02 December 2008

Politics and Change

With the presidency of Barack Obama, being hailed by many as a kind of savior, it is time again to revisit the Baha'i teachings on politics and social change. About every four years in the United States, society gets ripped apart, hundreds of millions of dollars get poured into a bottomless pit, everyone rediscovers that our electoral college was made for horse and buggy days, and Baha'is revisit Shoghi Effendi's letters compiled in World Order of Baha'u'llah.


In a letter to Thornton Chase Abdu'l-Baha clearly obliged Baha'is to vote and "take part in the affairs of the republic" of the United States, and encouraged to be obedient to the laws and administration of the republic. Shoghi Effendi later mentioned that voting is a right but not obligatory in cases where the voter feels that they cannot "exercise that right intelligently and with understanding."


Shoghi Effendi further wrote that such voting and participation should never endorse partisan politics, and becoming involved in partisanship is strictly prohibited, to such an extent that if the act of voting requires registration or endorsement of a political party, it should be avoided. Within the Baha'i election process campaigns, debates, nominations, and parties are all strictly avoided and anyone participating in such actions would be disqualified from voting or holding office.

That Baha'is entirely reject these bastions of Western democracy -- the campaign, the candidate, etc. -- is the subject of some confusion from the general public. How could a system work without the soul-grinding competition of adversaries? Our current politics are based on opposition and the only alternative seems to be dictatorship. Within that question lies the key: the Baha'i system is fundamentally different, based on cooperation. The forces current in the world are disintegrating, while the Baha'i system is integrating.

Today, the democratic process by which we elect our government is entrenched in fallacies regarding the hypothetical need for nominations, candidates, electioneering, and solicitation. Without a dramatic and fundamental change it is impossible to imagine how the democratic culture will rid itself of the cynicism, apathy, division, and corruption that have become prevalent in party politics.

The Baha'i International Community published the following in a 1995 statement to the UN,
"The standard of truth seeking that the consultative process demands is far beyond the patterns of negotiation and compromise that tend to characterize the present-day discussion of human affairs. It cannot be achieved--indeed, its attainment is severely handicapped--by the culture of protest that is another widely prevailing feature of contemporary society. Debate, propaganda, the adversarial method, the entire apparatus of partisanship that have long been such familiar features of collective action are all fundamentally harmful to its purpose: that is, arriving at a consensus about the truth of a given situation and the wisest choice of action among the options open at any given moment."
The System

If anyone doubts that elections can work without nominations, they should see the Baha'i model. Several million Baha'is in the world elect their representatives yearly at the local and national levels. Each Baha'i may vote in two elections annually; in one election every individual in the locality over the age of 21 votes for 9 names, and the 9 members with the most votes are elected to the Local Spiritual Assembly, in the other election a few localities are grouped into an electoral unit, everyone casts a single vote, and the person with the most votes goes on to a national convention, which elects the 9-member National Spiritual Assembly in a similar manner that the local assembly is elected. Every 5 years each member of every National Spiritual Assembly around the world casts 9 votes for members of the Universal House of Justice, an international body and the highest institution of the Faith. In large countries, such as the US, there are 9-member regional councils elected with the members of all Local Spiritual Assemblies in the region casting votes.

The Universal House of Justice appoints individuals to the position of Continental Counselor, a role that has about 80 appointees in the world. Each Counselor then appoints Auxiliaries with smaller jurisdictions, who in turn appoint assistants to work in the localities. There is thus an entire elected and appointed order. The elected hold authority only as a body, not individually, and the appointed hold no authority at all. At each level of election, the voter is potentially personally familiar with the elected, and nowhere in the process are there any nominations, parties, candidates, or debates.

New World Order

The Baha'i system, however, is not merely the mechanisms of election. The system is divine in origin, it is through authority stemming from Baha'u'llah as a Manifestation of God that humanity will unite and the system will flourish. Shoghi Effendi powerfully confirmed the impotency of statesmanship and the uniquely divine character of the Baha'i system in the following extract from a letter of 1931,
"Humanity, whether viewed in the light of man's individual conduct or in the existing relationships between organized communities and nations, has, alas, strayed too far and suffered too great a decline to be redeemed through the unaided efforts of the best among its recognized rulers and statesmen -- however disinterested their motives, however concerted their action, however unsparing in their zeal and devotion to its cause. No scheme which the calculations of the highest statesmanship may yet devise; no doctrine which the most distinguished exponents of economic theory may hope to advance; no principle which the most ardent of moralists may strive to inculcate, can provide, in the last resort, adequate foundations upon which the future of a distracted world can be built. No appeal for mutual tolerance which the worldly-wise might raise, however compelling and insistent, can calm its passions or help restore its vigor. Nor would any general scheme of mere organized international cooperation, in whatever sphere of human activity, however ingenious in conception, or extensive in scope, succeed in removing the root cause of the evil that has so rudely upset the equilibrium of present-day society. Not even, I venture to assert, would the very act of devising the machinery required for the political and economic unification of the world -- a principle that has been increasingly advocated in recent times -- provide in itself the antidote against the poison that is steadily undermining the vigor of organized peoples and nations. What else, might we not confidently affirm, but the unreserved acceptance of the Divine Program enunciated, with such simplicity and force as far back as sixty years ago, by Baha'u'llah, embodying in its essentials God's divinely appointed scheme for the unification of mankind in this age, coupled with an indomitable conviction in the unfailing efficacy of each and all of its provisions, is eventually capable of withstanding the forces of internal disintegration which, if unchecked, must needs continue to eat into the vitals of a despairing society. It is towards this goal -- the goal of a new World Order, Divine in origin, all-embracing in scope, equitable in principle, challenging in its features -- that a harassed humanity must strive."
The Plan

With this knowledge and understanding of our current system, do not be fooled into putting an ounce of energy into the current debates. Do not pick sides, criticize, or put your backing behind a candidate. Regardless of the speech, intentions, or ideas of any candidate for office, they must work in a crumbling system. The noblest, most experienced captain, if put on a rotting ship will still sink at sea. Meanwhile, Baha'is are building a new ship. Baha'u'llah describes a period of lesser peace that will come from pragmatism, in which wars are restrained out of self interest. We have already entered that period. The "Most Great Peace", the "Dawn of Knowledge", will come through the penetration of the teachings of Baha'u'llah into society. It is towards that goal that Baha'is devote their energy, under the direction of multi-year plans set out by the Universal House of Justice.


  1. This article expose the evil and down fall of mankind, the greed and the selfishness of men.

    The writer dreams that someday the movement of the Baha'is will teach men to live a brotherly lifestyle in peace and harmony with each other. This would be the ideal for any world, the same teachings have been preached by Jesus Christ and many other noble men.

    But as long has the nature of men includes greed and selfishness the world will go on as it always has, corrupt leaders and good people trying to lead in sinking ships, this will always be.

    The truth of the matter is that nothing will change until the evilness of men is removed from men, bad people, greedy people, corrupt people, evil people will not disappear. This will never be changed with education alone. Jail and punishment to those that do evil is just a temporary solution in keeping a community from chaos.

    The only way to reach harmony is for mankind to be supernaturally transformed, into beings that have no evil desires or sin it them.

    This is the hope and answer that the Christians today look forward to. Christ will return and we that humbled ourselves and admitted that we are bad, evil and sinners. We that acknowledge that mankind could never reach harmony on our own, and that we needed outside intervention to be saved by our creator from our evil nature,, those that understand the evil that resides in our flesh will realize that we need a savior, thus this is the promise given to us that if we except that we are sinners and accept the atonement that Christ did on the cross, shedding his blood to cleanse us from our sins and evil nature,, then God/Christ will come back and supernaturally transform our fleshly bodies with a super natural body that is not tainted with the evil that we currently carry…

    Then and only then by being transformed by God,, will we be able to love our neighbors and live in harmony with them with no evil desire in our hearts.

    Good luck to the Baha'is that wish to accomplish a one world government with perfect harmony and no corruption. This is a dream and they are fooled if they think that mankind can accomplish this on its own.

    Only God can accomplish this, by getting rid of all evil from upon this earth, and transforming the noble that are willing to obey and listen and let God run the show..


  2. Piedra979,

    Thank you for your comment,

    I am sure Bryan will have some thoughts on this.

    Here are mine:

    We believe that the Baha'i Faith is more than just a movement. It is a religion from God which fullfills the prophesies in the Bible (as well as other holy books) about the end of days. The return of Christ that you speak about has been and is being fulfilled as we speak through the person of Baha'u'llah. This transformation of hearts is not instantaneous however, it requires real spiritual work and growth, made possible by the suffering of Christ as well as Baha'u'llah.

    So it is not just that we believe our system is good enough to stop people from being bad, we believe that our developing system is the outer manifestation of the spiritual transformation made possible by the mercy of God.

    If you are interested in why we believe Baha'u'llah fullfills the return spoke of by Christ, please read Bryan's post "Bible Code" or my post "A Biblical Case For Baha'u'llah" both available on this blog.

  3. That social evolution (including political change within nations and globally )will continue,there is lttle doubt,no matter how zig zaggy the road.That process has,for better or worse integrated peoples'lives,infact our daily lives,is a fact;is it not? The policies of the US govt. does impact and the making of the Chief Executive of a superpower does matter.
    But the point is how will the big change happen ?

    My perspective is derived from the Baha'i pivotal principle of the wholeness and oneness of the human race, around which all the other teachings revolve, wherein lies the answer to the riddle of the "best state".

    Man's political history of divide and rule has been an omnipotent curse, as much as our greed and hatred .The division of man from man because of color,faith,nationality,gender and class has complimented the process of oppression and directly contributed to our misery.
    The Bahai world view based on the teaching that mankind is ONE race and this planet is our homeland is revolutionary principle that Baha'u'llah has revealed to us and the New Order that will errect itself on this truth will not be founded on a "dream" but rather on a spiritual truth for which countless lives have been martyred and Prophets crucified.
    Correct me if I am wrong..

  4. The peace process will face impossible hurdles though from forces of reaction and prejudice both in the East and the West
    The release of the media from hegemonistic state and private control,the widespread availability of information over the internet,the compelling circumstances that will force grudging acceptance of world-order by the worldly-wise , will contribute to the peace process and in the end the Greater Plan of God will guide us to the Lesser Peace.