JoAnn Gometz

Writing | Editing | Content Strategy

Pray for America, Act for the World

Today's post is pointed. Not just because it's November and I'm up to my eyeballs in end-of-term assignments and end-of-year work projects. Nope. It's also the day of the presidential election here in the United States, and it's unlikely that most Americans (or, I understand, a sizable number of individuals around the globe) have anything other than that event on their minds. 

A year ago, I wrote about why I practice political noninvolvement. Today was a general election, though, so I could vote. Still, for me, the day isn't about who "wins" or "loses," or about parties, policies, platforms, or popularity contests. It's about a deep and heartfelt concern that our country has lost its compass someplace along the way.

The U.S. is older than the Bahá’í Faith. So it shouldn't be any surprise that there were tablets and letters written specifically about this country. And in fact, the son of the Faith's founder visited the U.S. and Canada a little more than 100 years ago, traveling from coast to coast and back, meeting with people from all walks of life.

At an event in Chicago in 1912, while on that trip, 'Abdu'l-Bahá spoke the following words, which strike me as just as relevant today as they were then. (A heads-up: "just government," in this context, means a duly constituted government; it doesn't have to do with the carriage of justice.) At first glance, this might seem a celebration of our national accomplishments, but a deeper look reveals the places we need to do some work. So, if you're looking for a prayer, this one is there for you:

O Thou kind Lord! This gathering is turning to Thee. These hearts are radiant with Thy love. These minds and spirits are exhilarated by the message of Thy glad-tidings. O God! Let this American democracy become glorious in spiritual degrees even as it has aspired to material degrees, and render this just government victorious. Confirm this revered nation to upraise the standard of the oneness of humanity, to promulgate the Most Great Peace, to become thereby most glorious and praiseworthy among all the nations of the world. O God! This American nation is worthy of Thy favors and is deserving of Thy mercy. Make it precious and near to Thee through Thy bounty and bestowal.

I have one more thought today, and it goes back to that lost compass I mentioned. This is the first election I can remember where our country's relations with other nations didn't make the domestic news (or even make it into the national discussion) in any meaningful way. That seems to me further indication of the compass either going missing or pulling a Captain Jack Sparrow on us, simply swinging wildly about depending upon who's holding it. Neither seems like a positive option.

And that brings me to the other quote I've been thinking about, drawn from a reply 'Abdu'l-Bahá wrote to some Bahá’í women who had contacted him with news of goings-on around them in that same 1911 or 1912 timeframe. The whole letter hangs above my desk, because it's relevant to the work I'm doing. But this part ... this part gives me hope that we can look beyond our borders and live as part of a global society, if not as a nation, then one person at a time, compass by compass:

Each one must sacrifice his life and possessions to the other and each person be loving to all the inhabitants of the world, rending asunder the curtain of foreignness and consorting with all the people with union and accord. They must be faithful to the traitors and benevolent to the tyrant. They must recognize the enemies as friends, the unknown as known. ... consort with all the people with the utmost joy and happiness ... Become ye not sad on account of any calamity, neither be ye broken-hearted by any trials. Be ye firm and steadfast...