Wednesday, January 05, 2005

Top-Secret Charity and Other Tall Tales

Life has gotten back to the old back-to-school, back-to-work routine, with my online time limited accordingly. I've been subbing in a fourth-grade class; the word "orphan" came up as a vocabulary word and I used brought up the children orphaned by the tsunami disaster as an example. Immediately, the kids piped up with reports of what their family members were doing to help. I don't think I've ever seen anything like this, where there has been such an outpouring of charity, so much talked about.

What little online time I've had has been spent over on Beliefnet, where I started a thread initially to get information on what, if anything, the Baha'i administration is doing to help, because I sure haven't been able to find anything. The up side has been that I have run into other Baha'is who are very disappointed in the lack of response. Then you've got your cynical types who say "Of course, the s.o.b's won't do anything." Of course, the AO-defenders swing into operation. First they say that the Baha'is are being "encouraged" to help -- well, I think the NSA letter stops a little short of "encouragement", but at least that's a statement close to the ballpark.

Next, I'm being told that the UHJ is helping, it just isn't talking about it. I've been a Baha'i for almost 20 years, and I've never known a Baha'i body, from top to bottom that wouldn't jump at the chance for positive publicity. Besides, it's tough to see charitable activity as being a top-secret operation, especially when the press releases of most churches in the country are full of news about what they are doing for the relief effort. But I am, apparently, a bad girl for not just "having faith" that funds from Haifa are being secretly funnelled over there.

Then there is the old song-and-dance about how desperately low on money the administration is. Well, I don't know any religious organization that is absolutely rolling in the dough, but most of them are contributing and actively raising funds for the relief effort. It was suggested that the latter would be the prohibited "solicitation of funds", but I can't see where it would be any different from the endless appeals to contribute to the Baha'i funds that all enrolled Baha'is are subject to. Both the American NSA and the UHJ are multi-million dollar organizations, and they can't spare anything for the hundreds of thousands left homeless and vulnerable by the tsunami. Yeah, and I've got a bridge to sell.

There was also the idea floated that since the Baha'i Faith has no clergy, they can't tell us what to do. They "tell us what to do" with every Plan they come out with, what would be the difference now?

The most ridiculous argument of all is that the administration *can't* spend funds on charity, because it is meant only for Baha'i administrative purposes. 'Abdu'l-Baha' was knighted by the British for his charity during WWI, and Shoghi Effendi directed the LSAs of Iran to establish charitable funds -- and all of a sudden charity is not considered a legitimate use of Baha'i Funds? Care for the poor is commanded in scripture.

Then, if all else fails, bring out the ad hominems -- it is impossible for me to actually care about something; it's just that I get a kick out of bashing Baha'i institutions. Let's see -- the leadership of my religion has not bothered to do anything about the biggest humanitarian crisis of our time, and there's not supposed to be anything to critique here? This gives me no joy; I really was hoping that somebody would point me towards information about what they are doing.

This is why I've largely given up arguing with Baha'i fundamentalists; the only reason I'm doing it now is because this issue is important to me. Service to mankind is fundamental to the message of Baha'u'llah, and if the administration refuses to be of service now, exactly when does it plan on doing so?

1 comment:

Marco Oliveira said...

About the Aian Calamity:
Natural Calamity as Wake-up Call