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Selected posts June-August 2001

Forum: Religious Debate

6/1/01

X wrote: Well, what I have read on official Bahai sites certainly do not present the true picture. For example, much is made about the apparent democratic nature of the Administrative Order, when in fact it's anti-democratic, and indeed is in my opinion an authoritarian theocracy that is opposed in fact to some aspects of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

Y wrote: X, I think this is a really interesting topic you brought up. As a nonBaha'i you went to the Baha'i sites and found that they gave the impression the Baha'i Faith is democratic. Yet Z and W both admit the Faith is not a democracy and then go on to paint the real authoritarian reality. According to the Writings Baha'is were supposed to take the best out of all systems rather than turn into a collective dictatorship.

Dear X and Y,

I'm having trouble keeping up and missed X's original post, so I'll respond here.

Shoghi Effendi described the Baha'i administrative system as combining the three classical forms of government: democracy, aristocracy, and monarchy. Baha'is often boast that the administration is more democratic than others because, in theory, any Baha'i in good standing over 21 can be elected to any office. However, there are several policies that Shoghi Effendi instituted that make it less democratic.

First of all, any sort of nomination or campaigning is disallowed. It is regarded as divisive, and it is egotistically un-Baha'i to go around promoting one's self for office. It's supposed to be a service. The flip side of this is that voters have very little information on which to make a choice. Basically, one votes on the basis of reputation and has no idea what policies any particular person would support if elected.

Secondly, those elected are considered to be responsible to God, not to a constitutuency. In the American system, one can say that politicians are pandering to the electorate, or one could call them being responsive to the voice of the electorate. In the Baha'i system, they don't pander, and are unresponsive, since their being elected to office in almost completely divorced from the decisions they make while serving.

Thirdly, the meetings are completely closed. Shoghi Effendi expressed concern for the privacy of the individuals that Baha'is assemblies might have to make decisions about. The flip side to this is that no one knows on what basis any judgement or policy is made. There is no way to know if a person is being fairly treated; we are just expected to assume that. We have no way of knowing how assembly members voted. Unanimous decisions are considered ideal, but in the case where that is not possible, members of assemblies are expected to support the will of the majority and not speak against it.

Finally, the electoral system itself limits the choices individual voters make. On the local level, there is a broad choice in well-developed communities. In small ones, such as those I have lived in, voting is a matter of decided who is least qualified, and consists of picking off the inactive. In fact, in administratively underdeveloped communities where there are more inactive than active people, it is perfectly legitimate for one person to show up on election day to write down nine names and call it an assembly -- as long as the election was announced at least two weeks in advance. In fact, if there is any way to create an assembly, even if it only exists on paper and not a functioning entity, people will be pushed to do so. And, as Y quite rightly pointed out, there's a whole lot of people serving on LSAs that would really rather not be doing that. Refusing an office, can, in theory cost a person their administrative rights, although I've never known that to happen. Most people, I think, just feel like it's their responsibilty if they are elected.

On the national level, the individual voter elects a delegate, having no idea how that delegate will vote. In fact, the delegate himself will probably base his decision on impressions made at the National Convention. And some NSA members are elected with a minority of delegate votes, since it is not required that there be a majority. So at the national level, the election does not really represent the will of the electorate at all. In fact, it is almost impossible to determine what the will of the Baha'i electorate is, really.

Of course, the election of the UHJ is even more remote, since all the members of the world's NSAs elect that body. Unless a Baha'i lives in a well-developed local community, his vote has almost no impact anywhere.

> > The point you make that has knocked me off my feet is that an > educated person like you gets the idea from Baha'i sites that Baha'i > is democratic when it is far from that in present day praxis. This > means that people join the Faith under a false belief and slowly > adopt the authoritarian position as members and leaders. This is > profound! Perhaps this false advertisement should be explored as the > Faith might end up being sued by an International Court on human > rights or something? Very interesting point.<<<

The public presentation of the Faith does not reflect the real experience of Baha'is. That's why half the converts leave, and my experience is that they do so rather rapidly. The assumption is, I think, that once a person is in the Faith, they will be "deepened" to accept the more authoritarian aspects. And that's pretty much what happened to me. It's just that I had a limit to how much I would accept.

Love, Karen

Forum: Religious Debate

6/3/01

> >Karen: >>But within the Faith itself, there is no right that cannot > be violated, if > the institutions decide that it's in their interest to do so, short of > violating any country's civil laws.<<

> > X: I agree, and abuses have certainly occurred from time to time.<< >

Basically, the UHJ can do anything to anybody it wants to, and no one dare protest without being in danger of being the next to get nailed. I was shocked to the depths when I read this for the first time:

"Typically, when misrepresentations of the kind described are challenged, the reaction of those behind the campaign has been to claim that their civil rights are being threatened, an assertion that is of course meaningless in the light of the purely voluntary nature of Baha'i membership. Much emphasis is placed by them also on academic freedom, their view of which proves, on examination, to be merely freedom on their part to pervert scholarly discourse to the promotion of their own ideological agenda, while seeking to exclude from discussion features of the Baha'i Faith that are central to the Writings of its Founders." [April 7, 1999 UHJ letter]

The clear implication here is that Baha'is have no rights whatsoever within their Faith. They can put up with whatever the authorities dish out, or leave. Besides that, the paragraph is just plain idiotic. Nobody was complaining that their civil rights were being violated because their views were "challenged"; they were complaining because people were being threatened with sanctions, including the threat of being declared covenant-breakers, because of their views. To equate insistence on academic freedom with some kind of ideological agenda is just outrageous -- those liberals who are scholars must do credible work or risk their reputation among their peers. It's a complaint that these scholars are saying things that the UHJ doesn't want them to say because it contradicts their interpretation of the Writings. Then, there is the silly notion that there is some kind of deep, dark cabal afoot -- the "campaign of internal opposition". I hang out with these guys and haven't seen a campaign; it's just a loosely connected bunch of people who have similar interests. There isn't enough organization there to be a "campaign".

Karen

June 6, 2001
Forum: About.com

Dear xxxx,

I never flog anybody. However, I do have some verbal weapons at hand to use for those who would tie *me* to the pillory. :-) But so far, you have been very civil while discussing some very sensitive issues, and since this has not always been my experience, I really appreciate this.

I found, in composing my answer, that it's going to be quite lengthy, so I am considering your two questions, about liberal belief and my own stand on the Covenant, in two separate posts.

First of all, in the outset I should make it clear that I don't share all "liberal" opinions. There is certainly diversity of opinion among liberals, just like any group. In fact, a greater emphasis on individualism is, itself, rather a characteristic of liberals.

Since I don't know what you believe on all Baha'i issues, I don't know precisely where you fall on the ideological spectrum. If you don't like the term "conservative', I could call you "traditional" or even "mainstream".

Some of the sample issues are:

1. Those on the more conservative side of the spectrum put administration at the center of Baha'i life. Liberals, and even many moderates, are seeking a more spiritual center to Baha'i life based upon the mashriq'u'l-adhkar as a community center for spirit and charity. (This is worth a thread by itself.)

2. Liberals tend to be for more open discussion of community issues; conservatives tend to more worry about how it will affect the Faith's public image. In fact, the oft-repeated advice to go through proper consultation channels has often been experienced by liberals as a form of silencing.

3. Freedom of expression is a big issue with liberals. In fact, I think a great deal of the tension originates in the policy of prepublication review, a policy that makes credible Baha'i scholarship almost impossible. Conservatives find this policy more acceptable, fundamentalists express gratitude for it.

4. Liberals often tend to support certain reforms that conservatives deem scripturally impossible, such as women on the UHJ, greater acceptance of homosexuality, certain election reforms, the implementation of a clear system of due process for those accused of wrongdoing. There are only a few reforms of this type I am interested in -- I don't think there's any point in talking about any sort of reform unless Baha'is have the right to freedom of expression without fear of sanction. If we don't have that, what difference does the rest make?

5.Conservatives tend to trust the institutions more. In fact, on the extreme right-wing, the UHJ is revered as some kind of vehicle of God's grace, almost worshipped. For me, it is not enough for the UHJ to say that Alison is not a Baha'i, or that the Talisman posters were conspiring to change the Faith in accord with a certain kind of ideology. I need evidence. If I don't see evidence of these things with my own eyes, I don't believe it. Actually, I did once trust the institutions, but after I was lied to about Dialogue magazine, I don't any more. That's common, too. A mistrust built up out of experiences.

5. Liberals almost always have issues with the status quo, often because of bad experiences, either with the administration, or just the community as a whole. One person on another forum I frequent said; "Finding the revelation of Baha'u'llah is the most important thing that ever happened in my life; living with the Baha'i community the most hurtful." That, too, is a very typical kind of statement reflecting very real experience.

6. Conservatives tend to put a stronger emphasis on the authorized interpretations rather than the words of Baha'u'llah. Real right-wingers openly deride the notion of "back to Baha'u'llah".

7. One specific belief that one finds on the right but not on the left is the expectation that the Baha'i institutions will themselves, constitute a world government. Discussions on this are particularly interesting because theocrats see this future as clearly in the writings, while liberal scholars earnestly try to trace the development of this folk belief that they see as clearly opposed to Baha'u'llah's teaching.

8. Liberals often base their opinions upon the examination of the original languages of revelation, and the historical context in which the revelation occurred. Not all scholars are liberal though, some try to keep a moderate balance between honest scholarship and institutional loyalty. But the outlook is less literalistic than prevails in the community.

9. Conservatives view Baha'i central figures, the Guardian, and the UHJ as infallible in all their words and actions. Liberals, especially with the Master, the Guardian, and the House, view infallibility in a more restrictive fashion. For some, infallibility of the House means no more than "the buck stops here" i.e. they are the legitimate head of the Faith and have the authority that goes along with that. There has been extensive examination of the term "ma'sum" which has been translated as infallibility, but which in a Muslim context means moral immaculacy or sinlessness.

Those are the issues which I think reflect the liberal/conservative divide, at least, all I can think of at the moment.

I look forward to hearing your comments.

Love, Karen

Forum: Religious Debate
6/11/01

{Previously}well, its doublethink again, as your opinions { which i like to an extent} and those of others that may not totally be in harmony with the infalible ones of the UHJ & therefore are of no consequence what so ever{ your opinions are of importance to me at least}, i will ask what is the Offical infalible position of the UHJ concerning the topic were are concerned with?.

Karen(previously): The official position is theocratic. I should point out that the Arabic word for "infallible" -- ma'sum -- does not refer to factual inerrancy, but to moral immaculacy. It's related to the word "protected". Did I tell you that already? I can't remember.

No, you did not tell me.

The idea of ma'summiyyih means something much closer to "protected from error", and can simply mean "having unchallengeable authority". I remember reading that Khomeini thought of himself as "ma'sum" even though he openly said he had said contradictory things. Some liberal Baha'is interpret infallibility as being nothing more than "the buck stops here".

Karen(previously): Although, honestly, these days, I don't have much faith in their moral immaculacy, either. However, on a popular level the UHJ is considered to be infallible, period.

Infallible on who's Authority?, their own no doubt

Abdu'l-Baha said that the House of Justice would be "ma'sum". Of course he also referred to Iran's parliament as "ma'sum", too. Both Baha'u'llah and 'Abdu'l-Baha had great faith in consultation and the discourse that happens in parliamentary bodies. In fact, Baha'u'llah during His lifetime told communities to consult on difficult matters rather than just giving them the answer --pretty remarkable for someone believed to speak with the Voice of God. In a recently-translated tablet, Baha'u'llah told His followers "You are the wellsprings of my own discourse". The idea that the Baha'i Faith was meant to be conformist and anti-individualistic is a later development. Heck, the some of the early Babis were downright antinomian and anarchic. The early believers in the West thought of the Baha'i Faith as the "spirit of the age", and that it gave mankind more freedom than the religions of the past. But then, early Christianity gave a message of spiritual freedom, too, and look what happened to it.

I would welcome any information that you have, however i would prefer to have this or any relevent info that you have sent me at another address i have which is .... @ I prefer to have lenthy texts from you {and the other people} whom i am in contact with all stored in one place, but please do not let me deter you from sending the said Info to the list for myself & others to evaluate.

O.K. X provided a link to that talk, which is quite lengthy, but the part I'm referring to is relatively short, so I'll post it to the list.

Karen(previously): The Guardian was the authorized interpreter (mubayyin) of the Writings.His infallibility only applies to that sphere, and would not include his views on history, science or the like.

Well, lol of course only a complete Bird Brain would infallibly claim that King George III was the General who accepted the British surrender at York Town, or that Einstein formulated Keplers laws of Planetary motion. Its *obvious* the person concerned could not claim infallibility in such matters that run contary to known history & science..... he'd be in big trouble if he did!!!!.

The problem is, however, that some Baha'is, of a fundamentalist bent make his every word infallible. The same with 'Abd'ul-Baha who made historical and scientific errors. Say that either one of them was wrong about anything, and the feathers do fly!

Karen(previously): However, it is largely his letters that are interpreted as being pro-theocratic. And to be truthful, I'm not entirely sure he wasn't. (I think that may be addressed in that article I linked to -- I'm going to have to re-read it.) However, I am sure that both Baha'u'llah and 'Abdu'l-Baha did not envision a world theocracy that would supplant civil institutions.

Ok i will wait til you refresh your memory.

Actually, the letters are somewhat contradictory. At times upholding the separation of church and state; at others speaking of a theocracy. I think Shoghi Effendi meant by "theocracy" not a civil government ruled by religious leaders, but to refer to the governance of the faith itself. The Catholic Church could be thought of a "theocracy" in that sense, even though it doesn't run any civil governments. However, I think one could expect that in a Baha'i country, the majority religion will certainly influence many aspects of culture and government. The fact that the U.S. is majority Protestant Christian certainly has influenced our culture, and our government. We'd be a whole different kind of people if the Americas had been originally colonized by Muslims, right? In a situation where Baha'is made up the majority, the spiritual assemblies would be powers to be reckoned with even if they legally held no civil power. However, there are very few countries right now where Baha'is even make up a significant minority, and I wouldn't hold my breath waiting for that to be different.

Karen(previously): Well, remember, only the UHJ as a *body* is considered to be infallible. So the individuals can be wrong, just not the institution itself. Whatever carries either unanimously (the Baha'i ideal) or by majority is considered to be the will of God.

I see ;-), so the body as a whole.... is infallible, but yet an individual of this body can be wrong, so sometimes people who are deemed infallible are not infalible!, But rather only infallible when they all agree on something which they decide will be infallible!. Double-think at its best!

Well, it goes back to Baha'u'llah having great faith in the process of consultation. The individuals can be fallible, but the process with yield infallible answers. (Actually, Baha'u'llah never used the word "mas'um" to describe the UHJ, but said they would be "inspired".) Sort of the idea that nine heads are better than one.

Karen(previously):As for Baha'is voicing their opinions without fear of retribution that is not so, at least if someone is enrolled and using their real name. There could easily be more people dropped from the rolls, or named some bad thing by Haifa.

If Bahai's can be carpeted for actions or thoughts in their local communities, what makes you think that Big Brother is not watching and recording all they say on the Net?.

That's what I'm saying. Baha'i Big Brother is definitely watching. They can't hurt me because I'm not on the rolls. Actually what seems to happen is that somebody freaks out at someone's opinion expressed on the Net, and they turn it in. Alison Marshall's disenrollment came about in this way. The UHJ said that her views became "a concern to a number of the friends". Baha'i culture approves of this kind of reporting. Fortunately, I live in an administratively underdeveloped area where this ethic never took hold. But you are right, Baha'is on the Net are definitely being watched. They've probably got some kind of file on me because of my articles. Who knows? We may have a silent mole subscribed to this newsgroup. That stuff happens.

Karen(previously): Voting in the Baha'i community is over-rated anyway. Nobody knows anything about anybody's performance on a spiritual assembly, so we have no intelligent way to decide who to vote for. So you wouldn't be missing much.

Yes, i agree, i can see why you consider voting overrated, as you fondly hope in the future to deny people like me that right, i would not be missing much?, only my freedom of electorial choice i suppose.

I would never deny anyone freedom of choice. And I don't believe the kind of theocratic future some people envision will ever happen.

Karen(previously): And the institutions, or their representatives, seem to be able to get away with politicking -- there was a Secretary for External Affairs who basically acted as a lobbyist, especially to push for all those Senate resolutions concerning the treatment of Baha'is in Iran. Or there will be public statements like "The Promise of World Peace" which was released in 1986 and presented with much pomp to the U.N. and most of the world's leaders.

Well, i cant see why someone should not lobby the UN on their behalf

Actually to give credit where credit is due, the Secretary for External Affairs did a great deal to bring the plight of Iranian Baha'is into public awareness.

(previously)I would like to ask at the outset what do you consider pornography to be?.

Karen(previously): Don't know, but I know it when I see it. :-) You're asking the wrong person, since I'm very fond of freedom of expression, although not of pornography.

exactly!, i consider tthe 700 club spiritual pornography, but they have the right to express themselves freely.

Well, we never watch that stuff in our house -- I'm afraid it will corrupt my children. :-)

(previously) If the people of the Untited States wished to change the constution of theirFounding Fathers i am sure that a plebicite would be held to settle the matter, and it would not be left for a decision by a few Un-Democratic Middle Eastern Mystics.

Karen(previously): Oh, but that's only because Americans are hopelessly unspiritual and materialistic, otherwise they'd be flocking into the Faith in droves. (This is not my opinion; this is what I've heard.

Are they?, i would disagree, most of the Americans i have met are just ordinary folks who prefer a different spirituality from the Bahai form.

Well, that's the explanation Baha'is give themselves for the lack of growth in the faith in spite of all the efforts at "teaching". My own belief is that the lack of growth is because we are so focused on administration and teaching that we do a rotten job of community-building. I fail to see what Heresy & living in a third world state have to do with a plebicite concerning the constitution of the USA.

Well, as long as I've been a Baha'i I've heard stories about how easy it is to teach the Faith in the Third World. One gets the impression that all you have to do is walk into a village, give a presentation, and sign people up. What is said is that, unlike us materialistic Americans, the Third World people are more spiritual. I think this is nonsense. Americans aren't going to want to give up their Constitutional rights because there is no good reason for them to do so, especially since they have a wide choice of religions that won't require it of them.

Yea!, thank goodness for ole Luther, Zwingle, Calvin et al for having at least some common sense in making divorce a civil matter!. I agree its not true in every culture, you only have to look at how God is applying his laws {especially concerning women} in Afganistan.

Hey, I just looked at a poll in the Muslim section of Beliefnet, and about 65% of the Muslims there think the Taliban are just nuts and have nothing to do with real Islamic teaching.

Having 2 wives is bad news!, we dont make men unload their extra wives lol,sorry thats soooo funny!, whats up?, the Bab got summit against divorce advocates?

Well, yes. Babi law, carried forward by Baha'u'llah, requires a "year of patience" before divorce becomes final. And the extra wives may feel a certain amount of resentment, or suffer family recriminations, if they are just dumped upon their husband's conversion.

Karen(previously): Well, not all Jews think they are historically factual or even divinely inspired. It depends on how liberal or conservative they are.

True, well, we all know that Liberals tend to dilute the faith dont we?

Well, I'm not so sure about that. Within the Baha'i Faith, liberals were there before the conservatives. Christian fundamentalism, indeed fundamentalism of all varieties is a modern phenomenon, right along with liberalism. Both points of view are reponses to modernity, both ways of being a believer in a modern scientific age. As to whether liberalism "dilutes" the Faith, I think it depends upon the faith. I have a real hard time relating to Christian liberals. But I'm a Baha'i liberal, and I think my faith is just as strong as that of my more conservative brethren.

Karen(previously): Baha'is believe that the religion of the Jews comes from God and that Moses was a Manifestation of God. I would not throw Judaism on the "philosophical scrap heap"

Great, so the Jews are in your opinion are saved spiritually then?

The term "saved" is a Christian thing, and I'm not sure it applies. I think one's fate in the afterlife depends upon one's level of spiritual development. A Jew can develop spiritually just as well as a Baha'i can. Baha'u'llah says "This is the changeless faith of God, eternal in the past, eternal in the future." In the ultimate sense, Jews and Baha'is belong to the same "religion" -- the love of God, and the love of mankind.

Karen(previously): but there are some Baha'is who would figure that people from other religions had better get a clue that God has spoken to mankind again.

Lol.... looks like in the eyes of some Bahais that the Jews are not saved!,now where's that scrap heap?

Yes, we more liberal Baha'is call that attitude "triumphalism". It's not a compliment.

Karen(previously): One guy on the Internet actually used the term "relic religions", an attitude which turns my stomach. Part of what drew me to investigate the Baha'i Faith in the first place was the teachings on the unity of religions. I'm a universalist at heart.

While i can partially agree with you the term *Relic Religions* can be viewed as offensive, it does not detract from the fact that the Israelites were originally little more than a tribe of nomadic Bronze age Goat Herds, who imagined they had some sort of supernatural entity helping them to perform their acts of ethnic cleansing.

Well, I'd be very surprised if nomadic Bronze Age goat herds had a real sophisticated understanding of the divine. The reason God keeps sending Messengers is because mankind develops and changes over time. We all have differing conceptions of God, depending on our own level of insight. It isn't God's fault that none of us really gets it right.

Karen(previously): Well, it depends on how you look at it. Some Bible stories I find very rich in meaning if viewed symbolically and mythically; others leave me flat.

Yes, there are some stories that are very rich in meaning, especially the one recorded in 1 Sam.15, naturally we must not take this as a *literal* story but rather a story in which the author has been over exuberant in his use of metaphorical poetic licence.

Well, I view the stories in Samuel and Kings as being "official" histories of the monarchy more than any kind of divine revelation. There had to be some explanation as to why Saul screwed up and David deserved to be king, besides just a raw power struggle. In those days, it was considered a good thing for your king or your god to be out there kicking butt. I don't expect ancient peoples to see things in a modern way. You might have noticed that this story is one that most people don't learn about in Sunday school as children. In fact, I didn't know about it until I took a class in the Old Testament just recently.

Karen(prevously): Forgive me, but I can't remember -- what kind of scriptures *do* you find valuable, X? Or are you just a dyed in the wool skeptic who likes hanging out with us religious types?

From the OT the score is zero, from the NT., Jesus did suggest quite a few humanitarian ideals. As for being a dyed in the wool sceptic.... i am to certain extent, especially when it comes to accepting the pronoucements of Infallible men, thats of course if they all agree ;-)

Have you ever checked out Buddhist or Hindu scriptures like the Bhagavad-Gita? (Somehow, I think the Qur'an wouldn't be your style.)

Karen(previously): Now, wait a minute: "non-historical" and "without divine foundation" do not mean the same thing. I would call them edifying non-historical (or semi-historical) stories based upon divine revelation.

You are correct, i did phrase that very badly. So, you actually believe that the entire OT is of divine origin?, it contains no scientific & historical inaccuracies of any sort?.

No. As I just said, parts of it are official histories of the monarchy. Leviticus is basically a handbook for priests. I certainly do *not* believe the Bible is free from inaccuracy. As I said, being "inspired" in a general sense is a very different thing from believing the whole darn thing was dictated by God Himself. I believe that Moses was a divine Messenger, but I don't think much of His teaching was preserved in the Torah. The Torah itself did not become anything like what we would recognize until post-exilic times, hundreds of years after Moses. A good basic book, if you can find it, on how the Old Testament was put together is "Who Wrote the Bible?" by Friedman.

Love, Karen

June 11, 2001
Forum: Religious Debate

Karen(previously): Abdu'l-Baha said that the House of Justice would be "ma'sum". Of course he also referred to Iran's parliament as "ma'sum", too. Both Baha'u'llah and'Abdu'l-Baha had great faith in consultation and the discourse that happens in parliamentary bodies. In fact, Baha'u'llah during His lifetime told communities to consult on difficult matters rather than just giving them the answer --pretty remarkable for someone believed to speak with the Voice of God. In a recently-translated tablet, Baha'u'llah told His followers "You are the wellsprings of my own discourse". The idea that the Baha'i Faith was meant to be conformist and anti-individualistic is a later development.Heck, the some of the early Babis were downright antinomian and anarchic.

So we still have a vauge mish mash when it comes to the subject of Infalliblity then?

Yes, Baha'is disagree as to its scope and meaning. Fundamentalist Baha'is think everything Shoghi Effendi or the UHJ said or did was absolutely inerrant. More sophisticated thinkers are a bit more subtle about it. I've heard that even the members of the UHJ itself grapple with what it means. However, official pronouncements, as I have shown, tend to promote the "inerrant" idea.

Karen(previously):The problem is, however, that some Baha'is, of a fundamentalist bent make his every word infallible. The same with 'Abd'ul-Baha who made historical and scientific errors. Say that either one of them was wrong about anything, and the feathers do fly!

Lol, yes i know what you mean here!, i spent nearly 6 months discussing (arguing} the ridiculous errors of natural history that can be found in that load of superstitious nonsense & clap trap the Book of Leviticus {Chapter 11}

History in Leviticus? It's mostly a book for priests: how to perform sacrifices, and what is clean (i.e. fit for temple use) and what isn't. I think you're unnecessarily harsh about the Bible. Can't you forgive primitive people for being primitive? Maybe it's because I'm primarily attached to another set of scriptures that illogical things in the Bible just don't bug me much.

Karen(previously): However, I think one could expect that in a Baha'i country, the majority religion will certainly influence many aspects of culture and government.

Naturally, if this state dominated by Bahai's started passing legislation that favoured Bahai's & the Bahia faith over other faiths etc, then you would passing in a sense your own latter day " Nuremberg Laws". If that ever happens, then I hope the non-Baha'is rebel big-time.

Karen(previously): The fact that the U.S. is majority Protestant Christian certainly has influenced our culture, and our government.

True to an extent, however the wise framers of your Constitution { good ole Tom :-) } , did not deem a Union of Church & State a good thing, neither did the framers mention that Christianity should be the model on which the American Republic was founded. { UHJ take note}

Oh, I recall some Baha'i thing I read that tied Christianity and its belief in the Holy Spirit which could, in theory, inspire anyone, to the "cult of individualism" that permeates the West.(I can't remember if this was official or not, but it does reflect a common Baha'i prejudice.) As I have noted, there is plenty of individualism in Baha'i scripture -- and Babism was even more individualistic.

Karen(previously): We'd be a whole different kind of people if the Americas had been originally colonized by Muslims, right? In a situation where Baha'is made up the majority, the spiritual assemblies would be powers to be reckoned with even if they legally held no civil power.

Of course!, "there is no other God but Allah, and Mohammed is his *true > prophet*, thankfully the Deists like Paine & Jefferson who helped framed the constitution were not stupid enough to base it on such a nonsense. No!!, the thing to be reckoned with is Democracy, not the spiritual bents of a particular sect. Why are you people so concerned about gaining Secular power?

Baha'u'llah said that His eyes were fastened on the hearts of men. Indeed, in the context of Shi'ih Islam, claiming to have a revelation from God would have been seen as a claim to secular power as well. Baha'u'llah explicitly renounced any claim to worldly power, and told His followers to do the same. They just aren't listening.

Pwll {previously}: If Bahai's can be carpeted for actions or thoughts in their local communities, what makes you think that Big Brother is not watching and recording all they say on the Net?.

Karen(previously): That's what I'm saying. Baha'i Big Brother is definitely watching. They can't hurt me because I'm not on the rolls.

You are considered a Heretic if thats the term you use?

No, the UHJ denies that "heretic" applies in the Baha'i Faith, which is why I sort of stubbornly use it in tongue-in-cheek fashion -- because I think it's pretty clear that Baha'i heretics do exist. The UHJ recognizes Baha'is, non-Baha'is, and Covenant-breakers. Covenant-breakers have to be particularly declared as such, usually for belonging to a schismatic group of Baha'is, although there have been other reasons. Haifa simply considers me a non-Baha'i. Baha'is are not supposed to exist outside the administrative structure. I don't exist, in other words.

Karen(previously): Actually what seems to happen is that somebody freaks out at someone's opinion expressed on the Net, and they turn it in. Alison Marshall's disenrollment came about in this way. The UHJ said that her views became "a concern to a number of the friends". Baha'i culture approves of this kind of reporting.

How pathetic!!. Here is a perfect example of life under a future Theocratic Dictatorship, Just like Syme from 1984 who was turned in by his own Kids. Phew!! what a bunch of loonies, and you wonder why i wont sign up or be a part of such a thing?

Yes, then the apologists try to convince us that this behavior is normal for all religions. It is weird and cult-like.

No doubt others {Bahai's} will disagree with your mole theory, but well, who knows?. Goodness me, these lists are meant for people to exchange views & ideas in safety, not to be spied upon by members of the Bahai Thought Police.

Oh, you're wrong there. The Baha'i Thought Police infiltrate and turn people in even on lists where forwarding to Baha'i authorities is forbidden. The end (i.e. "protection" of the Faith) justifies the means. Alison Marshall was booted based upon emails that never should have been in Haifa's hands in the first place, since turning people in has always been banned on that list.

Yes, i have a file on you as well :-), leave the money in the phone booth opposite Tacco Bell oulet next Friday, or the file gets posted ok?

LOL! Actually, it's funny -- Taco Bell was a favorite teaching spot of one old codger who lived here. He used to go up to people and ask them if they believed in world peace.

> Karen(previously): Well, that's the explanation Baha'is give themselves for the lack of growth in the faith in spite of all the efforts at "teaching". My own belief is that the lack of growth is because we are so focused on administration and teaching that we do a rotten job of community-building.

I am a little confused here, do you actually teach or instruct others in Bahaism and yet are not officially within the bounds of the faith?

Yes, I teach the Faith. "Unofficially", of course, since I'm an unofficial Baha'i. "We nourish your souls for the sake of God; we ask neither recompense nor thanks."

Christian fundamentalism, indeed fundamentalism of all varieties is a modern phenomenon, right along with liberalism.

No!, i disagree, so you dont consider the Roman Catholic Church of the Dark & Middle Ages Fundamentalist?, Liberalism or freedom of expression have always been there, Dogma & Fumdametalism has always tried to surpress it.

No, fundamentalism in the form of scriptural literalism belongs to the modern scientific age -- before then, people tended to think mythically about their religion. The question of "is this myth or is this real" does not occur to premodern people. Myth is reality, and nobody needs to scientifically prove it.(There has to be science before there can be Creation Science.) Read Karen Armstrong's "The Battle for God".

Karen(previously): I have a real hard time relating to Christian liberals. But I'm a Baha'i liberal, and I think my faith is just as strong as that of my more conservative brethren.

Why?, in your first instance, and i have no doubt what you say is true in your second instance.

Well, because I think liberalism is strongly embedded in Baha'i scripture. I'm not so sure of that in the Bible, but then maybe I just need to look into it more. I know there are Christians who think fundamentalism is a distortion.

Karen(previously):The term "saved" is a Christian thing, and I'm not sure it applies. I think one's fate in the afterlife depends upon one's level of spiritual development. A Jew can develop spiritually just as well as a Baha'i can. Baha'u'llah says "This is the changeless faith of God, eternal in the past, eternal in the future." In the ultimate sense, Jews and Baha'is belong to the same "religion" -- the love of God, and the love of mankind.

So a Hindu who rejects totally the Bahai faith will recieve the benefits of a future existence that Bahai's believe in? if so what would be the point of converting to Bahaism?.

Bottom line: A person becomes a Baha'i because they fall in love with Baha'u'llah. I dislike the idea that one becomes one religion or another because you get a bonus in the afterlife. I don't know what my afterlife is going to be like, much less the afterlife of other people. I see value in these other religions, because I can see positive things in their teaching.

Lol, yes!. As these Goat Herds were unsophisicated in a philosophical sense your asserted God gave them the unsophisticated Prophet they deserved namley..... the Homicidal Maniac Moses. If this trait of your asserted God is a continuing pattern/theme..... as we now live in a sophisticated technological age, the next divine messenger could take the form of a gigantic calculating device with an Omniscient Hard Drive, complete with unlimited peripheral ports allowing us to plug in and not waste our time pondering on the likes of a man who went wandering around in the woods at night, digging up some gold tablets and shouting Eureka!!! i have found God! ...is viable or not.

Actually, a lot of Baha'is speculate that the next Manifestation will be a woman.

Karen(previously):I don't expect ancient peoples to see things in a modern way.

Of course not!, however i expect an asserted omniesient super entity *to* see things in a modern way, or is your asserted God still evolving?

The Bible reflects how ancient people saw Him. It is mankind who is still evolving.

Karen(previously):You might have noticed that this story is one that most people don't learn about in Sunday school as children. In fact, I didn't know about it until I took a class in the Old Testament just recently.

Yes agreed, Selected recited extracts from the Books of Leviticus, Deuteronomy & Numbers would be far more effective than a fire drill at clearing a Sunday School full of terrifeid Children. May i ask what topics are disscussed in this OT class?

It was a college class on the Hebrew scriptures. It covered other stories not in the Sunday School curriculum.

St. Paul states { somewhere in Corinthians i think} " That all scripture is inspired of God" i am glad you agree with me that the chauvinist St Paul is not correct in his proclamation.

Yeah, I never could figure out how that statement got to be used to justify every word in the Bible as the word of God, especially the New Testament, which wasn't completely written yet. And actually, I think that verse is in second Timothy.

Karen(previously)I believe that Moses was a divine Messenger, but I don't think much of His teaching was preserved in the Torah. The Torah itself did not become anything like what we would recognize until post-exilic times, hundreds of years after Moses.

And i believe {according the OT} that Moses was a complete wastrel, unfortunately your thoughts about the non preservation of Moses's teachings is an argument from silence.

I'm afraid I'm being a typical Baha'i there. O.K. how about the emphasis on good and righteous deeds (mitzvoh) which pervades Judaism. The Torah of Moses is their basic text; they must have learned some virtue from it, based on the actions one sees the Jewish people striving for in their spiritual lives. For Baha'is, the development of virtues is the very purpose of our lives, and this comes from God. So I can't prove historically that Moses had anything to do with the Torah that we know, but I can say in a broader sense that the Jewish religion that teaches the acquisition of virtues comes from God, the source of all virtue.(Why do I have this feeling you're going to laugh at me?)

Love, Karen

Yep the Baha'i Faith as it is seen and practised by some can be a little > > scary : world domination , conversion of the masses , Stasi - like > > espionage , monoeverthingism and the like . That is only a outer aspect > > of the Faith though , there is a more wholesome , holistic inner aspect > > which is accepting of differences (even amongst its own) , does not seek > > to Lord over all other takes on spirituality , and sees the whole of human > > spiritual and humanist heritage as a source for the tools that are > > necessary to see personkind through this next millenium .

> > I have become aware of the other side of this coin and its fine. Why can't > religions just concentrate on this inner life, instead of wanting to > establish theocracies etc?

Because you can't control people's inner lives. Besides, all religions have this twofold function: the spiritual life of the individual, and the ordered life of the community. Those who have an inward focus are a minority in any religion. For those who have the community focus, the inner-directed types don't even seem "Baha'i" at all. "Being a Baha'i" is about building the Kingdom of God on earth. One person told me that, without the Covenant, we might as well pack it all up and go back to being Christian. I think the obvious mystical focus of the Writings have been neglected, in fact, many of these Writings do not exist in official translation and those Baha'is not on the Internet have never heard of them.

However, to have a rich and spiritually-rewarding Baha'i life, you don't need the administration. That's the biggest threat to them that there is. Love, Karen

Forum: Religious Debate
June 12, 2001

> Karen: Yes, Baha'is disagree as to its scope and meaning. Fundamentalist Baha'is > think everything Shoghi Effendi or the UHJ said or did was absolutely > inerrant. More sophisticated thinkers are a bit more subtle about it. I've > heard that even the members of the UHJ itself grapple with what it means. > However, official pronouncements, as I have shown, tend to promote the > "inerrant" idea.>>

> Ok so the infallible mish mash of Double-Think still rules

Well, I don't see it as double-think when different people in the same religion see things differently. It's only double-think when a single individual holds contradictory ideas in his head.

> Karen: History in Leviticus? It's mostly a book for priests: how to perform > sacrifices, and what is clean (i.e. fit for temple use) and what isn't. I > think you're unnecessarily harsh about the Bible. Can't you forgive > primitive people for being primitive? Maybe it's because I'm primarily > attached to another set of scriptures that illogical things in the Bible > just don't bug me much.>>

> I did say * Natural History* and not History in its Historical sense :-) if > you read Chapter 11 you will become fully aware of what sort of history i am > relating too. The you will find the gross misreprensentation of *Natural > History* as recorded by your former Prophet while establishing the > diliniation Laws concerning clean/unclean animals.

Got a news flash for you P -- most scholars don't believe Moses wrote the Torah. Leviticus comes from the Priestly strand; some Aaronid priest wrote it, mostly concerned about proper temple ritual.

> I am being unnecessary harsh about the Bible?, perhaps you would like me to > condone the various deplorable incidents that occurred after your former > Prophet recieved a statute of laws that i presume that your asserted God > issued { or is Yahweh a seperate entity from yours who has escaped Bahai > assimilation?} who then aided by his Prophet proceeded to break the law of > those statutes on a grand scale. > > I can forgive a people for being primative but not a God for encouraging > people to act in a primative manner.

See above. Besides, how can you expect God to reveal Himself in a sophisticated fashion to people who wouldn't be able to understand that. Primitive people are concerned with stuff like getting enough rain, curing their sick sheep, and making sure enemy soldiers don't burn their fields, and if life isn't too tough, they like to tell stories about their ancestors, which is what a lot of Bible stories really are. Some OT laws are pretty humane for ancient times actually -- they only look harsh from a modern perspective. Compare the code of Hammurabi sometime.

> > Ok that sounds resonable, so whats going to happen when the the fantastic > miracle of Bahai's becoming the morjority spiritual sect in the USA?, what > demands are you going to make?

I have no idea. Mostly Baha'is are concerned with creating world peace, so disarmament maybe.

> > Karen: Baha'u'llah said that His eyes were fastened on the hearts of men. Indeed, > in the context of Shi'ih Islam, claiming to have a revelation from God would > have been seen as a claim to secular power as well. Baha'u'llah explicitly > renounced any claim to worldly power, and told His followers to do the same. > They just aren't listening.>>

> One Moment they do, one moment they dont want secular world power!, the miss > mash of doublethink rules!

The quest for secular power has nothing to do with Baha'u'llah.

> > Karen: Oh, you're wrong there. The Baha'i Thought Police infiltrate and turn > people in even on lists where forwarding to Baha'i authorities is forbidden. > The end (i.e. "protection" of the Faith) justifies the means. Alison > Marshall was booted based upon emails that never should have been in Haifa's > hands in the first place, since turning people in has always been banned on > that list.>>

> > What sad people these folk are, Yes, the more you tell me about the Bahai > Thought Police the more i am becoming convinced about it. For what specific > reason was this woman Allison turned into an Un-Person?

Because she showed "misunderstandings" of "the foundations of the administrative order", and even worse, "disseminated her misconceptions to an international audience." What that means in plain English is that they didn't like what she said in her email messages on a newsgroup that forbids forwarding to Baha'i officials. Exactly what she said that made her persona non grata, the Supreme Institution never deigned to inform her. Check out her website: http://home.clear.net.nz./pages/alisonz/

. > > Karen: Yes, I teach the Faith. "Unofficially", of course, since I'm an unofficial > Baha'i. "We nourish your souls for the sake of God; we ask neither > recompense nor thanks.">>

> >Well, how can you as a non-person nourish anybodies soul?, you have been > declared a Non-Person by your asserted Gods 9 Infallible representatives. > However i support your defiance totally in this matter :-)

What they call me has nothing to do with what I am. Besides, they did not pick out me specifically; they just spoke of people who withdrew from membership, but still claim to be Baha'is.

> Karen: Bottom line: A person becomes a Baha'i because they fall in love with > Baha'u'llah. I dislike the idea that one becomes one religion or another > because you get a bonus in the afterlife. I don't know what my afterlife is > going to be like, much less the afterlife of other people. I see value in > these other religions, because I can see positive things in their teaching.>>

> As you have not directly answered the question i will ask you again........... > "So a Hindu who rejects totally the Bahai faith will recieve the benefits > of a future existence that Bahai's believe in? " > > YES or NO please

I have no idea; It's none of my business. Baha'u'llah says "No man knoweth what his own end shall be". All our acts are dependent upon God's acceptance anyway. To me, it's the height of arrogance to go around claiming that I'm in with the spiritual in-crowd and the rest of you poor shmucks are headed for the big barbecue. It's arrogance before God to go around claiming to be "saved". So if I don't even understand my own spiritual station, how can I go around saying I know what another's fate shall be? Sometimes, both "yes" and "no" are the wrong answers.

It's the mark of someone spiritually immature to try to be good because they think it will earn them brownie points in the afterlife. Baha'u'llah says "Obey My commandments, for the love of my Beauty" not "Do what I say, or I'm going to punish you." Spiritual life is a love affair; my only hope for the afterlife is that the love affair continues.

> This situation also applies to all other faiths that reject the Bahai ideal, > so whats their fate according to the Bahai faith?

All beings have the opportunity to recognize the Manifestation of God, in this life or the next. Only a few, who are like "bats who hate the light" will be excluded from the opportunity for spiritual development in the next world. Baha'is believe that prayers on behalf of the dead are effective, and that souls progress spiritually in the next world. So nobody's a big loser. Even an enemy of the Faith can recognize his mistake and be forgiven in the next world.

> > > Karen: I believe that Moses was a divine Messenger, but I > > don't think much of His teaching was preserved in the Torah. The Torah > > itself did not become anything like what we would recognize until > > post-exilic times, hundreds of years after Moses.

>> > Karen: The Torah of > Moses is their basic text; they must have learned some virtue from it, based > on the actions one sees the Jewish people striving for in their spiritual > lives.>>

> Once you bring the lunatic Moses into the picture the case is closed IMO. > You cannot have it both ways, Moses as recorded in the Pen. is nothing more > than a blood thirsty maniac, if you think i am wrong then offer some sort of > apologetic for him.

Moses did not write all those bloodthirsty tales you so despise. The only recorded instance of Moses taking another life that I can remember was killing an Egyptian who was beating a fellow Hebrew.

> Karen: For Baha'is, the development of virtues is the very purpose of our > lives, and this comes from God.>>

> Is this the same Asserted God as Yahweh?

Our conceptions of God have nothing to do with God's reality. The depiction of God in the Old Testament is a primitive one. But when it comes to understanding what God is, we're all wrong. If we could understand God, He (or She) wouldn't be God. So give those poor ancient Hebrews a break, will ya?

> Karen: So I can't prove historically that Moses > had anything to do with the Torah that we know, but I can say in a broader > sense that the Jewish religion that teaches the acquisition of virtues comes > from God, the source of all virtue.(Why do I have this feeling you're going > to laugh at me?)>>

> > No, why should i laugh?, unlike your infallible 9, i as an Agnostic would not > turn you into a non-person because you hold certain belief. However i agree > about the historicy of Moses he sure was a clever guy to pen his own obituary > after he died.

That was the first clue that Moses didn't write the Torah.(The traditional answer is the Joshua wrote the obituary.) Another clue is that the Torah claims that Moses was the world's humblest man -- well, you wouldn't expect the world's humblest man to write that about himself, would you? This is basic Biblical studies, Pwll -- the four strands of the Torah: J, E, P and D -- all put together by a redactor in post-exilic times. Not much of Moses left by time the centuries went by, and it was all put together as one scripture. I could give you a crash course if you want me to.

Love, Karen

Forum: Religious Debate
June 12, 2001

Great!, so now we have established the first truth {possibly}, that your > former Prophet named Moses did not compose the books in question, but rather > a unknown Priest of Levi. Your faith then bases its evidence for Moses's > Prophethood on the writings of an anonymous Priest, based on the oral > traditions of a tribe of nomadic Bronze age Goat Herds. This is the most > convincing evidence i have ever encountered :-)

No, no, no. Our faith bases its evidence for Moses' prophethood on the inspired writings of a Persian nobleman in exile in the nineteenth century. However, when you consider that half the planet -- Jews, Muslims, and Christians -- still are inspired by that obscure prophet, I would say that He must have taught those Bronze Age goat herds something memorable.

> > P {previously) > > I am being unnecessary harsh about the Bible?, perhaps you would like me > to > > condone the various deplorable incidents that occurred after your former > > Prophet recieved a statute of laws that i presume that your asserted God > > issued { or is Yahweh a seperate entity from yours who has escaped Bahai > > assimilation?} who then aided by his Prophet proceeded to break the law of > > those statutes on a grand scale. > > > > I can forgive a people for being primative but not a God for encouraging > > people to act in a primative manner.

Again, I don't blame God for people's faulty conceptions of Him.

> > Karen:Besides, how can you expect God to reveal Himself in a > sophisticated fashion to people who wouldn't be able to understand that. > Primitive people are concerned with stuff like getting enough rain, curing > their sick sheep, and making sure enemy soldiers don't burn their fields, > and if life isn't too tough, they like to tell stories about their > ancestors, which is what a lot of Bible stories really are.>>

> Unless i am mistaken i would think an Oniscient/Omnipotenent/Omnipresent > Super Entity would have the ability to get a clear & precise message across > to its adherents, irrespective of the intellectual/civilised state of those > people.

You can't get a message across by talking over somebody's head.

Your faith, owing to its propensity to nationalise and assimilate the Gods & > faiths of other cultures and claim them as mere former messengers & > reflections of your asserted God has the problem of how to explain the > somewhat perculiar {alleged} events that happened long in the past. As is > shown by your apologetic in which you cite the Ancient Isrealites as > Primitave and unable to understand the intent of their God {Yahweh} who you > {your faith} have assimilated.

Well, I can plead guilty to that charge, but I'm not doing anything different that any other adherent to a Western religion does. Christians insist that Jews don't really understand their own scriptures, and missed their own Messiah. Islam claims that the text of the Bible has been corrupted, and the Qur'an contains the truth about the earlier prophets. There is a guy, who I think is lurking on this list, who has made it his profession to go around and challenge Baha'i notions about Buddha.

Karen:< harsh from a > modern perspective. Compare the code of Hammurabi sometime.>> > > So was Hammurabi also a messenger of your God?, indeed some of the laws were > indeed primitive, being killed for picking up kindling on the Sabbath being > one of many examples, and can be viewed from a modern perspective as Harsh.

By "humane" I meant things like not stoning a rape victim, and providing places of refuge for those guilty of manslaughter so the person's family didn't kill them. Farmers were not supposed to reap to the edge of the fields, or to beat their olive trees twice, so that the poor had something available to them to eat. The Torah shows a great concern for the helpless and dispossessed, especially in Deuteronomy.

So in what prospective do we view Capital punishment which occurred in Bronze > Age Mesopotamia & still occurs in the present day America? Try comparing a > lethal injection with being stoned to death and tell me which is the > anachronism?.

What I don't get, Pwll, is why you are surprised that an ancient text has anachronistic laws in it. There must be some Christians around who have really irritated the hell out of you.

Do you accept the 10 commandments as a divinely inspired codification written > by {as we knew all along} an unknown Jewish traditionalist?

Versions of the Ten Commandments are found in J, E, P, and I think even in D. My own gut feeling is that the Decalogue may be the only surviving remnant of Moses' teaching.

. > Well, how can you as a non-person nourish anybodies soul?, you have been > > declared a Non-Person by your asserted Gods 9 Infallible representatives. > > However i support your defiance totally in this matter :-) > > Karen: What they call me has nothing to do with what I am. Besides, they did not > pick out me specifically; they just spoke of people who withdrew from > membership, but still claim to be Baha'is.>>

> So your an independent Bahai then who pays little or no heed to the UHJ ?

Yes, some people have called us "independents". That seems accurate enough. I call myself an unenrolled Baha'i.

> > Karen: > "Baha'u'llah says "No man knoweth what his own end shall be".", and yet > Baha'u'ah now says, "Obey My commandments, for the love of my Beauty" not "Do > what I say, or I'm going to punish you." .

> So how is this punishment going to be administered & what form will it take?,

Look again, P -- I said punishment is *not* relevant as a motivation. I don't obey Baha'i law (which includes things like fasting for 19 days a year and abstaining from alcohol.) because I am afraid of being punished. I don't even do it for social approval, because I'm not a member of the community any more. I do it only because I love Baha'u'llah.

does it apply only to Bahai's or is it multicultural in its concept?. Its > seems we have established that indeed there are punishments, i await your > clarification on this point especially in regard to other faiths who utterly > and totally reject the Bahai ideal.

There are verses that talk about a soul realizing what it has lost because of its actions. Baha'is don't have a lot of fire and brimstone in their scriptures. It is more along the lines of lost potential -- you need those spiritual qualities in order to have a good afterlife. If they aren't developed, you are sort of handicapped, like a child born with a missing limb.

> Karen: All our acts are dependent upon God's acceptance anyway.>>

> If i am to be judged on my merits alone by this asserted entity, then > naturally the Bahai faith and what proclaims is totally irrelevant and would > not be taken into consideration.

That's up to you. I'm a Baha'i because I love the Writings of Baha'u'llah. I don't expect anyone else to follow my path -- choose one that suits you.

> Karen: To me, it's the height of arrogance to go around claiming that I'm in > with the spiritual in-crowd and the rest of you poor shmucks are headed for > the big barbecue.

> > To me, it is also the height of arrogance to go around claiming that other > peoples Messiah's, Saviours, Prophets, are mere messengers & assimilations > and not founders of their own respective faiths, but rather previous > messengers of another later faith.

"This is the changeless faith of God, eternal in the past, eternal in the future." Those earlier religions are entirely legitimate expressions of the one ultimate religion that God has revealed to mankind. Why would I go around saying they aren't founders of earlier faiths, when they obviously are? Besides, it sure beats an attitude of thinking they are all going to hell because their beliefs are wrong. "Consort with the followers of all religions in a spirit of friendliness and fellowship." -- that's what we are commanded to do.

> > i wont comment on the notion that whether prayers for the dead are effective > or not, as i am sure you can imagine what my answer will be, However i am > concerned as to what you calss as an enemy of the faith?

Somebody who goes out of their way to bash it, or even worse, misrepresent it. I wouldn't include you, P. It is clear you are an equal-opportunity basher. :-)

I will be quite honest, i have very little knowlege of the various traditions > such as the J,P, E etc the various scribes of the Jewsish traditions that > were penned during and after the Babylonian Exile. > However i am more than willing to extend my meagre knowledge {seriously} in > this direction, so how about explaining the two obviously separate & distinct > creation stories in Genesis. i believe, please correct me if i am wrong > which are the Yahvic & Priestly traditions. thanks.

Yes, the first Chapter, along with the first two verses of the second Chapter of Genesis is of the Priestly strand. It was written by an Aaronid priest, with a concern for things like geneaologies, measurements, sacrifices, and ritual cleanliness. The view of God is more sophisticated and abstract, since you are dealing with a relatively educated and religiously trained audience. One the other hand, J (the Yahwist), was the only Torah author who was not a priest, but someone at the royal court. In the J strand, you get anthropomorphic depictions of the deity, like Yahweh strolling through the Garden of Eden "in the cool of the day". On the up side, J is a much better storyteller than P, who is a bit dry. It has even been speculated that J was actually a woman. More accurately, this author was the only one that could have possibly been a woman because he or she wasn't a priest. Overall, J puts more emphasis on the patriarchs, as opposed to E, for whom Moses is a big hero.

When the Assyrians took over the northern kingdom of Israel, and refuges came flooding south, the northern version of the Torah, E, was combined with the southern version, J, making a text that scholars call JE. There is a hypothesis that the Priestly strand was written to correct errors (especially since E did not much care for Aaron, the priests' ancestor -- E is the one who told the story of the Golden Calf.) that the Aaronid priests saw in JE. D is basically the book of Deuteronomy, but has stylistic similarities with Joshua, Judges, Samuel, and Kings. It is identified with a book that was discovered in the temple during the reign of Hezekiah, which sparked a religious reform movement.

The Torah we know today was basically put together at the time the Jews returned to Israel after the Babylonian Exile. Bear in mind that I'm no Biblical scholar, not by a long shot, and my knowledge comes basically from popular books written on the subject. If there are any real Bible scholars lurking on this list, they are probably laughing at me. <

Any questions? Or have I told you more than you want to know?

Love, Karen

> Forum: Religious Debate

6/13/01

"At 10:29 a.m. 6/13/01 -0700, you wrote: New translations are going to continue to be on the web, and some are going to be published by non-Baha'i publishers, and the world will have the Writings, even if Haifa doesn't want them to.<<

<

If they had wanted the Writings translated, they would have translated them, and not waited for them to become available on the web. It seems very clear to me that this is not a top priority with them, which seems to me a very odd position in a scripturally-based religion. I realize that new translations are now part of the plan, but I'd be more impressed had they done something about it before the Internet made the availability of the Writings a done deal. In all the years since 1957, they've come out with: The Kitab-i-Aqdas, which was mostly translated before; Tablets Revealed After the Aqdas, most of which existed in earlier translation in Baha'i World Faith; Selections from the Writings of 'Abdu'l-Baha, which is just a small portion of what was available in the three-volume Tablets of 'Abdu'l-Baha now out of print, and Selections from the Writings of the Bab, and then snippets in various compilations. Of these, only the Writings of the Bab represents anything that's new and previously unavailable to the friends -- and from what I've heard it's a pretty unrepresentative sample of His Writings.

If they really had wanted to make the Writings available, they would have done so. There weren't provisional translations circulating before the Internet. Why? Did no one translate? Did they not pass review? In fact, Baha'i publishers aren't publishing provisional translations even now, that I've ever heard of. Why not? Why have there been no provisional translations available to ordinary believers from Shoghi Effendi's time to the rise of the Internet? There should be scads of published books by now! It's only because the Internet can't be controlled that ordinary believers like myself have access to the Writings unapproved by Haifa. Actions speak louder than words.

Karen

Forum: Religious Debate

6/13/01

> In the speech from Peter Khan he said the 'House doesn't accept the > sinless view'. Was he speaking as a representative of the House in > this matter? Who paid for his trip to NZ? Who sent him? On what > arrangements was he there and on whose behalf? Pleaze!<<<

Well, I guess unless he specifically says "I am speaking on behalf of the House", you are supposed to regard his opinions as individual, but clearly, what he says has a lot of influence. From what I've heard, Khan was instrumental in what happened to Alison. In a body with only nine members, one person has a lot of influence.

If what Khan > said is correct about the House not viewing these ideas as correct > then maybe, like Y said, he will be the next one to be set aside > with having his relation to the Covenent come into question, even > Cristian has a file on him. The Baha'i Community should be told what > ideas Alison had that put her in the position of becoming nonerolled. > I guess no one ever knows when they have come up with an idea that > some members of the House don't think are the same as theirs...Kahn > seems to say that the ideas Mark expressed are off the mark. I think > it is disgraceful that the Haifa has accepted emails from a private > list to disenroll Alison. If there are other circumstances we are all > wondering what they are and how it happens.<<

Yes, one would think it would be made crystal-clear exactly what sort of statements get a person in trouble. However, they don't want to do that. They don't want to look like they are shutting people up; they want people to shut themselves up. This pattern goes back for years: As far back as the LA study class notes. The LA group would be told that their activities are perfectly legitimate; they have every right to have a study group and a newsletter -- it's just that their "tone" isn't right. Baha'is have all the freedom of speech they want, until they are told to shut up. You have to be a freakin' mind-reader.

I have heard other people express ideas very similar to those Alison has expressed and they don't get in trouble. I think that what got her in trouble was that she was moderating talisman9, and she was known for hanging out with Baha'i liberals.(In fact, Talisman has grown by leaps and bounds since she started moderating; it's almost back to pre-crackdown level. Officialdom can't be happy about that.) You can get away with more if you're willing to kiss official butt, and metaphorically bow the knee before the powers-that-be. That's where the whole "behavior and attitude" accusation comes in. I think the "attitude" is a lot more crucial than the specific opinion expressed. She could have said anything she wanted if she were willing to show proper deference to authority, and had distanced herself from people they think are "internal opposition".

Love, Karen

Forum: Religious Debate

6/13/01

> > I have never understood why the same people who would be excited about Mashriqu'l-Adhkars would not be similarly excited about the Arc. Personally, they seem like different species of the same animal to me. To use another analogy, I see the Arc as the tree trunk and the temples as the individual branches.<<<

The mashriq is a place of worship. I have only been in a mashriq'u'l-adhkar once in my life, and it was a overwhelming experience to be in a real Baha'i place of worship. It was *my* place; a place where I belonged. Every other religion gets to have a place of worship, even poor little Pentacostal storefront churches with folding chairs at least have a place of worship to call their own. Baha'is build places that look impressive on postcards, but have no place to worship together. We get together in somebody's living room, except not on Tuesdays because that's Janey's 4-H meeting, and this weekend John and Carla's in-laws are coming, so somebody else has to host it, and they can only do it Thursday at 7:30, and fifteen minutes before the meeting the whole thing is cancelled because their kids caught the chicken pox. And when we do meet it's ten minutes of prayer and forty-five to hear the tape and talk about entry by troops, and try to summon up the gumption to contribute money for some pretty buildings in Haifa that none of us will ever see.

Yes, a mashriq I could visit even only once every few months would mean the world to me, far more than carving up a mountainside.

Karen

Forum: Religious Debate

6/13/01

"> I wasn't trying to start a reform I was just envisioning what kind of > things a future system could devise to circumvent the problems that > are beginning to surface in the present praxis.

Well, if you are just envisioning, then having grassroots input into Baha'i governance would be a good idea. The present system is set up so that it is almost absolutely resistent to any change. First there is the protective mindset, that sees CBs and enemies lurking everywhere. Then, there is the fear that somehow something Shoghi Effendi said somewhere once will not be followed.(Actually, there are some things that aren't, like his directive that each community have a charity fund, for example.) So any reform seen as going against Shoghi Effendi's interpretations is blown off immediately and the would-be reformer is seen as a threat to the Covenant -- which is the whole problem with changing the exclusion of women. Finally, the ban on any sort of politicking. If a person tries to promote or garner support for any particular idea, then that is suspect, even if the idea itself isn't seen as uncovenantal. You can only approach the UHJ as an individual, which means you will get back a letter saying why things have to be the way they are, and then you can be safely ignored. So the bottom line is they don't want any new ideas, suggestions, innovations etc. from the grassroots. All they want is obedience and money.

However, if they *were* more open to the grassroots opinion, I think there would be a lot less frustration out in the community. I just wouldn't look to see that happen soon. However, I think the most effective thing one can do is to continue to be a Baha'i in spite of them. They think they're essential; prove them wrong.

Love, Karen

Forum: Religious Debate

6/14/01

> > Karen: No, no, no. Our faith bases its evidence for Moses' prophethood on the > inspired writings of a Persian nobleman in exile in the nineteenth century.<<<

> Ok, lets hear this eveidence. ah!! wait a moment... this nobleman would not > be Baha'u'llah would it :-)?. > If it is how old are the texts? where did they come from?, if this Nobleman > is Baha'u'llah i hope your not going to tell me the information concerned > came floating through his window cell bars on a breeze of inspiration.<<<

Dear X, Why do Christians believe in Moses and include the Hebrew Bible among their scriptures? Because Jesus did. Why do Muslims believe in Moses and Jesus? Because Muhammad, in various moments of inspiration, called them prophets in the Qur'an. Half the world did not just independently go the the Torah, and think, "Hey this Mosheh (Hebrew for Moses) guy had his act together, let's follow him!" His mission acted as a foundation for those of others. Besides being someone Baha'u'llah talked about in His inspired moments, the Torah is a source of solace, guidance, and spiritual meaning for millions of people on this planet. That's the proof. This son of foreign slaves in Egypt is still spoken of today with respect, and his teachings followed. Perhaps, X, all those people are seeing something in these texts, and in this person, that you don't see.<<

> I am not concerned that half the planet & your Persian Nobleman {yet to be > identified ;-) }... as you claim are inspired by this Bronze age prophet, i > am concerned with what this alleged person done or ordered done on his > asserted Gods behalf.<<<

The simple fact is, X, we don't know. If you want to know what Moses did when He walked the planet, there is no way to know that. There is only the semi-lengendary accounts in the Bible. There is no real proof that any sort of massive Exodus of Hebrews from Egypt ever occurred -- certainly it was never recorded by any Egyptian, who you think might have noticed the escape of 400,000 slaves, and a whole army drowning in the Red Sea. And even the most unskilled navigator couldn't have made the trip from Egypt to Israel last forty years -- look at a map sometime. These are the kinds of stories we have to work with. You either get symbolic and spiritual meaning out of them, or forget it -- you just aren't going to find facts there. As for me, I'm follower of a more modern prophet, and I don't have to peer through the mists of time to figure out what He said.

> > > > > I can forgive a people for being primative but not a God for encouraging > > > people to act in a primative manner.<<

> > Karen: Again, I don't blame God for people's faulty conceptions of Him.<<<

> Oh so you know how God views peoples conceptions of him?, when they are > faulty etc.?.<<<

> The point is *all* human conceptions are faulty. I just happen to think mine are more accurate that those of Bronze Age goat herds.

> > Karen: Well, I can plead guilty to that charge, but I'm not doing anything > different that any other adherent to a Western religion does.<<<

> Well, it would be usless to try and deny that a man had claimed {like 1000's > before him} he had been given a divine revelation that made at an instant the > Major Semetic faiths and its God {s} & Prophets mere reflections & and > forerunners of this mans asserted revelations.<<<

I would object to the term "mere" forerunners. Baha'is hold the Founders of earlier religions in great respect. I think a follower of Jesus or Muhammad has as much access to the grace of God as I do.

The Christians may believe the > are unique in their correctness, however they have not assilimilated > everybody elses religion & Gods just to hedge their bets.<<

"Hedge their bets"? Now you're getting nasty, X. If there is any deliberate "agenda" here, it is to promote tolerance and end hatred between religions by seeing them all as ultimately deriving from the same Source.<<<

> > I will ask again, are for-instance are the Major Semetic faiths correct in > their presumption that their God & various Prophets are {were} not > forrunners, progressive revelations etc of the Bahai Faith?.<<<

"Forerunner" is not the proper term here. The previous prophets did not exist merely to prepare the world for the advent of Baha'u'llah, but had a valid message to give in their own right. Naturally, believing that Revelation stopped with one or the other of these earlier prophets is key to the religious identity of their followers. I don't believe that God just stops talking and says -- "O.K. that's all you need to know" I investigated Islam very carefully after resigning from the Baha'i Faith, and that really was the major obstacle for me there -- I just can't believe in the finality of revelation.

I can > understand your diplomacy in a delicate matter such as this, but > unfortunatley you cant run with the Hounds & the Hares, either the Semetic > Three have got it wrong here & the Bahai's are right, or vice versa. > I notice you have *once again* snipped a question{s} of mine, i will keep it > in mind and include them at a later date.<<<

Well, dangit, X, you ask a lot of questions! I don't even remember which one it was. The "Semetic three" have not so much "got it wrong" as they just aren't up on the latest news. There are certain aspects of those religions that I think are "wrong" -- the doctrine of original sin, for example. Ultimately, though, one cannot choose one particular religious path without believing that others are, to some extent "wrong". However, my own tolerant religious ethic keeps me from harping about that. I just tell people to read the Writings of Baha'u'llah. If they don't grab you, fine, do your own thing.

Karen: Christians insist that Jews don't really understand their own scriptures, > and missed > their own Messiah. Islam claims that the text of the Bible has been > corrupted, and the Qur'an contains the truth about the earlier prophets.<<<

> I am glad you might agree with me on this, the Christians as you say believe > the Jews are mistaken about the Messiah {Christ}, which of course is putting > it diplomatically, *Wrong*, *inncorrect* are also words that can be > attributed to the above. > So do the Bahai's beleive the Christian's wrong/mistaken for believing that > Christ {who is also God} is the ultimate prophet/God?, and they { the > Christians} have misunderstood the message of their scripures as you seem > to suggest?. And really they should see the error of their ways and drop this > mistaken theology they have in favour of one man {Baha'u'llah} who claims to > have recieved the *true* message of God?,<<<

Well, that's what having a prophetic message is all about. However, I prefer to be, as you put it "diplomatic". I don't see a reason to go about antagonizing the members of other religions by telling them how wrong I think they are. What do you think we ought to do,X? Somehow I don't see you recommending that we ought to all go back and be Jews just because it's arrogant to make claims of a later revelation.

> Karen: There is a guy, who I think is lurking on this list, who has made it his > profession to go around and challenge Baha'i notions about Buddha.<<

> Then i would like this man to step forward so he can defend his faith/belief > which the Bahai's calim to have assimilated.<<<

We don't claim to have "assimilated" anything. We recognize that the message of Buddha comes from a divine source. What is problematic about Buddhism, of course, that the oldest teachings do not recognize any sort of divinity which is what our Buddhist friend keeps reminding us. For me, what it means is that I see great value in the Buddha's teaching, in the Eightfold path -- and I don't get hung up on the theology of it all. There is truth is the Buddhist Path, therefore I see it as originating with God. Now Buddha neither affirmed nor denied the existence of God, regarding it pretty much irrelevant to his message.<<

> Karen: By "humane" I meant things like not stoning a rape victim, and providing > places of refuge for those guilty of manslaughter so the person's family > didn't kill them. Farmers were not supposed to reap to the edge of the > fields, or to beat their olive trees twice, so that the poor had something > available to them to eat.<<<

> Huh?, manslaughter?, you will have to make this and the above more clear for > me please.<<<

I'd have to look up the Biblical references, but four (I think) cities were set aside as "sanctuaries" , so that a person who had accidentally killed another could take refuge there, until the courts sorted the matter out. The alternative is that the family of the victim would kill you to get even, and then you could have a whole feud started.

<< by your former prophet and his assimilated God.<<

I still really don't understand why you're so hung up about the Bible. Do you want me to go back and find an examples of kindness or charity in the Bible or would that be a waste of my time? So ancient people living in a brutal time on the edge of survival waged warfare brutally. Some of the claims aren't even true historically. The city of Ai was an ancient ruin way before Joshua's time, yet it is claimed that he conquered it. Deuteronomy probably has the most mysterious origin of any book in the Torah. So I'm supposed to believe Moses commanded the Hebrews to behave brutally in battle, acting on God's authority, because of a text of doubtful origin? And what, exactly, is this supposed to mean to me? That Moses isn't a prophet? That God isn't God? The Bible just really isn't an issue for me, especially parts of the text which are simply propaganda pieces for how favored the Hebrews were over the surrounding people.

Karen: What I don't get, X, is why you are surprised that an ancient text has > anachronistic laws in it.<<<

> So your asserted {assimilated} God's laws are still evovling? thou shalt not > kill etc.......How do you impove on that law?<<

Yes, the laws change with the place and time. The prohibition on murder is, of course, pretty well universal.

> > Karen: Versions of the Ten Commandments are found in J, E, P, and I think even in > D. My own gut feeling is that the Decalogue may be the only surviving > remnant of Moses' teaching.<<<

> > Whether or not the Decalouge is the only surviving remnant of Moses teaching > was *not* the question i posed, the question was......"Do you accept the 10 > commandments as a divinely inspired codification, irrespective of what > traditionalist Jewish source it might of stemmed from?<<

I don't know what you mean by "divinely inspired codification". If it means do I think the Hand of God etched them into stone so Moses could bring them down from Sinai, no.(It made for a great scene with Charlton Heston, though. The orgy around the Golden Calf, along with the narrator droning on about their sins is a classic.) If it means do I think they derive from the inspiration of the prophet Moses, yes.

> > So your an independent Bahai then who pays little or no heed to the UHJ?<<<

> Karen: Yes, some people have called us "independents". That seems accurate > enough. > I call myself an unenrolled Baha'i.<<<

> ok thanks, so i can take it then that the infallible babbling that srings > forth from the UHJ, is not a big deal with you?<<<

Oh, yes, it is, because I think some of it has done some great harm to my Faith, which I still care about even though I'm still not technically a member. If by "not a big deal" you mean that I think that the UHJ does not exactly speak with the voice of God, then I would agree with that.

> Ok so i am handicapped no problem there, does this also mean that the > adherents of other faiths of the World that emphatically & catergorically > reject your faith would be likewise handicapped?.<<<

No, the key thing is the spiritual qualities and virtues that the soul develops.

Or possibly your faith is > not a carrot & stick philosophy which has no everlasting punishments for > others who do not accept it?<<<

Yes, that's the idea.

> > Karen: To me, it's the height of arrogance to go around claiming that I'm in > > with the spiritual in-crowd and the rest of you poor shmucks are headed > for > > the big barbecue.<<<

> > To me, it is also the height of arrogance to go around claiming that other > > peoples Messiah's, Saviours, Prophets, are mere messengers & assimilations > > and not founders of their own respective faiths, but rather previous > > messengers of another later faith.<<

Now, there you go with the "mere messengers" and "assimilations" -- they are founders of independent faiths. All these independent faiths derive ultimately from God, who never stops sending messengers to mankind because we seem to need reminding now and then. If you want to look at it that way, then Baha'u'llah Himself is a "forerunner" to future messengers, and will be "assimilated" by future religions.<<

> Karen: > <<"This is the changeless faith of God, eternal in the past, eternal in the > future." Those earlier religions are entirely legitimate expressions of the > one ultimate religion that God has revealed to mankind.<<

> I am sorry, your view is a personal which is the view of the Bahai faith, the > Jews, Christians, Islamic's do not accept that their *God * & his prophets > are forrunners of a mid nineteenth century asserted Phophet.. they reject > this entirely. Can you explain this glaring difference as to who is right or > wrong here?, or are you both right?<<<

Most of them don't even know that a small religion such as ours also accept their founders as Messengers of God. If they did encounter the Baha'i message, some would accept it, most probably would not. I think the Baha'i faith is "truer" than other religions or I wouldn't be a Baha'i. That doesn't mean that I think the former religions shouldn't exist, or that they are valueless, or even totally "wrong". Shoghi Effendi told us that Baha'i teaching is that "truth is relative" An even better way of putting it is that we all perceive the Truth differently, because our perceptions differ. The only absolute Truth is God, and we don't understand but the faintest glimmer of what He is, really.

As for my view being personal, of course it is. What did you expect? I guess what I don't understand is why you see the Baha'i position as somehow belittling these earlier prophets. Especially from you, X, since I don't think you're too crazy about prophets of any variety.

> > Karen: Why would I go around saying they aren't founders of earlier faiths, when > they obviously > are? Besides, it sure beats an attitude of thinking they are all going to > hell because their beliefs are wrong. "Consort with the followers of all > religions in a spirit of friendliness and fellowship." -- that's what we are > commanded to do.<<<

> > Whoa there now!!! :-), so these prophets, Gods etc *are* individualistic and > are in no way mere reflections, forrunners of Baha'u'llah's divine > inspiration?. Yes !!, by all means consort with other faiths, i would not be > so crass as to disagree with that, what i disagree with is *arrogent > assilmilation*<<<

If you think we are assimilating, then you misunderstand the Baha'i position. However, there are some fundamentalist Baha'is out there that if you talked to them, might give you that impression, but I think they're the minority. Most Baha'is are actually pretty nice people, in spite of what you see on the Net.

> Well, that depends on what your *bashing* & why?, i suppose, lol i quite > like your second sentence :-). > I remember well the bashing i used to take when i had the temerity to > announce to Organised Theists like yourself my personal claims for Deism > {which i some times waver from Agnosticism to}

Well, I'm not so crazy about bashing anybody, even waverers between Deism and Agnosticism. (Well, fundamentalists of all stripes tend to get my dander up, so maybe I've been known to take a swipe or two at them.) But you must have some sort of spiritual interests, or why would you be hanging out on a religion list?

Love, Karen

My Critique of Susan Maneck's refutation of Juan Cole's Commentary on UHJ Member Peter Khan's Talk at the New Zealand Teaching Conference in June 2001

Posted to Religious Debate on 6/18/01

Juan Cole's comments are in plain text. Susan Maneck is in italics. Karen Bacquet is in bold. The HTML has been added to the original post.

Dear friends,

While the boys are busy measuring themselves, perhaps someone with a less competitive plumbing arrangement ought to explain to our non-Baha'i friends here something of what is going on. :-)

Dr. Susan Maneck, the author of this response to Juan's commentary is the most intelligent and able AO-defender in cyberspace, and I've crossed swords with most of them. However, she is also untrustworthy and openly admits to turning information on people over to Haifa. At one time, she was friends with Juan Cole, but she changed sides, and now hates him like grim death. Indeed, one of her major missions in cyberspace is to discredit him, which is pretty evident in [her commentary]. Because she, as she puts it "changed sides in the middle of the battle" she is generally regarded by liberal Baha'is as a traitor and a quisling, since she is not above using even private correspondence to achieve her ends. I have crossed swords with her, and had pleasant conversations with her, but where Juan is concerned she's completely round the bend. Even a cursory glance at this message shows that she is far more concerned with discrediting Juan than she is defending Peter Khan.

Khan's family was originally from Pakistan, where they had been Punjabi Sunni Muslims but they emigrated to Australia and converted there to the Baha'i faith. Khan was brought up as a moderate fundamentalist, suspicious of liberal arts scholarship but nevertheless committed to education and to the sorts of science (e.g. engineering) that would not disturb his scriptural literalism. Those who knew him in Australia remember him as a fierce anti-communist cold warrior, a man of the political Right.

First off, you should be aware that Juan knows virtually *nothing* about Peter Khan's background.

Juan admitted his mistake in this regard, but Susan has never stopped harping on it.

By that time he seemed colder, more haughty, less level-headed than the man I had heard speak a decade and a half earlier.

Peter Khan has not changed, what has changed is Juan's perceptions of him.

Juan is just giving his impressions of the man here; so is Susan.

Khan has perfected a personal style of address that allows him to telegraph to other fundamentalists in the community that he is one of them, while not appearing to attack the liberals. This stealth fundamentalism ....

This is the language of someone seriously paranoid.

Again, we are just talking about differing perceptions here of the same person.

Yeah, right. Everything is a plot. Maybe, just maybe, Peter Khan would It *love* to see women on the House He just isn't willing to mutilate the Cause by having the House of Justice divorce itself from the Guardianship by ignoring Shoghi Effendi's authoritative interpretations in order to

If Peter Khan would *love* to see women on the House why doesn't he say so? This idea that the cause would be "mutilated" by having women on the House is one I've heard Susan say a lot -- I don't know if it reflects "official" thinking. It seems to be a deliberate ripost to the idea expressed by many liberals that the AO is "mutilated" because of the lack of a living Guardian. This terminology echos the words of Shoghi Effendi, who said "Divorced from the institutions of the Guardianship, the body of the cause would be mutilated". The official position is that the Guardianship still exists, even without a living incumbant to the office, in the form of Shoghi Effendi's letters. This is an idea that I thought pretty ridiculous even years ago, when I was a much more conventional Baha'i than I am now. I leave it to you all to decide which sounds more like a divorce -- the ending of the heriditary line of those eligible to sit in that office, or settting aside the interpretation of the last incumbant.

It was in the wake of Khan's visit that David Langness began being threatened with removal of his administrative rights, apparently for disagreeing with Bob Henderson about what had happened during the NSA's crackdown on dialogue magazine.

Nonsense. David Langness was threatened with the removal of his administrative rights because the NSA felt it had been willfully slandered when David Langness said they had acted without the authorization of the House of Justice in removing four people's right to pilgrimage, not withstanding the fact that David Langness had in his possession, a letter from the House of which stated quite the opposite. This had nothing to do with Peter Khan's visit.

David Langness has the distinction, among many others, of being the first Baha'i ever threatened with sanctions for the content of an email message. To make a long and convoluted story short: He had been on the receiving end of the Baha'i way of doing jurisprudence, and had been one of the four people associated with the independent Baha'i magazine "Dialogue" to receive the sanction of being deprived of his right to go on pilgrimage. This affected David in particular, because he got the phone call from the NSA secretary informing him that this sanction had been imposed while he was actually en route to Haifa. My own take on these events is that the NSA cracked down, and the UHJ wasn't really supportive of the decision, but decided to back them anyway. David, in his Talisman email compared the secret way that Baha'i jurisprudence is conducted to kangaroo courts, and generally gave vent to his feelings about the crushing of a popular and successful Baha'i magazine. This probably had more to do with it than the supposed "slander" -- which is basically a disagreement over which institution did the sanctioning.

Gradually it has become apparent that Khan has for some time been a secret hardline fundamentalist, and that he has used his influence in the counselor corps and now on the Universal House of Justice to push the Baha'i faith in a strongly fundamentalist direction.

Again, notice the wording used. Juan is trying to persuade people that this is all part of a secret cabal which has taken over the Faith.

I am in no position to judge whether anyone within the Faith has made a deliberate push rightwards. However, their actions show that fundamentalists indeed have considerable power.

Indeed, Khan has begun saying that Baha'u'llah's principles are not very important, that what is significant about the faith is its administration.

Peter Khan has never said anything of the sort. The problem is that Juan & co. would like to be able to judge the Institutions on *their* interpretation of those principles. That puts these them above both the principles and the institutions.

Notice that Susan here is saying what Khan was saying -- that the Institutions are above any judgement. I think the actions of the administration, particularly the disenrollments, back up what Juan has said -- that in the eyes of the UHJ it is institutional loyalty that matters far above any other aspect of being a Baha'i.

But this is not new with the Khan Administration.

In order to discredit the House, Juan wants you to believe that Peter Khan is running the House of Justice. That is sheer, paranoid nonsense.

I don't think Juan is saying any such thing. Indeed there have been other members of the UHJ that he has been openly critical of. I should mention here that Juan is seriously flouting Baha'i convention here by naming specific members of the House of Justice and calling them to account for their actions. I knew almost nothing about these men before coming onto the Internet. All I knew about Peter Khan was that he had been a counselor, made a lot of talks, and had been elected to the UHJ.

That is, to be able to spend some $300 million over 15 years on major building projects is remarkable. Of course, a lot of the money came from *** Baha'i billionaires.

I've deliberately blanked out the location where wealthy (but by no means billionaire) Baha'is are supposed to be making generous donations from. As Juan well knows he is endangering their lives by revealing this kind of information on a public list. Not that he likely cares, but as he well knows to this kind of thing is a violation of the professional ethics which we are both bound by.

The idea that Juan is endangering any Baha'i lives here is just monstrous. Juan has been one of the most outspoken defenders of the Baha'is persecuted in Iran, and indeed has been critical of the administration for not doing enough to help them. Besides, this is ridiculous. Juan did not name names, or even specific countries. The governments of these countries are going to go Baha'i-hunting because they heard on the Internet that there were some in their region of the world?

The Universal House of Justice took an average of $6 million a year from that. It impoverished the US community. It funneled enormous amounts of money to these projects. Local communities were left strapped.

Local communities gave only what they wished to give. No one coerced them.

There is enormous pressure on local communities to give a large slice of their money to National, a large slice of which goes to Haifa. This is in spite of the fact that individuals also give to National directly. Fundraising for the Arc project has been a major pastime for the last decade. The writings of the Faith prohibit soliciting funds, there is only supposed to be "general appeals". One of the major causes of disillusionment in the Faith is the way people are constantly being begged for money and made to feel guilty for not giving more. And the money is always for some showy, distant project. We don't even have local places of worship, for heavens sake!

As far as Omaha building a Baha'i community and worship center, the House of Justice, far from opposing it, had approved it in writing years earlier.. They had simply asked the Omaha community not to call it a Mashriq. I should note that Baha'i Centers were generally needed for purposes other than just prayer, which is all that is allowed in a Mashriq. The Omaha community only consisted of about 50 people. I think they could hardly have afforded a building that would be available only for prayer and nothing else.

I should note here that fifty people is a pretty large-sized Baha'i community. The nearest one to me that size is two hours away. I don't know all the details of what happened in Omaha, although I've heard a lot of bits and pieces.

"Development" of the world center really just means more big buildings, more landscaping, more infallible pronouncements that no one can contradict without facing ostracism.

Except the major goal for the World Centre in the upcoming plan is to translate the Writings.

Only about 5% of Baha'u'llah's writings have ever been translated. Since the rise of the Internet, many, many tablets have been available to ordinary believers for the first time, with Juan Cole being particularly prolific in providing this service to us. I can't help but believe that Haifa's sudden focus on translation is largely a concern to bring "offical" translations out there to counter the "unofficial" ones. That being said, I'm glad they are doing it, for whatever reason. But when they are talking about "development of the World Center", I don't believe they are talking about translations.

The development of the "administrative order" means promoting the power of counselors and ABMs to dictate policy to local assemblies and national assemblies, turning the Faith into a centralized dictatorship instead of a democratic, consultative community.

> The recent document on the Institution of the Counsellors in fact makes it clear they *cannot* dictate policy to those elected bodies.

This is another official myth: the appointed institutions have no power, only elected ones. The appointed officials, however, are the ones that keep watch on believer's activities, and file reports that sometimes result in sanctions. This, in fact, gives them enormous power.

What Khan is referring to, without being brave enough to come out and say it, is that he and his colleagues summarily declared Alison Marshall of the Dunedin, NZ community, to be "not a member of the Baha'i community." They declared her an infidel, which in Islam is called a decree of takfir.

As Juan well knows they never declared her an 'infidel.' They simply said they concluded she wasn't a Baha'i.

The Islamic term "takfir" has received a lot of discussion of late, and I don't really want to go all over that again. In Islam to declare someone "not a believer" and "infidel" is basically the same thing. The official Baha'i position goes like this: A person who is disenrolled is not being punished. It is supposed to be a recognition that a person's beliefs are incompatible with those expected of a Baha'i -- this seems to especially apply concerning one's attitude towards the administrative order. This reflects the current attitude among Baha'i offiicials that it is not what one believes about Baha'u'llah that matters, but one's loyalty to the institutions. Anyone outside the administrative order, whether voluntarily or not, is considered a non-Baha'i, and their belief in Baha'u'llah matters not one bit.

Her messages were to small, private email lists with no-forwarding policies.

Not so. Talisman did not have a no-forwarding policy at the time. They instituted one subsequently.

Talisman has always had a policy of not allowing forwarding to Baha'i authorities. Everyone who is a subscriber is on their honor not to report their fellow subscribers. In Alison's case, someone violated that rule. The UHJ letter concerning her case openly said her posts "were of such concern to a number of the friends" that the institutions felt they had to intervene.

So even the "evidence" of her objectionable views could only have been obtained by Khan through spying ....

Nonsense. Peter Khan gets information from Talisman the same way I get information from lists such as this which I am not subscribed to. People send me things and ask for my comments. People who write things on Internet lists and then accuse others of spying on them make about as much sense as an exhibitionists at a shopping mall complaining that people are staring at them.

The people who forward those posts are violating list rules. Besides, it is just quite bizarre that Baha'is must fear expressing their opinions to friends on an email list because some Baha'i official might take action against them based upon their posts.

This is the "disillusion" Khan is speaking of. It is the disillusion of devoted Baha'is who thought they were joining Baha'u'llah's religion of universal peace, love and tolerance.

Actually the disillusionment of some of the New Zealand Baha'is goes much deeper, back when the Service of Women paper was banned. Also, New Zealanders, if anything, tend to be more libertarian, if anything, than Americans.

I don't think any disillusion is "deeper" than finding what is really going on in a religion that is ostensibly committed to peace, love, and tolerance. Note how the term "libertarian" has taken hold -- Baha'i liberals don't call themselves that.

Of course, all cultists would say the same thing. Jim Jones wanted his People's Temple followers to believe that drinking poison cool-aid, which they quite reasonably thought was not normal, was in fact normal.

A good example of what I was just referring to above. This kind of exaggerated nonsense only discredits Juan's whole argument.

In a religion where obedience to authority is considered the most essential requirement of membership, it is not out of line to speculate how far it will go.

In other words, Khan is reinterpreting the Calamity that Baha'is have been waiting for.

And what would Juan have us do, go back to the old 'literal' fundamentalist understanding?

As Susan well knows, for years Baha'is have expected a big Calamity to precede the establishment of world peace. During the Cold War era, a lot of people thought it would be WWIII. Now all that expectation has been reduced to the "spiritual calamity" of people writing nasty letters to the House!

Peter Khan's argument here didn't make much sense to me either. I can't see why returning to sexist language which uses the male form as the default is somehow 'moving the goal posts.' Is Arabic better than Persian because Persian, unlike Arabic, is gender neutral? IMO a better argument would have been for Peter Khan to simply say that one doesn't interpolate a holy text in the interest of being PC, trendy or even non-sexists. So where Baha'u'llah or 'Abdu'l-Baha used the male form, we are compelled to use it as well. But I would certainly hope that Peter Khan is wrong when he suggests it is the intention of the Universal House of Justice to turn back > the clock 'generations' in order to go back to this older, more sexist English usage in the world at large.

I think it is ridiculous to worry about what gender someone is using in private prayer.

Moreover, what Khan says here is grammatically absurd. "He" has never been used to refer to a woman in English.

Sigh. Not so. "He" in English used to always be the default when gender was not stated.

Yes, but during prayers, Baha'i women are supposed to use the words "he" and "him" in referring to themselves.

The New Zealand protest letters were complaining that Alison Marshall suddenly and without warning was declared not a member of the Baha'i community, and that such an action contravened not only civilized norms of governance but the explicit procedures of Baha'i law.

First, we are not a government whatever future aspiration the Baha'i Faith might have. Second, as Cole well knows the administrative institutions have not yet developed explicit procedures of Baha'i law. Perhaps it would be good if they did so, sooner rather than later. But you can't say procedures weren't followed which didn't exist.

Shoghi Effendi said that any sort of sanction was supposed to be a last resort, after all other possibilites were exhausted. Part of the problem of Baha'i jurisprudence is that it is done in secret and is highly personalized. The institutions tend to just react to situations instead of setting up clear policies.

I should add that Peter Khan does not seem to be all that aware of what is in the Persian and Arabic writings. I read a speech he wrote one time where he argued that most of the untranslated writings consisted only of encouragement. I think one could only say that if they had no familiarity with those writings!

Unfortunately this seems to be a common myth -- that the untranslated writings only repeat what we have of the translated writings. That's what comes of leaving the majority of a faith's scriptures untranslated and unavailable for so long.

Love, Karen

Forum: Unenrolled Baha'i

7/5/01

> When I sat in Baha'i circles taking my turn at reading from the > prayer book, I never really knew what my Baha'i community felt about > this ritual.<<<

Dear X,

My own feelings about Baha'i community devotions are actually somewhat mixed. My own background is Protestant, where prayers are generally extemporaneous. I never, even as a child, felt quite right about that in a group setting -- I always thought "How does that guy know what I want to say to God?". It always felt just like I was just listening to somebody pray rather than it being a communal experience. When I became a Baha'i, I assumed that everybody must just memorize prayers -- it never occured to me that someone would just read a prayer out of a book! However, it really was a better experience than what I had previously, because Baha'i prayers belong to all of us, rather than having one person just talk on behalf of the group.

However, you are quite right to call passing around the prayer book a "ritual". As I understand the Writings, Baha'i devotions are supposed to be flexible, creative, and individualistic. We don't have an overarching, binding ritual practice like the Catholic mass, or the Muslim salat. There is a lot of room to experiment and find out what is meaningful to one's community, but there is such fear of doing something "wrong". I've had people object even to the choral reading of tablets that are quite obviously meant to be read that way, because they have a repeating line -- like Tablet of the Holy Mariner or the Long Healing Prayer. Instead of creativity and flexibility, we basically have the lowest common denominator -- nobody's going to object to passing around the prayer book and reading prayers, so that's what we do. It takes a pretty brave person to do something different than that -- it's not unheard of, but it doesn't happen often.

Did anyone ever want to say aloud a personal prayer > because of a personal problem?<<

I only know one person who ever said an extemporaneous prayer -- and he only did it once or twice. Again, it just depends on how brave you are. As far as Sean's comment about the written prayers being more "effective" than our own -- only the individual can judge what is "effective" for them. If it helps you feel closer to God, then that's what you do.

were having?<<

The most important effect of prayer is the inner transformation of the person doing the praying. Prayer isn't about getting God to do stuff we want Him to do -- it's about communion.

< Well, the written prayers are all directed towards God. I talk to Baha'u'llah when I'm on my own, though.

How > many of us used that prayer book daily, several times weekly?<<

I use my prayer book mostly for longer prayers, like the Fire Tablet or the Long Healing Prayer. Mostly, I have several short prayers memorized that I say when I feel the need -- the Morning prayer, the short healing prayer, the Bab's forgiveness prayer etc. I rarely go flipping through the book, unless there's a particular prayer I want to say that I haven't quite memorized. Sometimes I will say a couple of lines from a prayer that I know, rather than go to the book and read the whole thing.

Did > each of us always use the prayer book as a source of our prayers of > gratitude, pleas for help, or did we reach out alone?<<

It just depends on what I need at the time.

How? How did > each one of us "feel in contact" when saying prayers and was this > always consistent?<<

Some days are better than others. Let's face it; there are sometimes when we just aren't "into" it. There are times it seems like an effort to fit the Noonday prayer in; other days, I'm praying all day long. Most of the time, I'm somewhere in-between.

The diversity of individual spiritual lives was > rarely discussed. Should it have been?>>

I think it helps to share experiences; we are all in this together, after all.

Have your own ideas about > prayer changed as time continued in your life?>>

Well, you learn to pray by praying -- I think the major difference with me after leaving the community is that I'm far more willing to experiment.

Love, Karen

Forum: Unenrolled Baha'i

7/5/01

" > > You know that's how I felt, I loved the message and then when I became Baha'i (one year ago)I started to find things out. The last 6 months I have been asking questions/bringing up concerns, and lately I don't get calls from the Baha'is, I don't get invited to functions ... Oh well, it bothers me but everyone has their own walk, God is the judge, and perhaps it's time for me to move on.... I am very dissipointed in the Faith.>>

Dear X, You are definitely not alone in being disillusioned; your experience is pretty common. Half of the people who come into the Faith end up leaving it -- most of them by just becoming permanently inactive, without formally withdrawing. The Baha'i Faith has just done a lousy job at creating a community where people want to be.

What you decide to do is up to you; I'd be the last person to pressure you one way or the other -- take your time and think about it. But I do hope that you don't give up on Baha'u'llah. Remember that those people who can't deal with the tough questions, and are shutting you out because you ask them; *they* are the ones not living according to the Teachings. And you *can* do it on your own. I've been off the rolls for over two years now, and Baha'u'llah and His revelation are still at the center of my life -- and I don't really care which person or institution says I'm "not a Baha'i". What is important here is your own spiritual development, and what furthers that.

Love, Karen

Forum: Unenrolled Baha'i

7/5/01

Dear X,

Thank you for your insightful post -- it looks like it wasn't too "controversial" at all!

< That's the problem with everything coming from the top down -- the leadership says "This is what we're going to do" and they just expect enthusiastic support, especially if the right spin is put on it. My understanding always was that the Baha'i AO is *supposed* to work from the bottom up -- that's what all this consultation at Feast etc. is supposed to be about. Is it any wonder people become disillusioned when they feel like nobody "up there" is listening?

< My own advice is usually just to stop doing *anything* that you don't think is worthwhile, or that drives you crazy, or that you don't feel contributes to your spiritual life.

<< The time and money saved should be spent trying to do some real good in the cities and towns in which they live. I cannot stress this too much and I will stress it more below.<<

Yes. We *are* supposed to be servants of mankind, after all. But what I run into is this idea that by putting all your effort into building Baha'i institutions you are helping mankind. I pointed this out in one of my articles and got really slammed for it, and got told about all those wonderful Social & Economic Development projects. My more cynical side kept wondering just how many of those projects are real, and how many just exist on paper, and how many are just existing teaching projects re-labeled.

<< They should also try to establish real worship services, outside of anything sponsored by their assemblies, where they come together and for prayer and worship in the spirit outlined in the Writings, and point- blank referred to by Shoghi Effendi, and draw upon that spiritual power as their most unfailing support for their efforts to do something truly meaningful in their lives.<<

Oh, yes. All this effort on "externals" -- rushing around trying to get people into the Faith is just wasted. First, you have to create a community where people *want* to be. Baha'u'llah said the only thing that would ensure the triumph of His Faith is the extent to which we transform ourselves -- the individual, first; then, the community; *then* you've got something to offer the seeker. Instead we've created a community where a soul responds to the Message, then takes a look around, and says "I'm outta here".

< That's *exactly* what I do. I've been reading "Gems of the Mysteries" with my friends -- and I give them translations whenever I get them. This is the Revelation, after all. This is the center of it all. I'm always dumbfounded when I run into people who think that provisional translations are a *bad* thing. For myself, they have offered a whole different perspective on Baha'u'llah.

< Yes. One disadvantage to bailing out is that you don't have any opportunity to try to influence things in a positive direction -- however, there are a lot of people who don't have that opportunity no matter what. I sure didn't. I think I do better on the Internet.

< Yes; the AO only has power if you give them power. I would love to see Baha'is just getting together, doing what Baha'u'llah told us to do -- and if the administration doesn't like it, they can take a flying leap. In fact, if enough Baha'is put their efforts in the direction of service, maybe they'd get the hint and catch up. You notice now that they are announcing that there will be new "official" translations coming out -- I'm sure that's a response to all the provisional stuff out on the Internet.

I also think you'd have less disillusionment if people felt like they were doing something that really has a positive impact. My own take on it is that everyone has their own capacities and talents -- they need to find out what they are and use them in service to the Faith -- through official channels if possible, but through unofficial ones if need be.

<< The teaching obsession is one of the real killers of this faith. <<

YES!!

< The first time I ever read the first paragraph of the Kitab-i-Iqan, it was like something just knocked me right between the eyes.

<>

Dear X, far from saying it "unwell", you have put it so beautifully, that I can't think of a thing to add. Thank you so much.

Love, Karen

Forum: About.com

7/6/01

> Dear friend,

Cyberspace can be very shocking to a lot of Baha'is when they first come upon it.; You'll see criticisms of the Faith you never knew existed. Probably the worst are the Muslim anti-Baha'i sites who often quote old, entirely false histories in order to discredit the Central Figures of the Faith. Cyberspace has also revealed a diversity of opinion within the Faith that many Baha'is were not aware of,because these things aren't discussed in our communities.

I'm pretty familiar with the 'disgruntled' Baha'is that xxxx speaks of, and while I don't want to go into detail, I did want to correct one misperception. Dale said:

>" Some of them seem to think that, because humanity has managed to progress > a little since Bahá'u'lláh's time, we have gone beyond the need for at > least some of His teachings"

I have never heard anyone among the liberal Baha'is ever say anything like this; the opinions expressed are grounded in the Writings, and often are said by people familiar with Arabic and Persian. It is ironic, because the liberals are sometimes tagged the "back to Baha'u'llah movement" that we should be accused of claiming humanity has "outgrown" Him.

Finally, I find it disturbing that those who grow disillusioned with the Faith are blamed for it. The reality is that many of our communities are immature, the bad experiences people have are real -- they aren't just made up out of a perverse desire to make the Faith look bad. I've just recently opened up a support group for disillusioned Baha'is, with the express object of encouraging them not to give up on Baha'u'llah even if they find the administrative side of the Faith impossible to cope with. I understand that it is difficult for people who live in well-run, responsive communities to realize just how bad it can get. But many Baha'is feel a sense of betrayal by their fellow believers, just because no one will listen to them.

On another forum, a Baha'i I know related a story describing an injustice in his community. A more conservative Baha'i started condemning him, and I responded to that with some fairly harsh words. This Baha'i telling the story later expressed his amazement -- he said it was the first time another Baha'i ever stood up to defend him. Not everyone with a complaint deserves to be tossed away as a trouble-maker.

Love, Karen

Forum: Religious Debate

7/9/2001

> > Its about time you Bahai's realised that the unity of your faith is a > complete shambolic Myth, there are IMO two Bahai faiths & not 1, you are as > far apart in your attitudes as the Anglican Church & the Roman Catholic > Church. If you feel so strongly about the UHJ why dont you become > schismatic?, you will not change the attitude of the present order of > administration in your faith so whats the point of staying in it?. Start your > own variant of it and your problems will be solved....... free speech on this > list, no more spies hunting you down on the net etc.....

Dear X,

That isn't the way it works. You see, there are very small schismatic groups of Baha'is, so there's a track record. Liberal Baha'is who try to start their own version of the Faith will be declared covenant-breakers, be shunned by a lifetime of family and friends, and will be watched by Baha'i officials more closely than ever before.(Although they can't do anything more to you then, because CB is the ultimate sanction, like excommunication. But they *will* watch your every move.) Besides, most liberals will refuse to go along with any notion of schism -- not only because of the fear of being called CB, but because of their own internalization of Baha'i values. To try to start an organized, separate group, and it's a sure road to being marginalized into irrelevance. If Baha'i liberals want to reach other Baha'is with their ideas, then they can't risk being declared covenant-breakers. They can actually be more effective as "independent" or "unenrolled" Baha'is.

Love, Karen

Forum: talk.religion.bahai

7/13/01

> > Well, I think telling people the facts is the best way of > preventing vicious rumours from circulating. > > Of course, vicious rumours are considered a positive and > useful weapon when dealing with "internal enemies of the > faith"<<

> > Openness about the facts and reasons behind AO decisions > would go a long way to dissapating the poisonous atmosphere > that often surrounds these things.<<<

Dear X,

One of the observations I make in my "LA to Alison" article is that one reason why 20-year old events like Dialogue stay current is that they are suppressed and come as news to those who are new to Baha'i cyberspace. One of the biggest surprises I had when I first arrived in cyberspace, posting to trb in late 1999 was that I expected that the issue of how the Dialogue editors had been all talked out by now, and that people wouldn't respond much to my experience at Convention. Boy, was I wrong! One answer to Dave's question "Why write about this?" is that Baha'is don't know this happened, and it had a real impact on later events. The Talisman crackdown was a direct response to a post that responded to an angry reaction to how David Langness was treated -- and he was being investigated because he posted his bitter feelings about the way the Dialogue editors had been railroaded. So it still affects things. The polarization that exists in Baha'i cyberspace is a result of the Talisman crackdown, and this still determines our experience here.

Anyway, the reason the AO can't be open about its decisions is that they can't stand up to scrutiny; they just rely on loyalty to get away with it. Everyone has noticed no AO defender disputes my facts when I posted that section of the article on Dialogue. Not even the most rabid of them. They just don't like the fact I'm writing about it. Or they expect me to put some kind of pro-administration spin on it -- that's basically Rick's problem with all my articles. I'm supposed to say it is basic Baha'i teaching to squash ideas for the sake of unity -- and it won't say that because I don't believe it's true. Why blame Baha'u'llah for the actions of these people? I told him that the last time this came up, and he took it as symptomatic of my sad spiritual state.

Love, Karen

Forum: Unenrolled Baha'i 7/14/01

> > I have a problem with all our discussions about the problems within > the Baha'i Faith. We are too much preaching to the choir. Perhaps all > those remaining in communities are very satisfied with their unified > cacoons.<<

Dear X, Those who are satisfied are, at best, half of the people who respond to the message of Baha'u'llah. Indeed, they are probably a minority.

If I were still in a community and know what I know today, I > would practise passive resistence.<<

Ah, 20/20 hindsight! I'm very familiar with it. One big problem is that people just don't expect to have to work that hard to have a satisfying community life. I've always envied Christians -- they have a place to meet that is there at the same time, every week -- no last-minute cancellations, no struggles to pull things together around everybody's schedule -- it's just there. And Christians can go and worship and not be subjected to endless boring meetings. And you don't have to fight anybody to get this, either -- again, it's just there. And nobody cares what locality you live in. Too bad their beliefs aren't as attractive to me as their more practical arrangements.

Part of the reason we don't resist the all-encompassing administratioon is that we come in as converts. I don't know about you, but I didn't come into the Faith expecting to have to reform it. In fact, I came into the Faith understanding only the barest outlines of administration, never dreaming how much time and effort it would take -- or the pressure about teaching, when I was told we don't proselytize. (Ran into a conservative list where one person was quite huffy about a critic using the term "proslytize" saying "We don't convert people by force" -- the Baha'i re-definition of the word.) So I come into the Faith, assuming that everything that was happening around me was pretty much the way it had to be -- looking back I see that it was largely one person's vision of how to get a community started.

Then I think of the changes I did try to make -- the deepenings no one came to, the complaints about an over emphasis on projects that met with an incredulous "But we're *teaching*!" -- which justified everything. Then there were long stretches of time when nothing would come together at all, so there was nothing to reform, but when they did, it always started with the Assembly. But really, most of the time, it was just a "given" that we had to do this stuff -- not doing it never entered anyone's head, until very late in the game when a lot of people just had too much else going on in their lives to pull it off. That's one thing about the community life not being there consistently -- people got on with other things: kids soccer games, 4-H etc. But when they do try to pull things together, it always starts with an LSA meeting, not a call to gather for worship or the study of the Writings.

And the simple fact is, that I know more know that I didn't know then. I didn't know the role the mashriq is supposed to play in the community, or that Shoghi Effendi insisted that every community have a charity fund, or that local communities actually have a whole lot of leeway about how they do things.

Trying to communicate with the > powers that be seem futile. I would explain that, for some reason, my > family would like me to give time to them and I intend to quit going > to so many meetings each month.<<

My own advice to people is that if administration is driving you crazy, don't do it. Do something, *anything* else. Don't let the monster machine suck your soul away. There's so much more to being a Baha'i than the latest hare-brained project.

Love, Karen

Forum: talk.religion.bahai

7/14/01

A Modest Revision

Dear X,

Here is the entire satire. As I mentioned, that isn't my usual style, but I pondered the question "Well, how *would* a person write it from the institutions' point of view?" and a bit of deviltry and humor took over. I call it "A Modest Revision"

Love, Karen

Believing that uncontrolled free expression is destructive of unity, and symptomatic of the inferior "Old World Order" that prevails in Western society, Baha'i institutions strictly control print media concerning the Faith and have attempted to limit the discussion of community concerns to internal venues. Taking advantage of the American NSA's patience and goodwill, the left-wing radicals behind Dialogue plotted to expose the Baha' i community to dangerous and subversive ideas in order to undermine the institutions and to impose their own political agenda.

Since the subversive activities of the LA Study class had lapsed, a hardline remnant gathered in an unauthorized meeting in May 1985 to strategize on other ways to expose the Baha'i community to these alien and destructive ideas, including the possible evasion of prepublication review. This cadre of plotters audaciously proposed that this vehicle of dissident propaganda be called a "Baha'i Journal", a falsehood that was immediately vetoed by the NSA. The Universal House of Justice supported the NSAs decision that even though this radical publication could not bear the name "Baha'i", all articles must be submitted to the review process in order to ensure accuracy and dignity in the presentation of the Faith. The review process weeded out the most dangerous articles, something made ever more crucial as the magazine grew in popularity.

The alarming success of this underhanded project aimed at casting aspersions on the integrity of Baha'i teaching caused the National Assembly to arrange for consultation with the errant editors. While clearly warned about the tone of the magazine, it continued to spread its poison throughout the Baha' i community. Clearly, something had to be done.

The final straw which compelled the longsuffering Spiritual Assembly to take action was the article "A Modest Proposal", which tried to convince the happy and thriving community that it was not growing as it should and that certain reforms alien to Baha'i teaching were necessary, like the establishment of a Teaching Fund, the expansion of humanitarian projects, and giving delegates a fiscal report prior to Convention. The sneering title, boldly taken from Jonathan Swift's satire, clearly showed the dissidents' disrespect for institutional authority. While some of the more broad-minded members met with these plotters to convince them to tone down aspects of this article laying out the radicals' political agenda, wiser members of that body felt that even allowing it to fail review was insufficient to protect the Baha'i community. One of the editors had threatened to circulate this subversive set of proposals at National Convention, therefore the delegates had to be warned of its disrespectful and destructive nature, lest they find such alarming ideas as the abandonment of prepublication review and term limits worthy of consideration. A careful investigation of those associated with the magazine had been launched. Instead of understanding the grave nature of their offense and being properly repentant, these people dared to exercise their right of appeal, attempting to undermine the House of Justice Itself by claiming to be innocent.. These letters were read to the delegates assembled at National Convention in order to prove the perfidious nature of this dangerous publication.

Soon afterwards, in a decision completely independent from any action by any Baha'i institution, Dialogue ceased to publish, and there were no further unsettling outbreaks of free expression until the advent of the dark age of the Internet.

Forum: talk.religion.bahai
7/23/01

> > Dear Karen, > > The accounts I have heard depict Kazemzadeh as primarily raging about the nasty > letter which Steve Scholl sent the House of Justice. Though he didn't name > Steve, he cited part of his letter and asked how a Baha'i could write this way.<

Yes, he was pretty upset about that. I can't remember the passage he read from the letter, except that, at the time, it sounded *awful.* Looking back, I have often wondered what Steve actually said. Part of the problem with my own memory is that I had absolutely no context for what was going on when I heard it, except I was familiar with the magazine. All of a sudden there's Kazemzadeh raging about all this, and he didn't even really make clear what he was on about. If I had understood that he was reading an appeal letter from someone who had just been subjected to an Inquisition, I would have heard it very differently. But in those days, I didn't know the Faith did Inquisitions on people.

> > I just said "Do you remember > >that magazine that was denounced when we went back to Convention?" and he > >responded "They distributed that article to the delegates, but I never got > >one."

> > That doesn't sound like he got the information from Kazemzadeh.<<

Well, I don't know where he would have got it from, then. This isn't a guy with his ear to the ground or a lot of contacts. He certainly isn't someone who would seek that kind of information out. In fact, at the time, he wasn't even interested in talking about the Dialogue thing; I commented on it because I had been a subscriber, and got no response. This is someone who has virtually no interest in the workings of upper echelons. Unless a rumor that the article was being circulated was going around among the delegates themselves, I'm pretty sure he would have heard this at the Convention. I'm wishing now I had asked, but this guy and I aren't talking any more. If I had known I'd be writing articles, I would have asked.

But then, if I had known I would be writing articles about that event, I would have taken notes when I was back there.

Karen

Forum: Unenrolled Baha'i
7/24/01

Dear X,

Thank you for sharing your experiences. I think most of us came into the Baha'i Faith with lots of idealism and expectations; some disappointment is almost inevitable. We are, after all, dealing with real human beings here. But sometimes it gets to the point where there just doesn't seem to be avenues for change, except maybe for there to be a whole different group of people. Basically, I run into two things: one is just "This is the way it is. It's the Baha'i way or the highway." On the local level that just shuts people up. It shut me up at least -- of course, on the Internet I was more free to argue it out. In some ways that kind of direct disagreement is more easy to deal with than the second kind of reaction: manipulation, and trying to talk you around in a way that really messes with your head. I've experienced that both in personal relationships with Baha'is and on the Internet. It starts with "Boy we sure love you and want to help", and progresses to "You poor thing, you sure are messed up", to pointing out specifically what they think your spiritual problems are. It is not an honest attempt at reconciliation because people who do this really have no intention of conceding anything -- you are still the one on the carpet. It really is just a more sophisticated way of saying "The Baha'i way or the highway". And of course, people who do this are very certain they are correct in their views of what the "Baha'i way" is.

You are quite unusual X, in your ability to find avenues around these two common ways of dealing with people who are marginalized. One area where I'm trying to improve is that I'm avoiding confrontations. I'm still getting reactions on About.com. I was angry at one moderator's reaction to me, but I didn't respond to it, but continued to talk [message truncated?]

Forum: Unenrolled Baha'i
7/24/01

Yes, Y, I noticed your thread on About.com, and the reaction -- one post, presumably one of yours, had been removed. I, too, never made sense of the "official" version of events surrounding the ending of the Guardianship. We had a local brush with Remeyite material, which caused quite a blow-up and a visit from the ABM. It's a touchy, touchy issue. The idea that the Cause is mutilated is fairly common among liberal Baha'is, although certainly not universal. I once gave a great deal of thought to these issues, but eventually came to a dead end. I'm not sure wishing that the administration of the Faith would be something different is going to get us anywhere. If they could change some of their more repressive policies it would be nice. Mutilation theory provides an answer to the question "How could the House of Justice, which was supposed to be divinely guided, do such terrible things?" That's what allowed me to separate the actions of the administration from belief in Baha'u'llah -- and I had to either do that, or lose faith altogether. But beyond that, there isn't anyplace to go with it. These days, I try to focus on my own spiritual development, and in making contact with like-minded Baha'is.

I never really took on the About.com folks -- I've already had the experience of being the target of a pack of rabid fundamentalists taking shots at me; I'm not too keen to repeat the experience, especially in a forum that is moderated by conservatives. One moderator there can barely conceal his distaste for me; X is a bit more tolerant, but always emphasizes the status quo as being right.

Love, Karen

Dear Y, This is why everybody flipped out when our community ran into Remeyite stuff -- they have a pretty good case on the mutilation thing. It's when you start looking at Remey's claims that the whole thing breaks down. Then these groups spin off into some other weirdnesses. The group we were in touch with at the time was BUPC, and they get really into Biblical prophecy. As far as other Remeyite groups, I find the endless harping on the Guardianship issue to be too much. To me, it's a legal issue. If there really were a Guardian out there, I think he'd have something more important to do that endlessly talk about how he is denied his rightful position. In the last analysis, the administration is not the Baha'i Faith, and the Remeyites are just as over-fixated on administration as the folks in Haifa.

When I mention this to other > Baha'i they usually start freaking out.<<

Oh, yeah. I'm familiar with the freak-outs. Been through it myself, as a matter of fact.

Views I expressed > to this effect on the internet influenced a local assistent > to an Aux board memeber to try to set me straight when I > moved into the community. So who was watching your stuff on the Internet? Where do you hang out? I haven't seen you posting much.

> > Though this lower down individual was overzealous I heard > from a reliable source that the aux board member was quite > irritated and told this individual to cool it. The aux > board member said something to the effect that my views > were > "weird but ok". I think they should be because acceptable, > though I agree with the Guardian that the AO is mutilated, > I don't see anything that could be done until the next > manifestation. Unfortunately, the individual who was > trying to "straighten" my thinking was to narrowminded to > see that.<<

The main thing they are concerned about is that you don't actually join a Remeyite group, or start promoting Remeyite views. Some of us that had been through the crisis in our community held mutilation views for years -- some are still enrolled Baha'is. But since nobody is trying to promote the theory, or is even saying it publicly, they might not even be aware of that. When I was enrolled, I would have never dared bring it up, except to those friends who had been through this stuff with me. To believe that the system is mutilated makes a lot more sense than the official position that the Guardianship still exists.

> > I did find it irritating that people were spying on me in > the first place. This whole regulation of conscience was > not something I thought the faith was like.<<

Yes, they don't tell you that when you sign your card. I come from an administratively underdeveloped area, so the spying thing never took hold here much -- but on the Internet, your words can be sent anywhere.

At this point, > I don't think I could recommend the faith to anyone. I'd > encourage people to read Baha'i writings, but joining the > Faith will end up hurting someone more than helping I > think. > The community is too messed up.<<

I think communities vary a lot on how messed up they are. I, like you, mostly point people to the Writings. "We nourish your souls for the sake of God; we ask neither recompense nor thanks." And we nourish those souls without asking them to sign on the dotted line either.

Love, Karen

Forum: talisman9

7/25/01

< Oh yeah. This drives me absolutely nuts. In my conversations with conservatives, I most generally get plunked into one of two catagories: 1) I don't understand the teachings and therefore have to be "educated". In some ways, this is the worst, because there's sweet words covering this very hard attitude -- an iron fist in a velvet glove. And it messes with your head.

2) If the person you are talking to decides you can't be "educated" into the right opinions and don't respond with proper contrition to their quote-throwing, or whatever their schtick is, then you must be some guilty of some sort of evil machinations bent on deliberately trying to do some kind of damage to the Faith.

The idea that someone can sincerely, honestly, as the result of their own investigations, see things differently than they do is something they just can't seem to wrap their heads around.

<<1) there is plenty of room for individual opinions in the Baha'i Faith 2) Nevertheless there isn't actually all that much room, <<

Mostly what I get told is that there's lots of room for individual opinions in the Faith, as long you don't try to convince anybody that you're right -- which basically means you can't express them publically without being suspected of lobbying for your viewpoint. So I guess you can hold unconventional opinions as long as you're a real wuss about it.

I'm sure you saw this on H-Baha'i:

< Like, what planet is this guy on? Just try expressing criticisms in "less public venues" and see how far you get. That's one of those big lies -- "all you have to do is go through channels and you can say anything you want." And what kind of twisted logic is it that says "You can leave the Faith and freely express criticisms of the Institutions -- of course, you won't be considered a Baha'i anymore if you do that, because, as the UHJ says, you aren't really a Baha'i if you are outside the administration. But you are free because you are free to leave." I suppose the assumption is that a real Baha'i would squelch any desire to express criticism in the first place.

I once complained on another list that Baha'is were expected to practice a kind of self-censorship, because the lines are so vague and convoluted and personalized, and one person actually congratulated me on understanding this most important principle of the Faith!

Back to that letter: The thing that really riles me is the assumption that *they* get to decide that my religious identity is invalid. "Self-contradictory", they said. Then they go around saying that they believe in freedom of spiritual choices. Guess what, guys, I'm a Baha'i and you can't do anything about that -- live with it.

It looks like it's a night for ranting.

Love, Karen

Forum: Unenrolled Baha'i

7/26/01

Dear X,

Yes, you are right. Probably lack of satisfaction in community life is the number one reason for people drifting away. A Baha'i community is *supposed* to be like a family -- but so many times it is like a dysfunctional one. Like the kind where Dad is overbearing and controlling and Mom makes you feel guilty. And you are quite right, a lot of very nice, well-intentioned people think they are really doing a good thing for the Faith and mankind by having all those endless meetings.

I'm still getting responses over on About.com -- this person read my story on my website and was all full of sickly-sweet recommendations about how our institutions are immature and we must be patient and nurture them. To me, that's the problem. The institutions call for all the nurturing, but real human beings are left out in the cold. I'm sure this person is well-intentioned and all, but it doesn't help. However, this person may be less sympathetic after my last post. I find that, when reading my story, people tend to dwell on the complaints I had about my local community but completely miss the point that the final straw, the thing that pushed me out, was how the people associated with Dialogue magazine were treated. I could have gone on forever, frustrated and inactive, because the condition of my local community didn't really touch me at the level of belief. However, when I saw that upper echelons were fixated on controlling information, and willing to use some very unjust methods to achieve that, I just couldn't take any more. That shook my faith, because the institutions aren't supposed to be separated from belief in Baha'u'llah. I spent all those years believing that I belonged to a religion that supported free expression, reason, and the life of the mind -- and I felt lied to -- in the immediate sense over the article "A Modest Proposal", but in the larger sense about the Faith and what it was supposed to represent.

So I mentioned the Dialogue thing over there, which will probably bring in the moderators to hastily explain how perfect the institutions are.

Love, Karen

Forum: Unenrolled Baha'i
7/26/01

Dear X,

I took that test three times, and each time came up with a different one on top: Baha'i, Sikh, and Hindu -- but those were always the top three contenders. So I guess I must be a bit more conservative that you. :-) The problem is, even if I went looking for another religion, I'd still be doing without a religious community. I'm in a rural area, and probably the best I could do would be a mainline Christian church. There are Jews, Muslims, Unitarians, and, I think, Buddhists in a nearby university town, though -- about a 40 minute drive away.

But I still couldn't do it; I'm still a Baha'i, in spite of everything. I can't just "un-Baha'i" myself, and show up at the nearest Muslim Center figuring that they're close enough. It's funny how that works. No sane person would want to be a Baha'i -- for the most part it's just a heartbreak all the way around. But I just can't give up Baha'u'llah. So here I am.

Love, Karen

Forum: Unenrolled Baha'i

7/26/01

Dear X,

Well, a big part of the reason is that I just wore myself out on it. Just yesterday, I had somebody yanking my chain, trying to get me to argue about one of the investigations that the institutions conducted. But it's old territory -- I've been there and done that. For me, the bottom line is that they don't have the right to go interfering with individual conscience like that. Many Baha'is liberals tried for years to work within the system, before finally either giving up or getting pushed out. You know, the administration took people that were believers, basically on their side, and turned them either into non-believers or critics. And the reasons for it strike me as being either shallow or paranoid.

But when I try to argue it I find either I'm given some bad thing that one of these people supposedly said -- which usually is misrepresented and taken out of context, or I'm told I just don't understand how the Faith is supposed to work. Or, of course, I can be accused of trying to undermine the Covenant. The basic charge against the Baha'i liberals that got into trouble is that they are "advocating" or "lobbying for" a certain viewpoint -- but is *all* public forms of expression to me considered "lobbying"? Because, if it is, that means Baha'is have no freedom of expression at all.

Love, Karen

Forum: talk.religion.bahai?
7/26/01

Reading a Letter from the UHJ is like listening to Alan Greenspan on c-span testifying to the Congress on the state of the US economy.

"The training of some scholars in fields such as religion and history seems to have restricted their vision and blinded them to the culturally determined basis of elements of the approach they have learned. It causes them to exclude from consideration factors which, from a Baha'i point of view, are of fundamental importance. Truth in such fields cannot be found if the evidence of Revelation is systematically excluded and if discourse is limited by a basically deterministic view of the world."

Can anyone translate that into commonese for me?

Dear X,

Welcome to the world of UHJ letters. What this means is that someone who treats the history of Baha'u'llah without considering divine intervention is a materialist. For example, it is a bad thing to consider that the Manifestation may have been influenced by human factors, like His unbringing. An amazing amount of discussion has been generated simply because Juan's book says that Baha'u'llah "decided" to declare His Revelation. So basically, what the UHJ is objecting to here is any sort of credible academic method that might possibly contradict religious doctrine -- it's the same old, same old that Christian fundamentalists have been objecting to for years. And this is entirely opposed to what 'Abd'ul-Baha said about religion being subject to reason. The Baha'i Faith was not supposed to be another religion that stifled the life of the mind for fear that new ideas might undermine religious authority.

The irony is that some of the reviews Juan has gotten back from non-Baha'is think he's *too* sympathetic to his subject. He is, in spite of what the powers-that-be say about him, a believer.

Is it materialistic to seek out the objective facts of a persons actual life and situation to determine the possible state of their mind at the time they decided to tell the world that they are a Manifestation of God?

Apparently. A Baha'i is supposed to write like a believer, and not contradict any "official" positions. The position that is especially disliked in Juan's book is his assertion that Baha'u'llah did not advocate a theocracy, but supported the separation of church and state.

Love, Karen

Forum: talk.religion.bahai
7/26/01

"Beyond contention, moreover, is the condition in which a person is so immovably attached to one erroneous viewpoint that his insistence upon it amounts to an effort to change the essential character of the Faith. This kind of behaviour, if permitted to continue unchecked, could produce disruption in the Baha'i community, giving birth to countless sects as it has done in previous Dispensations. The Covenant of Baha'u'llah prevents this. The Faith defines elements of a code of conduct, and it is ultimately the responsibility of the Universal House of Justice, in watching over the security of the Cause and upholding the integrity of its Teachings, to require the friends to adhere to standards thus defined."Letter to Susan from the UHJ

I detect a contradiction here. The writings of Baha'u'llah ecourage us, (humans in general) to become detached from all that is in heaven and on earth. To seek God alone, independantly of any doctrine or viewpoint that you ever recieved into your mind. It is this independent investigation of reality that caused disruption in the religions in the past in conflict with rigid orthodoxy.

Dear X,

It is the rigid orthodoxy itself that causes the disruption. You have a choice -- you can have a united religion that tolerates a variety of viewpoints, or you can have schisms with each group protecting what it thinks is pure doctrine. Tolerance is the best hope for unity.

Also, this is basically saying that the Baha'i Faith is so fragile that one person expressing himself on the Internet (from what I understand, this statement is referring to Mike McKenny's case), with an entrenched opinion that contradicts the official position, endangers the Faith and threatens to cause schism. What I don't get is why the free expression of one's ideas is considered an attempt to "change the essential character of the Faith".

Love, Karen

Forum: talk.religion.bahai
7/26/01

In Juan's case, he is professing to BE a Baha'i, and to have as his primary POV that Baha'u'llah is a Revelator, yet, in his scholarly work on Modernism, he denies that Revelation.

This is not true. It isn't the historian's place either to affirm or deny Revelation, but to examine historical events. Nowhere does Juan deny the Revelation in his book.

This is good and bad. it perhaps is good scholarly work, yet it mixes POV's in a way that is damaging to the Faith he claims to hold.

How does it damage the Faith?

My major complaint with the book is that it was boring.... just not my interest.

Oh, geez, you're kidding! I really thought that was one amazing book.

I am not familar enough with the subject matter to know if the scholarship was right on or not. I think that the UHJ (or whoever) was justified in questioning the publication of a book BY a Baha'i that simultaneously denies the Revelation. The "literature review" they currently have in place is to protect the Faith from just such incursions... publications by BAHAI'S that are detrimental to the Faith they uphold. This is their right and priviledge. They don't make any attempt to "censor" somehting published outside the Faith; yet, in this case, they also were aware of the actions (writng and publishing a book) of a Baha'i that essentially said, publicly, that the author did NOT believe in Baha'u'llah. fine. Juan is a smart enough person to continue his work and to publish whatever he feels is correct academically. His beliefs are none of my business. They are, however,in the business of the Administrative Order, and it is right and proper that they point out their responsibilities.

Well, I might point out that Juan is not an official member of the Baha'i Faith and his work is not subject to review, so his beliefs are not their business. In fact, his beliefs are not their business anyway, since 'Abdu'l-Baha forbids interference in matters of conscience -- so it is most emphatically *not* their "right and privelege" to stick their nose in. And I don't at all understand the attitude that scholarly work is somehow detrimental to the Faith. Juan's work brings forward Baha'u'llah as an important figure in Middle Eastern history and thought; this is an advance for the Faith, and not at all harmful to it. If getting academic historians to take Baha'u'llah seriously is considered to be an "incursion" into the Faith, then the Faith is in big trouble. Juan does *not* say in this book that he doesn't believe in Baha'u'llah -- the matter of his personal belief isn't even in there. You are just making the assumption that, since he wrote his book from an academic point of view instead of presenting a "believer's history" that he is not a believer. That would make any adherent of any religion who writes from an academic standpoint a "non-believer" -- which is basically part of the viewpoint that is called fundamentalism.

Love, Karen

Forum: Unenrolled Baha'i

7/28/01

X: Is there any way to legally get a copy of the NSA files on us? It > bothers me that the organization is maintaining a file about me. If > it were the government, I could file a Privacy Act request.

In Alison's case, the New Zealand Privacy Commission demanded that the NSA turn over all documents pertaining to her case -- of course, they can't touch the UHJ, because it's out of the country. It would be extremely hard to prove such files existed unless they took some action against you. You'd probably just run into official denial. If they take action against you, of course, then you have proof that there was, at least some correspondence about you, some minutes at meetings, etc.

Now, if you know a report was made on you, you might have a case. I know, for instance, that a report was made on the Remeyite blow-up here because the ABM mentioned it. I'm not even entirely sure *who* keeps these files -- ABMs, Counsellors, the NSA, and the UHJ all get emails from various people, I'm sure. I don't really know how coordinated it all is. For someone like Juan Cole, I'm sure anything he puts out there goes straight to Haifa. For us lesser lights, it may be done more casually.

Another stickler with a legal case is that U.S. Courts are far more reluctant to intervene in the affairs of a religious body than courts in other countries. You might have heard of the case in New Mexico that was just dismissed.

Karen: However, while the AO definitely wants > > to keep taps on what's going on in > > cyberspace, it has only acted against > > people a few times.

> X: A few times too many. There's enough problems in life without your > religious organization turning against you.

Yes. It is an injustice, and against the teachings of Baha'u'llah, which is why I've written articles about these things, and been so vocal on the Internet. The sense of betrayal some of these people have experienced is terrible -- most of them had been Baha'is for more than twenty years and given service to the Faith all that time. Did you know that Juan Cole had been a pioneer in Lebanon in the 70s, in the middle of the civil war? He studied Middle Eastern history and learned Arabic and Persian because he wanted to be of service to the Faith, and he was assured that their was no contradiction between the intellectual life and the Baha'i Faith. Then they turned around and screwed him, threatening to declare him a covenant-breaker for his email messages. How pathetic.

Karen: The fear seems to be that opinions will be > > influenced or that certain people will > > gain a following.

> X: If they were really trusting God there would be no reason to fear.<<

That's the thing -- on the one hand, they are sure the Faith will triumph; on the other, there's all this fear of "enemies" all over the place.

Karen: Thirdly, people very widely in what > > kind of risk they are taking in being > > vocal in cyberspace. Certainly, > > enrolled Baha'is are the most at risk. The > > threat of losing voting rights or > > disenrollment is only effective if a > > person is on the rolls.<<<

> X: It is enough for me to want to make sure I am off the official > rolls. I wonder why my LSA hasn't taken action on my request to > withdraw.<<<

As I said before, the NSA is slow to act on resignation letters. I've been told that's to make sure the person doesn't change their mind. However, LSAs have been known to sit on and ignore withdrawal requests, especially if it might mean the assembly is jeopardized. I know you are from a small town -- would they have nine if you were gone? The only way to make *sure* you are off the rolls is to write to National yourself, and cc your local assembly.

Karen: It remains to be seen whether or > > not they will take any action > > against people who claim to be > > unenrolled Baha'is -- they have, > > as I posted earlier, released a > > letter claiming that such a thing > > doesn't really exist.<

> X: I wonder if they would consider it covenant breaking, to accept > Baha'u'llah but not to accept the authority of the administration to > control our lifes and thoughts and writing. Personally I don't like > being controlled and in the 18 months since I turned away from the > organization, I have felt freedom like I've never had it before since > I joined, and I don't want to go back. This is mind and thought > control -- I am surprised I never saw it before until I got out from > under the influence of it! If I am wrong, I pray that Baha'u'llah > forgives me for not wanting to be a part of it any longer.<<<

I think Baha'u'llah wants us to be faithful to His teachings above all else. Rumors have floated around that people among the liberal Baha'is might be named covenant-breakers. There's no way to know for sure until they do it. For sure, they are not in a big hurry to do it, because there are critics more prominent than you and me that have not been named CB yet. I wouldn't rule out the possiblity entirely, but I don't think it's really what they want to do. If they name people like you covenant-breaker then they destroy the effectiveness of the stigma by making it meaningless. I wouldn't worry about it too much, X.

As for mind and thought control, yes, you don't realize how much of it there is in the Faith until you are out. It's real subtle manipulation sometimes.

Love, Karen

Forum: Unenrolled Baha'i

7/30/01

I only heard someone say that once ("Independent investigation ends when you join the Faith)", in more than thirty years as a very active member of the Baha'i community. The person who said it wasn't a counselor or ABM as far as I can remember. I couldn't believe any Baha'i could say anything so stupid.

Dear X,

I've only run into it a couple of times. However, there is also the more subtle approach of "It's fine to investigate, but you must come up with the 'right' answer." Or the idea that those who hold unapproved opinions simply aren't sufficiently "deepened" in the Faith. There is a vast difference between simply not knowing what the Writings say, and seeing them differently. One example is that people in the LA study group were described as "undeepened", when actually they were far more knowledgeable about the Writings (reading Arabic and Persian really helps in that) and of their historical context than the average Baha'i. What was meant by "undeepened" was that their conclusions ran counter to the "official" positions in the Faith.

An example that hit closer to home was during our local Remeyite crises. The ABM referred to my "search", but it was pretty clear she expected me to come up with the proper answers -- or else. The conclusion I eventually reached rejected Remey's claims, but kept the idea that the system was "mutilated". Now, I didn't talk about this, except to those friends who had gone through this experience with me, but had I been vocal on this point, I almost certainly would have received another visit or phone call.

To me, it isn't a real search if your answers are set out ahead of time.

Love, Karen

Forum: Unenrolled Baha'i

7/31/01

The real irony is that, while some people feel that they are excessively watched and controlled, when it comes to these little, struggling communities, they are pretty much left on their own. As far as I can remember, the ABM has been up here three times in the last fifteen years, and twice that was because of Remeyite stuff. You can't solve anything through the elections because there isn't anyone else around to elect. You can't get your point of view across through consultation, because the strongest personalities always dominate and unless you are really pushy, you get ignored. The only outside help in community development was when the LSA was jeopardized and pioneers moved in -- and these people were always big on the mission -- doing the plan, teaching etc. I have never tried to appeal an assembly decision, but I've heard from those who have, and it seems that what the LSA says carries a lot of weight with National and it generally goes nowhere.

I think the sense of mission is the whole problem. Real people with real problems just get in the way. But if we focused our efforts on meeting the needs of the members of the community, I'm convinced we would see growth, and would lose fewer of the people who come in. All too often, the Baha'i community is just spinning its wheels -- there is great concern over the lack of growth, but they don't seem to see that the growth would be there if we were the kind of community Baha'u'llah calls us to be.

In some ways, I was lucky, because I can't recall any great injustices being done here on the local level. But we sure never got anywhere, either. And the person who was most intent on building a Baha'i community, has done the most to alienate people because he just pushes so hard all the time.

Love, Karen

Forum: Beliefnet Baha'i Challenge & Critique

8/5/01

Before you go I wanted to say a few things about my own struggles with these issues, and the dilemma -- or rather trilemma -- I found myself in when I discovered how Baha'i intellectuals had been treated. I basically had three choices:

First Choice: Acceptance -- I could simply assume that the House of Justice had done whatever was wise, just, and necessary for the protection of the Faith. I could accept, based upon their word alone since I have never found any evidence backing it up, that those who were threatened and punished were guilty of some kind of wrongdoing whether I understood it or not. In other words, it is just because the infallible House of Justice says it is just. That would be the "loyal" choice; in some people's eyes that would be the "covenantal" choice.

But it was never a real choice for me. I can't do it. I can't just say that something I think is wrong is right, no matter who says it. I can't believe that Baha'u'llah asks that of me -- He insists over and over again on seeing with one's own eyes, not following blindly -- that's his very definition of justice. It would be betraying the very ideal that made me love Him to do that.

Second Choice: Abandon Faith -- Since the House of Justice has done wrong, is not fallible, is not protected from error, then Baha'u'llah must be false. It all sounded good, but the promise just didn't hold up. The Covenant is irretrievably broken and can't be put back together. Isn't that the traditional answer? All or nothing? I've actually had people tell me "Why not just admit you aren't a believer? You can't separate Baha'u'llah from the administration -- if you don't believe in it, you don't believe in Him."

And this is what I intended to do at first. My heart was broken; it was all dust and ashes. The faith I loved turned out to be just another controlling little cult with delusions of grandeur. It was gone. *He* was gone.

But in the end, I found no place else to go. My heart could not let go of Baha'u'llah-- He is my Beloved in spite of it all, even if it's foolish, even if I'm uncovenantal, even if I'm in exile.

Third Choice: Conscientious Objector -- So I'm a Baha'i, doing what they say it is impossible for us to do -- separate belief in Baha'u'llah from the actions of the institutions. I not only do not support actions that I believe are unjust, I actively speak out against them. I post on these issues, I write articles, I'm writing a book. I continue to research and I still find elements of the story I didn't know before. I try to offer some support and succor to those who have been hurt by the system.

I really don't have any power to change anything -- but if they are going to treat people unjustly, I am going to do my best that they don't do it in the dark. I am equally careful to say that this is not what Baha'u'llah, the champion of Divine Justice, taught. The very fact that I've told these stories have brought people forward to say "Yes, I understand -- here's what happened to me."

People ask me all the time about my "agenda" and what I'm trying to "achieve". It's not a matter of achievement. I'm just going to stand here and speak the truth -- a person can rock the whole world just by doing that. That's all I'm doing. Just standing here, and refusing to go away.

Love, Karen

Forum: Zuhur19

8/1/01

>>"Particularly subtle is an attempt to suggest that the Mashriqu'l-Adhkar would evolve into a seat of quasi-doctrinal authority, parallel to and essentially independent of the Local House of Justice, which would permit various interests to insinuate themselves into the direction of the life processes of the Cause.">>.

>>The problem is, not in one single document have I been able to find evidence of anyone advocating the Mashriq as a seat of quasi-doctrinal authority.>

Dear X,

When I first began investigating these issues this would happen to me all the time; I would see something like this in a UHJ letter, or an AO defender would tell me "Juan said such-and-such" or "Alison said thus-and-so", or "the dissidents believe this way" -- and I could look high and low and never find anything of the kind. Or if I did find anything even remotely like it, it would be twisted out of recognition.

As far as I am aware, no one has ever said anything about the mashriq being some kind of alternative authority. What I *have* seen advocated is something quite solidly based in the Writings: that the mashriq'u'l-adhkar is meant to be the center of the local community, and that we should have local mashriqs, or at least, the kind of worship meetings that would be held in the mashriq if it's not possible to build them. Sometimes one even hears of a "mashriq movement". There's a story about why that bit is in the April 7 letter, but I only know bits and pieces of it, so I'll let somebody who knows more tell it.

Have you ever seen Sen McGlinn's articles on the mashriq? Here's one: http://bahai-library.org/articles/mashriq.html

I was so excited when I found out that Baha'i communities don't have to be just teaching-and-administration machines, that they were meant to have worship and service to humanity (i.e. the mashriq) at their center. It was like the first good news I got since leaving the Faith.

Love, Karen

Forum: Zuhur19

8/2/01

> > Following up on Y and Karen's comments, I would just add that you also > have to take into account that the UHJ believes very deeply in conspiracy > theories.<<<

Dear X and everybody,

I think this is one of the most damaging ideas out there -- that enemies are lurking everywhere. Any complaint or concern can be dismissed as part of the vast conspiracy of darkness bent on destruction of the Faith. They are paranoiding (if that's a word) the Faith into the ground. It's like Peter Khan's idea that people are leaving the Faith because *they* aren't spiritual enough, because, of course, it is impossible that there would actually be anything wrong with the way things are done. If the administration is always right, and anybody who says otherwise is guilty of evil machinations, or at the very least, lack of spirituality, it's pretty hard to hang onto hope for positive change.

Just recently, I put a snippet of my article on the Dialogue story on trb, just more to tell the story to some people who weren't familiar with it than any other reason. Not surprisingly, I took some flack. (However, nobody disputed my facts, which gives me some assurance that I got it right.) But one of my critics over there directed my attention to the letters concerning Salmani's memoirs -- apparently under the impression that these letters would prove the administration right in its efforts to control information. (That's not the first time somebody has given me information that they thought would make the AO look good, when it really does the opposite.) And there right in the middle of it, as a rationale for cutting out sections of that text, is the paranoia: "An increasing amount of misinformation is continually being disseminated by opponents of the Faith, both in the east and in the west." And this is back in 1982! Pardon my naivete, but I was just amazed. It does so much more harm to censor, and hide, and shut people up -- far, far more than any supposed "enemy" could ever do.

Love, Karen

8/5/01
Forum: Beliefnet

Before you go I wanted to say a few things about my own struggles with these issues, and the dilemma -- or rather trilemma -- I found myself in when I discovered how Baha'i intellectuals had been treated. I basically had three choices:

First Choice: Acceptance -- I could simply assume that the House of Justice had done whatever was wise, just, and necessary for the protection of the Faith. I could accept, based upon their word alone since I have never found any evidence backing it up, that those who were threatened and punished were guilty of some kind of wrongdoing whether I understood it or not. In other words, it is just because the infallible House of Justice says it is just. That would be the "loyal" choice; in some people's eyes that would be the "covenantal" choice.

But it was never a real choice for me. I can't do it. I can't just say that something I think is wrong is right, no matter who says it. I can't believe that Baha'u'llah asks that of me -- He insists over and over again on seeing with one's own eyes, not following blindly -- that's his very definition of justice. It would be betraying the very ideal that made me love Him to do that.

Second Choice: Abandon Faith -- Since the House of Justice has done wrong, is not fallible, is not protected from error, then Baha'u'llah must be false. It all sounded good, but the promise just didn't hold up. The Covenant is irretrievably broken and can't be put back together. Isn't that the traditional answer? All or nothing? I've actually had people tell me "Why not just admit you aren't a believer? You can't separate Baha'u'llah from the administration -- if you don't believe in it, you don't believe in Him."

And this is what I intended to do at first. My heart was broken; it was all dust and ashes. The faith I loved turned out to be just another controlling little cult with delusions of grandeur. It was gone. *He* was gone.

But in the end, I found no place else to go. My heart could not let go of Baha'u'llah-- He is my Beloved in spite of it all, even if it's foolish, even if I'm uncovenantal, even if I'm in exile.

Third Choice: Conscientious Objector -- So I'm a Baha'i, doing what they say it is impossible for us to do -- separate belief in Baha'u'llah from the actions of the institutions. I not only do not support actions that I believe are unjust, I actively speak out against them. I post on these issues, I write articles, I'm writing a book. I continue to research and I still find elements of the story I didn't know before. I try to offer some support and succor to those who have been hurt by the system.

I really don't have any power to change anything -- but if they are going to treat people unjustly, I am going to do my best that they don't do it in the dark. I am equally careful to say that this is not what Baha'u'llah, the champion of Divine Justice, taught. The very fact that I've told these stories have brought people forward to say "Yes, I understand -- here's what happened to me."

People ask me all the time about my "agenda" and what I'm trying to "achieve". It's not a matter of achievement. I'm just going to stand here and speak the truth -- a person can rock the whole world just by doing that. That's all I'm doing. Just standing here, and refusing to go away.

Love, Karen

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Email: bacquet@tco.net