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Posted by Bret ( on May 26, 2002 at 02:41:06:

In Reply to: Responses posted by Vincent on May 25, 2002 at 18:40:59:

Dear Vincent,

It seems again that there are many points we can agree on, and many more that we cannot agree upon, but it still appears that our points of dissagreement are based on your unfactual information. I do not know where you gather your information on Baha'i facts and statistics. The fact that you named Juan Cole as a source is evidence that at least one of your sources is a distorted one to begin with. I say this as a Baha'i, but it is well known that in the academic world in which Mr. Cole opporates even his colleagues do not have anything positive to say about the man. Mr. Cole is not what Baha'is would consider a Covenant-breaker ie. he simply withdrew from the Faith, but he is a man who is very driven by distorted views that even his fellow acedemians agree are founded on falicies and faulty premesis. His main purpose appears to be one directed by a subjective hate of the Faith and not an academic objectivity. My suggestion, as I suggested to the seeker, is that we look to Baha'u'llah's Writings as the main source of facts. Then, we can look at His explicitly named succesors, as designed in His Covenant for clarification. These are the only authoritative facts. All other writings pertaining to the Faith are only supplemental and, although they may be objective, they cannot be considered authoritative. You will find that Baha'is therefore as much as possible try to make that constant connection to authoritative information.

Concerning the Covenant itself: it may help to clarify what the Covenant really is so that we can then know what Covenant-breaking is. This of course is my own understanding, but I believe that it is more of a paraphrase than an interpretation since the information is so explicitly revealed to us. The Covenant is the explicitly stated succesion of leadership revealed and recorded by Baha'u'llah in the Baha'i Holy Writings that prescribes His son 'Abdu'l-Baha as His successor, Who in turn appointed the Guardian and then both of them worked to establish the institutions prescribed by Baha'u'llah in His Charter. The Guardianship ended with Shoghi Efendi as he never had children and therefore could never name a successor as the prescription went, but the Universal House of Justice was formed as prescribed by Baha'u'llah and is today the main authoritative body of the Faith. The Universal House of Justice oversees the whole spiritual community throughout the world. Then, there are National Spiritual Assemblies to look over Baha'is of a certain country or region and Local Spiritual Assemblies who oversee the needs of local communities. They are all democratically elected bodies and representatives are elected based, not on campaigns and platforms, but based on service to the Cause, so to be elected is not to be elevated to a position of rank or status, but rather it is a humble appointment. Elections are again democratic and carried out in an atmosphere of prayer and overall reverance. These bodies are maily responsible for protection of the Faith by making sure the laws are upheld, teaching the Faith to anyone who is interested and carrying out social and economic developement plans in their areas of jurisdiction.

O.K. Now this is the framework of the administration and what that has to do with the Covenant is that a Baha'i is a purson who accepts a twin duty. These duties are completely inseperable. The one is the beleife that Baha'u'llah is the mouthpiece of God for this day and age and therefore His laws are to be followed to the letter, which is the other duty. You cannot be a Baha'i if you simply beleive in Baha'u'llah, but do not wish to follow any of his laws. Humanity has always been in need of laws. Laws govern all aspects of the universe and since man is endowed with a spiritual nature he is also in need of spiritual guidance. Man has never been left alone in this regard. God has Manifested His Godhead in every age to reiterate his unchangable laws and change his social laws to fit the changing needs of humanity. You will see that throughout history a religion has been revealed providing humanity with a greater freedom by means of adherance to laws which are more agreeable because of the united focus of the adherents of these religions. For instance, Christians were first killed by Romans and then the Roman Empire transmuted into the Holy Roman Empire of Christianity. Not only did it become completely Christian, but it encompassed even more people in an even greater area. Then, that system lost it's social influence and Europe entered the dark ages. That's when Islam came and brought an even greater unifying force. Religion has always begun by unifying great numbers of diverse peoples. In the Baha'i Faith it is no different. Your fear that the authority of the Faith is cultish is warranted, but not objectively upheld at all. The Baha'i Faith is different from previous religions in two ways. One is that the world has finally reached maturity and that, whereas religions of the past were for individuals, the Faith is for society as a whole. People have always had to give up a little individual liberty to embrace a greater degree of freedom. In essence to follow the religion to the letter of whatever age they were Manifested was to live in complete liberty. Same with the Baha'i Faith today only the Baha'i Covenant is explicit. The vagueness of previous Covenants is what led to the eventual schism of every religion. But the Baha'i Faith has an explicitly outlined authority and people who live according to the laws and ordinances of this Covenant are in essence in full liberty in as much as each time the Manifestation brings new laws they become the laws of nature. You wouldn't jump out of a building because you know about the law of gravity and so Baha'is would not disobey these laws because they are the laws of nature now. People who disobey these laws are counsoled first because most times it is only out of ignorance that a person has done so, but if a person has been counsoled and even disciplined and still won't change their behavior then their voting rights are taken away and they are not allowed to participate in community business, but that still doesn't make them a Covenant-breaker. Covenant-breaking is even more insidious because it is an action driven by complete degredation. When a person who professes that Baha'u'llah is the Manifestation of God actively engages in activites to undermine or overthrow the authority of the administration, or worse they then proclaim themselves to be the authority, then they are deemed Covenant-breakers. So you see there's a big difference between being disobedient and being insidious. In it's already 158 years of history all attempts to cause schism in the Covenant have failed miserably and those fools who, consumed by hate and envy, attempted to disrupt the irresistable unfoldment of the Faith have either died or live in abject obscurity. Indeed their lives become so consumed by hate that they know nothing else, but to attack the Faith at all times. No wonder, although he is not a Covenant-breaker, Mr. Cole doesn't have any friends.

To clarify the last and most important point. Baha'is believe that the Christ is One Spirit that has Manifested Itself at different times in different bodies to bring the same message of peace and love, but also to create and abrogate spiritual laws to fit the needs of human social evolution. If you say that Christ is the only begotton Son of God this is as true as saying that Baha'u'llah is the return of Christ as promised in the Bible. There is no difference. The differnce that Christians place on the Manifestations of God, or the reason in general that the religions of the world will continue to exist for quite some time, is because followers thereof attribute the body of the Christ Spirit as being the only Christ, but Christ Himself says,as does every Manifestation, that His body is only a temple or the temporary vehicle for His everlasting Spirit. Baha'is do not believe in the reincarnation of human souls, but the Christ Spirit is the Godhead and has always existed and will always exist. Would a Christian make a distinction between Christ and the return of Christ in the Glory of the Father? It is still Christ. So is it for all of is glorious Manifestations. To make any distinction between them is therefor illogical.

I apollogize for my lengthy responses, but I feel a special kinship with you and I hope that you have taken the time to be honest to the independent investigation of truth enough to have read this far. My aim here is not to thwart any purpose of yours. I think that the study of all religions is invaluable and I sincerely beleive that as an intelligent man you will not take this as an insult, but will consider it. I simply want to say that there are methods to critical thinking that transcend religion and academics or any branch of knowledge and intellectualism. Critical thinking is a science and it is based on principles. Principles are like mathematical equations they either are right or wrong. Same with critical thinking. The way we surmise things is either right or wrong. If you start with the belief that a 2 is actually a 3 then you add 2 you will get six, but the answer in reality is still going to be four no matter what you believe that 2 really is to you. Same with the way we gather information and form premises. I think that if you can see this and apply this then you will point out what is true to begin with and you won't feel bad about being corrected. I don't like correcting people. I'm not a know it all or anything like that, but when it comes to my beloved Faith it is very important that the facts always be defended from the myriad opinions that are indicative of the society we live in floating out there and contending with each other. The way of truth is unity and the way of unity is correct principles. I've stayed my hour. Peace be with you.

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