Circle of Friends Book Club meeting summary for August 2017

August 9th, 2017

August’s meeting was a small group that discussed four books. The discussion was described by members as free-flowing, while touching on many subjects. The first book discussed was Tears We Cannot Stop: A Sermon to White America by Michael Eric Dyson. This book tackles the issue of race in both personal and cultural terms, with a call to change in the recognition of difficult truths, including the history of how black grievance has been minimized, completely ignored, or dismissed entirely. The second selection was a pamphlet written in 1965 called This is Apartheid by Leslie and Neville Rubin. This tract details the system of apartheid in South Africa, and gives 40 examples of restrictions imposed on Africans under the apartheid system. The author represented the Africans of the Cape Province in the South African Senate.

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Living in a Rapidly Changing Society: Transition to Maturity

This month we are featuring an essay from Bahai.org.



 

As humanity explores elements of the framework for a new process of moral education, some of the first questions that must be asked are: What is the nature of the great transformation that is taking place in human society? What are the basic concepts that can help us to understand the significance of the times in which we live? What are some of the great forces that are operating within society in this crucial stage of human evolution?

This lecture was given by Dr. Farzam Arbab at a national symposium on “A New Framework for Moral Education” in Tirana, Albania, in November 1993. This was an open forum for a public debate on what needs to be done with moral education in a society that is in the process of rapid shift from an established socio-political system to a new system not yet fully defined and articulated.


A very striking feature of our times is the accelerating rate at which change occurs. The magnitude and speed of the changes that humankind has undergone in the past century and a half have been unparalleled in our history. In every area of human endeavour a great deal of new knowledge is being generated, and old practices are being rejected one after another. At this point in history, no one can possibly deny that society, in all its aspects – social, economic, political, religious and cultural – is going through a process of fundamental transformation.

In this past century and a half, every country and region of the world has seen old structures swept away through radical reform or revolution. The ideals motivating these deliberate, sometimes violent, attempts to change society have often been extremely noble and laudable.

Yet, it is now an historical fact that these attempts have, by and large, failed to generate this sense of purpose, the values and the standards of behaviour that are essential for the creation of a new society. As a result, for decades humanity has been living in a state of crisis that seems to deepen almost daily. In the midst of all this crisis, of course, we often hear the voices of traditionalists, of those who romanticize the past and urge us to go back to our old ways. The fact is, however, that return to the standards of the past is not possible, for the forces released during this period have set in motion a process of transformation that is clearly irreversible. The unavoidable conclusion we reach when we examine modern history is that old moral codes and belief systems have proven entirely inadequate when faced with the challenges of an age of transformation. So, as we explore elements of the framework for a new process of moral education, some of the first questions we must ask ourselves are: What is the nature of the great transformation that is taking place in human society? What are the basic concepts that can help us to understand the significance of the times in which we live? What are some of the great forces that are operating within society in this crucial stage of human evolution?

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Circle of Friends Book Club meeting summary for July 2017

July 12, 2017

July’s bookclub meeting was a special presentation by a guest speaker, Mr. Richard Thomas, discussing his book The Story of the Baha’i Black Men’s Gathering. He presented a history of the Gathering, along with anecdotes and a video that broadened our understanding after reading the book. In addition, the meeting was enriched by the presence and informal presentation of others who attended the BMG at different times in its history.

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Me, the “Other”: A documentary film about diversity and co-existing

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

In these exceptional times, we are given the task to turn challenges into opportunities which would positively impact our lives and harmoniously shift the balance of our world.

Me, the “Other” is a documentary film about a group of students living in Washtenaw County in Southeast Michigan with diverse backgrounds (ethnic, racial, religious, gender, age, socio-economic, sexual orientation, disease). The cast includes an African-American athletic coach, a Taiwanese gymnast, a Pakistani student leader, a transgendered 66 year-old woman, an American-Peruvian-Japanese romance, a bisexual Republican, and a Mexican student on the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program. Through their struggles and accomplishments, we find ourselves in each of them.

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A special presentation: The Story of the Bahá’í Black Men’s Gathering

Please join the Circle of Friends Book Club for a special presentation on the book The Story of the Bahá’í Black Men’s Gathering on Wednesday, July 12th @ 7pm, at the Bahá’í Center of Washtenaw County. Dr. Richard Thomas, one of the book’s co-authors, will lead the discussion. Come and share what promises to be an interesting and enlightening presentation—all are welcome!

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Circle of Friends Book Club meeting summary for June 2017

June 14, 2017

The theme for the meeting was men/male authors. Discussion this month centered on a new (2017) book titled Everybody Lies, and a group of books by the Michigan author Steve Hamilton.

Everybody Lies by Seth Stephens-Davidowitz is subtitled: Big Data, New Data, and What the Internet Can Tell Us About Who We Really Are. The author is an economist who uses a broad definition of “data” to include text, pictures and search patterns on the Internet. He uses Internet searches for data mining, on the theory that these represent more valid measures of a person’s preferences, as contrasted with such possible sources as Facebook (where people attempt to portray themselves most positively) and Netflix queues (where people may list choices based on appearances). His results are often surprising, and appear to show higher levels of negativity, with aggressive, hateful, and offensive material more common than generally thought.

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Light of Unity Festival: Celebrating the 200th Birthday of Bahá’u’lláh

Over 5 million Bahá’ís around the world are preparing for the bicentenary celebrations of the births of Bahá’u’lláh and the Báb. Communities are planning local festivities designed to share and exemplify Bahá’u’lláh’s global message of world unity — and all Bahá’ís are encouraged to reach out to their friends and circles with invitations to join in the celebrations.

In a letter dated May 18, 2016 from the Universal House of Justice:

“These Holy Days should be viewed as special opportunities for the friends to reach out to the widest possible cross-section of society and to all those with whom they share a connection—whether through a family tie or common interest, an occupation or field of study, neighbourly relations or merely chance acquaintance—so that all may rejoice in the appearance, exactly two hundred years before, of One Who was to be the Bearer of a new Message for humankind.”

This year the Festival includes the of Birth of the Báb which will be celebrated on Saturday, October 21st, and culminates with the celebration of 200th Birthday of Bahá’u’lláh on the following day, Sunday, October 22nd. Here in Washtenaw County, planning for the Light of Unity Festival is underway and local events and activities will be announced when finalized. If you are interested in participating, please contact us.

For notifications regarding Light of Unity Festival (and other Baha’i) events, please sign up to receive the monthly Bahá’í Center of Washtenaw County email newsletter here.

The Pupil of the Eye: African Americans in the World Order of Baha’u’llah

Complied by Bonnie J. Taylor

This book is a compilation of quotations about the role of African Americans in the Baha’i Faith, and includes a forward that explains the title and reference to African Americans as “the pupil of the eye”. The author also states that the writings in the compilation describe “their crucial and indispensable role in the Cause of God”. The book is well-organized and contains a wide range of quotations. The author begins with quotations pertaining directly to African Americans, then moves through race, the oneness of mankind, and unity in diversity. She then organizes writings on solutions to racism and teaching the Faith. This progression lends itself well to sequencing learning and understanding, and the order develops naturally for the reader. Ms. Taylor even has organized sections pertaining to the responsibilities of Baha’is of European descent and Baha’is of African descent in the section on racism, which is helpful reading for all.

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Circle of Friends Book Club meeting summary for May 2017

May 10, 2017

The theme for this meeting was men/male authors. Several members had coincidentally chosen the same book, which was Born a Crime by Trevor Noah. An additional book was brought by another member: One People, One Planet (Adventures of a World Citizen).

Born a Crime is the autobiography of Trevor Noah, current host of The Daily Show on the Comedy Channel. It details his childhood in South Africa, during and after apartheid, and his transition to current celebrity in the United States. The title comes from his birth to a black mother and white father, considered a crime under the rules of apartheid at the time he was born. He writes from the perspective of a child with his childhood memories, and also seems to do a good job capturing his thoughts and feelings in response to experiences in his teenage years and as a young adult. The author’s “voice” as written appears authentic in comparison to what a viewer of his television and YouTube appearances would see. He seems to be a frank observer who is unafraid to show his vulnerabilities, his puzzlement at what doesn’t make sense to him, and/or the hypocrisies in all types of society. His approach contains the comedy we have become familiar with, alongside both compassion and a bit of the cynic as well. Members’ response to the book was very positive.

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Reflections on the Ascension of Baha’u’llah

(The following article is by Matt Giani from bahaiblog.net)



 

On May 29, 1892, shortly before dawn began to break, Baha’u’llah passed on from this mortal life and His spirit was finally “released from the toils of a life crowded with tribulations.”[i] He was surrounded only by family members and a small but loyal band of followers. His body was laid to rest, reverently and without any extravagant ceremony, in one of the buildings of the property in Bahji, outside of Akka, Israel, where He had spent the last twelve years of His life. He died a prisoner, a captive of one of the many governments that had persecuted Him for the past forty years and exiled Him from Tehran to Baghdad to Constanstinople to Adrianople to Akka and finally to Bahji. In fact, of the countless themes which run through Baha’u’llah’s Writings, his imprisonment and suffering is one of the most recurring:

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