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18. The Clash of Political and Cultural Opinion

Updated: May 10, 2022

So many of us share the dream of our human family living together as one. We write about it. Some of our most beautiful poems eulogise it. Many of our most inspiring songs express it. And some of our most stirring speeches describe it - like Martin Luther King's famous 'I Have a Dream' speech.

But not our national anthems. Most national anthems are celebrations of uniqueness and - dare I say it - superiority. So the dreaming of unity and the singing and talking about it are the easy parts. How do we go about achieving it?

Today we've moved beyond that stage of dreaming - now we're at the pointy edge; the doing stage. And we find that it's the doing it and living it day by day that brings the real challenges.

One of the greatest of these is our sheer differences. Many are readily apparent; our skin colour, our language, our dress. Others are more individualised yet extremely fundamental, like our values.

Each culture has its own unique beliefs about collective values and social behaviours. Some are apparently minor; like how to greet one another. Others are less readily explainable, like our ceremonies surrounding birth, death and marriage.

Often these are the outcome of generational practices. You have your own spiritual and cultural principles and practices. I have mine. To what extent do we need to agree on these important subjects, or is there some way to live together that accepts these differences without disharmony?

One only has to follow a typical news programme to see how deeply ingrained is the clash of political and cultural opinion.

It is a fundamental principle of the Bahai Teachings that we should not speak even a word of politics.

It is a principle that has held true within our community during such dire eras as those of Nazism, Fascism, Communism and the like.

It is one that we hold closely today as we observe aspects such as the reversal of previous advances in environmental matters and global trade, concerns around racism, equity and civility in immigration practices, in politically sanctioned behaviour toward women and minorities etc.

It is one that we have held to be true in the past and cling to with today and tomorrow in mind, during situations that we could not even have imagined in previous times.

How pathetic indeed are the efforts of those leaders of human institutions who, in utter disregard of the spirit of the age, are striving to adjust national processes, suited to the ancient days of self-contained nations, to an age which must either achieve the unity of the world, as adumbrated by Bahá’u’lláh, or perish. ---Shoghi Effendi.The Guiding Principles of World Order.

“The call of Bahá'u'lláh is primarily directed against all forms of provincialism, all insularities and prejudices. If long-cherished ideals and time-honoured institutions, if certain social assumptions and religious formulae have ceased to promote the welfare of the generality of mankind, if they no longer administer to the needs of a continually evolving humanity, let them be swept away and relegated to the limbo of obsolescent and forgotten doctrines. Why should these, in a world subject to the immutable law of change and decay, be exempt from the deterioration that must needs overtake every human institution? For legal standards, political and economic theories are solely designed to safeguard the interests of humanity as a whole, and not humanity to be crucified for the preservation of the integrity of any particular law or doctrine.”

--- Shoghi Effendi, 28 November 1931, in The World Order of Bahá'u'lláh: Selected Letters, pp. 41-42)


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