Saturday, December 29, 2007


Many people are under the impression that Bahá'ís do not have an administrative branch to their religion. They think we get together, pray, and teach/preach. A few have asked how do people “rise through the ranks” when they hear that we have local, regional, national and international assemblies and some have asked what these bodies “do”.

“Politics” in the Bahá'í Faith are so far removed from politics as known in the USA it is hard to resolve the two, at least in my feeble mind. The administrative bodies are elected on a yearly basis on the local, regional, and national level and every five years at the international level. Locally all adult members of the faith vote for nine people that they feel best exemplify the qualities of devotion to the faith, humility, obedience to the laws, maturity, understanding, patience, love and wisdom. There is no nominating process, no electioneering, people discuss the qualities needed for the office. They discuss what qualifies someone to sit on the Assembly. They do not discuss the pros and cons of specific people. A Bahá'í will never, ever say that they are better suited then someone else to do a certain job in order to be elected to anything. A Bahá'í will not make a promise in order to be elected to anything.

The Assembly's job is to run the administrative affairs of the community, see that religious classes for all age groups are provided, devotional programs, teaching programs, social and economic programs as needed, as well as being the conduit of information regarding the Faith to the secular community. Depending on the laws of the country the Assembly is responsible for the education of children, the disbursement of estates, marriages, divorces, burial, care of the elderly, the indigent and orphans. The Assembly, in many countries, act in the same capacity as the clergy, with the same protection and obligations of confidentiality.

In the Faith the members of the Assembly are accountable to God. They cannot act independently of one another. They have no title, nor are they afforded any extra merits or position in the community. They host the community Feast each month, attended only by community members, to worship together, discuss community events and voice their concerns. Assembly meetings occur at least once between each Feast and are not open. In Assembly meetings the nine members discuss openly and frankly the matters on the agenda. Agendas are presented to the community and the conclusions are made known. No single person on the Assembly takes ownership of any idea. Once something is approved by an Assembly it is collectively owned by the Assembly as a whole. The Assembly never approves of anything until all nine come to an agreement. After an agreement is reached no member of the Assembly speaks disparagingly of the matter. Community members are encouraged at Feasts to frankly voice their opinions of the decisions of the Assembly.

How are these nine elected? In a city or county like ours, with 20 some Bahá'ís, it isn’t hard to know one another but in many communities, like Portland, Seattle, Eugene or Los Angeles, there are as many as 600-1,000 Bahá'ís to choose from. As already mentioned, there is no nominating process in the Faith. The electorate is expected to know one another well enough to vote for one another. Bahá'ís don’t just “go to church on Sunday” they are part of a community, participating in classes, in social and economic projects, working with one another. In this manner they know one another well enough to know if a position on the Assembly is a good fit for a particular person. Each year remedies can be made because we are humans and circumstances change. If someone is seen not to be attending meetings (the attendance record is published), if they stop serving on SED projects, stop going to Feast, if their attitude changes to one of dictatorial because of being on the Assembly, the friends quickly see who not to vote for the next year. Those serving on the Assembly must see themselves as in service 24/7 to all of the community, at all times. If they lose sight of that they will not be elected the following year. Or, if their circumstances change where they cannot be of service 24/7 they won't be elected. It isn't a popularity contest. It is a challenge in learning absolute humility and total servitude to a community, putting its needs above yours and your family's. There is no pay for this service.

Sitting in chamber, in an Assembly meeting, is an experience quite unlike anything else I have ever had. An idea put forth does not belong to the individual once it leaves your mouth, it belongs to the Assembly to be discussed fully and frankly, without reservation. When discussing who should be in charge of a project the pros and cons of the individual are discussed fully and frankly so that the best match can be made for the full success of the project. Because there is no need to advance the individual the full focus can be put on the project at hand, and frank discussion can revolve around available resources to make the project sustainable.

In small communities growth is slow, in large communities growth is faster. Growth matches the resources at hand, making each project sustainable. Social and economic development projects must be generated by the local community and must show itself to be needed and sustainable. Meaning, a group of well intentioned Bahá'ís cannot go off to a reservation and decide that the Indians need to learn how to make and sell hats. The impetus must come from the Indians themselves.

Elections “American” style have always been difficult for me to understand. Why would I vote for someone I don’t know? Debates on television mean nothing to me. They are scripted bunch of nonsense. Lawyerese meaning nothing. “I did not have sex with that woman.” “I am not the generating force.” “I am not a criminal.” So much double talk. A position is supposed to be non partisan but then the people in it are almost always part of a party. In the voters pamphlet it says the DA is a non partisan but he is listed as a Democratic precinct leader on their roles, so which one is truthful and how come he gets away with that? The Democrats recently advertised with their members for someone to run against one of the county commissioners. Supposedly that position is non partisan. All elective County offices shall be nonpartisan (Chap 1 Sec 5, Clatsop Co. Charter). That person will owe allegiance to that party, right? Why bother writing that into the charter if all someone has to do is declare themselves non partisan to run for commissioner? Don’t they still owe allegiance to a party or feel indebted to it?

Funny thing this American system is. With the parties so blended, the rhetoric so unbelievable so many seem dissatisfied with it. One wonders if the time is right for a change.

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Oh, the weather outside is frightful

We got a white christmas after all! Thunder, lightening, rain, sleet, snow, hail, too. Ahhhhh, the Pacific Northwest rain forest where if you wait 10 minutes the weather can change 10 degrees and everything is dramatically altered, attitudes included!

Christmas season was hard to get into this year. As a Baha'i one celebrates with one's cultural heritage, freely, as one wishes to. I mean, if my cultural heritage were to severe body parts (i.e. little boy's who-who's because he'll look funny in the shower room if you don't) then I won't participate. However, if it is to celebrate family togetherness, acknowledging those family and friends that you may have overlooked during the year with special tokens of love and acts of kindness, that is something we take part in.

I don't go for the over commercialization of a holiday, any holiday. We don't buy into randomly mailing cards, if you send one to us we return the favor, sans newsletter. We spend few dollars on gifts, often they are homestitched, baked, canned, smoked or brewed. The kids know that Santa is a feeling/concept and not a physical person, and that special people get to "play" the role of Santa each year. It is better to give and watch the joy your gift bestowed on the recipient. In the same regard, be a gracious receiver, remember how much fun it is to watch someone truly enjoy the gift you carefully chose for them.

This year almost all of our decor was packed away, packed so well I haven't the foggiest which container I packed it in. No lights outdoors, nor old time honored ornaments for the tree. Up until the week before our house looked as if perhaps the Grinch had taken up residence. My grandson reminded us that we still had a heritage to share. He went to Fred Meyers and saw "Freddy's Christmas" and on TV and the movies we rented were various other, "Christmases," labeling each one with their own identities.

Only once did the concept of presents come into play, when we were watching the movie Santa Claus is coming to town (which I find very annoying, what's with that penguin?). When the miester burger took all of the children's toys away from the children my grandson actually cried! And when the Claus brought them their presents he was so happy.

The only way to teach our children our heritage is by example. So, our German tree came out, ornaments went up. Lights strewn about. My grandson sighed, "Christmas is here! This is my own Christmas!" We are a part of our cultural heritage. We did not leave it behind, but we do not accept it all. We celebrate the time of year that brings us together and recognizes the value each of us brings to the table. We like the idea of Santa but we do not say he alone is responsible to bring riches to children the world over. We are responsible for one another and the Santa we have today may or may not be the same Santa as next year. Santa is the name we choose to call him, it is his spirit we emulate, not his name, not his person.

While many we love celebrate this time of year as the birth of Jesus Christ, we do not. While we love Him wholeheartedly, we do not believe He was born in December. Nor do we believe that He would want His birth celebrated alone, when the Divinely eminating spirit that has manifested Itself repeatedly in many Divine Educators is recognized by so few.

We celebrate this time of year to acknowledge our culture, to be with family and friends, to eat great food, enjoy witty conversations, learn new stories about spouses from their siblings, take pictures of people dribbling food our of their mouths and making figure gestures at the photographer.

Also, we celebrate because we love to celebrate! In reality, it's for the hot cocoa, krumkaka, pupmpkin pie and games. Let it snow, rain, sleet or hail, we will sing in the new year, bringing with it the good we acquired while tossing out the bad we learned we didn't need.

To our friends, old and newly acquired, I wish you a holiday season filled with delight and may all of your challenges in the new year be one's you accept with radiant acquiescence, determined to learnwhat needs to be learned and successfully pass all tests with flying colors!

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

I'm baaaaack!

I cannot believe how long it has taken to get back online! Talked to TH weeks ago and hearing about people with and without online capabilities. Being primary care team leader for Parkinson's parent and grandson left me little time to run to town and find a WiFi hotspot. I made it into town once and paid my online bills. Anxious that once the electricity, cable and cell finally came on the lack of payment would immediately turn them off!

TH had assured me of quite a few hotspots for WiFi but I couldn't find the one at Shilo, nor the one that AT&T said would be open for those paying bills, nor UPS' for paying bills. I tried at Starbucks, also, no luck. Obviously, this was on a shopping run to Freddy's. On another day I finally found an opening downtown Astoria but kept loosing it. I paid bills quickly and my husband had a heart attack that I had left our accounts vulnerable. We do use Mozilla and the connection kept breaking up so at least there is a little comfort there.

All of this is small potatoes compared to the devastation so many experienced. Flooding and slides surrounded us to the north, south and east. To the west is the ocean, waiting to claim back what it has always felt is rightfully its own. How many Indian villages lie at the bottom of sea? How soon before Astoria joins them?

Barometric pressure drops and my pain sky rockets. As the relief washes over me that in our small world we have survived with only a few scratches I am assessing what we could have done to help more, groan less, be better neighbors. Since it appears that we have a category 2 hurricane and should be prepared for more of these to hit our area as our globe experiences some sort of climate change, there are quite a few things to contemplate this holiday season.

As soon as I can wrestle the camera away from Eldest I will post some of the pics we took. TH has the best photos, by far, but we got a few more. By the way, TH, whose forest did you get a snapshot of that had been devastated by the storm.