Why do Baha'i's misunderstand what "shun politics" means?

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Keyvan
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Why do Baha'i's misunderstand what "shun politics" means?

Postby Keyvan » Sun Nov 09, 2008 5:07 pm

When it comes to "politics" I notice that Baha'i's tend to have a hyper-conscious and exaggerated understanding of what the faith says about it. Yes we are to "shun politics like the plague," this is true. However, this has lead to great misunderstandings by Baha'i's which has lead to dare I say, dogmatic views.

It's a layered misunderstanding that follows through like this.

1) They misunderstand the difference between politics and governance/policy. Many go beyond seeing politics as simply the competitive power struggle between individuals, parties, and organizations within systems of governance. Rather, they think that politics refers to anything of or relating to issues of social issues, governance, public life, and those administrate the current governments of the world.

2) They misunderstand why politics is to be shunned. Often I hear "it brings disunity." That may be true, but more fundamentally its because we should be geared towards bringing the triumph of our own potential systems of governments - of the Baha'i' Commonwealth, - not promoting those of the current old world. Giving what is "active support" for a candidate or joining a political party not only shows insincerity to the Cause, but thrusts ones support in a fundamentally different direction than the goal of a Baha'i Commonwealth.

3) They believe this means that all discussions of not just elections, but public officials, policies, acts of governance, and even just social issues,are prohibited, and ask others to not engage in such discussions. But no, not all of those items have to do with politics, and for those that do, it is the CONTEXT and frame of the discussion in measure to one's obligations to the Cause of a Baha'i Commonwealth that matters.

Why is there such a rift here?

I think the community as a whole needs to start understanding what "politics" is.

Shunning politics does not mean to not discuss government, policies, and government leaders. Baha'u'llah Himself wrote to many governments and leaders, the Baha'i International Community does the same for the issues at hand. The Universal House of Justice has encouraged Baha'i's to teach the faith as relevant to social issues, so clearly Baha'i's must be up to speed in that regard.

Clearly we need to discuss government when we go after Baha'i issues, namely, Baha'i human rights in Iran and other places. Clearly there are figures and policies involved in such discussions.

So clearly politics has nothing to do with any of these things. This is governance, not politics.

emifinan
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Re: Why do Baha'i's misunderstand what "shun politics" means?

Postby emifinan » Sun Nov 09, 2008 7:27 pm

Alla-u-abha Keyvan!

I agree that it is very important to understand the Baha'i writings about political involvement. In fact, it would be great if you or another friend could post them here. I would but they don't make Ocean Library for macs yet :) I'll try digging them up in the meantime though.

Thanks!

Emily

brettz9
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Re: Why do Baha'i's misunderstand what "shun politics" means

Postby brettz9 » Sun Nov 09, 2008 10:44 pm

Hello Keyvan and all,

I very much agree with especially point #2 you make. And our institutions are indeed charged with communicating with governments, making recommendations, etc., and sometimes they engage the believers in such campaigns, etc., such as writing our representatives to ratify certain U.N. conventions or taking some action to garner support for the persecuted friends in Iran. And the Writings even use the word "politics" in such a general sense as you mention:

"...the spirit of the Holy Writings and Tablets which have been revealed in this wondrous Dispensation concerning matters of major or minor importance, whether essential or otherwise, related to ...politics or economics, have so permeated the world that since the inception of the world in the course of past Dispensations and bygone ages nothing like it has ever been seen or heard."

(Shoghi Effendi, Pearls of Wisdom, pp. 47-48)



However, there are in fact some quotations which may be understood as indicating we are not to mention such figures.

The Guardian wishes me to draw the attention of the Friends through you that they should be very careful in their public addresses not to mention any political figures-either side with them or denounce them. This is the first thing to bear in mind. Otherwise they will involve the friends in political matters, which is infinitely dangerous to the Cause.

(Letter written on behalf of Shoghi Effendi by his Secretary, in Principles of Baha'i Administration, p. 32)


and

"He hath even prohibited the believers from discussing political affairs."

(Letter of the Universal House of Justice, July 7, 1976, cited in Political Non-Involvement and Obedience to Government)


and

"O handmaid of the Lord! Speak thou no word of politics; thy task concerneth the life of the soul, for this verily leadeth to man's joy in the world of God. Except to speak well of them, make thou no mention of the earth's kings, and the worldly governments thereof. Rather, confine thine utterance to spreading the blissful tidings of the Kingdom of God, and demonstrating the influence of the Word of God, and the holiness of the Cause of God."

(Selections from the Writings of 'Abdu'l-Baha, section 53)


('Abdu'l-Baha repeatedly emphasized how Baha'i meetings--weekly meetings where deep study of the proofs and history were covered--should refrain from extraneous discussion, including politics.)

Of course, 'Abdu'l-Baha does allow for this: "Except to speak well of them, make thou no mention of the earth's kings, and the worldly governments thereof.", but there is a fine line between speaking well of them and, as the quotation above forbids, "siding" with them.

Regarding your points #1 and #3, there are, according to the Writings, some situations in which even other controversial social issues are discouraged from being discussed:

Touching the publication of articles and pamphlets bearing on the controversial and political issues of the day, I desire to remind my dearly-beloved fellow-workers that at the present stage when the Cause is still in its infancy, any minute and detailed analysis by the Friends of subjects that are in the forefront of general discussion would often be misconstrued in certain quarters and give rise to suspicions and misunderstandings that would react unfavourably on the Cause. They would tend to create a misconception of the real object, the true mission, and the fundamental character of the Bahá'í Faith. We should, while endeavoring to uphold loyally and expound conscientiously our social and moral principles in all their essence and purity, in all their bearings upon the divers phases of human society, insure that no direct reference or particular criticism in our exposition of the fundamentals of the Faith would tend to antagonize any existing institution, or help to identify a purely spiritual movement with the base clamourings and contentions of warring sects, factions, and nations. We should strive in all our utterances to combine the discretion and noble reticence of the wise with the frankness and passionate loyalty of the ardent advocate of an inspiring Faith. While refusing to utter the word that would needlessly alienate or estrange any individual, government, or people, we should fearlessly and unhesitatingly uphold and assert in their entirety such truths the knowledge of which we believe is vitally and urgently needed for the good and betterment of mankind.

(Shoghi Effendi, Principles of Baha'i Administration, pp. 32-33)


Concerning the general letter ['The Goal of a New World Order', 28 November 1931 (in 'The World Order of Bahá'u'lláh'. PP. 29-51)] he has sent lately to the Western friends, to which you refer in your letter: Shoghi Effendi thinks that the friends should spread the message it conveys to the public. It should undoubtedly be done in a very judicious way lest the people think that we have entered the arena of politics with rather drastic program of reform. But we should at the same time show the lead that the teachings take towards the realization of the international ideal. The primary importance of the Cause among the existing religions of the world is that, whereas the others have no coherent program upon which they are united, the Movement is rich with the very spirit and teachings the world needs for solving its present international problems. It is a wonderful chance for the Cause to absorb the interest of the intelligent elements in the public.
(On behalf of Shoghi Effendi, 14 January 1932, to an individual believer, quoted in the compilation “Studying the Writings of Shoghi Effendi” on-line at http://bahai-library.org/compilations/w ... rdian.html )


But as was also touched on in the above quotation, there is room for some criticism of the "present social and political order", though even for this approach which does not "side with or oppose any existing regime", we are also, "not to make too free a use of such a method":

"There is, however, one case in which one can criticize the present social and political order without being necessarily forced to side with or oppose any existing regime. And this is the method adopted by the Guardian in his `Goal of a New World Order'. His criticisms of the world conditions beside being very general in character are abstract; that is, instead of condemning existing institutional organizations it goes deeper and analyzes the basic ideas and conceptions which have been responsible for their establishment. This being a mere intellectual and philosophical approach to the problem of world political crisis, there is no objection if you wish to try such a method, which immediately carries you from the field of practical politics to that of political theory. But in view of the fact that no clear-cut line can be drawn between theory and practice you should be extremely careful not to make too free a use of such a method."

(On behalf of the Guardian, Lights of Guidance, p. 452)


And it is a good point about being aware of current thoughts and problems:

“The Cause needs more Bahá’í scholars, people who not only are devoted to tell others about it, but also who have a deep grasp of the teachings and their significance, and who can correlate its beliefs with the current thoughts and problems of the people of the world.

(On behalf of Shoghi Effendi, Pearls of Wisdom, p. 101)


and

"On the other hand there is a big difference between this and learning. If the Bahá'ís want to be really effective in teaching the Cause they need to be much better informed and able to discuss intelligently, intellectually, the present condition of the world and its problems. We need Bahá'í scholars, not only people far, far more deeply aware of what our teachings really are, but also well-read and well-educated people, capable of correlating our teachings to the current thoughts of the leaders of society."

(5 July 1949 written on behalf of Shoghi Effendi)


I think both points in the last statement are interesting and worth repeating: "far more deeply aware of what our teachings really are" and "also well-read and well-educated people, capable of correlating our teachings to the current thoughts of the leaders of society."

“Shoghi Effendi has for years urged the Bahá’ís (who asked his advice, and in general also), to study history, economics, sociology, etc., in order to be au courant with all the progressive movements and thoughts being put forth today, and so that they could correlate these to the Bahá’í teachings. What he wants the Bahá’ís to do is to study more, not to study less. The more general knowledge they possess, the better. Likewise he is constantly urging them to really study the Bahá’í teachings more deeply.”

(On behalf of Shoghi Effendi, Pearls of Wisdom, p. 108)


Our Writings may have all of the fundamental answers, but they do not spell out all of the questions! (perhaps along the lines of the philosopher Wittgenstein's expression of the need to "dissolve" rather than "solve" problems).

best wishes,
Brett

brettz9
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Re: Why do Baha'i's misunderstand what "shun politics" means?

Postby brettz9 » Mon Nov 10, 2008 7:48 am

In this other related thread, Keyvan, you wrote:

First of all, if this were before the election ended, I would not have posted it for the reasons which you outlined. Now that the election is over I think such arguments are irrelevant and a discerning reader would not interpret partisonship. This is a perfectly safe discussion to have, but I think that should go without saying.


I was not criticizing your expression of hope that things might improve (as long as it was not an implicit criticism of former administration(s)), nor was I denying the potential validity behind some of your observations. I was only referring to a continuation of the discussion focused on individuals.

I guess my issue with this arguement (which you raise) is that it opens up a neurosis within the Baha'i community to which we are all fearful of saying anything of or relating to governance for fear that it can be interpreted as partisan


I don't think that caution--which our Writings advocate--will open up a neurosis, unless we let it do so. I don't disagree with you that it is possible for us to carry this too far (or actually, not far enough in the right way), and I think it is a very good topic for us to discuss here--what is the right balance?

By the way, besides "partisan" politics (between political parties within a country), we also have to avoid controversies raging between nations. While being past an election may address concerns of the former type, they might not address the latter.

This is a very real concern. In another forum, a Baha'i warned about retribution coming to Iran from the U.S. (leading, quite understandably, to a harsh reaction from a non-Baha'i reading this, who might have either been disturbed by the perceived aggressive tone and/or by resentment for appearing to try to involve the U.S. in such a matter). I think this is why the matter is left to our institutions to handle. They can express our concerns in a manner which is dignified and, while vocally defending the innocent, does not give the impression of our being partisans (in the sense of narrowly pushing for our own interests, or doing so in an aggressive manner).

There is a pilgrim's note of Baha'u'llah, where He was to have said that all governments are selfish. Even when some show more justice than others (at least in certain spheres), there is a very real danger of our becoming associated with the negative sides of their policies. Although we often tend to think that one side might be "right" (usually the side whose voice we hear most frequently), actually our Writings often indicate that BOTH sides are wrong, even if the degree may be somewhat or quite different.

There was even one individual visiting this forum who expressed (as I recall it) that he did not find it obvious that Baha'is were absolutely opposed to religious violence (there was some heated discussion going on here at the time, and though not in any way violent, provoked such questions for this individual). When we read the Writings eschewing violence, we may rush past these, thinking these as obvious because we are already well familiar with Baha'i attitudes in our communities that are, needless to say, peaceful, loving, etc., but for those not familiar with the Faith, we really have to establish ourselves, not only by our actions, but also the mildness of our words (even if we think we do not need to or should not have to).

Personally speaking, this is a lesson that has been hard for me to learn--I often feel things would be much easier if people would take words (and emotions expressed with them) I or others express at face value, but often, I find it really becomes necessary to speak out things repeatedly or emphatically (or on the other hand, NOT speak). That's part of the challenge of life--we have to step up to the plate to defend even the obvious--or no one else will do it for us (or, conversely, we may have to avoid discussing things where we think our intent should be clear).

I think this is doubly true among our discussions with the masses and even among educated people; as trite as it may sound, they really need to see our actions (including words that demonstrate those actions). While we may think spirituality is just communicating without words, our practical Faith which recognizes the shortcomings of human beings and this world, speaks to the necessity of words being used to unlock the keys to the heart.

best wishes,
Brett

p.s. I'm going out of town as of tomorrow, so may not be able to respond for some time

MontanaDon
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Re: Why do Baha'i's misunderstand what "shun politics" means?

Postby MontanaDon » Mon Nov 10, 2008 8:30 am

emifinan wrote: I would but they don't make Ocean Library for macs yet :) I'll try digging them up in the meantime though.


A good selection of the primary texts are available on Archive for OSX. Additionally, those texts in Ocean that are in its proprietary format (w/ suffix ocn1 on Macs), the works of Taherzadeh and Balyuzi, will open in Archive. So all you need to do is download Archive fm http://www.schoolmarmwood.org/ARCHIVEUpdates.htm, and then have a friend who has Ocean send you the extracted versions of the English texts in Ocean.

If you want something a bit more sophisticated, tho' not free, I suggest iVerbum fm http://www.iverbum.com/. This is a commercial port of an open source engine that uses an index to all texts. If you have a large quantity of materials (e.g., I used SiteSucker http://www.sitesucker.us/ , donation ware, and pulled down this entire site and Ahang Rabbani's), it is far faster than either Ocean or Archive. Further, it reads pdf and web archive files, and permits very sophisticated boolean searches, included nested terms.

Another piece of software you may find useful is Skim http://skim-app.sourceforge.net/. This provides enhanced pdf annotation capabilities.

Don C
----------
Understood properly, all man's problems are essentially spiritual in nature.

emifinan
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Re: Why do Baha'i's misunderstand what "shun politics" means?

Postby emifinan » Mon Nov 10, 2008 12:05 pm

Thank you so much!

Photon
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Re: Why do Baha'i's misunderstand what "shun politics" means?

Postby Photon » Thu Nov 27, 2008 7:35 pm

I had a circumstance happen during this last election which illustrated to me the wisdom of not taking sides in a political fight.

I was checking in at an airport in the U.S., preparing to fly a few days before the election. The clerk, a young black man, started talking about how people judged him by his political choice and how hurtful that was. I could easily agree with him and made no attempt to mention either candidate. Before long he was talking about his support for John McCain and how it was causing him problem in his family and at his church.

In that perfect opening I mentioned about how at my church we just don't talk about those things and leave people to use their own good God-given judgment to make their own decisions in the privacy of the voting booth. He asked about the church, I mentioned Baha'i. He said he had seen some of their programs on the local public TV. I had an introductory mini-CD with me so I gave it to him. Unfortunately, this is not where I live so I didn't get to see him again.

What really drove it home for me is that if I had to guess who he was going to pick, I would have totally guessed wrong. Likewise, I didn't feel compelled to try and change his decision one iota. Both of those things were important for me to be able to engage him in what is important and not on what is transitory.

So, I re-learned a good lesson.

Sen McGlinn
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Re: Why do Baha'i's misunderstand what "shun politics" means?

Postby Sen McGlinn » Sun Nov 30, 2008 9:23 am

Dear Keyvan:

There's a posting about this on my blog, under the title 'For the Betterment of the World'.

http://senmcglinn.wordpress.com/2008/09/26/for-the-betterment-of-the-world/

The betterment of the world requires an engaged, committed stance to the issues of the day. And in a democracy, according to Abdu'l-Baha, this requires "that all the citizens shall take part in the elections of officers and take part in the affairs of the republic." "no excuse from it is possible" he says. It's very emphatic language (these are and other quotes and their sources are on my blog). The reason why political involvement is a duty in a democracy, but not under an absolute monarchy, is simply that under an absolute monarchy political mobilisation is subversive, whereas in a democracy all citizens are given permission:

O ye beloved of the Lord! It is incumbent upon you to be submissive to all monarchs that are just and to show your fidelity to every righteous king. Serve ye the sovereigns of the world with utmost truthfulness and loyalty. Show obedience unto them and be their well-wishers. Without their leave and permission do not meddle with political affairs, for disloyalty to the just sovereign is disloyalty to God Himself.
(Abdu'l-Baha, The Will and Testament, p. 15)




You wrote:

Keyvan wrote:... we should be geared towards bringing the triumph of our own potential systems of governments - of the Baha'i' Commonwealth, - not promoting those of the current old world.


In all seriousness, Keyvan, I would ask you not to write and circulate such ideas on a public forum. They are not just a misunderstanding of the Writings, they could put the Bahais and the Bahai institutions in danger in many countries of the world. Governments are quite rightly jealous of potential alternative governments in their territory ! By all means study the matter, and form your own understanding of it, but do not put things in writing in public that would endanger your fellow-believers.

What you are suggesting is against one of the most emphatic and often repeated teachings of the Faith. Here's just a small selection of quotes

Theirs is not the purpose, while endeavoring to conduct and perfect the administrative affairs of their Faith, to violate, under any circumstances, the provisions of their country's constitution, much less to allow the machinery of their administration to supersede the government of their respective countries.
(Shoghi Effendi, The World Order of Baha'u'llah, p. 65)


... this sect have no worldly object nor any concern with political matters. The fulcrum of their motion and rest and the pivot of their cast and conduct is restricted to spiritual things and confined to matters of conscience; it has nothing to do with the affairs of government nor any concern with the powers of the throne; its principles are the withdrawal of veils, the verification of signs, the education of souls, the reformation of characters, the purification of hearts, and illumination with the gleams of enlightenment.
(Abdu'l-Baha, A Traveller's Narrative, p. 85)


The signature of that meeting should be the Spiritual Gathering (House of Spirituality) and the wisdom therein is that hereafter the government should not infer from the term "House of Justice" that a court is signified, that it is connected with political affairs, or that at any time it will interfere with governmental affairs.
Hereafter, enemies will be many. They would use this subject as a cause for disturbing the mind of the government and confusing the thoughts of the public. The intention was to make known that by the term Spiritual Gathering (House of Spirituality), that Gathering has not the least connection with material matters, and that its whole aim and consultation is confined to matters connected with spiritual affairs.
(Abdu'l-Baha, Tablets of Abdu'l-Baha v1, p. 5)



The Faith which this order serves, safeguards and promotes, is, it should be noted in this connection, essentially supernatural, supranational, entirely non-political,
(Shoghi Effendi, Summary Statement - 1947, Special UN Committee on Palestine)


Should we become intoxicated with this cup, the sovereignty of this globe of earth will become lower in our estimation than children's play. Should they place in the arena the crown of the government of the whole world, and invite each one of us to accept it, undoubtedly we shall not condescend, and shall refuse to accept it.
To attain to this supreme station is, however, dependent on the realization of certain conditions: The first condition is firmness in the Covenant of God. For the power of the Covenant will protect the Cause of Bahá'u'lláh from the doubts of the people of error.
(Abdu'l-Baha, Tablets of the Divine Plan, p. 50)


Bahá'u'lláh, Who Himself was an active figure in those days and was regarded one of the leading exponents of the Faith of the Báb, states clearly His views in the Íqán that His conception of the sovereignty of the Promised Qá'im was purely a spiritual one, and not a material or political one...
(Shoghi Effendi, The Unfolding Destiny of the British Baha'i Community, p. 425)


Were sovereignty to mean earthly sovereignty and worldly dominion, were it to imply the subjection and external allegiance of all the peoples and kindreds of the earth -- whereby His loved ones should be exalted and be made to live in peace, and His enemies be abased and tormented -- such form of sovereignty would not be true of God Himself, ...
Know, therefore, O questioning seeker, that earthly sovereignty is of no worth, nor will it ever be, in the eyes of God and His chosen Ones....
(Baha'u'llah, The Kitab-i-Iqan, p. 124)


CII. Give a hearing ear, O people, to that which I, in truth, say unto you. The one true God, exalted be His glory, hath ever regarded, and will continue to regard, the hearts of men as His own, His exclusive possession. All else, whether pertaining to land or sea, whether riches or glory, He hath bequeathed unto the Kings and rulers of the earth. From the beginning that hath no beginning the ensign proclaiming the words "He doeth whatsoever He willeth" hath been unfurled in all its splendor before His Manifestation.
(Gleanings from the Writings of Baha'u'llah, p. 206)


83: By the righteousness of God! It is not Our wish to lay hands on your kingdoms. Our mission is to seize and possess the hearts of men. Upon them the eyes of Baha are fastened.
(Baha'u'llah, The Kitab-i-Aqdas, p. 49)


God hath committed into your hands [ie, the Kings and Ruler's hands] the reins of the government of the people, that ye may rule with justice over them, safeguard the rights of the down-trodden, and punish the wrong-doers.
(Gleanings from the Writings of Baha'u'llah, p. 247)



If you refer to history, you would find countless examples of this [negative] sort, all based on the involvement of religious leaders in political matters. These souls are the fountainhead of the interpretation of God’s commandments (tashri-`), not of implementation (tanfi-dh). That is, when the government requests an explanation concerning the requirements of the Law of God and the realities of the divine ordinances ... they must explain what has been deduced of the commands of God, and what is in accordance with the law of God. Apart from this, what awareness do they have of questions of leadership and social development, the administration and control of weighty matters, the welfare and prosperity of the kingdom, the improvement of procedures and codes of law, or foreign affairs and domestic policy?
Abdu'l-Baha, Sermon on the Art of Governance,
see http://www.h-net.org/~bahai/trans/vol7/govern.htm


This House of Justice enacteth the laws and the government enforceth them. The legislative body (tashri-`) must reinforce the executive (tanfi-dh), the executive must aid and assist the legislative body so that through the close union and harmony of these two forces, the foundation of fairness and justice may become firm and strong, that all the regions of the world may become even as Paradise itself.
(Abdu'l-Baha, The Will and Testament, p. 14)



One of their many calumnies was that this servant had raised aloft a banner in this city, had summoned the people together under it, had established a new sovereignty for himself, had erected upon Mount Carmel a mighty stronghold, had rallied around him all the peoples of the land and made them obedient to him, had caused disruption in the Faith of Islam, had covenanted with the following of Christ and, God forbid, had purposed to cause the gravest breach in the mighty power of the Crown. May the Lord protect us from such atrocious falsehoods!
(Abdu'l-Baha, The Will and Testament, p. 7)


The sovereigns of the earth have been and are the manifestations of the power, the grandeur and the majesty of God. This Wronged One hath at no time dealt deceitfully with anyone. ... Regard for the rank of sovereigns is divinely ordained, as is clearly attested by the words of the Prophets of God and His chosen ones. He Who is the Spirit (Jesus) -- may peace be upon Him -- was asked: "O Spirit of God! Is it lawful to give tribute to Caesar or not?" And He made reply: "Yea, render to Caesar the things that are Caesar's and to God the things that are God's." He forbade it not. These two sayings are, in the estimation of men of insight, one and the same, for if that which belonged to Caesar had not come from God, He would have forbidden it.
(Baha'u'llah, Epistle to the Son of the Wolf, p. 89)


In the Epistle to the Romans Saint Paul hath written: "Let every soul be subject unto the higher powers. For there is no power but of God; the powers that be are ordained of God. Whosoever therefore resisteth the power, resisteth the ordinance of God." And further: "For he is the minister of God, a revenger to execute wrath upon him that doeth evil." He saith that the appearance of the kings, and their majesty and power are of God.
(Baha'u'llah, Epistle to the Son of the Wolf, p. 90)


I could go on and on -- this is clearly a matter that was very important to Baha'u'llah and Abdu'l-Baha, because they mention it often and the language is often vehement. This is partly because they were in fact being accused up setting up a potential alternative form of government. But back to what you wrote:

... our own potential systems of governments - of the Baha'i' Commonwealth, -


We have seen that Shoghi Effendi says that we must never "under any circumstances" allow the machinery of the Bahai administration to supersede the government, not even if we are asked very nicely. "Should they place in the arena the crown of the government ...undoubtedly we shall ... refuse to accept it," says Abdu'l-Baha. That rather rules out the Bahai administration as a potential system of government, doesn't it. But Shoghi Effendi does talk about the commonwealth of nations, the Bahai Commonwealth and the World Order of Baha'u'llah, and it is important to sort out what these mean to him.

One passage that's particularly illuminating is in Citadel of Faith p. 32:
... the great republic of the West, government and people alike, is itself .... unwittingly and irresistibly advancing towards the goal destined for it by both Baha’u’llah and Abdu’l-Baha? Indeed if we ... appraise correctly the significances of contemporaneous events that are impelling forward both the American Baha’i Community and the nation of which it forms a part on the road leading them to their ultimate destiny, we cannot fail to perceive the workings of two simultaneous processes ... each clearly defined, each distinctly separate, yet closely related and destined to culminate, in the fullness of time, in a single glorious consummation.
One of these processes is associated with the mission of the American Baha’i Community, the other with the destiny of the American nation. The one serves directly the interests of the Administrative Order of the Faith of Baha’u’llah, the other promotes indirectly the institutions that are to be associated with the establishment of His World Order


The World Order, as Shoghi Effendi uses the term, is something that develops out of the process already at work in what you call "the current old world," and it is "distinctly separate" from the Administrative Order of the Faith.

Hoeever the Bahai Commonwealth develops out of the process within the Bahai community:

The first process dates back to the ... Tablets ... of 'Abdu'l-Bahá's Divine Plan. ... It will be consummated through the emergence of the Bahá'í World Commonwealth in the Golden Age of the Bahá'í Dispensation
(Shoghi Effendi, Citadel of Faith, p. 32)


The other process dates back to the outbreak of the first World War ... It received its initial impetus through the formulation of President Wilson's Fourteen Points,... It acquired added momentum through the outbreak of the second World War, .... It was further reinforced through the declaration embodied in the Atlantic Charter, ....It assumed a definite outline through the birth of the United Nations ... It must, however long and tortuous the way, lead, through a series of victories and reverses, to the political unification of the Eastern and Western Hemispheres, to the emergence of a world government and the establishment of the Lesser Peace, as foretold by Bahá'u'lláh and foreshadowed by the Prophet Isaiah. It must, in the end, culminate in the unfurling of the banner of the Most Great Peace, in the Golden Age of the Dispensation of Bahá'u'lláh.
(Shoghi Effendi, Citadel of Faith, p. 32)


The second (secular) process leads to the establishment of ...

the future Commonwealth of all the nations of the world? Some form of a world super-state must needs be evolved, Such a state will have to include within its orbit an international executive ... a world parliament whose members shall be elected by the people in their respective countries and whose election shall be confirmed by their respective governments; and a supreme tribunal...
(Shoghi Effendi, The World Order of Baha'u'llah, p. 40)


The unity of the human race, as envisaged by Bahá'u'lláh, implies the establishment of a world commonwealth in which all nations, races, [u]creeds and classes are closely and permanently united, and in which the autonomy of its state members and the personal freedom and initiative of the individuals that compose them are definitely and completely safeguarded. This commonwealth must, as far as we can visualize it, consist of a world legislature, ... A world executive, backed by an international Force, ... A world tribunal will adjudicate and deliver its compulsory and final verdict in all and any disputes that may arise between the various elements constituting this universal system.
(Shoghi Effendi, The World Order of Baha'u'llah, p. 203)
[/u]

In this world commonwealth of nations, there is no mention of the Universal House of Justice. But the Universal House of Justice is "the supreme legislative body of the future Bahá'í Commonwealth," (Shoghi Effendi, Messages to the Baha'i World - 1950-1957, p. 148).
There is no mention of the Hands of the Cause, who are the "Chief Stewards of Bahá'u'lláh's embryonic World Commonwealth" (Shoghi Effendi, Messages to the Baha'i World - 1950-1957, p. 127). And so on: the functions, memberships, electoral methods of the institutions of the Bahai Commonwealth are all different to those of the commonwealth of nations, and they are intended to function side by side and support one another. The house of justice, for example, are elected by the Bahais, the world parliament by all the peoples of the world, for the commonwealth of nations embraces all creeds, the Bahai Administrative Order is for Bahais.

Once that distinction is sorted out, the Bahai teachings about "systems of governments" and about "Baha'i' Commonwealth" can each be understood. It is supposing that these are the same thing that makes the issue appear complicated, even contradictory. In fact, it is quite straightforward if the basic two-fold architecture is sorted out

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Re: Why do Baha'i's misunderstand what "shun politics" means?

Postby Sila » Sun Nov 30, 2008 5:12 pm

Just wanted to say, Sen, that what you wrote was very helpful, and unintentionally answered some new question's that were brewing in my head about Baha'i involvement with government and the like - and your blog is great, too!

- Alex

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Re: Why do Baha'i's misunderstand what "shun politics" means?

Postby brettz9 » Mon Dec 01, 2008 1:45 am

Yes, Baha'is are to be involved, in terms of caring about the issues of the day, rendering what service we can (as institutions or individuals), and participating in such activities as voting. Baha'is can be appointed to an office, but cannot join a party.

"In the case of Mr. ..., it is important that you ascertain precisely what his membership on a village council entails, and how he achieved such membership, i.e., by election or appointment. Your Assembly should understand that Bahá'ís do not engage in political activities nor belong to political parties, but may freely undertake non-political administrative work with governments, may hold appointive posts which are not political in character, or may serve on local councils if they do not campaign for office and are not required to undertake partisan political activities."

(From a letter written on behalf of the Universal House of Justice to the National Spiritual Assembly of the Leeward Islands, February 15, 1982)


There are also quotes such as the following:
"...no loyal believer should under any circumstances commit himself in any way to a political program or policy formulated and upheld by a political party. For affiliation with such a party necessarily entails repudiation of some principles and teachings of the Cause, or partial recognition of some of its fundamental verities. The friends should, therefore, keep aloof from party politics. What they should mainly keep away from under all circumstances and in all its forms is partisanship."

(From a letter written on behalf of Shoghi Effendi to an individual believer, December 17, 1935)


There are a number of other such quotations on political NON-involvement starting at http://bahai-library.com/?file=hornby_l ... er=4#n1440

Baha'is certainly do and must take part in the affairs of the republic, but this does not have anything to do with partisan means. And the Assemblies represent the Faith to the outside world, not individuals.

As far as Keyvan's points, I didn't see anything that he (or she?) was talking about which indicated agitating for change, etc., though, as our Writings strongly advise us, we are advised to watch our tone to be clear to avoid such misconceptions and that our purpose is indeed to serve our governments whole-heartedly. I see nothing in the statement you cite which is a "misunderstanding" of the teachings, though if taken out of context, a "potential system of government" indeed might be twisted as though we were trying to, God forbid, install one ourselves through aggressive means.

However, we do certainly believe that in the far future, there will be a merging of these two processes.

As per the quotation you cited from Citadel of Faith:

"...each clearly defined, each distinctly separate, yet closely related and destined to culminate, in the fullness of time, in a single glorious consummation."

(Shoghi Effendi, Citadel of Faith, p. 32)


The two processes you mention as separate (and indeed they are) are to "culminate, in the fullness of time, in a single glorious consummation".

Moreover, the manner in which this is to occur is to be "a supremely voluntary and democratic process.":

"the growth of the Bahá'í communities to the size where a non-Bahá'í state would adopt the Faith as the State Religion, let alone to the point at which the State would accept the Law of God as its own law and the National House of Justice as its legislature, must be a supremely voluntary and democratic process."

(On behalf of the Universal House of Justice at http://bahai-library.com/?file=uhj_theocracy)


This is a far cry from interfering or entangling ourselves in the political maneuverings of the day.

As far as Shoghi Effendi's statement you cite that Baha'is at were not to "allow the machinery of their administration to supersede the government", this should also be understood by quotations such as the following:

"...as the Bahá'í Faith permeates the masses of the peoples of East and West, and its truth is embraced by the majority of the peoples of a number of the Sovereign States of the world, will the Universal House of Justice attain the plenitude of its power, and exercise, as the supreme organ of the Bahá'í Commonwealth, all the rights, the duties, and responsibilities incumbent upon the world's future super-state."

(Shoghi Effendi, World Order of Baha'u'llah, p. 7)


As far as the quote you cite that the government should not infer that "at any time it will interfere with governmental affairs", this is clearly about the designation "Spiritual Assembly", which we know is a "temporary appellation" (albeit a one which will no doubt be temporary for quite some time).

The quotation about not accepting the "crown of the government of the whole world" is obviously referring to the station of detachment--we are--as should be needless to say--not seeking as individuals, or institutions to, God forbid, "take over" and are not seeking for such power for ourselves. Yet, in time, our Writings make clear (and as alluded to in the Bible), that the meek will indeed inherit the earth and the government will rest on His shoulders.

As far as God committing the government into the Kings hands, this is not to say that He will never allow this to happen, since:

One of the signs of the maturity of the world is that no one will accept to bear the weight of kingship. Kingship will remain with none willing to bear alone its weight. That day will be the day whereon wisdom will be manifested among mankind.

(Baha'u'llah, cited in Kitab-i-Aqdas, note 194)


The point is that WE are not concerned with doing anything to usurp ANY earthly authority from the kings or rulers of the earth. But Keyvan's point was about building up the Baha'i system so that the world has something effective to progressively adopt, BY ITS OWN WILL.

As far as the disasters brought on by "involvement of religious leaders in political matters", that is quite clear, but the future Houses of Justice will be elected and representative bodies, not self-appointed "religious leaders".

We cannot take these Writings out of context, since, as you point out, Baha'u'llah and 'Abdu'l-Baha often had to establish the non-political character of the Faith and demonstrate the obedience to government. These were NOT, however, talks on the ultimate state affairs of society in a distant future.

best wishes,
Brett

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Re: Why do Baha'i's misunderstand what "shun politics" means?

Postby Keyvan » Tue Dec 02, 2008 4:27 pm

Thank you Brett

Sen McGlinn, nothing I said contradicts the quotes that you cited.

I resent your misplaced sense of authority, you have provided no explanation for the issues you have with what I wrote. No offense but are probably the last person here who should be talking about misrepresenting the faith in writing. I hope this wasn't just an elaborate plug for your blog.

1) I said nothing about infiltrating or overtaking the government. I simply alluded to the fact that our systems will triumph. The exact manner in which that will happen, I have not spoken of, nor would I, as it is not relevant to this discussion.

2) I said nothing about the institutions of the faith being connected to the political framework of a nations separate system government

3) I never even used the word "political", nor have I referred to politics indirectly or otherwise. Perhaps you misread the word "potential."

4) The other quotes you cited only confirm what I did say about the triumph of a Baha'i governing system.

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Re: Why do Baha'i's misunderstand what "shun politics" means?

Postby Sen McGlinn » Sat Dec 06, 2008 12:44 pm

Keyvan wrote:
3) I never even used the word "political", nor have I referred to politics indirectly or otherwise. Perhaps you misread the word "potential."


I don't think I misread: what you wrote was "we should be geared towards bringing the triumph of our own potential systems of governments - of the Baha'i' Commonwealth, - not promoting those of the current old world."

Perhaps I mis-responded though, by loading my reply with so many quotes that the simple point, that we need to distinguish between the two uses of ‘commonwealth,’ was obscured :oops:

My point was simply that governments are likely to be mislead and alarmed by anything that suggests that there is any trace or element of a potential system of government in the Bahai Commonwealth -- a Commonwealth whose affairs are to be administered from the precincts of the Mashriqu'l-Adhkar (Bahai Administration 186), whose foundation is the "Administrative Order" (God Passes By 325, World Order of Baha'u'llah 146, 152), whose "Chief Stewards" are the Hands of the Cause, which operates "solely in direct conformity with the laws and principles of Bahá'u'lláh," (The Advent of Divine Justice 14), whose "World Administrative Center" is in Haifa in Israel (God Passes By, 277, 315, 348; Messages to the Bahai World 79), and whose Supreme Organ and Supreme Legislative Body is the Universal House of Justice (World Order of Baha'u'llah 7; Messages to the Bahai World 148), headed by the Guardian or his representative (Will and Testament 14), which is elected by the Bahai believers alone (Will and Testament 14), acting through the members of the world’s National Spiritual Assemblies (Bahai Administration 84), and which exercises legislative, executive and judicial control of the Bahai community.

Of course we should be working towards the 'triumph' of the potential system of government which Baha’u’llah and Abdu’l-Baha and Shoghi Effendi have outlined: democratic and independent governments, united in the commonwealth of nations. We should be engaging with the governments to bring it about, and working in the population to create understanding and support for it, and to alleviate the fears associated with the idea of world government.

This commonwealth is to be based on an international pact, stipulating borders, armaments and international obligations, which is to be drawn up by the governments and sovereigns (World Order of Baha’u’llah 192; Tablets of Baha’u’llah 165; Epistle to the Son of the Wolf 30), endorsed by "all the human race" and backed by military force (The Secret of Divine Civilization, 64; WOB 37, 192). This commonwealth – a system of government – will permanently unite all nations and creeds (WOB 203): its members are states (WOB 203), who cede to it their right to wage war (WOB 40), its nerve centre is a "world metropolis" (WOB 203), its supreme organs are a "world legislature, whose members will ... ultimately control the entire resources of all the component nations," (WOB 203) and are "elected by the people in their respective countries and whose election shall be confirmed by their respective governments" (WOB 40) ... "a world executive, backed by an international Force," and "a world tribunal" to be established by "the peoples and nations of the earth" (God Passes By 305) to adjudicate disputes between nations (WOB 203; God Passes By 281), whose members are legal experts, elected by a world convention, the delegates to which are elected by the members of national parliaments, in proportion to the population of each country (Selections from the Writings of Abdu’l-Baha 305).

It doesn't take a lot of care to see that these are two different commonwealths, and that only one of them is a potential system of government. I am still concerned that some governments might be led to the wrong conclusions - for instance when the Bahais are asking permission to establish their elected institutions in the country.

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Re: Why do Baha'i's misunderstand what "shun politics" means?

Postby brettz9 » Sat Dec 06, 2008 6:12 pm

Keyvan, this is your last warning--personal barbs are not welcome here. However, I think it is only fair for our other readers, particularly in the context of this discussion, that Sen disclose that he is, as I understand it, per the Universal House of Justice, no longer an enrolled Baha'i given his advancing positions contrary to those of the Universal House of Justice on the topic of this thread.

Sen, while the points of concern in your last post are well-taken, and indeed we do believe there are two distinct processes going on, as I mentioned in my previous post, these two processes, as our Writings and Administration confirm, are to culminate in the future, albeit within a "supremely voluntary and democratic process".

It is conceivable that, over time, a populace might choose, for example, to embrace a more Baha'i-like model of government through democratic constitutional conventions which say, prohibit campaigning, political parties, etc., but which guarantee secret-ballot elections, etc.

The Baha'i International Community, moreover, has not shied away from making general recommendations to the public or United Nations about the advantages of disassociating partisanship from democratic systems, albeit in non-Baha'i governments: "society does not need and is not well served by the political theater of nominations, candidature, electioneering, and solicitation." (Prosperity of Humankind, at http://bahai-library.com/published.uhj/ ... nd.html#59 ), or from making other recommendations to governments, and as such, it only makes sense that we as individual Baha'is may advance the same points in our discussions, in offering our system as a model for investigation, or in outlining our vision for the farther future. This is quite different from agitating for changes, since again, we are not seeking to usurp any temporal authority.

best wishes,
Brett

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Re: Why do Baha'i's misunderstand what "shun politics" means?

Postby Keyvan » Sat Dec 06, 2008 11:31 pm

Brett I made no "personal barbs." I addressed a condescending comment directed to myself by suggesting, non specifically mind you, why one should not condescend or act authoritative in any manner. It is not the position of any living individual to act in such a manner, let alone one with a status as you specifically mentioned in your post above mine. I would not have gone so far as to be that specific though, but I do reference that now since you yourself laid it out.

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Re: Why do Baha'i's misunderstand what "shun politics" means?

Postby brettz9 » Sun Dec 07, 2008 1:11 am

Keyvan, you said "No offense but are probably the last person here who should be talking about misrepresenting the faith in writing." If I say "you are probably the last person here who should be talking about...", would you not take offense? If you must, no doubt it is better to address your concern directly, rather than as an indirect insult which makes it look like you have an axe to grind. And Sen didn't accuse you of misrepresenting the Faith either, only of misunderstanding it.

I think it is fine to raise concern about a person's potential angle pertaining to the Faith, especially if their status has been determined in an official capacity and it is relevant to a discussion, but let's please avoid language which only distracts from the issues under discussion. "A kindly tongue is the lodestone of the hearts of men." (Baha'u'llah)

Brett

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Re: Why do Baha'i's misunderstand what "shun politics" means?

Postby Sen McGlinn » Sun Dec 07, 2008 6:37 pm

brettz9 wrote:... I think it is only fair for our other readers, particularly in the context of this discussion, that Sen disclose that he is, as I understand it, per the Universal House of Justice, no longer an enrolled Baha'i given his advancing positions contrary to those of the Universal House of Justice on the topic of this thread.

This is half correct. I am not an enrolled Bahai, although I was for many years until the UHJ disenrolled me in 2005, and I would like to be enrolled again, when the UHJ sees fit. You can read this on my blog (under ‘About Sen’), it’s no secret.

Various people have speculated about, or claimed to actually know, the ‘real’ reasons for the UHJ’s decision: what Brett says reflects one of these speculations. However the UHJ itself has written that its decision to remove me from the Bahai membership rolls did not relate to the contents of my book - Church and State. They have also said that their decision was not based on review issues. The various other speculations that circulate about that decision: - that I was ‘challenging the UHJ’; ‘wanting to set up a body of experts to define Bahai theology’; ‘wanting to give the Mashriqu’l-adhkars some kind of doctrinal authority’; that I did something unspecified but definitely unpleasant in Tehran, are just speculation. They are not true in fact, and do not reflect what the UHJ itself has said about its decision. It’s a bit like the reason why women cannot serve on the UHJ: everyone is free to make up their own reason.

I took no offence at what Keyvan said. I have no interest in reputation or status, so people may think whatever they like of me. If I really did have a "misplaced sense of authority" or other ambitions, I might be worried about what people think.

Sila found what I said helpful, and helping one another is what we are here for.

Brett, I hear your other points. I think you will find them already answered in the quotes from the Writings we've been using here.

Sen

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Re: Why do Baha'i's misunderstand what "shun politics" means?

Postby Fadl » Sun Dec 07, 2008 8:21 pm

Sen McGlinn wrote:This is half correct. I am not an enrolled Bahai, although I was for many years until the UHJ disenrolled me in 2005, and I would like to be enrolled again, when the UHJ sees fit.


Sen,

I don’t know what happened that caused you to be dis-enrolled, and I don’t want to know, since I feel it is a personal matter between God, the UHJ and yourself. However, I wanted to acknowledge that your present predicament must be very painful and unpleasant for you, and tell you that I really admire your attitude. I think your humbleness and desire to “get right” as soon as you are able, rather than being angry, haughty or proud, is certainly the right attitude, and probably very difficult. I hope and pray that you are able to do whatever is necessary to resolve your situation. It is unfortunate what has happened to you, but, for anyone who might find themselves in a similar situation, your attitude seems to me a good example of how one might approach reinstatement.

Loren
"Thus doth the Nightingale utter His call unto you from this prison. He hath but to deliver this clear message. Whosoever desireth, let him turn aside from this counsel and whosoever desireth let him choose the path to his Lord." - Baha'u'llah

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Re: Why do Baha'i's misunderstand what "shun politics" means?

Postby brettz9 » Sun Dec 07, 2008 10:51 pm

Sorry, Sen, but your quotes did not in any way address the quotation I supplied about the processes being eventually merged in the future.

I see Susan Maneck's response to one of your articles includes further quotations refuting the idea that these could not be merged, because they are indeed clearly to merge, as was already discussed.

And beyond all of this, it is quite clear from the Will and Testament of 'Abdu'l-Baha:

The sacred and youthful branch, the Guardian of the Cause of God, as well as the Universal House of Justice to be universally elected and established, are both under the care and protection of the Abhá Beauty, under the shelter and unerring guidance of the Exalted One (may my life be offered up for them both). Whatsoever they decide is of God. Whoso obeyeth him not, neither obeyeth them, hath not obeyed God; whoso rebelleth against him and against them hath rebelled against God; whoso opposeth him hath opposed God; whoso contendeth with them hath contended with God; whoso disputeth with him hath disputed with God; whoso denieth him hath denied God; whoso disbelieveth in him hath disbelieved in God; whoso deviateth, separateth himself and turneth aside from him hath in truth deviated, separated himself and turned aside from God. May the wrath, the fierce indignation, the vengeance of God rest upon him! The mighty stronghold shall remain impregnable and safe through obedience to him who is the Guardian of the Cause of God.

(Will and Testament of 'Abdu'l-Baha, p. http://www.bahai-library.com/writings/abdulbaha/wt/wtall.html#11)


The Universal House of Justice has already addressed this question, as have the quotations referenced above, so there is nothing further to discuss about this.

There is no room for a body being at the same time both infallible and capable of making a mistake, and as this forum presents the Baha'i Faith from the official point of view, further discussion in this vein here which challenges our institutions from a supposedly Baha'i point of view or which evades the points raised is not welcome and will likely be deleted.

One last point: as is the case with Covenant-breakers, those who are sincere and contrite and seek forgiveness from the Universal House of Justice, will no doubt be reinstated. It is a question of sincerity:

"... It is a pity that some of the Western friends, with remarkable naiveté, do not grasp the fact that there is absolutely nothing keeping those who have broken the Covenant, whether Bahá'u'lláh's or the Master's, out of the Cause of God except their own inner spiritually sick condition. If they were sound, instead of diseased, and wanted to enter the service of our Faith, they would apply direct to the Guardian, and he would be able to adjudge of their sincerity and, if sincere, would welcome them into the ranks of the faithful as he did with Sydney Sprague. Unfortunately a man who is ill is not made well just by asserting there is nothing wrong with him! Facts, actual states, are what count. Probably no group of people in the world have softer tongues, or proclaim more loudly their innocence, than those who in their heart of hearts, and by their every act, are enemies of the Centre of the Covenant. The Master well knew this, and that is why He said we must shun their company, but pray for them. If you put a leper in a room with healthy people, he cannot catch their health; on the contrary they are very likely to catch his horrible ailment."

(From a letter written on behalf of the Guardian to the National Spiritual Assembly of the United States, 11 April 1949, in Lights of Guidance, no. 618, p. 188, cited in http://bahai-library.com/unpubl.compila ... ernet.html )


While patience of a person may be called for in the rare event that the administrative rights of an innocent person are removed by a National Spiritual Assembly, there is no room for a misguided disenrollment (or declaration of Covenant-breaking) happening under the direction of the infallibly guided Universal House of Justice.

Brett

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Re: Why do Baha'i's misunderstand what "shun politics" means?

Postby Sen McGlinn » Mon Dec 08, 2008 4:00 pm

brettz9 wrote:Sorry, Sen, but your quotes did not in any way address the quotation I supplied about the processes being eventually merged in the future.


But I never said they would not be merged. I was the one who posted the quote (Sun Nov 30, 2008 9:23), referring to "two simultaneous processes ... each clearly defined, each distinctly separate, yet closely related and destined to culminate, in the fullness of time, in a single glorious consummation."

I see no contradiction between the two processes being "distinctly separate" and their being "destined to culminate, ... in a single glorious consummation." The circulation of the blood and the nervous system are distinctly separate, but make up one organism.

If you see a contradiction between "distinctly separate" and "a single glorious consummation", perhaps you could explain that. I think if you simply think carefully about this, the resolution will be obvious. The main difficulty lies not in the texts, but in the preconceptions with which they are approached.

brettz9 wrote:There is no room for a body being at the same time both infallible and capable of making a mistake, and as this forum presents the Baha'i Faith from the official point of view, further discussion in this vein here which challenges our institutions from a supposedly Baha'i point of view or which evades the points raised is not welcome and will likely be deleted.


I have never said that the UHJ’s decision was a mistake, nor have I challenged the UHJ. I have objected to people claiming to know reasons for the UHJ's decision, other than those which the UHJ itself has stated.

I think you are reading what you expect (or fear) to see me writing, not what is actually there.
You also seem to be comparing removal from the membership rolls to a punishment, like losing one's voting rights but worse. But I do not think that the UHJ itself has ever explained such decisions as a punishment: not in my case at least, and not in any other that I know if. If you can shake off that preconception, you will be in the same position as I am: guessing tentatively at what the UHJ intends to achieve, and willing to support it in its work where possible. I have said elsewhere that it is a mistake to think that not being enrolled is in some way an exemption from obedience to the House of Justice. When the Will and Testament was written, there were no membership rolls, and in many countries there still are none. The language of the Will and Testament does not include any opt-out clause: it applies to all.

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Re: Why do Baha'i's misunderstand what "shun politics" means?

Postby brettz9 » Mon Dec 08, 2008 5:43 pm

Hello,

I think if you simply think carefully about this, the resolution will be obvious.


Yes, I think it is obvious. As society progressively adopts more Baha'i principles, at first via the Lesser Peace, in being forced into it by conditions beyond their control (e.g., how wars, terrorism, financial meltdown, environmental disaster, disease, overwhelming trade incentives, etc., have and are forcing nations to transcend their boundaries and forgo some sovereignty), and later through a progressive influence of Baha'i principles disseminating through society (e.g., non-partisanship) and with more people becoming Baha'is in the world, eventually there will be a critical mass at which point Baha'is will "be called upon to assume the reins of government":

The Bahá'ís will be called upon to assume the reins of government when they will come to constitute the majority of the population in a given country, and even then their participation in political affairs is bound to be limited in scope unless they obtain a similar majority in some other countries as well.

(On behalf of the Guardian, 19 November 1939, cited in April 27, 1995 on behalf of the Universal House of Justice to Sen McGlinn, at http://bahaistudies.net/susanmaneck/theocracy.html )


You also seem to be comparing removal from the membership rolls to a punishment, like losing one's voting rights but worse.


Well, although it is clearly not the same as Covenant-breaking, yes, I think it is quite clear that for a Baha'i, not being considered a Baha'i by our institutions is worse than still being considered a Baha'i but without having administrative rights.

As far as whether it is a "punishment", I guess that depends on how you define that. If it means that it is an action which is solely intended to cause regret to the individual in question (and/or shame in the eyes of the wider community), then no, because, on the surface at least, it merely has the effect of informing the person and outside community (non-Baha'i as well as Baha'i) of a person's status relative to the Faith, while not associating any inevitable stigma with it. Obviously, the presence or absence of stigma assigned to it by outsiders will differ according to the public history of the person before and after the disenrollment (e.g., whether they were attacking the Faith or challenging the legitimacy of its institutions within the Faith, or simply voicing opinions contrary to its teachings).

On the one hand, the person in such a position could interpret it as merely an official confirmation of what may have already been evident to them as well--that per their public words or behavior, they persistently voiced or demonstrated convictions manifestly contrary to the Faith and its Administration, on whatever aspect(s), to be any longer legitimately considered as a Baha'i--and as such, not consider it a punishment.

On the other hand, as regards the perspective of the individual facing it who may still consider themselves a Baha'i, who recognizes, per our Writings, the importance of the Administration and community and the honor and rights of being involved with it, then for such an individual, it would indeed be a punishment, and the only way out (as with a loss of administrative rights) would be to sincerely seek to reconcile one's words and actions with the Universal House of Justice, seeking, if actually necessary, clarification from the source as to what they may need to correct, and doing so in a private manner.

best wishes,
Brett

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Re: Why do Baha'i's misunderstand what "shun politics" means?

Postby Sen McGlinn » Mon Dec 08, 2008 6:13 pm

Yes. that's how I see it too.

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Re: Why do Baha'i's misunderstand what "shun politics" means?

Postby Keyvan » Sun Dec 14, 2008 2:24 am

brettz9 wrote:Keyvan, you said "No offense but are probably the last person here who should be talking about misrepresenting the faith in writing." If I say "you are probably the last person here who should be talking about...", would you not take offense? If you must, no doubt it is better to address your concern directly, rather than as an indirect insult which makes it look like you have an axe to grind. And Sen didn't accuse you of misrepresenting the Faith either, only of misunderstanding it.

I think it is fine to raise concern about a person's potential angle pertaining to the Faith, especially if their status has been determined in an official capacity and it is relevant to a discussion, but let's please avoid language which only distracts from the issues under discussion. "A kindly tongue is the lodestone of the hearts of men." (Baha'u'llah)

Brett



First of all I left that line ambiguous enough that in terms of a public perception it could mean anything - that is, not specific to any particular record of the particular individual I am mentioning.

But as for what I obviously meant, as perceived to you, Sen, or anyone aware of his record, its not a "jab" to say what I said. In fact, one can read the contrary into it. That is, one who feels "wronged" in terms of others condemning how they represent the faith in writing, shouldn't be acting that exact same way to someone else as a matter of principle. In other words, of all people, he should know better, be wiser to that.

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Re: Why do Baha'i's misunderstand what "shun politics" means

Postby Sen McGlinn » Wed Sep 22, 2010 3:04 pm

Kavian Milani has a new post on his blog today:
http://postsecularism.wordpress.com/201 ... 1905-1911/
or in case that long url doesn't work for you:
http://tinyurl.com/KMilaniBFconstitutionalRev

Among other things, it includes a translation of the tablet in which Abdu'l-Baha urges the Hands of the Cause to seek election in Parliament (Majles)

"With regards to the membership in the Majlis (Parliament) the friends must with all their might rise to the service of the government and the people and act with utmost honesty and well-wishing and purity and liberty. The Hands of the Cause of God must at any cost become members of the Majlis (Parliament)."


This is interesting when placed alongside the tablet to Thornton Chase:
http://reference.bahai.org/en/t/ab/TAB/ ... html#pg342

"In the United States it is necessary that the citizens shall take part in elections. This is a necessary matter and no excuse from it is possible. ... as the government of America is a republican form of government, it is necessary that all the citizens shall take part in the elections of officers and take part in the affairs of the republic."

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Re: Why do Baha'i's misunderstand what "shun politics" means

Postby brettz9 » Thu Sep 23, 2010 10:45 am

Even if this non-authoritative translation and synopsis reflects the Tablet and conditions accurately, and even if the intention of the time was for 'Abdu'l-Baha to encourage participation in a non-divisive fashion in the progressive developments of that time, this is no way overrides the subsequent guidance provided in Writings such as these, as indicated by 'Abdu'l-Baha Himself or His explicitly designated successor:

"We should--every one of us--remain aloof, in heart and in mind, in words and in deeds, from the political affairs and disputes of the Nations and of Governments. We should keep ourselves away from such thoughts. We should have no political connection with any of the parties and should join no faction of these different and warring sects. "

(Directives from the Guardian, pp. 54-57, in "Political Non-Involvement and Obedience to Government")

"We see therefore that we must do two things--Shun politics like the plague, and be obedient to the Government in power in the place where we reside... We must obey in all cases except where a spiritual principle is involved, such as denying our Faith. For these spiritual principles we must be willing to die. What we Bahá'ís must face is the fact that society is disintegrating so rapidly that moral issues which were clear a half century ago are now hopelessly confused and what is more, thoroughly mixed up with battling political interests. That is why the Bahá'ís must turn all their forces into the channel of building up the Bahá'í Cause and its Administration. They can neither change nor help the world in any other way at present. If they become involved in the issues the Governments of the world are struggling over, they will be lost. But if they build up the Bahá'í pattern they can offer it as a remedy when all else has failed."

(Directives from the Guardian, pp. 57-58, in "Political Non-Involvement and Obedience to Government")

"instruction which, at the present stage of the evolution of our Faith, should be increasingly emphasized, irrespective of its application to the East or to the West. And this principle is no other than that which involves the non-participation by the adherents of the Faith of Bahá'u'lláh, whether in their individual capacities or collectively as local or national Assemblies, in any form of activity that might be interpreted, either directly or indirectly, as an interference in the political affairs of any particular government."

(Shoghi Effendi, World Order of Baha'u'llah, p. 64)

"Let them refrain from associating themselves, whether by word or by deed, with the political pursuits of their respective nations, with the policies of their governments and the schemes and programs of parties and factions."

(Shoghi Effendi, World Order of Baha'u'llah, p. 64)

"He hath forbidden them (the believers) to interfere at all with political problems."

('Abdu'l-Baha, referring to Baha'u'llah, cited in Letter of the Universal House of Justice, July 7, 1976, in "Political Non-Involvement and Obedience to Government")

"Actual politicians, he feels, will for the most part never be willing to forget their ambitions, work and prestige in order to embrace the Faith, but association with all people, in government occupation or otherwise, who are progressive minded, is advisable, as we publicize the Faith this way and may meet receptive souls. There is no objection to Bahá'ís serving in government jobs that are purely non-political."

(From a letter written on behalf of the Guardian to an individual believer, May 30, 1947, in Lights of Guidance, no. 1441)

"...no vote cast or office undertaken by a Bahá'í should necessarily constitute acceptance, by the voter or office holder, of the entire programme of any political party. No Bahá'í can be regarded as either Republican or Democrat, as such. He is above all else, the supporter of the principles enunciated by Bahá'u'lláh, with which, I am firmly convinced, the programme of no political party is completely harmonious...."

(From a letter of Shoghi Effendi to the National Spiritual Assembly of the United States and Canada, January 26, 1933: Bahá'í News, No. 85, July, 1934, p. 2, in Lights of Guidance, no. 1442)

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Re: Why do Baha'i's misunderstand what "shun politics" means

Postby Sen McGlinn » Tue Sep 28, 2010 5:44 am

brettz9 wrote:Even if this non-authoritative translation and synopsis reflects the Tablet and conditions accurately, and even if the intention of the time was for 'Abdu'l-Baha to encourage participation in a non-divisive fashion in the progressive developments of that time, this is no way overrides the subsequent guidance...


I would put it just the other way around: the subsequent guidance cannot override the words of Baha'u'llah and Abdu'l-Baha, rather it elucidates the general principle and applies it to the conditions of the time.

Shoghi Effendi explains:

The Guardian...feels under the responsibility of stating that the attitude taken by the Master (i.e., that American citizens are in duty bound to vote in public elections [ ie the tablet to Chase, which I quoted, which actually says we must vote and participate in the affairs of the republic] ) implies certain reservations. He, therefore, lays it upon the individual conscience to see that in following the Master's instructions no Bahá'í vote for an officer nor Bahá'í participation in the affairs of the Republic shall involve acceptance by that individual of a programme or policy that contravenes any vital principle, spiritual or social, of the Faith...I feel it incumbent upon me to clarify the above statement, written on my behalf, by stating that no vote cast, or office undertaken, by a Bahá'í should necessarily constitute acceptance, by the voter or office holder, of the entire programme of any political party. No Bahá'í can be regarded as either a Republican or Democrat, as such. He is above all else, the supporter of the principles enunciated by Bahá'u'lláh, with which, I am firmly convinced, the programme of no political party is completely harmonious...

The Master surely never desired the Friends to use their influence towards the realization and promotion of policies contrary to any of the principles of the Faith. The Friends may vote, if they can do it, without identifying themselves with one party or another. To enter the arena of party politics is surely detrimental to the best interests of the Faith and will harm the Cause. It remains for the individuals to so use their right to vote as to keep aloof from party politics, and always bear in mind that they are voting on the merits of the individual, rather than because he belongs to one party or another. The matter must be made perfectly clear to the individuals, who will be left free to exercise their discretion and judgment. But if a certain person does enter into party politics and labours for the ascendency of one party over another, and continues to do it against expressed appeals and warnings of the Assembly, then the Assembly has the right to refuse him the right to vote in Bahá'í elections. (Shoghi Effendi)

He can quite well understand that after so many years of isolation from the rest of the Bahá'í world it came as a surprise to some of you to hear that we, as Bahá'ís, must not have any affiliations with churches or political parties. But he feels certain that when you meditate on this matter you yourselves will see the wisdom of it. We as Bahá'ís can never be known as hypocrites or as people insincere in their protestations and because of this we cannot subscribe to both the Faith of Bahá'u'lláh and ordinary church dogma. The churches are waiting for the coming of Jesus Christ; we believe He has come again in the glory of the Father. The churches teach doctrines - various ones in various creeds - which we as Bahá'ís do not accept, such as the bodily resurrection, confession, or in some creeds, the denial of the immaculate conception. In other words, there is no Christian church today whose dogmas we Bahá'ís can truthfully say we accept in their entirety. Therefore to remain a member of the church is not proper for us, for we do so under false pretence. We should therefore withdraw from our churches but continue to associate, if we wish to, with the church members and Ministers. Our belief in Christ, as Bahá'ís, is so firm, so unshakable, and so exalted in nature that very few Christians are to be found nowadays who love Him and reverence Him and have the faith in Him that we have. It is only from the dogmas and creeds of the churches that we dissociate ourselves; not from the Spirit of Christianity. (Shoghi Effendi through his Secretary)  31 

Very much the same reasons motivate us in withdrawing from all political movements, however close some of their ideals may be to ours. We Bahá'ís are one the world over; we are seeking to build up a new World Order, divine in origin. How can we do this if every Bahá'í is a member of a different political party - some of them diametrically opposite to each other? Where is our unity then? We would be divided, because of politics, against ourselves, and this is the opposite of our purpose. Obviously if one Bahá'í in Austria is given freedom to choose a political party and join it, however good its aims may be, another Bahá'í in Japan or America, or India has the right to do the same thing and he might belong to a party the very opposite in principle to that which the Austrian Bahá'í belongs to. Where would be the unity of the Faith then? These two spiritual brothers would be working against each other because of their political affiliations (as the Christians of Europe have been doing in so many fratricidal wars). The best way for a Bahá'í to serve his country and the world is to work for the establishment of Bahá'u'lláh's World Order, which will gradually unite all men and do away with divisive political systems and religious creeds. (Shoghi Effendi through his Secretary)

(Principles of Bahai Administration, p. 29)


You quoted part of this: when we read the whole it is clear that Shoghi Effendi is not contradicting the general principle laid down by Abdu'l-Baha, but rather applying it with regard to the state of politics and the condition of the Bahai community in his day. When he also says that
"The Bahá'ís will be called upon to assume the reins of government when they will come to constitute the majority of the population in a given country, and even then their participation in political affairs is bound to be limited in scope unless they obtain a similar majority in some other countries as well"
he is applying the same general principle -- that Bahais should engage in democratic politics and hold public office -- to a future condition of the world and of the Faith. The principle is constant, the applications depend on the time and place.

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Re: Why do Baha'i's misunderstand what "shun politics" means

Postby brettz9 » Fri Oct 08, 2010 3:58 am

I would put it just the other way around: the subsequent guidance cannot override the words of Baha'u'llah and Abdu'l-Baha, rather it elucidates the general principle and applies it to the conditions of the time.


Yes, of course, that's true, and though I was primarily speaking temporally, there is a quote, however (which I cannot find now) which states to the effect that if there seems to be a contradiction between what the Master said and what Baha'u'llah said, we are to follow what the Master said, as His interpretation is infallible on Baha'u'llah's words.

Your bolding of "office holder" gives the impression that these may include those seeking election.

Here is the "subsequent guidance" you speak of which makes clear what the Baha'i policy is, at least at this time:

There is no objection to Bahá'ís serving in government jobs that are purely non-political."

(From a letter written on behalf of the Guardian to an individual believer, May 30, 1947)


Your Assembly should understand that Bahá'ís do not engage in political activities nor belong to political parties, but may freely undertake non-political administrative work with governments, may hold appointive posts which are not political in character, or may serve on local councils if they do not campaign for office and are not required to undertake partisan political activities."

(From a letter written on behalf of the Universal House of Justice to the National Spiritual Assembly of the Leeward Islands, February 15, 1982)


There are examples of non-partisan democracy, from the local to one example at the national level (see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Non-partisan_democracy ), but even these often employ campaigning. However, I don't think it is inconceivable that 'Abdu'l-Baha's supposed enjoinder to participate, if actually true and not limited to just one short time period in which He demonstrated the universality and inclusive intentions of the Faith, could make sense in the far future if constitutional referendums or the like were to lead to electoral procedures in which campaigning was frowned on or forbidden, and people actually chose based on their judgment of character independent of self-promoting words. But not now.

Although your post might have been intended as a mere FYI, it appears as a selective or potentially misleading characterization of referring to Baha'is holding office if mention is not made of the appointive or non-campaigning nature of offices that Baha'is may hold at this time, and likely into the future, as per the quotations above.

best wishes,
Brett


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