Selected posts from March 2000-May 2001

Since late 1999 I have been an active poster on Baha'i forums, with an occasional foray into interfaith and educational groups. For the first year I was not online at home, having access to the Internet only at school. The following is a selection of posts from March 2000 to May 2001.

From: "Karen H. Bacquet" kb4@m...

To: talisman2000

Subject: Re: My Story

Date sent: Fri, 10 Mar 2000

Dear X

Thank you for your point of view. I respect independence in a person, which is what made me curious in the first place. I'm still not crazy about your "uncouth" style, but I suspect we'll have to agree to disagree on that.

Basically, I've been trying to sift through all this information, making my own judgement about it all, based on what makes sense to me. One reason why I tend to believe Juan's perspective is because he simply makes more sense than the official statements and their defenders, which are often marked by tortured logic, fuzzy thinking, and just plain b.s. That doesn't mean he's always right, of course, but he generally makes the better arguement. Call it "seductive" if you like, but the guy's got a brain in his head. However, I'm always open to hearing all sides, reserving the right to decide what I think is believable and what I don't.

A final word about my story: I probably did run into "A Modest Proposal" on Juan's site, but I don't remember much commentary, other than a little spiel telling the story of how it was denounced and Dialogue stopped publishing. Good thing, too, because I wasn't entirely sure that this innocent article was the one denounced at convention until I reached the end of it. And your understanding is essentially correct - at the time I saw this article I had very little knowledge of the background of the conflict. I've read much of the available information about it since, however.

I ran into "A Modest Proposal" in March, and withdrew soon after. After that, I was occupied in trying to put my spiritual life back together because my faith had just been ripped away from me at that point. I did a lot of investigation of Islam, Sufism, and Eastern religions, and a lot of speculating about who Baha'u'llah was before finally recovering my faith. Online, my primary interest that spring was the provisional translations of the Writings, which is where I first became familiar with Juan's work, without knowing he'd left the Faith under fire. Then I was offline for most of the summer, so I didn't find out more about all this stuff for several months. I wrote my story in September after discovering the information about the Talisman crackdown. I suppose, in that sense, the last few paragraphs of my story were influenced by the information that Juan put out there, and that's why you see it as "derivative". I certainly never thought of it as such, but I can see how you do. It's just that I find the notion of being thought some sort of groupie or camp-follower pretty distateful, even though, as I said, I realize it's probably inevitable. (You know, even though I'm not as pugnacious as you are, I have an independent streak of my own.)

My story must strike a chord in people, though, because I still get back occasional emails about it. The only discussion I ever saw about it was on trb; I wasn't on Talisman at the time. The impression I get is that it's been all over the place. One thing I've sure learned is that once you launch something out into cyberspace, you never know where it will end up.

I have no regrets about being caught in Juan's "net" as you call it. My local community is a mess and has been for years. And with the exception of a few longtime friends who are as alienated as I am, where am I to go? I'm thrilled to have intelligent and interesting people to talk to and learn from, and in the past few months, I'm finally feeling like I've got my head halfway together. Maybe the powers-that-be should think about why there are so many "isolated, vulnerable, and unsuspecting people who are dissatisfied" in the Baha'i community that link up with Juan and tell him their stories. That, to me , is still the basic problem. There's a whole lot of pain out here and I haven't seen the slightest indication that the institutions give a fat rat's fanny about that. They just want the complaining to shut up. Anybody who doesn't think the status quo is just peachy-keen just isn't a good enough Baha'i. Before I ran into this stuff in cyberspace, I felt like my experience was unique and un-Baha'i, and that it was all my fault and I was a poor excuse for a believer and all the rest of the sorry guilt trip. I'm damned glad to be free of that, to tell you the truth.

So it shouldn't be too tough to figure out how I've ended up among those who are critical of the institutions. At least these liberal intellectual types, whatever their faults, have brought these issues out into the open. I will admit to a certain lack of sophistication and political savvy, but I'm far from stupid. If, as you say, I'm being "bamboozled", that will eventually become clear to me. For now, I just don't see it.

I'm sorry your own experience was so unpleasant. In the interest of fairness, I am willing to look at any material you have about the history of the LA group. I've been curious anyway about exactly what these guys could have done to earn themselves more than two decades worth of enmity from the institutions. You're not exactly an unbiased source, but then, who is? I'll just keep looking and sifting and making up my own mind.

Love, Karen

Forum: talk.religion.bahai Subject: Re: Comments on Doug's Letter Part Three

Date: 09/07/2000

Author: Karen Bacquet

X wrote: "Or is it promoting the book that's the serious concern? X, I believe, said Alison Marshall was booted out because she wrote a book review of this book and posted this book review to cyberspace."

Dear X:

Alison's expulsion was announced less than a week after she posted her censored book review (which was of Baha'i World, not M&M)and the discussion of it was still going hot and heavy. Initially, many of us assumed that the two events were related. Later, it became clear that the decision to boot Alison was made some time before.

As to the reasons for her disenrollment: She received only a terse letter saying that her "behavior and attitude" made it impossible for her to be considered a member of the Baha'i community. A later letter explained that it was because she was "disseminating" her "misconceptions" of the Teachings to "an international audience" -- in plain English, they didn't like her Talisman postings. (Postings, which, by the way, they should never have seen because list rules prohibit forwarding anyone's posts to Baha'i authorities.) It is not clear which "misconceptions" the House is upset about. I've always suspected that that it was her views on infallibility that caused them to go after her, but that's only a guess on my part.

Of all the people I met when I first subscribed to talisman9 last December, Alison impressed me the most. She is a kind and devoted lady, a mystic who would far rather discuss irfan or do a slow read of a new translation than spend her time shouting across the liberal- conservative divide. That this passionate lover of Baha'u'llah is not considered to be a Baha'i by the powers-that-be is a terrible tragedy and injustice.

Getting back to the original topic: I've never been able to see how the writing of a book is attempt to "foist" views on the community. Exactly how is this "foisting" to occur? It's just a book: the friends can read it or not read it, agree with the ideas presented or disagree. That the mere expression of views that the UHJ doesn't like is somehow considered to be a deep, dark plot indicates, to me, that they are very afraid that Juan's ideas might prove appealing to a great many of the friends. I,personally, don't think there's much of a chance of that, so I'm struggling to understand the whole mindset of people who live in such terror of ideas and free thought.

Love, Karen



Dear X:

I think I know who and what I'm angry at. Baha'u'llah established the local house of justice as the governing body of the local community, but it was Shoghi Effendi who said we have to form them as soon as there are nine warm bodies in a locality, and that the LSA should be kept together at all costs. So we build assemblies instead of communities. In fact, the local scuttlebutt is that all the bodies on the city LSA aren't even warm but that they signed for a guy who recently died. And they refused to forward a resignation letter from a lady who has been a byword for permanent inactivity for the last 15 years. There's only four active people, and one of them is certifiably crazy, but by golly, they've got an LSA.

The county LSA was re-elected this year. They had one meeting, I think. One couple there is pushing for some looney-toon project that sounds rather like a Baha'i dude ranch. I mean, it's just too wierd. Maybe five or six active there.

But we've got two Assemblies, though. Such a victory for the Cause of God.

Don't give me that stuff about it being "embryonic". There have been Baha'is here for 30 years and we are still stunted at the zygote stage.

And as for me, the local subversive, I meet with friends to pray and talk about the Writings, because that's what I care about. Last Sunday I shared Juan's new translation of "Lover and the Beloved", which they liked very much. Now if I were a real nightingale I'd be back on the rolls and on a committee asap, but I'm only a foolish crow that shares the Word of God with my friends.

Now I know that it isn't Shoghi Effendi's fault that most of the local friends are idiots, but it was him that put administration at the center of Baha'i life. I'm not angry that institutions exist; I'm angry that they are the be-all and end-all for everything we do. We build assemblies; we don't build communities.

And X, you need to understand that I really tried to make the institutional thing work. I served on LSAs; I was Secretary as a brand-new believer. I rarely missed a meeting. I consulted patiently and politely. I did everything I was supposed to do, laboring under a burden of resentment and guilt and inadequacy. (After all, if the system is divine, we must be at fault. If I hate doing this, then I must be screwed up.)Why, I would wonder, if this is supposed to be a faith for all mankind, don't I fit into it?

The fact is that most of what we did during those years was a pointless waste of time, and not all the quotes from Shoghi Effendi you can produce will change that. Except we still have two assemblies. We don't have a community, but we have (count 'em!) two Spiritual Assemblies.

Maybe you can explain to my children, who have known only a sporadic community life, what a great legacy Shoghi Effendi left us? How much do you think those two LSAs mean to them?

Love, Karen

Karen(previously): I'm angry at Shoghi Effendi for leaving a legacy that means that every person whose heart responds to the Writings of Baha'u'llah must also put his head into the administrative noose.

In truth, you're angry at Baha'u'llah. His Sacred Scripture, including the Most Holy Book, establish His Institutions.

Forum: talk.religion.bahai

Subject: Re: bahai - Re: Uh,oh! Karen's still telling stories . . .

Date: 10/20/2000

Author: Karen Bacquet

Dear X:

Yes, it does seem like we are talking two different languages here, and I suspect that reflects very different experiences in the Baha'i community. I recognize that not every Baha'i community is a hopeless basket-case, and maybe it's hard for you to believe that these exist. But you have to realize that I have never had the experience of living in a community that works, even on the most basic level, never mind the ideal stuff.

"What ought to be is a community where ALL, children, youth and adults, participate in one way or more: As students, as workers, as servants,as speakers, as artists, as cooks, as teachers, and so on. My community is working towards that goal of universal participation."

Before you can talk about universal participation, you need to create something worth participating in. A good deal of the time, it was difficult even to coordinate meeting times. From what I'm hearing that's currently the case in one of the communities; the other calls desperately around so they can get a quorum at meetings. (Actuallly, that's an improvement, because for a long time the LSA just met without a quorum.) But can't you see the insanity in that? A "community" of less than five active people is worried about doing LSA meetings and teaching projects. Why aren't they building a worship community? What would be so horrible if they met once a week for prayers and maybe some singing, or whatever else was uplifting to them and quit messing around with all this administrative garbage. And why is this community of five active in the city separate from the seven active in the county. It's stupid, stupid, stupid. We have two LSAs, but not even one viable community.

Also you have to realize the characteristics of this community. Of the 15-20 Baha'is on the rolls, only two are college-educated. This is not a suburban middle-class community. It ranges from solid blue-collar types, to addicts and mental cases. This meant they were very dependent on "leaders" -- Leader #1 was a white knight on a steed, off to save the world. He was always trying to push people into action, and usually ended up alienating them. Leader #2 was an old man of the old school who could talk the social teachings to death before even mentioning that the Baha'i Faith is a religion. Neither of these guys had any concept of community life except endless talk about "the teaching work" and plans and projects. Leader #3 has a penchant for taking the lost and disturbed under her wing, which would be admirable except that it's pretty tough to organize a functioning community among people who have to be reminded what day it is. All three are very strong personalities, so that the only way my voice could be heard is if I dug in my heels and fought like a tiger. That's not my style, and I resent being put in a position where nobody's listening. The only way anybody would listen to me is if I came up with an alternative idea for a teaching project. (One of guys made it clear that he didn't think my teaching was really teaching at all. My style is to build bridges and find common ground. Not good enough I suppose. What a poor excuse for a servant I am.) To simply focus our energies elsewhere was an unheard-of idea.

You can just go ahead and talk about vision, and consultation, and all the work to be done. I'd be happy if I just had a loving community to pray with.

Love, Karen


From: Karen Bacquet

Date: Thu, 26 Oct 2000 20:37:25 -0700 (PDT)


Subject: Re: [talisman9] Continental Boards and Clergy

Dear Group Members,

In what way are these Continental Board people different from clergy in other religions?

Dear X:

It depends about whether you're talking in theory or reality. In theory, the role of the "Learned" is purely advisory. The real power in the Faith is supposed to be the elected institutions. However, anybody who has ever had a visit from one of these people knows that they are very powerful indeed, and are in no way answerable for their actions. For example, believers don't have a right to see reports written about them etc.

The biggest difference I can see is that clergy generally have to study their religion -- its scriptures, theology etc., in order to get their position. They go to seminary. The appointed positions in the Baha'i Faith are given to you basically because somebody up there likes you. Now that may be because you have a record of service in the Faith, but that's not the only thing. A friend of mine who briefly served as an Assistant has told me many times that he was asked to swear loyalty to his ABM. Now, I can just see Burl turning green, and yes, that's a pretty incredible story. I wouldn't believe it myself except that I trust this person who told it to me.

Also one doesn't see Christian ministers at least so concerned about "Protection" issues as Baha'i ABMs and Counsellors are. I don't think Christian churches feel quite so threatened by their own members.

Love, Karen

Date: Wed, 1 Nov 2000 20:19:12 -0800 (PST)

From: Karen Bacquet

| Subject: Re: [talisman9] What does it mean to believe in Baha'u'llah?


Dear X:

I'm not X, but since nobody seems to have answered you on this one yet, I'll give you my view, or more accurately, my experience.

"I don't mean to pick on you,X, but I've heard this line about believing in Baha'u'llah yet rejecting the AO so many times now, and felt mixed feelings about it every time. Thus I pose the bottom line question, what kind of "believing in" is good, what kind is bad, and so on with: wise or stupid, constructive or destructive, healthy or pathological? IMO the kind of belief that Baha asks for is not good, wise, constructive, or healthy."

As you know, I'm one of those people who "believes in Baha'u'llah but not in the AO". I can't speak for anyone else, but for me that belief has a very large emotional component. I didn't just decide one day that the Baha'is had a lot of good ideas, the teachings made sense, and they were a bunch of nice people. I fell in love with Baha'u'llah. Reading the Writings is, for me, and spiritual and emotional experience. Now a person can interpret that spiritually or psychologically or however they want, but that's just the facts.

I think for most people who experience a religious conversion, it's an emotional thing. All the explanations come later.

However, as you know, Baha'is are not supposed to be able to separate Baha'u'llah from the institutions He founded. So when I lost faith in the Institutions, my faith in Baha'u'llah went with it for a while. And that's a pretty horrific experience, to lose the faith that's at the center of your life. It was like my internal universe was dissolving into spinning chaos while I desperately searched for landmarks. And I did take a good look at other religions and religious ideas, but a person can't just pick a religion off the shelf, so to speak "Gee, these guys look good, maybe I'll be one of them." Nothing else really "worked" for me, and I found that there was no other place for me to go, except back to Baha'u'llah. And I guess I'm a person that has to be somewhere religiously. When the chips were down, I just couldn't walk away, because no matter what horrible things have been done in the AO, I'm still in love.

You asked the bottom line question "What kind of belief is good and what is bad?" To me,"believing in" the Founder of a religion is bad when that belief has to be defended by actions that violate the ethical teachings of the Founder Himself. No matter what my feelings towards Baha'u'llah, there was just no way I was going to approve of some of the things that the AO has done. Now another person might not be able to separate the two, and would approve of, and even participate in unethical behavior. That, to me, is when is when belief becomes "unhealthy". The difference I think is that I was willing to let my whole belief structure come crashing down rather than compromise my sense of right and wrong. Not everybody would be willing to face that. You have to be willing to be unsure, to risk making the wrong choice, to throw it all away, if necessary.(I remember a line from Rumi that says "Religion seeks grace and favor, but God loves best the one willing to gamble it all away.) If ever again I am confronted with something that shakes my faith to its roots, I still won't duck, because if my faith can't stand that kind of shake-up, I don't think it's worth much. That's a very different attitude that someone that has to make their faith come out right no matter how twisted their thinking or their actions might become.

I'm not so sure that's the kind of answer you were looking for, but that's what I've got.

Love, Karen

November 5, 2000
Forum: Baha'i Studies

Bravo,X! I was thinking of drawing attention to this article, but since I'm new and still unsure of where the lines are drawn, I thought better of it. (Exactly what sort of statements constitute an "attack on the Faith" is very much in the eyes of the beholder.) Several people on the Internet have said, as you apparently have, that the infallibility conferred on the House of Justice is limited to the sphere of legislation, and that such a view is scripturally based. But such an opinion is very likely to make a person unpopular in certain quarters.

I rather like Udo Schaeffer. It was largely because of his essay "Answer to a Theologian" that I began investigating early Church History years ago.(I duked it out for a couple of rounds with St. Paul and called it a draw. But I learned a lot in the process.) He's certainly no fluffhead, and the fact that this article passed review makes me hopeful that maybe there will be more tolerance about differing views on this issue.

Two things in this article caught my attention: Schaeffer says that infallibility could easily become the UHJ's "Achilles' heel" if it is applied to trivial, routine affairs. I find the doctrine of infallibility as it is popularly interpreted far too restrictive because it makes disagreeing, or even questioning, any decision the UHJ makes into a matter of the covenant. Schaeffer says that "an extensive interpretation of this concept[i.e. infallibility] would lead to never-ending queries and unresolved discussions and Baha'is would feel obliged to refute the ongoing accusations". Well, one needn't look far to see that prediction borne out.

The other complaint Schaeffer makes about the popular views on infallibility is that the friends treat the UHJ as sort of a "Delphic Oracle" that can give them infallible guidance about any quandry. He calls this "an utterly unacceptable attitude that fosters the frequently shown inclination to avoid making one's own decision and to escape one's own responsibility . . ." What I wonder about is how much of this is just popular attitude, and how much is actually encouraged by the UHJ itself? What does it say about what sort of questions believers are supposed to ask, and when a believer should stand on their own two feet and use their own judgement?

Love, Karen

Forum: talk.religion.bahai

Subject: Re: Rollcall of bahai Victims....

Date: 11/17/2000

Author: Karen Bacquet

"This is not the reason Alison was removed from the rolls. In fact the real reason is a private matter between her and the Universal House of Justice. Any attempt at a detailed explanation would be pure speculation on our parts."

Dear X,

My problem with this is that Alison herself has not been told the specific reasons for her disenrollment. Assuming you are correct and that the community at large does not have a right to know, surely you would not suggest that Alison herself should be kept in the dark! They held study classes in her area, hoping she would get the "hint", claiming that this was sufficient warning, then announced that because of her "behavior and attitude" she could no longer be considered a Baha'i, in spite of twenty years in the community. I see no justice here.

And I believe that the community at large has the right to know specifically what type of "behavior and attitude" disqualifies one for membership in the Baha'i Faith. When I became a Baha'i, I was told the only necessary requirement was belief in Baha'u'llah. Apparently, they have decided to tighten up the requirements, which is a bad thing if this Faith is supposed to be open to all mankind.

Love, Karen

Date: Thu, 2 Nov 2000 20:33:52 -0800 (PST)

From: Karen Bacquet

Subject: Re: [talisman9] Re: What does it mean to believe in Baha'u'llah?


Dear X:

In my earlier post I said: "I fell in love with Baha'u'llah. Reading the Writings is, for me, and spiritual and emotional experience. Now a person can interpret that spiritually or psychologically or however they want, but that's just the facts."

And you replied:

How does this suggestion strike you? What you are saying is that primarily you *have faith in* Baha'u'llah-- that's a *feeling* of trust-- rather than *belief in* in a cognitive sense. To me this is an important distinction because understanding what we have faith in is crucial to self-knowledge. By contrast, mixing up that issue with the cognitive level of assent to a particular set of propositions leads to *dishonesty* with oneself."

Probably the most crucial thing separating me from more conservative Baha'is, whose beliefs I largely shared not that long ago, is that I believe in ruthless self-questioning. It's how I keep my balance, although there are times when my sternly rational side wants to rain on my parade. But it keeps me honest with myself and humble towards others. I've had the thought lately that I don't know squat about the Writings; it's all a big emotional trip. How wise is that, really? How much of it just answers certain needs in my psychology? On the other hand, we reach towards God the way He is reachable for us. If for me, the eternal Beloved bears the name Baha'u'llah, I just have to go with that. I sure didn't have any success at going anywhere else. Yes, perhaps your suggestion that "faith" and "belief" are different, operating at different levels has some merit. I'll think about it anyway.

"At least, when > I look back on my > own spiritual history, I see plenty of instances > where my *faith in* > some teacher or text was justified by the role they > played in > awakening new levels of understanding, but my > *belief in* an > interconnected set of propositions emanating from > said source was a > real stumbling block to personal growth and honesty. > E.g., I went > from "Baha'u'llah's writings really ring my chimes" > to "I believe > that the world will largely convert to Baha'i > because Baha said so";"

I know exactly what you mean. I never could relate to all the administrative stuff; it was a problem from the very beginning. But I found myself drawn into it anyway. It astonishes me, sometimes, how far I got from where I wanted to be. If Baha'u'llah(or 'Abdu'l-Baha, or Shoghi Effendi) had said that Lemuria will rise again from the Atlantic, I probably would have bought it. Or, even more likely, would have hedged around it. I still have to take a deep breath before saying that 'Abdu'l-Baha or Shoghi Effendi was mistaken about something. I have lately been exploring some things that I still find a little scary, so much had the Baha'i world-view dominated my vision. As time goes by though, it gets easier. I figure God isn't going to nail me for seeking out truth, and it's those people who want to fit me out with cookie-cutter answers ahead of time who really have the spiritual problem.

> "But being in a spiritual tradition where > multiple conflicting > explanations are allowed/encouraged to coexist is a > hell of a lot > less hazardous to one's psychic equilibrium than > traditions in which > only one authoritative explanation is allowed and > everything else > must be silenced and/or stamped out."

The sad thing is, that when I first became a Baha'i, I thought I had become part of such a flexible tradition.

> Karen: "that's a pretty horrific experience, to lose the > faith > > that's at the center of your life. It was like my > > internal universe was dissolving into spinning > chaos > > while I desperately searched for landmarks." > X:"And the creepy thing is, the AO programs Baha'is for > just such misery > by telling them in essence that to believe in Baha > but reject the AO > makes you the lowest of the low, an object of > extreme distrust and > disgust, whereas simply leaving the Faith is just > fine. This creates > a painful psychic split, a double bind. They make > you your own worst > enemy. The Baha'u'llah that you have a personal > relationship with > *is*, they insist, the Baha'u'llah that they own > lock, stock and > barrel and to whom you have no personal right of > access except > through authorized channels."

Yes. That's it absolutely. In this way they, as X so eloquently put it, "fuck with your soul". It's really manipulative. There's only one way to be a Baha'i, and if you want another way, then you've got a spiritual problem. At best, you were tested and found wanting; at worst, you are a hater of the light and and enemy of God. The UHJ actually equates spiritual well-being with loyalty to the AO; that's very clear from some of the letters it has written. And it's very sick.

Oops! I think I accidentally deleted the rest of your quotes, but I printed out your post, so I've got what you said.

You mentioned that it was a big mystery why people respond to a particular spiritual teacher and others don't. I very much agree. I can't explain why I react the way I do to the Writings and somebody else is just left flat. I haven't a clue. I don't think I can claim that I've just got some kind of special spiritual insight that other people don't have; that would be ridiculous.

You also said that you felt like you didn't chose Cayce; he chose you. I, not so very long ago, told someone that if they didn't like me calling myself a Baha'i, then they should complain to Baha'u'llah about it, not to me. I really did try to walk away and He wouldn't let me. That's how I feel about it.

You also made some less than complementary comments about Shoghi Effendi. He's not my favorite person these days, either, although I haven't reached a particular "position" really. But whenever you complain, or want to change anything about the Baha'i Faith, there he is, telling you that can't happen. Or probably more accurately, there is some yo-yo quoting him. Now if you blame Shoghi Effendi for over-administration, there's always somebody quick to bring out quotes that he warned us against that, and not all the people who remind have reminded me of that are fundamentalists. But I'm starting to make a distinction between what he intended, and what his policies actually resulted in. How much of our current problems are Shoghi Effendi and how much is misuse of his words? But to me, it's pretty hard to escape the fact that before Shoghi Effendi's ministry, the Baha'i Faith was a tolerant, inclusive religion, instead of just pretending to be as it does now. [See now, I'm a neo-Sohrabian dancing on the "narrow and dangerous bridge" above the chasm -- should I run, screaming, back to where it's safe? :-)]

Love, Karen



> (Perhaps I missed many phone calls/ letters/ visits did > you get from the community/AO with a simple....."Hey Karen, I hear you are > leaving after all these come sister?....anything I can do to > help)?"

> Dear X: The reactions I got varied. Two friends stayed close to me and helped me with the emotional aftermath of leaving, other inactive people were sympathetic, one tried a lot of emotional manipulation to try to get me back in the Faith (or, as Plan B, to get me completely away so that I wouldn't influence anybody). The funniest incident was a phone call I got from the "City" community about six months after I resigned, asking me to help with convention. Apparently the fact that I do retain my local ties gave the impression that I would be coming back, and they were desperate for help. I thought that was typical -- nobody gives a damn about how I'm doing spiritually, but they sure need my help with an administrative event. I was polite about it, though.

The way I see it, our local experiences really define what our Baha'i experience is all about, at least as far as community life goes. We lost people here just because nobody could get their act together. I stuck it out so long simply because I love Baha'u'llah -- otherwise I wouldn't have put up with most of this nonsense for five minutes. If Baha'is don't learn how to build real communities instead of fake assemblies, the Faith is never going to amount to anything.

Love, Karen

>> Forum: alt.religion.bahai

>> Thread: bahai - Re: Uh,oh! Karen's still telling stories . . .

Subject: Re: bahai - Re: Uh,oh! Karen's still telling stories . . .

Date: 10/21/2000

Author: Karen Bacquet

Yes, I think you might be right. But there is also the issue of not only putting communal worship as a priority, but there is a real fear of experimentation to find what is meaningful and what is not. Shoghi Effendi's warnings about letting ritual into the Faith have created this suspicion of anything new. Suggest anything different and somebody is bound to say "we aren't supposed to do that". For example, there are tablets with a repeated line which are clearly meant to be read chorally, but I've heard people object because we aren't supposed to do "congregational prayer", which is a whole different thing. Few communities are lucky enough to have someone who is musically talented and can sing the Writings.(We have one around, and that can be wonderful.)There's lots more things we can do besides just "reading prayers".

Another thing we run into is that not everyone has the patience to sit through prayers. As a new believer, I used to get complaints that the devotions I chose for Feast were too long. Some of the best Tablets like the Fire Tablet or the Long Healing Prayer are rarely read communally because nobody wants to sit that long. (And there's also the problem of small children that can't be quiet for that long.)It's tough when the group is so small that you can't really accomodate everyone's needs. But I think that we'd better start thinking about what people need, or these communities are going to stay small, or they'll just wither away eventually.

Love, Karen

Subject: Re: bahai - Re: Uh,oh! Karen's still telling stories . . .

Date: 10/21/2000

Author: Karen Bacquet

Allah'u'abha! > "1) Is it or is it not acceptable for different people to have > different, and even divergent expectations for community life? If it > is, then memebers must accommodate divergence - to you your prayer > meetings and don't nag me for not going. If it is not acceptable, then there must be uniformity - how dull."

O.K. X, I won't make you go to any prayer meetings. And I fully agree with you that there should be room in the Baha'i community for both of us. But I'm the one who's not on the rolls, remember. Your lack of interest in community worship is the attitude that prevails. I'm the one who gets nagged.

> "I pray to God; a bunch of people around is a distraction, such that I > don't feel I'm praying. My prayers do not benefit from a human > audience, nor am I at all interested in a human audience for my > prayers - they are not God, and if I wanted them to know what I say to > God, I'd send them all email. My spiritual life is in _my_ hands; I > pray whenever I want, wherever I want and I'd rather do it alone."

I used to feel exactly this way about extemporaneous Protestant-style prayer. I never was a regular churchgoer, so I never had much of a sense of community with such folks, and I always felt like "How does this minister know what I want to say to God?" -- even when I was a little kid.(I once got thoroughly chewed out when I was about 12 for not closing my eyes during such a prayer.) However, I felt differently when I became a Baha'i, and we had prayers that Baha'u'llah wrote that belong to us all. From my perspective, if a community does not offer anything inspiring or uplifting, then there really isn't much point in my being there at all. It's not like the Baha'i community offers that much in the area of social things-- I used to have fits trying to find out about the on-again, off-again schedule for children's classes. That's all I wanted -- prayer, deepenings, and Sunday School for my kids. But no, it was too important to talk (and it was mostly talk) about "the teaching work".

> > "If there is a need to discuss some projects, that meeting will happen > anyway>"

That wasn't my experience. The first LSA we had met every week, and we dragged through every goal in the Six Year Plan, planning activities we had no capacity to carry out, chanting the mantra "Entry by Troops".

> > "I don't think the focus is administrative. Yes, there are > administrative activities, but the daily reading, praying, recitation > and dhikrs are not done administratively, but me personally. I'm the > one that fasts in March"

Of course community life is secondary to an individual's spiritual life. In fact, it ranks third, after family life. But there is just no way in a small community, where every active member is on the LSA, to have any community life at all without getting tangled up in the administrative stuff. You either put up with it or go inactive. Believe me, if there had been a way for me to have community life and to get out of the administration, I would have done it. I'm not the only one who felt that pressure. One guy threatened that he would withdraw from the Faith entirely if anybody elected him to an Assembly.

From what I have observed, the fact that our communities offer no meaningful communal spiritual experience is responsible for many times more people withdrawing or becoming inactive than all the nasty encounters with ABMs put together. You can go ahead and call communal worship "un-Baha'i" if you want to, but if you want to call the Baha'i Faith a world religion, you'd better offer something better than what we've got.

Love, Karen


From: Karen Bacquet

Date: Wed, 25 Oct 2000 15:41:54 -0700 (PDT)


Subject: Re: [EarlyChurchHistory] Has anyone read Rescuing the Bible from Fundimentalism

Dear X:

What I am saying is that for pre-modern people literal vs. non-literal was not an issue. It is only in the modern age that there is a conflict in people's mind's between a myth, which is false, and reason, which yields the truth. For fundamentalists, the Bible stories must have actually physically happened or they are not real. The notion that the only reality is that which is physical and tangible is a modern one.

Karen Armstrong calls both ways of thinking "mythos" and "logos". Mythos contains the larger truths that make sense of our lives, and cannot be demonstrated by rational proof, nor does it depend upon such proof to yield meaning. Logos (the Greek is related to the word "logic")is rational thought. It is only in the modern age that "logos" became the only legitimate means of finding truth, and "mythos" became discounted as superstitious and illogical. In order to rescue the sacred, fundamentalists have tended to describe religious truths (mythos) in terms of logos in order to "save" it in the modern world. Premodern people saw both mythos and logos and legitimate ways of viewing truth. We moderns need to have things explained rationally or we don't see it as being true.

I hope that helps. Karen Armstrong explains it better.

Fundamentalisms differ in some ways in different religions. I don't think Islamic fundamentalists are necessarily defined by scriptural literalism either. Both religions are mostly concerned with orthopraxy (right relgious practice)-- orthodoxy (right belief) is more a Christian thing.

Martin Marty and Scott Appleby did a landmark study of fundamentalism is all the major world religions, and I know I've got a list somewhere of the common features that I'll try to find for you. I know that an apocalyptic emphasis was one of them, and a strong feeling that several features of modernity are chaotic and evil. Fundamentalists tend to be anti-democratic, for example. There is also a tendency to sharply divide the world between those on the good side and those on the side of evil. Fundamentalists also generally feel like they are under seige. I'm always bemused by Christians who talk like Christianity, the world's largest religion, is somehow is great danger.

I think I should point out that now "fundamentalism" has become a social science term and is not necessarily meant to be insulting.

I don't know anything at all about your variety of Judaism and would welcome a brief explanation.

Love, Karen

> X > wrote: > > So you're saying that 1,500 years ago all > Christians > > read the Creation > > story of the Bible literally, or not literally?

> > > > I don't understand your premise. You are saying > that > > fundamentalism is > > the attempt to prove the truth of the Bible by > > scientific means, and at > > the same time read the Bible literally?

> > > > What does the one have to do with the other? (And > > personally, I have > > never heard the term "fundamentalist" used to > > describe people who > > believe in bible science.

> > > > And by the way, since you say that all major > > religions have > > fundamentalists, who are the fundamentalist Jews? > > What group of > > religious Jews reads the Bible literally? I don't > > know of any, and I am > > a Charedi Jew (what many people mistakenly refer > to > > as an > > "Ultra-Orthodox" Jew).

> > > > For that matter, what group of Jews officially > > accepts bible science, > > and uses science to prove the truth of the Bible. > > The group that most > > heavily studies science is probably the Reform, > and > > for the most part > > they don't even believe that the Torah is true > > anyway, or that it is > > from G-d.

> > > > So please help me understand your post.

> > > > > > Karen Bacquet wrote: > > > > > Have you ever read "The Battle for God" by Karen > > > Armstrong? She basically contends that > > fundamentalism > > > is a reaction to modernity, which has deprived > > people > > > of the ability to think mythically. The > question > > of > > > whether or not the creation story in Genesis > > "really > > > happened" literally was not something that would > > have > > > occurred to premodern people. The attempt to > > "prove" > > > the Bible's truth through "scientific" means is > as > > > entirely modern as the scientific method itself. > > > Fundamentalism is *not* Old Time Religion, and > if > > we > > > could time travel, would be incomprehensible to > > our > > > ancestors.

> > > > > > Fundamentalism is not just a Christian > phenomenon > > > (although the name come from the Christian > > movement) > > > it is observable in just about all the major > > > religions.

> > > > > > Karen Bacquet

> > > > > > X wrote: > > > > Just a question, about fundamentalists. > > > > > > > > Why is it wrong to take the bible literally? > > Many > > > > times it is clearly > > > > speaking literally, and many times it is > clearly > > > > speaking allegorically. > > > > However, since the church began, the literal > > > > interpretation of scripture has > > > > been the foundation of orthodoxy. Only in the > > last > > > > two hundred years or so > > > > has the idea that the Bible is not to be taken > > > > literally-ever-taken hold. > > > > The "Modern Fundamentalist Movement" is not, > as > > many > > > > propose, a new movement > > > > to take us somewhere new. It is simply a > > reponsive > > > > movement to take us back > > > > to where we were and in the minds of many > should > > be.


From: Karen Bacquet

Date: Wed, 22 Nov 2000 12:50:26 -0800 (PST)


Subject: Re: [talisman9] UHJ and AO questions

Well, X, I'm glad I caught you in your non-judgmental mode. I hate to think what your posts would look like when you *are* being judgmental.

Karen wrote:Yes, and because of that "What would I do if the > > House ordered me to do > > something immoral?" isn't a very interesting > > question. A more realistic > > ethical dilemma is "What do I do if the House does > > something immoral?"

> > > > Why is that more interesting? Because it's more > >likely to happen?

> > > Yes.

> (I don't > > think so.) Or because it's more interesting to > make > > moral judgements about > > authoritative institutions, or about others, than > > about oneself? Perhaps, > > and maybe that's why Baha'u'llah has to remind us > to > > call *ourselves* to > > account. "Breathe not the sins of others while > thou > > art thyself a sinner." > > > > If the House did something truly immoral -- a > > judgement i could arrive at > > only through deep and wide consultation, not > through > > private brooding over > > petty aggravations -- the ethical "dilemma" would > be > > exactly the same as if > > it ordered me personally to do something immoral. > > The case is equally > > hypothetical, and neither more nor less > > "interesting".

O.K. let's go over my oft-told tale: I'm a naive believer from a small rural community. I've had some big struggles locally which have burned me out, but basically I believe that the Baha'i Faith as a whole is fine. I believe in Baha'i ideals. I believe I belong to a religion that supports the individual investigation of truth, education, scholarship, and the life of the mind. I believe that the Baha'i Faithis tolerant toward differing points of view.

Then I discover the whole damn thing is a lie. The Baha'i Faith isn't tolerant at all. It calls academic writing "materialist"; it tries to censor what scholars write. Worst of all, it threatens, bullies, and throws out sincere believers based upon opinions they've expressed on email. It throws people out of the Faith without warning or explanation.

These things are wrong. Our House of Justice, which I have believed to be infallible, has done these terribly wrong things. If you don't think that's an internal dilemma for a Baha'i, then I don't know what to say.

You are not the first, and probably will not be the last, to suggest that I should have gone (or should still go) to the Institutions and "consult" with them. Well, the only point of real consultation is mutual agreement, that means mutual compromise. I know what the UHJ thinks about those issues because I've read their letters and public statements. I doubt anything's going to change because Karen Bacquet from Podunk County tells them she's upset about their actions. In fact, the only point to such "consultation" would be to convince me that either what the UHJ did was right, or it didn't really happen. Or in other words, I should not see with my own eyes, but with theirs.

What you call "the private brooding over petty aggravations" is, in reality, a tremendous internal upheaval dealing with core issues, not only about the Baha'i Faith, but one's own identity and perceptions. You don't go through it without taking a hard look at yourself.

Have a nice non-judgmental day.

Love, Karen

Date: Fri, 1 Dec 2000 11:05:01 -0800 (PST)

From: Karen Bacquet

Subject: Re: [talisman9] Mean Baha'i Syndrome


Dear X,

I have said before, although I don't know if I've said it here, that if I could change one thing about the Faith, it would not be any particular administrative reform -- I would change, if I had the power, the way Baha'is treat each other. We are terrible to each other; we rip each other up, and play all these mind games. Worst of all, we do it, supposedly, for the good of the Faith.

Part of it, at least in my local experience, is the Faith's sense of mission: we're supposed to be out there saving the world so more strong-minded people feels its find to lecture, and guilt-trip, and generally kick people in the butt.

This goes along with the administrative focus the Faith has instead of a worship focus. I was just today thinking about the great diversity of people there are in Catholicism, but the thing that ties them all together is that they have this great central worship ritual of the Mass. If you are worshipping together, you don't dwell on whose theology is perfect, or how you are trying to achieve this or that. If your main community experience is our "consultation"and planning stuff all the time, well naturally the focus is on differences. But we can't admit that, we're supposed to be united -- so there's this nasty undercurrent.

I once tried to explain that all this emphasis on achievement-- plans, numbers, goals, etc. -- is really anti-spiritual. But the person I was talking to thought I was still under the influence of wacky Eastern stuff and wouldn't listen.

Another source of nastiness is this fear that the Covenant is under seige. We've talked of this before. When to "oppose the Covenant" means you've got a potentially contagious spiritual disease, that's a recipe for fear, and the cruelty that comes from fear.

Well, that's all I can say off the top of my head. I hope somebody else has more to add. I don't know what to do about it except to do my best to treat my fellow-Baha'is with kindness and respect, and to reprove people who don't. I find I'm getting less patient as time goes by, though. When conservative Baha'is treat me decently (In fact, X has been downright warm to me, saying he considers me a friend), then I am happy to respond in kind, in spite of differing opinions. But I'm less and less inclined to tolerate people who want to beat me or anybody else up just for telling our truth, and I'm more likely to just tell them to stuff it.

Love, Karen

Forum: Universal Seekers


Dear X: Thank you for a wonderful post!

> > But what X's eloquent and resonant post reminded me of was > that coming back to an acceptance of Christianity in middle age has a > lot to do with accepting that the real spiritual search is one for > *meaning* rather than for *answers*. When you start pondering > something like the vicarious atonement in search of answers, it > becomes clear pretty fast than anyone who claims answers is full of > bs, and that nobody knows the answers. The question "Is this true?" > leads straight into a swamp of dogma and disbelief. But the > question "What does this mean?" can lead to many productive and > enlightening discoveries.>>

Yes -- my own way of putting it was to distinguish between what is "true"(or leading to spiritual insight) and factual(that which is provable).

However, I think we should remember that those who search for answers rather than meaning are, at least, engaging in some kind of spiritual search, however immaturely. That sure beats not searching at all, and it may evolve into bigger and better things. Isn't looking for answers where most of us start? Before I became a Baha'i, I had no idea how to look at the Bible other than literally, which mostly caused me to avoid it. In my early days as a Baha'i, I felt as if the Bible, or maybe scripture in general, had been given back to me, because it didn't have to conflict with my own common sense. My search for "answers" in early Christianity taught me a great deal, the most important lesson being that black-and-white answers just aren't there and you have to live with some ambiguity. In fact, looking back it seems that each step in my own spiritual evolution has involved letting go of such black-and-white answers.

Subjecting mythos to logos(I'm an Armstrong fan, too.) actually makes faith a very fragile thing. It either has to be defending with the most twisted and torturous reasoning -- the fundamentalist path, or can leave you with no kind of faith or meaning at all. The whole reason that discovering the injustices of the Baha'i administrative order blew my faith apart was because that faith was subject to external "facts" -- the UHJ must be inerrant or Baha'u'llah is not a prophet. It's only by going back to my own heart and the spiritual experiences that made me a Baha'i in the first place that I was able to transcend that conflict. In my discussions with more conservative Baha'is I have tried to explain to them that the path they want me to take only leads me back to despair; I don't think I could go back even if I wanted to. But I feel almost as if they want to take Baha'u'llah away from me, by making belief in Him subject to acceptance of the Administrative Order. Calling their unethical actions ethical is just not an option for me; I just can't twist myself up that way.

> So now my orientation is to let the scientists do science, let the > historians do history, and ignore the spiritual teachers when they > start telling me about science and history. They have plenty to > teach about spirituality, and as long as they stick to that they > won't be shackling the minds of their disciples with antiquated dogma.>>

Yes, absolutely. There's a big debate going on over on trb about Baha'u'llah's statement about copper turning into gold. To me, whether the Manifestation, the world's great spiritual teachers were scientifically or historically accurate is just completely irrelevant to their truth.

> > Sorry for the meandering, my early Sunday morning musings.>

Your musings, X, are a whole lot better than many people's well- thought out stuff.

Love, Karen

My Response to Jenifer Tidwell's "Letter to the LSA"

Forum: Zuhur19


Dear friends:

As I noted over on trb, it's somewhat ironic that this Jenifer wrote her resignation letter the very same day I did: March 21, 1999

Some of my reasons were similar to hers, as will become apparent, some very different. However, I thought I would post my commentary here rather than trb right now. I don't have time or energy to defend my existence right now.

The bold and regular type are Jenifer; my comments are in italic.

1. Our Feasts are not spiritually nourishing. They must be for some Baha'is, but for me, they don't even come close to a good church service, or a private meditation, or even a walk in the woods. . . .

Unfortunately, what I often found is that there just isn’t much interest in spiritual matters at Feast a lot of the time. I used to get criticized, especially as a new believer for making devotions too long. In my naivete, I thought that’s what we were there for.

Finally, I am saddened by the exclusion of non-Baha'is from Feasts. I understand that people who have not chosen to be a member of the Baha'i Faith shouldn't take part in the business-meeting part of the Feast, but why can't they merely observe? And why should they be excluded from the worship aspect of the Feast? I'm sure it must be discouraging for people looking into the Faith, who want to experience how we worship. . .

This has always bothered me. Partly it is because we have made Feast into an administrative occasion, then placed it at the center of our community life, that we exclude many people who might just want to come and worship with us. It has always bothered me that I can walk into any church in town and be welcome, but even non-Baha’i spouses and relatives are expected to disappear into the kitchen or something when it comes time for the “Business portion” of Feast. It’s damned rude of us, really, and it was the main reason I never hosted Feast at my home, because I wouldn’t intrude on my husband like that. (I did host some Holy Days, however.)

We need to have a real worship service at the center of community life, where all would be welcome. Besides alienating non-Baha’is who might potentially be attracted to the Faith, it’s also behind a good deal of the alienation of those who lost voting rights. If you can’t do administrative stuff, there’s darn little of community life that will be left. Taking away voting rights can end up being a de facto expulsion, because the administrative machinery is important and compassion is secondary.

2. There's no clergy. I find this issue difficult to discuss because it's a core doctrine of the Baha'i Faith, but I really think the Faith has "thrown the baby out with the bathwater" -- there are good reasons to have clergy, and the lack of clergy causes problems for individual believers and for the community. . . . .

I have at times, in my heart of hearts, wondered if having religious specialists take care of the community might not be a bad idea, particularly considering the rampant and persistent incompetence I’ve seen. However, I certainly would not take a stand to that effect. Part of the lack of nurturing is that so much else is demanded of the LSA, and, quite frankly, when LSAs are put together from any nine warm bodies on the list who can sign their name, you aren’t necessarily going to see people who have any particular talent for nurturing. Mostly, I see either a wish to duck personal issues, or just to give standard, pat answers that aren’t much help. Actually, with any personal problems of my own, I would go to individual friends within the Faith, but not the Assembly. I can relate to not wanting to spill your guts about your personal life to nine people. I was fortunate inasmuch as I never had a personal problem that required I go to the LSA.

3. Chronic community fatigue and "burnout." The Baha'i Faith seems to attract more than its share of responsible, intelligent overachievers. This is wonderful, up to a point -- the Faith's small numbers in the Boston area belies the huge amount of activity that goes on! But this takes an enormous toll on people.. . . .

I think a religion should allow for more balance. We should all have time for contemplation and reflection. Time to be with our families, time to do our jobs really well without being tired, time to allow spontaneous things to happen like talking to a friend or taking a walk. Can we be spiritually whole without that? When we're so busy serving and running around, we can't hear the "still small voice" of God whispering into the ears of our souls. And that's so important.. . . .

This was a problem for me from Day One. When the community was working, it seemed like an endless amount of meaningless activity. I’m a cerebral, contemplative type, and I always was a square peg in a round hole. Basically, what I was told was that I shouldn’t be who I was, but find should meaning in all this rushing about. I felt enormous guilt and pain over this: if this is a Faith for all the world, why isn’t there room in it for me?

4. The pressure to teach. This is directly linked to the burnout problem: if we had more people, the work would be spread out more, but at the same time, teaching is the reason we spend so much time and effort and money in the first place! Sometimes it seems that the Baha'i Faith's whole purpose is to spread itself. In fact, this is probably a sound theological point -- if the Faith's only ultimate purpose is to bring about the Kingdom of God on earth, then growth to a "critical mass" is exactly what it should be trying to do. . . .

Well, I spoke about this in my own story. It came as a terrible shock, especially after having been handed the “no proselytizing” line. We lie to people, you know, when we say that. Oh, we’re so open and reasonable, we just teach the Faith to people who want to know, then once you sign a card it’s “Why aren’t you teaching? Don’t you love Baha’u’llah? The world needs His message; the times are urgent etc. etc. “ It’s a pretty cruel trick.

Finally, I think the emphasis on teaching pulls energy and resources away from non-teaching-oriented service and charity efforts. Perhaps if Baha'is were less focused on teaching, and less overwhelmed by the weight of all their other activities, they could do more in the way of community service, which they are enjoined to do by the Writings. Then again, maybe what's really needed is a change of heart -- away from growth as a primary goal, and towards love and compassion for all people regardless of their beliefs. (Mind you, individual Baha'is are among the most loving and compassionate people I've ever met; here I'm talking about the Baha'i Faith as an institution.)

There’s a lot of difference in how charity is viewed. One LSA did some for a while; the others didn’t. The common attitude I ran into is the poor get their “pie in the sky” when the institutions are built and poverty is conquered. Tough luck for those people walking the earth right now.

5. An uncomfortable split between Baha'is and non-Baha'is. We talk about unity this and unity that, but we still use that declaration card to draw a sharp dividing line between who can attend Feast and who can't, who can read certain letters and who can't, who can give money and who can't, and so on. It creeps into our language -- "I'm inviting a non-Baha'i to this deepening, is that OK?" "We had six non-Baha'is and ten Baha'is come to this event." It affects our social lives -- we draw a cozy circle around "us Baha'is" and occasionally widen it to include a new declarant or an enthusiastic seeker. It subtly alters the way we view humanity, so that we no longer see one world, but two: Baha'i and non-Baha'i.

Yes, we present ourselves as being tolerant and inclusive, but we are far more picky about who is “in” or “out” than most religions are.

6. An uncertain intellectual foundation. I've been fighting against this one for years, afraid to look too hard at some of the belief structures given to us in the Writings. I still can't force myself to study some of the more pedantic works, like "Some Answered Questions," because I can't reconcile myself to believing what's in them. . . .

This is one area where I differ from Jenifer. I have a lot more trouble intellectually with the Christianity she has embraced than anything Baha’i.

The Baha'i counterargument I have heard most often is that Baha'u'llah and Abdu'l-Baha' had direct knowledge from God about these other religions, and therefore we should believe them and not what the other religions currently teach. That may be so; we can't prove or disprove such a claim, at least not in this world. But in a sense, this is a false unity -- the theological sleight-of-hand may help Baha'is feel like they're standing on a firmer foundation, but it does nothing to help them find genuine common ground with modern-day Christians and Buddhists and others. If anything, it hinders any such efforts, because it tends to put people of other faiths on the defensive by essentially telling them they've been wrong all this time. I've seen that happen on the Net, and it's not pretty. . . .

I do agree here is that we often treat other religionists with a great disrespect, believing we understand what their religion meant better than they do. It must be infuriating sometimes. I find that Baha’is are often appallingly ignorant about other religions, partly because they already have them just pigeon-holed as precursors to the Baha’i Faith.

7. A lack of open intellectual discussion. This isn't entirely true, of course; since the spark of truth comes from the clash of differing opinions, open discourse is fine, as long as it stays within certain bounds. But those bounds have felt awfully constricting lately. Personally, I haven't wanted to be accused of not being "firm in the Covenant," so I have avoided certain topics that I'd really have liked to talk openly about. This includes many of the issues I've brought up in this letter.

I did a Web search a few months ago and ended up on Frederick Glaysher's Web site. While exploring there, I found an article called "A Modest Proposal," written by a handful of Baha'is in 1987 for the now-defunct "Dialogue" magazine. It was an excellent article, well-written, insightful, and full of courageous and loving suggestions for revitalizing the Baha'i Faith in the United States. But the National Spiritual Assembly did not allow its publication. Personally, I could see nothing in it that might be considered blasphemous, or disrespectful of the Covenant, or even disunifying; to this day, I have no idea why its publication was prevented.

Of course, everyone here already knows of my encounter with “A Modest Proposal”. At least now, with the Internet, they can’t hope to censor and lie like that again without it being immediately exposed.

That got me wondering why it's still necessary to review articles written by Baha'is before publication. Is it really just to make sure the Faith is presented in a dignified manner, and to guarantee factual accuracy? If so, why wasn't the Dialogue article corrected and then published? Or is it because certain ideas are considered dangerous, even when they don't directly conflict with the Writings? That frightens me. If the Faith is true and from God, it should be strong enough to remain standing in spite of all our questions and reinterpretations. Eternal truth is like that. If all serious Baha'i discourse has to be vetted for intellectual acceptability before publication, that belies a deep insecurity on the part of the Baha'i institutions.

Preach it, sister!

In relation to this incident, the Talisman email list incident, and other things, I have heard many anecdotes that indicate that academics engaged in Baha'i studies feel ignored, belittled, or distrusted because of their work. Add to this the May 1997 correspondence between the Universal House of Justice and Susan Maneck, and I'm almost certain there's an anti-academic undercurrent running through the Faith, in America and elsewhere. (This letter implied that traditional, non-religious methods of analyzing religious texts and histories by Baha'is are less worthy than a faith-based approach, in which the basic tenets of the Faith are already accepted as truth by the investigator.) Again, one wonders what the UHJ is afraid of. Shouldn't we be eager to learn more about the historical context of our Faith, regardless of the source of the knowledge? Why would a dispassionate analysis of the Faith, done by methods widely accepted by the world at large, be worth less than those done from the perspective of faith? It seems to me that we need both, for balance. . . .

Again, preach it, sister! Ayyy-men!

Finally, there's the matter of Covenant-breakers. . .

Looking back, it seems almost crazy how frightened I was of covenant-breakers. On the Internet, one can hardly avoid running into Remeyites now and then, and they aren’t a threat. They aren’t even very smart.

8. An overemphasis on unity as an ultimate good. Unity is wonderful, of course, but odd things happen when it becomes the highest ideal that we try to attain. I'm not sure that it ought to be.

Instead of resolving such conflicts honestly, Baha'is tend to bury them, lest those conflicts fester and cause disunity. It seems a little cowardly to me now.

Yes, the fear of disunity means that things just don’t get addressed.

Also, there's a little logic problem in Baha'i doctrine that has bothered me for a while. Baha'is believe that the Faith has never been split into sects (lasting ones, anyway), and will in fact remain basically undivided. But those groups that do separate from the mainstream of the Faith are declared non-Baha'is, simply because they separated. It's a semantic trick, no more. I'm sorry, but there are other Baha'i groups that do not consider the Universal House of Justice an authority. . .

Yes, that’s another one of those double-talk things that has become blatantly exposed with the rise of the Internet. We go around claiming that there are no Baha’i sects, when even the most basic search reveals that there are. What is true is that the Faith has avoided major schism, and the small breakaway groups are not a threat to the Baha’i mainstream. Just saying “Oh, those people aren’t really Baha’is” doesn’t cut it. Christians say that Jehovah’s Witnesses and Mormons aren’t really Christian, too. No doubt Muslims say that certain Muslim offshoots “aren’t really Muslim”. What matters is self-definition, not the pronouncement of orthodoxy.

This is very shaky ground for the claim that this faith is superior to Christianity and Islam, with respect to a lack of internal division. It also causes mainstream Baha'is to actively shun the company and opinions of certain other people who believe in Baha'u'llah; my soul tells me this is neither healthy nor just, and paradoxically, it makes the Faith less tolerant of diversity than many other religions

9. Too many answers, not enough mystery. The Baha'i Writings are vast. In my ten years as a Baha'i, I'm sure I haven't read even half of all the English works, and of course I don't stand a chance at reading all the untranslated Arabic and Persian works. Between the writings of the Central Figures and the decisions of the Universal House of Justice, there's probably something authoritative written on almost any topic of spiritual significance!

It really does makes life easier, having such an extensive set of laws and beliefs that I can subscribe to as a body. It means I don't have to think all the time. I can just say, "Sorry, I don't drink," rather than having to decide how much alcohol is too much. It means I can believe in the ultimate unity of the religions and then shape my observations to that belief, rather than doing the hard work of forming hypotheses based on what I observe. It means I don't have to have any doubts about the humanity's future, since we pretty much know what's eventually going to happen. It means I have a perfectly good explanation of Christ's Resurrection; no need to keep going back to it year after year, looking for new layers of meaning. It means that there are very few unanswered questions left.

And this is supposed to help me grow spiritually?

I would disagree with Jenifer, here. I personally don’t believe that a lot of the answers are as cut and dried as many Baha’is try to make it, and a lot more ambiguity and room for diverse interpretation than she thinks. Quite obviously she thinks that a Baha'i just must take 'Abdu'l Baha's explanation of resurrection in Some Answered Questions and then consider it no more. That isn't what 'Abdu'l-Baha said! However, I can understand how she ended up with that impression. Sometimes you just don't know another way of looking at something until someone shows you; I'm just luckier than Jenifer.

. . .(Ironically, the Baha'i Faith explicitly teaches incremental change, in the form of progressive revelation -- each religion teaches a core of unchangeable truths, but with a set of beliefs and laws that change from one revelation to another. But the time scale is all wrong; will we really be living with all these same early-twentieth-century interpretations for a thousand years? I find that hard to believe.)

That makes two of us.

Christianity in general seems to fit this incremental-change model particularly well. There are many Gospels, and none of them are guaranteed to have accurately recorded the exact words and deeds of Christ. Their authors had certain audiences, certain agendas. They contradict each other sometimes, in fact. But because of these loving yet human retellings, the story of Christ's life takes on a mythic status, more so than a historical one. And here the importance of mystery arises: because the Christ story is myth-like, its meaning shifts and deepens throughout a person's life (or a culture's). How can there be any one interpretation to something as profoundly simple as the Last Supper? It's a holy mystery. Different interpretations are appropriate for different people, or at different stages of a person's life, or in different cultures. No one can force a certain interpretation on me, nor should they -- it would lose its mystery, and ruin any chance that I can get other meanings out of it later. Nailing down a single interpretation would damage the myth beyond repair, by stripping it of its mysterious aspect. . .

Just who told this poor lady Baha'is were stuck with one interpretation of everything?

My soul is still moved by Baha'u'llah's writings, and probably will always be; their beauty is simply incomparable. I'm sure they're divinely inspired (though I'm no longer sure exactly how). But most of the issues I've described here come from later interpretations, not from His own pen. Therein lies the problem. With the Covenant, Baha'u'llah made it very clear that Abdu'l-Baha' was his successor, and that what he said was authoritative; and then it passed to the Guardian, and so on down to the Universal House of Justice. To believe in the authority of some of these institutions and not others is to break the Covenant, which is emotionally impossible for me. It's also illogical. I don't see how I can believe that Baha'u'llah was who He said He was, and yet discount what He clearly said about the succession of His authority.

That leaves two choices: I accept all of it, or I accept none of it.

These choices stripped my Faith away, too, for a while. It's a real cruel position to be in. I can't blame Jenifer for finding another faith community. There really wasn't a way for me to go back to Christianity; it's not an option I considered even when my faith in Baha'u'llah was completely gone. Of course, I'm probably more comfortable being on my own spiritually than some people might be. Before becoming a Baha'i, I never thought I'd ever belong to an organized religion. That I found one was sort of miraculous. When it comes down to it, I can be on my own if I have to be. Besides, I've got local friends, and all you wonderful folks online, so I'm not really on my own anyway.

Love, Karen

P.S. This is my first attempt at cutting and pasting anything into email (no, really, it's true!), so I hope this turns out well and not an amateurish disaster. :-) khb

"The essence of all that We have revealed for thee is Justice . . ." -- Baha'u'llah

Forum: Zuhur19


> >Isn't that what I said? Both the study notes and Dialogue actually talked > >about *real* stuff. Now, way back when I found the occasional Dialogue > >article disturbing, but I could live with a little disturbance. What I > found > >really alienating was hearing only cheery news about the rest of the Baha'i > >world, while I was living in the middle of an impossible situation.

> > > > Yeah, I bet the people who write all this cheery news justify it > to themselves by saying that they want to encourage the > believers.

Dear X,

Yes, this seems to be the attitude. In the initial complaints about the LA study class, the big concern was that the newsletter was causing "tests" for people.(Hey, I thought tests were supposed to be a *good* thing.) It actually creates a kind of cynicism. When over on trb, X was talking about there being 46 SED projects throughout the south, my first thought was "Yeah, sure. How many of those are really doing something, and how many exist on paper?" I know about the numbers game. Hell, I played the numbers game. This pretence that everything is always onward and upward practically guarentees disillusionment.

> > But, since this is the age of maturity, they shouldn't be hiding the > bad news from the 'ordinary people', as if it was something they > shouldn't worry their little heads about.

Even worse, the whole point of consultation is community problem-solving. Consultation means nothing if we go around pretending that there are no problems to solve. The only problem that was acknowledged locally was lack of growth, and that was always blamed on lack of teaching--the whole big guilt trip.

> > Reading between the lines, it seems to have made you feel that > there must have been something *particularly* bad about > your community, since apparently no-one else had any problems.

Yes, exactly, although I would hear about problems once in a while involving other communities in the area. But yes, all the cheery news from the outside just made me feel worse about the local situation. Just recently I went to a meeting in the"city" community, the first time been I've to anything there since resigning. I went largely because I wanted to mend fences with the secretary there, because I said some things that hurt her feelings. Anyway, they had a guest speaker who had been part of the "Spirit Run" and was telling all these inspiring stories and so on. The guy was a real personality , the sort you can picture being a used car salesman. Anyway, my feelings were very mixed: I'm sure the whole thing was a very significant experience for the people involved, but for me it was more stuff happening "out there and not here".

As for the rest, I was welcomed warmly and given a calendar, but when I showed up on Sunday morning for a prayer meeting (figured with all my complaining about the mashriq, I'd better support that kind of activity) the door was locked and nobody there.(In spite of our small numbers, we do have a center -- an apartment donated by the Secretary in a Victorian she owns.) So, same old, same old. This sort of stuff drove me nuts for years.

Although to give them credit, nobody gave me a bad time or put any pressure on me. Nice people; they just don't have their act together.

> > When you found out that you weren't the only one who ever > worried, you felt relieved, I bet. I detect that feeling of relief, > in combatting the isolation that some people felt, in your story > of the LA study group. A supportive sense of 'Thank God > I'm not alone with this'.

Yes. Absolutely. I get the same thing from people who contact me after reading my articles -- one guy in particular just recently was saying how supported he felt just in knowing that there were other people like him out there. Intelligent people have a tough time finding people to share their minds with. Not only is there the problem of finding somebody who is on your level to talk to, you've got to find somebody with your interests. There is nobody, I mean nobody, around here like that for me. I mean, I've got Baha'i friends, but there is just some stuff I could never talk about. In writing that article, I could really relate to why the study group needed to create a place for themselves, but as I said earlier, they were so incredibly lucky in having a bunch of them there in close proximity. In cyberspace, I discovered that some of the things I'd thought about were old news, and not shocking at all. In some ways I feel more connected now that I ever was when I was "officially" part of the Baha'i community.

> > Suppressing the bad news has this bad side effect of isolating > people, and making them keep their worries to themselves while > putting on a cheerful public face.

Yes, and the even worse side effect that problems don't get addressed, while people just quietly slip away.

Love, Karen

Forum: talisman9


> Below is a letter written on behalf of the NSA of the U.S. in response > to my suggestion that LSA community boundaries be more flexible to > build stronger and more vibrant communities, rather than have many > small ones that are constantly struggling to keep up with feasts, LSA > quorums, etc -- simply because we choose to let existing town boundaries > (from an old world order) dictate how communities and LSAs can be > formed.

> Dear X,

Thank you for the opportunity to rant about one of my pet peeves. It's not one of those fundamental issues like justice or freedom of conscience, but the way the localities are divided had a lot to do with shaping my Baha'i community experience.

1. It is very nearly suicidal to create these weak, struggling communities instead of allowing them to function as a single, stronger one. LSAs here are constantly being formed, jeopardized when somebody moves(sometimes just over the city limits), then collapsing. We are always reinventing the wheel.

2. This policy keeps these small communities adminocentric. If there's twenty people divided up into two communities, 18 are going to be on Assemblies. The community has to get fairly large before a majority of believers are *not* serving in the administration.

3. It is alienating. We lose people in the rural areas outside the city limits just because it's difficult to get together. As I have mentioned before, when I lived in the JD I actually drove past the place where the city was having its Feast in order to get to my own. This is ridiculous. Also, for the last five years I was enrolled, I was technically an isolated believer simply because I bought a house in a tiny town that by historical accident happens to be incorporated.

4. It is completely confusing to non-Baha'is. No one would ever think that a religion would divide its administration this way, putting seven people in one community and three in another. One person saw the two communities advertised in the local paper and asked "Can't you guys get along?", assuming we were two different branches of the Baha'i Faith! I personally had trouble explaining the situation to the account manager at the bank. Because the title "Judicial District" was on our checks, she thought we were part of a government agency and therefore ineligible for the free account given to non-profits.

As for their answer, you'd think that these small communities would work together, but they don't. Or at least, they didn't here. A separate boundary, a separate LSA, creates a consciousness of a separate community. Nobody would call me about events, because I dropped out of consciousness when I moved here. Even now, the two communites never do anything together.

Years ago, a guy from one of the older communities around here said he wrote to the NSA about the problem of locality bounderies and got essentially the same answer as X did. When he told me of it, a truth started to dawn: They really don't give a damn about us. All they care about is that Assemblies are formed (who cares if they actually function) and the statistics look good. The only solution offered us is "growth" i.e. if we'd get off our sorry asses and teach we wouldn't have the problem.

And they wonder why people become inactive and/or disillusioned.

Love, Karen

> > Dear Baha'i Friend:

> > The National Spiritual Assembly has asked that we respond on its behalf to > your email of December 12, 2000 suggesting greater flexibility in > establishing Baha'i boundaries.

> > Both the beloved Guardian and the Universal House of Justice indicate that > the guiding principle to be followed in establishing boundaries is that they > conform to the smallest unit of civil jurisdiction. The most common type of > Baha'i locality is one that follows the boundary lines of an incorporated > city. Areas outside of incorporated cities follow the same general > principle; they also conform to the smallest unit of governmental > jurisdiction. It is for this reason that towns are recognized as separate > Baha'i localities in Massachusetts.

> > While we can appreciate the impact that boundaries can have on small Baha'i > communities, it is important to keep in mind that boundaries are fixed on > principle, with a view towards our growth. Thus, issues currently > influenced by our small numbers will be rectified as our community expands. > In the meantime, boundaries should not deter communities of fewer than 7 > believers from working together in their teaching work or from meeting > together for Nineteen Day Feasts or other Baha'i-related activities, > provided they understand that each unit will one day have separate Feasts.

Forum: talisman9


Dear X,

Hope you don't mind my butting it here.

> >>You asked for a definition of rightwing Baha'is....<<

> > In practice, the "rightwing Baha'i" is a figment of the "liberal" imagination, and this imaginary > monster is then projected onto anyone who disagrees with any "liberal" views (i.e. views of the > self-proclaimed "liberals"). The purpose of the whole exercise is apparently to prevent > communication and consultation.

Well, I didn't used to think there were "rightwing Baha'is" either, until I got into cyberspace. When I started seeing the most outrageous things being justified, and people going into freak-out mode the minute I opening my mouth, I changed my mind. "Right-wing Baha'is" are not a figment of my imagination -- they're the ones who are mean and nasty to me just for telling the truth. They're the ones who pretend to be nice, until they discover I'm not going to be converted to their point of view, whereupon I become evil incarnate. It's easy enough to spot a rightwing Baha'i; they're the ones who don't want me to exist. I have not noticed that liberals "prevent communication and consultation" at all. What are you talking about?

> > The "liberals" can easily falsify this by pointing to a single post or publication which has > actually proposed that "Baha'i assemblies supersede the civil state and abolish democracy." I look > forward to being proved wrong.

I actually have a whole file on Theocracy. I find the debates interesting because both sides are so sure: Theocrats look at the writings and say that liberals are distorting it. Anti-theocrats try to figure out how anybody ever could read Baha'u'llah as promoting theocracy. And then things get complicated because different people mean different things by the word "theocracy".

Now I was specifically told as a new Baha'i that the Baha'i administrative order would rule the world. One person outright said that the Local Spiritual Assembly would one day be the city council. And I'm far from the only one with that experience. To pretend that this viewpoint doesn't exist in the community is silly. I believed for years that it was simply part of Baha'i belief, one that I was uncomfortable with and felt like I was stuck with.

You ask for a "single post" -- I dug up a few quotes from my theocracy file; they were kind of hard to find because I mostly have kept anti-theocratic posts.

Love, Karen

> ... the ocean of our scared Writings contain unnumerable > passages extolling theocracy and leading to theocratic hopes > and opinions. [talisman9 1/9/01]

> > Since we do seem to believe in a one world government that concentrates >all, and I do mean all, ultimate power and authority in only > > one body, the future Universal House of Justice in an all powerful world >government combining all civil, secular, religious, > > economic and other power, what do we mean if not an all powerful single >governing body?[Baha'i Studies 1/13/01]

> I can't understand your argument. The points are > very simple. The National > Houses of Justice become the legislative bodies of > the States and create the > civil laws for the States and WT clearly defines the > qualifications for > Baha'i elections and service. How can the House of > Justice change the Will > and Testament? This question doesn't require > splitting hairs over an abstruse > symbolic passage. Surely I may be wrong, but it > seems unwarranted to ask such > a question when the details are that clear. How > would that differ from asking > the House if your non-Baha'i friends can vote in > your upcoming local election > for the Spiritual Assembly members or even serve on > the Assembly? I don't see > the complexity of the question.[Baha'i Studies 1/21/01]

So, in my limited understanding, in determining what > the Baha'i Faith > teaches, and given the importance of the Covenant in > considering the guidance > of the House, the House of Justice is saying that > civil legislative bodies > could be superseded. That is, this seems to be what > the House is saying even > if they don't say it unequivocally[Baha'i Studies 1/19/01]

Forum: Baha'i Mystics


Dear X and friends,

I missed the original reference to"bridge" in the Iqan, but I do know that in Muslim tradition, the "bridge" that we cross is described as "finer than a hair, sharper than a sword, and hotter than fire" and it is suspended above hell, and you must cross it in order to enter Paradise. I always found this image of the "sirat" to be a particularly powerful one, especially during times of great spiritual testing. I later found out that the Arabic word "sirat" can also just mean "path", which fits even better.

To some extent, our progress on the spiritual path are due to our own efforts -- we have to do the walking, but we are always threatened by the danger of our own ego. Nobody passes over the sirat without the help of God.

Love, Karen B.



Dear X,

Welcome to the list. Since nobody else seems to be around, I'll answer your questions:

> I mentioned reading "Bahai Faith in America as Panopticon" > to one of the few Bahais I remain in contact with, and could > detect the immediate chill down the phone line. then the > accusation... "He's a covenant breaker". > Now this is not a subject which has previously occupied much > of my attention (Mason who?) but having just read a lively > and interesting critique by Prof Cole I had to ask some basic questions: > "Is he? Why? How is such a thing determined? Who has the authority?" > The accusation was then modified to "some of his (later) works are > sanctioned"

> > This in itself was a tad scary.. 'covenant breaker' seems a serious > accusation, and not one to be flung without some certainty of conviction.

> > This raises some more (basic) questions in my mind. > > -What is the official status of Prof Cole? ( I read a post indicating > he had resigned, not was removed, from the Bahai faith). > - Can one access lists of which material has been sanctioned? > - Are there published materials from the AO detailing the basis on which > particular sanctions have been applied?

Juan has never been officially declared a covenant-breaker or anything else. He resigned after being threatened with being declared one in 1996. I've never heard any official pronouncements about his work being off-limits to the friends, either, although a letter has been circulated denouncing Juan's book. (It's on his website.) But this is all behind-the-scenes stuff. "Officially", he's a non-Baha'i; in reality, he's an unenrolled Baha'i. But there is no doubt that Baha'i officialdom thinks of him as a major enemy and would like to discredit him.

And you are quite right about the term "covenant-breaker" being flung around entirely too much. In my rural naivete, I had no idea this sort of stuff happens, and I was uncomfortable enough at the fact that there was such a thing as people we were supposed to shun and books we weren't supposed to read. (This is an attitude that would get me into trouble.) The first time I ever heard anyone called an unofficial covenant-breaker was at the 1988 National Convention when Dialogue magazine was being denounced, and it bothered me then, even though, at that time, I was not sympathetic with the people being called "dissidents". I was always told that no one was a covenant-breaker unless they had been declared one by the UHJ, and that other critics of the Faith did not qualify. When I got out into cyberspace, I discovered that just about anybody and his dog could be called a covenant-breaker, unoffiically, if they say anything negative about the institutions.(I myself was once told that I must either be mentally ill or a covenant-breaker.)

I don't know if one can access lists of books you aren't supposed to read; I've never heard of that. But it would not surprise me much if such a thing exists. It's just that Baha'i authorities have a way of wanting to censor without actually saying that they are censoring. So I doubt if such a list would be published openly.

As far as materials outlining the basis of sanctions, I doubt it. It's all sort of hit and miss, depending on who you are, where you are, and how much you are willing to kiss butt. In my area, people have gotten away with open breaches of Baha'i law because of the lack of institutional development. The whole community, basically, conspired to keep an "illegal" marriage quiet, because we were sympathetic to the person's situation.

But when it comes to dealing with perceived critics or dissidents, the whole thing is very personlized. The institutions invented a sanction, taking away pilgrimage rights, just especially for the Dialogue editors. They took away David Langness' administrative rights for something he said on Talisman, even though he retracted it.(That was the first time anybody knew you could be sanctioned for something said on email.) The practice of disenrollment was entirely new when they booted out Mike McKenny; it was invented especially to deal with email heresy. At least, according to my observations, (and I've been researching this stuff), the rules are being made up they go along. So it would be pretty hard to just outline the circumstances under which people are sanctioned, and even if they did, that wouldn't prevent them from inventing another way to nail somebody if that's what they wanted to do.

Love, Karen

Forum: Baha'i Studies


I think I missed the post that X was answering, but she's right inasmuch as you are making the Islamic/Baha'i assumption that what is important about the Founder of a religion is the Revelation. Christians don't assume that, and the idea of "revelation" is far more diffuse, and doesn't necessarily confer upon a person inspired to reveal the Word of God any special status. In fact, more than one sermon uses the faults of prophets or apostles as an object lesson for the rest of us -- they are just fallible men, given a special gift by God. Jesus is not important because He is a Revelator, but because of His status as the Son of God. The center of His mission was the atonement -- the crucifixion and resurrection, not His teaching.

But I know what you're talking about. When I hear the epistles of Paul called the "Word of God" it sounds to me like he is being made equal to Jesus, but that isn't what Christians mean by it, because for them Revelation is not at the center of their belief system. I had a disagreement about this with X some time back. To me, to accept the Bible as the Word of God is essentially to make the judgements of the early Church in choosing the canon infallible. I believe that parts of it are inspired, but the "Word of God" is what comes directly from the Manifestation. Any other sacred literature may be "inspired" and inspiring, an important part of the spiritual heritage of mankind, and an important guide on the spiritual path, but it's not for me "the Word of God"

Love, Karen

Forum: Zuhur19


> > My 'evil', in the face of the latter and the chances of initiating change > within the AO, is to respond as Iblis....."It's all too hard, I'm not up to > it, I'm tired, I can't".

Dear X,

I don't think "initiating change within the AO" is the point. It *is* too hard, and I, for one, haven't the vaguest idea of how to go about it. The only thing is maybe embarrassing them enough by making their shenanigans public. Even then, they may retreat into a defensive "darkness is trying to put out the light" mode.

The point is the Message of Baha'u'llah, which is real and true and has been so distorted by the administration as to be almost unrecognizable. If we stand for that, people will respond -- individuals, not the system. You don't have to do anything fancy; all you have to do is tell the truth. It's amazing what just that, all by itself, will do.

Love, Karen

Forum: Zuhur19


That's a problem I've dealt with, too. Not long after I resigned, one of the locals said "You're just looking for your own Nirvana." I couldn't exactly deny it, but it took a while before I could finally say to myself "And what the heck is wrong with that?" First of all, if I don't have my act together, I don't have much to give anyone else. Secondly, a lot of manipulation goes on in the name of trying to "help" others. It can be a very arrogant thing, deciding that you know best what people ought to be doing, or even worse, what they ought to be feeling. Thirdly, as far as the community goes -- for all of the "we're going to save mankind" rhetoric, not a whole hell of a lot gets done that actually does any good for anybody.

Sometimes it just amazes me that someone like myself -- individualistic, inner-directed -- could end up in the Baha'i Faith which is so focused on outward appearances and the welfare of the group. God must be laughing at me.

Love, Karen



> > It cannot be achieved....that's what's wrong with that. > We can rest and recuperate from the fray...but there is not-has never been- > will never be any 'personal Nirvana' without justice...broad social justice- > justice within the Baha'i AO. > Without social change religion is no more than an opiate.

> Karen: First of all, if I don't have my > > act together, I don't have much to give anyone else.

> > Then why write sis? Why pursue the truth about the Baha'i AO? > Why report, inform and facilitate debate and change? It is a profound > act of advocacy for reform within an organization that is destined(?) to > facilitate the Kingdom of Heaven on Earth. > Perhaps your 'act is together' and perfect?;-) > (PS I can't think of any activist, reformer, change agent who "had their > act together" or waited for such status before acting).

Dear X,

Pursuing the truth was, at first, simply my own investigation. I wanted to know what happened. My first question was, specifically, "What the hell did that translator guy, Juan Cole, do to get himself forced out of the Faith?" Still waiting on a solid answer for that one. Another early question was "What did those guys in LA do to piss everybody off so badly?" Still gathering bits and pieces on that one, too. But from those two questions, it has sort of mushroomed. I'm still asking questions, investigating, putting things together, and writing.

So first, I pursue the truth because I want to know. Writing is a natural way for me to put things together in a logical way. I've always written -- even if nobody ever reads it. However, the Internet allows me to be a reporter, so the stuff I write doesn't sit in a cardboard box in my bedroom closet, where my pre-cyberspace bits of wisdom all are.

The "act" that I've put together is 1) that I've been through stuff and my faith survived anyway and 2) I've investigated these issues and can put them in a form where they can be shared with others. I don't know how to specifically approach reform. I don't know how to influence the powers-that-be. I do know, however, how to connect with people through the sharing of experiences. If that will lead to anything concrete, I don't know. I haven't had an actual plan, or set out any sort of goal. I just do what comes naturally to me. I investigate, and I write.

As far as having my spiritual act together, nobody is ever done with trying to do that. But the more you progress, the more you have to give to others.

> > When was the last time you heard advocated the role of Indigenous people > within the faith? Their designated position was 'In the Vanguard', their > actual > position is not even 'in the baggage train' but rather in the culvert being > patronized > as the Cause of God crawls majestically past.

One of my local friends is really bothered by the fact that there is no one from the Third World on the UHJ. He talks about it all the time.

> > Karen: Sometimes it just amazes me that someone like myself -- individualistic, > > inner-directed -- could end up in the Baha'i Faith which is so focused on > > outward appearances and the welfare of the group. God must be laughing at > > me.

> > Hughie is laughing at all of us....having located our bum holes lower that > our noses > and designated hot air to rise any serious attempt at dignity is futile;-) > > Yes the faith is preoccupied with appearances....but not at all with the > welfare of > the group. It has little or no interest or understanding of community > wellbeing or > social justice and strives only for the maintenance of 'pseudo community'.

Yes, you are right. What matters is that the institutions are formed. Nine names on the dotted lines. Nobody seems to care if anything else is happening -- just those nine signatures.

> > > Don't worry...Be Happy.......then read the Fifth Taraz.....and weep > (however > briefly;-) for the craftsperson.

Well, the tears are part of it. There are still times . . . well, when one thinks about what was supposed to be, and what actually is . . .

Love, Karen

Forum: Zuhur19


Dear X, Thank you for your lovely post.

> > Especially when, in a single day, I can go from a mature, > motivated believer, willing to stand on my own two feet > and fight the good fight, > to a mewling infant, whining about my trials of Job-like > proportions (missed bus, hangnail, etc.. ;-)

Hey, welcome to the club. A good sinus infection, and its like I'm six years old, although having kids matured my outlook some. All of us have areas of our lives where we are mature adults, and areas of our lives where we are whining babies. That's just being human.

> > Karen: There are times when I "feel" God intervenes.

> > Mostly via other people?>>

Yes. I grew up in a pretty awful situation, but thanks to Grandma, and my husband Jim, all of my biggest struggles have been internal ones, and the emotional scars did not lead me into situations that messed up my adult life. I've been thinking about this a lot lately because I've been hearing from my brother. He's going through a mid-life crisis sort of, just turned thirty-nine, never been married, no kids, never done anything but shit work his whole life. The difference between us: I ran away from my father and stepmother to live with Grandma when I was fourteen. When I was 18, Grandma and Grandad were using their meagre resources to help me go to college. When my brother was 18, he was living in his truck because he couldn't afford the rent Dad charged him, although Dad's got all kinds of money. Had I stayed, I would have had no kind of life at all; I would have just been one really intelligent bag lady.

Now, as a fourteen year old kid, I didn't know that leaving would make such a dramatic difference in the course of my life. I just decided that Dad and my stepmom weren't going to crush me; I didn't have to allow it; I had a place to go. So I saved my lunch money, piled my journals and my favorite albums(Joni Mitchell's Song to a Seagull and Cat Stevens' Tea for the Tillerman) into a backpack, and hopped a Greyhound bus to Grandma's. In one sense, yes, it was the result of my choice, but I also feel like "somebody up there" was looking out for me.

And Jim. I hooked up with him at 17, and we went together for seven years before we got married. Maybe sometime I'll tell you more about him, but I've probably done enough personal remiscining.

When you consider where I could have ended up, and where I actually ended up -- I can't help but see the Hand of God in that. I'm very grateful. For Grandma, and Jim. For my two happy and healthy kids. That my spiritual search brought me to Baha'u'llah. For many, many things in my life that I've been blessed with.

> > > 'Co-incidences' can really rattle one..>>

Yes. When I was first investigating the Faith, it seemed for a while like the world was filled with omens. I won't even tell you . . . some things seem too silly to say out loud, but my heart believes in such miracles anyway. That's one reason I don't like discussing theology much. I don't want my rational side to have things all figured out; I want to leave things a mystery, and let God speak to my emotional side. It's a love affair, and one doesn't need to have it all figured out much more than that.

Love, Karen

Forum: Zuhur19


Dear X and guys,

Just recently over on Beliefnet, I had somebody try to put me in a position on this, and I really don't like trying to "pin God down" as it were. I'm very aware that whatever conception I've got, it's missing the mark. I see God in the way I need to see Him. This guy wanted to put me in a "believer" box (Baha'u'llah is Divine) or an "unbeliever" box (Baha'u'llah is an inspired human with good ideas). I really hate that. I don't even think it's important. And I don't think Baha'u'llah does, either.

>From the first when I came out in cyberspace people have been trying to convince me that Baha'i liberals are bad guys, essentially because they call themselves Baha'is but don't believe in God correctly. Just recently I was told that one of the founding members of the LA study class is "practically an athiest." I have to suppress the urge to say "Big friggin' deal!" Nobody I've run into seems like an athiest to me. All this obsession about having the correct theology just seems very Christian, and has nothing to do with the Writings.

> I think the whole notion of "intervention" - that God intervenes in world - > is a theistic way of looking at things. For me, God is Reality, so God is > what is, whatever happens. If you think of God as "intervening" in a > situation, then you conceive of God as "other" than what is, other than > Reality. And I think this betrays God-in-the-sky type thinking.

I daresay, though, that I'm somewhat more "theistic" than many of you here. I find I need that personal aspect. There are times when I "feel" God intervenes. But it's part of my experience, not an absolute thing. It comes more from where I'm at than any reality about God. I used to really struggle with viewing God in a personal way, versus an impersonal way, but I found I got past it. The Manifestation represents the "personal" aspect of God for me. But I don't really need to have either God or His Manifestation safely contained and defined.

Love, Karen

*The Baha'i Studies List*


> > Hi, Karen, > > At 11:45 a.m. 4/30/01 -0700, you wrote: > > >>What I'm not taking for granted, though, is that the Guardian was an inerrant translator just because he was Guardian.<

> > In recent years, I don't remember anyone arguing on this list that the Guardian was an inerrant translator. Now, Baha'i Discuss is another matter. ;-)

Hi X, I've never been on Baha'i Discuss -- It's a enrolled-Baha'is-only sort of place, isn't it? None of us heretical types allowed. :-)

But what bothers me about this talk is that Khan is implying here that anytime you hear that "infallibility means immaculacy" you'd better watch out because you're probably listening to somebody who is undermining the covenant. It's back to this deep distrust there is in the community of scholars and intellectuals. What I hear him saying is that it doesn't matter what all those pointy-headed types who speak all these fancy-schmancy languages say, the Guardian said infallible and it just means infallible and that's the end of the story. It just strikes me as encouraging people to be completely boneheaded because there's all these dangerous ideas that they might otherwise be inclined to think about. Having been on Beliefnet for the last month, I don't think lack of boneheadedness is a big problem in the Baha'i community. :-)

Love, Karen

*The Baha'i Studies List*


Peter Khan NZ talk: And if we don't do that, we will be swept away. And already we're seeing > signs of this. In your community you may be aware of the fact that people > are drifting away from the Faith. Why? Because they have neglected that > sense of heightened spiritual consciousness. They're becoming bitter, > they're becoming disillusioned, they're becoming frustrated, they're giving > up on the Baha'i community - not because there is anything wrong with the > Baha'i community or the Baha'i Faith, because they have failed in their > primary duty as Baha'is to develop this sense of heightened spiritual > consciousness. We will be swept away with them also over the years to come > unless we make this our highest priority.

Dear friends,

Here is where I begin to find this talk disturbing. As many of you know, I was an enrolled Baha'i for thirteen years, resigned my membership two years ago, and except for a few months of doubt and depression immediately afterwards, I have continued to practice my faith privately as an unenrolled Baha'i. I realize that there are people that don't believe that this particular status exists, yet it's the best description I know of who I am and what I believe. So naturally, I feel like I want to respond to Dr. Khan's comments. But it's not only my own case I plead. The disillusioned who formally resign are rare compared to the many who stay on the rolls indefinitely, but stay far away from the Baha'i community.

The first thing that disturbs me is that assumption that, if you aren't happy within the Baha'i community, there must be something wrong with you. I think this ignores the very real dysfunctional situation we have in many of our communities. Local community life is what defines our experience as a Baha'i; it shapes our attitudes towards what being a Baha'i is all about. Some people endure bad situations for years before finally giving up. I did, and there are people who have done so for a lot longer that I. Why treat membership in the Baha'i Faith as some kind of endurance test? Is the Baha'i Faith only for a spiritual elite, a community composed only of those who are tough enough to "take it", or are we a faith for all the world? Because we can't be both. If the Baha'i Faith is only willing to accept the strong and the perfect into its ranks, then it will remain a very small religion indeed.

So the fact that people become disillusioned is not necessarily an indication of their spiritual deficiency.

Another thing I see here is that making this assumption leads us to ignore very real problems that exist, to sweep them under the carpet instead of being open about them and trying to find solutions. Isn't this what "frank and unfettered consultation" is supposed to be about? I think the Baha'i community would benefit from turning its gaze inward and looking at just why it is so many people who have their hearts touched by Baha'u'llah's healing message end up becoming disillusioned with His community.

> > Khan: How do we do this? Through greater attention to the spiritual disciplines.

I was especially disturbed by this assumption that those who drift away are somehow "unspiritual" or "materialistic" in their approach. I have never been neglectful of the spiritual side of the Faith; I still follow the laws of the Aqdas. In fact, one of the problems I had with the community was that so much attention is paid to material matters. We are not a community of the lovers of God; we were so often a community just trying to "get things done". Prayer and deepening came dead last on the agenda. Keeping the LSA alive came first. One reason I became so alienated from the administrative side of the Faith is that it so often seemed that it just sucked the life out of us all. All I wanted was a community where I could worship God and read the Writings, with maybe Sunday school for my children. I never got that. I just got a lot of demands that never ended up accomplishing anything in the long run anyway.

Anyway, I think a closer look should be taken at the real situation that exists in some of our communites before we up and decide that all the disillusioned are just prey to materialism and we should just let them fall by the wayside.

Love, Karen

Forum: talisman9


After National Conventions, as is usual, our delegate would meet with the local Baha'is and give a little report. I always made sure I brought along my NoDoze to these meetings. My God, why do so many Baha'i meetings have to be horrendously boring and poorly done.

Dear X,

In my only experience at National Convention, I was too starry-eyed to be bored, but Unit Conventions bored me out of my skull. I mean *painfully* boring and pointless. The last time I went to one was in 1991, and I was pregnant with my daughter, and I had gone with this old guy who wouldn't leave until every last chair was folded and they locked the doors. There was a lot of complaining about all those people who don't show up, and how they aren't meeting their responsibilities as Baha'is -- Nobody thought "Can't we make this a meeting people want to go to?" And I come from a rural district where people have to come long distances and it can be a real hardship to come. All anybody does at those things is talk about how great we all are, and how great everything is, except we need to teach more and give more to the fund. We actually tried once, to have sort of a workshop set-up where different groups would talk about different issues, but National put the kibosh on it.

> > Y's recollections of the National Convention are oddly similar to > my recollections of Local Conventions. I guess it's a Baha'i thing. What > always struck me was how little actual consultation there was at Local > Conventions. When anyone got up the nerve to say something really > substantive or (gasp!) controversial, he was almost always ignored or struck > down. Only, and I mean ONLY, old standard Baha'i phrases and stale ideas > were allowed: 'We must redouble our efforts.' 'We must reach out to the > Black community or the Asian community or the Icelandic community.' 'Who > wants to pledge 5 firesides, 10 firesides...?' 'We all have to dig deep in > our pockets to help the National Funnel (sorry, Fund).' 'Entry-by-troops is > right around the corner.' Yada, yada, yada.>>

Yes, exactly. That what make the whole "if you have a problem you have to consult and go through channels" such a farce. I just can't imagine getting up at Convention and talking about something real. Right in the middle of all that cheerleading, I'm going to bring up something that's really bugging me. Yeah, right. And get stony stares from a whole room of people. Nobody has to shut people up; it's like an unwritten rule that you don't rock the boat.

> > I don't know, maybe the whole concept has to be re-thought There must > be a way to make it work.

What you need is for all those people who always stay away from Convention to one day show up in force, and talk about the reasons they haven't shown up to those stupid meetings all those years. At the last convention I went to, in a district of 300, about 30 were there -- if all the dissatisfied showed up, they'd swamp the place.

Love, Karen

*The Baha'i Studies List*


. Peter Khan NZ talk: And they followed a certain pattern. Saturday afternoon we got to know each > other, talked about progressive revelation and the manifestation and so on > and so forth. Saturday evening, we got into the covenant. And these were > friends who had been brought into the Faith but hadn't been taught as much > as we want to teach people these days, so a lot of it was new. And somewhere > around 8.30 or 9.00pm on a Saturday evening, I'd break to them the news that > we have at the centre of our Faith a body called the Universal House of > Justice, which they would accept fairly readily, it didn't particularly > worry them what it was or what it was called. But then I laid on them the > fact that it was, that we regard it as infallible, divinely guided and freed > from error. And whenever I said this and read the passages from the > Guardian's writings on this subject, one could see alarm and distress in > their eyes. They'd rather not know about it, generally, and also, you could > see they were saying to themselves: I have joined this very modern, this > avant garde, this 21st century religion, and now having penetrated to the > core of it, I find it's saddled with a medieval concept of infallibility. > Where did that come from and what's it doing in the middle of my religion?

> > So they were prone to make all kinds of extreme statements, such as: I don't > believe this, this is wrong, it's not right, and things like that. And what > one had to do was to stay calm, and not get hot and bothered and upset, and > just deal with it as it comes. And so I'd say: OK, OK, let's not get too > worried, let's sit down and let's read some writings and see what > Baha'u'llah has said about it, and what Abdu'l-Baha has said about it, and > what the Guardian has said about it, and we'd work on this. And the evening > would finish typically at about 11pm and people would go to bed somewhat > troubled, some of them were feeling OK, a lot of them weren't feeling so > great about it. You'd find by the next morning, they'd sorted it out in > their minds. They would think: OK, I accept Baha'u'llah's the Manifestation > of God, he has clearly said this about this institution of the Faith, I > accept Baha'u'llah, therefore I accept this and I'm with you, I'm part of > it. And they would pass the test and go on to become very strong believers. > But the point is that one cannot accept the institutions of the covenant and > their authority without this sense of spiritual consciousness.

Dear friends,

This portion of the talk reminded me a what a friend of mine said, who as a new believer, happened to be in a time and place where the Faith was expanding rapidly and there were a lot of new believers. And he said that people would come around to deepen the new believers on the administrative side of the Faith, and he could just see the light and enthusiasm go right out of their eyes.

When I was a new believer, the concept of infallibility didn't bother me very much. I was so head-over-heels about Baha'u'llah that I'd have accepted just about anything. Besides, it was pretty distant -- sure, the House of Justice is infallible, but it's all the way in Haifa, and I never imagined that it would much affect my life anyway. The big shocker to me, as a new believer, was the centrality of administration to Baha'i life.

I am aware that the House of Justice, in recent years, has tried to steer the friends towards a greater development of individual and community spiritual life, which is all to the good. However, in the mid-80s, when I became a Baha'i, I was thrown into the position of being secretary of an LSA within scant months of declaring. I kept looking through the Writings, and the interpretations, trying to find a way to be a Baha'i and still avoid this crushing burden. I'd found Baha'u'llah; and in the midst of that profound spiritual experience, all this irrelevant stuff was thrown into it. But being a very responsible person, I did my best to bear up under it and found that, in spite of all the work, we never get anywhere anyway. My life in the Baha'i community has been one of LSAs coming together and folding, and communities not running very well even when there is an LSA. A friend of mine has watched this happen for thirty years, and now wild horses couldn 't drag him to an LSA meeting; all the talk about how embryonic we are is scant comfort to someone with a lifetime of wasted effort.

Now, I know my Baha'i catechism just as well as all of you do. I know that all this administrative stuff is supposed to be spiritual. But the bottom line is, it isn't. You can call business spiritual if you want to, but it's still just business. At a local level, it generally just meant the rubber-stamping of the ideas of the pushiest person, who, oddly enough was often regarded as the most "spiritual" person among us. Spirituality is, fundamentally, about personal transformation. If our communities are not nurturing that, then they aren't doing their jobs. I hear that, out there somewhere, there are well-functioning Baha'i communities. I hope that's true. But it isn't part of my own personal experience, and the experience of many, many other Baha'is.

However, back to infallibility: As some of you know, we had some local encounters with Remeyite literature in our community-- the first, and most traumatic being when I had been a Baha'i for less than two years. So I had to do some hard thinking about the administrative order in order to deal with this. But it still was, in many ways, quite theoretical. If someone had asked me, even a month before my own resignation, as inactive and alienated as I was by then, "What would you do if you thought the UHJ had done something morally wrong?" I would have said that such a thing was impossible. But when I went back to college to get my teaching credential, I had access to the Internet for the first time, and ran into the information that is out there, specifically the unpublished article "A Modest Proposal". I took that very personally, since I had been at the 1988 Convention, and I reacted with simple rage at being lied to about the nature of the document. My resignation was not a calm, considered thing, but came out of anger, and the pent-up frustration of my local situation. But I have continued to research since then, and no information that I have uncovered has altered my opinion that, in certain specific cases, injustices have been committed.

So an infallible institution committed moral wrongs. What am I supposed to do with that? I know that the "right" Baha'i answer would be to suppress what my own conscience is telling me, to figure that there had to be reasons behind these actions, even if I don't understand it. Even if I never understand the right answer, it has to be accepted, if I'm to be a "good" Baha'i. But, for me, a search for truth that has a predetermined "right" answer is worthless, and the thought of turning my own conscience over to others I find terrifying. My initial reaction was to doubt the entire Revelation. Again, I know the Baha'i catechism: Baha'u'llah cannot be separated from the Institutions. If the UHJ has, indeed, done something wrong, then Baha'u'llah cannot be the Manifestation of God for this Day. So I sent my resignation letter and tried to walk away. But in the end, I couldn't. Those who just say "Like it, or leave" don't seem to understand the profound place a religious identity holds in a person's life. I found I just couldn't "un-Baha'i" myself, no matter what had happened. Alison Marshall still thinks she's a Baha'i, no matter what the House of Justice said about her. They threw her out, but they can't make her not be a Baha'i, in her own life, in her own heart. As for myself, I separated the inseparable, continuing to believe in Baha'u'llah as Manifestation of God for this day, while unable to accept the UHJ as infallible. It is certainly, by any logical standard, the legitimate governing body of the Baha'i Faith, and I have never disputed that. But its infallibility is something I can no longer believe in.

I realize that this is a somewhat lengthy post, going over some aspects of my story that some of you are already quite familiar with, but I think it's the first time I've ever really spoken of these things on this list, and so thought it worth repeating.

Love, Karen

Forum: talisman9


Dear X and W,

It has been suggested to me several times by different people that I take my concerns about some of the institutions' actions to the UHJ. I would really have nothing to lose by doing so. I'm already off the rolls; they really can do nothing more to me. But I really don't see the point. I have already read many of the official communications that have to do with the conflict between the AO and Baha'i liberals, so it's not like I don't understand the House's point of view.

I am, however, frequently appalled by it. I'll never forget the shock I felt when I read the "internal opposition" letter, and discovered that Baha'is could expect to have no human rights within their religion because membership is voluntary. Or saw sound scholarship dismissed as "materialist". This was not the Baha'i Faith that I thought I'd enrolled in. It's sure not the Baha'i Faith that I ever believed in.

So, why should I write to them? Are they going to tell me something different than they have already said in their earlier letters, or are they just going to try to convince me that it's really o.k. for Baha'is to do without things like freedom of expression and due process? I don't believe they give a damn about my pain, or Y's. They certainly didn't give a damn about Juan's or Alison's, or that of many others. Their actions speak pretty loudly already; I don't need to write to them.

> >I think Y would be better off praying to God and asking Baha'u'llah for > guidance. Why not go directly to the Source?>> I'll second that suggestion.

Love, Karen

Forum: Baha'i Studies


> > " Other guy: There is no such thing as a "Baha'i heretic". The term does not exist in > > the Writings. Michael and/or some others have just coined and propagated > > the loaded term. The animal does not exist.

> Karen: I am aware that the UHJ has, in the scholarship letters said that the terms "heresy"and "orthodoxy" do not apply. I was simply telling you what Michael said in the wake of his disenrollment. I generally use the term "unenrolled Baha'i" to refer to those who are no longer on the rolls but continue to believe in Baha'u'llah. I suspect that's not an officially sanctioned term,either, but I think it is accurate. Ex-Baha'i more properly refers to people who have entirely left the Faith behind, perhaps finding another spiritual home. And I'm not entirely convinced that those who consider themselves Baha'i but do not "meet the requirements for membership" are not in some sense heretics, if you understand the term to mean people who do not subscribe to officially promulgated beliefs. I don't buy the notion that someone who puts Baha'u'llah at the center of their spiritual life is not a Baha'i. What else would they be?

Other guy: Yes, it is absolutely correct that activity or inactivity is not relevant > > to membership. What I meant was that if you already are inactive and then > > you are (for reasons other than your activity level) disenrolled, no > > injustice is done.

Karen: Then why did Shoghi Effendi forbid taking inactive people off the rolls? I don't think activity level necessarily reflects the degree of belief, or lack of attachment to the Faith. My own voluntary separation from the Faith was very traumatic, although I'd been completely inactive for the prior six months, and had been growing less active and more alienated for some time before that.

Other guy: My recollection is that she actually did NOT attend the deepenings on the > > Covenant in her community.

Karen: Those deepenings were supposed to be the "counselling" she received before her disenrollment. If she didn't attend them, then she is correct in that the UHJ and NSA made a false statement in telling people she was counselled.

Other guy: Yes, in Islam an apostate can be killed. When you leave The Baha'i Faith > > or when you are disenrolled, you are NOT labelled an apostate nor a > > heretic. And when you are disenrolled, it's just that: you are > > disenrolled. No further punishment or action awaits you. I don't think any > > fair person would consider the two things as equal.

Karen: Actually, I was thinking another way to frame the question is: When 'Abdu'l-Baha forbade takfir was he forbidding the simple declaration that one is a non-believer, or the severe penalty attached to it? Disenrollment implies that the institutions of the Faith no longer consider you a Baha'i, correct? So it does, in effect, declare you a non-believer.

Love, Karen

Forum: talisman9


> > You have been voicing (difficult) concerns in great poise and calm. You are > interested in discourse, investigation of truth and even agree with a > "long-term" infallibility of the UHJ.

Dear X,

My opinions on infallibility are rather in flux right now, so don't carve anything in stone as being my definitive postion. What I told Y on Baha'i Studies was that "long-term" infallibility, such as he was describing was an idea I could live with, as opposed to the idea that every decision that comes down from Haifa must be regarded as the decision of God Himself. I was just on another forum where somebody asked me "Are you sure you want to oppose God?" and recommended that I leave the Faith, not knowing I was already off the rolls. Sigh. That was in regard to my opinions about the disenrollments.

You have opted to remove yourself > from from the Baha'i Commonwealth; in my humble understanding you are are a > Baha'i and I don't see any reason why you would have removed from the rolls. > Problems are very much correctible if one accepts Baha'u'llah, and believes > in discourse,as you do.

Why would I be acceptable and not Alison? In fact, I'm not sure I *want* to be acceptable if Alison is not. I have been much more openly critical of Baha'i administration that she has. I'm sure you know I've written articles about some of these issues.

> > > Dear Karen, on a more abstract level we don't have to understand everything > that the House states to remain Baha'i.

What I was trying to say is I think I understand pretty well; I just don't agree. Not agreeing with the House is probably, and doing so publicly has a way of getting Baha'is into big trouble, if they are still enrolled while they're doing it.

X, I know I could go back. But what would the price be? Some major contrition on my part, I suspect, for some of the things I've said on the Internet, and acceptance of some decisions that I believe are unacceptable. Just how acceptable to you think it would be, if I were enrolled, to write articles about such events as the Talisman crackdown, or the disenrollments? No, the price would almost certainly be that I shut up and pretend like things are o.k. They aren't o.k.

Going back wouldn't make much difference in my local standing anyway -- my old Baha'i friends still see me as a Baha'i, and things are so disorganized that there's no real community life. I do show up to local Baha'i events occasionally.

> Let me again thank you for sharing what are very deep and painful concerns. > Be assured of my humble prayer and love.

Thank you very much.

Love, Karen

> *The Baha'i Studies List*


> > <> So what I want to know is, what is the difference between Muslims > declaring someone "not a Muslim", and the UHJ, or any Baha'i, declaring > someone "not a Baha'i"? Aren't they both "takfir"?

> > Dear Karen,

> It seems unlikely. In the context of Islam, I believe such a > declaration returned a person to the status of infidel and, in addition, > precluded that individual from claiming protected status as one of the > 'people of the Book.' In other words, it stripped one of all the rights > and protections that might be allowed under Islamic law. I think that is > the reason why the 1925 decision of a religious court in Egypt, finding > as a matter of both fact and law that the Baha'i religion was indeed a > new religion, was so revolutionary. Shoghi Effendi of course highlighted > its significance for the evolution of the Baha'i Faith as an organized > religion independent of Islam (as well as all other religions), but by > the same token it was a quantum leap in Islamic jurisprudence, as I > understand the situation. I simply do not know that any other Islamic > religious court had ever determined that a certain group could not be > considered Muslims because they were members of a *new* religion. Of > course, I could be wrong, but otherwise, I really do not understand why > Shoghi Effendi would make such a fuss over it. Religious law has to > evolve to a point at which the status of nonbeliever is no longer > equivalent to the legal status of nonperson. I think that is part of the > answer, anyway.>>

Dear X<

I put the word "takfir" into Google, and saw that it was used in a very general sense. On one Muslim forum, for example, someone was complaining about other people on the board pronouncing takfir against scholars. (really!) Another thing I discovered that the practice is, and always has been controversial. Not all Muslims think it's a good thing. In fact, I found in more than one place reference to a favorite story of mine, where Muhammad says to someone who killed an enemy that made shahada, this person thought, just to save his life, and the Prophet responded "Did you open his heart, to see what it contained?"

Anyway, I'm not sure the fact that the penalty is different makes the declaration different. Did the UHJ read Alison's heart, to see what it contained?

I'm not sure I understand how this is connected to the Egypt case, though. My understanding is, in that case, Baha'is were declared to be members of another religion, as different from Islam as Christianity or Judaism would be, with its own laws, practices, beliefs, etc. This is not takfir, nor did it necessarily imply an end to takfir, unless you know something about this that I don't. (which is always possible.) All this meant was, in this situation, the charge of takfir from Muslims did not apply to Baha'is because they were not Muslim apostates, but members of a different religion entirely.

However, if 'Abdu'l-Baha said that in the Cause of God there is no takfir, he must have been talking about Baha'is declaring each other to be unbelievers. In fact, the whole context of the tablet is that he is talking about the treatment of covenant-breakers. He is forbidding a Muslim custom already familiar to everybody, and saying Baha'is aren't allowed to do that to each other. What I want to know is just how declaring Michael McKenny and Alison Marshall to be non-Baha'is is different from this practice.

Love, Karen

"The essence of all that We have revealed for thee is Justice . . ." -- Baha'u'llah

*The Baha'i Studies List*

5/7/2001 > Faith and belief are naturally individual matters not determinable > by the rules of an association. However, I think it is only logical to > also hold that the rules of an association are for the association to > decide and not determinable by individuals. The two propositions seem > equally true, to me. I do not personally understand a *disenrollment* as > equivalent to *takfir*>>

Dear X,

Well, it seems clear to me that if a person is declared to "not meet the requirements for membership in the Baha'i community" then they are regarded by the institutions as not being Baha'is. In fact, the UHJ, in its statements on the disenrollments carefully explains to the friends the distinction between someone who has been disenrolled and someone who is a covenant-breaker. A person who is disenrolled is to be treated like any other non-Baha'i, and not shunned like a CB. Indeed, they hold the same status as someone who leaves the Faith voluntarily. Now naturally, I think its possible to be a Baha'i without institutional recognition of one's belief, since that's the exact status I hold vis a vis the institutions. Alison continues to openly and passionately declare her love for Baha'u'llah in spite of being booted from the rolls. Yet this sincere and devoted lady has been declared the equivalent of a non-Baha'i. If it is different from takfir, I really don't see how, unless somehow there is the recognition that those disenrolled continue to be Baha'is in some form, just not membership-worthy. That certainly is not the impression I have.

Love, Karen

*The Baha'i Studies List*


> I think Michael became a pagan or a neo-pagan. > That's fine too. Mr. Michael McKenny's wife wrote to the Universal House > of Justice and she received a reply in which, if I remember correctly, the > Universal House of Justice praised his humanitarian endeavors and his > activities for world peace and encouraged him to continue to pursue such > activities, etc. She had never been a Baha'i, by the way. From what I > recall, Alison had long been out of touch with her local Baha'i community > activities for a couple of years according to her own comments; the only > "Baha'i" community in which she was active was the virtual Baha'i > community in cyberspace and she is still a member of that cybercommunity.

Dear X,

Yes, Michael became a pagan immediately after his disenrollment, saying that it was preferable to being a Baha'i heretic, a status that is not supposed to exist. However, according to his own statement, he had some interest and contact with that community before then. Steve Marshall, before Alison's expulsion, wrote a letter about Michael's case, and received a reply saying that nothing against Michael's character is implied by the disenrollment and that one could be quite a praiseworthy person and still not meet membership requirements.

As far as I know, activity is not relevant to membership. A person cannot be disenrolled for inactivity according to Shoghi Effendi's explicit instructions. That's why we have so many "mail returns" on the rolls. I also think that Alison, like myself, has local Baha'i friends with whom she keeps contact, but had not been to any organized community activities for some time. Although, if she went to the class that the UHJ claims was set up for her "counselling" she could not have been completely inactive. And yes, Alison is still a dearly-loved member of the liberal Baha'i cyberspace community.

> > Takfir is a totally different animal altogether and it does not exist in > The Faith.>>

Well, that's what 'Abdu'-Baha said, that in the Faith there is no takfir. But in Islam any apostate can be killed, true? So I'm not sure the fact that one religion punishes a person declared to be not a believer, and the other does not means that the declaration of unbelief is, itself, different.

Love, Karen

*The Baha'i Studies List*


Dear X and Y,

The letters explaining the disenrollment do not explicitly say that Michael or Alison is are non-Baha'is, but it is strongly implied. Here is what is said about Michael:

"The means by which Baha'u'llah has chosen to preserve the unity of Baha'i society is the institutions established in the Covenant which He made with those who accept Him. His Writings make it indisputably clear that the spiritual and social teachings thus set forth cannot be separated from the institutional means their Author has provided for their promotion. Particularly is this true of the interpretive functions with which the Guardianship has been endowed and the ultimate decision-making power invested in the Universal House of Justice, both of which are assured of unfailing Divine guidance.

"One is entirely free to accept or reject the system of belief Baha'u'llah teaches. The Baha'i Faith is a religion which believes ardently in freedom of spiritual choice. No one is -- or can ever be -- compelled to be a Baha'i, nor does any discredit attach to one who, having decided, for whatever reason, that he or she cannot continue to accept the Teachings, may decide to renounce them. What one cannot properly do is to behave in a way that undermines the unity of the Baha'i community, by challenging the institutional authority that is an integral part of the Faith one professes to have accepted.

This is precisely what Michael has persisted in doing. He has made it unmistakably clear that he does not accept the nature of the authority conferred in Baha'u'llah's Covenant on either the Guardianship or the Universal House of Justice, in important areas of belief. Indeed, some of his statements give the impression that he does not accept Baha'u'llah's many statements about the nature of the authority of a Manifestation of God."

This is Karen again: So if the "spiritual teachings" cannot be separated from the "institutional means", then certainly a person who has been officially separated from the institutions must be regarded as not being Baha'i. There is also a clear comparison here with a person who voluntarily renounces the Teachings.

This is from the letter about Alison:

"Membership in the Baha'i Faith is open to all of humanity. In accordance with the principle of freedom of spiritual choice, the Baha'i Faith holds that an individual should be free to accept or reject the system of belief brought by Baha'u'llah. No one is compelled to become a Baha'i, nor is anyone prohibited from withdrawing from the Faith if he or she cannot continue to accept the Baha'i teachings. In the latter case Baha'is treat the person with the courtesy, amity and respect enjoined in the Baha'i writings as applicable to Baha'i relationships with others."

Again, here is the comparison to a person who has voluntarily rejected Baha'i teaching and withdrawn from the Faith.

And more: "Under normal circumstances, an erroneous understanding of the Baha'i Faith and its Teachings would be regarded as a personal spiritual challenge for the individual involved, which would hopefully be met in due course through loving nurturance, deepening and encouragement by the Baha'i Institutions or their representatives. However, in this case, Mrs. Marshall has chosen to aggressively promote her misconceptions in defiance of efforts to provide her with essential Baha'i teachings which correct them. She has made a series of statements that stand totally in contradiction to the authoritative texts of the Baha'i writings. These assertions, which she disseminated to an international audience, were of such concern to a number of Baha'is that the matter was brought to the attention of the Universal House of Justice.

Under some conditions, actions of a kind taken by Mrs. Marshall might have led to the loss of a believer's administrative rights or even called into question his or her loyalty to the Covenant. In her case, the Universal House of Justice has concluded that she does not satisfy the requirements of Baha'i membership. Consequently it instructed the National Spiritual Assembly to remove her name from the membership rolls."

Now this does not explicitly say that Alison is "not a Baha'i", but strongly implies it. In fact, if the UHJ itself is acknowleging a difference between "being a Baha'i" and "Baha'i membership" it is recognizing two legitimate groups of Baha'is -- something that I would have thought was uncovenantal. I don't think that's what is intended here. I think in saying that Alison and Michael are not qualified to be members of the Baha'i Faith, then they are not Baha'is.

Love, Karen

> Karen: Well, it seems clear to me that if a person is declared to "not meet > the requirements for membership in the Baha'i community" then they are > regarded by the institutions as not being Baha'is,

> > Dear Karen,

> I understand your approach. However, I do not think it is always > true that six is always exactly equal to half a dozen. My limited > understanding of the practice of takfir indicates that it involves an > open and explicit declaration that a particular individual is absolutely > not a believer. Therefore, I would be interested in seeing exact words > from the Universal House of Justice or any other source declaring the > disenrolled are not believers in Baha'u'llah. Directives to treat the > disenrolled *as if* they are nonbelievers comes pretty close to this, but > is not (in my mind) quite the same. There is simply something different > about it, like a duck with two left feet, if you can understand me. You > have greater familiarity with this issue, so I would appreciate it if you > could satisfy my curiosity. In which communication does the Universal > House of Justice explicitly declare the disenrolled as nonbelivers in > Baha'u'llah? To me, the essential nature of takfir involves just such an > explicit declaration regarding another soul's internal state. Like I > said, this is really just me talkin' -- not an expert in the area. >

Forum: talisman9


> > Dear friends, the Baha'i Adminstrative Order is doing its job, and this is > the mandate given to it by Baha'u'llah and as currently guided by the World > Centre. There are systems of checks and balances in place which run the > current system of affairs. The Baha'is who serve on these Institutions are > elected by Universal Sufferage, and reflect the collective will of the > Baha'i community.

Sorry, don't buy it. When I was enrolled, even in the best year, I was given the opportunity of picking the best nine out of twelve in my community -- pretty much a process of picking off the inactive.( Most years it was just joint declaration.) And I could vote for a delegate, based upon my basic impression of him/her as a person. I did not, and probably the delegate him/herself did not have any idea how he or she would vote at Convention. The notion that my vote, even in the tiniest way, had any influence is just silly.

The "problem" is actually not in the leadership, even at > the local level, rather in the extreme conservatism of individuals who would > have liked to *run* the Faith, but were rejected de facto by the Baha'i > community at large. Now they are gripping. The ironic thing is that they > essentialize the Institutions as *conservative,*

Are you talking about the Baha'i liberals who got in trouble? Are you kidding me? I've never seen any bunch of people less interested in holding political office. (Personally, I'd rather be horsewhipped than have to *ever* sit on another LSA, and I'd bet a lot of Baha'i liberals are with me on that.) If they were seeking political power, they did it pretty ineptly. What evidence do you have to support that? I have only just recently heard one anecdote, dating from the early 70s, that suggests anything of the kind -- and it's pretty vague. Somebody's going to have to do better in order to convince me.

That is why we have forums (and many of them) to bring > up the legitimate issues you bring up. This is also how the checks and > balances system works, with individuals expressing themselves.

The forums only work as well as the leadership allows them to. People are shut up all the time. If the channels actually worked, you wouldn't see so much anger and frustration out there.


The Baha'i Studies List*


> How do you see it? What does "believer in Baha'u'llah mean to you?"<<<

" Every receptive soul who hath in this Day inhaled the fragrance of His garment and hath, with a pure heart, set his face towards the all-glorious Horizon is reckoned among the people of Bahá in the Crimson Book. Grasp ye, in My Name, the chalice of My loving-kindness, drink then your fill in My glorious and wondrous remembrance. "(Kitab-i-Ahd)

X, it isn't my job to tell someone who says that they believe in Baha'u'llah that they are not a Baha'i. And if I may be so bold: it isn't yours, either. That is a thing between the individual soul and God. The UHJ has the constitutional privelege of distinguishing who meets the membership requirements and who does not, but it can't take Baha'u'llah out of someone's heart. They can only draw the line between who is deemed acceptable and who is not.


> -- Forum: Baha'i Studies


> Let me know if I'm giving this scenario wrong. In your case you left the > Faith of your own accord and I believe at the time you indicated you no > longer believed in Baha'u'llah. Then others persuaded you that could still > be a Baha'i and not have to go along with the Covenant as it is ordinarily > understood, in light of the Will and Testament. So you reclaimed your faith > in Baha'u'llah but did not seek to rejoin the Baha'i communiy. Is this > correct?<<<<

Not entirely. I left the Faith of my own accord, yes. I was not sure of what I believed about Baha'u'llah. If it had not been for my mistaken impression that one must renounce Him in order to get off the rolls, I wouldn't have said anything. A near quote of what I said in my resignation letter is "If Baha'u'llah is the Manifestation of God, then these are not the institutions He wanted; if these are the institutions he wanted then he cannot be the Manifestation of God."

"Others" did not pursuade me of anything. I went through a period where I just went looking for somewhere else to go, looking into Islam, Sufism, Yoga meditation etc. A significant moment in that search was the discovery of the online translations. This was my first exposure to the name "Juan Cole". I had no idea that he was no longer in the Faith. My first reaction was "Hey, now here's a guy with a couple of brain cells in his head!" And the translations hit me like light at the end of the tunnel. I copied as many as I could. I still wasn't sure of what I believed, but there was still something in my heart that responded to the Writings.

It is worth considering that one reason I was ready to be sympathetic to our Michigan friend is that he put the Word of God in my hands, when the gentlemen in Haifa would not.

At the time, I only had access to the Internet at school, so I had no opportunity to further investigate what had happened during the summer. I found during that time that Baha'u'llah was still in my heart, by the end of the summer, I was even thinking that perhaps after some time away, I could come back to the community. After all, there was only one incident, and the American NSA was only one Assembly. I think I had picked up vague echoes about problems with freedom of expression, but I really didn't know any specifics about any of these incidents.

Then school started again, and I went back on the Internet and discovered what had happened with the Talisman crackdown. I read the papers at H-Bahai about Mike McKenny and I was horrified. I read the April 7 letter about "internal opposition" and I was appalled. When I ran into "A Modest Proposal" earlier, I was furious. When I found out all the other things that had happened, I was downright frightened. It seemed like the Baha'i Faith that I had believed in didn't even really exist, that it had all been an illusion -- Baha'u'llah Himself had been betrayed. No way was I going back to a community that had done these things.

I hadn't even bothered to open my school email account at the time; I wasn't on any newsgroups. In fact, I was just commenting to a friend that it was a good thing I wasn't on any, because I wouldn't have known who to trust. I worked it out on my own. I did have my website, something I had opened up in my computer literacy class. (The reason it is named "Big Questions" is that I wrote that set of essays specifically for that project.) So I wrote "My Life in the Baha'i Community" as sort of an impotent gesture -- I had no idea how anybody would ever see it, which shows how naive I was about cyberspace.(For those who don't know: that story of why I left was circulated widely in the fall of '99) I have always used writing as a kind of emotional release, and that's basically what that was. If somebody wants to take a peek at my website, the URL is

I also read Modernity and the Millenium, Panopticon and other things written by our Michigan professor. I sent him an email of sympathy and support. The rest, as they say, is history.

X, my answer is getting to be a bit long, and so I'd better continue on another post. But I hope it is clear that "others" did not pursuade me that I could be a Baha'i outside the administration. It's just the way it worked out. The "influence", I suppose was in running into material that prevented me from rejoining the community, which I might have done otherwise. See you in the next post.

Love, Karen

Forum: Baha'i Studies


> > As far as believing the administration should not exist, that really isn't > the issue. It is whether one accepts the authority they have been given in > the Will and Testament and is committed to abding by the provisions of that > document. This is what those who have been removed from the rolls did not > do. If I am not mistaken it is why you and some others chose to remove > yourself from the Baha'i community voluntarily. Is there any part of this I > have wrong? I'm not trying to attack you here, I just want to describe the > situation as accurately and fairly as I can. But I tend to sound like a > prosecuting attorney when I do this, so please bear with me. I've been known > to submit even some of the highest authorities in the Faith to this kind of > treatment.<<

To continue: Susan, what shook my Faith and caused me to leave was precisely that element of the Baha'is catechism that says "Baha'u'llah cannot be separated from the Institutions". The institutions had done wrong; that meant the dominoes had to fall, and Baha'u'llah could not be the Manifestation of God. It was only by separating them that I was able to come back. As you know, our community had some run-ins with Remeyite material, and I had privately come to the conclusion that the system was mutilated. However, rather contradictorily, the idea that the House could ever do anything wrong had never entered my head. But when I was struggling with all this, I had a mental "loophole" that allowed me to accept Baha'u'llah while still believing that things were very wrong in the governance of the Faith.

> > > The moderstors have not made an issue of acronyms. I Some people here may > be bothered by them, but I doubt if there is anything we could say here that > wouldn't bother somebody. But it is, as you know, contrary to the list rules > to engage in administration bashing. The intent here is to prevent posts > which are deliberately designed to undermine the authority of the > Institutions. I've not attempted to draw any lines in this particular thread > because it seems to me you are expressing your own personal issues, not > trying to damage the faith of others. . Therefore I am willing to let it > continue at this point. But we probably shouldn't allow it to disintegrate > into a lot of specific charges here. Not simply because of the list rule > against administration bashing, but because we are already probably naming > too many names of people not on this list who cannot respond to anything we > might say about them.<<

Yes, I understand. I'll try to remember, as a point of politeness to avoid the acronym on this list, but I am accustomed to using it, and could slip. I am just telling my own story here, and to answer your questions honestly. If [the moderators] feel like it's going too far, then of course I am willing to abide by list rules, and will discontinue.<<

> > But isn't it true, Karen that these two years of investigation occurred > *after* you left the Faith because you had already decided after first > hearing of this matter that the Institutions were unjust? While I know you > have made a very conscious and concerted effort to make sure you had facts > straight in the two years that followed, it strikes me that most of your > investigations were done primarily to establish the rightness of your > original decision not so much to find out whether or not it was correct in > the first place. And it also seems to me that you were also seeking evidence > upon which to write some exposes of the perceived injustices of the > Institutions. Again, I recognized that you *have* made concerted efforts to > make sure you get your facts straight, which is more than I can say for > others, but it does seem to me that your search and investigations had a > very strong precommittment to what you would find.<<<

Well, I cannot deny that I already had some sympathy towards those accused, accompanied by mistrust of the institutions. However, the first question I began to investigate was to try to find what these people had done wrong to merit this kind of treatment. In the very beginning, I felt that there had to be something. My articles came about more as a result of my investigation. I had a lot of information in my head by the time I began writing them, and found an outlet for publication over at Themestream. As you know, I am continuing to investigate and to write, and I'm perfectly willing to make adjustments if I find that my previous statements were in error. I am investigating primarily because I really want to know; I'm writing because that's my way of dealing with all this. Also, I think it's a story worth the telling. And if I'm to be completely honest, I think maybe if the Baha'i institutions get bad publicity from doing these things to people, maybe they'll eventually stop doing them. I don't know if that's the case or not, but it's the only kind of voice I will ever have concerning events in the Baha'i community. Nobody listens if you're on the inside being nice.

I therefore would ask you > now what I asked you privately before, but which I don't think you ever > answered me. If you found evidence which pointed in the opposite direction > from which you now believe to be true, would you be prepared to write and > post articles which exposed your friends with the same zeal you now post > things against the Institutions? Please search your soul before you answer > this question. I submit that only if you are willing to do this can you be > said to be truly as committed to the principles of fairness and justice > which you would judge the Institutions by.<<

I thought I had answered, but I'll try again. If I found evidence that proved guilt on the part of the liberal Baha'is who have been punished by the administration, then my writing would reflect that. As far as "posting articles with the same zeal" I have to say "no" for this reason: I have been in a position of trust with these people; they have been my friends. If I came to the conclusion that they had done wrong, I would distance myself from them. If I wrote articles, they would include this new information about what happened. I would correct or remove anything I have previously published on the web. But I could not use anything they told me privately, and I would probably avoid anything that I thought would hurt them personally. These are human beings, not institutions, and even if I found them guilty of some sort of wrongdoing, I would not have the heart to hurt them. Not after having their trust.

I think X, the difference here is that one has a different relationship with individuals than one has with institutions. I am not betraying anyone's trust by criticizing the institutions; I would be by denouncing people who have been my friends. I might, however, express my anger and disappointment to them privately, and publicly, I would certainly tell the story of what happened differently.

Love, Karen

Forum: Zuhur19


> > > > As for Takfir? I am personally not convinced that it is applicable.>>

> > Well, Z, it would appear that the House of Justice disagrees with you. My reading of their reply to W on this issue is that they admit that what they have done is declare [Alison] an infidel. So takfir definitely applies. In their view, what Abdu'l-Baha was saying was that individuals can't say it of each other, but institutions can say it about members.

> > It's a laugh isn't it. Everyone on BS argued strenuously that it wasn't an example of takfir for this and that reason. How could you accuse our wonderful House of Justice of such an outrageous thing! And then the House comes right out and accepts that that's what it is doing!>>

Yes, isn't that amazing! As soon as I get Y's permission, I'll post that over there. They don't even bother trying to deny that what they've done is issue a takfir. My guess is they saw the dilemma -- if someone can still be a Baha'i while not on the rolls, then there are two classes of Baha'i. (I note they took especial care to mention that one of the tablets was translated by a "non-Baha'i".) So much for X's fuming as well.

> > At least the House has been honest enough to admit that it is calling believers infidels. Of course, the reason they are being honest about it is that they honestly believe they are empowered to do so by their constitution (under clause 1). If they believed that they weren't empowered to do it, they would have been dishonest about the exact nature of their action.>>

> > I'm astonished. The whole issue of whether someone can be declared an infidel is a topic of great debate in Islam, and here's the House gaily taking on that power as if nothing untoward was happening. They have no idea. Baha'u'llah thought he was getting away from Islamic fundamentalism. And here are the Baha'is openly taking on one of the most fundamentalist Islamic positions and calling it "Baha'i". What on earth did Baha'u'llah suffer for?>>

The impression I got is that the practice of takfir has always been controversial, and not considered acceptable by all Muslims. Yes, the Baha'i institutions are really leaning on the extreme right-wing of things here. What's really awful is they think they can just ignore what 'Abdu'l-Baha said, that it doesn't apply to them. And if I'm not mistaken, isn't deciding that the prohibition of takfir applies only to individuals and not to institutions a form of interpretation?

Love, Karen

> UHJ letter on takfir

> > "The three sentences at the beginning of this passage constitute > the extract which was translated and posted on the Internet, in a form > which has some significant differences from the authorized version.

> > It is clear that this passage refers to the prescribed conduct of > individual believers in relation to each other, rather than to > administrative institutions. It is similar to innumerable passages in > the Writings of Baha'u'llah, including the Kitab-i-Aqdas. However, the > Spiritual Assemblies, as embryonic Houses of Justice, perform > functions quite different from those of the individual..."

" > *The Baha'i Studies List*


> Karen: As I understand it, the gist of the argument is not that a > disenrollment is not a takfir, but that 'Abdu'l-Baha's prohibition > applies only to individuals, not the institutions.>>

> > Dear Karen, > I have the impression that such pronouncements have in past been > given authoritatively by individuals who were learned in Islam.>>

Well, I don't know about "authoritatively", but I think the word takfir applies to just about anybody who would name a Muslim an unbeliever. Now, naturally, the status of the person doing the denouncing would probably have some influence on whether the label of "kafir" sticks, or whether or not the penalty is actually applied.

In the > Baha'i Faith, learned individuals do not have such prerogatives, as > individuals. The distinction between individuals and institutions has to > be translated differently into the Baha'i scheme of things, simply > because there are individuals in the Baha'i Faith who function as > individuals and are appointed rather than elected. To the best of my > knowledge, determinations regarding membership qualifications remain with > elected Baha'i bodies, both in theory and in practice.>>

Yeah, so they have decided they have the right to pronounce takfir against people, and that 'Abdu'l-Baha's prohibition doesn't apply to them. Rather convenient "elucidation" of the text, if you ask me. Fine, that's the way it is everywhere -- if someone in power wants you gone, you're gone. Just nobody expect me to agree with their assessment that a devoted believer in Baha'u'llah is not, in fact, really a Baha'i.

I am not aware of > any cognate function within Islamic tradition. There may be such, but I > have no knowledge of it. In fact, my understanding is that the lack of > universally recognized administrative structures within Islam resulted in > much of the unpleasantness we now have come to associate with such > practices as takfir, which so far as I know remained primarily the > province of learned individuals.>>

The main criticism of takfir that I saw among the Muslims was that it was divisive of the community; no doubt that was 'Abdu'l-Baha's concern as well. And it is precisely the *presence* of "universally recognized administrative structures" within the Baha'i Faith that is part of the problem here. I once ran into a Muslim who thought it utterly ridiculous that Baha'is have membership cards in order to be able to prove their good standing with the community. In Islam, one cleric could pronounce takfir against you, and half a dozen disagree with him, so that the pronouncement is never enforced. In the Baha'i Faith there is no alternative, no place to go -- you're simply declared to be a non-Baha'i. Oh, and by the way we're supposed to treat you nice now that we've pronounced you not one of us, except we'll tell the locals not to talk religion with you. Toodles. Don't let the door hit your butt on the way out. And intelligent people think this is justice.


The Baha'i Studies List*


> > So Karen, please consider these scenarios. Which, if any, of these > propositions would you accept?>>

> > 1) Shoghi Effendi determines an individual is not a Baha'i because he does > not accept the Oneness of Mankind. Evidence used: Persistent reports of the > individual spouting severely racially bigoted convictions in the name of the > Faith. All efforts to get the individual to adjust his views have failed > despite repeated attempts to inform and educate him.

Dear X,

Before running into the takfir issue, I was primarily concerned with the matter of justice in individual cases, without questioning the House's ultimate right to determine membership. I just wanted them to be fair about it, and to have established procedures to follow in cases where membership is deprived, and for the believers to know what the clear lines were. I, in fact, used this very example of a person calling themselves a Baha'i, but believing in white supremacy, as the sort of extreme example where deprivation of membership might be appropriate. It's a pretty far-fetched example, though, and hard to imagine. Now, I would probably say that loss of administrative rights would be appropriate, combined with any public statements necessary to distance the Faith from this person's racism.

> > 2) The Universal House of Justice determines an individual is not a Baha'i > because he does not accept the Oneness of God. Evidence used: Persistent > reports of the individual spouting paganistic doctrines in the name of the > Faith. All efforts to get the individual to adjust his views have failed > despite repeated attempts to inform and educate him.

I would have to know exactly what these "paganistic doctrines" were. I am very reluctant to interfere with a person's theology -- none of us understand what God is, and so I don't think any particular individual's conception should be termed "wrong". I'd be willing to bet (Susan would know this), that some of the converts in India of Hindu background probably are not strict monotheists in the western sense.

> > 3) The Universal House of Justice determines an individual is not a Baha'i > because he does not accept the Successorship of 'Abdu'l-Baha. Evidence used: > Persistent reports of the individual asserting publicly that Baha'u'llah's > other son 'Ali Muhammad should have been the one appointed. All efforts to > get the individual to adjust his views have failed despite repeated attempts > to inform and educate him.>>

Oh, that's an easy one. That's covenant-breaking. Out he goes.

> > 4) Shoghi Effendi determines an individual is not a Baha'i because he does > not accept the Will and Testament of 'Abdu'l-Baha. Evidence used: Persistent > reports of the individual asserting that neither the Guardian or the > Universal House of Justice are the rightful successors to 'Abdu'l-Baha. All > efforts to get the individual to adjust his views have failed despite > repeated attempts to inform and educate him.

Same as above.

> > 5) The Universal House of Justice determines an individual is not a Baha'i > because he does not accept the Administrative Order of the Faith. Evidence > used: Persistent reports of the individual asserting that he can believe in > Baha'u'llah without believing in the Administrative Order He has ordained in > His Writings. All efforts to get the individual to adjust his views have > failed despite repeated attempts to inform and educate him.

O.K., now we're getting closer to home. It would depend on what you mean by "without believing in the Administrative Order." That it shouldn't exist? That it's not infallible?

> > 6) An individual signs a declaration card but then says he does not accept > Baha'u'llah as the Manifestation of God for this Dispensation. The Local > spiritual Assembly where this person lives determines that one cannot join > the Faith unless one accepts Baha'u'llah as a Manifestation of God and > summarily but politely declines to enroll the individual in the Faith.

That would be appropriate. Determining who should be admitted to the Faith, and who should be expelled are two different things. This person probably signed a declaration card based on misunderstanding.

> > 7) An individual signs a declaration card but then says he accepts > Baha'u'llah but not the Bab as a Manifestation of God. The Local spiritual > Assembly where this person lives determines that one cannot join the Faith > unless one accepts both the Bab and Baha'u'llah as Manifestations of God and > summarily but politely declines to enroll the individual in the Faith.>>

Same as above.

> > 8) An individual signs a declaration card but then says that although he > accepts the Bab and Baha'u'llah as Manifestations of God for this > Dispensation he does not accept the Administrative Order ordained in the > Writings. The Local spiritual Assembly where this person lives determines > that one cannot join the Faith unless one accepts both the Manifestation of > God AND the Administrative Order He has ordained. The LSA summarily but > politely declines to enroll the individual in the Faith.>>

Again, it depends on what you mean "not accept". What my declaration card said was along the lines of "I understand that Baha'u'llah has established laws and institutions that must be obeyed."

> > > But understand this, what would be written on the obituary would include > something like this, "...although not a member of the Baha'i Faith, she > bravely decided at the last to sacrifice her life for His sake..."

> > One could do worse.>>

One could do worse, indeed. Thank you.

Love, Karen

Forum: talisman9


Dear X,

Thank you very much for your post. You said some things that I've been saying out there for a long time. But the only answer Baha'i conservatives, or in this latest letter, Baha'i officialdom, can give is flat denial: "You guys can call yourselves Baha'is if you want to, but you're holding an illogical position and in spite of what you may think, you really aren't Baha'is." Or to put it in the terms that this letter does "A statement that one wishes to withdraw from the Baha'i community, but not from the Faith, is seen to be self-contradictory." There seems to be no recognition at all of the place a religious identity holds in a person's life, combined with the fact that life within the Baha'i community can be made intolerable.<<<

"> It would appear that their oblique reference to Juan as a "non-Baha'i", > considering his recent declaration of belief in Baha'u'llah, of which > they must be aware, is a third instance (that we know of) of their > issuing a ruling of non-belief.<<<

Yes, combined with the implication that his translation isn't what it should be.

I see a substantial problem with that, > and I was hoping they might have a good explanation. The problem I see > for them is this: If a person who claims to believe in Baha'u'llah and > avows to follow all Baha'i laws (as Alison has done) is decreed to be a > non-Baha'i, then we have two groups of people calling themselves > Baha'is.<<<

Exactly, exactly, exactly! They won't face that; they won't even deal with it. They won't touch that with a ten foot pole. Unenrolled Baha'is or what you're calling "independents" are just not Baha'is. This tells me that they think the *really* important thing about the Faith is administrative loyalty and they could give a rat's tush about the spiritual side. You can follow every law in the Aqdas, dedicate your life to studying the Writings, strive in your own life to acquire virtues and be everything else that a Baha'i ought to be, but if you aren't under the administrative yoke, you aren't a Baha'i. In fact, you've missed what these people think "being a Baha'i" is all about.

> . > > Therefore we are left with only one alternative: the _beliefs_ of the > independents are deemed unacceptable: a group who claim to be Baha'is > and have no obligation to join the community now exists, as a direct > result of action by the UHJ. If the UHJ were to object that these people > don't _really_ have the right to call themselves Baha'is, due to these > doctrinal differences, they say nothing more than is said by any > denomination or sect of any other religion concerning its competing > denominations or sects. For example, despite all the protestations by > mainstream Christians that Mormons are not true Christians, nevertheless > the world at large recognisies Mormons as Christians. The UHJ cannot, > surely, expect anything less from the world at large regarding the > Baha'i independents being recognised as Baha'is. Two denominations of > Baha'is (one organised, one a collection of individuals) now exist, as a > result of the actions of the UHJ.<<<

Yes. But unlike those other religions, who at least will call those other groups "heretics", the people you are calling independents don't even have that much recognition. Haifa goes around pretending like they are just non-Baha'is like people who never were in the Faith in the first place, except for those "former Baha'is whose actions do not necessarily constitute Covenant-breaking, but are seriously destructive." You know, they have never considered that those "destructive" actions come about precisely because the "former Baha'is" still have a strong attachment to the Faith. I had an email once that told me to "go away and get a life and stop attacking other peoples' religion." Guess what? It's my faith, too.

> > > By declaring the independents to belong to a different belief > system - and one that will surely be considered genuinely Baha'i by all > impartial observers<<

Oh, yes, and they know that, too. That's what drove them crazy on Beliefnet; they wanted so bad to convince anybody that might come across that board that unenrolled Baha'is are not Baha'is, in spite of appearances. Even now they're talking about revising the statement on the main Baha'i board there to read that it is a place for *enrolled* Baha'is. But neither the Beliefnet management, nor the rest of the non-Baha'i world is going to care about the difference between enrolled and unenrolled Baha'is. It may, in fact, find the latter more sympathetic.

. > > > ... > > However, just a small comment. There are surely some good > > points in this reply from the UHJ... > > I posted the letter to further all our attempts to learn the truth, and > readers are as welcome to applaud as to criticise it. The UHJ can and > has done some very wise things. In 1986 I asked them point-blank whether > I could be a Baha'i, considering my firm belief that no one at all was > or ever had been or would be infallible. The UHJ at that time replied > with a very wise letter that mirrored in most particulars 'Abdu'l-Baha'i > letter to Auguste Forel (who asked a similar yes/no question regarding > his firm disbelief in the existence of God). Just as Auguste Forel > continued to call himself a Baha'i, so likewise I have done so, whilst > never hiding my abovementioned firm belief. Subsequent discussion on the > Internet about the meaning of the word translated as "infallible" has > shown that the original most likely meant something closer to sinless > than to propositionally inerrant (and this seems to be agreed to by all > knowledgeable parties, even those as diverse as Juan Cole and Susan > Maneck). As a result of this, it seems to me now that my unorthodox > belief is actually very much closer to what Baha'u'llah taught than it > seemed to be in 1986.<<

> I'm glad they were tolerant with you, X, but there have been some more unofficial statements made that are a bit harsher. In Peter Khan's New Zealand talk, he mentioned that defining "ma'sum" as "morally immaculate" rather than "infallible" was a way of undermining the authority of the UHJ. That has rattled some cages among some of the "knowledgeable parties" you speak of.

Love, Karen

Forum: Baha'i Studies


> > Reframed as an act of recognition, the emotional charge of the disenrollment > issue may be defused, forgiveness can be achieved, sincere apologies offered, > and all concerned can be liberated to get on with other more interesting > concerns.<<

> Dear X,

I believe you are correct in your assessment that the House regards disenrollment means making "legal" something that they regard as being an already-existing state.. The problem is that Alison herself does not believe that she "left" the Faith in any sense, nor was she ever given the opportunity to defend her beliefs. The House decided, on the basis of her emails, that she wasn't a Baha'i. She was never explicitly warned that her activity was causing concern; she was just suddenly dropped. I personally can't see any sense in why this happened to her; I think it had more to with who she was hanging with than what she said -- others have expressed opinions very similar to hers without getting themselves booted. She has publicly made her stand very clear as far as her beliefs. You can look at her website: and judge for yourself whether she doesn't deserve to be called a Baha'i. I have found that most of those who thinks she's not a Baha'i just think she's too Sufi. But then, mystics never were very popular with religious authorities, at least in the Western traditions. Oh, and she explicitly acknowleges the authority of the Baha'i administration in her statement of faith.

Love, Karen

Forum: talisman9


> > 3)Christian and Muslim fundamentalists also attempt to deny to > moderate and liberal Christians and Muslims their right to call themselves > such. > A fundamentalist audience would laugh uproariously at you if you asserted > that Episcopalian Bishop John Spong is a "Christian!" At Bob Jones > University they make fun of Roman Catholics as demonspawn. Prominent > Egyptian Muslim feminist Nawal Saadawi is now under threat of being > formally declared "not a Muslim" in Egypt and in consequence is in danger > of being forcibly divorced from her husband.

Dear X,

Yes, I've heard liberal and moderate Christians complain about how the word "Christian" has been co-opted by the fundamentalists, leaving them to say "Well, I'm Christian, but I'm not *that kind* of Christian." That's just inherent in fundamentalism -- they get the right to define who a "true believer" is and everybody else is just not legitimate. With the Baha'i Faith this is going to backfire, though -- a good many people who come to investigate the Faith are in flight from Christian fundamentalism -- they aren't going to be interested in another variety. A brief glance at the seekers who visit Beliefnet tells you what the appeal is--and it's *not* "Building the Kingdom of God on Earth" and assemblies and white marble on Mt. Carmel. The sad thing is that some of these poor souls are straight out lied to -- a thread was brought to my attention where someone was told that there was no such thing as excommunication in the Baha'i Faith, and who clearly believed that no one could be "kicked out!" I guess they figure they can talk somebody into believing this stuff is o.k. once they got the name on the dotted line.(The thread was an old one or I'd have gone and corrected it.)

Hey, have a good time on your various travels. We'll see you around.

Love, Karen

> > , > > > > Karen: Yes, I remember it. I actually wrote a refutation of it, which did nothing > > more than sit in my box with other stuff I wrote in those days.(By Their > > Fruits You Shall Know Them -- pretty cool title, huh?) Now that I'm on the > > Internet, all my meanderings can be published, after a fashion.<<

> > > > It is pretty simple stuff, like trying to prove that the physical resurrection > of Christ is an historical fact. The type of arguments he uses would make him > fodder for historians of religion like Crossant. The irony is that fundy Baha'is > use the same types of arguments to back up many of their doctrinaire beliefs.<<<

Yes. Well, people like Beckwith often just miss the whole point -- they read Baha'i stuff, usually introductory books, just with an eye to refutation, and they come up with stuff like "All the world's religions teach different things about God, so obviously they aren't from the same source", or just accuse Baha'is of "scripture twisting" for their way of interpreting the Bible. I *hate* arguing about the Bible with someone -- it either turns into a game of "My interpretation is better than yours is" or I start going into historical realities, which either bounce right off people's heads or they just interpret it as an attack. As some of you know, my brother is a Christian fundamentalist, and I found that no matter what religious issue we started with it always ended up back to Biblical inerrancy. I don't do that kind of argument any more, and my refutation of Beckwith's little book will probably always remain in that box in my closet. Proving the physical resurrection is a favorite, too, and I've read a couple of books that try to do that. I never saw the relevance to anything. I told my brother, not very nicely I suppose "Even if it happened, what does that have to do with the price of tea in China?" I never could understand how this single miraculous event had anything to do with anybody's spiritual life -- the teachings of Jesus are what matter.

And yes, fundamentalist Baha'is use the exact sort of reasoning that Christian fundies do. The Christians go from "All have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God" to "We're all damned without a Savior" to "Jesus is that Savior because He rose from the dead" to "Won't you accept Jesus into your heart now and be saved?" Fundy Baha'is defend the Faith by saying "If the House of Justice or Shoghi Effendi is wrong about something, then 'Abdu'l-Baha was wrong to appoint him. And if 'Abdu'l-Baha is wrong about something, then Baha'u'llah was wrong to appoint him. And if Baha'u'llah was wrong to appoint him, He can't be the Manifestation of God." I actually heard someone describe the Faith as a "house of cards" -- it all falls down if one little piece is flawed. But it's the same kind of neat, sewn-up, attitude that Christian fundamentalists have. They don't mean to leave a person any other option, and they get really mad because it's all so *clear* to them that they think you must be deliberately perverse if you don't see it the same way.

Love, Karen

Forum: Baha'i Studies


> If one carries the mistaken emphasis on takfir the logical implication is > that National Assemblies can not remove from the Admistrative roles people > who otherwise do not meet qualification of memebership such as burglars, > murderers, etc. This is absurd. It is advocated by individuals who > basically have a disregard for the Common weal, and stems from a > aristocratic sense of superiority (I gather) in that it undermines the will > of the Baha'i Commonwealth, as reflected in the decisions of the Universal > House of Justice.<<<


Burglers and murderers do not get thrown off the rolls; those who are guilty of breaking civil laws can lose their administrative rights, that is all. Apparently, the powers-that-be view heretical email messages as a far more serious matter. I don't think that the advocacy of freedom of expression and due process reflects "a disregard for the Common weal". Those things are *good* for a community. How do you know that the concern about these things stems from an "aristocratic sense of superiority"? -- that's the old song-and-dance that if you have any criticisms of the status quo then you must have an ego problem. That's just a way of trying to discredit someone and shut them up. We've all got ego -- you can't measure it in a cup and decide that other guy is more egotistic than you are.

The simple fact is that no one was removed from the rolls until the rise of the Internet, with it's impossible-to-control venues for personal expression. Before then, the only reason to be removed from the rolls was the explicit renunciation of belief in Baha'u'llah -- even a person who has been completely inactive for decades cannot be removed unless an assembly can find him, talk to him, and find out if he still believes in Baha'u'llah or not. But you can be removed for criticizing certain actions of the House of Justice on the Internet.


> Forum: Baha'i Studies


" > Karen: Uh-huh. I've never been to a Feast or Unit Convention yet where any > serious discussion took place, about issues other than how the stage was > set for entry by troops and how we had to get off our lazy behinds to > make it happen. Unless you have a very forceful personality, you don't > get heard.

> > Dear Karen, > I try. I really do. At our last electoral unit convention, I > actually tried to open up discussion on the possibility of decline in > national membership. That didn't work. Then, I tried opening up > discussion on how different it was to raise children in the Baha'i Faith > when it was actually growing in the US instead of stagnating. That went > no where also. All such comments are deemed too "negative" to pursue. > It may be that they are, but is reality only positive?<<

Well, you keep trying, X! There's nothing more damaging than going around pretending like problems don't exist.. People close their eyes to how things are stagnating; we delude ourselves that as long as we keep the LSA afloat, that someday it'll evolve into a real community. (I was actually told that, when the calamity came all these little Assemblies would be "galvanized", even the paper ones.) The other reaction is to blame non-Baha'is or American culture, saying that they're too "materialistic" to recognize the truth of the Faith. Realistically, people expect certain things from a religious community -- like community, for instance! Compared to even small churches, we don't offer much in the way of services. Our worship services are usually less than uplifting; Feast is dominated by the business portion. We lost one couple who just didn't see the point of all the meetings and teaching projects, who wanted friends to come over and play cards and have a social life, and something nice for their kids. From their perspective, they had to do a whole lot of work, and didn't receive much in the way of either spiritual or social benefit. After a year of it, they became Presbyrterians. Now one could probably justifiably say that their commitment to Baha'u'llah wasn't all that great, but their attitude towards what they expect from a religious group is not untypical.

One thing the internet has revealed is just how many unhappy and alienated Baha'is there are out there; I hear from them all the time. They tell me "Thank you for being there. You're saying what I wanted to say but didn't have the nerve." The most hurting ones are the ones who *are* committed to Baha'u'llah, but find life in the community intolerable.

The whole point of "frank and unfettered" consultation is that problems can be brought out into the open and dealt with. Baha'is do *way* too much sweeping things under the rug.

Love, Karen

Forum: Zuhur19


Dear X, > > I understand your antipathy toward the use of labels.<<

It isn't an antipathy toward labels altogether, just towards being given labels by others. I get myself in trouble on Beliefnet every time I utter the words "liberal" or "conservative". I guess I'm supposed to go around calling myself a covenant-hating manifestation of Satan or something. I just think it's very arrogant for somebody to say "You're not really this; you're really that."

> > Unfortunately it is a tendency of human being to attempt to compartmentalize others. It is part of the US vs THEM syndrome.<<<

I think there is a real danger to that. I think what exists is a spectrum that runs from cultist on the extreme right to radical on the extreme left and people being what they are, they seldom fit neatly into a category. I think most Baha'is could generally fit into either conservative, moderate or liberal categories. Perhaps it would be better to label positons rather than people. But I figure nobody's obliged to accept what my definitions are of those things anyway, and try to avoid labels people find offensive unless they really tick me off first.

> > However how do you think a non-Baha'i sociologist would define unenrolled Baha'is? I imagine there could be quite a number of fairly benign options.<<<

Well, somebody recently referred to them as "independents". That's not too bad. It would be interesting to see an outside view, if anybody's looking.

[personal references snipped]

>Watch yourself; you're hanging out with the bad crowd, you know. :-)

> > > Soi cool!

Je suis toujours tres cool. :-)

Love, Karen

Forum: Religious Debate


> > >>Karen:However, if what you say is true, for all the cracking down the Institutions have done, they have not stopped the problem.<<

> > As I see it, that depends on how one defines the problem.<<<

Dear X,

Now, you've got me curious. Just what good do you think has been achieved by the Talisman crackdown and the disenrollments? Because I'll be darned if I can see any. I know you don't like to name names, but I think I told you before that our Michigan professor as "opposition leader" (which is a real misnomer, but I don't know what else to call him) is basically a creation of the UHJ action. They didn't have half the problem with him before the crackdown as they did after. And it is he, largely, who has put all the information out there concerning earlier actions against Baha'i liberals. Without the Talisman crackdown, I wouldn't be out here writing articles and dueling with fundamentalists on different forums. The only "good" that I can see, is these cyberspace events have created a place for the disillusioned to gather and offer each other support. People who once would have given up on Baha'u'llah and drifted away are now seeing another way to be Baha'i, without all the administrative b.s. Do you know what it means to find that there are Baha'is like yourself out there, when your time in the Baha'i community is one of frustration and isolation? And while this has been good for individuals like myself, I think it is bad for the Faith in the long run.

> > > >>Karen: You can't stop the spread of ideas, X, and people adopt ideas because they have a certain resonance with them that is consistent with their own experience.<<

> > I don't think it a question of the spread of ideas. It is the spread of disunity and contention.<<<

It's pretty hard to separate the two. Is the spread of the idea that it might be possible for women to serve on the UHJ just "the spread of disunity and contention", or just an idea that answers an aspect of the Faith that has always bugged a lot of people, but they thought they just had to live with it?

Love, Karen

Forum: Religious Debate


Dear X,

I came to the conclusion years ago that the system was mutilated. Our community ran into some Remeyite material, which caused a big, nasty crisis. The official explaination, given by our ABM, that the Guardianship still exists without a Guardian struck me as utter nonsense. It's just a patch-up theory designed to convince everyone things are o.k. In those days, however, I still had faith that the House would not violate basic Baha'i principle. I found out that was wrong. We never have had, and never will have the system outlined in the Will and Testament. Nevertheless, the UHJ is the only legitimate authority that the Baha'i Faith has, for better or worse.

I'm not quite sure I understand what you are saying here. Are you saying that the current UHJ is really a version of the IBC? Or that Remey really should have been Guardian?

I must admit that I have always thought that too, but as I research the areas around the Intenational Baha'i Council I am finding writings in the Will and Testament of Abdu'l-baha and the World Order by Shoghi Effendi that is making me think twice about this. For instance the Will says that the Institutions of the UHJ and the Guadianship (envisioning living Guardians) are inseperable and that although the spheres of responsiblity do not over lap it is the Guardian's responsibility to insist that the UHJ in making any legislation 'reconsider' any legislation that does not meet with the Guardian's Intepretations of the Holy Writings. Therefore, the questions begs, Can they make new legislation without the Guardian vetting it for alignment with correct interpretation?<<<

The answer is that they cannot avoid doing their own interpreting. What they have done now is create a "Guardianship" out of the corpus of Shoghi Effendi's letters, not all of which were meant to be permanent policy. They basically interpret his writings, and they carry more weight that even Baha'u'llah's do. What I've been told by AO-defenders is, for example, if they set aside what the Guardian said about excluding women from the UHJ, *that* would be a separation from the Guardianship, and therefore a mutilation of the Cause.

You are quite correct in that they now have no way of defining their own proper sphere. The only answer they can give is that since the UHJ is infallible, they naturally will not stray into interpretation. In practice what they do is deny that they interpret the Writings, but only "elucidate". However, if they are throwing people out based upon "misconceptions" of the teachings, then they quite obviously are saying that the disenrollees have a wrong interpretation of the Writings -- a distinction they have no scriptural authority to make.

Udo Schaeffer wrote a paper on infallibility, where he identified only six times that the UHJ ever really passed legislation, and I think that's stretching it. Basically, they now function rather like an elected Guardianship, more executive than legislative. One example of legislation was when they created the Continental Board of Counsellors, to replace the now-defunct institution of the Hands of the Cause. Another was when they decided that there was no way to appoint another Guardian. Even those two things are somewhat interpretive. Other examples Schaeffer used were just applying laws that already existed in the Aqdas, like Huquq'u'llah and reciting Allah'u'abha 95 times a day. (Do the non-Baha'is here need definitions of these things? Or do you care?)

However, the bottom line is that we really have no way of changing the system. Anyone who has ever attempted it ends up out on their keister. I fear that the unity of the Faith is in very great danger, and that we will eventually see schism, maybe in the next 50 years, if they don't start being more flexible in their outlook.

Love, Karen

Forum: Religious Debate

Dear X,

Here's what I always thought Baha'i consultation meant: two or more people discuss an issue, trying to arrive at a solution that is satisfactory for everyone. The aim is a consensus everyone can live with. Nobody can just dig their heel in and refuse to budge. Everyone is to bring out their ideas and concerns fully and honestly, and solutions are arrived at. It means people have to compromise and maybe give up part of what they want in order to find a solution that has part of what they want.

I've been thinking about it a lot because we had a recent example -- pretty rare actually, to have any kind of consultation in cyberspace. As you know, there has been a great deal of nasty contention on the Baha'i Beliefnet boards between liberals and fundamentalists. Finally, Beliefnet asked us to think of an arrangement of the boards, or adjustments in the guidelines that would keep the noise level down. I usually stay on the "Challenge and Critique" board, according to a promise I made to these people when I was being beaten up pretty badly. But since I was involved in some of the hotter exchanges, I thought I should come over to the main board and join in this consultation. I was basically told to leave. They said only "Baha'is loyal to the Covenant" had any right to say anything about the guidelines and arrangements for the Baha'i boards. I talked to the ones there who would talk to me. I gave ideas that I thought were workable, but the consensus wasn't going my way, so I said, o.k., if that's what you guys want to do, we'll try it. They are still complaining over there about certain "anti-administration" people daring to consult on the matter. I finally just lost it and said that if there are two sides in a dispute, both have to consult or it's not consultation. Consultation is just not talking to yourself, or to those who agree with you.( I also mentioned the fact that Beliefnet doesn't give a rat's butt about who is "loyal to the Covenant" and who is not.)

That's why I'm not impressed with the notion of "consultation" with the Institutions. This is having an authority figure tell you why they're right and you're wrong. Now, I will admit they'll spend a long and patient time at that, but the bottom line is that you either have to see it their way, stop talking about your issue, or risk whatever sanction they want to impose. That isn't consultation, that's just being told.

Karen Forum: Religious Debate


> Incidentally, lots of people are "investigated," for all sorts of reasons, and most of them have never even heard of Talisman. The reason we hear about investigations of the Talisman subscribers is because they are active on the Internet (or have friends who are).<<<

Dear X,

I know that. There are some people I know personally, and others who were investigated for non-cyberpace reasons who later told their stories on the Internet. It is a very alienating experience. What kind of religion "investigates" people and keeps files on them? Can any non-Baha'is here who formally belong to religious groups report that they or anybody they know has been "investigated" for any reason?

> The situation on Talisman, and now on the more private list on Yahoo! Groups (the continuation of an old distribution list), developed so quickly, as I suggested, as a result of social reinforcement, peer support, referencing, etc.<<<

The sharing of experiences is a powerful means of group support.

> Three of them resigned soon after, one sometime later. The list was closed down, and was restarted again by one of the people investigated who was no longer a member of the Baha'i Faith.<<

> > Yes. Well, as I said, I think that some of these situations could have been handled better.<<<

Well, nobody's apologizing. I assume they're pretty happy with themselves for what they did to these people.

> > > >>Karen: One person on the list lost his voting rights because of a posting he made. Let fair-minded people judge whether or not these actions constitute a "crackdown".<<

> I was there. It wasn't just one posting (though one stood out). It had to do with steps which the National Assembly wanted the person to take to rectify certain slanderous (or libelous, not sure which it would be on the Internet) comments. However, I do not want to get into details. All the information is contained in the Talisman 1 archives.<<<

I have a lot of material on that case and have formed a different opinion.

> I am not convinced that those punished "engaged in actions that are inconsistent with its defined purpose", except maybe the [person] I mentioned earlier -- and I know some people who are surprised that action was taken against him because they think he's obviously crazy.<<

> > I didn't say that a person needed the administration to have a spiritual life. However, I don't think that destructive behavior is conducive to a spiritual life. IMO, many of the activities which these people committed are not what I would call "spiritual.<<<

Telling the truth X, is not an unspiritual thing to do. There's way too much sweeping of stuff under the carpet in the Baha'i community. We dare not look at a problem because we so fear that it will be "gossip", "backbiting", or "cause disunity." I think it's far more healthy to have things out in the open.

> In terms of "danger," accusations against the integrity of the House of Justice are almost exclusively restricted to those on the Internet. The vast majority of Baha'is have no connection with, or knowledge of, any of these events, and I doubt they would choose to if given the option.

There are a whole lot of unhappy Baha'is out there, X, on the Internet or off, even if they don't know about these events.

> > > >>Karen: I don't see that. What I do see is objections to the pressures to conform and be silent in the name of "unity".<<

> There is no pressure to conform to a particular theology - just a desire that people will conform to principles of unity and consultation.

In other words, just a desire that people will shut up. Or only speak out in arenas where it's easy to shut them up.

Love, Karen

Forum: Religious Debate


> I am not aware of many doctrinally-based organized religions which do not conduct investigations and keep records of their findings. It is many of the modern, more contemporary denominations which are not so concerned about such things. However, even some of them do it from time to time.<<


My only experience in belonging to an organized religion is the Baha'i Faith, but I've never heard of people that I know who belong to churches talk about being investigated. Let's throw it open to the floor: How many non-Baha'is here know of people being investigated in their faiths? Who is investigated, and why?

Oh, and anybody belong to a religion that throws people out because of their emails?

> > >>Karen: Telling the truth X, is not an unspiritual thing to do.<< > > Even if its purpose is to attack the credibility of a religion one claims to believe in?<<<

If telling the truth threatens the credibility of a religion, then there's something really wrong with that religion.

> > > >>Karen: In other words, just a desire that people will shut up. Or only speak out in arenas where it's easy to shut them up.<< > > Karen, that is your interpretation of what I said. It is not a question of shutting up but of expressing one's concerns within a consultative framework.<<

By "consultative framework" do you mean manner, or place? Because the majority of those who got into trouble expressed themselves politely. If you mean place -- I assume you mean that it's limited to Feast, Convention, consulting with ABMs or Counsellors, or writing to the Institutions.

O.K. let's take a sample issue like prepublication review. Bear in mind that this is only an example, but we could easily be talking about women on the House, or any of the other issues that concern liberals.(I'm saying here that I realize that no one has been sanctioned over this specific issue.) Nobody much likes review, but it pretty much affects a small minority of the community -- writers, academics and the like. If you bring it up at Feast, it's going to get a lot of blank stares, since a lot of Baha'is don't even know it exists. It's also going to seem pretty unsuitable at the self-congratulatory atmosphere that usually pervades Convention. So you talk to your ABM, and get the answers about how its not really censorship and it's temporary. You write to the House of Justice, and get the same answer. Everywhere you turn you get this nice tidy answer about how it is necessary for the protection of the Faith, and really doesn't stifle ideas, only preserves dignity and accuracy. You get nowhere. In the pre-Internet age, you might sigh and live with it. Or if you're really bugged, leave the Faith. Or just stop writing on Baha'i subjects, and instead of using your talents to serve the Faith, use them elsewhere. Some people, I know, have just gotten away with ignoring it.

But when you get yourself wired and on the Internet, you keep talking about it, because it really bugs you. Maybe you or someone you know has had some really bad experiences with it, and you share them and find that other people are too. Maybe online you call a spade a spade and say its censorship, and you've been forced to make changes in your writing for ridiculous reasons. It's one of your pet peeves, and you talk about it a lot, maybe sometimes immoderately. What will happen to you? Maybe a Counsellor will visit and tell you to shut up -- oh, I mean, tell you that you really don't understand Baha'i principles. Or that you are "undermining the Institutions" because you don't like censorship. Maybe you might be told that you have "made statements opposing the Covenant" because you think the UHJ is wrong to keep this policy in place. Or they might just decide to drop you and declare you not to be a Baha'i because you didn't shut up -- or, I mean, "you were disseminating your misconceptions to an international audience."

Is that the "consultative framework" you meant?


Forum: Religious Debate


"> > At 01:40 p.m. 5/28/01 -0700, Karen wrote: > >>If telling the truth threatens the credibility of a religion, then there's something really wrong with that religion.<<

> > From my understanding of the Baha'i perspective, truth is determined through unity and consultation, not through disunity >and contention with the Head of the Baha'i Faith.'<<<

Truth is determined by looking at evidence in a fair manner.

> > >>Karen: By "consultative framework" do you mean manner, or place? Because the majority of those who got into trouble expressed themselves politely. If you mean place -- I assume you mean that it's limited to Feast, Convention, consulting with ABMs or Counsellors, or writing to the Institutions.<<

> > I mean consulting and working with the institutions. However, after the House of Justice makes a determination, such as on the issue of women serving on that body or on homosexuality, Baha'is are obliged not to continue to promote one's own ideas and to work against that institution's decisions.<<<

In other words, to shut up.

> > >>Karen: O.K. let's take a sample issue like prepublication review.<<

> > That is another example. The House made a ruling, and various people protested against it - not by appealing directly to the House of Justice but by lobbying and politicking.<<<

Is talking on email forums "lobbying and politicking"?

> > >>Karen: But when you get yourself wired and on the Internet, you keep talking about it, because it really bugs you.<<

> > The problems were not caused by talking about it or expressing one's concerns but criticizing the House of Justice for deciding to keep review in place, i.e., insisting that the House is exceeding its authority. These same arguments are still being made.<<<

Well, it's pretty tough to disagree with a policy without questioning the judgement of the authority making it.

> > >>Karen: It's one of your pet peeves, and you talk about it a lot, maybe sometimes immoderately. What will happen to you? Maybe a Counsellor will visit and tell you to shut up -- oh, I mean, tell you thar you really don't understand Baha'i principles.<<

> > It is the duty of the Counsellors to protect the community from disunity and contention with the Head of the Faith. Nevertheless, if a Counsellor ever told me to "shut up," I would immediately stop talking to her or him and take the matter directly to the House of Justice.<<

Oh, I doubt Counsellors ever say "shut up". They'll say things like "Baha'is are obliged not to continue to promote one's own ideas and to work against that institution's decisions."

> > >>Karen: Is that the "consultative framework" you meant?<< > > It is a result of not following the consultative framework.<<

In other words, not shutting up.


Forum: Religious Debate


> > > > Karen: I was just saying the other day that more conservative elements in the > > Western religions have their own form of hairsplitting: Judaism and Islam > > over the minutiae of religious law; Christians over the fine points of > > theology. In the Baha'i Faith, there are fine, nuanced distinctions over > the > > meanings of words: teaching isn't prosletyzing; a disenrollment isn't an > > expulsion; someone who is "against the Teachings" isn't a heretic, > > prepublication review isn't censorship and on and on and on. It's > downright > > Orwellian.>>

> > Yes, it took a while for some of us to realise the frequent use of narrow or > redefined words on this list by Y. It was quite amusing really, Y said > the Bahai do not proslytise and then gave what I considered to be a classic > example of proslytising! What is interesting is how the totalitarian Bahai > use "Newspeak" as if there really were no alternative to their > understanding, or a more common-in-use definition. Its this kind of nonsense > that I fail to grasp. Why do supposedly adult and mature people feel the > need not to call a spade a spade? If you proslytise, just say so. I cannot > see the problem in admitting it myself. Yes, as was demonstrated on this > list, proslytising is disliked by many, but a rose by any other name > ............... etc.>>

> Dear X,

Well, you get used to Baha'ispeak and start thinking in it after a while. Some Baha'is honestly believe that "prosyletize" means "to convert by force". What it is, X, is that Shoghi Effendi said we don't prosyletize, therefore any teaching we do doesn't fall into that category. And there actually is tremendous pressure, and guilt trips, over teaching the Faith. We are told again and again that the time is ripe for "entry by troops" (i.e. a lot of people converting), and if we aren't bringing 'em in, then we must not be teaching enough. Or real grumpy types will just say that Americans are too materialistic to grasp the Message -- although, to be fair, that's not the official view. The official view is "if you teach them, they will come". A good deal of community time is taken up with projects meant to spread the Message. It was a real shocker to me, as a new believer, to have been told there is no prosyletizing, then be subjected to this kind of stuff. There was a special pressure in our case, since we'd just formed our assembly, (those form whenever there is nine people in a locality) and in order to "save" it we needed converts.

To be fair, though, communities differ widely in how much pressure they put on people. We had a real Don Quixote, let's save the world type in ours, who put the pressure on constantly. And, of course, he was Chairman of the assembly. The experience of other Baha'is may differ.

I actually teach the Faith more, and more comfortably, now that I'm out of the community and on the Internet. I refer non-Baha'is to the Writings all the time. Right now, I'm posting stuff on the recently-discovered Baha'i Faith Sacred Texts board at Beliefnet. The best way I think, if one is really "teaching" and not aiming at getting a convert is to promote the Writings and Baha'i principles. I actually don't know how to get a person to be a convert; that's a thing that happens from within.

As far as the other terms, there is some background to why certain words are chosen and not others. Some, like the prosyletizing thing, come from Shoghi Effendi's terminology. The reason an disenrollement isn't an expulsion is because that word, a direct translation of a Persian term, refers to declaring someone a covenant-breaker. Disenrollees are just regarded as being non-Baha'i. So am I, for that matter. There is absolutely no recognition that a person can be a Baha'i outside the administration.

As for why? Well, a person's religion holds a strong emotional and social place in his life. People do all kinds of stupid things, convince themselves of all sorts of illogical things, when their religion is at stake.

Love, Karen

Forum: Religious Debate


> Although to some on this list the Bahai debate here might seem a small issue > considering the small number of Bahai in the world, the effect on > individuals and families with this insidious compulsion to silence and > control can be immense.>>


You are so very right. But I think I should clarify that it would be wrong to characterize the entire Baha'i Faith as a cult. It is more accurate to say that there are cultists within it, and since fanaticism can so often be taken as devotion, it's easy for extremists to end up in positions of power. Also, just how restrictive one finds life in the Baha'i community very much depends on who you are and where you live. People who work in the realm of ideas, such as writers and academics, can be given a very rough time. If an accused person has friends in positions to protect him, the watchdogs can be called off; otherwise, he's toast.

What happened, basically, is that these stresses and tensions have been in the Baha'i community for years, but they were all brought out into the open with the rise of the Internet. The Baha'i Faith was accustomed to having control of virtually all information about the religion, presenting a tolerant and liberal face to the world. When the authorities lost that control, I think they panicked. Besides, earlier crackdowns on print media were successful, but cyberspace has put an end to the era when those who have problems in the Baha'i community can be silenced. There is still the threat, though, of any enrolled Baha'i, of being tossed out if they are too open about their criticisms. There is also the threat of being named a covenat-breaker, although that has never happened yet.

Love, Karen

Forum: Religious Debate


> Is there not a point, whereby if you compare the original writings and > principles of Baha'u'llah, with the Administration, that the differences > become so pronounced, ones conscience, reason and/or intuition, tells you > its them that have moved away from the Will of God? In other words, the > faith, at the top, has lapsed into partial apostasy. It wouldn't be the > first time God's 'people' on earth have done so. I wonder if there are Bahai > prophecies concerned with such a thing!>>>

Dear X,

Well, yes, that's why I'm not on the rolls. Because I cannot, in good conscience, support some of the things that have been done in the name of Baha'u'llah. His Kitab-i-Iqan scathingly indicts religious leaders, but Baha'is have an attitude that *this* revelation is different and it can't happen in the Baha'i Faith. There is also a highly symbolic tablet, the Tablet of the Holy Mariner, that is sometimes cited as a prophecy of things going wrong in the Faith.

The conventional Baha'i way of looking at it is this: Baha'u'llah appointed His eldest son 'Abdu'l-Baha as the Center of the Covenant and the authorized Interpreter of His Writings. 'Abdu'l-Baha, in turn, established the twin institutions of the Guardianship and the UHJ in His Will and Testament, basically the charter document for the Baha'i administrative order. This was done to preserve the unity of the Faith, and to prevent it from splitting into sects. I would venture to say that the more conservative the Baha'i, the more "loyalty to the convenant" looms in his religious consciousness. To say that either the UHJ or the Guardian was ever wrong about anything is to suggest that 'Abdu'l-Baha made a mistake in setting it up this way, which means that Baha'u'llah didn't know what He was doing either, and the whole Baha'i Faith comes crashing down like a bunch of dominos.

It is hard to convey to non-Baha'is the central place this idea holds in Baha'i consciousness. It is a profound shock and spiritual shake-up to discover, as X and her friend are doing now, that the system is not as intact as Baha'is pretend it is. I know; my community went through that, and its not pretty. For most Baha'is, the idea that the spiritual and administrative sides of the Faith are separable is just inconceivable. Indeed, this was at the bottom of my own spiritual crisis when I left the Faith.

The simple fact is that the Baha'i administration never did, and never can, function as laid out in its charter document, the Will and Testament of 'Abdu'l-Baha. It's nobody's fault; that's just the way history worked out. God must be laughing. But Baha'is will move heaven and earth to convince themselves that this system is there anyway. For me, though, there is more to Baha'u'llah than a system. What we've got, actually, is workable, if people act according to Baha'i principles, but people being what they are . . .

Love, Karen

Forum: Religious Debate

At 11:19 p.m. 5/27/01 -0700, [Karen] wrote: Just what good do you think has been achieved by the Talisman crackdown and the disenrollments?

I think that framing the question in the way that you have presupposes a certain answer

Yes, it does, but I wanted to hear what you had to say about it anyway.

I don't believe that there has actually been a "Talisman crackdown".

That doesn't surprise me; most AO defenders don't. The facts, just objectively, are that five of the strongest voices on the list, including the listowner, were investigated, interrogated and threatened with being named covenant-breakers. Three of them resigned soon after, one sometime later. The list was closed down, and was restarted again by one of the people investigated who was no longer a member of the Baha'i Faith. At least one person announced on the list that he was leaving out of simple fear. One person on the list lost his voting rights because of a posting he made. Let fair-minded people judge whether or not these actions constitute a "crackdown".

One of the disenrollees, in fact, was only very briefly on Talisman. Most of his activities have been on American Online and >a couple of Usenet newsgroups. The House of Justice, in my view, deals with individuals, not with email lists.

I don't think of the disenrollments as part of the Talisman crackdown, but more of a post-crackdown decision to handle dissenters differently.

What has been accomplished, in my view, is the protection of the Baha'i Faith from disunity. It seems to me that the Baha'i community needs to be able to say, "*This* is what we do, but *this* is not what we do.

As far as I can tell, it has not done anything to preserve unity; quite the opposite. And I don't think the lines are that clearly drawn about what we say and cannot say on email forums.

If you have an organization (any organization), and certain persons who belong to it are engaged in actions which are seen as inconsistent with its defined purpose, then saying that those persons are not ***members*** of the organization protects the integrity of the organization. It also reinforces the qualifications for membership in the organization in the minds of both members and nonmembers. Otherwise, a member of an organization is, if taken to extremes, no different (or hardly different) from someone who is not a member.

I am not convinced that those punished "engaged in actions that are inconsistent with its defined purpose", except maybe the [person]I mentioned earlier -- and I know some people who are surprised that action was taken against him because they think he's obviously crazy.

Karen(previously): The only "good" that I can see, is these cyberspace events have created a place for the disillusioned to gather and offer each other support.

It may be cathartic. However, is it really *good*, if it means a person's spiritual life?

Our spiritual lives are just fine, thank you. You don't need the Baha'i administration to have a spiritual life.

Karen(previously): Do you know what it means to find that there are Baha'is like yourself out there, when your time in the Baha'i community is one of frustration and isolation?

Yes, it is called creating a new community. That is why there are twelve-step and other support groups.

Exactly. We have built a new community. However, the existence of another Baha'i community is a danger to unity. The UHJ has a choice: allow liberal Baha'is to be members or they will be Baha'is without being members. The latter is a greater danger to the integrity of the Baha'i Faith in the long run.

Karen(previously): It's pretty hard to separate the two. Is the spread of the idea that it might be possible for women to serve on the UHJ just "the spread of disunity and contention", or just an idea that answers an aspect of the Faith that has always bugged a lot of people, but they thought they just had to live with it?

To me, they are distinguishable, though it might take some time to do so. As I see it, the key is an understanding of Baha'i consultation and how `Abdu'l-Baha and Shoghi Effendi said that this process should work. (One of the things I have noticed some people on Talisman, etc. attacking, over the years, is the concept of unity itself, which is the foundation of Baha'i live.)

I don't see that. What I do see is objections to the pressures to conform and be silent in the name of "unity".

Love, Karen

Forum: Religious Debate


Dear friends,

I think that it's important to view the inheritance laws against the cultural background in which they were written.

> > A few points here. Someone cannot will a property that is owned by two > people. For example, if a husband and wife are co-owners of a home the > husband cannot simply will away something that is not entirely his own > property.<<<

Exactly. I'd be willing to bet in the Middle East women were not commonly co-owners of a home. If my husband dies, the house is automatically mine, according to the joint tenancy agreement under which we bought it. That's common practice here. I also would not expect that my son will support me in those circumstances, but that I will support myself, and receive my husband's benefits. I think the reason that children are so heavily favored is the assumption that a widow will remarry -- if she gets the bulk of the estate, then it could benefit her second husband and his children. In the West, it is assumed that the wife will inherit most of it, then pass it on to her children in her time.

I wouldn't worry much about the inheritance laws. Baha'is are supposed to write a will. Baha'i institutions couldn't enforce the intestacy laws if they wanted to, but such a situation is handled by the state, at least in the West. Baha'u'llah was being equitable for the society in which He lived. Women get a whole lot more under the Aqdas than they do under the Qur'an. In His time, to leave women "on their own" financially would have been impossible and unfair. How could women own a house unless they had a way of earning an income to maintain it? Also, women in those days were often not educated about financial affairs. I don't think the "inequities" of the inheritance laws have anything to do with giving women fewer rights, but recognizing the realities of the society.

I've often thought the insistence on parental permission to marry had the same kind of motivation. The Bab made marriage just on the consent of the two parties: Baha'u'llah, as in other cases, modified the more radical law of the Bayan and made it contingent upon parental consent. When you consider that, even in our own day, women in the Middle East have been killed for marrying without persmission, then that modification makes a good deal of sense.

Love, Karen

Forum: Religious Debate


> > Karen: I don't see having discussions on email forums as "lobbying". It's called an exchange of ideas.<<

> > By "lobbying," I mean insisting that the House of Justice should change its decision, even after it has said that it does not plan to do so.>>


I don't see how anybody has the power to "insist" that the UHJ do anything. I also don't see that saying that one thinks a different decision would be better is "lobbying". In fact, how can you "lobby" a body that you don't elect? I can lobby my congressman, even threaten to vote against him, if I don't like his decision. He must pay attention to the letters and opinions of his constituents if he wants to be re-elected. The only way UHJ members could be voted out is by a massive world-wide shift -- it's impossible even to envision it. Even then, we don't know which members supported which decision. They have no constituents, so why are they worried about what people are talking about on email?

> > Karen: "Back to Baha'u'llah" is a term I've only seen just recently.<<

> > It was originally used on Talisman 1.>>

> > Karen: I'm not sure how it started, though, and how those who started it are defining it.<<

> > That one, I will tell you privately, if you want me to. It was coined by someone who advocated this position. Anyway, it is in the Talisman 1 archives. I tried finding the reference. However, the search engine never seems to work properly on that site. No matter what I type in, I always get the message, "err: a word is too common.">>

X, I never turn down an opportunity to gain more information. Sure, send it to me privately. However, I can't see that the phrase caught on much if it was used as far back as Talisman-1, and I've only just heard it recently.

> Karen: I cannot respect the "consultations" of a body that does these kinds of things to people.<

< > > Yes, but what did the House of Justice *really* do to anyone?>>

X, in deference to your sensibilities I am resisting a very strong temptation to list all the names and details of every case right here. Never ask me that again, unless you want me to do just that.

> > > >>Respect, trust, and loyalty are things that must be earned > >and deserved, not demanded at a scripture quote.<<

> > Honestly, I see that view more as a reflection of the Western approach to representative government. IMO, the House of Justice does not need to earn respect and trust. Loyalty to the House is based on an acceptance of the Will and Testament of `Abdu'l-Baha and on Shoghi Effendi's "Dispensation" letter.

There is more than one way to see the Will and Testament. The most glaring fact in that document is that most of its provisions are now impossible to implement.

> >Karen:The system that 'Abdu'l-Baha' outlined in the W&T does not exist; we're just propping parts of it up.<<

> > I don't think that the House of Justice has created a new type of administration. It, like the Guardianship, *is* the administration.>>

I didn't say it was a "new" type; it is, however, an incomplete type.

> The mutilation argument, IMO, does precisely what Shoghi Effendi said *not* to do. It separates the institutions from each other. In other words, it is the Remeyites and the back to Baha'u'llah folks who, IMO, advocate a separation between the Universal House of Justice and the Guardianship, with their views on mutilation, not the House.>>>

X, there is no more Guardianship. History separated them, not the mutilation theorists. We've got a body of letters that we pretend is the Guardianship and are afraid to change one iota that Shoghi Effendi ever uttered a word on.


Forum: Religious Debate


Hello again, X! > > >>Karen: Even then, we don't know which members supported which decision. They have no constituents, so why are they worried about what people are talking about on email?<<

> > Yes. However, I don't think that being able to intelligently elect the members of the House of Justice and spiritual assemblies necessarily depends on a knowledge of a person's consultative voting record. As I see it, electors should consider such things as character, maturity, wisdom, etc. There are various ways of observing such virtues without actually stepping into the council chambers. ;-)<<<

Well, even when I was enrolled, I had nothing to do with electing the House of Justice. All the ordinary believer does is elect members of the local assembly and choose a delegate for National Convention. And a person can be very virtuous, and still not make wise decisions. We pretty much vote on reputation; we have no idea what sort of choices any individual will make.

> > I don't see how email discussions are significantly different from any type of conversation. Lobbying, or caucusing, can just as easily be done through email as it can in face-to-face meetings.<<

I don't see conversation as some kind of political act, though.

> > >Karen: X, in deference to your sensibilities I am resisting a very strong temptation to list all the names and details of every case right here. Never ask me that again, unless you want me to do just that.<<

> > I don't see these things as "bad" decisions, Karen. If you are certain that the persons concerned would not object to being talked about in a public forum, if you think that some other list members would find this information interesting, and if you feel inclined to discuss your understandings of these details, then why don't you? However, for myself, I will not comment on the particulars surrounding any individual, since none of them has given me permission to speak for them.<<

I treat the individuals differently, depending on their situations. Alison Marshall has actually thanked me for defending her position on email forums, and I had her review the Themestream article that I wrote about her. Others have gone so public that worrying about privacy seems a bit nitpicky. When I wrote my article on the Talisman crackdown I named all five people investigated. However, in my email discussions, I treat them differently. One of them, as you know, is still enrolled in the Faith, and there is no publicly-available documentation about his interview with Birkland, or if even Birkland was the one who interviewed him. I also am very hesitant to put an enrolled Baha'i at any kind of risk. Another person who was investigated has shown a desire for privacy is the recipient of one of the Birkland letters, and I have never mentioned his name in connection with either that letter, or the Majnun post that the letter speaks of. Both Juan Cole and Steve Scholl have made public comments about their experiences with the administration, and both of them have made positive comments about my writing -- surely if they felt I was violating their privacy in some way they would have told me. There is also couple of cases on which I have documentation, but who I don't know personnally.

Actually, I have talked about these cases so extensively that these days, when people ask, I usually just refer them to my articles, or I just correct misconceptions. It is suprising, for example, how many people feel sure they know why Alison was disenrolled, when the reality is that the UHJ simply spoke of "misconceptions" and did not specify any particular thing they were upset about. Rumors abound.

But I'm not sure the people here want to hear about all the cases. I was responding to your comment that the UHJ didn't do anything to them. My first instinct was to answer with a list of things that were done.


Forum: Religious Debate


"> > I have no idea what goes on in the minds of local and national spiritual assembly (LSA and NSA) members and the members of the House of Justice. However, having been a member of LSAs in seven different communities, I will tell you that, if given the choice, I would not have wanted to serve in this capacity. (Most people I have worked with felt exactly the same way.) However, I don't believe in negative electioneering (though I did consider it at times).<<<<


There's one area where I would agree, that on the local level at least, people are pretty much drafted into their positions. One woman showed up at one of our elections and announced that her husband said that if he were elected to the LSA, he would withdraw from the Faith.

> > > Also, in many cases, I ended up on the LSA by default. I was one of the only nine adults living a community (or one of the only nine so-called active adults). I did the work out of love and never *worried* about not being re-elected. On the contrary, I would have been (and would be) immensely grateful were that to happen.<<<

Yes, this was the situation I was in. One of the pluses at not being in the community is that nobody is ever, ever going to make me be on an LSA again. In a small community, one has virtually no choice.

> > > Karen: >>Yes. But if you name email conversations as some kind of political activity, anyone who talks about any aspect of the affairs of the Faith is in danger of getting nailed.<<

> > Have you seen any evidence to support that "anyone who talks about any aspect of the affairs of the Faith is in danger of getting nailed"? You have done the research. What did it tell you?<<<

My observations are that the effect goes far beyond the individuals who were actually investigated, or disenrolled. After the Talisman crackdown, people resigned from the Faith who were not investigated. One person announced he was unsubscribing from Talisman out of simple fear. Things became further polarized. People since then have had to be aware that the Baha'i authorities are watching Internet forums, and posts are being turned in. Just recently, I have had people express their concern for me, because of the letter that just came out, that I will be named one of those "ex-Baha'is" that will be "left to herself". I think the concern is exaggerated, but I realize that the possibility is always there that some kind of announcement about me could come down from Haifa. I don't believe I'm first in line for that, though. There are people I know, enrolled Baha'is, who I am more concerned about, who could be disenrolled. The UHJ doesn't have to toss out a lot of people to make its point -- for every one person it happens to, how many are afraid of it happening? I think part of the reason these things were done was to send a "message". I think the very vagueness about the reasons for these actions causes anxiety. As I have said before, everyone seems to know why Alison Marshall was disenrolled, except Alison herself. Speculation has run from her being moderator of talisman9, to her interest in Sufism, to her saying that the UHJ had broken the covenant, to her views on infallibility, to her negative book review of Baha'i World. That kind of speculation must create some anxiety. There are people out there wondering "Am I next?" Quite frankly, I believe they are intended to.


Forum: Religious Debate


> > >>My observations are that the effect goes far beyond the individuals who were actually investigated, or disenrolled.<<

> > Yes, but that is not exactly what you said before, Karen. You wrote, "... anyone who talks about any aspect of the affairs of the Faith is in danger of getting nailed." There is a difference between fear and reality.

> > The fears, I think, can be dealt with through opening up lines of communication and by studying how the House of Justice operates and deals with Baha'i communities and individuals. The reality is that, as far as I know, only three people have been disenrolled, and they can, at any time, write to the House of Justice to find out how they can satisfy the requirements for re-enrollment.<<<

X, Do they really expect that people *won't* be afraid when these kinds of things are done? As far as I can tell, the UHJ has done nothing to assuage those fears.

> > > > > >>Karen: I think the concern is exaggerated, but I realize that the possibility is always there that some kind of announcement about me could come down from Haifa.<<

> > If you are concerned about that happening, then why don't you write to the House of Justice and share your feelings?<<

I'm not, really. I said that other people were concerned for me. Whatever they do is not going to affect my life that much; that's why I can be so bold about speaking out. There are, though, a lot of people out there with more to lose.

> > > >>Karen: The UHJ doesn't have to toss out a lot of people to make its point -- for every one person it happens to, how many are afraid of it happening?<<

> > You are assuming that the House of Justice disenrolled these three persons to "make its point." However, do you have evidence for that? It seems more likely to me that the House's actions were a result of deliberations on whether, in the views of the members of that body, these particular individuals were qualified for Baha'i membership. At least, that is the impression I have from reading its letters.<<<

Well, X they were hardly just cleaning up the membership rolls. We've got God knows how many people inactive for years stuck permanently on the rolls because nobody has looked into whether or not they consider themselves Baha'is. Michael McKenny was the first person ever disenrolled; the deliberation must have centered more on "What do we do with this guy?", rather than the membership requirements. There had to have been a deliberate decision to use disenrollment as a tool against email heretics.

> > > >>Karen:I think part of the reason these things were done was to send a "message".<<

> > That would assume it was a punishment, and that the House was practicing what criminologists call "general deterrence," which I don't think is true.<<

Oh, yes. Disenrollment isn't supposed to be a punishment; it is just the recognition that a person's beliefs are incompatable with membership in the Baha'i Faith. So they decide that people who have been members for twenty years and more suddenly don't meet the requirements. They were booted off the rolls because of the content of their emails. It was retaliation for the things these people said.

> > > >>I think the very vagueness about the reasons for these actions causes anxiety. As I have said before, everyone seems to know why Alison Marshall was disenrolled, except Alison herself.<<

> > If so, than she is free to write the House of Justice and request information.<<<

If they had done such a thing to me, I wouldn't want to go anywhere near them.


Forum: Religious Debate


> > I was just wondering what the people on this list > believe happens to us after death. > > Personally, I don't expect to have any sort of > conciousness apart from my body and I believe that > I'll be aware again when I'm resurrected at the end of > the world. I know some Christians believe in basically > your spirit just hanging around but I don't like the > idea, and purgatory I dislike even more.<<<

> Dear X,

The Baha'i Writings actually do not precisely describe the afterlife, other than affirming that there is one, basically depicting it as indescribable. There is a notion that souls after death continue to progress, and spiritually powerful souls can continue to have an effect on this world. As I understand it, the soul is connected with the body, but does not reside within it.

Before becoming a Baha'i, I believed in reincarnation, but as I thought about it decided that the soul is not a physical entity. It exists in eternity, where place and time really have no meaning. So it doesn't make sense to describe the soul as existing in a certain body at a certain time, then being reincarnated at another time. The soul is not in the body like air is in a balloon. I think of death like a curtain rising, and it stands revealed what the soul really is. Baha'i belief is that the purpose of life is to know and love God, and to acquire virtues that are often described as attributes of God. The more developed the soul, the greater the quality of the afterlife. After all, if one is completely attached to this world, with no interest in the life of the spirit, the what will it find in the next?

Love, Karen

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