When is a Baha'i not a Baha'i?

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Mike

When is a Baha'i not a Baha'i?

Postby Mike » Wed Jan 04, 2006 10:43 pm

This is a question that has been bothering me for quite a while.

A number of years ago a close friend confided in me that the way that he was living his life meant that he no longer felt he could justify calling himself a Baha'i. Instead, when discussing the Teachings he described himself as someone that "sympathised" with the Baha'i Faith. I've also met a number of people who while they sympathise with the Baha'i Faith feel that they are "not good enough" to become Baha'is.

On the one hand, Baha'u'llah makes it quite clear in the Kitab-i-Aqdas that neither of the twin duties (recognition of the Manifestation of God and obedience to his Laws) is acceptable without the other, and the Writings in general appear to support this. On the other hand, I remember Ruhi Khanum during a talk she gave at the World Congress in New York in '92 making the point that it is impossible for anyone to follow all of the Baha'i Teachings, Laws and Ordinances.

So, when is a Baha'i not a Baha'i? Should people feel that they are not good enough to declare themselves as Baha'is because of the way that they live? Should those that have declared themselves Baha'is, whether they were born in Baha'i families or not, consider refraining from calling themselves Baha'is if at any juncture in their lives they find they are unable to live in strict accordance with the Baha'i Teachings, Laws etc and start describing themselves as sympathisers instead?

There's a grey area between the human and the Divine that Baha’is should be constantly striving to transcend, but are there cases when people should say, “I am unable or no longer able to justify calling myself a Baha’i?

Best,
Mike

Gene Mayes
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Re: When is a Baha'i not a Baha'i?

Postby Gene Mayes » Thu Jan 05, 2006 12:51 am

Mike wrote:I've also met a number of people who while they sympathise with the Baha'i Faith feel that they are "not good enough" to become Baha'is.

...

Should people feel that they are not good enough to declare themselves as Baha'is because of the way that they live?


As I study the Baha'i Faith more and more, I find myself in this camp. While I have belief and also know I could adhere to many of the laws, there are certain ordinances (the one that sticks out is the prohibition on hugging and kissing) that I know I wouldn't be able to live up to.

So I feel reluctant to enter into the Faith in the knowledge that I cannot at this time fully adhere to the behavioral requirements.

What do others here think?

Hasan
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Re: When is a Baha'i not a Baha'i?

Postby Hasan » Thu Jan 05, 2006 9:50 am

Gene Mayes wrote:certain ordinances (the one that sticks out is the prohibition on hugging and kissing) that I know I wouldn't be able to live up to.
So I feel reluctant to enter into the Faith in the knowledge that I cannot at this time fully adhere to the behavioral requirements.
What do others here think?


Well, not hugging and kissing???? Uhm... Where in the Aqdas say that????

In bahá'í communities of South America, bahá'ís friends kiss the cheek or hug each other… it is not a matter of law, they are simply customs

Gene Mayes
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Re: When is a Baha'i not a Baha'i?

Postby Gene Mayes » Thu Jan 05, 2006 11:11 am

Hasan wrote:
Gene Mayes wrote:certain ordinances (the one that sticks out is the prohibition on hugging and kissing) that I know I wouldn't be able to live up to.
So I feel reluctant to enter into the Faith in the knowledge that I cannot at this time fully adhere to the behavioral requirements.
What do others here think?


Well, not hugging and kissing???? Uhm... Where in the Aqdas say that????

In bahá'í communities of South America, bahá'ís friends kiss the cheek or hug each other… it is not a matter of law, they are simply customs

http://bahai-library.com/?file=guardian ... amiliarity

No hugging or kissing between unmarried members of the opposite sex (iand I'd assume this means for those who are unrelated).

Guest

Postby Guest » Thu Jan 05, 2006 12:09 pm

In my opinion there was only one true Baha'i: 'Abdu'l-Baha! The rest of us are just striving to become Baha'is. Calling oneself a Baha'i has nothing to do with being one. I can call myself the President of the United States of America that doesn't make me a true servant of the people, not that I'm comparing religion to politics. I still drank after I declared and began to call myself a Baha'i. I still was still unchaste. I was still a lot of things, but, over time, I fell more and more in love with Baha'u'llah and His Word. As my love for Him grew I began to experience the ecstasy of nearness to Him and, conversely, if I knowingly acted against His Will I felt the excrutiating pain of separation from Him, but I took refuge in His Name, the All-Merciful. A person has to realize that God doesn't reward or punish us directly. We are not saved by faith alone, although, when we strive to be Baha'is, God's grace does assist us. On the other hand, we are not damned if we lack faith, however, if we lack faith in God's grace and Mercy to whom can we turn to to transcend the physical and attain to the divine, which is, afterall, the goal of human existence. A person has to realize that virtue is its own reward and vice is its own punishment. There are many paths to truth, but only one path to ultimate truth: obedience, submission, and, finally, radiant acquiescence to God's Manifestation.

Hasan
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Re: When is a Baha'i not a Baha'i?

Postby Hasan » Thu Jan 05, 2006 12:21 pm

"easy familiarity" is based on pilgrim notes, you are free to choose, but I say it is NOT forbidden in the Bahá'í Faith to hug each other... in the future may be the society will envolve... I mantain it is a thing of customs, see Japanese or Chinese? Wisdom is needed, if you become bahá'í I think nobody will say you "hugging is forbidden" because it is not.

Gene Mayes
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Re: When is a Baha'i not a Baha'i?

Postby Gene Mayes » Thu Jan 05, 2006 12:30 pm

Hasan wrote:"easy familiarity" is based on pilgrim notes, you are free to choose, but I say it is NOT forbidden in the Bahá'í Faith to hug each other...

It's based on a pilgrim note, but it's given credence by the Guardian's letter and this is furthermore referenced by the UHJ.

So on what level is it then regarded?

antoinette

Baha;i faith

Postby antoinette » Thu Jan 05, 2006 1:02 pm

I have a good friend onpaltalk that always says. I am not a Baha'i. I am learning how to be a Baha'i

Baha'i Warrior
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Re: When is a Baha'i not a Baha'i?

Postby Baha'i Warrior » Thu Jan 05, 2006 4:35 pm

Hasan wrote:"easy familiarity" is based on pilgrim notes, you are free to choose, but I say it is NOT forbidden in the Bahá'í Faith to hug each other... in the future may be the society will envolve... I mantain it is a thing of customs, see Japanese or Chinese? Wisdom is needed, if you become bahá'í I think nobody will say you "hugging is forbidden" because it is not.


Hasan I have to disagree with you here

About "Easy familiarity" sure it's not a law but 'Abdu'l-Baha makes it very clear that we should not embrace and kiss the opposite sex unless she is going to be your wife or is you wife:

"Walking today in the gardens by the Hudson River in the early morning, I had the privilege of being with Abdu'l-Baha, and I told Him how some people have tried to spread the untruth that the Baha'is teach "free love."

He answered: "The marriage bond is very important." He repeated it again: "Very, very important. Marriage must be strict and pure. You must all be very careful about this."

He continued: "Women and men must not embrace each other when not married, or not about to be married. They must not kiss each other. If women kiss women, that is not bad. If men kiss men, that is not bad. But men and women must not embrace. Such conduct is not taught in the Baha'i Revelation. AND IT MUST NOT BE DONE. IT IS NOT PERMITTED. If they wish to greet each other, or comfort each other, they may take each other by the hand.


Sure that is from a pilgrims note but it is significant enough for both the Guardian and the UHJ to comment on it.

Shoghi Effendi:

"What Baha'u'llah means by chastity certainly does not include the kissing that goes on in modern society. It is detrimental to the morals of young people, and often leads them to go too far, or arouses appetites which they cannot perhaps at the time satisfy legitimately through marriage, and the suppression of which is a strain on them. The Baha'i standard is very high, more particularly when compared with the thoroughly rotten morals of the present world. But this standard of ours will produce healthier, happier, nobler people, and induce stabler marriages. The Master's words to Ann Boylan, which you quoted, can certainly be taken as the true spirit of the teachings on the subject of sex. We must strive to achieve this exalted standard."


Also the UHJ commenting:

"In a letter to an individual written on behalf of Shoghi Effendi it is said: 'The Master's words to..., which you quoted, can certainly be taken as the true spirit of the teachings on the subject of sex. We must strive to achieve this exalted standard.'"


Source: http://bahai-library.com/guardian/easy.familiarity.html



...........
Yes, Hasan, you should use judment. But viewing pornography is not forbidden either, that doesn't mean you should take a Penthouse magazine on Feast and sit on the sofa and start reading it. I am sometimes left in an uncomfortable situation when a women wants to hug me after I just saw her the first time, there are a lot of people that are into hugging. Also in the Persian culture many times people kiss each other. So it might hurt their feelings if you say: "Abdu'l-Baha and the Guardian states that this should not be done."


Also Shoghi Effendi says the Baha'i standard is very high. How are we going to shine if we just follow the laws and not the exhortations? A true Baha'i shuns "easy familiarity" as best he can without hurting anyone's feelings (although I dont know what else you can do in those situations). Easy familiarity is making bodily contact with people of the other sex on a regular basis that is not necessary. Say an attractive girl wants to hug you and her breasts make contact with your torso? Or even if that doesnt happen just the fact that you are hugging someone that is not going to be your future wife seems awkward for a lot of people. That is too close for a real, chaste Baha'i.

Mike

Postby Mike » Thu Jan 05, 2006 9:54 pm

"Warrior":

Are you capable, at all times and under all conditions, of acting in perfect accordance with the spirit and letter of all the Baha'i Teachings? If the answer to this question is no - which I sincerely hope for your sake it is - does that mean you are not worthy to call yourself a Baha'i?

Best,
Mike

Guest

Postby Guest » Thu Jan 05, 2006 9:59 pm

I think of being a true Baha' in its purest form as the unattainable ideal. Doesn't mean you shouldn't try. Trying takes you closer and closer to it, and God, but you just never get there. That's kinda the beauty of it. If it was truly attainable, it would lose its value.

Think of it as an asymptote.

Guest

Postby Guest » Thu Jan 05, 2006 10:13 pm

Both requisites mentioned in the first paragraph of the Aqdas are processes rather than events.

Can anyone truly say that they have achieved 'irfan?

Can anyone truly say that they have lived within ALL His laws ?

(even for one day?)




Friends, please, please, pleasae... let us be loving towards ourselves and each other. Please do not judge and cast aspersions on others.

I believe God has infinite mercy and love. He wants us to be happy and to draw closer to Him. He sends down such wonderful Messengers, He provides such a lovely world for us....


Please, let us be patient with each other. We are all walking this path. There is no destination...only a path. Let us help each other, support each other, love each other, comfort each other... as we meet along this path.

Allah'u'Abha

Guest

Postby Guest » Fri Jan 06, 2006 9:54 am

Gene Mayes:

Thank you. This is precisely the kind of situation that I was refering to.

As you are probably well aware the Guardian - Shoghi Effendi - made the following statement vis-a-vis the prerequites for acceptance of a declaration of belief.

Full recognition of the station of the Forerunner, the Author, and the True Exemplar of the Bahá'í Cause, as set forth in `Abdu'l-Bahá's Testament; unreserved acceptance of, and submission to, whatsoever has been revealed by their Pen; loyal and steadfast adherence to every clause of our Beloved's sacred Will; and close association with the spirit as well as the form of the present day Bahá'í administration throughout the world--these I conceive to be the fundamental and primary considerations that must be fairly, discreetly and thoughtfully ascertained before reaching such a vital decision.(Shoghi Effendi, Baha'i Administration, p. 90)


I guess the problem for you may be the "unreserved acceptance of, and submission to, whatsoever has been revealed by their Pen"? This, it appears, would include the admonition not to hug members of the opposite sex other than your wife.

Does this mean, therefore, that people who met these prerequisites at the time of their declaration of belief but at some later date find themselves unable or unwilling to unreservedly accept and submit to whatsoever has been revealed by their Pen should leave the Baha'i community and refrain from calling themselves Baha'is forthwith?

Best,
Mike

brettz9
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Postby brettz9 » Fri Jan 06, 2006 12:15 pm

There's a grey area between the human and the Divine that Baha’is should be constantly striving to transcend, but are there cases when people should say, “I am unable or no longer able to justify calling myself a Baha’i?


On the one hand, all of us should have the feeling of unworthiness. But we are called to have faith in that God's mercy exceeds His justice.

But if there is a lack of confidence in the Manifestation of God, this is a different story:

"He (the Guardian) was very sorry to hear that...has left the Cause, and suggests that you point out to her, and to any other of the friends who are confused and upset over this matter, that the Manifestation of God only gives us teachings and instructions designed for our good and protection, and that if each person reserves the right to obey his own conscience, the logical conclusion is we don't need any spiritual authority to guide and protect us, the authority of our own consciences is sufficient!
...
People who do not feel they can obey or accept the Teachings on a subject cannot be considered Baha'is, voting or otherwise. If a time comes when they feel ready to surrender their opinions to One we believe divinely guided, they should be joyously welcomed back into the Faith.
P.S. These friends you mention are being upset over this question should realise that if they reserve the right to disregard the Teachings on one subject, they must give the same right to other Baha'is, and obviously there can be no unity or strength in a Faith composed of individuals who only believe in part and not all of it. We must never prefer our wills to the Will of God.
(Shoghi Effendi, Unfolding Destiny, pp. 443-444)


So, in answer to this question below of yours, Mike, I think from the above, the answer would be yes:

Does this mean, therefore, that people who met these prerequisites at the time of their declaration of belief but at some later date find themselves unable or unwilling to unreservedly accept and submit to whatsoever has been revealed by their Pen should leave the Baha'i community and refrain from calling themselves Baha'is forthwith?


However, this answer is I think more from either the perspective of the individual who has the doubts, or from the perspective of what the institutions should do when someone is insisting on asserting their own opinions in open contradiction to the stated teachings of the Faith. It does not deal with how average Baha'is should interact with other Baha'is. On the contrary, we are to be forbearing with especially new Baha'is as the Writings (remember Ruhiyyih Khanum, however high a station, is not authoritative) state that the laws and other difficult subjects should not be thrust upon new believers too prematurely, but that they should be carefully yet steadily brought to appreciate all of what the Manifestation has revealed.

all the best,
Brett

Gene Mayes
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Postby Gene Mayes » Fri Jan 06, 2006 12:48 pm

I don't disagree with the wisdom of the laws and the teachings. I know them to be right. I just think that I probably wouldn't be able to live up to them as consistently as I'd like, and I don't know if I should declare while having this knowledge in my heart.

But I would certainly not preach against these teachings.

brettz9
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Postby brettz9 » Fri Jan 06, 2006 10:15 pm

Dear Gene,

From what you're saying, it seems to me that as long as you have a genuine belief in your heart for the divine inspiration of Bahá'u'lláh and the institutions and laws He ordained, that you are already a Bahá'í.

On the topic here you express concern, this is stated as a standard to strive toward, but it is certainly not a law which is going to require any kind of institutional intervention (the latter is only for flagrant violations which could really harm oneself or other individuals or the reputation of the Faith). And unfortunately, we Bahá'ís have not successfully convinced ourselves as a whole of the wisdom of the advice on strict chastity, so I would say that many other Bahá'ís (in many Western countries at least) wouldn't even notice.

You might also consult with the Spiritual Assembly of the Bahá'ís in your city/town/village.

If this is issue is still troubling you, maybe one of the following could be of some assistance:

1) With prayer and service done with purity of intention, God can assist us to overcome all kinds of frailties, many much more disabling than peer pressure/fear of rejection or being different/etc. Not only overcome them, but I think also learn how to confidently adopt relevant, gentle but resolute, substitute behaviors in a natural manner (e.g., preemptorily and warmly offering to shake hands).

2) Many others (not just Bahá'ís)--and their spouses, boyfriends, etc. (not to mention those from other countries who are not comfortable with the custom)--will be actually relieved that you set such a boundary.

3) If someone else, unaware of the teaching, initiates such action, one has not made any kind of serious violation...

In a film made of 'Abdu'l-Bahá, I think it was interesting to see that as the believers (or others?) lined up to pay their respects to Him, several offered to kiss His hand. As it is a law in the Bahá'í Faith against this practice (read the rejection of the practice of humiliating oneself before others (and over-exalting them) such as is done to the Pope), 'Abdu'l-Bahá could be seen to be pulling away His blessed hand several times. But He did not get upset, etc., and one lady as I recall, succeeded in kissing it--she did it too quickly. And it did not cause the earth to stop. :)

4) We are all going to falter. We shouldn't enter into our declaration of Faith lightly (such as by intending to violate laws), but by your conscientiousness in considering the subject, it would seem clear that you are not doing so. If one's belief in Bahá'u'lláh as God's Messenger for today is really genuine, I think a person could even be more concerned about not declaring their belief (once one is convinced), than in holding back due to the true realization that one will fall short! :)

best wishes,
Brett

Daniel
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Postby Daniel » Sun Jan 08, 2006 2:15 am

Being bahá'í, as I see it, is actually learning, trying and growing to be a Bahá'i. It is true that no-one can live without breaking the Laws of Kitab-i-Aqdas, but I'll give an example:

Two cars rides on highway. There comes a speed limit sign. They both should get their speed lower, but they won't do that. Car number 1 doesn't because driver didn't see the sign. Car number 2 because driver didn't care. Both of them made same crime. Reasons were different, number 1 violated speed limit 'cause he/she wasn't perfect, number 2 'cause he/she didn't have respect for law itself.

For earthly judge, they both are is same line, and they will got same penalty. But judge in a court is not all-knowing and in worst case number 2 can lie, and get lesser penalty as number 1.

But God, He is All-knowing, you can't lie. He is Righteous, He will see difference between being not-perfect and being indifferent. He is Ever-Forgiving, but you have to "Bring thyself to account each day ere thou art summoned to a reckoning".

Religion is not a prison, it is a fountain of joy, peace and harmony. We have Laws, but there is reason for each of them.

Love,
Daniel (who is not perfect but trying to do his best :) )


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