History and Religion

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This was the title (at least roughly) of a talk I attended last week.

It was phenomenal. Of course, the man speaking happened to have been one of my most favorite orators. He probably could have talked about toilet paper and I would have found it to be life-changing.

The first talk I attended by him was probably about 6 months ago, and it helped clarify for me my decision to return to the States after our time in Israel. Now for some of you, that may be shocking because perhaps you assumed that was what I'd do all along. However, it wasn't clear to me. I did want to return to the States, but I couldn't justify why that was so important to me. Not that reasons such as:

I want to be close to family when I have children (not to mention close to a health care system I at least vaguely know how to deal with) are not valid.

There's a lot of bashing of the US that goes on these days - sort of a world sport. One point he made was that America's problems are just that. America's problems. Whew - what a load off. I'm so sick and tired of feeling guilty or ashamed about being American. Oh yeah, he also made the point that no one should feel ashamed of where they come from. Good point.

So, in this more recent talk he was talking about the importance of history, and that religion is inextricably intertwined with history. But then, that isn't really my point, or what was most relevant to me.

Me - that's the point of this blog, right? :-)

Anywho, being a literature person (whether I want to be or not, it seems my training is getting the better of me), I relate to history especially through its literature. It's what brings history alive for me - when I'm studying both the literature and the history of a particular period.

And I thought about that in the context of the Baha'i Faith, as its history is being written. Where is its literature? And I mean great literature. I've seen a teen novel or two, but nothing very memorable. It is yet to be written of course. And I'm not really a great writer, but it got me thinking. Not that I have anything profound to report from that. But it got me back to thinking about the enjoyment I derive from medieval French literature, much of which is linked to the Church. Hmm. Could I actually find myself going back to studying medieval French lit.? Is it possible I could even find some relevance to it? Hmm....

He also mentioned the American Revolution. When was the American Revolution? Well, most of you can answer that with the exact dates, as he pointed out. But what was really exciting to me was that he explained that to the French, Chinese, etc., there was nothing "revolutionary" about the American Revolution. Once the revolution was over, the same people went back to doing the same things they were doing before (i.e. running the country). He said that, in his opinion, the real revolution took place once people started coming over to what later became the States, and a cultural revolution took place amongst the people. [not denying all the horrible, negative stuff that happened] That the future US citizens had a shift in thought from the world they'd left behind [no matter where they were coming from] - they were starting something new. They were doing things differently.

And for the first time in a long time, if not in my entire life, I finally understood why I was American. What about me is American. How I relate to America, and how my being American is an inescapable part of me. That culture is part of the States, and a part of me and I embrace it. More than some Americans, granted. But I suddenly felt okay being an American.

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Thanks for posting this...I was actually thinking of writing up what had been most important to me in this talk, just because I've been thinking about it for a week. I'm definitely going to miss this aspect of the Baha'i World Centre more than anything I think, this inspiring, challenging world view that puts current events in perspective. And talks you would attend once in a lifetime if you're lucky. I'll have to give this some thought as well, but I loved reading through your post, because whether I relate to being an American or not, I am a US citizen, and I don't like this US bashing that is going on in the world, sanctioned by everyone else's passivity. Nation-bashing is potentially just as harmful to living together in peace as is nationalistic supremacy...

Living in Gambia there were a lot of Brits and Muslims and with neither group was the United States popular. I ran into a lot of very cynical commentary about this wonderful land that I live in. I hate to comment on it but the issues of America are not just that, the problems of America are the problems of the world. They are not, however, property of the world. If we refer back to The Advent of Divine Justice it is made very clear that the issue of race is an American problem. If America solves it so does the world. Also, the burden of bringing about world-federated peace and unity lies on the shoulders of the United States (also in the Advent). So what is so disgusting about this?

If we have a responsibility and are not living up to it sufficiently is not criticism necessary?

It is not. However, whether people are aware of the role that America needs to be playing or not it exists and, to an extent, I suspect that there is a universal subconscious acknowledgement of that. This doesn't mean that the calumny perpetrated against this nation (or any other nation) is justified but it merely explains its existence.

I was listening to Rush Limbaugh today (not by choice) and a caller was trying to make a point that we need to reflect on the arms race that grew out of ending World WarII with nuclear weaponry and recognize that the way to stop the further production of nuclear weapons is to stop making them ourselves and promote those who are not making them as well. The host decided that this was ridiculous and started rebutting. But all that i could hear was "we did... for ourselves.... our protection.... our safety.... our way of life.... us.... we.... my...."

Essentially, the view of how the world's most powerful and influential nation behaves is that it is self-centered. Simply, how can any American expect any person to respect the U.S. when it exploitative and corrupt? As a world citizen it isn't hard to read this and think, it would be so easy to change the world if everyone looked up from their lives and asked themselves, 'how can I help the world be a better place?'

Now, if one looks at the progress that America is making and returns to The Advent of Divine Justice Shoghi Effendi comments that it is the responsibility of the U.S. to entangle itself in the affairs of the world, especially Iraq...

If anyone recalls, it is the duty of everyone to teach the Faith of God. Whether they decide to be a willful part of it or not. some are involved in destruction and others in construction. We are moving, ceaselessly, towards the pinnacle. Critique, bash, calumnize as anyone may, how successful has that ever been in diverting the Will of God?

Oh, by the way, where is the literature? I agree, it's necessary. I crave to be a writer, and to write in context of the Faith, but am stymied at every turn. Where to go? I know that some people like my style of writing but I don't know how to form it into a piece of fictional literature that can really relate itself to the movement of the world and where it needs to be going. I feel like I need to create a whole new model for writing, a whole new model for fiction in order to contain such a weighty and influential topic. But how?

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This page contains a single entry by Mara published on August 4, 2004 12:10 PM.

Six Rolls of Toilet Paper was the previous entry in this blog.

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