37th Annual Association of Baha’i Studies Conference: Reviving the ABS Science and Religion Special Interest Group

37th Annual Association of Baha’i Studies Conference: Reviving the ABS Science and Religion Special Interest Group

ABS logo 2Religion and science are the two wings upon which man’s intelligence can soar into the heights, with which the human soul can progress. It is not possible to fly with one wing alone!

‘Abdu’l-Bahá, from the Bahá’í Writings.

September 9, 2013. I have been writing about the 37th Annual Association for Baha’i Studies Conference held August 15 to August 18 this year in the Southern California city of Irvine (details are here and here).

In the following, I would like to consider what needs to be done to insure the growth of the Association for Baha’i Studies (ABS) by thinking about the future of an aspect of the ABS that I’m familiar with – the Association for Baha’i Studies Science and Religion Special Interest Group, or the ABS Science and Religion SIG.

At the conference. we were privileged to be able to review a letter dated the 24th of July 2013 from the Universal House of Justice (UHJ) to the National Spiritual Assembly of the Baha’is of Canada. In the letter, the UHJ wrote:

  1. The House of Justice has observed that Bahá’ís will increasingly become involved in the discourses of society within clusters where the process of growth rises in intensity and at the national level …
  2. Every believer has the opportunity to examine the forces operating in society and introduce relevant aspects of the teachings within the discourses prevalent in whatever social space he or she is present. It is, perhaps, as a means to enhance the abilities of the friends to explore such opportunities in relation to their scholarly interests that the endeavours of the Association for Bahá’í Studies can be conceived.
  3. Through the specialized settings it creates, the Association can promote learning among a wide range of believers across a wide range of disciplines.
  4. Central to the effort to advance the work of expansion and consolidation, social action, and the involvement in the discourses of society is the notion of an evolving conceptual framework, a matrix that organizes thought and gives shape to activities and which becomes more elaborate as experience accumulates. It would be fruitful if the elements of this framework most relevant to the work of the Associations for Bahá’í Studies can be consciously and progressively clarified.
  5. In this respect, it may be useful to give consideration to insights that have contributed to the community’s progress: the relationship between study and action, the need for focus, which is not to be confused with uniformity, the challenge of fostering the capacity of individuals and accompanying others in service, the dynamics of organic development, the institutional arrangements necessary to sustain ever more complex patterns of activity, the coherence required among all areas of endeavour, and sound relations among individuals, the community, and the institutions.
  6. Perhaps the most important of these is learning in action; the friends participate in an ongoing process of action, reflection, study, and consultation in order to address obstacles and share successes, re-examine and revise strategies and methods, and systematize and improve efforts over time.

The numbering is for convenience for reference later in this blog, not part of the original letter.

The Association for Baha’i Studies Special Interest Group – Some Background Information

The Association for Bahá’í Studies was founded in Canada in 1975 with the purpose “to promote the systematic study of the Bahá’í Faith and its application to the needs of humanity. It expanded to the United States shortly afterward and now there are affiliated Associations around the world. Founding members included Bill Hatcher, a member of the National Spiritual Assembly of the Baha’i of Canada at the time, and seminal author of early overviews of the role of science and religion in the Baha’i teachings (see here).

In 1987, with Bill Hatcher’s help, we started the Science and Religion Special Interest Group (SIG). Often, it was one of the more active SIGs, particularly so between 1998 and 2009. More recently it has hosted popular talks at the ABS Annual Conference, but has been inactive otherwise. This lack of activity mirrors the lack of activity of the ABS in general outside of the annual conference.

The ABS Science and Religion SIG: How to Go Forward

What then can the ABS Science and Religion SIG do to advance and go forward. I suggest that it follow a plan to implement tasks as suggested by the Universal House of Justice in the letter extracted above:

  • The ABS Science and Religion SIG should understand the needs of Baha’is “involved in the discourses of society within clusters … and at the national level.” (#1 above)
  • The Science and Religion SIG can work to “enhance the abilities of the friends to explore” and to “examine the forces operating in society,” and to “introduce relevant aspects of the teachings within the discourses prevalent in whatever social space he or she is present such opportunities in relation to their scholarly interests.” (#2 above)
  • The Science and Religion SIG can work to create “specialized settings” where it “can promote learning among a wide range of believers across a wide range of disciplines.” (#3 above)
  • A conceptual framework “that organizes thought and gives shape to activities and which becomes more elaborate as experience accumulates” should be developed that is relevant to the work of the SIG. It should be “consciously and progressively clarified” and focus on “the effort to advance the work of expansion and consolidation, social action, and the involvement in the discourses of society.” (#4 above)
  • There must be consideration to those things which contribute to a community’s progress. These include (#5 above):
    • “the relationship between study and action,”
    • “the need for focus,”
    • “the challenge of fostering the capacity of individuals and accompanying others in service,”
    • “the dynamics of organic development,”
    • “the institutional arrangements necessary to sustain ever more complex patterns of activity,”
    • “the coherence required among all areas of endeavour,” and
    • “sound relations among individuals, the community, and the institutions.”
  • And finally, the SIG must develop and embrace a process of Learning in Action (#5 above). That includes:
    • “the friends participat[ing] in an ongoing process of action, reflection, study, and consultation,
    • learning to “address obstacles and share successes, re-examine and revise strategies and methods, and systematize and improve efforts over time.”

This list, its clear, is a simple expansion of what is outlined in the letter from the UHJ. But, being that, and being so simple, it supplies a clear and distinct outline of what can be done. It is perhaps a valid start to the process.

Next

Carrying out the activities outlined in such a list as above is a group effort – not an individual effort. Next, we look at what it might take to launch such a group effort.

Share
www.pdf24.org    Send article as PDF   

3 thoughts on “37th Annual Association of Baha’i Studies Conference: Reviving the ABS Science and Religion Special Interest Group

Comments are closed.

Comments are closed.