Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Gonna Stay On the Battlefield

Apologies that I am just getting back to you but I've had some late nights playing Monopoly and it has thrown off my blogging rhythm a bit! Since last I wrote to you, we have studied two pieces of guidance from the Universal House of Justice as to how the Baha'is of the world can effectively advance their mission which is to establish the Kingdom of God on earth and achieve universal salvation for all humanity. The recurrent theme in our reflections on this guidance, was of course understanding our role as people of African descent in advancing this mission, which is to share the transforming power of the Word of God for today with black folk everywhere. Baha'u'llah said this about the Word of God:

"O friend of mine! The Word of God is the king of words and its pervasive influence is incalculable. It hath ever dominated and will continue to dominate the realm of being. The Great Being saith: The Word is the master key for the whole world, inasmuch as through its potency the doors of the hearts of men, which in reality are the doors of heaven, are unlocked. No sooner had but a glimmer of its effulgent splendour shone forth upon the mirror of love than the blessed word 'I am the Best-Beloved' was reflected therein. It is an ocean inexhaustible in riches, comprehending all things. Every thing which can be perceived is but an emanation therefrom. High, immeasurably high is this sublime station, in whose shadow moveth the essence of loftiness and splendour, wrapt in praise and adoration."
(Baha'u'llah, Tablets of Baha'u'llah, p. 173)

The climax of the last two days was our study of a recent letter from the Universal House of Justice dated 3 June 2007 in response to an individual who had written to that august Body, "source of all good, freed from all error". It is difficult for me to begin to capture that utter sweetness and depth of wisdom contained in the five pages of this letter. What I can say was that I experienced reading it as a kind of rebirth. If I was not a born again Baha'i before reading this letter, I definitely am today. I'll share just one paragraph so you can have a taste:

"The Black Men's Gathering was inspired by a thought to stimulate African-Americans to respond to the urgent call to action of the Divine Plan and so overcome the crippling effects of a long history of oppression. The participants in the Gathering have wisely concentrated their energies on pursuing the requirements of that charter. Indeed, the fulfillment of their highest hopes for the advancement of the race depends on the extent to which they maintain their dedication to the Five Year Plan and succeeding enterprises that the House of Justice will devise in a continuing effort to accomplish the Master's scheme for world redemption. What the Gathering does so well is to instill in its participants the desire to strive to realize the potentialities they possess-both from their natural endowments as creatures of God and from the wisdom afforded them by the experience of their particular history-for contributing significantly to that effort. Such consecrated endeavor is the only way by which they can arrive at the furthermost goal of the common destiny of the entire human race: the Kingdom of God on earth."

The closest analogy that I can summon to describe how this letter made me feel is the feelings that were expressed by Mulla Husayn, the first person on earth to receive the new Revelation of God's knowledge and love for today:

"'This Revelation, so suddenly and impetuously thrust upon me, came as a thunderbolt which, for a time, seemed to have benumbed my faculties. I was blinded by its dazzling splendour and overwhelmed by its crushing force. Excitement, joy, awe, and wonder stirred the depths of my soul. Predominant among these emotions was a sense of gladness and strength which seemed to have transfigured me. How feeble and impotent, how dejected and timid, I had felt previously! Then I could neither write nor walk, so tremulous were my hands and feet. Now, however, the knowledge of His Revelation had galvanised my being. I felt possessed of such courage and power that were the world, all its peoples and its potentates, to rise against me, I would, alone and undaunted, withstand their onslaught. The universe seemed but a handful of dust in my grasp. I seemed to be the Voice of Gabriel personified, calling unto all mankind: "Awake, for lo! the morning Light has broken. Arise, for His Cause is made manifest. The portal of His grace is open wide; enter therein, O peoples of the world! For He who is your promised One is come!"
(Shoghi Effendi, The Dawn-Breakers, p. 65)

When were not being transported to paradise through prayer, study and consultation, we also enjoyed spontaneous expressions of joy, humor and talent. We have not one, but two horn players, several pianists, guitarists, drummers and hip hop artists. At various points over the last two days, each of these men have offered their gifts generously. There have also been a few men who found the mantle of artistic expression suddenly thrust upon them, who did not desire it, but shared their attempts at singing a little something. We are fortunate to have participants this year from both South Africa and Ghana, both of who shared songs from the Motherland with us. We've even had a revival if you will of some old negro spirituals that sent me all the way back to my Sunday school days in the Tennessee of my childhood.

Last but not least, we divided into smaller groups based on the regions that we live in to talk about how we can support each other our work for the Black Men's Gathering at the local level. In my region of the United States, the Northeast, Northern New Jersey, New York City, Rochester, NY, Buffalo, NY, and the upper New England states were all represented.

I have to run off to breakfast. More soon!