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The views expressed in our content reflect individual perspectives and do not represent the official views of the Baha'i Faith.
How do I become Baha’i?

How Do Nations Evolve?

Elaine McCreary | Nov 26, 2018

PART 3 IN SERIES Our Seven Families

The views expressed in our content reflect individual perspectives and do not represent the official views of the Baha'i Faith.

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Elaine McCreary | Nov 26, 2018

PART 3 IN SERIES Our Seven Families

The views expressed in our content reflect individual perspectives and do not represent the official views of the Baha'i Faith.

In the on-going dialectic between cultural tradition and cultural change, which offers the greater benefit for a people?

Tradition holds that it transmits a people’s values from generation to generation, and therefore conveys its spiritual force into the future; while cultural change holds that it evolves a people’s values responsively as circumstances alter, sometimes drastically, therebye preserving a people’s spiritual force to adapt.

You can resolve this dialectic by assigning to tradition the role of preserving eternal principles, and assigning to change the role of finding practices suitable to new conditions. Thus both tradition and change contribute their value to a nation’s spiritual force.

The Evolving Definition of a Nation

But wait—that whole preceding logic depends upon a “people” staying put, together, while conditions may or may not change around them. What if only some of the people stay put and some large portion of them migrate? This has been our global experience in the 20th and 21st centuries.

Famine, war, epidemic, and economic collapse have driven millions upon millions from their traditional lands and nations. For all of us, in whatever country we find ourselves today, whether driven there by disaster, drawn there by opportunity, or located there since time immemorial, we are now engaged in creating a new form of nationhood requiring a new form of spiritual force. What new mystique, ethos, vision, values, and purpose will identify our nation and fill it with spiritual force?  

In nature, higher complexities come into being because a composition will benefit the participating elements.  At the level of human society, a successful nation state will come into being and thrive first by protecting and providing  for ALL the peoples within its borders. But reciprocally, the nation itself will benefit by employing the talents of all its peoples in complementary service to each other. This is the latent synergistic relationship waiting to be awakened between individuals and their nation state.

But how can a nation grow into such successful functioning if it is constantly being changed from within by waves of migration?

As early as 1875, Abdu’l-Baha initiated an emerging model of nationhood based on universal education, which anticipated later Euro-American movements for adult and lifelong education. Additionally, two momentous documents prepared by Baha’i institutions offer an expanded understanding of national development: Individual Rights and Freedoms in the World Order of Baha’u’llah  and The Vision of Race Unity: America’s Most Challenging Issue.

From these two documents, a number of themes emerge that help define the world-enhancing, spiritual influence of any given nation:

  • the process of human maturity as it applies to a nation;
  • the reciprocity between individuals and their nation;
  • the need for racial unity and harmony to benefit the nation; and
  • the unique contribution of each nation to the world commonwealth.

We’ll address just one here: the way that the maturing of nations resembles personal maturation.

National Behavior Can Resemble Adolescence, Senility, or Healthy Maturity

In the case of nations, maturity refers to the emergence of wisdom and patterns of noble, peaceful and constructive behavior—hard to imagine when nations “act out.”

In a period of history dominated by the surging energy, the rebellious spirit and frenetic activity of adolescence, it is difficult to grasp the distinguishing elements of the mature society to which Baha’u’llah beckons all humanity. – The Universal House of Justice, Individual Rights and Freedoms, p. 20.

For adolescents (and adolescent nations) the notion of moderation or self-regulation may sound like external control, as in the abhorrent imposition of censorship. The principle of self-regulation is based on recognition that any action, including essentially beneficial ones, can cause harm if carried to an extreme. This would apply to physical actions such as exercise or driving a car, or cultural actions such as speech and literature, dress or public behavior.

From a Baha’i point of view, the exercise of freedom of speech must necessarily be disciplined by a profound appreciation of both the positive and negative dimensions of freedom, on the one hand, and of speech, on the other. – Ibid., p. 22.

The subtle moral balance implied in the foregoing consideration of freedom of speech is just one of many instances of creative tension among values that a society must incorporate as it matures. How do we reconcile the age-old tension between the desires of individuals at one extreme, and the needs of their culture as a whole at the other? Baha’is find a balance using the principle of following the higher benefit when individual desire and societal well-being come into conflict.
You’ll find much more on this topic in “The  National Family,” a chapter of Elaine McCreary’s new book Our Seven Families, published by GR Books, available at   

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  • Marco Oliveira
    Jul 26, 2019
    This reminded me some definitions I learned in school. I am not sure if these a re still updated, but here it goes. :-)
    Nation, State, and Nation State are distinct concepts; they don’t mean the same thing.
    - A nation is a human community characterized by common culture, history, territory and ethnicity (the Curds are a nation).
    - A state is a human community politically organized. A state can rule over several nations (example: Spain is a state ruling over several nations: Basque country, Catalonia, Galicia…).
    - A nation state is a human community where a great majority of ...citizens belongs to one nation (example: Iceland).
  • Elaine McCreary
    Nov 30, 2018
    Sure do Pat. Slide to the top of this page and in the right hand corner you'll see the word Search... with three dots. Click right on it and type: life after death and you'll see quite a few articles. It's important to know that life goes on so we can give freely to helping fix things while we're here. Blessings on you. ...Elaine
  • Pat Chapman
    Nov 30, 2018
    Do you have life after death on the blog?if so can you send me the link
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