November 14, 2007

God’s Great Covenant With Us

The Baha’i take is that God made a covenant with the followers of all the major prophets of the monotheistic religions; Judaism, Christianity, Islam and the Baha’i Faith (with a bit of Bábi’ism thrown in beforehand). God promised to provide continuing guidance to humanity; the followers promised to obey God’s teaching as defined by the current prophet and then to obey the next prophet when he appeared as prophesied. Those who shelter under the umbrella of non-monotheistic religions and philosophies are not exempt, it’s the same sun. God made similar covenants with their prophet founders whether they know it or whether they know their prophet.



Comfortable Just Waiting For Jesus, Thank You

Blind Freddy could see the problem with the structure of these covenants. Although clues are given about the next prophet and when they might arrive, they tend to be a bit abstract or at least amenable to various levels of interpretation. So, the new prophet rocks up, puts his hand up for the job but invariably fails to meet the messiah criteria of the majority. Indeed, very few believers have subsequently upgraded to any prophet’s newer spiritual guidance. We still have Jews and Christians and Muslims and even Bábi’s. Bahai’s see humanity’s need to recognize the upcoming prophet (manifestation in Baha’i terminology) as a test from God. So far they have passed and the rest haven’t I guess.



Interim Management

Now that God covenant stuff is nice but it’s not where covenant breaking is at. People who fail to pick up on the new prophet are not termed covenant breakers. In fact, with one key exception, covenant breakers are exclusively internal to the Baha’i Faith.


In between the promised prophets someone or something has to run the show. Baha’is call this succession to the prophet the lesser covenant. For example, Baha’is believe that Peter was the successor to Christ and `Alí to Muhammad (sorry Sunni’s, that’s the way it goes some times). However, the appointment of the successor in each case was at best a verbal arrangement. This led to contests and disputes. Contests and disputes are a baaad thing because they lead to schisms, all sorts of independent churches setting up shop down the road (as evidenced by the numerous Jewish, Christian and Muslim sects and schools of thought), and quite a lot of murders and animosity.

The key message of the Baha’i prophet Bahá’u’lláh was unity; one God, one humanity, one religion. Although ‘unity in diversity’ is one of the primary concepts in the Baha’i Faith it doesn’t extend to a multiplicity of independent organizations and groups professing to be followers of Bahá’u’lláh. No, there can only be one authority. Disintegrate into sects? No way. Why? Well, for the biggest reason ever. You may not realize but it is through this unity of the Baha’i leadership structure (representing the lesser covenant) that the Power of Unity can be brandished for the benefit of the Baha’i community and the world at large. It is the channel for the spiritual energies released by Bahá’u’lláh and the motivating force behind ALL the positive forces at work in the planet. So bear this in mind when you find that second sock or your team wins.



I Have It In Writing

Baha’is believe that the schism problems of past religions resulted in their inability to produce the divinely required unity. To avoid this Bahá’u’lláh very wisely wrote down his succession plan. He named his son, ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, as his rightful successor and Centre of the Covenant (lesser). ‘Abdu’l-Bahá followed suit in his Will and Testament, appointing his grandson Guardian Shoghi Effendi. And Shoghi Effendi ….. apparently didn’t, whoops, we’ll leave that for a bit. Seems the best laid plans of mice, men and manifestations oft go astray. Luckily enough, from Bahá’u’lláh’s scripture, it became obvious that the House of Justice was intended to lead the Baha’i community. So it was elected in 1963, six years after the unexpected passing of the Guardian Shoghi Effendi. From then on it has just been a matter of voting to fill positions on the Universal House of Justice (UHJ) every five years.



No Contest Good Buddy

A covenant breaker (CB) is someone who threatens this lesser covenant, this divinely appointed line of succession, by claiming to be the rightful leader without written proof or by setting up their own group causing a rift. They are literally breaking the lesser covenant as written by the current head of the Faith which is anathema to Baha’i belief. Examples will help.


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