by Glenn Franco Simmons
In 2007, I penned a column for which I was mocked by a blogger who titled an acid-tongued response: “Glenn Franco Simmons: The Opinionator.”
The column I had written was about a tragic police shooting of an armed woman. Officers said they were forced to use lethal force, which I believed.
If I recall correctly, I wrote about the shooting as a symptom of the spiritual disconnect in America. The woman was mentally ill and had abused drugs in the past. What could make society so lose touch that such tragedies occurred, I asked.
For my views concerning a lack of spirituality, a lack of prayer and a turning away from God in American society, I was mocked as a self-aggrandized editor. Cowardly, anonymous and malicious comments followed, although I remember one person saying the column was well-written.
My intent was not to be pompous. As the managing editor who co-founded the daily newspaper where I worked, it was my job to write about current events in the community ~ a job I had been doing for many years at several local newspapers.
Recently, in reflecting upon that column and my own journey back to the Faith of my youth, which I was mostly separated from at the time I wrote the column, I came across a brief analysis regarding a lack of spirituality that was written many decades ago by Shoghi Effendi, Guardian of the Bahá’í Faith. Had I known of it at the time, it would have laser-focused my column using his words, in a way that I remain incapable of writing and deeply grateful to Shoghi Effendi.
“The problem with which you are faced is one which concerns and seriously puzzles many of our present-day youth,” Shoghi Effendi wrote. “How to attain spirituality is indeed a question to which every young man and woman must sooner or later try to find a satisfactory answer. It is precisely because no such satisfactory answer has been given or found, that the modern youth finds itself bewildered, and is being consequently carried away by the materialistic forces that are so powerfully undermining the foundations of man’s moral and spiritual life.
“Indeed the chief reason for the evils now rampant in society is the lack of spirituality. The materialistic civilization of our age has so much absorbed the energy and interest of mankind that people in general do no longer feel the necessity of raising themselves above the forces and conditions of their daily material existence. There is not sufficient demand for things that we call spiritual to differentiate them from the needs and requirements of our physical existence.
“The universal crisis affecting mankind is, therefore, essentially spiritual in its causes. The spirit of the age, taken on the whole, is irreligious. Man’s outlook on life is too crude and materialistic to enable him to elevate himself into the higher realms of the spirit.
“It is this condition, so sadly morbid, into which society has fallen, that religion seeks to improve and transform. For the core of religious faith is that mystic feeling which unites Man with God. This state of spiritual communion can be brought about and maintained by means of meditation and prayer. And this is the reason why Bahá’u’lláh has so much stressed the importance of worship. It is not sufficient for a believer merely to accept and observe the teachings. He should, in addition, cultivate the sense of spirituality which he can acquire chiefly by means of prayer. The Bahá’í Faith, like all other Divine Religions, is thus fundamentally mystic in character. Its chief goal is the development of the individual and society, through the acquisition of spiritual virtues and powers. It is the soul of man which has first to be fed. And this spiritual nourishment prayer can best provide. …”