Baha'i view on Loyalty to Government vs Pacifism
Updated: Jan 7, 2019
When a great social crisis sweeps through a civilization, moral values become impaired and moral issues confused. In the crisis of our time, members of the Bahá'í Faith go on record as firmly upholding the principle of loyalty to government.
Bahá`u'lláh, the Founder of the Bahá'í Faith, laid upon His followers this sacred obligation:
`In every country where any of this people (Bahá'ís) reside, they must behave towards the government of that country with loyalty, honesty and truthfulness.'
The Bahá'í Writings state further,
`The essence of the Bahá'í spirit is that in order to establish a better social order and economic condition, there must be allegiance to the laws and principles of government' -'Abdu'l-Baha
Should a Bahá'í act contrary to the laws of the government his conduct would be considered reprehensible before God, for members of this community `should at all times manifest . . .truthfulness and sincerity' and `be constant in . . .faithfulness and trustworthiness.'
In elucidation of this cardinal spiritual and social principle `Abdu'l-Bahá, the authorized Interpreter of the Faith, has written:
`According to the direct and sacred command of God we (the Bahá'ís) are forbidden to utter slander, are commanded to show forth peace and amity, are exhorted to rectitude of conduct, straightforwardness and harmony with all the kindreds and peoples of the world. We must obey and be the well-wishers of the governments of the land . . .'
The followers of Bahá`u'lláh are exhorted to be `good citizens'. The Bahá'í teachings foster in the individual adherent an appreciation of authority and an intelligent and balanced patriotism. A Bahá'í is encouraged to
`serve in an unselfish, unostentatious and patriotic fashion, the highest interests of the country to which he belongs, and in a way that would entail no departure from the high standards of integrity and truthfulness associated with the teachings of his Faith.' -Shoghi Effendi
Allegiance to government, far from being a concept to which the Bahá'í gives lip service, is a spiritual obligation reinforced by and inseparable from those teachings of Bahá`u'lláh's on which His followers pattern their individual spiritual development.
`Let integrity and uprightness distinguish all thine acts,' -Bahá`u'lláh
Without integrity of character in its citizens and without loyalty to government, a nation will find itself torn asunder and unable to function as an organic society. Not only do the Bahá'í teachings obligate members to be loyal to their government--they also specifically forbid them from taking part in subversive political and social movements.
Baha'i View of Pacifism
Shoghi Effendi, the Guardian of the Bahá'í Faith wrote through his secretary:
`With reference to the absolute pacifists or conscientious objectors to war: their attitude, judged from the Bahá'í standpoint, is quite anti-social and due to its exaltation of the individual conscience is leads inevitably to disorder and chaos in society. Extreme pacifists are thus very close to anarchists, in the sense that both of these groups lay an undue emphasis on the rights and merits of the individual. The Bahá'í conception of social life is essentially based on the subordination of the individual will to that of society. It neither suppresses the individual nor does it exalt him to the point of making him an anti-social creature, a menace to society. As in everything, it follows the "golden mean." The only way society can function is for the minority to follow the will of the majority.
`The other main objection to the conscientious objectors is that their method of establishing peace is too negative. Noncooperation is too passive a philosophy to become an effective way for social reconstruction. Their refusal to bear arms can never establish peace. There should first be a spiritual revitalization which nothing, except the Cause of God, can effectively bring to every man's heart.'
Originally published in the Baha'i World volume 18.