America’s Spiritual Destiny
A recurring theme in ‘Abdu’l-Bahá’s addresses is that God has destined a great role in the world for America — to lead the way in establishing the oneness of humanity. He added that America has advanced materially to a very high degree, but must develop to a similar degree spiritually in order to fulfill this lofty destiny.
Since the 1880s Bahá’u’lláh, the Founder of the Bahá’í Faith, had prescribed an approach to world peace upheld by enforceable international law.
This was also addressed by ‘Abdu’l-Bahá in His Tablet addressed to the Executive Committee of the Central Organization for a Durable Peace at the Hague, in December, 1919.
The Universal House of Justice, in its proclamation issued to the Peoples of the World in 1985 repeated these same principles.
‘Abdu’l-Bahá, in His repeated call to America to arise and fulfil its destiny in this regard, always linked the fulfillment of America’s destiny to first attaining to a higher spiritual and moral level.
Just four days after His arrival, in His first public address in America, this was His theme:
“Since my arrival in this country I find that material civilization has progressed greatly, that commerce has attained the utmost degree of expansion; arts, agriculture and all details of material civilization have reached the highest stage of perfection, but spiritual civilization has been left behind. Material civilization is like unto the lamp, while spiritual civilization is the light in that lamp. If the material and spiritual civilization become united, then we will have the light and the lamp together, and the outcome will be perfect. For material civilization is like unto a beautiful body, and spiritual civilization is like unto the spirit of life. If that wondrous spirit of life enters this beautiful body, the body will become a channel for the distribution and development of the perfections of humanity.
“Jesus Christ came to teach the people of the world this heavenly civilization and not material civilization. He breathed the breath of the Holy Spirit into the body of the world and established an illumined civilization. Among the principles of divine civilization He came to proclaim is the Most Great Peace of mankind. Among His principles of spiritual civilization is the oneness of the kingdom of humanity. Among the principles of heavenly civilization He brought is the virtue of the human world. Among the principles of celestial civilization He announced is the improvement and betterment of human morals.”
(‘Abdu’l-Bahá, The Promulgation of Universal Peace, p. 11; Address at Church of the Ascension, Fifth Avenue and Tenth Street, New York)
A few weeks later in the course of an address He delivered in Cleveland, Ohio, ‘Abdu’l-Bahá again stated that the American nation is dedicated to peace, and in order to reach this lofty goal it must dedicate itself to spiritual and moral accomplishment:
“The American continent gives signs and evidences of very great advancement; its future is even more promising, for its influence and illumination are far-reaching, and it will lead all nations spiritually. The flag of freedom and banner of liberty have been unfurled here, but the prosperity and advancement of a city, the happiness and greatness of a country depend upon its hearing and obeying the call of God. The light of reality must shine therein and divine civilization be founded; then the radiance of the Kingdom will be diffused and heavenly influences surround. Material civilization is likened to the body, whereas divine civilization is the spirit in that body. A body not manifesting the spirit is dead; a fruitless tree is worthless. Jesus declares that there is spiritual capacity in some people, for all are not submerged in the sea of materialism. They seek the Divine Spirit; they turn to God; they long for the Kingdom. It is my hope that these revered people present may attain both material and spiritual progress. As they have advanced wonderfully in material degrees, so may they, likewise, advance in spiritual development until the body shall become refined and beautiful through the wealth of spiritual potentiality and efficiency.”
(‘Abdu’l-Bahá, The Promulgation of Universal Peace, p. 104; Address at Dr. Swingle’s Health Sanatorium, May 6, 1912)
On April 30, 1912, ‘Abdu’l-Bahá brought to a close the Annual Convention of the Bahá’ís of the United States with this beautiful and befitting prayer for America’s spiritual attainment:
“O Thou kind Lord! This gathering is turning to Thee. These hearts are radiant with Thy love. These minds and spirits are exhilarated by the message of Thy glad tidings. O God! Let this American democracy become glorious in spiritual degrees even as it has aspired to material degrees, and render this just government victorious. Confirm this revered nation to upraise the standard of the oneness of humanity, to promulgate the Most Great Peace, to become thereby most glorious and praiseworthy among all the nations of the world. O God! This American nation is worthy of Thy favors and is deserving of Thy mercy. Make it precious and near to Thee through Thy bounty and bestowal.”
(‘Abdu’l-Bahá, The Promulgation of Universal Peace, p. 67)