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.
....(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, ..."
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.
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.
"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 athttp://senmcglinn.wordpress.com/2008/04 ... e-matters/
andhttp://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.
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.
"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.