke His name.{/josquote}

A key principle of the Bahá’í Faith is non-involvement with partisan politics. This comes directly from the writings of Bahá’u’lláh and Abdu’l-Bahá. Per the guidance of Shoghi Effendi, we are not to register with political parties. The reason for this should be crystal clear after a moment of thought, given deep importance of creating unity rather than a “them and us” mentality among diverse individuals and groups.

Bahá’ís are encouraged to vote and to be active and engaged when it comes to social issues; as Bahá’u’lláh has eloquently put it, we are to be anxiously concerned with the needs of the age we live in. But, we are not to involve ourselves in partisan politics or publicly support one political candidate over another. We are, however, to be supportive of our government. This does not mean that we agree with every policy or attitude, tacitly or overtly. It does mean that we are not to engage in subversive acts or involve ourselves with movements aimed at subverting our elected government.

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Be a treasure to the poor...

Not much is known about the Baha’i that started this food line during the Great Depression, only that he was living true to these words from the Baha’i Writings. In what ways can we be a treasure to the poor today?

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Also, see New York Breadline