Monday, October 17, 2005

God, International Court, and Poverty

Today has a real wealth of editorials in the Boston Globe addressing issues directly relevant to Baha'i teaching and activism. One is about the concept of God being beyond human comprehension, contrasted the with concepts of God at play politically, socially and culturally in current events that begin with the assumption that we know what God is and what God does. The second deals with the process of convicting Saddam Hussein of crimes against humanity and the importance of International Courts in general. The third addresses the debate over whether poverty is primarily a social problem or a cultural problem and references the oft quoted but usually misinterpreted "the poor will always be with us." First, Baha'is view "God" as unknowable and beyond human comprehension. Because of this that "Essence of Essences" we refer to as God has sent those transcendent Figures of history who we commonly associate with the founding of the worlds relgions, such as Moses, Christ or Muhammad. These Figures "manifest" (meaning to reveal) God's love and knowledge and act as Educators of the souls of humanity who have advanced the process of spiritual development both personally and socially throughout history. Everthing that we "know" about God is what has been revealed to us through the "Manifestations" of God who like mirrors, reflect God's attributes in this world.
As for the International Criminal Court and the trying of world leaders such as Saddam Hussein for their crimes, the Baha'i writings anticipate the founding of such a court as part of the developing of a new social order, a World Order where justice is the organizing principle. Supporting the developing of such a court and a system of international law in general is an area of focus of Baha'i Activism as a described in a previous post. As for poverty, the Baha'i writings emphasize that those who possess wealth have a moral responsibility to "guard" the poor who are God's "trust" and not be "content with your own ease". Eliminating extremes of wealth and poverty through both legal means and voluntary giving is a critical prerequisite of world peace. However transformation at the individual level is also required and habits that do not contribute to "an ever advancing civilization" are to be abandoned. Individuals are expected to work and be "fruitful" and work done in a spirit of service is elevated in Baha'i teaching to an act of worship. Change is necessary at all three levels of human experience, conscious, character and community as I also mentioned in a previous post and Manifestations of God, the Educators of humanity have demonstrated their ability to effect change at all three levels. This has been their unique contribution to the advancement of civilization.