Sunday, December 22, 2002

Our attitudes about power and authority are very much tied up in our psychology. Years ago, they used to give tests on that very thing to kids that were booked into Juvenile Hall. Jim brought one home for me once, and had a friend of his do the analysis. The result was pretty accurate -- I'm very much a "Don't tell me what to do, and I won't tell you what to do" type of person. That is, I don't have a great desire to be an authority, or to dominate, and I get my back up when people try to do it to me. In fact, being an authority makes me uncomfortable -- it has been very hard learning to do it as a teacher. I absolutely could not have done it when I was younger, before I had my own kids. I guess this is part of the issue of power and powerlessness that I have trouble with. Sometimes, life forces you to function as an authority figure, with parenthood being the most obvious example -- otherwise you are failing in your responsibilities. I'm also not comfortable in directly defying authority, but sometimes life asks you to do that, too.

Authority issues are, of course, quite central in the controversies in the Faith right now. It is one thing to surrender to God; it is another thing for that to translate into passive acceptance of anything that human religious authorities decide they want to do. I guess the traditional Baha'i viewpoint puts the UHJ in the position of God's vehicle on earth -- obedience to them in obedience to God. But the simple fact is that they *aren't* God, and they are capable of injustice. What are we, if we give God's authority into human hands?

Oh, but that's an old story, and one that is becoming increasingly irrelevant. I'm not a member of the community anymore, and I have no plans to go back. But I find it frustrating that we have this rich and meaningful scripture, and it is all brought down to a very shallow and worldly level. "Detachment" means you don't think anything is important but serving the Faith. "Surrender" is that you passively accept whatever the majority, or the heirarchy wants to do. Service to mankind is all brought down to the level of building the administrative order. Peter Khan runs around giving lectures trying to convince the friends that marble buildings really are a spiritual endeavor. In the meantime, Baha'is are hungry, for the meaning and truth that is there, that drew them into the Faith in the first place.

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