Sen McGlinn's blog

                                  Reflections on the Bahai teachings

4 Responses to “For the betterment of the world”

  1. Barney said

    Sen, thank you for this thought-provoking essay.

    I spend a lot of my working time interacting – on behalf either of the UK Baha’i community or of the religion and belief strand in society – with organs of the British government and statutory non-departmental bodies like our relatively new Equalities and Human Rights Commission. Your essay will help me clarify my understanding of what I am doing when I serve, for example, on stakeholder and advisory groups for government ministries and engage in the kinds of discussion that go on there.

    It seems to me that Britain is, by and large, a post-modern state. However, the government is very anxious to define “British values” and to try to build a moral underpinning to life here – something I suspect will be difficult, if not impossible to do – and which may actually be improper.

    Anyway, thanks for posting this essay.

  2. Sen McGlinn said

    The Dutch government too has been in the grip of “Dutchness” – which like “Britishness” is a figment of the imagination. Which is just as well – for if Britishness did underlie Britain as a nation, then surely Welshness, Scottishness, cockneyness and tynesiderness would have the same claim – and the same result. Paradoxically, when modern states have tried to create a “national identity” to create or reinforce their coherence as a country, they have sown the seeds of their own disintegration. In today’s world, it is multiculturalism and not national identity that provides coherence to countries.

    The Netherlands too is a postmodern society, but this fact is not accepted, and its implications for politics are not grasped, by political actors and theorists. So we have reluctant accomodation to the fact of pluralism and government’s limited powers, rather than wholehearted acceptance. In the Netherlands, we’ve taken a temporary step back, with a Prime Minister who has been enamoured of Etzioni’s version of communitarianism, which justifies the domination of society by one “leitcultuur”. Fortunately, the PM is a basically sensible chappie, if a little too young for his role, and we are hearing less of this as he matures.

    – Sen

  3. Dear Sen: At the start of your post you mention the idea that non-revolutionary religions such as the Baha’i Faith might be reaching the root of the problem by preaching compassion and working towards the oneness of humanity. While I agree that that is a partial description of how the Baha’i community impacts the world, I would say that there is far more at work in the Baha’i Faith, operating at first principles that get at the root of problems. For example, the junior youth presentations that are a part of the moral education / youth animation / Ruhi program for young people, is an open way of addressing attitudes – of spirituality, of ethics, of conduct towards one’s parents and towards the opposite sex, among them — and these translate into socially healthier people functioning in the world. This is free education in Truth, for the public. I have personally found the marriage of social action and spiritual evolution in all aspects of Baha’i life to be satisfying; including not only the above, but also the emphasis on enforceable international law, the empowering of the peasants, the bringing of the voices of women into positions of power. I think it’s precisely because the Baha’i teachings address so many sensitive areas, that the Baha’is and their institutions must remain not only non-partisan, but non-interfering in politics. There is also the “mysterious” aspect of the Baha’i Faith, that through indirect means, beyond the control of the Baha’is, the fact that we are left alone to do our work on character and spirit and society, has a beneficial influence that tends towards justice and towards pacification and demilitarization. The whole Baha’i program has an influence that is at once destabilizing to the status quo (upsetting the world’s equilibrium, in Baha’u’llah’s words), and stabilizing of society in the long run, on the basis of fairness and a true picture of the purpose of life. I’m not so concerned about who’s in power; they don’t have any power at all in some important areas of the management of society; Shoghi often mentioned the impotence of statesmanship in the present age. Somehow the whole picture of what Baha’u’llah brought — from the salat, to the Huquq’u’llah, to the law of parental consent, the Houses of Justice and the admonition to cleanliness and a high sense of personal morality — all of it is a remedy, all of it is a contribution to the upbuilding of the societies we’re a part of. Brent

  4. 4854derrida said


    I’ve just uploaded two rare interviews with the Catholic activist Dorothy Day. One was made for the Christophers [1971]–i.e., Christopher Closeup– and the other for WCVB-TV Boston [1974].

    Day had begun her service to the poor in New York City during the Depression with Peter Maurin, and it continued until her death in 1980. Their dedication to administering to the homeless, elderly, and disenfranchised continues with Catholic Worker homes in many parts of the world.

    Please post or announce the availability of these videos for those who may be interested in hearing this remarkable lay minister.

    They may be located here:

    Thank you

    Dean Taylor

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