Re: A Retired Internationalist: After 50 Years
I understand your concern; I have been discussing it in various forms for(as I say) 50 years.) There have been a series of forms of colllective identity in the last several thousand years: tribe, clan, chieftom, city state, nation and(more recently) federated state(and in Star-Trek) federation of stars/planets. Each stage has been slow in coming and the process of their formation has been long, complex, tortuous and conflict ridden. Let me say one or two things about the process of apologetics which, if you want to continue this dialogue, we will be engaged in:
I want in this second part of this posting to finish, as best I can, outlining a basic orientation to Baha?i apologetics. Critical scholarly contributions or criticism raised in public or private discussions, an obvious part of apologetics, should not necessarily be equated with hostility. Often questions are perfectly legitimate aspects of a person's search for an answer to an intellectual conundrum. Paul Tillich once expressed the view that apologetics was an "answering theology."(Systematic Theology, U. of Chicago, 1967, Vol.1, p6.)
I have always been attracted to the founder of the Baha'i Faith's exhortations in discussion to "speak with words as mild as milk," with "the utmost lenience and forbearance." I am also aware that, in cases of rude or hostile attack, rebuttal with a harsher tone may well be justified. It does not help an apologist to belong to those "watchmen" the prophet Isaiah calls "dumb dogs that cannot bark."(Isaiah, 56:10)
In its essence apologetics is a kind of confrontation, an act of revealing one's true colours, of hoisting the flag, of demonstrating essential characteristics of faith. Dialogue, as Hans Kung puts it, "does not mean self-denial."(quoted by Udo Schaefer, "Baha'i Apologetics," Baha'i Studies Review, Vol.10, 2001/2) Schaefer goes on: "A faith that is opportunistically streamlined, adapting to current trends, thus concealing its real features, features that could provoke rejection in order to be acceptable for dialogue is in danger of losing its identity."
It is almost impossible to carry the torch of truth through a crowd without getting someone's beard singed. In the weeks that follow, my postings will probably wind up singing the beards of some readers and, perhaps, my own in the process. Such are the perils of dialogue, of apologetics. Much of Baha'i apologetics derives from the experience Baha'is have of a fundamental discrepancy between secular thought and the Baha'i concepts on the other. In some ways, the gulf is unbridgeable but, so too, is this the case between the secular and much thought in the Christian tradition or, for that matter, between variants of Christianity or secular thought itself. That is why, or at least one of the reasons, I have chosen to make postings at this site. In addition, this topic of global harmony seems to invite debate.
Anyway, that's all for now. It's back to the summer winds of Tasmania, about 3 kms from the Bass Straight on the Tamar River. The geography of place is so much simpler than that of the spiritual geography readers at this site are concerned with, although even physical geography has its complexities. Whom the gods would destroy they first make simple and simpler and simpler. I look forward to a dialogue with someone. Here in far-off Tasmania--the last stop before Antarctica, if one wants to get there through some other route than off the end of South America--your email will be gratefully received. -Ron Price, Tasmania.