Wednesday, April 01, 2009

Participation


The Boston Globe blog Articles of Faith has some interesting Gallup poll information about the views of Catholics on a variety of issues and their apparent contrast with the teachings of the Catholic Church. If you're a social science and religion geek like me it's worth a read. What I found most interesting as a Baha'i thinker was the following:

"the underlying dimension of religiosity -- as measured in this analysis by church attendance -- is most predictive of conservative positions on moral issues, not whether an individual is Catholic."

This seems to be suggesting that the degree to which one's views harmonize with church teaching (so called "conservative positions") is related to one's level of participation in church.

In a Baha'i context, I think harmonizing one's personal views with the teachings of the Baha'i Faith would be considered a reflection of certitude, a condition of the soul essential to spiritual success in this world.

"Thus with steadfast steps we may tread the Path of certitude, that perchance the breeze that bloweth from the meads of the good-pleasure of God may waft upon us the sweet savours of divine acceptance, and cause us, vanishing mortals that we are, to attain unto the Kingdom of everlasting glory." (Baha'u'llah, The Kitab-i-Iqan, p. 134)

This data on Catholics has made me curious about what we would find if a similar survey was done with a sample of Baha'is. It also has made me wonder if there would be a relationship between the participation of Baha'is in aspects of Baha'i life such as the 19 day Feast and the consistency of ones personal views with Baha'i teaching. I think this is important because I've encountered Baha'is who subscribe to a kind of "solo-Baha'i" lifestyle, where participating in community life is viewed as secondary to one's simply believing what Baha'is are supposed to believe. For the solo-Baha'i, community life is essentially optional, something one does when the inclination hits him or her. I've always found this a puzzling view as the mission of the Baha'i Faith is to transform the social order and create a global civilization and not simply to create "good" individuals. A little social science might contribute to enriching current discourse among Baha'is about the importance of participation in all aspects of Baha'i life.

"The universal participation of the believers in every aspect of the Faith -- in contributing to the Fund, in teaching, deepening, living the Bahá'í life, administering the affairs of the community, and, above all, in the life of prayer and devotion to God -- will endow the Bahá'í community with such strength that it can overcome the forces of spiritual disintegration which are engulfing the non-Bahá'í world, and can become an ocean of oneness that will cover the face of the planet." (The Universal House of Justice, Messages from the Universal House of Justice 1968-1973, p. 59)

1 comment:

  1. Hi Philippe,
    I found this study very interesting to think about! I think we have a lot in common with Catholics, I think our views are very similar on marriage and the family, obedience, respect for the authority of the institutions, a prayerful attitude towards life... Many times when I am trying to more fully understand an aspect of the Baha'i lifestyle I look at some Catholic writings because of the similarities. And faithful Catholics and Baha'is often face the same struggles, living in a society following a religion which advocates a lifestyle at variance with what is commonly accepted.

    I think if we gave a similar survey to Baha'is we also might find some similarity of response. We are struggling to live in a world where our religious values are not always in sync with common cultural morals. We have varying degrees of dealing with this, perhaps this even varies based on whether our personality style is more conservative or liberal. I have talked to Baha'is who struggle with various social aspects of the Faith, sometimes because of a personal situation or just an opinion. It's easy to absorb the values of the culture around us, and we must be continually vigilant to understand the Writings as they were intended (a dynamic process, with variation in personal interpretation).

    So I think we might see the struggles of the Catholic church as really being the struggles of humanity as a whole. How do we live up to the Revelation which was given to us in a society which may have different values (or diverse values)? We ask ourselves the same questions. If my Faith has a particular law, should I vote to have this law applicable to the whole country, or should I recognize that other people feel differently and support that diversity? Or do I realize that these laws are best for all of humanity, and allow them to guide my voting choices?

    This opens the door to many questions that we all can ask ourselves, whatever our religion.

    Thanks so much for posting this.

    Anne

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