Teaching

Jul 2017
461
Olympia, WA, USA
I was looking for something in Lights of Guidance and I stumbled upon the following:

14. Primary Purpose to Promote Teaching Work

"And since the primary purpose for which Local Spiritual Assemblies are established is to promote the teaching work, it is clear that every National Spiritual Assembly must give careful consideration to ways and means to encourage each Local Assembly under its jurisdiction to fulfil its principal obligation ... it is important that Local Assemblies share with the local friends stories of successes achieved by some of them, descriptions of effective presentations found useful by them, examples of various ways that a Bahá'í subject could be introduced to inquirers, or illustrations of methods which would enable the believer to relate the needs of society to our teachings. Such information and suggestions could be offered to the friends at Nineteen Day Feasts, through a local newsletter, or by any means open to each Local Assembly. In all these contacts with the believers, each Local Spiritual Assembly should impress upon the friends the unique and irreplaceable role the individual plays in the prosecution of any Bahá'í undertaking...."


(From a letter of the Universal House of Justice to all National Spiritual Assemblies, March 3, 1977)
Lights of Guidance

I really did not know that was the primary purpose of LSAs. Has this changed since that letter was written? It seems as if there is little talk about teaching...

What made me think to post this is that last night I was out shopping and a man saw a shirt I made that says “BAHAI FAITH” on the back and he said, “Oh you are one of those Baha’is, I don’t hear much about them anymore... I used to live in California in the 60s and they were all over the place, but I have not seen any since I moved up here in the 1980s.” Well, I also lived in California in the early 70s and Baha’is were all over the place teaching back then, but it seems as if, and the statistics demonstrate, that the growth of the Baha’i Faith has plummeted in the United States since the 1970s.

It might be a good idea to ask why the Faith is not growing in the U.S. My opinion is that it is the growth of materialism and a corresponding diminished idealism, but I am sure there is more to it than that. I think that most Baha’is have switched to other activities such as community building and children’s classes, and maybe this is an injunction from the UHJ. Quite honestly, I have not been active in any community for a long time so I do not know.

I am saddened by the lack of teaching activity and the slow growth of the Faith in the U.S. but I am not in a position to be active in the community right now so I just do what I can online. I feel pretty hopeless about the situation so that is one reason I do not bother trying to work with other Baha’is. It seems to me all people care about anymore is the material world and enjoying themselves. I am not saying that is wrong, but I cannot even think about that because I take seriously what Baha’u’llah wrote about the world...Below are just a few quotes of many.

“It behoveth the people of Bahá to die to the world and all that is therein, to be so detached from all earthly things that the inmates of Paradise may inhale from their garment the sweet smelling savor of sanctity, that all the peoples of the earth may recognize in their faces the brightness of the All-Merciful, and that through them may be spread abroad the signs and tokens of God, the Almighty, the All-Wise. They that have tarnished the fair name of the Cause of God, by following the things of the flesh—these are in palpable error!” Gleanings, pp. 100-101

“Know ye from what heights your Lord, the All-Glorious is calling? Think ye that ye have recognized the Pen wherewith your Lord, the Lord of all names, commandeth you? Nay, by My life! Did ye but know it, ye would renounce the world, and would hasten with your whole hearts to the presence of the Well-Beloved. Your spirits would be so transported by His Word as to throw into commotion the Greater World—how much more this small and petty one!….” Gleanings, pp. 139-140

“Wert thou to consider this world, and realize how fleeting are the things that pertain unto it, thou wouldst choose to tread no path except the path of service to the Cause of thy Lord. None would have the power to deter thee from celebrating His praise, though all men should arise to oppose thee.” Gleanings, p. 214

“That seeker must, at all times, put his trust in God, must renounce the peoples of the earth, must detach himself from the world of dust, and cleave unto Him Who is the Lord of Lords.... He should treasure the companionship of them that have renounced the world, and regard avoidance of boastful and worldly people a precious benefit....” Gleanings, pp. 264-265

“By the righteousness of God! The world and its vanities, and its glory, and whatever delights it can offer, are all, in the sight of God, as worthless as, nay, even more contemptible than, dust and ashes. Would that the hearts of men could comprehend it! Cleanse yourselves thoroughly, O people of Bahá, from the defilement of the world, and of all that pertaineth unto it. God Himself bearethMe witness. The things of the earth ill beseem you. Cast them away unto such as may desire them, and fasten your eyes upon this most holy and effulgent Vision.” Gleanings, p. 304

“Go thou straight on and persevere in His service. Say: O people! The Day, promised unto you in all the Scriptures, is now come. Fear ye God, and withhold not yourselves from recognizing the One Who is the Object of your creation. Hasten ye unto Him. Better is this for you than the world and all that is therein. Would that ye could perceive it!” Gleanings, p. 314


But I wonder, is something wrong with me, am I taking Baha’u’llah too seriously, because nobody else seems to think like me. Is this Cause really not as important as I think it is? If not, then it seems to me that the Writings must have been translated incorrectly. Or are people just too attached to the world? I am genuinely confused and I guess you could call it a crisis of Faith as I am not sure how much longer I can go it alone. Other than a few Baha’is I know on forums, I feel very much alone. :(
 
Apr 2017
196
Mexico
My Dear friend:

To embrace the Cause with enthusiasm, people need be given a tangible vision of the Kingdom of God.
We must be able to imagine (and teach) how a world with less hatred, ignorance and inequalities would look like in the next, say, 10 or 20 years... no more than that.
If you were in the business of real estate, for example, you should be able to explain how such business would look like in a world with more Love and knowledge and less hatred and ignorance.
In my case, I work in clinical research and I must be to explain how a world where the life expectancy is 100 years, in much better health, would look like.

To me, this is a distinctive trait of our Faith, that places us apart from other religions: it offers tangible hope for this society: it believes in man, in man's capacity for greatness. Which other religion points out to the Lesser Peace and the Most Great Peace as something attainable by us, humans, in this Dispensation?

We must talk about wining the race against Climate Change, against pseudoIslamic terrorism and any other fanaticism.
We must talk about the Internet, about free trade, about anti-aging research, about Bill Gates foundation, about the rise of China, about the reforms towards gender equality and universal education that are already sweeping the planet, and how we can get in the wagon and win !.
We must be able to explain why this age is already better than any other age in history and how we can make it even greater!

Again, we must show FAITH in people around us. This is Bahaullah's age, for God's sake! His Cause is not supported only by people who have declared and whose name is in the database of a National Spiritual Assembly. Nooo!!!!
Baha'u'llah's Cause is being championed, right now as you read this post, by millions of good hearted and rational people from all religions, all over the world. Our Cause is their Cause, whether they know it or not.

So you are not alone. Cheer up! :)
A hug from Mexico
 
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Nov 2013
26
Costa Rica
To me it seems that many Baha'is, both as individuals and within the Administration, think that people who have never heard about the Baha'i Faith and show no interest in it are already Baha'is without knowing about it. Such idle thoughts are nothing but an excuse for not doing anything. It is like saying that they are Baha'is without Baha'u'llah having ever heard or shown an interest in them.
 
Oct 2014
1,804
Stockholm
Such a difficult subject! Nowadays, I even shy away from discussing it. :(

gnat
 
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Jul 2017
302
Kettering, Ohio USA
Susan,

First of all I like your post. It starts a good discussion about what can be done to teach the Faith.

I would say that materialism has invaded the Baha'i community as well as the rest of the US. The only thing we can do about that is to be less materialistic as an example for the rest of the community. I think that one passage in Gleanings has been used as an excuse for materialism. People are materialistic to various degrees without realizing it.

My only response to the urgency of teaching is to do it on-line since I am much better in writing than I am orally. Besides that, I have little exposure to non-Baha'i in my life right now.

There is a lot of discouragement in teaching from the reactions of the world around us. You can see how discouraging it is from your efforts on-line. This discouragement has been going for maybe 40 years, while you only rekindled your interest in the Baha'i Faith about 5 years ago. You have the discouragement for that time only while the rest of the baby-boomer Baha'is have been facing discouragement for 40 years.
 
Jul 2017
302
Kettering, Ohio USA
Camachoe,

Very good post as usual. Yes, we should find ways to delineate the near future as well as the far future when teaching the Cause. Thanks for the insight!
 
Aug 2014
1,387
Blue Planet
I think it is not THAT correct to think that the faith is no more growing in US or any other places in the world. yes, it DOES grow, but maybe not under the specific name "Bahai". but look at the teachings of our faith "Equality of men and women- Unity" and other things. I was thinking today that these concepts are really growing more and more to be known and accepted in our world. we are living in the time of explosion of light and understanding. nowadays people know that the world need to be united, even if they are not Bahais by name. I know some very special people who are not Bahais and they say they believe in all religion and their behavior is like a real Bahai. so, what I mean is that, as dear Abdul Baha has said "our goal is not to turn the whole world to be Bahais. rather, we try to help people let go of old, wrong idea; let go of superstitions and wrong imaginations." THAT is the goal and if this is already happening in the world (under any name and label) that means Bahai faith is growing.
 
Oct 2014
1,804
Stockholm
I think it is not THAT correct to think that the faith is no more growing in US or any other places in the world. yes, it DOES grow, but maybe not under the specific name "Bahai". but look at the teachings of our faith "Equality of men and women- Unity" and other things. I was thinking today that these concepts are really growing more and more to be known and accepted in our world. we are living in the time of explosion of light and understanding. nowadays people know that the world need to be united, even if they are not Bahais by name. I know some very special people who are not Bahais and they say they believe in all religion and their behavior is like a real Bahai. so, what I mean is that, as dear Abdul Baha has said "our goal is not to turn the whole world to be Bahais. rather, we try to help people let go of old, wrong idea; let go of superstitions and wrong imaginations." THAT is the goal and if this is already happening in the world (under any name and label) that means Bahai faith is growing.

Dear maryamr,

I guess you are right if you talk about your own country. I'm under the impression that something very good is brewing under the surface there. But here in the West, anger is growing. In my own country, it's embarrassing to watch the news or to follow public debate. The level of thinking, the language, the disrespect for other opinions...well, I'm at a loss of words.

Best,

from

gnat
 
Apr 2017
196
Mexico
To me it seems that many Baha'is, both as individuals and within the Administration, think that people who have never heard about the Baha'i Faith and show no interest in it are already Baha'is without knowing about it. Such idle thoughts are nothing but an excuse for not doing anything. It is like saying that they are Baha'is without Baha'u'llah having ever heard or shown an interest in them.
I would suggest that those thoughts are radiant, and that they are a propeller to action.

Let me share with you something I found interesting: Abdul'Bahá means "servant of Bahá" or, paraphrased, "servant of the glory of God" right? Well, It is inspiring read Him saying that all human creatures are "Abdul-Bahás" themselves, only with special needs that require our action.


"All human creatures are the servants of God. All are submerged in the sea of His mercy. The Creator of all is one God; the Provider, the Giver, the Protector of all is one God. He is kind to all; why should we be unkind? All live beneath the shadow of His love; why should we hate each other? There are certain people who are ignorant; they must be educated. Some are like children; they must be trained and educated until they reach maturity. Others are sickly, intellectually ill, spiritually ill; they must be treated and healed. But all are the servants of God.
(‘Abdu’l-Bahá, The Promulgation of Universal Peace, p. 169)

Many religions point out that all human beings are "children" of God... but not all say they are in fact "servants" of God. Believers and non-believers are cooperating in unfolding his Will in this Dispensation. That reality should bring us nothing but encouragement to work harder and smarter. Our task is to find out how we can work together with our human fellows, whatever their flaws are, to serve God better. In some cases it would involve teaching explicitly who Bahá'u´lláh is and what He wrote. But in others it would mean working in community or global projects to embed a Baha'i principle into the world...

Look at the Jews. The Jewish community has been able to exert such an outstanding influence in human history, even when they have been always a minority. No field in business, science, art, literature, philosophy or technology has escaped their genius and laboriosity.
However, they have not gone knocking doors to convert people to Judaism to leave their footprint in the world.
I am not saying knocking doors is useless: just saying that it is by shining like a lamp that they have been able to survive and flourish until our days.
We may want to learn from their example.
 
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Aug 2017
1
Sinagapore
While our vision should be world-embracing, each of us having our own little "world" of friends, neighbors, colleagues, relatives and a few more people we shall meet along the way. Let's first take care of our own small "worlds" by various considered methods such as having potluck dinners with a cross section of these people (maximum 4 at a time) and have a discussion on any of the world issues. We can spend quite a life time doing this without worrying too much about how the Faith in the country is faring, as we are trying our best.

Any other methods?