The Militarization of Progressive America 1

‘Abdu’l-Bahá had praised the American government for being free of the militaristic obsessions of the European powers. He had proposed to the nation a higher spiritual calling – that it use its unique position in the world to lead the nations towards lasting peace. President Wilson tried. He encouraged the warring nations of Europe to negotiate a ceasefire, and offered to mediate peace talks. The war, he believed, directly contradicted every ideal of Progressivism. “Every reform we have won,” he declared, “will be lost if we go into this war.” And so he did everything possible to keep America out. …

The nation that had been praised by ‘Abdu’l-Bahá for its liberty and optimism only five years earlier, whose buoyant energy he said was epitomized by its favorite statement — “All right! All right!” — was suddenly fixated on conflict and engulfed in fear. President Wilson’s great dread, that the war would brutalize human nature, was becoming a reality both at home and abroad.

Final Days in America: New York City 2

The New York Tribune, on November 24, in an article headed “ABDUL BAHA GOING AWAY,” noted:

Abdul Baha, Abbas Effendi, the Persian prophet and center of the Bahai movement, received assurances of unswerving loyalty last night from members of the Bahai assembly of New York City, who gathered at a farewell dinner in his honor at the Great Northern Hotel, The Oriental savant is to leave this country this week, presumably on the steamship Mauretania, though none of his followers would venture to make a definite date as Abdul Baha, they said, made his plans from day to day.

The hour of the farewell dinner was unusually late. At precisely 9:40 o’clock Abdul Baha appeared, a venerable figure, with a long gray beard and a Persian cloak and white turban walking slowly to his place of honor.

… He was received with a silent greeting by the three hundred members of the assembly who rose at his approach.

Behold what an influence and effect the words of Bahá’u’lláh have had upon the hearts, that hating and shunning have been forgotten and that prejudices have been obliterated to such an extent that you arose to serve one another with great sincerity 3

A gathering of black Bahá’ís was held at the home of Mrs Kinney. They had been invited by the New York Bahá’ís to attend the banquet of the Covenant but when the proprietor of the hotel heard about it, he was not pleased. The more the friends endeavored to persuade him, the more vehement was his refusal. He said, ‘If the people see that one colored person has entered my hotel, no respectable person will ever set foot in it and my business will go to the winds.’ Such is the depth of prejudice between blacks and whites. Since it was impossible to invite the black Bahá’ís to the banquet, the friends arranged today’s feast for their black brothers. Many white women came forward to serve their black guests, showering them with love. The Master approved of this meeting very much and He said:

Today you have carried out the laws of the Blessed Beauty and have truly acted according to the teachings of the Supreme Pen. Behold what an influence and effect the words of Bahá’u’lláh have had upon the hearts, that hating and shunning have been forgotten and that prejudices have been obliterated to such an extent that you arose to serve one another with great sincerity.

The Master’s words made a great impression. The meeting embodied the grandeur of the Covenant and demonstrated the power and influence of the Cause in uniting, in sincerity and love, two races of humanity.

In the afternoon the children who had earlier seen the Master on the way from school, had been so attracted and had asked to see Him, came to visit Him. He spoke to them with deep affection and kindness, asking about their health and welfare. To each He gave candies and flowers and then sprinkled them with attar of rose. He then gave them kindly counsels and encouraged them to acquire knowledge, science, good morals and sincerity, saying:

I hope that you will be educated as you ought to be and that each of you will become the pride of your family. May God assist you to acquire divine knowledge in the school of the world of humanity. I shall pray for you and beg assistance for you. Truly, the hearts of the children are very pure. This was why Christ said, ‘Be ye like children.’ Praise be to God who created you illumined children. Praise be to the Lord who hath created His creatures perfectly. God has created you as human beings so that you may daily acquire better morals and human virtues. You must obey your parents so that they may be pleased with you, and so that God will be pleased with you, and that you may become the children of the Kingdom and mirror forth the words of Christ.

Although these young visitors were children, they took their leave in an attitude of sincerity, reverence and attraction that astonished all.

This evening ‘Abdu’l-Bahá spoke at a public meeting of the friends on the underlying unity of creation and the oneness of humanity. His sweet words and explanations attracted the hearts and souls, as in other meetings, leaving them much attached to the Center of the Covenant.

  1. Sockett, Robert. “The Militarization of Progressive America.” 239 Days in America, 24 Nov. 2012, [return]
  2. Ward, Allan L. 239 Days: ʻAbdu’l-Bahá’s Journey in America. Wilmette, Ill: Bahá’í Publishing Trust, 1979, 188. [return]
  3. ’Abdu’l-Bahá, and Mirza Mahmud-i-Zarqani. Mahmúd’s Diary: The Diary of Mírzá Mahmúd-i-Zarqání Chronicling ’Abdu’l-Bahá’s Journey to America. Edited by Shirley Macias. Translated by Mohi Sobhani. Oxford: George Ronald, 1998. [return]