Thursday, February 28, 2008

On a Culture of Change: The Baha'i Community has turned the corner

Q: What is 'culture'?
outmodels in the wild.
Each circle represents an individual with an outmodel (M) that represents its individual view of the world (color). The outmodel of each individual is heavily influenced by the outmodels of the individuals around them, and is influenced to a lesser degree by parts of the objective world with which the individual has direct contact (trees). As a group, the individuals create a common world view, or an organized system of learned behavior that is their total way of life (i.e., a culture). Commonly, individuals and groups resist changes or challenges to their world view.
A: An organized system of learned behavior that is a total way of life of a people.
Image and description uploaded on March 26, 2006 by zachstern on flickr, licensed under Creative Common Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 2.0 Generic

Above is text and image defining culture as learned behavior, which I found on Flickr as I was looking for a visual for this post. Below are the final two paragraphs from Momen's paper "Culture of Change," which I discovered on the Hedayati's Reaching and Teaching Efforts, a version dated February 2007. I am struck by the fact that one year later evidence of a profound change in Baha'i culture now appears, to my eyes at least, undeniable. In the interim between last February and this, the corner has been turned. -gw

In 2002, The Universal House of Justice made it clear: "Where Bahá'í communities are unable to free themselves from an orientation to Bahá'í life that has long outlived whatever value it once possessed, the teaching work will lack both the systematic character it requires, and the spirit that must animate all effective service to the Cause."[i]

Of course it is early days yet -- it took more than a decade for the change in culture that Shoghi Effendi instituted to become established in the Baha'i community. But the tide is turning. Guided by the Counsellors and the National Spiritual Assemblies, the Baha'is are beginning to follow the instructions of the Universal House of Justice -- and increasingly it is those Baha'is who have previously played a passive "congregational" role in the community, who have not been leaders in the community, the women and the youth, who are responding and initiating the activities that the Universal House of Justice has asked for. Although they may not yet be able to visualize how the Bahá'í community will look in its new cultural manifestation and they may not yet discern any benefits from the new order, nevertheless they are pressing ahead with the process. The direction towards which the Universal House of Justice is pointing the Bahá'ís is clearly the next logical step in the development of the Bahá'í community and as Bahá'í communities respond to the call for a change of culture, it can be anticipated that the features of the new culture will gradually become clearer.

[i]. Letter of the Universal House of Justice to an individual, dated 22 August 2002
[ii]. A first draft of this paper appeared on an e-mail list in February 2003. It has subsequently been published in Living Nation and translated and published in a few languages. I am grateful to numerous people who commented on this paper in that list and subsequently by private correspondence and thus helped to shape the current (February 2007) version of the paper.

Moojan Momen, "A Culture of Change"


Pioneering Over Four Epochs said...

Readers here might enjoy what is, as far as I know, the most extensive analysis of the new Baha'i paradigm of learning and growth. I posted an introduction to the paradigmatic shift in the Baha'i community, the new culture of learning and growth that is at the heart of this paradigm, 18 to 24 months ago at several internet sites.

It seemed like a good idea to give readers some specific steps on how to access this now revised article/essay at Baha’i Library Online(BLO).

In that two year period there have been many thousand views of my article at the few sites where it has been posted. In addition to googling "Baha'i Culture of Learning and Growth" and accessing my article in the process, readers can take the following steps to access my article at BLO: (i) type Baha’i Library Online or Baha’i Academics Resource Library into your search engine; (ii) click on the small box “By author” at the top of the access page at BLO; (iii) type “Price” into the small box that then appears and click on the word “Go;” and then (iv) scroll down to article/document item #46 and (v) click on that item and read to your heart’s content. When your eyes and your mind start to glaze over, stop reading. The article can be downloaded free and you will then have access to a revised article, a 150 page, 70,000 word context for all this new paradigmatic terminology that has come into the Baha’i community in the last 13 years.

The statement is a personal one, does not assume an adversarial attitude, attempts to give birth of as fine an etiquette of expression as I can muster and, I like to think, possesses both candour and critical thought on the one hand and praise and delight at the process on the other. I invite readers to what I also like to think is “a context on which relevant fundamental questions” regarding this new paradigm may be discussed within the Baha’i community. It is also my intention to update this article in the months and years ahead. One of the advantages of the BLO site is the freedom it gives to a writer to update the article right on the site in an ongoing process as new insights from major thinkers in the Baha'i community and information from the elected and appointed institutions of the Cause comes to hand.

If time and the inclination permit, check it out. No worries, no obligation, just if it interests you. You may find the piece of writing too long as I'm sure many readers do. After a few paragraphs of reading, you will get the flavour of the exercise. Just keep reading if your mind and spirit are enjoying the process.

Pioneering Over Four Epochs said...

This book on the Baha'i Culture of Learning and Growth is now 280 pages and 110,000 words. It can be found by clicking on this site line:

...or if that does not work just follow the steps I have already indicated.-Ron Price, Tasmania