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An informal Discussion
On
Crime and Its Spiritual Implications
(A Baha’i Perspective)



Part #1
Law and Order
A Baha'i Perspective

This discussion is divided into two parts. The 1st part is called “Law and Order ... A Baha’i Perspective”. Disorder would be an even better name. Part two is called "The Purpose of Life". I will show how both of these topics actually interrelate. However, with violent crime on the rise, this is a topic of great concern. We could ask ourselves: How can our society effectively deal, especially with the general rise in violent crime among the young? How can our society deal with youth crimes like swarming or vandalism; or with the rise in break and entry, particularly in the homes of the elderly; crimes which are showing an increasingly violent flavour? How can society protect these elderly people and help them feel safe in their own homes? With violence in schools, how can we help our teenagers feel safe or our teachers? And a basic question, why is there so much crime these days? All valid questions! All of great concern to young and old alike. But it appears that something’s missing in the way society deals with crime! Let’s look at some interesting statistics. I'll be taking some liberties here to illustrate a point

According to Stats Canada, with a population of just over 30 million, Canada has 2,500,000 crimes relating to the criminal code committed per year.
The stats above could mean approximately 10% of the population are committing crimes, even though Canada boost of having the latest technology for crime prevention.

Let’s break these statistics down. Statistics Canada also tells us that:

Out of a total 542,000 people charged ... 425,000 were adults, 117,000 youth, with 2,500,000 crimes committed per year that means that the rate for solving crimes would be around 25%. 75% get away with their criminal activities.
These stats also mean that approximately 25% of those caught were youths.

The Nova Scotia statistics!
In Nova Scotia, with a population of 900,000 plus people, almost 50,000 people are committing crimes. That makes it close to the national average.
More shocking is that in both cases this is only the tip of the iceberg. Many crimes are not reported ... many more never make it to court. For example crimes under the Young offenders are not taken into account in these statistics.

Let’s look at crime prevention ...
In Canada there are over 74,000 police and civil personnel. With a conservative average salary of $40,000 per year ... a $3,000,000,000 crime prevention budget is needed to deal with crime only at the level of today’s statistics and we know that crime is on the rise. That's 25% of crimes being solved!
In Nova Scotia there are 1,500 police officers
If provincial salaries were about the same as the national level that’s a budget in NS alone of over 50 million dollars just for police Officers.

It’s obvious that CRIME needs to be prevented, even if we just considered the monotary aspect. But the question is: How do we prevent crime or better still can we prevent crime? It appears to me that it is virtually impossible to prevent crime given the condition of society today! So! If this is true, what can we do? Let’s begin by looking at a Baha’i point of view:

The mass of people are occupied with self and worldly desires, are immersed in the ocean of the nether world and are captives of the world of nature, save those souls who have been freed from the chains and fetters of the material world and, like unto swift-flying birds, are soaring in this unbounded realm. They are awake and vigilant, they shun the obscurity of the world of nature ..."
– Abdu’l - Baha

The situation of crime in Canada is but a reflection of the situation that exists globally. The problems of law and order are multiplying at an alarming rate. There are many reasons for this. One fundamental cause is not that people are evil or don't care, although in some cases this may be so. But it is because we are in a transition period between the old order of society that began 2000 years ago and the new world civilization which is only now beginning to evolve. We are feeling the pangs of the birth of a new and greater civilization. A new way of thinking is beginning to emerge. But many people have not adjusted well. Many people have, for lack of a better explanation, lost their way and in many cases don’t want to change their direction or lifestyle. They no longer have high moral standards based on religious beliefs of the past. Instead of moving forward they seem to be taking a backward step away from morality.

There also appears to be no common agreement on what is right and wrong. At first glance we might state that stealing is wrong and most people would totally agree. But in many cases theft is often not considered to be wrong. If the “victim” of stealing happens to be the place of work or the government or a large institution with lots of capital we justify that they can afford loosing a pen, a book, a hundred dollars, and so on. Or we use the lame excuse that I’m poor, they are rich. Why shouldn't I have a share of the wealth. Another excuse we use is that: “I’ve worked hard for the company, so I deserve this as a small bonus. After all, the company owes me, they've benefitted greatly for my effort”. Respect for the rights of other people is no longer universal. Crime has become prevalent among the poor and the affluent alike. White collar crimes are becoming common place.

Although individuals are encouraged to forgive those who commit crimes against them, society as a whole, does not have this luxury. Therefore society erects prisons to house our criminals. And we think: Now we can walk the streets without the fear of being mugged. Now we can feel safe. The criminal element is removed from our communities.

Prisons seem necessary for the protection of society; at least at this time in our evolutionary development, it appears necessary. As crime increases we build more and more prisons, with stricter controls in the vain hope of preventing crime by containing the criminal. But building more and more prisons does not prevent crime. Actually it can have the reverse effect of demoralizing the criminal giving him a perverse and destructive outlook on life. What is needed is a fundamental change in the attitude of the individual and in society as a whole.
"The communities are day and night occupied in making penal laws, and in preparing and organizing instruments and means of punishment. They build prisons, make chains and fetters, arrange places of exile and banishment, and different kinds of hardship and tortures, and think by these means to discipline criminals, whereas, in reality, they are causing destruction of morals and perversion of characters."

There are many possible causes or excuses for crime. I’m not here to debate whether something is a cause or an excuse but one of them is poverty or an inequality among the peoples of the world. Baha’u’llah talks about this very thing. He tells the world that we need to create a fairer world society, in which the gross inequalities and different elements of society will become a thing of the past. In the Baha’i Writings, an international economic system, with laws based on justice for all, is described. This plan would eventually eliminate the extremes of both poverty and wealth. Once this is accomplished the need or excuse for crime will be greatly diminished.

It can be very difficult for the police to get a firm grip on certain types of criminal activity. One of the many difficulties facing society is that of organized crime. Sophisticated groups of criminals operate between different countries. But the forces of law and order are generally confined by these borders and usually can't cross over to another country without permission from the country in question. The fact that each country has its own police force, a separate currency, different banking laws, a different legal system and only a handful of extradition treaties, encourages the criminals to move themselves and their proceeds from one country to another to escape justice. Baha’u’llah, in the mid 1800s, foresaw the need for such a world encompassing organization. The only solution to organized crime is to create an effective world civilization, with a common set of laws, a world currency and a world police force capable of enforcing those laws.

Another difficulty with certain types of crimes are the crimes committed while people are acting under the influence of habit-forming drugs or alcohol. If people had a real spiritual dimension to their lives they would have no need to use these substances, which cause people to temporarily lose their sense of right and wrong and can permanently impair the intellect. Baha’u’llah says:
"It is inadmissible that man, who hath been endowed with reason, should consume that which stealeth it away."

The Bahá'í teachings state clearly that society must use every means at its disposal to prevent the trade in and use of harmful drugs.

Another type of crime on the rise is crimes of a sexual nature. Sexual morality is fast becoming a thing of the past. Extramarital affairs are all too common. Experimenting with sex as early as 10 years of age, likewise, is far too common. And where to they get their ideas? Well! The vast majority of the multimedia available, whether it is television programs, movies or music lyrics and videos center around sex, and sexual attraction towards the opposite and even same sex. And we see nothing wrong with this type of programing. Rarely do we see the good of society portrayed in a positive manner. We allow these forms of entertainment to continue, unabated. We are fast becoming a feel-good society. If it feels good then it must be alright so let’s do it. We cannot, or refuse to, see the harn it does to our very nature and more importantly to our children. Although multimedia attempts to show human nature in all its forms, in far too many cases this type of programming portrays the negative rather than the positive side of our nature. Even positive qualities like love is shown far too often in its darker, more sinister disguise. These venues encourage self-gratification rather than developing a real concern for our fellow man.

It appears that sexual crimes may have become more common because of the inappropriate importance given to the search for sexual satisfaction, and because of the apparent lack of boundaries in sexual behavior, especially as it is portrayed on TV and in the movies. The Bahá'í teaching on this subject is that sexual relationships should only exist within the confines of marriage:
"The Bahá'í Faith recognizes the value of the sex impulse, but condemns its illegitimate and improper expression.... The proper use of the sex instinct is the natural right of every individual, and it is precisely for this very purpose that the institution of marriage has been established."

So let's go back to the basic question: "How can we deal with crime?" The ideal situation in dealing with crime is prevention rather than an attempt at containment through new laws and the construction of more prisons. Effective prevention can only begin with moral and spiritual training of all within society:
"The most essential thing is that the people must be educated in such a way that no crimes will be committed; for it is possible to educate the masses so effectively that they will avoid and shrink from perpetrating crimes, so that the crime itself will appear to them as the greatest chastisement."

What is necessary for crime prevention to take place? A spiritual regeneration of the whole world is necessary for crime to be reduced to its minimum level.

And how can crime prevention be accomplished?
Actually, spiritual regeneration one soul at a time is how it is being accomplished, even as we speak! When this goal is realized by the people, then we will have a Divine civilization!
"Divine civilization so traineth every member of society that no-one, with the exception of a negligible few, will undertake to commit a crime."

When we have a world civilization based on spiritual values, with a universal economic and legal system based on justice, then, and only then, will crime cease to be the problem it is today.
The big question: "But how do we get from here to there?"


Part #2
The Purpose of Life

(A Baha'i Perspective)

In trying to get from here to there, what we are actually talking about is the purpose of life. Without a basic understanding of why we are alive and who we are, life seems confusing and empty ... life actually appears meaningless. Without the true meaning of life even simple things like acting properly makes little sense, especially when it becomes harder to do the right thing!

Even little children want to know who they are and why they are here, but this question doesn't really get answered. We give non-answers or the questions are put off for another, more appropriate, time. We say things like "The stork brought you," or, "We wanted a little child just like you."

These are not real answers, nor are they satisfactory to the child. As children get older they want to know the real reason of why they are alive.

This is the same throughout a person's life. We continually look for the answer to “Who am I?” But they never seem to get answered: not in church, not in the streets, not in school and not at home. As a result of life appearing meaningless, we don’t know what we are suppose to do or how we are suppose to act towards each other. The result is that we have crime, we have wars, we have pillage, we have carnage, and we have lots and lots of suffering. All of the suffering we experience due to our lack of understanding who we are and why we are here, could be avoided. All of it!

A large part of the suffering, and much of the crimes committed, exists because we don't have an understanding of the role we play in our everyday life, in our personal relationships, or in the very important role we play within creation itself. We don't understand what happens to us when we don't follow predestined modes of behaviour. Even when we are asked about our beliefs we either generalize or say it’s private. In most cases this is because we really don’t think about our belief. We’re not really sure what we belief. Our thoughts concerning the nature of God simply don't have a high priority in our lives. With the drudgery of everyday living we don't have the time.

However, it doesn’t matter what our concept of God is or even if we have one, still, for the most part, we know that something created us. The world, and what's in it, just didn’t all of a sudden appear! Even scientists have an impossible task to try to explain the universe without including God, its creator. Baha’is believe that God not only appears in His handiwork of a leaf, but is the invisible, omniscient, omnipresent, omnipotent Creator who is responsible for the ordered design of the natural world and the ingenious perfections of all living and non-living things. Once we come to grips with the idea of a Creator, the next question is automatic for many people: Why would God bring ME into existence? Well, why not? If someone was to be brought into existence, why not you? This question and a solid belief in God is essential to understand if we are to find the true purpose and meaning to life! It is what governs how we are to act and explains who we are. And this is what tells us how wrong it is to break just laws or to be inconsiderate of others.

If you are here reading this talk, I’ll assume that something has caught your attention to cause you to investigate the Baha’is. Usually this is the result of the 12 main social principles of the Faith, such as the equality of men and women and the elimination of all forms of racial discrimination. If you are interested in the answeers to life or just to look at the value of religion you first need to investigate a Divinely inspired Religion. there are many cult and false religions out there and it can be hard to tell what is the Truth. So! First let me explain that a socially relevant teaching in a religion, any religion, although interesting, does not validate that religion as being Divinely inspired ... as coming from God. When we look at the Baha'i Principles as recorded in Its Scriptures, although unique and as some would say, earth shattering and progressive, especially for the time when they were first introduced to humanity, still these principles do not PROVE that they are from God. This validation can only come by proving that the One who gives the revelation, Baha’u’llah, is the spokes-person for God and what He says comes from God. We Baha’is believe in our heart of heart that Baha’u’llah is the Promised One sent by God with a message and a plan for humanity for this special time in which we live. We Baha'is believe that Baha'u'llah is representative of the Return of Christ in the station of the Father as mentioned in all the Holy Scriptures of the past. If you too can believe, like the Baha’is, that Baha’u’llah is sent by God with the expressed purpose of giving humanity His latest Word and how we are to act, than it follows that what He says is the Truth and the path He points out is the right path to follow.

Let’s look at life for a moment. Although alluded to above, still it needs to be mentioned again. We develop a negative view of life mainly because we really don’t know who we are and what we are required to do in our lives. Once we begin to realize that we must change, we still don’t know when this change should begin or even how it should begin. We convince ourselves that life will be better once we finish school, after we find a job, after we are married, after we start a family. Then we become frustrated because of the responsibilities that goes along with that particular stage of life we are in. The kids aren’t old enough to look after themselves and need all our attention. We don't have the time to work on changing ourselves and give our children and our spouse the attention and care they need.

Next we become frustrated because our kids are older. Now we have to deal with teenagers and our marriage needs even more attention to survive. We thought we didn't have time before, well we certainly don't have time to develop "Spiritually" at this juncture in our lives. Other, more pressing things need to be dealt with. We tell others that life will be complete later. We will be able to deal with those "other" aspects of our lives soon, like: once we get a promotion, when my spouse or girl/boyfriend gets his, her act together, or when we get a new car, a new house, when we can go on a nice vacation, or when we can retire. We are constantly putting off living our REAL life till tomorrow. The most important aspect of our existence, our spiritual nature, takes a back seat to the material possessions in our lives.

But friends, now is the time to live your life! This is the only time you actually have. Don't wait to get the obstacle out of the way. There will always some obstacle in the way, something to be completed first, some unfinished business, time still to be served, a debt to be paid.

So stop waiting to finish school, until you have kids, until your kids leave home, until to get married, until you get divorced, until you get remarried, until spring, until summer, until your boat comes in, until your song goes out, until you die, until you’re born again to decide that there’s no better time to do something about your life then right now. Happiness and well being is not a destination but A JOURNEY, a journey that takes individual effort. And who knows, there might be an easier, softer way. But it’s not the right way. And in the end will lead to a life that is not satisfactory. Someone was noted as coining these words about life:
Work like you don’t need money, Love like you’re never been hurt. Dance like no one’s watching
Enjoy life, live it now and develop spiritually as if you only have today.

What I'm talking about is what Baha’u’llah refers to as: “Living the Life”. Living the Life as we are suppose to is the door to the spiritual transformation and growth of the soul within the individual person. It is also the door to a contentment never know before. There are many keys that unlock the door to living this life. One of the keys to developing this sense of direction begins with the family. The family we are born into and are attempting to develop has an amazing influence upon the path we take in life – either positive or negative. The family can, to a large degree, determine how, and at what rate our growth will take place. If you are born into a family that portrays a negative environment, still you have a responsibility to yourself and those around you to develop in the best manner possible. To a Bahá'í, a happy, productive family life produce happy, healthy individuals, which in turn produces a healthy society.

In a world of rapid advancement of the material side of our existence, where everything seems to be moving at lightning speed, how do I, right here, right now, fulfill the goal of developing a positive, and God loving society, where do I get the time and inclination to search for a better way? Even if I had the inclination to look beyond my own personal concerns to a greater concern for society, where do I get the information to proceed on this course?

Well! I believe that the inclination actually comes from a personal search for “Truth” and a realization that what is being tried in society today is not working. If this situation is not fixed that harms, not only society, but me, personally. Once we realize that crime is on the increase, especially among the young, that school violence is at a level where teachers and students are no longer safe in the classroom, then we will also come to understand that morality, for a very large portion of society is almost non-existent. Understanding the state humanity is in, just in our own back yards, will, I’m sure, lead us to wonder what can be done? How can “I” help change society?

You may agree with much of what I have said so far. Or you may not! But I hope you will listen with an open mind. What I will suggest is the only workable path for change, for the spiritualization of the individual and of the world. All other paths have been traveled. And the path I suggest is “Living the Life” through the Spiritual Writing from the most current religion. The Holy Writings, offers a prescription for living a life of true happiness, contentment and fulfillment. In no way am I suggesting to become a fanatic. Baha’u’llah frowns on fanaticism and always suggest balance in life! But as individuals, we need a Spiritual Transformation! Our soul and the soul of humanity is starving for it! A spiritual transformation is the process of studying the Word of God, praying and thinking about its meaning and how to implement it, then striving in one's life to adopt its meanings in a practical way. This process begins, not by changing the world, but by changing ourselves first. We have the innate ability to manifest the qualities of compassion, justice, encouragement and loving kindness through our actions. And the choice is always ours! To do otherwise is robbing our dignity and our true abilities. Today we have the choice to do what is right!

All of us have the power to do good. We also have the power to do evil. We have the choice, every moment of every day, in every decision we make. How we want to live, how we want to treat our fellow human beings, is entirely up to us. Evil does not come from a Being that exists outside of us, whether you call that being Satan nor the Devil. These are only symbols of our own internal capacity for selfishness, hatred and wrongdoing. And these too are qualities of choice. We can rid ourselves of them if we so choose. Remember that the results of our harmful deeds, our selfishness, always come back to haunt us as surely as breaking the laws of nature results in destruction to our environment. We poison the human environment with our selfishness. We perfume our human environment with pure and selfless deeds. If we permit ourselves to be dominated by our lower impulses, our feelings and deeds will degrade others and ourselves. Take heed to the following writing:
"I created Thee rich, why dost thou bring thyself down to poverty? Noble I made thee, wherewith dost thou abase thyself?...Out of the clay of love I molded thee, how dost thou busy thyself with another? Turn thy sight unto thyself, that thou mayest find Me standing within thee, mighty, powerful and self-subsisting."

What is needed in this day, whether we are concerned with increasing crime, decline in morality, or any of the many degradations being observed within our society, is a New Code of Personal Morality, a “Spiritual transformation”. We must develop the qualities of love, justice, service to others, self-sacrifice and the attainment of all goodly attributes; and avoid acts that tend to hurt others and corrupt ourselves.

So let me summerize!
We all know that crime, any crime committed, is one crime too many. Crime, for whatever reason, is caused by a defect in the character of its perpetrator. I contend that the cause of these defects, in its most redimentary form, stems from not knowing who we are, why we are here or how we are to act. This may sound too simplistic but life is not complicated, we are. If we knew and really understood our true purpose we would avoid, like a plague, anything contrary to that purpose. The answer to who we are and why we are here, is not only desirable, but essential for us to be content and satisfied with our lives. The cure to our dilemma is developing our beliefs and gaining an understanding of our basic purpose in the great scheme of things. It all boils down to the individual and what (s)he is willing to do to change, to progress and to develop. Baha'u'llah tells us that although not an easy task it does hold great rewards for those who journey on this path. It is my contention that Baha'u'llah and the Baha'i Faith shows and explains that path, which is the next step in our collective development on this planet ...
Happy journey in whatever path you follow ...


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