Re: Repression of ideas?

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Posted by Anon ( on August 13, 2003 at 09:39:06:

In Reply to: Repression of ideas? posted by Jim Habegger on August 13, 2003 at 05:43:08:

Dear Jim,

Just a few thoughts regarding the issues you raised-

1. Discussion of Women on the House of Justice- As you know, people do discuss this all the time. On the scholarly front, there was a paper delivered at a Baha'i Studies Conference in New Zealand some 20 years ago which discussed the possibility that women could be included on the House of Justice. In response to that paper, the House wrote a letter addressing the issue (available on this website, I believe) which stated that, based on the authoritative statements of Abdul Baha and Shoghi Effendi, the House of Justice saw no way that women could be included on the House. It is simply a matter of principle and being faithful to the authoritative texts. Presumably because further discussion on the issue would be irrelevant and self-defeating (as the UHJ had ruled on the issue), the House asked that the paper not be published (although it floats around on the internet and you can get it).

2. Limits on the Authority of the UHJ- this is increasingly being addressed in scholarly circles. Udo Schaefer has a recent paper on the infallibility of the House. Susan Maneck has some thoughts on it at her website. Both efforts have been well-received. Whatever our personal interpretation of infallibility, the House has, at least, infallible authority. The discussions of the "limits of the authority of the House of Justice" have to do with some attempts to circumvent the authoritative decisions of the House by saying that they overstepped their authority in certain actions. Most educated Baha'is dont feel the argument holds much water and the House has addressed the issues in a number of letters.

3. Possible mistakes of Abdul Baha' and Shoghi Effendi- the nature of the "infallibility" of Abdul Baha and Shoghi Effendi has been a subject of scholarly discussion for over a decade. There are a number of papers available at this website which address the issue on some level.

4. Baha'i Scholarship- scholarly work on the Faith has taken a number of approaches. A distinction should probably be made between Baha'i scholarship- scholarship on or related to the Baha'i teachings which retains a Baha'i worldview and seeks to understand the world and the Faith from the standpoint of faith- and scholarship on the Baha'i Faith- which may approach the subject using different assumptions. A scholar who is a Baha'i may choose to put aside his/her faith assumptions and write about the Baha'i Faith using a different worldview (that of a secular scholar, for instance). Or, a scholar may not be a Baha'i at all and will approach the Faith using completely different assumptions. The main point is that what you see does somewhat depend on what glasses you are using.

As you know, there is no grounds in the Faith for Baha'is "branding" someone a Covenant-breaker because of their views. Physical assault needs no comment. Someone may be declared a covenant-breaker by the House of Justice because they break the covenant and do not accept the lines of authority in the Faith. Or, the House of Justice may remove a person from membership if it is felt that the individual's views, stated publicly and repeatedly, are not consistent with Baha'i belief at a fundamental level. In this case, Baha'is are to associate with that individual with "friendliness and fellowship" and he/she may choose to apply for re-instatement if the condition changes.

The Baha'i Faith is a big house, the biggest the world has known, but even a big house has to have some walls or it won't continue to stand. If one chooses to stand in the corner staring at the wall, it can seem really small, but that is only a matter of perspective.

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