Security for a Failing World
Youth and the Modern World
IN THIS epoch of universal religious decline and moral decay the whole world is suffering from the effects of spiritual chaos. But mature age suffers less than does youth which is at the portals of life. For it is here, at the beginning of life's experiences, that mistakes are most far-reaching and that wrong-doing is most deeply tragic in its life-long results. Here, also, in this naturally turbulent period of life when the blood runs strong, when adventure and self-expression are the chief desires — here more than at any other period is needed the calming influence and sane direction of religion.
But what do youth find to feed these crying needs? They find an adult world materialistic, lacking in the consciousness of God; and if practicing religion at all, practicing it mostly in a merely formal way. They find religious doctrines so full of theological superstitions, so at variance with the known truths of science as to inspire little inclination toward the church. Education has still less to offer as regards a philosophy of life. For the colleges — with their questioning and skeptical attitude toward all things and their scientific laboratory methods which train to accept as truth only what can be physically proved — tend to make agnostics of youth.
Today, therefore, we find the young people either totally materialistic, having no consideration for religion and spiritual matters; or else if feeling a tendency toward religious life, doubtful and skeptical concerning established religious dogmas of the day, searching everywhere but seldom finding a complete spiritual satisfaction.
2The result of this irreligious life on the morals of the rising generation is cataclysmic. Youth with its tendency to seek wide experience — with its drive toward adventure, its quest for happiness, its thirst for gratification of the senses — how can it guide itself safely through the many temptations which the world of matter offers the struggling soul?
Behavior has become to the youth of today merely a question of expediency. With pleasure and self-indulgence the chief motives of action, youth is prone to try all things in the hope of finding new pleasures, new satisfactions of the moment. With the aid of modernistic schools of psychology, restrictions are classified as harmful and are thrown aside. Hedonistic self-expression, the search for pleasure and happiness at any cost, what else is there but this basic desire of man's lower nature to influence the conduct of the youth of today?
Without the strong sanctions and authority of religion the ordinary precautionary maxims of age and experience count but little with youth. "Honesty
is the best policy," we are told. But is that true? How many grafters are thriving, high in popular esteem? How many business men of shady principles are eminently successful in the world's eye and able to enjoy all these comforts and luxuries which youth aspires to? If materialistic success is to be given a higher claim than character upon our esteem, then youth is justified in wondering whether honesty after all is the best policy.
Again it is said, "Be good and you will be happy." But youth is willing to try other paths to happiness than those which lead to heights of righteousness; and in its adventure into sensualism it finds that there are many pleasures from which it has been debarred by the code of ethics of the past. Why should these bars exist? Youth will have none of them. And adult warnings regarding future consequences are of little effect. For prognostications regarding the results of actions can be individually proved only by method of trial and error, and that is just what youth is endeavoring to do today.
Left without the guidance of religion, without those sure principles of action which the great spiritual teachers of humanity taught us — the rising generation is embarking upon dangerous and catastrophic quests.
3In the midst of such a world, it is a most refreshing and hopeful sign to see a certain body of youth finding a moral conviction in the teachings of the Bahá'í Movement. The New World Order of Bahá'u'lláh, appealing profoundly to youth because of its humanitarian principles, also is convincing on its spiritual side because of its complete harmony with scientific progress. Here is a reasonable faith — one not only consistent with man's highest intellectual development but offering to humanity solutions for its major problems such as even man's intellect alone is unable to achieve.
Into this great world-wide movement the youth of many countries, of many races, of many hereditary religions are throwing themselves with deep sincerity and with earnest endeavor. Here youth are finding again a solid foundation for life activity, a sure guide to conduct and to expression. Here they find motives higher than those of mere expediency. The eternal quest of the soul for beauty, guidance, and truth again finds assurance in the spiritual principles of revealed religion.
These groups of young people the world over are studying the teachings of Bahá'u'lláh and are endeavoring to fashion their lives according to its pattern. Out of this earnest spiritual endeavor grows a character as beautiful as it is natural and wholesome — a character of purity, of integrity, of kindly service, of earnest responsibility both toward
the development of oneself and toward the advancement of humanity. Superb are these youths. In the hands of such, human affairs can safely be entrusted. Wise and learned in the learning of this world and dowered with a rich spiritual grace which reflects in all their acts, they are the salt of the earth.
4Here is how a young college woman, senior in Leland Stanford University, views her life in its connection with the Bahá'í Cause:
"The Bahá'ís are commanded to engage in the most strenuous endeavor, both mental and spiritual; our education may never be spoken of in the past tense; the lines laid down by Bahá'u'lláh stretch to infinity, and there is no profitable learning from which we are excluded.
"Everyone agrees that peace among nations is imperative, that castes and races must be reconciled, must heal the wrongs they have done each other; that universal education of a spiritual as well as material quality is essential; that true science and true religion are in harmony; that men and women are equal.... It is easy to agree with the Bahá'í principles, but not to obey them.
"The Bahá'ís are those who, not content with mere agreement, spend their lives in striving to obey the teachings of Bahá'u'lláh; they have chosen a path which leads to martyrdom, to loss of fortune, to the constant setting aside of personal desires.
"This is a Cause for the courageous; for those who can give even their tired hours, their broken, reluctant bodies, in service; for those who can win victories and never see their laurels; for those whose hearts shall not waver, though all the heavens and the earth arise against them.
"Just as each Bahá'í has seen the dawn of a millennium in his Own soul, has felt himself changing, developing, casually accomplishing what men hold impossible, so will the whole world find itself transformed, the old materialism pass away, the new spirituality be established."
A young Persian Bahá'í, carrying on University studies in Paris, writes as follows:
"When a divine Manifestation appears, His cause is at first hindered by the opposition of nearly all the world. The adherents of the old, crystallized order of things resist, with fear and hatred, the influx of new ideas and ideals and the birth of change. Therefore those who become pioneers of a spiritual springtide will have to meet an avalanche of trials, privations and martyrdom.
"History bears witness to the fact that the opening period of the Bahá'í Cause demanded a sublimity of sacrifice, on the part of a far greater number of its followers, than the initiation of any previous religion. But with the plaster of their blood and the bricks of their bodies they well and
truly laid the foundations of that New World Order which is the Bahá'í Movement.
"This period is passing and Summer is at hand, the season of activity and construction, the opportunity for the unfoldment of every latent power and capacity among those who seek to carryon the great work so nobly begun.
"The responsibility for its continued progress and ultimate achievement rests, in a large measure, upon the Bahá'í Youth of today — heirs of a unique spiritual heritage. If we do not want the heroic efforts and sacrifice of those who have bequeathed to us this heritage to remain fruitless, we must be ready to follow in their footsteps, arise to serve, and never rest until the work is accomplished."
5Of whatever nationality, race, or creed, these Bahá'í youths are bound together by the closest of spiritual ties into a universal brotherhood working whole-heartedly for the peace and progress and prosperity of all humanity. Never before in the history of this planet has so lofty a goal definitely inspired the vision and absorbed the energies of Youth. Unquestionably their influence will be felt as a rising tide in the affairs of nations!