Two Web Talks for April: America in the Bahá’í Writings and Economic Life

Sunday, Apr. 8, 2018, 2 p.m. EDT (7 p.m. U.K; 8 p.m. Western European)
“The Special Place of America in the Bahá’í Authoritative Texts”
Valerie Smith

Sunday, Apr. 22, 2018, 2 p.m. EDT (7 p.m. U.K; 8 p.m. Western European)
“Economic Life: Reflections on the House of Justice message of March 1, 2017”
Gregory Dahl

The two Wilmette Web Talks for April could not be more different. On April 8, Valerie Phillips will talk about “The Special Place of America in the Bahá’í Authoritative Texts.” On April 22, Gregory Dahl will discuss “Economic Life: Reflections on the House of Justice message of March 1, 2017.” You can sign up for both talks by clicking on the links above.

“The Special Place of America in the Bahá’í Authoritative Texts.” On Sunday, April 8 (see times above), Valerie Smith, part Tsalagi (Cherokee) and part African American, will discuss “The Special Place of America in the Bahá’í Authoritative Texts,” discussing references in the Bahá’í writings to its special place and the role it is destined to play in the spiritual development of humankind. She will also draw on later works, such as Ruhiyyih Khanum’s The Priceless Pearl, placing passages about America in the context of prevailing historical Christian views about Native Americans.

A thread running through Valerie’s talk will be the pervasive influence in America of the Doctrine of Discovery, promulgated by Pope Alexander VI in 1493. The Doctrine granted Spain “the right to conquer lands which Columbus had already found, as well as any lands which Spain might ‘discover’ in the future.” A second thread informing her talk will be the Doctrine of Manifest Destiny, a term coined in 1845 to express the “philosophy that drove 19th-century U.S. territorial expansion”; it “held that the United States was destined—by God, its advocates believed—to expand its dominion and spread democracy and capitalism across the entire North American continent.” Valerie will bring both threads up to the present day and end with a discussion of the Universal House of Justice’s April 27, 2017, on social action, public discourse, and noninvolvement in politics affairs.

Valerie Phillips

Like most Native Americans in the United States, Valerie Phillips was raised in an urban environment (Chicago, Illinois, USA), where she attended her first powwow at Navy Pier. A graduate of Wellesley College and the University of California, Berkeley, School of Law, she has worked primarily as an attorney (Shoshone-Bannock Tribal Attorney’s Office and solo practice) and an educator (she has taught law, mathematics, and social studies). Her teaching career includes stints as a business law professor (Washington State University’s College of Business and Economics) and a law professor (University of Tulsa, College of Law). She has published in scholarly journals, primarily on the subject of indigenous peoples. She has also had the honor of participating in meetings of the United Nations Working Group on Indigenous Peoples in Geneva, Switzerland, and New York City before it became the UN Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues. She has also traveled widely within Indian Country (the United States, Canada, and Guatemala).

“Economic Life: Reflections on the House of Justice Message of March 1, 2017.” On April 22 (see times above), Gregory Dahl makes a second appearance in the Wilmette Institute’s Web Talk Series (more about that later), discussing “Economic Life: Reflections on the House of Justice Message of March 1, 2017.” In that message, Greg says, the Universal House of Justice calls on Bahá’ís to “examine the implications of the Revelation of Bahá’u’lláh for economic life” and to exert “strenuous effort . . . to put His teachings into effect today” (emphasis added). In his Web Talk, Greg adds, he will “examine different aspects of this call in the context of concepts introduced by the House of Justice in earlier messages, such as the central role of community-building, the need for all—individuals, communities and institutions—to participate in the process, the importance of everyone acquiring knowledge and participating in its creation through action and reflection, and the need to ensure that the spiritual and material aspects of our lives are coherent.”

Greg notes that “these concepts are radical and dramatically different from the usual concepts of development and social change. There is no mention in the March 1, 2017, message of economic theories or experts, nor of top-down initiatives or political movements. Although the realization of the Bahá’í World Commonwealth of the future will require new economic systems to ensure economic justice, the House of Justice indicates that its ‘eventual emergence’ will depend on the efforts we make now. The call is for Bahá’ís to increasingly contribute to economic justice and social progress in their own lives and communities ‘using the opportunities their circumstances offer them.’” Greg says that he will end his Web talk by exploring “some of the ways we might be able to respond to this call, drawing on a range of Bahá’í principles that appear relevant.”

Greg’s earlier presentation in the Wilmette Institute’s Web Talk series was called “Globalization and Current Events—A Bahá’í Perspective.” It can be found on the Institute’s website.

Gregory DahlGregory Dahl is author of One World, One People: How Globalization is Shaping Our Future (Bahá’í Publishing 2007; it is listed as recommended reading in the “What Bahá’ís Believe” section of bahai.org), as well as numerous articles. After studying economics at Harvard, he pursued a twenty-seven-year career as an economist and senior official of the International Monetary Fund (IMF), working with top-level government officials in various areas of the globe to try to resolve economic problems and promote development. He served as the resident representative of the IMF in Haïti, Sierra Leone, Bulgaria, and Madagascar for ten years. His IMF position gave him first-hand experience with the practical dilemmas faced by leaders as well as their human and often moral shortcomings in dealing with those dilemmas. He is a second generation Bahá’í and has traveled and visited Bahá’í communities in over one hundred countries. He served on the National Spiritual Assembly of Bulgaria for ten years and as its secretary for five years, and has been a Deputy Trustee of Ḥuqúqu’lláh since 2008. He currently lives in the Czech Republic with his family.

Leave a Reply