Monday, April 03, 2006

More Righteousness, Less "Self" Please!

( Finger pointing photo courtesy of

I read a touching article by NEELA BANERJEE, in the New York Times about efforts by the faith community to bring compassionate voices to the debate about abortion. A selection from the article is below:

"We are here this morning because, through our collective efforts, we are agents in bringing our fragile world ever closer to the promise of redemption," Rabbi Dennis S. Ross, director of Concerned Clergy for Choice, told the audience. "As clergy from an array of denominations, we say yes to the call before us. Please join me in prayer: We praise you, God, ruler of time and space, for challenging us to bring healing and comfort to your world."" (Read the entire article here)

The article reminded me of an observation made in a statement by the Baha'i International Community about religion's role in addressing the HIV/AIDS epidemic that I think bears on similar issues like abortion which are deeply related to the moral behavior of individuals:

Such judgments can be particularly pronounced in religious communities struggling to uphold a high standard of personal conduct. One of the seeming paradoxes of faith is the individual obligation of believers to adhere to a high standard of personal conduct while loving and caring for those who fall short--for whatever reason--of that same standard. What is often forgotten is that "moral conduct" includes not only personal restraint but compassion and humility as well. Faith communities will need to strive continually to rid themselves of judgmental attitudes so that they can exert the kind of moral leadership that encourages personal responsibility, love for one another, and the courage to protect vulnerable groups in society. (Read the entire statement here)

In our polarized political climate, righteous causes are too often poisoned by the self-righteousness of their champions, whatever their political, ideological, or religious affiliation. Challenges such as abortion and HIV/AIDS are too important to the future of humanity to allow discourse about them to be poisoned in this way. We might all consider this advice from the Baha'i Writings:

In order to find truth we must give up our prejudices, our own small trivial notions; an open receptive mind is essential. If our chalice is full of self, there is no room in it for the water of life. The fact that we imagine ourselves to be right and everybody else wrong is the greatest of all obstacles in the path towards unity, and unity is necessary if we would reach truth, for truth is one. (Abdu'l-Baha, Paris Talks, p. 136)