Security for a Failing World
Christianity and the New World Order
WHAT is the relation of the New World Order to Christianity? The teachings of Bahá'u'lláh are certainly humanitarian. They are such as will produce progress for the individual, for the State, and for the whole world order. But is this to be a religion in competition with Christianity? Does Bahá'u'lláh claim to be greater than Christ?"
Such questions as these were written to Abdu'l-Bahá in 1910 from the First World Missionary Conference then being held in Edinburgh, at a time when I was a guest of 'Abdu'l-Bahá at Haifa. His Secretary showed me the answers which 'Abdu'l-Bahá had just dictated: "Bahá'u'lláh did not claim to be greater than Christ. The Bahá'í Movement does not supersede Christianity, but completes and carries out its meaning."
The Revealers of God's purpose to humanity, the great Prophets of all ages, says 'Abdu'l-Bahá, have not and never will be in competition with each other. For they have only one aim, which is to carry out the Will of God; and the Will of God is a Will of unity, not a Will of diversity in competition with Itself. It in inconceivable, therefore, that these great Souls who have the capacity for perceiving
and revealing the will of God should be in any rivalry or hostility one to the other. They are so impersonal in their aims as to be almost without personality. They are pure channels for the Divine force, and any difference or rivalry between them, such as exists between ordinary personalities, is sheer impossibility.
2The Bahá'í Movement, like the religion of Christ, has but one aim — to establish the will of God upon earth, thereby bringing to pass that perfect civilization which has been named the "Kingdom of God." It is apparent, therefore, that the Bahá'í Movement is not in any competition with Christianity, which is also seeking to bring about this same goal.
The Bahá'í Faith seeks no glory for itself. Its work and its power are above the limitation of names and categories. If a new world order of divine perfection should be established throughout the world by the power of the Christian Church, Bahá'ís would be the last to quarrel with such an eventuality.
In spite of the waning hold of Christianty upon the conscience of individuals and of groups, it is still exerting a great and splendid force in the world. The Church is still upholding sublime ideals of world peace and brotherhood.
There are churchmen who have a glorious vision
on the international function of religion. A clear and powerful statement of the full obligation of the modern Church is given us by Reverend Daniel A. McGregor:--
"The Christian Church is not the palliative of international disorder, she is the new international order of God towards which all social evolution has been straining through the centuries, which has emerged into life in Christ, but which has not yet found its fullness. The Christian Church is a new creation; she is the new humanity of God. She is not as other groups are, but is called to the high destiny of bringing the nations of mankind into the Kingdom of God. National organizations and treaties may be temporary stop-gaps and make-shifts, the true home of mankind is in the kingdom of God. The Church has not sufficiently recognized her own high function. She has been content to be the Red Cross giving relief in the battle of life; she must rise to her true calling as director of the destinies of man.
"Nineteen hundred years ago the old nationalistic order of the Mediterranean world was passing away. Roads through Europe and trade-routes across the Mediterranean were making that ancient world one. The greatest question of that day was to the character of this new world that was coming into being. Rome stood at the center and declared that this new world would be a world of business under the protection and direction of an Empire. This Roman Empire was the greatest effort of antiquity
and probably the greatest political effort in the whole history of man. From the Imperial Palace at Rome went forth edicts from the wisest of statesmen, trying to bring into harmony the many races that composed that vast Empire. Roman consuls of great ability and often of unimpeachable honesty ruled the nations of the world and sought to create a world-unity. No political structure was ever built with the wisdom and foresight that characterized that Empire. It was the unity of power, the unity of interest, the unity of politics.
"But while these statesmen labored at their task, little groups of men naming the name of Christ gathered week by week with the belief that no such world-unity could stand, and with the claims that the true unity of the sons of men was in the new kingdom, not of Rome, but of God. They were poor, despised, and persecuted, they had no power or prestige, but they claimed that the only unity that could endure was the unity which they found in their social organization, the brotherhood of the Church of Jesus Christ. In that new fellowship they welcomed Jew and Gentile, barbarian, Scythian, bond and free, and there they found the new experience that they were all one in Christ Jesus. They sent out their missionaries to every land proclaiming that the new kingdom of God had come through the gift of His Son and that in the fellowship of Christ and the brethren, Christian men of north and south and east and west were bound into a new unity, the unity of the family of God.
"The history of the first three centuries of our era is the history of the question whether the Roman system founded on power and finance could weave the peoples of the world into a unity, or whether the new order of the Christian Church could do it. You do not need to be told that Rome failed, that this greatest effort of antiquity to make the world one broke down and left the peoples in chaos. Nor do you need to be told how that unity which began in Palestine so humbly remained as the one hope of man in the Dark Ages which followed.
"Again today, as in the Mediterranean world nineteen hundred years ago, the nationalistic order of the world is passing away. Commerce and communications are obliterating the old national boundaries and are making necessary an international order. What shall the pattern of the new order be? What shall be the principle of coordination of peoples in this new world into which we are being driven? For unless we have an enduring pattern, a stable plan of social architecture, our new world will wreck itself in friction."
This is a noble Christian concept of the opportunity and obligation of religion today. The Bahá'í Cause works also to complete this universal structure begun nineteen centuries ago by the message of the Christ; and its aim, like that of the Christian Church, is to effect the spiritualization of humanity, both individually and collectively.
3There can be no quarrel as between the Bahá'í Movement and Christianity, especially as becoming a Bahá'í does not necessitate separation from one's church affiliations. An earnest Christian woman asked 'Abdu'l-Bahá when in this country, "What shall I do to become a good Bahá'í?" He said, "Work in your church, be the best Christian you can be, and thus you will become a good Bahá'í."
The Bahá'í Movement is not separating people from the love of Christ; on the contrary, it is making many people believers in Christ who before were disbelievers. Thousands of Jews in different parts of the world, who have become Bahá'ís, in doing so have accepted Christ as the Messiah. 'Abdu'l-Bahá in addresses in this country before Jewish synagogues, did not refrain from commenting on the lofty spiritual station of Christ, even to the displeasure of his audience.
Also, the message of Bahá'u'lláh is bringing millions of Muslems to an appreciation of and reverence for the station of Chris — a thing which the Christian missionaries have not been able to effect.
The Bahá'í Movement is striving, as are all religions, to bring more of a sense of the Divine, more of God-consciousness to humanity. A girl of seventeen said to her mother, who was sad because she could not afford her child beautiful clothes: "Mother, we Bahá'ís are not put on earth to wear
beautiful clothes; we are here to 'clothe humanity with Divinity.'"
Bahá'ís are working earnestly to help bring about that supremely felicitous day when, as Isaiah sang: "The knowledge of God shall cover the earth, as the waters cover the sea." They are partners in the prayer of Christ: "Thy Kingdom come, Thy will be done on earth as it is in Heaven."