Friday, October 31, 2008

Could Marriage Save Your Soul:3

Definition of Salvation:
    1. Preservation or deliverance from destruction, difficulty, or evil.
    2. A source, means, or cause of such preservation or deliverance.
  1. Deliverance from the power or penalty of sin; redemption. a. The agent or means that brings about such deliverance.
In previous posts I've raised the question of whether marriage could save your soul and then discussed the concept of "universal" or "social" salvation. In light of the concept of social salvation I've rephrased my question as "Could marriage save the world?" and if so "how". This is my current thinking, marriage is the foundation of the family and the family as a fundamental unit of civilization, provides the context in which principles and practices which are essential to the emergence of a global society based on the oneness of humankind (social salvation) can be nurtured. In a statement by the Baha'i International Community entitled, "The Family in A World Community" several of these principles and practices are highlighted:

If love and agreement are manifest in a single family, that family will advance, become illumined and spiritual. The Bahá'í approach to family unity combines elements of traditional wisdom with progressive principles and practical tools. Adherence to these teachings offers a bulwark against the forces of disintegration and a framework for the creation of strong, healthy, unified families. The foundation and precondition for a Bahá'í family is the loving relationship of husband and wife. Marriage, a divine creation, is intended to unite a couple "both physically and spiritually, that they may ever improve the spiritual life of each other." A man and woman, having freely chosen one another and having obtained the consent of their parents, marry, according to Bahá'í law, in the presence of witnesses designated by the elected governing council of the community, the Local Spiritual Assembly. With the words "We will all, verily, abide by the will of God," recited by both bride and groom, the two commit themselves to God and, thereby, to one another. One purpose of marriage is the creation of a new generation who will love God and serve humanity. The task of the family is, therefore, to establish a loving, respectful and harmonious relationship among parents and children. Harmony and cooperation in the family, as in the world, are maintained in the balance of rights and responsibilities. All family members "have duties and responsibilities towards one another and to the family as a whole," which "vary from member to member because of their natural relationships." Children, for instance, have the duty to obey their parents. They also have the corresponding right to be cared for, educated and protected. Mothers, as bearers and first educators of children, are primarily, but not exclusively, responsible for their spiritual education and the creation of a loving nurturing home. Fathers bear primary, but again not exclusive, responsibility for the financial well-being of the family and for the formal education of the children. The personal moral standards promoted by the Bahá'í teachings condemn many of the agents that contribute to the break-up of families. Alcohol is forbidden to Bahá'ís, as are mind-altering drugs. No form of violence or abuse within the family is ever to be tolerated. According to the Bahá'í sacred writings: The integrity of the family bond must be constantly considered and the rights of the individual members must not be transgressed. Although strongly discouraged by Bahá'u'lláh, divorce is permitted on the grounds of antipathy between husband and wife. It may be granted only after a year of waiting during which a couple lives separately and makes every attempt to reconcile their differences. Protected against hasty decisions and rash emotions, many couples are able to rebuild their marriages during this year of reflection. If, however, reconciliation proves impossible, the couple may divorce.

The principle of the equality of men and women is transforming relationships within Bahá'í marriages. Because they are equal partners, a status embodied in their identical wedding vows, neither husband nor wife may dominate. Decision-making is to be shared. Always, the atmosphere within a family and within the community as a whole should express. . . not arbitrary power, but the spirit of frank and loving consultation. The Bahá'í principles of consultation are tools for discussing openly, honestly and tactfully any problem which arises within the family. The goal is to allow "the truth to be revealed" in a way which will solve the problem to the benefit of all. When used by a couple or a family, consultation is a powerful means for maintaining unity. Recognition of equality and the use of consultation allow a husband and wife flexibility to meet the demands of a rapidly changing world. Although men and women have complementary capacities and functions in certain areas, roles are not rigidly defined and may be adjusted, when necessary, to meet the needs of each family member and the family as a whole. While women are encouraged to pursue their careers, it is in a manner that does not conflict with their role as mothers. And fathers are not exempt from household duties and child-rearing. When relations within the family are conducted with due regard for justice, it will be an important factor in bringing about peace in the world. When women are denied equality and respect in the family, men and boys develop harmful attitudes and habits which they carry into the workplace, into political life, and ultimately into international relations. As more and more children grow up in families where the rights of all members are respected and problems are solved with the benefit of consultation, prospects for peace in the world improve.

Although the child receives formal education at school, it is at home that character is developed and moral and spiritual attitudes are formed. Therefore, "all the virtues must be taught the family." Patience, loyalty, trustworthiness, justice, honesty -- such virtues as these constitute the building blocks of character. The virtues named by all sacred traditions as the common elements of spirituality are the reflection of the Divinity in each person. While nurturing the highest qualities and values in each member of the family, parents must also provide for the integrated development of all their children's capacities -- spiritual, moral, intellectual, emotional, and physical. Therefore, girls and boys are to be formally educated according to the same basic curriculum. Should limited resources force a choice, daughters, as the potential trainers of the next generation, are to be granted a "prior right to education over sons."

The Bahá'í Faith has over 17,000 organized local communities in more than 200 independent countries and territories. These communities act in some ways like extended families. Bahá'ís come from all nations, ethnic groups, cultures, professions and classes. Although the Bahá'í wedding ceremonies vary widely from culture to culture, the marriage laws and vows are universal and apply whether the partners are Bahá'ís or not. Bahá'ís around the world are finding that the principles and laws which give a distinctive shape to Bahá'í family life are conducive to love and unity.

As the foregoing principles are gradually put into practice around the world, families are being created which are able to play a part in building a unified world society. For the link between the family, the nation, and a world civilization, destined to come in time is inescapable: "Compare the nations of the world to the members of a family. A family is a nation in miniature. Simply enlarge the circle of the household and you have the nation. Enlarge the circle of nations and you have all humanity."

So there you go, a few Baha'i thoughts on marriage and salvation. I'll close with the Words of Baha'u'llah that inspired these meditations:

"And when He desired to manifest grace and beneficence to men, and to set the world in order, He revealed observances and created laws; among them He established the law of marriage, made it as a fortress for well-being and salvation, and enjoined it upon us in that which was sent down out of the heaven of sanctity in His Most Holy Book. He saith, great is His glory: "Marry, O people, that from you may appear he who will remember Me amongst My servants; this is one of My commandments unto you; obey it as an assistance to yourselves."

There have been some excellent comments on this topic. Keep it going!


  1. Anonymous8:13 AM

    Keeping it going. :) Supporting your thesis, here's one for you about the "greatest means" for the advancement of the world:

    557. We prescribe unto all men that which will lead to the exaltation of the Word of God amongst His servants, and likewise, to the advancement of the world of being and the uplift of souls. To this end, the greatest means is education of the child. To this must each and all hold fast. We have verily laid this charge upon you in manifold Tablets as well as in My Most Holy Book. Well is it with him who deferreth thereto. We ask of God that He will assist each and every one to obey this inescapable command that hath appeared and been caused to descend through the Pen of the Ancient of Days.

    (From a Tablet - translated from the Persian)
    (Baha'u'llah, The Compilation of Compilations vol. I, p. 246)

  2. Anonymous8:44 AM

    Here's another one for you, written by Shoghi Effendi in 1936, and current events are certainly showing that his dire warnings were correct.
    Note "the weakening of family solidarity; the laxity in parental control; the lapse into luxurious indulgence; the irresponsible attitude towards marriage and the consequent rising tide of divorce" in the below quotation:

    Such, we might well admit, is the state which individuals and institutions alike are approaching. "No two men," Bahá'u'lláh, lamenting the plight of an erring humanity, has written, "can be found who may be said to be outwardly and inwardly united. The evidences of discord and malice are apparent everywhere, though all were made for harmony and union." ...
    The recrudescence of religious intolerance, of racial animosity, and of patriotic arrogance; the increasing evidences of selfishness, of suspicion, of fear and of fraud; the spread of terrorism, of lawlessness, of drunkenness and of crime; the unquenchable thirst for, and the feverish pursuit after, earthly vanities, riches and pleasures; the weakening of family solidarity; the laxity in parental control; the lapse into luxurious indulgence; the irresponsible attitude towards marriage and the consequent rising tide of divorce; the degeneracy of art and music, the infection of literature, and the corruption of the press; the extension of the influence and activities of those "prophets of decadence" who advocate companionate marriage, who preach the philosophy of nudism, who call modesty an intellectual fiction, who refuse to regard the procreation of children as the sacred and primary purpose of marriage, who denounce religion as an opiate of the people, who would, if given free rein, lead back the human race to barbarism, chaos, and ultimate extinction -- these appear as the outstanding characteristics of a decadent society, a society that must either be reborn or perish.

    (Shoghi Effendi, The World Order of Baha'u'llah, p. 187)

  3. Anonymous8:50 AM

    The "parental control" reference in the above quotation made me think of these quotations:

    Love and kindness have far greater influence than punishment upon the improvement of human character.
    The Guardian, therefore, trusts that by this means you will succeed in gradually introducing a fundamental change in your daughter's life, and also in making of her a better and truer believer. He is fervently praying on her behalf that she may fully attain this station.

    (From a letter dated 26 January 1935 written on behalf of Shoghi Effendi to an individual believer)
    (Compilations, The Compilation of Compilations vol. I, p. 300)

    2155. The Guardian, in his remarks ... about parents' and children's, wives' and husbands' relations in America, meant that there is a tendency in that country for children to be too independent of the wishes of their parents and lacking in the respect due to them. Also wives, in some cases, have a tendency to exert an unjust degree of domination over their husbands, which, of course, is not right, any more than that the husband should unjustly dominate his wife.

    (22 July 1943)
    (Compilations, The Compilation of Compilations vol II, p. 382)

    2152. Question: What is the attitude of your belief toward the family?
    Answer: According to the teachings of Bahá'u'lláh the family, being a human unit, must be educated according to the rules of sanctity. All the virtues must be taught the family. The integrity of the family bond must be constantly considered, and the rights of the individual members must not be transgressed. The rights of the son, the father, the mother -- none of them must be transgressed, none of them must be arbitrary. Just as the son has certain obligations to his father, the father, likewise, has certain obligations to his son. The mother, the sister and other members of the household have their certain prerogatives. All these rights and prerogatives must be conserved, yet the unity of the family must be sustained. The injury of one shall be considered the injury of all; the comfort of each, the comfort of all; the honor of one, the honor of all.

    ("The Promulgation of Universal Peace: Talks Delivered by 'Abdu'l-Bahá during His Visit to the United States and Canada in 1912" p. 168)
    (Compilations, The Compilation of Compilations vol II, p. 381)

    Beware lest ye commit that which would sadden the hearts of your fathers and mothers. Follow ye the path of Truth which indeed is a straight path. Should anyone give you a choice between the opportunity to render a service to Me and a service to them, choose ye to serve them, and let such service be a path leading you to Me. This is My exhortation and command unto thee. Observe therefore that which thy Lord, the Mighty, the Gracious, hath prescribed unto thee.

    (From a Tablet - translated from the Arabic)
    (Baha'u'llah, The Compilation of Compilations vol. I, p. 386)

  4. Anonymous8:59 AM

    And this one:

    To a mother who anxiously inquired of Him ('Abdu'l-Baha) how she should treat a difficult child. He said that she should make him happy
    and make him free. And this sums up the attitude he invariably assumed in dealing with a seeking soul.

    (Howard Colby Ives, Portals to Freedom, p. 143)

  5. Hi Phillipe,
    I've been following this series with great interest. Most of the people I socialize with on a regular basis are single (I've been widowed for nine years), and many are divorced and dealing with all the stress and difficulty that brings. I see, through my friends, children coping with parents in different homes, divided loyalties, tension between parents affecting childraising. I also see a very common pattern of multiple relationships, often with children getting involved somehow or at least observing. I see the distress that causes not only to the children, but also to the adults involved, learning not to get too attached, tenuous relationships, rollercoaster emotions, and all the drama that involves. And when I read that Baha'u'llah saw marriage as a fortress for well-being and salvation I have no doubt that is true. It seems the healthiest most stable environment to raise happy children and also to live one's life. There's a lot of pain in families today, and I love to see more discussion on this topic and how we can help to create a society in which marriage is a stable, joyous, spiritual foundation for family life. I see society struggling with this, and certainly I see individual Baha'is struggling with this as well. I'd love to see more dialogue (and action!) on this topic!