Saturday, April 21, 2007

Voting Rites

A few photos of Boston Baha'is who were at the Annual Meeting last night. Lovely, lovely people.

It's that time of year again and Baha'is all over the planet have gathered together to elect their Spiritual Assemblies. As most of you may know, there are no clergy in the Baha'i Faith and Baha'u'llah has created a new System of leadership and social organization in which power and authority is no longer concentrated in individuals or small elites but resides in the community as a whole. Power to the people as they say! In Boston we started with a dinner of chili and rice (nothing special about that it's just what was on the menu). We then had some prayers focused on the vision that the Baha'i writings have for our city and the spiritual reality and station of the Spiritual Assembly. We then studied and discussed a recent message to the Baha'is of the world from the Universal House of Justice that talked about the Baha'i electoral process. Here's the opening paragraph:

"One of the signs of the breakdown of society in all parts of the world is the erosion of trust and collaboration between the individual and the institutions of governance. In many nations the electoral process has become discredited because of endemic corruption. Contributing to the widening distrust of so vital a process are the influence on the outcome from vested interests having access to lavish funds, the restrictions on freedom of choice inherent in the party system, and the distortion in public perception of the candidates by the bias expressed in the media. Apathy, alienation, and disillusionment are a consequence, too, as is a growing sense of despair of the unlikelihood that the most capable citizens will emerge to deal with the manifold problems of a defective social order. Evident everywhere is a yearning for institutions which will dispense justice, dispel oppression, and foster an enduring unity between the disparate elements of society."

Studying this letter together evoked some rich reflection and commentary and prepared our minds for the sacred task we would next perform, the election of our Assembly. In an atmosphere empowered by prayer, we each voted for those 9 souls whom we believed would best serve the needs of the Faith and the community. No nominations, no campaigns, no electioneering, no nonsense. In this moment it was just me,my Maker and my ballot. It was awesome. This is one of my favorite times in Baha'i life because my spiritual identity is most clear to me and I remember why I became a Baha'i in the first place; to build a new world. The Baha'i Faith has taught me the Kingdom of God, promised in the Bible will not descend from heaven but will be built by everday people, brick by brick, heart by heart, vote by vote. Baha'u'llah has given humanity the blue print for a new civilization, but we have to do the work. It's nice to be reminded of that. Eventually the votes were all counted and the results announced. Some us look forward to another year of serving on an institution that has been given authority by God over the affairs of the Boston Baha'i community, while others will be having their first experience of this challenging path of service. Each of us will, in our own way try to live up to the lofty standard given to us by Baha'u'llah when He described the Spiritual Assembly (what in the future will be referred to by its proper name 'House of Justice') in the Most Holy Book:

"The Lord hath ordained that in every city a House of Justice be established wherein shall gather counsellors to the number of Baha,... They should consider themselves as entering the Court of the presence of God, the Exalted, the Most High, and as beholding Him Who is the Unseen. It behoveth them to be the trusted ones of the Merciful among men and to regard themselves as the guardians appointed of God for all that dwell on earth. It is incumbent upon them to take counsel together and to have regard for the interests of the servants of God, for His sake, even as they regard their own interests, and to choose that which is meet and seemly. Thus hath the Lord your God commanded you. Beware lest ye put away that which is clearly revealed in His Tablet. Fear God, O ye that perceive."
(Baha'u'llah, The Kitab-i-Aqdas, p. 29)

No pressure right? Luckily for us we have the assurances of 'Abdu'l-Baha:

"These Spiritual Assemblies are aided by the Spirit of God. Their defender is 'Abdu'l-Bahá. Over them He spreadeth His wings. What bounty is there greater than this? These Spiritual Assemblies are shining lamps and heavenly gardens, from which the fragrances of holiness are diffused over all regions, and the lights of knowledge are shed abroad over all created things. From them the spirit of life streameth in every direction. They, indeed, are the potent sources of the progress of man, at all times and under all conditions. What bounty is there greater than this?"
(Abdu'l-Baha, Selections from the Writings of Abdu'l-Baha, p. 80)

Coming Soon on Baha'i Thought: What Ridvan Means to Me.