Question regarding Baha'i Heresy

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lightuponlight
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Question regarding Baha'i Heresy

Postby lightuponlight » Sun Jan 26, 2014 7:53 pm

I'm sorry to start out with this topic as my first post. I've read a great deal on this site, in the forums and also the other areas of the Baha'i Library. A lot of tremendously valuable material, and dozens of documents I definitely want to read when I get time!

However, I am hoping to get some clarification about a question that came up for me very recently.

A few days ago, I read a thread here on the forum (an old one!) and there was a link to a website which contained a lot of interesting information and potentially worthwhile information regarding teaching people of a particular religion. However, one part of the web page referred to the "third Guardian" of the Baha'i Faith in a matter of fact way, which frankly surprised me greatly.

To me, any Baha'i who believes in and talks about a "third Guardian" (and referring to a known Covenant Breaker) and not mentioning that this person is in fact a covenant breaker and not a legitimate Baha'i authority or guardian, is at least skirting the edges of behavior that is problematic wrt the Covenant.

I'm just not interested in reading that kind of stuff at all - I have come across it in the past and prefer to avoid it.

I'm wondering what the policy here is regarding such material, people who hold those viewpoints who post here and also if links to such material are allowed here?

Thank you!



Matthew

MontanaDon
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Re: Question regarding Baha'i Heresy

Postby MontanaDon » Mon Jan 27, 2014 9:57 am

Without actually reading the site and context - - - - once in a while things like this sneak thru. I.e. - Stuff happens! 8-)

By and large, our moderators keep on top of this type of thing pretty well.

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

Jonah
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Re: Question regarding Baha'i Heresy

Postby Jonah » Mon Jan 27, 2014 2:28 pm

Hi, can you point me to the link? You can email me privately, jonahwinters@gmail.com. I'll remove the link right away. Neither I nor our other moderators on this Forum noticed there was a link to a site espousing Covenant-Breaker views. [EDIT, later the same day: the link has been found and removed.]

We do have a firm no-heresies policy. There is, or should be, not a single item anywhere in the Library written by anyone who was at the time deemed a Covenant-Breaker. However, there were a few writers who did important things in and for the Faith before leaving it, e.g. Kheiralla and Remey, and for those writers we simply draw the line at the point in time when they began attacking the Covenant. For example, Remey wrote a huge amount of material with the approval and possibly even guidance of Abdu’l-Baha and later Shoghi Effendi, and of course did the first designs for the Chicago Temple. We wouldn’t remove his 1910s-1920s work, it’s too historically important. But we would never post anything he wrote after becoming senile and being declared a Covenant-Breaker. Even if he hadn’t been declared a CB by that point, his writings just weren’t important or very useful by then.

In general, we choose to post things based on (1) will they be of use to contemporary Baha’is, or scholars, or non-Baha’is seeking to better understand the Faith, or (2) are they historically important. Hypothetically, there is a potential conflict between these criteria and Baha'i principles, in that it's possible that a Covenant-Breaker could write something of compelling importance to contemporary Baha'is or scholars. Luckily it's not come up yet, since few writings by CBs that I've seen had much historical or academic value. (The only exceptions that come to mind are Azal's writings, which are of clear historical interest, and Ruhi Afnan's books, which are philosophically engaging and don't actually attack the Covenant.)

There is a brief section on this at http://bahai-library.com/about#content which I'll excerpt here:

The mandate/vision statement of Bahá'í Library Online includes the following summaries of my methodology. The four criteria I use in deciding what to include are whether an item is (1) scholastically useful; (2) historically significant; (3) is a primary source, e.g. the Sacred Writings; or (4) has been published by reputable, scholastically-oriented agencies. This is usually regardless of content. That is, materials are neither accepted nor rejected on the basis of the author's belief or the relevance of the material to promoting "entry by troops." However, the four criteria outlined above do tend to exclude basic deepening material, promotional items, simple apologia, and polemical or tendentious material.

This Library is careful to conform to both Bahá'í and academic standards. It only includes material that is informative or historical, is written in a respectful manner, and is not intentionally deceptive. It does not contain any material which is proscribed in Bahá'í practice, e.g. Covenant-breaker materials, personal or confidential documents, or photographs of Bahá'u'lláh. It also does not include any material which does not have a direct scholarly or historical application, such as "Teaching" manuals or contemporary photography.


Having said all that, we do sometimes "toe the line" a bit more at this site than most sites with Baha'i content, in that we do allow writings which are critical of the Faith, if they meet the four criteria spelled out above and don't in any way undermine the Institutions or question the Covenant. There are very very few in that category, but two come to mind. Samuel Graham Wilson wrote books and articles from a Christian missionary's perspective which are overtly hostile to the Faith, but they also contain a fair bit of historically-relevant information and give insight into the relationships between early Iranian Baha'is and their Western observers. Another example is an article by Beckwith criticizing the changing of Biblical dates for prophetic interpretation in Esslemont's book. This article, while subtly hostile toward the Faith, nonetheless raised relevant issues which did in fact need responding to. These two examples, Wilson and Beckwith, are actually the exception-that-proves-the-rule, because we have about 7500 distinct items at this Library and those are the only two critical authors I can think of.

lightuponlight
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Re: Question regarding Baha'i Heresy

Postby lightuponlight » Mon Jan 27, 2014 4:04 pm

I'm actually referring to forum posts. In this case, the link is from a forum post for a certain poster who has posted to the forum many times in the past. Is the policy any different for forum posts?

If the policy is the same I will privately send you (Jonah) the link.

Thanks!

Jonah
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Re: Question regarding Baha'i Heresy

Postby Jonah » Mon Jan 27, 2014 4:21 pm

Thanks to Matthew's pointing this out, the link has been removed. For those curious, it was in one of Darrick Evenson's posts, viewtopic.php?t=923#p4818 .

(There's no harm in clicking that link now or reading Evenson's work, as I doubt he'll challenge anyone's faith. He's been active on the sidelines of the Baha'i community online for a couple decades, literally, and has never been more than a curiosity. I contrast that with some authors making anti-Baha'i sites that are much more insidious and misleading. Evenson is up-front about his beliefs and opinions and isn't trying to deceive anyone. Here is an old but extensive critique of his work from a Mormon perspective: http://www.utlm.org/newsletters/no79.htm .)

The policy of no-CB material is for the entire Library, including the forum. We'll enforce this policy strictly, as a courtesy to our mostly Baha'i users even if it's not academically warranted. Same reason we won't post photos of Baha'u'llah, even though they're obviously historically important.

Another example of our exception-proving-the-rule is that we do allow Evenson, or anyone else, to post to this forum, as the previous poster noted that he's contributed to this forum "many times in the past" -- and his contributions are usually critical of the Faith. If the Faith is strong and true, then I think criticism, and our responses to it, will ultimately make it even stronger.


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