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

Postby Sen McGlinn » Fri Oct 08, 2010 4:28 am

brettz9 wrote: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.


I think that the Master's words, both to the Bahais of Iran and those of the United States (through Chase) made sense at the time. There is no reference there to the far future, they are instructions to be implemented. Here are the texts again:


"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)."
http://tinyurl.com/KMilaniBFconstitutionalRev

"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."
http://reference.bahai.org/en/t/ab/TAB/ ... html#pg342

These are not only instructions for the day: by their form, and by being the words of Abdu'l-Baha, it seems to me that they lay down the general principles, and the first of them seems to me to require the Hands to campaign for office. So far as I know, the references to not campaigning all come from the period after the Guardian instituted the no politics rule, which I consider a temporary measure undertaken for reasons I have already stated. 'No campaigning' seems to be used as a rule of thumb for whether an office is "political" or "public service," within the framework of the Guardian's policies that allowed the latter but not the former. But the Guardian himself envisioned a time when Bahais would be participating in government. Since I don't know of any statement of principle (from Baha'u'llah or Abdu'l-Baha, or an interpretation of their words by the Guardian) that says that there is something un-Bahai about campaigning, I assume that the rule of thumb becomes obsolete, when Bahais are holding both political and public service offices.

Here's one indication that the Guardian thought his 'no politics' rule was a temporary policy, not an interpretation of Bahai teachings:

The Baha'is 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. (Letter on behalf, 19 November 1939)


I appreciate that this is difficult, because one has to distinguish between basic Bahai principles and policies made by the Head of the Faith for conditions at the time, and Abdu'l-Baha and Shoghi Effendi had both roles simultaneously. But do you have a specific reason for thinking that political campaigning itself is against Bahai principles?

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

Postby brettz9 » Fri Oct 08, 2010 10:00 am

But do you have a specific reason for thinking that political campaigning itself is against Bahai principles?


Yes (in the quotations below, canvassing is specifically covered, and the related practice of nominations and electioneering):

In the morning `Abdu'l-Bahá spoke about the election of the president of the republic. He said:
The president must be a man who does not insistently seek the presidency.
He should be a person free from all thoughts of name and rank; rather, he should say, `I am unworthy and incapable of this position and cannot bear this great burden.' Such persons deserve the presidency. If the object is to promote the public good, then the president must be a well-wisher of all and not a self-seeking person. If the object, however, is to promote personal interests, then such a position will be injurious to humanity and not beneficial to the public.

(Mahmud's Diary (which is per the Universal House of Justice, an "authentic record of His utterances, whether in the form of formal talks, table talks or random oral statements") at http://bahai-library.com/zarqani_mahmud ... section205 )


"The strength and progress of the Bahá'í Community depend upon the election of pure, faithful and active souls.... Canvassing is deprecated....

"Bahá'í elections of the Community are ... sanctified from all traces of canvassing and plotting that characterize the activities of the perfidious."

(From a letter of Shoghi Effendi to the friends in Persia, April 9, 1932: The Spiritual Character of Bahá'í Elections, p. 3, at http://bahai-library.com/hornby_lights_ ... pter=1#n35 )


"The strength and progress of the Bahá'í community depend upon the election of pure, faithful and active souls ... Canvassing is abhorred ..."

(9 April 1932, written on behalf of Shoghi Effendi to a Local Spiritual Assembly-translated from the Persian, at http://bahai-library.com/sanctity_natur ... ctions#254 )


Beware, beware lest the foul odour of the parties and peoples of foreign lands in the West, and their pernicious methods, such as intrigues, party politics and propaganda — practices which are abhorrent even in name — should ever reach the Bahá'í community, exert any influence whatsoever upon the friends, and thus bring all spirituality to naught. The friends should, through their devotion, love, loyalty and altruism, abolish these evil practices, not imitate them. It is only after the friends completely ignore and sanctify themselves from these evils, that the spirit of God can penetrate and operate in the body of humanity, and in the Bahá'í community.

(In a letter written by Shoghi Effendi, 30 January 1923 to the Central Spiritual Assembly of Iran ö translated from the Persian)


Electioneering and all forms of propaganda are against the spirit of Bahá'í elections. The chief opportunity which the friends have for discussion on administrative questions is during the Nineteen Day Feasts, at which time the members of the assembly can meet with the body of the believers and discuss in common the affairs of the Cause, and suggest new policies and methods. But even then no reference to individuals should be made.

(On behalf of Shoghi Effendi, Dawn of a New Day, March 27, 1938 at http://bahai-library.com/writings/shogh ... l.html#201 )


One's vote should be kept confidential. It is not permissible to make any reference whatsoever to individual names. The friends must avoid the evil methods and detestable practices of the politicians. They must turn completely to God, and with a purity of motive, a freedom of spirit and a sanctity of heart, participate in the elections; otherwise the outcome will be chaos and confusion, serious difficulties will ensue, mischief will abound and the confirmation of God will be cut off.

(In a letter written on behalf of Shoghi Effendi, 16 January 1923 to the Central Spiritual Assembly of Iran ö translated from the Persian at http://bahai-library.com/compilation_bahai_elections )


"the elector " is called upon to vote for none but those whom prayer and reflection have inspired him to uphold. Moreover, the practice of nomination, so detrimental to the atmosphere of a silent and prayerful election, is viewed with mistrust inasmuch as it gives the right [to the majority of a body that, in itself under the present circumstances, often constitutes a minority of all the elected delegates (this phrase from the original source was not included in the publication The Compilation of Compilations.)], to deny that God-given right of every elector to vote only in favour of those whom he is conscientiously convinced are the most worthy candidates".

(In a letter written by Shoghi Effendi, 27 May 1927 to the National Spiritual Assembly of the United States and Canada, published in "Bahá'í Administration", p. 136 at http://bahai-library.com/compilation_bahai_elections#6 )


While there should be no mention of personalities in connection with Bahá'í elections, it is quite appropriate for believers to discuss the requirements and qualifications for membership in the institution to be elected. Shoghi Effendi offers clear guidance on this point: "I feel that reference to personalities before the election would give rise to misunderstanding and differences. What the friends should do is to get thoroughly acquainted with one another, to exchange views, to mix freely and discuss among themselves the requirements and qualifications for such a membership without reference or application, however indirect, to particular individuals."

(The Universal House of Justice, at http://bahai-library.com/uhj_2007_3_25 )


I feel that reference to personalities before the election would give rise to misunderstanding and differences. What the friends should do is to get thoroughly acquainted with one another, to exchange views, to mix freely and discuss among themselves the requirements and qualifications for such a membership without reference or application, however indirect, to particular individuals. We should refrain from influencing the opinion of others, of canvassing for any particular individual, but should stress the necessity of getting fully acquainted with the qualifications of membership referred to in our Beloved's Tablets and of learning more about one another through direct, personal experience rather than through the reports and opinions of our friends.

(In a letter written by Shoghi Effendi, 14 May 1927 to a Local Spiritual Assembly, published in "Bahá'í News Letter", June 1927, p. 9)


As to the practice of nomination in Bahá'í elections, this the Guardian firmly believes to be in fundamental disaccord with the spirit which should animate and direct all elections held by the Bahá'ís, be they of a local or national character and importance. It is, indeed, the absence of such a practice that constitutes the distinguishing feature and the marked superiority of the Bahá'í electoral methods over those commonly associated with political parties and factions. The practice of nomination being thus contrary to the spirit of Bahá'í Administration should be totally discarded by all the friends. For otherwise the freedom of the Bahá'í elector in choosing the members of any Bahá'í assembly will be seriously endangered, leaving the way open for the domination of personalities. Not only that; but the mere act of nomination leads eventually to the formation of parties-a thing which is totally alien to the spirit of the Cause.

(From a letter written on behalf of Shoghi Effendi to an individual believer, February 4, 1935)


In addition to these serious dangers, the practice of nomination has the great disadvantage of killing in the believer the spirit of initiative, and of self-development. Bahá'í electoral procedures and methods have, indeed, for one of their essential purposes the development in every believer of the spirit of responsibility. By emphasizing the necessity of maintaining his fully freedom in the elections, they make it incumbent upon him to become an active and well-informed member of the Bahá'í community in which he lives. To be able to make a wise choice at the election time, it is necessary for him to be in close and continued contact with all local activities, be they teaching, administrative or otherwise, and to fully and whole-heartedly participate in the affairs of the local as well as national committees and assemblies in his country. It is only in this way that a believer can develop a true social consciousness and acquire a true sense of responsibility in matters affecting the interests of the Cause. Bahá'í community life thus makes it a duty for every loyal and faithful believer to become an intelligent, well-informed and responsible elector, and also gives him the opportunity of raising himself to such a station. And since the practice of nomination hinders the development of such qualities in the believer, and in addition leads to corruption and partisanship, it has to be entirely discarded in all Bahá'í elections.

(4 February 1935, written on behalf of Shoghi Effendi to an individual believer, published in "The Light of Divine Guidance: The Messages from the Guardian of the Bahá'í Faith to the Bahá'ís of Germany and Austria", vol. 1 (Hofheim-Langenhain: Bahá'í Verlag, 1982), pp. 67-68)


There are also several important documents from the House which speak of not electioneering:

http://bahai-library.com/uhj_constitution
http://bahai-library.com/uhj_institutio ... llors_2001
http://bahai-library.com/uhj_bahai_administrative_order
http://bahai-library.com/sanctity_natur ... _elections

Even in the best democracies nowadays the driving incentive in elections is the wish of each politician to obtain power so as to be able to carry out the programme that he particularly favours--an election becomes a competition which the self-promoting candidates either "win" or "lose". The electorate is treated as a mass to be swayed, by rhetoric and various forms of inducement, to support one or other candidate. In the Bahá'í system, however, the voters are the active force and the motive which impels them is to choose those individuals who are best suited to serve on the institution. The persons elected are passive in the electoral process (except in their role as voters) and accept election as an obligation to serve the community in response to the wish of the electorate. In other words, the systems differ in their essential spirit: one is a seeking for power, the other is an acceptance of responsibility for service.

(at http://bahai-library.com/uhj_bahai_administrative_order )


best wishes,
Brett

[Edited for formatting]

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

Postby Sen McGlinn » Fri Oct 08, 2010 2:33 pm

Thanks for that, but it's not really to the point. My question was whether you have a specific reason for thinking that political campaigning itself is against Bahai principles? Your answer is about campaigning and electioneering in Bahai elections, which are not political. As for political elections, Abdu'l-Baha's advocacy of the election of officials, in Secret of Divine Civilization, surely implies that they should be competitive elections, in which candidates are assessed by voters on their quality, and the officials therefore are more inclined to behave themselves "lest they fall into disfavour."

In the present writer's view it would be preferable if the election of nonpermanent members of consultative assemblies in sovereign states should be dependent on the will and choice of the people. For elected representatives will on this account be somewhat inclined to exercise justice, lest their reputation suffer and they fall into disfavor with the public. (Abdu'l-Baha, The Secret of Divine Civilization, p. 24)


Mahmud's Diary is an important source, but so far as I am aware it does not meet the standards the Guardian set for Bahai scripture:

"to quote and consider as authentic only such translations as are based upon the authenticated text of His recorded utterances in the original tongue." (Shoghi Effendi, The World Order of Baha'u'llah, p. 5)

By 'authenticated text,' Shoghi Effendi is referring to the Master's procedure of approving and correcting the Persian or sometimes Arabic record of his talks, to be published in Bahai journals and now gathered in Khatabat-e Abdu'l-Baha (for example). Mahmud's diary does not pretend to be giving a record of the words spoken, rather he paraphrases the topic addressed and describes the circumstances and responses.

~~ Sen

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

Postby brettz9 » Thu Oct 21, 2010 9:08 pm

My apologies for a belated reply. Work and travel kept me from a more prompt response.

Sen McGlinn wrote:My question was whether you have a specific reason for thinking that political campaigning itself is against Bahai principles?


Are you really being serious here? The quotations are not saying something like "it is not advisable to utilize these approaches in Baha'i elections". Could the many quotations I supplied be any more transparent in meaning? When the context is about reference to individuals in elections and it refers to the "evil methods and detestable practices of the politicians", how much more obvious can it be what the attitude here is?

If those elements were not clear enough to make the small leap to apply this to public elections, there are plenty of quotations which are unequivocally clear about non-involvement in politics:

"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."

"We must build up our Bahá'í system, and leave the faulty systems of the world to go their way. We cannot change them through becoming involved in them; on the contrary, they will destroy us."

(On behalf of Shoghi Effendi, Bahá'í News No. 215, January 1949, p. 1, emphasis added)


And this is not confined to references to the Baha'i community as a whole:

"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.

"Absolute impartiality in the matter of political parties should be shown by words and by deeds, and the love of the whole humanity, whether a Government or a nation, which is the basic teaching of Bahá'u'lláh, should also be shown by words and by deeds...

"According to the exhortations of the Supreme Pen and the confirmatory explanations of the Covenant of God Bahá'ís are in no way allowed to enter into political affairs under any pretense of excuse; since such an action brings about disastrous results and ends in hurting the Cause of God and its intimate friends."

(Directives from the Guardian, pp. 56-57 at http://www.bahai-library.com/writings/s ... ll.html#56 )


Sen McGlinn wrote:Abdu'l-Baha's advocacy of the election of officials, in Secret of Divine Civilization, surely implies that they should be competitive elections...


No, not at all, if by "competitive" you mean people advocating for themselves or others to be elected (as opposed to a competition merely in the minds of voters who are weighing their own unrestricted and non-predetermined selection of candidates by their relative merits without the "assistance" of self-advertisers, other-bashers, society triangulators, and promise-makers). He makes no mention here of campaigning. The endorsement of democracy while advocating against partisanship is well expressed by the Baha'i International Community in a statement approved by the House:

Clearly, such principles can operate only within a culture that is essentially democratic in spirit and method. To say this, however, is not to endorse the ideology of partisanship that has everywhere boldly assumed democracy's name and which, despite impressive contributions to human progress in the past, today finds itself mired in the cynicism, apathy, and corruption to which it has given rise. In selecting those who are to take collective decisions on its behalf, society does not need and is not well served by the political theater of nominations, candidature, electioneering, and solicitation. It lies within the capacity of all people, as they become progressively educated and convinced that their real development interests are being served by programs proposed to them, to adopt electoral procedures that will gradually refine the selection of their decision-making bodies.

(Prosperity of Humankind, at http://statements.bahai.org/95-0303.htm )


Even if one could argue that 'Abdu'l-Baha's reference tacitly accepted the condition of the time that there would inevitably be some campaigning among non-Baha'is, He is demonstrably more than capable of weighing two evils and choosing the lesser. Notice He also mentions "somewhat inclined to exercise justice". According to 'Abdu'l-Baha in London for example, 'Abdu'l-Bahá was to have "replied that superstitions were of two kinds; those that were harmful and dangerous, and those that were harmless and produced certain good effects." He would obviously not have been advocating for superstitions (which by definition are contrary to truth), but demonstrates His ability (shown elsewhere in plenty of places) that one can look at something with nuance and recognize positive (or minimally negative) repercussions from something which itself is not perfect or ideal.

Sen McGlinn wrote:"Mahmud's diary does not pretend to be giving a record of the words spoken, rather he paraphrases the topic addressed and describes the circumstances and responses."


Not according to the English translation (see http://bahai-library.com/?file=zarqani_mahmuds_diary ). Mahmud does paraphrase in some cases, but there are abundant examples of presenting the text as His actual words (and per the following, even "random oral statements" are considered to be part of the "authentic record of His utterances"). I repeat what the House of Justice has said, the institution designated by 'Abdu'l-Baha as being "the source of all good and freed from all error" and expand the quotation, that it:

"...attaches great importance to this work which, as you may know, is regarded as a reliable account of `Abdu'l-Bahá's travels in the West and an authentic record of His utterances, whether in the form of formal talks, table talks or random oral statements. Mírzá Mahmúd was a careful and faithful chronicler and engaged in assembling and publishing his work with the permission of the beloved Master, as he states in the Introduction. Indeed, Shoghi Effendi drew upon it for details about the Master's visit to the West in writing God Passes By..."


In response to a question whether the translation as a whole (including the observations of Mahmúd) were approved, the publisher states:

"The translation as a whole has not been 'approved' but, as mentioned in the Note from the Publisher at the beginning of the book: 'The translations of 'Abdu'l-Bahá's words recorded in the present volume were read and revised at the Bahá'í World Centre."


best wishes,
Brett

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

Postby Sen McGlinn » Sat Oct 23, 2010 1:33 pm

(1)
brettz9 wrote:
Sen McGlinn wrote:My question was whether you have a specific reason for thinking that political campaigning itself is against Bahai principles?


Are you really being serious here?


Yes, it's a perfectly serious question.

brettz9 wrote:The quotations are not saying something like "it is not advisable to utilize these approaches in Baha'i elections".


I guessed you had not read the quotes you had found, because some were double. If you do read them you will see that they are saying "it is not advisable to utilize these approaches in Baha'i elections". Here they are again for your convenience:


"The strength and progress of the Bahá'í Community depend upon the election of pure, faithful and active souls.... Canvassing is deprecated....

"Bahá'í elections of the Community are ... sanctified from all traces of canvassing and plotting that characterize the activities of the perfidious."

"The strength and progress of the Bahá'í community depend upon the election of pure, faithful and active souls ... Canvassing is abhorred ..."

Beware, beware lest the foul odour of the parties and peoples of foreign lands in the West, and their pernicious methods, such as intrigues, party politics and propaganda —...should ever reach the Bahá'í community, ...


Electioneering and all forms of propaganda are against the spirit of Bahá'í elections.


While there should be no mention of personalities in connection with Bahá'í elections,

I feel that reference to personalities before the election would give rise to misunderstanding and differences. What the friends should do is to get thoroughly acquainted with one another,

As to the practice of nomination in Bahá'í elections, this the Guardian firmly believes to be in fundamental disaccord with the spirit which should animate and direct all elections held by the Bahá'ís,

In addition to these serious dangers, the practice of nomination has the great disadvantage of killing in the believer the spirit of initiative, and of self-development. Bahá'í electoral procedures and methods have, indeed,..



Given the quotes your presented, it seems perfectly reasonable to ask whether you have some reason for thinking that these principles, explicitly referring to Bahai elections, for the institutions of the Administrative Order, also apply to the civil elections in a democracy, or for that matter the elections of the Board by shareholders, or the election of the committee in a chess club. What makes you think they are generally applicable?

(2) Bahai non-involvement in politics is a separate issue to the Bahai teachings (if there are any) about the desired form of civil elections in democracies. The non-involvement does not refer just to democracies - it is a principle about politics as such (monarchial, republican, constitutional monarchy, etc..) and applies equally strongly in a country that has elections without nominations, such as Cuba.

The meaning of this non-involvement in civil politics (not, to repeat the point, non-campaigning), is perhaps clearest in one of Abdu'l-Baha's talks, his last one before leaving London for Paris in October 1911. This cal consists of a list of 11 central teachings of Baha'u'llah. It's authenticated (based on Persian notes, see
http://reference.bahai.org/fa/t/ab/KA1/ka1-35.html ). The ninth principle reads:

Ninth, religion is separated from politics. Religion does not enter into political matters. In fact, it is linked with the hearts, not with the world of bodies. The leaders of religion should devote themselves to teaching and training the souls and propagating good morals, and they should not enter into political matters.


The reason this clarifies a lot is that it uses both the term "separation" (jeda) and the more usual term not-entering (madakhali=neh). There are many other tablets and lists of Bahai principles from Abdu'l-baha that speak of the Bahais not entering into politics, but this one uses as a synonym for this, the separation of religion and politics, so we know that when Abdu'l-Baha speaks of the Bahais not entering into politics, the meaning is, that we strictly observe the separation of church and state. That separation does not prevent believers entering politics, or politicians having religious beliefs, rather it prevents the government interfering in religious matters, or religious leaders and institutions interfering in politics. This clarifies two apparently contradictory statements from Shoghi Effendi, the one which 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. (19 November 1939)
(On behalf, quoted in The Universal House of Justice, 1995 Apr 27, Separation of Church and State)


... which supposes that individual Bahais will at some time enter politics, and the other:

Theirs is not the purpose, while endeavoring to conduct and perfect the administrative affairs of their Faith, ... 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)


.. which means that the Bahai administrative machinery can never enter politics.

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

Postby brettz9 » Sat Oct 23, 2010 7:11 pm

Sen McGlinn wrote:(1)
brettz9 wrote:
Sen McGlinn wrote:My question was whether you have a specific reason for thinking that political campaigning itself is against Bahai principles?


Are you really being serious here?


Yes, it's a perfectly serious question.

brettz9 wrote:The quotations are not saying something like "it is not advisable to utilize these approaches in Baha'i elections".


I guessed you had not read the quotes you had found, because some were double.


I presented two in a row which were double because the translation was slightly variant. Of course, even if I were a monkey adding these quotations randomly, the doubling of quotations or reading of them makes no difference to the argument at hand. :)

Sen McGlinn wrote:If you do read them you will see that they are saying "it is not advisable to utilize these approaches in Baha'i elections". Here they are again for your convenience:


My point--which I thought was clear given the contrast I had given--was that the quotations were not merely using such a mild tone as my example sentence. The phrase "evil methods and detestable practices of the politicians" is not exactly unambiguous. Moreover, this quotation did not say, "evil methods and detestable practices of a sub-group of former politicians trying to apply their evil ways to Baha'i administration"; it is obviously speaking about politicians' practices in general and in the wider community. And the immediate context of this phrase on "evil methods" was in making "any reference whatsoever to individual names", i.e., campaigning and the like.

My apologies for my incredulousness if you had indeed not noticed this connection.

Sen McGlinn wrote:Given the quotes your presented, it seems perfectly reasonable to ask whether you have some reason for thinking that these principles, explicitly referring to Bahai elections, for the institutions of the Administrative Order, also apply to the civil elections in a democracy, or for that matter the elections of the Board by shareholders, or the election of the committee in a chess club. What makes you think they are generally applicable?


Here it is again:

One's vote should be kept confidential. It is not permissible to make any reference whatsoever to individual names. The friends must avoid the evil methods and detestable practices of the politicians...

(In a letter written on behalf of Shoghi Effendi, 16 January 1923 to the Central Spiritual Assembly of Iran - translated from the Persian at http://bahai-library.com/compilation_bahai_elections )


Now I agree that this doesn't automatically mean that in a non-political environment, such as the chess club example you mention, Baha'is cannot participate if procedures do not perfectly follow Baha'i principles, as the Universal House of Justice points out in the context of non-political organizations like trade unions:

"As long as this and other associations, such as the special interest groups you mention, are not affiliated with any political party and are not involved in political activities there is no objection to Bahá'ís belonging to them nor to their holding office in them.

"As for participation in elections of non-Bahá'í organizations which are open to Bahá'ís but which employ electional methods different from Bahá'í practices, believers need not avoid the election procedures carried out in such organizations."

(From a letter written on behalf of the Universal House of Justice to the National Spiritual Assembly of Alaska, January 4, 1979)


...though even in an organization as limited as a non-partisan neighborhood council, the House elucidates Baha'is should not campaign, and avoid nominations unless required by law:

"There is no objection to a Bahá'í being elected a Barrio Captain or serving on a Barrio Council provided:

1. He is not required to become a member of a political party.

2. Service as a Barrio Captain or as a member of the Barrio Council does not involve him in partisan politics.

3. That he does not campaign for election to office. There is no objection to allowing one's name to be placed in nomination if nominations are required by law. If nominations are not obligatory and the voter is allowed to write on the ballot paper and vote for the names of those he wishes to be elected, this procedure should be followed by the Bahá'ís.

"It would be preferable, of course, if the election of members of a Barrio Council and Barrio Captains could be strictly in accordance with Bahá'í principles. We would appreciate knowing whether this can be done in ... or whether it may be possible to amend the laws so that this procedure can be adopted in villages where the population is entirely or predominately Bahá'í."

(From a letter of the Universal House of Justice to the National Spiritual Assembly of the Philippines, April 24, 1972)


"Your Assembly should understand that Bahá'ís do not engage in political activities nor belong to political parties, but...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)


The above is quite a clear elucidation of how Baha'is may participate in some forms of elected "government", if they are following or very close to following Baha'i principles, but not if they are campaigning.

Sen McGlinn wrote:(2) Bahai non-involvement in politics is a separate issue to the Bahai teachings (if there are any) about the desired form of civil elections in democracies.


If non-Baha'i systems are faulty, then the issues are tied together:

"We must build up our Bahá'í system, and leave the faulty systems of the world to go their way. We cannot change them through becoming involved in them; on the contrary, they will destroy us."

(On behalf of Shoghi Effendi, Bahá'í News No. 215, January 1949, p. 1, emphasis added)


And once again, this quotation is not in the context of Baha'i institutions, it is about individual Baha'is.

Sen McGlinn wrote:The non-involvement does not refer just to democracies - it is a principle about politics as such (monarchial, republican, constitutional monarchy, etc..) and applies equally strongly in a country that has elections without nominations, such as Cuba.


I don't believe that this is entirely true. I think it is quite conceivable (as with neighborhood councils) that the House of Justice could rule that in cases where a government does not require membership in a party, avoids nominations and campaigns, that individual Baha'is could accept an elected post, if such a system were to come into existence. (And the House seems to suggest that this will indeed happen in the future, and again allows for elections to at least local councils if non-partisan and non-campaigning based.) But it is hard to argue that this could even be seen as "interference", given that accepting a post, is quite different from vying for it. (Your example of Cuba though, I think might not pertain, as it does require nominations, though not by parties and without campaigns. Similarly, Uganda's former experiment with non-partisan democracy, involved avoidance of parties, but with campaigns.)

Sen McGlinn wrote:The meaning of this non-involvement in civil politics (not, to repeat the point, non-campaigning), is perhaps clearest in one of Abdu'l-Baha's talks, his last one before leaving London for Paris in October 1911. This cal consists of a list of 11 central teachings of Baha'u'llah. It's authenticated (based on Persian notes, see
http://reference.bahai.org/fa/t/ab/KA1/ka1-35.html ). The ninth principle reads:

Ninth, religion is separated from politics. Religion does not enter into political matters. In fact, it is linked with the hearts, not with the world of bodies. The leaders of religion should devote themselves to teaching and training the souls and propagating good morals, and they should not enter into political matters.



Note that in another talk of 'Abdu'l-Baha (though my Persian is not good enough to find out if it is authenticated anywhere), there is this:
"With political questions the clergy, however, have nothing to do! Religious matters should not be confused with politics in the present state of the world (for their interests are not identical)."

(Paris Talks, p. 158)


The reference is interestingly to the "present state of the world", though admittedly that could be interpreted as a reference to a prior time such as in Islam, where they became integrated. Still, Shoghi Effendi praised the latter's inclusions of wider societal considerations as an example of Islam's advancement, something expanded on in the Faith:

"From the standpoint of institutionalism Islam far surpasses true Christianity as we know it in the Gospels. There are infinitely more laws and institutions in the Qur'an than in the Gospel. While the latter's emphasis is mainly, not to say wholly, on individual and personal conduct, the Qur'an stresses the importance of society. This social emphasis acquires added importance and significance in the Bahá'í Revelation. When carefully and impartially compared, the Qur'an marks a definite advancement on the Gospel, from the standpoint of spiritual and humanitarian progress."

(From a letter written on behalf of Shoghi Effendi to an individual believer, April 27, 1936)


In any case, the "leaders of religion" are still to to be dedicating themselves to moral and spiritual instruction, though as individuals, they may be elected by campaigning, and in the future, the institutions themselves are going to become recognized as having a political role (see below).

Sen McGlinn wrote:.. which means that the Bahai administrative machinery can never enter politics.


While Baha'is are not to "enter politics" in the sense of aggressively trying to impose their system, this does not mean that the Baha'i institutions will be forever disassociated from political issues:

"Regarding the question raised in your letter, Shoghi Effendi believes that for the present the Movement, whether in the East or the West, should be dissociated entirely from politics. This was the explicit injunction of `Abdu'l-Bahá... Eventually, however, as you have rightly conceived it, the Movement will, as soon as it is fully developed and recognized, embrace both religious and political issues. In fact Bahá'u'lláh clearly states that affairs of state as well as religious questions are to be referred to the House of Justice into which the Assemblies of the Bahá'ís will eventually evolve. (On behalf of the Guardian, 30 November 1930, cited at http://bahai-library.com/uhj_theocracy )


The reference to "the Movement" is not talking about mere individuals here, and the affairs of state will be "referred to the House of Justice". While that does not preclude some independent apparatus, e.g., for the Executive envisaged to accompany the House of Justice, the point is that the House of Justice is in the far future going to become the World legislature (alongside the Executive).*

The above quotation appeared in the context of this elucidating quotation from the House, and references the letter you cite apparently in supposed defense of the idea that political matters will never pertain to the Baha'i institutions:

As for the statement made by Shoghi Effendi in his letter of 21 March 1932, the well-established principles of the Faith concerning the relationship of the Bahá'í institutions to those of the country in which the Bahá'ís reside make it unthinkable that they would ever purpose to violate a country's constitution or so to meddle in its political machinery as to attempt to take over the powers of government. This is an integral element of the Bahá'í principle of abstention from involvement in politics. However, this does not by any means imply that the country itself may not, by constitutional means, decide to adopt Bahá'í laws and practices and modify its constitution or method of government accordingly.


And to take one of the other quotations they cited:
"The Bahá'ís must remain non-partisan in all political affairs. In the distant future, however, when the majority of a country have become Bahá'ís then it will lead to the establishment of a Bahá'í State. (19 April 1941)


...it is not possible that there will be a permanent separation of Church and State, if there is going to be a "Baha'i State" (though granted again, only after a "supremely voluntary and democratic" process in which Baha'is become the majority and in a manner which respects minorities including religious minorities).

The House similarly makes clear that the reference to "separation of Church and State" in Shoghi Effendi's Writings is not about a general principle, but a temporary condition (see http://bahai-library.com/uhj_theocracy ).

The above messages from the House of Justice gain added importance when we consider that matters such as this have been mentioned as those which will need to be explained and elucidated by the Universal House of Justice itself:

"Touching the point raised in the Secretary's letter regarding the nature and scope of the Universal Court of Arbitration, this and other similar matters will have to be explained and elucidated by the Universal House of Justice, to which, according to the Master's explicit Instructions, all important fundamental questions must be referred."


So, however you or I may interpret the issues or try to decide which are general principles or not, it is only to the House of Justice to which all such questions are to be referred.

best wishes,
Brett

*
Certain passages in the writings on this subject establish matters of principle, certain ones describe the ultimate goal of the Most Great Peace, and certain of them relate to stages of development on the way to the attainment of that goal. For example, in this familiar passage in His Will and Testament, `Abdu'l-Bahá states:

This House of Justice enacteth the laws and the government enforceth them. The legislative body must reinforce the executive, 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.

In response to a question about the "government" in the above passage, Shoghi Effendi's secretary wrote on his behalf, on 18 April 1941, the following clarification:

By "Government" ... is meant the executive body which will enforce the laws when the Bahá'í Faith has reached the point when it is recognized and accepted entirely by any particular nation."

(On behalf of the Universal House of Justice, at http://bahai-library.com/uhj_theocracy, emphasis added)


[Edited three times with minor edits for clarity]

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

Postby Sen McGlinn » Sun Oct 24, 2010 5:48 am

brettz9 wrote:
My point--which I thought was clear given the contrast I had given--was that the quotations were not merely using such a mild tone as my example sentence. The phrase "evil methods and detestable practices of the politicians" is not exactly unambiguous. Moreover, this quotation did not say, "evil methods and detestable practices of a sub-group of former politicians trying to apply their evil ways to Baha'i administration"; it is obviously speaking about politicians' practices in general and in the wider community.


Perhaps. However all the other quotes you found were specifically objecting to campaigning and nominations *in Bahai elections,* and the passage just quoted does not refer to campaigning and nominations as evil practices, but rather "intrigues, party politics and propaganda" -- so I find the connection you make tenuous. But never mind - let's just say you have your reasons for thinking this is generally applicable, and leave it at that. The practices of Iranian politicians in 1923 would not be likely to include democratic campaigning and nominations as we know them, since Iran did not have a democracy at the time.

brettz9 wrote:
....(From a letter written on behalf of the Universal House of Justice to the National Spiritual Assembly of the Leeward Islands, February 15, 1982)


The above is quite a clear elucidation of how Baha'is may participate in some forms of elected "government", if they are following or very close to following Baha'i principles, but not if they are campaigning.


First, the letters are setting out current policy - I am seeking general principles.
Second, you are being selective. Among these current policies are that "As for participation in elections of non-Bahá'í organizations.... which employ electional methods different from Bahá'í practices, believers need not avoid the election procedures carried out in such organizations." Government is a non-Baha's organisation, is it not?

In the case of the Barrio committee (a form of local government I gather), nominations were approved, campaigning was not. Why one and not the other? The UHJ does not explain. It could be something specific to this particular institution. In a case I know of, (30 years ago now, in New Zealand, and I forget the man's name), a Bahai was nominated for, and campaigned for, local body elections and so far as I am aware received no stick for it. He served two terms as I recall. It would be rather unfair to the electors to put your name on the ballot paper as a surprise for voters when they turned up - and would not know who this person was! Perhaps the Barrio committee was government on such a small scale that the voters would know the nominees personally.

Even in Bahai elections, the absence of nominations is not set in stone. Shoghi Effendi writes (1927):
In connection with the best and most practical methods of procedure to be adopted for the election of Bahá'í Spiritual Assemblies, I feel that in view of the fact that definite and detailed regulations defining the manner and character of Bahá'í elections have neither been expressly revealed by Bahá'u'lláh nor laid down in the Will and Testament of 'Abdu'l-Bahá, it devolves upon the members of the Universal House of Justice to formulate and apply such system of laws as would be in conformity with the essentials and requisites expressly provided by the Author and Interpreter of the  Faith for the conduct of Bahá'í administration. ... Moreover, the practice of nomination, so detrimental to the atmosphere of a silent and prayerful election, is viewed with mistrust inasmuch as it gives the right to the majority of a body that, in itself under the present circumstances, often constitutes a minority of all the elected delegates, to deny that God-given right of every elector to vote only in favor of those who he is conscientiously convinced are the most worthy candidates. Should this simple system be provisionally adopted, it would safeguard the spiritual principle of the unfettered freedom of the voter, who will thus preserve intact the sanctity of the choice he first made. It would avoid the inconvenience of securing advance nominations from absent delegates, and the impracticality of associating them with the assembled electors in the subsequent ballots that are often required to meet the exigencies of majority vote.
(Shoghi Effendi, Baha'i Administration, p. 135)


Not only does this allow the UHJ to change the system provisionally adopted, it seems to refer to a specific kind of nomination procedure -- one in which the body being elected (the NSA) decides who is nominated! But a system in which anybody with voting rights could also put their name on the list, and the list had sufficient blank spaces to allow delegates the freedom to vote for whomever they chose, might at some time be considered "in conformity with the essentials and requisites.." -- or it might not. The UHJ has great freedom to adjust the system as the needs of the Faith require it. As national communities grow, the possibility for personal knowledge, by delegates, of all the electable Bahais diminishes, with the result that there is an increasing incumbency factor in favour of existing NSA members, who are known at least by name to all delegates. Excessively low turnover is not good for the institutions themselves.

Throughout this thread, I've been trying to distinguish between principles and current practices, for I really think that the principles involved in the Bahai political teachings are quite simple. What causes misunderstandings is that current practices and policies are elevated to eternal principles, and then found to be contrary to other principles, or incompatible with or impracticable as a way of achieving, the long-term goal of Baha'u'llah's World Order, and then the Bahais throw up their hands in despair at ever understanding it. Mixing principles and practices s not only confusing for the Bahais, people notice. "Bahais can't serve in the military? That puts a cap on the number of Bahais a country can tolerate." "Bahais don't do politics? Then the stuff about a Bahai state is fairy tales." The nuance is therefore very important. We should be saying something more like, "It's not that Bahais are against political campaigning and nominations per se, but rather that we do not have nominations and campaigning, for the present, in our own elections -- and it's likely that we never will have campaigning because ..." or "It's not that we are against politics, in fact Abdu'l-Baha says it's our duty as citizens in a democracy to 'take part in the elections of officers and ... the affairs of the republic,' but at present, because the Bahai community is small, scattered, and in several countries persecuted, we have to be especially careful not to give people the impression that we have political ambitions, not to let the Bahai Faith be identified with particular political forces, ..."



brettz9 wrote:
Sen McGlinn wrote:(2) Bahai non-involvement in politics is a separate issue to the Bahai teachings (if there are any) about the desired form of civil elections in democracies.


If non-Baha'i systems are faulty, then the issues are tied together:

"We must build up our Bahá'í system, and leave the faulty systems of the world to go their way. We cannot change them through becoming involved in them; on the contrary, they will destroy us."

(On behalf of Shoghi Effendi, Bahá'í News No. 215, January 1949, p. 1, emphasis added)


And once again, this quotation is not in the context of Baha'i institutions, it is about individual Baha'is.


Yet Abdu'l-Baha said "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." and "This is a necessary matter and no excuse from it is possible." (Tablets of Abdu'l-Baha v2, p. 342). Which of these do you think is speaking at the level of principle, and which at the level of current (1949) tactics? Which is more authoritative? Is the UHJ policy today that we should not become involved in the systems of the world, or is it that we should seek greater involvement now?

Sen McGlinn wrote:The non-involvement does not refer just to democracies - it is a principle about politics as such (monarchial, republican, constitutional monarchy, etc..) and applies equally strongly in a country that has elections without nominations, such as Cuba.


brettz9 wrote:I don't believe that this is entirely true. I think it is quite conceivable (as with neighborhood councils) that the House of Justice could rule that in cases where a government does not require membership in a party, avoids nominations and campaigns, that individual Baha'is could accept an elected post, if such a system were to come into existence. (And the House seems to suggest that this will indeed happen in the future, and again allows for elections to at least local councils if non-partisan and non-campaigning based.) ...


I stand corrected about Cuba. There's another example of the UHJ envisioning Bahais serving on local government :

"In another national community where the number of believers had increased to the point where the population of some villages had become 100% or almost 100% Bahá'í, the House of Justice upheld the above principle and stated that in each such village while they should elect the Local Spiritual Assembly, they should continue to elect the Local Council as required by the Government, and the function of those two bodies should be kept distinct, even if their memberships were identical."
(From a letter written on behalf of the Universal House of Justice to the National Spiritual Assembly of Brazil, April 13, 1983: in Ocean but with typos, search on "kept distant" to find it.)


This envisions the possibility that all of the members of a local council might be Bahais, even perhaps the same Bahais as those on the Local Bahai Assembly. If Assembly members can serve in elected government positions, surely the rank and file would also be allowed to do so.

brettz9 wrote:
Sen McGlinn wrote:"Ninth, religion is separated from politics. Religion does not enter into political matters. In fact, it is linked with the hearts, not with the world of bodies. The leaders of religion should devote themselves to teaching and training the souls and propagating good morals, and they should not enter into political matters."


Note that in another talk of 'Abdu'l-Baha (though my Persian is not good enough to find out if it is authenticated anywhere), there is this:
"With political questions the clergy, however, have nothing to do! Religious matters should not be confused with politics in the present state of the world (for their interests are not identical)."
(Paris Talks, p. 158)


The talk is authentic, but the Paris Talks version is not. The phrase "in the present state of the world" has been interpolated. I have parallel column versions of this talk as an appendix in my book Church and State, demonstrating the editorial changes made.

brettz9 wrote:The reference is interestingly to the "present state of the world", though admittedly that could be interpreted as a reference to a prior time such as in Islam, where they became integrated. Still, Shoghi Effendi praised the latter's inclusions of wider societal considerations as an example of Islam's advancement, something expanded on in the Faith:


Religion and politics have very seldom been integrated in Islam - only in some short-lived messianic communities. The idea that Islam does not distinguish between religion and politics was in the first place a colonial and orientalist invention, explaining the backwardness of the Islamic countries in comparison to enlightened Europeans (who therefore had to bear the burden of governing other people's countries for them), and was then adopted as a mark of distinction by Islamists, a reason why ideas like democracy could never work in their societies. And so the orientalists and nativists have reinforced their belief in this 'difference'. It's totally a-historical. Throughout Islamic history there have been palaces and mosques, sultans and ulama, reasons of state and theology. They sometimes work together, sometimes oppose, often have little to do with one another, but they have always been distinct - except in the Mahdi state and the like.


brettz9 wrote:
"Regarding the question raised in your letter, Shoghi Effendi believes that for the present the Movement, whether in the East or the West, should be dissociated entirely from politics. This was the explicit injunction of `Abdu'l-Bahá... Eventually, however, as you have rightly conceived it, the Movement will, as soon as it is fully developed and recognized, embrace both religious and political issues. In fact Bahá'u'lláh clearly states that affairs of state as well as religious questions are to be referred to the House of Justice into which the Assemblies of the Bahá'ís will eventually evolve. (On behalf of the Guardian, 30 November 1930, cited at http://bahai-library.com/uhj_theocracy )


The reference to "the Movement" is not talking about mere individuals here, and the affairs of state will be "referred to the House of Justice". While that does not preclude some independent apparatus, e.g., for the Executive envisaged to accompany the House of Justice, the point is that the House of Justice is in the far future going to become the World legislature (alongside the Executive).


Whoa! That's a whole bunch of assumptions that are not compatible with the Writings. First, note that it is a letter on behalf - the choice of words is not Shoghi Effendi's. Then the translation "affairs of state" (referring to the 8th Ishraqat) is quite misleading, because there is no word for "state" in the original: it not only gives the impression that Baha'u'llah was referring to civil government, it gives the impression he was talking of a House of Justice at the national level rather than the local or international one. There's none of this in the Persian. Shoghi Effendi's translation of a similar passage in the Lawh-e Hikmat is "wise administration," which is a good translation, it avoids over-specifying what is not specific in the original, leaving it to the reader to deduce from the context what kind of administration is being referred to, and at what level. I've discussed this translation on my blog at
http://senmcglinn.wordpress.com/2008/04 ... e-matters/
and
http://senmcglinn.wordpress.com/email-a ... e-experts/

Second, you are supposing that the legislature and executive mentioned in the Will and Testament (the House of Justice and Government) are the legislature, executive and judiciary in the World Government. But they are totally different things! The first pair are terms drawn from Islamic discourse about the relationship between religion and politics in society, in which the religious order is theorized as promulgating the will of God, and the political order as implementing that will, among other things by making laws and implementing them, and governing well (legislating, policing, judiciary, and executive, in Western terminology). The three arms of the world government as described by Shoghi Effendi are those identified in western political theory: the legislative, executive and judiciary. There's no contradiction because the theories of society are the framework, the theory of the three arms of government within society fits within that. It's just confusing that the same term is used, where Abdu'l-Baha speaks of a legislative power in society (the religious order) working in harmony with government (the whole civil political order), while Shoghi Effendi speaks of the political order being divided into three, the legislative executive and judiciary.

The House of Justice, according to Abdu'l-Baha,
"must be elected by universal suffrage, that is, by the believers. … By this House is meant the Universal House of Justice, that is, in all countries a secondary House of Justice must be instituted, and these secondary Houses of Justice must elect the members of the Universal one.
(Abdu’l-Baha, The Will and Testament, p. 14)


The members of the legislature of the commonwealth of nations, in contrast, should according to Shoghi Effendi be directly “elected by the people in their respective countries and … confirmed by their respective governments.” ( The World Order of Baha’u'llah 41.) However Baha’u'llah says, in respect to the gathering that is to establish (and presumably maintain) world peace, that it would be “preferable and more fitting that the highly-honored kings themselves should attend such an assembly.” (Epistle to the Son of the Wolf 31). This looks rather like a two-chamber structure, with one chamber elected directly by the people and the other consisting of heads of state or other government representatives.

Note that Shoghi Effendi says the national representatives to the world legislature are to be elected (directly) by the people, whereas the Will and Testament says that the Universal House of Justice should be elected indirectly, by the members of the secondary or National Houses of Justice. Ergo, in the thinking of Abdu'l-Baha and Shoghi Effendi, the UHJ and the World Legislature are not the same thing.

brettz9 wrote:
As for the statement made by Shoghi Effendi in his letter of 21 March 1932, ... this does not by any means imply that the country itself may not, by constitutional means, decide to adopt Bahá'í laws and practices and modify its constitution or method of government accordingly.


And to take one of the other quotations they cited:
"The Bahá'ís must remain non-partisan in all political affairs. In the distant future, however, when the majority of a country have become Bahá'ís then it will lead to the establishment of a Bahá'í State. (19 April 1941)


...it is not possible that there will be a permanent separation of Church and State, if there is going to be a "Baha'i State" (though granted again, only after a "supremely voluntary and democratic" process in which Baha'is become the majority and in a manner which respects minorities including religious minorities).


Your conclusion is a pre-judgement, not based on the texts cited. A country might well (will, I hope) adopt Bahai laws and modify its method and constitution, and a Bahai state might be established. But what then are the Bahais laws, method, constitution and state? You have assumed that the Bahai principles are opposed to the separation of church and state (although Abdu'l-Baha lists this as a core Bahai principle), seen that the state might adopt Bahai principles, and concluded that a permanent separation of Church and State is impossible. The argument is entirely circular. We must rather start with an investigation of Bahai principles, one of which is indubitably the separation of church and state (for this is explicitly specified in numerous places in the Writings), and then ask what would happen if a state wished to adopt Bahai principles. Why, it would separate church and state of course! If it did not do so, it would have no right to call itself a Bahai state, for a Bahai state is one "functioning, in all religious and civil matters, in strict accordance with the laws and ordinances of the Kitáb-i-Aqdas" (Shoghi Effendi, Messages to the Baha'i World - 1950-1957, p. 155), and the laws of the Kitab-e Aqdas endorse both the House of Justice and the Government, and says "None must contend with those who wield authority over the people; leave unto them that which is theirs, and direct your attention to men’s hearts." (paragraph 95) The same Author, it will be remembered, endorsed the principle of "Render unto Caesar" in his Epistle to the Son of the Wolf.


brettz9 wrote:
"Touching the point raised in the Secretary's letter regarding the nature and scope of the Universal Court of Arbitration, this and other similar matters will have to be explained and elucidated by the Universal House of Justice, to which, according to the Master's explicit Instructions, all important fundamental questions must be referred."


So, however you or I may interpret the issues or try to decide which are general principles or not, it is only to the House of Justice to which all such questions are to be referred.


I agree with the sentiment, and I point out that the House of Justice has already ruled that, at the local level, the institutions of government and Bahai Administration are to be kept distinct, even if their memberships should be the same. However I must nuance the formulation - it is not the general principles of the Bahai teachings that the House of Justice rules on (that is the role of the Guardian, and of Abdu'l-Baha, as quoted previously), rather the UHJ determines from time to time the general principles that are to be applied in Bahai administration around the world.

BruceDLimber
Posts: 189
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Location: Rockville, Maryland, USA

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

Postby BruceDLimber » Sun Oct 24, 2010 7:17 am

It should be noted (and remembered) that the prohibition is on PARTISAN politics, not all politics!

Non-partisan positions are fine!

For example, in recent years two members of the US National Spiritual Assembly served on the California Supreme Court and a Federal Court of Appeals.

Bruce

pilgrimbrent
Posts: 45
Joined: Sat Dec 27, 2008 4:16 pm

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

Postby pilgrimbrent » Mon Jan 31, 2011 6:54 am

Perhaps these quotes, if not already posted, will shed some light; if they've already been posted, my apology.

"In the case of Mr. ..., it is important that you ascertain precisely what his membership on a village council entitles, 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; Lights of Guidance, p. 444, #1451)


[The word "barrio" in Spanish means "neighborhood"]
"There is no objection to a Bahá'í being elected a Barrio Captain or serving on a Barrio Council provided:
1. He is not required to become a member of a political party.
2. Serving as a Barrio Captain or as a member of the Barrio Council Captain does not involve him in partisan politics.
3. That he does not campaign for election of office. There is no objection to allowing one's name to be placed in nomination if required by law. If nominations are not obligatory and the voter is allowed to write on the ballot paper and vote for the names of those he wishes to be elected, this procedure should be followed by the Bahá'ís.
"It would be preferable, of course, if the election of members of a Barrio Council and Barrio Captains should be strictly in accordance with Bahá'í principles. We would appreciate knowing whether this can be done in... or whether it may be possible to amend the laws so that this procedure can be adopted in villages where the population is entirely or predominantly Bahá'ís."
(From a letter of the Universal House of Justice to the National Spiritual Assembly of the Philippines, April 24, 1972; Lights of Guidance, p. 444, #1452)


Sen wrote:

"I appreciate that this is difficult, because one has to distinguish between basic Bahai principles and policies made by the Head of the Faith for conditions at the time, and Abdu'l-Baha and Shoghi Effendi had both roles simultaneously."


And it is for the House, not the individual, to determine when Shoghi Effendi has made a policy for the conditions of the time, and that the conditions have changed, so the policy no longer applies. The House wrote:

"In regard to the main question which you have posed, the requirement of Bahá'ís refraining from political involvement should not be construed merely as a comment on one's integrity; rather, it is a matter of the general state of society and confusion in the realm of politics. To have Bahá'ís involved in the regular machinery of campaign politics would be to undermine the Faith's essential position of non-partisanship. Therefore, the House of Justice feels that a Bahá'í should neither campaign on his own behalf nor do anything to promote his candidacy. Partisan politics, it should be borne in mind, includes not only party affiliation but also campaigning, whether in the context of a political party or not, by setting oneself up against another in a political contest. There is a clear distinction which separates those elections which take place in the public arena from those which take place in the Bahá'í community, where there is neither campaigning nor nominations. At the same time, in view of the different circumstances involving election to office, it is advisable for the friends to consult their Local Spiritual Assembly or National Spiritual Assembly concerning any specific instance in which a Bahá'í would be involved in a public election."
Letter from the Universal House of Justice, dated July 6, 1995, to an individual believer; quoted in Section 12.10 of "Developing Distinctive Baha'i Communities," a publication of the US National Spiritual Assembly)


A member of the US NSA served as a federal judge for many years. This was OK because 1) it was an appointed position -- she was appointed by President Carter; 2) there was no campaigning -- it was an appointed position; 3) it was nonpartisan -- she did not need to belong to a particular political party; 4) the office itself is non-political. Judges make decisions (at least in theory) based on the law, not on political viewpoint. They are not beholden to their constituents, and in that sense, they are not "political" positions.

Another member of the US NSA served for many years on the Municipal Court of Los Angeles, not the state supreme court. He had been appointed by Governor Ronald Reagan. The same principles applied. I understand that a few years later he was allowed to stand for retention election, which consisted solely of allowing his name to be placed on the ballot; but not allowed by the divine institutions, to campaign for re-election.

As to the general matter of non-involvement in politics, and whether its day has passed; and specifically whether the Guardian's guidance written in the World Order of Baha'u'llah was no longer applicable, or was still in force; and the related matter of whether individuals may determine whether a given matter crosses the lines, I wrote to the House of Justice and asked, and received this reply:

"The House of Justice received your letter of 13 December 1986 inquiring about permissible activities of the Bahá'ís in relation towards governments...
"The general policy already enunciated by Shoghi Effendi in "The World Order of Bahá'u'lláh", pages 63-67, should be scrupulously upheld by the friends. However, as the Faith emerges from obscurity, the application of certain aspects of this policy will require the clarification of the House of Justice. With the passage of time, practices in the political realm will definitely undergo the profound changes anticipated in the Bahá'í writings. As a consequence, what we understand now of the policy of non-involvement in politics will also undergo a change; but as Shoghi Effendi has written, this instruction, "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".
"In view of the necessity of the Bahá'í community to relate to governments, whether for reasons of defending its persecuted members or of responding to opportunities to be of service, a correct understanding of what is legitimate Bahá'í action in the face of the policy of non-interference with government affairs is bound to be difficult to achieve on the part of individual friends. The force of circumstances, operating internally and externally, is pressing the Bahá'í community into certain relationships with governments. 
"Hence, it is important that decisions as to the conduct of such relationships be made by authorized institutions of the Faith and not by individuals. In matters of this kind, given the utter complexity of human affairs with which the Bahá'í community must increasingly cope both spiritually and practically, individual judgement is not sufficient."
(From a letter on behalf of the Universal House of Justice dated 23 June 1987 to an individual believer; Guidelines for Reaching Prominent People, The Compilation of Compilations vol II, p. 279, #1878)


I hope these quotes shed some light.

Best regards
Brent


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