Bahai News - Faith in the Future

Faith in the Future 1 - The Need for Faith

November 18, 2000

Searching for meaning in the new millennium

This is the first of a series of five articles on "Faith in the Future".

I would like to begin with hope--which is something that comes naturally to people. Take Tevye, for instance. He was the milkman in the Russian village of Anatevka, as portrayed in the film Fiddler on the Roof. In the early years of this century, Tevye and the other Jews of his community survived perilously in a harsh climate, with long bitter winters and a short growing season for the crops they survived on. Tevye was dirt poor. At the start of the film we see him pushing his old milk-cart when his horse refuses to go on another step. Then, dreaming of a way out of the cycle of difficulties, he gives full vent to his fantasies of a better life, singing,

If I were a rich man… wouldn't have to work hard…
I'd build a big tall house with rooms by the dozen
Right in the middle of the town:
A fine tin roof with real wooden floors below.

And he finishes off:

Lord who made the lion and the lamb
You decreed I should be what I am
Would it spoil some vast eternal plan
If I were a wealthy man!

Thinking about the future is one of our human qualities. It sets us apart from the animals. Rather than just reacting to the stimuli of our senses from moment to moment, our minds reach out in space and time. We make plans, because we want to improve our lives and provide for our children. We develop our careers, support our children's education, save for retirement… By the same token, we fear and loathe the things that threaten these hopes.

At present, the emerging new millennium is giving a big boost to everybody's interest in the future. We are facing a great mixture of dazzling developments and frightening dangers. Many people are anxious about where the world is going. There are any number of reasons for fear of the future: that the ozone layer is thinning; that chemicals are polluting the environment; that the atmosphere is losing oxygen because of deforestation; that some crazy leader may unleash a nuclear war; that political and economic affairs will fall into the hands of greedy and unscrupulous individuals who will ruin us all; or (as Hollywood likes to portray), that an asteroid may hit the earth and cause a catastrophe. On the other hand technology is racing ahead at a dizzying speed, providing us almost daily with new appliances, services, products and entertainments, marvellous advances in medicine and agriculture—and other more sinister inventions. As we contemplate the current state of our country and the planet, what shall we make of the jumbled, confusing picture we see? Rapid and accelerating change gives us the impression that the new millennium marks more than a date on the calendar, and is a real watershed in human affairs.

With all the technical ability and accumulated knowledge that information technology has put at our fingertips, will we build a better world for our children and grandchildren? Could an end to war and poverty be in sight at long last? We would like to think so, but it is hard to be confident. When we view aggression and injustice reported daily in vivid colour on CNN and BBC news reports, world peace seems to be an impossible ideal. There is vast potential for improvement in the human condition, side by side with appalling suffering. If we are going to work for the triumph of the good and the beautiful, we need a vision to guide us. In a word, we need faith.

Just as it is human to plan for our children's future, in our human make-up is a sense that the world must surely be moving towards a better day. This hope has deep springs in our individual and collective psyche and is part of the heritage and cultural identity of everyone on the planet. All the religions have encouraged this hope. Consider the words of Christ, two thousand years ago, that: "The meek shall inherit the earth." And an even older voice, the Hebrew Prophet Isaiah foresaw that a day would come when "The wolf… shall dwell with the lamb, and the leopard shall lie down with the kid." (Isaiah 11:6) A celebrated passage in the Bible about a future transformation of the world is this one from the Book of Revelation:

And I saw a new heaven and a new earth: for the first heaven and the first earth were passed away; and there was no more sea. And I John saw the holy city, a new Jerusalem, coming down from God out of heaven, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a great voice out of heaven saying, Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and he will dwell with them, and they shall be his people, and God himself shall be with them, and be their God. And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away. (Revelation 21: 1–4)

In this article I have briefly introduced the idea that individually and collectively we need faith, now as much as we ever did. However we need the kind of faith that is up to the intellectual and moral challenges of the 21st century. I want to explore what kind of faith that would be.

The kind of faith we need in the 21st century is the subject of my next article, entitled "Religion in Retreat".

The author is a follower of the Baha'i Faith. For further information about the Baha'i Faith, please visit the Baha'i World web site at

©Copyright 2000, John Deverell

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