This series is a “for educational purposes only” presentation of information from the book, America’s Sacred Calling: Building a New Spiritual Reality (2010) by John Fitzgerald Medina. Medina writes:
“A few words should be said regarding the Baha’i idea of civilization. Baha’u’llah wrote, “All men have been created to carry forward an ever-advancing civilization. [Gleanings from the Writings of Baha’u’llah, no. 104.2]” Obviously, the civilization that is intended here is not the kind of civilization that was first conceived by Rene Descartes, Isaac Newton, John Locke, Adam Smith, Charles Darwin, and other Western intellectuals who promulgated an anti-spiritual mentality. Indeed, in the following passage, Baha’u’llah uses the words “infernal engine” in reference to Western civilization:
“In all matters moderation is desirable. If a thing is carried to excess, it will prove a source of evil. Consider the civilization of the West, how it hath agitated and alarmed the peoples of the world. An infernal engine hath been devised, and hath proved so cruel a weapon of destruction that its like none hath ever witnessed or heard. The purging of such deeply rooted and overwhelming corruptions cannot be effected unless the peoples of the world unite in pursuit of one common aim and embrace one universal faith.” [Tablets of Baha’u’llah, page 69]
“In relation to the quote above, it is significant to note that capitalism, if anything, actually encourages immoderation. For instance, it encourages the ideas of unbridled competition, insatiable desires, unrestricted individualism, boundless accumulation of wealth, and absolute freedom (laissez-faire). It also promotes the cynical assumption that self-interest and profit motivation are the primary forces between individuals in society. This ultimately leads to self-indulgence and greed.
“Fortunately, some Christians have begun to recognize that, in order to maintain a biblical perspective, they must challenge and transcend, in thoughts and actions, the existing socioeconomic materialistic paradigm. For instance, Ron Sider, a professor of theology, holistic ministry, and public policy at Eastern Baptist Theological Seminary, states,
“We need to ask, “Are we really biblical?”… Cheap grace results when we reduce the gospel to forgiveness of sins only…when we embrace the individualism and materialism and relativism of our current culture…. [E]mbracing Jesus…means embracing [Him] as Lord as well as Savior…. [I]t means beginning to live as a part of his new community where everything is being transformed…. [T]he mission of the church is both to do evangelism and to do social ministry…. That means…a concern for justice for the poor. It will mean concern for creation care [care for the environment], for human rights, and for peacemaking.” [Ron Sider as cited by Stan Guthrie in “The Evangelical Scandal,” Christianity Today, April 13, 2005]
“In his recent book, The Scandal of the Evangelical Conscience: Why Are Christians Living Just Like the Rest of the World?, Sider maintains that many Christians have conformed their thinking and actions to the prevailing un-biblical materialistic paradigm. This, he asserts, has seriously compromised their worldview and has crippled their ability to transform the society around them based on the Word of Christ. Indeed, Sider cites a plethora [excess, abundance] of studies, polls, and statistics showing that many Christians live very much like the general American population in terms of materialism, hedonism, racism, sexual immorality, and other traits. For instance, he shows that, even though today’s American Christians are the wealthiest generation of Christians in world history, their charitable giving, as a percentage of income, has gone down. Sider also asserts that, as a group, they do not take care of the poor. He points out that, in particular, the tithing of Christian Evangelicals (the group most likely to attend church regularly) has gone down every year for several decades. He argues that these negative conditions will persist so long as mammon (money) remains on the throne as the idol of worship. [See: Ron Sider, The Scandal of the Evangelical Conscience: Why Are Christians Living Just Like the Rest of the World?]
“It is also troubling to note that considerable numbers of Christians now subscribe to a point of view that merges their religious beliefs with a staunchly nationalistic, capitalistic ideology that often promotes and defends the American-dominated global economic order even at the expense of other nations and peoples. Regarding this, S.R. Shearer, an Evangelical Christian who runs his own ministry, points out that it is truly disturbing and ironic that capitalist ideology enjoys a significant amount of support from Christian Americans. He maintains that it is virtually impossible for Christians to justify the immorality of the American-dominated capitalist global order [he calls it the “American New World Order System”], especially in light of the following passages from the Bible:
Lay not up for yourselves measures upon the earth…. But lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven…. For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also… Matthew 6:19-21
[I]f thou wilt be perfect, go sell (all) that thou hast, and give it to the poor,…and come and follow me [Christ]. Matthew 19:21
No servant can serve two masters: for either he will hate the one, and love the other; or else he will hold to the one, and despise the other. Ye cannot serve God and mammon [material wealth or possessions]. Luke 16:13
“Many Americans, including many religious believers, may believe that our cultural paradigm is fundamentally sound and that we can resolve our global problems simply by implementing an assortment of reforms, adjustments, and tweeks to the system here and there. Such attempts to reform the system, however, without confronting the underlying destructive materialistic worldview are tantamount to rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic. Solutions to our global problems cannot be found within the same despiritualized system that created these problems.
“Based on information provided in this chapter [see links below to previous posts], it should be evident that some of the people who have been most negatively impacted by the immoderation of Western civilization have been the indigenous peoples of the Americas. Indeed, countless indigenous cultures have been decimated by the relentless wayward march of the West. This destructive process has continued even into modern times. For instance, the genocide against the Guatemalan Mayan Indians and the “water wars” against the Indian people of Bolivia (both of these situations were described earlier) are good examples of this destructive process.
“It is important to note that man Latin American nations have very large populations of American Indians, and in fact, in some countries, Indians make up the majority of the population. Unfortunately, Indians throughout Latin America continue to face deeply ingrained racism on the part of Whites (people of European descent) who still wield disproportionate levels of economic, political, and social power.
“In light of the information above, it is truly fascinating that, as noted earlier, ‘Abdu’l-Baha prophesied that if the Indians become “educated and guided” in the teachings of Baha’u’llah, “there can be no doubt that they will become so illumined as to enlighten the whole world.” [see: ‘Abdu’l-Baha, quoted in Shoghi Effendi, Citadel of Faith, (1965) page 16] Considering the fact that the indigenous people of the Americas are now some of the most impoverished and marginalized peoples in the world, this prophetic passage seems truly remarkable. This may be a case of God using the downtrodden and dispossessed to show the true power of spirituality to positively transform the material world.
“In 1977, a group of Indian people presented three papers to some of the nongovernmental organizations of the United Nations located in Geneva, Switzerland. In these documents, the American Indian authors raised “a call for a consciousness of the Sacred Web of Life in the Universe.” The passage below is an excerpt from one of these documents. Please note the similarity between the sentiments expressed by Baha’u’llah in the quote above and the sentiments expressed by the indigenous authors of the statement below:
“Today the species of Man is facing a question of the very survival of the species. The way of life known as Western Civilization is on a death path on which their own culture has no viable answers. When faced with the reality of their own destructiveness, they can only go forward into areas of more efficient destruction. The appearance of Plutonium [nuclear technology] on this planet is the clearest of signals that our species is in trouble. It is a signal which most Westerners have chosen to ignore…. The air is foul, the waters poisoned, the trees are dying, the animals are disappearing. We think even the systems of weather are changing. Our ancient teachings warned us that if Man interfered with the Natural Laws, these things would come to be. When the last of the Natural Way of Life [traditional Native way of life] is gone, all hope for human survival will be gone with it. And our Way of Life is fast disappearing, a victim of the destructive processes…. Our essential message to the world is a basic call to consciousness. The destruction of the Native cultures and people is the same process which has destroyed and is destroying life on this planet. The technologies and social systems which have destroyed the animal and the plant life are also destroying the Native people. And that process is Western Civilization which old the promise of unimaginable future suffering and destruction. Spiritualism is the highest form of…consciousness. And we, the Native peoples of the Western Hemisphere, are among the world’s surviving proprietors of that kind of consciousness. We are here to impart that message.” [see: Akwesasne Notes, ed., Basic Call to Consciousness (1978), pages 77-78]
“True solutions will have to be based upon perspectives, ideas, values, and assumptions that lie outside the confines of the prevailing Western view of reality. In this regard, Baha’is believe that the teachings of Baha’u’llah are intended to create an entirely new peaceful, just, and unified global order that will wipe away, at their very root, the maladies of the current age. The following passage from the Baha’i writings eloquently enunciates this concept of renewal:
“The call of Baha’u’llah is primarily directed against all forms of provincialism, all insularities and prejudices. If long-cherished ideals and time-honored institutions, if certain social assumptions and religious formulae have ceased to promote the welfare of the generality of mankind, if they no longer minister to the needs of a continually evolving humanity, let them be swept away and relegated to the limbo of obsolescent and forgotten doctrines. Why should these, in a world subject to the immutable law of change and decay, be exempt from the deterioration that must needs overtake every human institution? For legal standards, political and economic theories are solely designed to safeguard the interests of humanity as a whole, and not humanity to be crucified for the preservation of the integrity of any particular law or doctrine.” [see: Shoghi Effendi, The World Order of Baha’u’llah, (1991) page 42] (above from Medina’s book, pages 196-202)
Next post: Moving Toward a Holistic View of Reality
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