Thursday, June 11, 2009

I Have Seen the Enemy and it is Us

Looks like our biggest threat as far as terrorism goes in the near future will be of the homegrown variety. Watch the video below for more...


SMK said...

The complexity of terrorism does indeed give us quandaries to figure out. I found your blog from a comment you made on another blog:

"I think I might be a follower of the B'hai faith,… just sweep all those pesky doctrinal differences under the rug. And reserve ultimate reverence to the Last Prophet Bahá'u'lláh...

...or not. With Christ I'll remain."

A couple thoughts: A tiny one is that it's spelled "Baha'i". The "pesky doctrinal issues" are mostly those developed long after the founding of the religion. A few things are misunderstandings, and a couple are more relevant to the period of time. But the core values have always been the same. We always have pray and contemplation and meditation and fasting and virtues and character and mercy and love and on and on. An example of a misunderstanding would be the difference between nominal Christian views and Moslem views about the Crucifixion. Left on paper one says Jesus died on the cross for our sins and on the other Jesus wasn't crucified at all. There is a simple way out of the problem. Jesus is a soul, a transcendent reality untouchable by nails. His mission and mercy continue. This is the kind of thing Baha'is try to figure out - many of these clarifications are in our writings which are in several places and translated widely too. There is a predisposition among Baha'is to figure out the truth - even to taking apparent contradictions seriously rather than picking and choosing what we take from the Scriptures of the world.

But you mention also "Last Prophet" Baha'u'llah. I have to address that. And this will also get us back to the question of terrorism believe it or not. If you look around the terrorist organizations and extremists one of the threads running in them, whether a huge issue or a minor background one, is the fact that they are each looking for the own expectations of the fulfillment of the promise they see in their Scriptures - that somehow this Armageddon hasn't come about or is about to come about and what they can do about it. Some take the position if they act and "clean house" God will send the Promised One. Or if they act the rising tension will become the circumstances they think will come about. All of them together imagine their Prophet was the Last One and the only place things are going to go from here is the end of the world and God will reward the faithful and destroy everyone else.

(next post)

SMK said...

Baha'is do not imagine there will ever be a Last Prophet. Ever.

Baha'u'llah is the most recent Prophet. And indeed just as we are the expression of all our ancestors, so is the most recent Prophet the most present voice of God coming to our ears and giving the hopes and promises of those gone before a fresh chance at becoming real in the world. God's Kingdom on Earth as it is in Heaven. And this particular transition is a new kind of change, We believe we are already on the other side of Armageddon. in the 1800's many Christians climbed on roof tops looking for his return. Slave owners turned out their slaves for fear of God's retribution. For an extended discussion, consider "Thief in the Night" (which you can find used quite inexpensively.)

Anyway, let me leave you with a few quotes about the problems we are wrestling with this Day:

"Gird up the loins of your endeavor, O people of Light, that haply the tumult of religious dissension and strife that agitateth the peoples of the earth may be stilled, that every trace of it may be completely obliterated. For the love of God, and them that serve Him, arise to aid this sublime and momentous Revelation. Religious fanaticism and hatred are a world-devouring fire, whose violence none can quench. The Hand of Divine power can, alone, deliver mankind from this desolating affliction. Consider the war that hath involved the two Nations, how both sides have renounced their possessions and their lives. How many the villages that were completely wiped out!" (Baha'u'llah: Epistle to the Son of the Wolf, Pages: 13-14, c.1870)

As Jesus said: "And when He had looked round about on them with anger, being grieved for the hardness of their hearts..."

SMK said...

In short you cannot leave Jesus behind if you embrace the Baha'i Faith. Indeed Jews and Muslims and Buddhists who become Baha'is have to look to Jesus - a good fraction of the whole New Testament is written - literally, by quotes, into our Scriptures and Jesus is held up repeatedly.

Alisha De Freitas said...


Thanks for writing. You are the first person to ever write so indepth a response. I appreciate that. As for my comment, it was in response to a blog about what we'd be if we weren't Christians. While others chose one faith like Buddhism, I chose the Baha'i Faith since it takes from a number of religions. Now, here I'll admit, maybe my choice could be taken wrong, and if you were offended, I'm sorry. My knowledge of your religion is limited. So thanks for sharing.

As for my beliefs, I am a Christian. I follow Christ only. While I might admire the wisdom and peace taught by leaders of other spiritual groups, my adoration is reserved for Christ only. I have read about Christ as spirit, but that is a doctrine rejected in orthodox Christianity. In order for the Atonement to be valid for the redemption of man, Christ would have to be both God and man, not just a spiritual being. Also, Jesus said "I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father but through Me" in John 14:6. That is a pretty airtight, exclusive statement. It's like CS Lewis said. ""{Jesus} either was (and is) just what He said or else a lunatic, or something worse. Now it seems to me obvious that He was neither a lunatic nor a fiend: and consequently, however strange or terrifying or unlikely it may seem, I have to accept the view that He was and is God." I believe He is God.
I'm going to check out your links, and again, thank you so much for sharing! Someone other than my husband and bro! YES! (smile)

SMK said...

Hi Alisha,

Glad to comment where it's welcomed. Good to know where you are coming from.

"… I chose the Baha'i Faith since it takes from a number of religions. Now, here I'll admit, maybe my choice could be taken wrong, and if you were offended, I'm sorry. My knowledge of your religion is limited. So thanks for sharing."

I'm not offended by the comment at all. Just trying to refine some of the ideas you associate with the religion. It's not that the comments are unreasonable. For example, in the above you mention "takes from…". That's called syncretism. But Baha'is categorically reject this claim. We have Baha'u'llah, volumes of Scripture, and history (1), (2). However our unequivocal affirmation of the various Founders of the well known religions, and going even beyond our explicit texts where we can, could look like syncretism. For example, we hold the Bible, "the Holy Book of God, of celestial Inspiration,…of Salvation…" sacred. Seriously. But - as I mentioned above - we believe the events of Armageddon are history. We claim the 7 seals have been opened and the Christ, returned in the Glory of the Father, has come. There is almost nothing familiar to the world before the 1800s we would find normal, and almost nothing we take for granted they would recognize. It took 300 years for the Roman Empire to recognize Christ - I'd say for being only 160 years young, and already spread around the world he changing of the world is not yet done. Nevertheless, we do not hold to the history of the Church or Popes or priests, are not bound by the Moslem Caliphs, of Buddhist Lamas or their decisions and administrations, just like the US is founded on the Constitution and Declaration of Independence, however much we might take special note of the Magna Carta, or the example of the Iroquois. But the citizens of the United States are not British or Iroquois.

I have read about Christ as spirit, but that is a doctrine rejected in orthodox Christianity.

As I said above, we hold the Bible Holy. We take it seriously. Judgements made by men hundreds or thousands of years later are another matter. That being said, we do not hold Jesus' humanity limited to his body. He felt the nails - they just didn't touch His Spirit.

Jesus said "I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father but through Me" in John 14:6. That is a pretty airtight, exclusive statement.

Since Jesus, Islam, the Babi and the Baha'i Faiths have all held up Jesus as God manifest to us. This isn't to say theologies haven't split between Christianity, Islam and since but none of the religions we see founded by God have denied Jesus. But if Jesus' message, and sacrifice were sufficient to the world, there would be no need for Him to return. Nevertheless He did, we claim.

Alisha De Freitas said...

Hi :-)

I'd like to respond to a couple of points. While there are some Christian groups who hold to (or once taught) the belief that Christ made an invisible return in the 1800's, such as the Jehovah's Witnesses and Seven Day Adventists, the overwhelming majority of Christians do not believe this. Even the Jehovah's Witnesses changed that date to the early part of the twentieth century when their leader, Charles Taze Russell's prophecies didn't come to pass. There's no evidence that Christ has already returned. I believe when it does occur, far more people will know outside of small breakaway groups.

Also, while Islam extols Jesus as a prophet, He is not the Son of God, since according to the Koran, Allah has no children. As you mentioned previously, Islam teaches that Jesus was not killed on the cross, either. This is at odds with the New Testament Scriptures. Even with the additional explanation offered by your faith, all three contradict each other. Christianity says God took flesh and was crucified in order for man to be redeemed. Islam says salvation can be achieved through submission to Allah and adherence to the five pillars and good works. These aren't nominal differences. It's why they are separate religions as opposed to different denominations within the same religion.

As for the spread of your faith, the same can be said of Mormons, Seven Day Adventists, Jehovah's Witnesses, and Pentecostals (although they had their formal start in 1901). This speaks to the yearning for God- something I believe is natural to humanity.

Lastly, Christians believe Christ's sacrifice was sufficient. "For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son so that whosoever believes in Him should not perish, but have ever lasting life." (John 3:16) His return will not be for redemptive purposes, but for judgment.

SMK said...

Hi Alisha,

Your comments speak well of both knowledge and understanding prevalent and so you have much reason to believe it. Centuries, millennia, of advancing study agree with you and hosts of considered thought agree. The same could be said at other times of history now believed to be wrong. Put another way, their judgements don't really count. It's all about what is true after all.

Not everyone agrees with the current understanding (1) (2) (3) (4) (5) among many others otherwise worthy of note in Wikipedia. 'Course their judgement doesn't count any more or less as well.

I encourage your prayerful consideration.

Alisha De Freitas said...

"Your comments speak well of both knowledge and understanding prevalent and so you have much reason to believe it...The same could be said at other times of history now believed to be wrong."

Hmm, ouch SMK. Yes, things that were once considered acceptable such as slavery are now viewed as despicable and inhumane. That doesn't change the fact that it was wrong all along- changed perceptions do not mean changed truth. That being said, as a Christian, I believe the message of the Gospel is infallibly true. Valid for 2000 years ago, valid for now, valid for all time. Christ is "The Alpha and the Omega." Whether I choose to accept that or not does not make it more or less true. This is where my faith comes in, believing, despite criticisms and outright attacks, that it is true. And please don't think I'm saying your attacking my faith because I'm not.

I do agree with you about what is "true." That is really what matters. I am not a moral relativist, though, so I believe there is one truth. People are flawed, so we often botch living out that truth and even in presenting it. But ultimately, that does not change the truth itself. And truth is knowable.

I wouldn't say other people's judgments don't count. That's not fair. And I guess that's where the "ouch" comes in. A statement like that, if led down an argument continuum could become that the message itself doesn't count since that it is mixed with the judgment of some person somewhere. So the baby will be thrown out with the bathwater. Which ultimately would lead to the negation of the spiritual beliefs of all people... since faith cannot be measured, dissected or explained by science. Which is what I believe, is happening in this country more and more.

Again, thank you for sharing your beliefs, and I've already begun to check out the links. Be blessed!

SMK said...

Hmm, ouch SMK.

AH - you remind me of many many things with that ouch. So many things. ... I am thankful for the courtesy you have repeatedly shown that while being staunch in your faith as speaks well of the influence of Jesus in your life you are also willing to investigate the links I lace into the posts (really a kind of way of painting a thousand words into a word.)

Returning to your theme of homegrown terrorism I am reminded of another home and feeling something dangerous is happening to one's culture. I am speaking of Shaykh Ahmad. He was a young man who walked out of the Bedouin desert culture of what is now eastern Saudi Arabia in the 1700s AD. He had decided there was something going wrong. Like all peoples there is some past that was glorious. The Moslem cultures circa 1000 AD had reached heights of refinement, of discovery, of art and public health that attracted peoples to it simply because it was as manifestly a better life as is obvious to the Mexicans who had been traveling to America out of Mexico. But that was no long true in the Middle East and Shayhk Admad set out to fix the situation - to refine the character of the influence of Islam on the lives of people. He went to existing Muslim schools and earned praise and admiration for his studies and stances. He often tried to reconcile differences of polarities among his compatriots. Eventually he had enough of a reputation and people who listened to what he said that he could setup his own school. But he also became convinced that the ability for the teachings of Islam to affect the lives of people had wandered somehow - people were concerned with new challenges and despite sincere efforts sometimes people remained dogmatic and were willing to sacrifice relationship and respect to their beliefs rather than those beliefs brining people together. Instead it drove people into smaller and smaller divisions - one group against another. He began to think that if this was to be resolved God would have to do something. He still dedicated his life to the work of resolving differences and instilling what he felt were the teachings of Islam that raised nobility in students willing to learn. As a result students in their teens who arrived at a well earned sincerity and faithfulness to the work began to go off on missions to try to settle differences in other groups - that the work Shayhk Ahmad undertook became the work others worked on. But laced into this was also a sense of expectation of something from God. It could have formed a millennial expectation but the work of reconciliation remained at the forefront and didn't separate into another group pulling itself away. One of the foremost students was Siyyid Kazim and in short order Shayhk Admad handed the working affairs of the school over to him and retired to a kind of guest lecturer position. Shaykh Ahmad had ecstatic meditations that his work would not be in vain. Siyyid Kazim continued the work and more students came to the work, while aged Shayhk Ahmad finally passed away. Siyyid Kazim experienced things that lead him to believe God was not careless of the state of things and the darkening gloom of civil discourse, and the discontent of the downtrodden near and far. He knew the work was far far larger than his school could ever address, yet the work remained and someone had to do it though by now standardized arguments began to form - a reputation gains critics however earned or not.

SMK said...

Through prayers and study Siyyid Kazim felt increasingly that the time foretold in Islam was at hand just as others around the world were then arguing. Finally he died with a promise on his lips - that the time had come and he ordered the school be disband and his students were to disperse searching for the promised one. However all the students were paralyzed with shock and mourning. Shayhk Ahmad and Siyyid Kazim never wanted to just setup a competitor school among others - they wanted to reform the condition of things. Some of the students thought to simply continue the work at hand while others respected the last wishes of their leader. In particular was the student Mulla Husayn. A senior student, he happened to be away at the work when Siyyid Kazim died and left his command to disband and seek. On return from his mission and hearing this he walked away from the groups of students. He attracted attention by simply acting on the instructions of his teacher. He fasted and prayed for a time - a couple fellow students decided to go with him. They wandered east and south and north over the coming months but remained true to the search. They came to the city of Shiraz and Mulla Husayn told his compatriots to go into town and rent a room for the evening while he paced and prayed outside the city. Finally he walked to the entrance gate and noticed someone sitting outside the gate who got up as he approached and with a bright smile walked forward and shook his hand like greeting an old friend. This stranger welcomed him off the dusty road to come to his home and to be refreshed with tea and suggested he commend his friends to the care of God. Being rude to a host, even one who presented himself like this, was not acceptable so Mulla Husayn found himself whisked away to the home of his welcomer.

SMK said...

This incident of being encountered outside a city on a dusty trail at a city gate and the night of discussion to two had is celebrated annually by Baha'is around the world. This is how we began. Building the Kingdom of God on earth, if our work be true, is at it's root an effort to reform the character of the people and the influence of religion on the lives of people and it is a theme the religion would return to many times as things progressed. This man would quietly intervene in the searches of other students over the coming months - not all from Shayhk Ahmad's school though because Mulla Husayn had stopped his wandering it did attract others of his fellow students. But some were ascetic wanders following visions and prayers or students of other schools from other places following other promises. Later that same year this young man commissioned his first 18 followers to begin a new work. And so they spread out.

I've not told the whole story available in the histories nor linked to the various records here - they are scattered above. Believe it or not, my point is not to overwhelm. But I echo your concern about homegrown terrorism. The problem of extremism exists widely and has been biting into every people. Some reach for extremes of atheism and old ways of power. Others reach for extremes of theology and artificial senses of purity and separation. Successful powers and societies struggle to maintain and extend their ways of life now push up against eachother having already overrun anything that could be overrun. The world is now covered in places we humans have organized - there is no where we can really go now. In times past we could pull up and move out into unsettled places or push out people. Now such places and struggles are no longer available. Ethnic cleansing and scapegoating are no longer means of advancing our ways of life. We need to engage with eachother - celebrating our diversity, and amending both our limits of tolerance and some of our actual practices when we discover they are not worthy. In the process we believe we will call forth our sources of nobility - from religion, from history and culture, from the human need for God, and from God's promises for humanity. And progress has been made. Things once normal for millennia are widely appreciated as shameful. But there is more to do.

Matt @ The Church of No People said...

Holy cow, that is quite an exchange. Great job, Alisha on knowing the whats and whys of our beliefs. You represent them well. And I'm glad that my flippant blog post could help start such a conversation.

Alisha De Freitas said...

Lol! Thanks for the compliment, and the opportunity which began this discourse.

SMK said...

Of course if you have other things you wish to pursue, it's a big world. As for being reconciled, in the broad community of humanity, you may find Baha'u'lllah's words more worthy than mine:

It is Our wish and desire that every one of you may become a source of all goodness unto men, and an example of uprightness to mankind. Beware lest ye prefer yourselves above your neighbors. Fix your gaze upon Him Who is the Temple of God amongst men. He, in truth, hath offered up His life as a ransom for the redemption of the world. He, verily, is the All-Bountiful, the Gracious, the Most High. If any differences arise amongst you, behold Me standing before your face, and overlook the faults of one another for My name’s sake and as a token of your love for My manifest and resplendent Cause. We love to see you at all times consorting in amity and concord within the paradise of My good-pleasure, and to inhale from your acts the fragrance of friendliness and unity, of loving-kindness and fellowship. Thus counselleth you the All-Knowing, the Faithful. We shall always be with you; if We inhale the perfume of your fellowship, Our heart will assuredly rejoice, for naught else can satisfy Us. To this beareth witness every man of true understanding.

and there are other such quotes too....

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