Some years ago, a well-known comedian (Johnny Carson, perhaps), had a routine which began with the question, “Would you believe?” This was followed with an absurdly improbable proposition, and the routine took off from there. Lately, my own “would you believe” inquiry has been increasingly on my mind: Would you believe America is destined to lead all nations spiritually? Absurd? You bet! At least on the face of it. But this is no comedy routine. It is exactly what the Baha’i Writings say about the destiny of our country.

Looking at the state of America today, it is very difficult to imagine a time when it will be in a spiritual leadership role. We are undoubtedly the world’s most powerful nation and one of the wealthiest, but where has power and wealth gotten us? We certainly aren’t the happiest people on earth—far from it. This year the U.S. hit an all-time low on the annual World Happiness Report conducted by the Gallup organization, falling eight spots to No. 23. We are all too aware of the myriads of problems besetting our nation, from illegal drug usage, to the rise of antisemitism, to the increasing disparity in economic class, to the seemingly intractable political divisions, to the embedded racism which continues to eat away at the fabric of our society. And, of course we could all add many more to this list.

How in the world can such a country have the remotest chance of becoming a spiritual leader? Obviously, something drastic will have to happen. Something earth-shaking. The most profound change comes about not through ease but through hardship.

In addition to asserting our future spiritual leadership, Baha’u’llah said, “The winds of despair are, alas, blowing from every direction and the strife that divides and afflicts the human race is daily increasing. The signs of impending convulsions and chaos can now be discerned, inasmuch as the prevailing order appears to be lamentably defective.”

These afflictions, we are told, have an element of purgation. In commentaries on Baha’u’llah’s words, we can read, “In the spiritual development of man a stage of purgation is indispensable, for it is while passing through it that the over-rated material needs are made to appear in their proper light.”

It seems obvious that our present hardships and calamities will increase until we humans learn that our spiritual nature, not our physical being is primary.

The Baha’i faith tells us that the lesson, if you will, that the entire world must learn at this stage of our development is that we are one people. The oneness of the human race is an indisputable fact. Our recognition of that oneness, however, is far from universal. We will learn that lesson one way or the other – probably the hard way.

The more specific lesson America must learn to become that spiritual beacon in the world is how to eradicate the racism which has impacted every aspect of life in these United States from its inception. Indeed, Baha’is regard racism as “the most vital and challenging issue” facing our nation. Since racism affects us all, it is incumbent on all to devote themselves to its eradication.

Speaking of how racism “infects the hearts of both white and Black Americans (and, of course, Latinos, Asian-Americans and Native Americans are equally affected), the national governing body of the American Baha’i community has written, “Since without conscious, deliberate and sustained effort no one can remain unaffected by its corrosive influence, both groups must realize that such a problem can neither easily or immediately be resolved.” And as long ago as the 1930s, Baha’i leadership told us, “Let neither (Blacks and whites) think that anything short of genuine love, extreme patience, true humility, consummate tact, sound initiative, mature wisdom, and deliberate, persistent, and prayerful effort can succeed in blotting out the stain which this patent evil has left on the fair name of their common country.”

Racism is both insistent and insidious, always lurking beneath the surface of our society and its institutions. But its effects are felt in the wider world as well. We are told that the peace of the world depends, in no small part, on the elimination of racism in our country. Rooting out this evil will take much time and great effort, but, make no mistake about it, it can and will be done because it is the will of the Creator of all races and peoples. And, when we finally succeed, this country will at long last fulfill its destiny to truly be that “shining city on a hill” from which spiritual enlightenment will stream forth to all the nations of earth.

Nancy Flood-Golembeck is a retired teacher and long-time member of the Baha’i faith. In addition to serving on the local Baha’i governing body, she is currently writing a memoir.

Nancy Flood-Golembeck

Nancy Flood-Golembeck is a retired teacher and longtime member of the Baha’i faith. In addition to serving on the local Baha’i governing body, she is currently writing a memoir.

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