Posted by Nick Stone (220.127.116.11) on May 27, 2002 at 06:17:27:
In Reply to: Re: Not a cult... not a bit like it... posted by Vincent on May 26, 2002 at 18:38:34:
I think comparing the fact that other religions have no problems with people leaving their religion to the Baha'is and Covenant breakers is not really a valid comparison.
In other religions, especially Christianity and Islam, there have been many different sects which have come from the original root. It is very hard to say which of them are "right" or "more right" than any others. But why have they arisen? Due to differences in interpretation, power struggles etc. Why has this happened? Because neither Jesus nor Mohammad made it sufficiently clear who was to be their authorised successor. At least, from a neutral point of view such as yourself, you cannot say if it is the Shi'ites or Sunnis for example.
Thus there is a difference between these religions and the Baha'i Faith. If you are a Baha'i, and you want to become a Christian, Muslim, Hare Krishna... that is fine. No one will shun you. Converting to another religion is no problem.
However Covenant breaking is different. In the Baha'i Faith Baha'u'llah has very clearly laid down the rules and laws of who is to be His successor. It is clear as A+B = C. Maybe you should read a little about the Covenant and then you will understand.
A Baha'i, formally-speaking, is someone who has recognised Baha'u'llah as the Messenger of God for this time. If you recognise Baha'u'llah, then it logically follows that you will try to obey His teachings. If such a Baha'i then decides that, while knowing Baha'u'llah is the Messenger of God, to work AGAINST His teachings, to try to cause disunity within the Faith, this is very serious indeed, particularly when the Covenant is so very clear.
While in other religions there are hundreds, even thousands of different sects, this has resulted as I said above, from lack of authoritative guidelines on the matter. In the Baha'i Faith these guidelines are very clear and explicit. There are only a few hundred individuals, perhaps a thousand (see www.adherents.com) who are modern day "Covenant breakers." I may be biased, but I seriously doubt there are very many of them outside the North American continent, or the descendents of the very first Covenant breakers of Baha'u'llah's and Abdul Baha's time in the Holy Land.
As for shunning... well, when there is an outbreak of say Ebola, or the plague, we have quarantine practices. This is for the benefit of the rest of the population. As I understand it, Covenant breaking is like a spiritual sickness, and it is contagious. This is why Baha'is are commanded to keep away from Covenant breakers.
Covenant breaking is not the same as converting to another religion. Maybe it is hard for someone who is not within the Faith to understand and appreciate that, being that you do not accept Baha'u'llah's station as a Baha'i does.
Being that there are so few of them, the shunning of Covenant breakers is not the big issue you may think it is. In my entire life, and of all the Baha'is I have ever met from dozens of different cultures and all around the world, I have only met one Baha'i who has ever met a Covenant breaker. That was in the Holy Land, and it is not someone she knows, it was a chance meeting. 1000 individuals out of a total Baha'i population of 6 million or so is a very small proportion.
Anyway, I don't expect you to change your views on the subject, I can understand that it might sound a little weird... :-) but maybe these thoughts will show it is not quite as bad as it seems :-)
As for being controlling... there are no priests in the Faith, and Baha'is are free to behave as they wish, so long as their actions are not in flagrant contravention of Baha'i law. No one is expelled from the Faith for say lying or stealing. The worst that can happen, if counselling, advice, etc has no effect is that the individual loses their voting rights, and can no longer contribute to the Baha'i Funds. I don't think this is very controlling. Membership is never forced on anyone, and it is entirely voluntary. People are free to leave as and when they wish.
this topic is closed - post at bahai-library.com/forum