Disenrolment – myspace 2008
This is from a discussion on myspace in July 2008.
It’s a useful picture of the kind of uncertainty caused by the idea of disenrollment (quite apart from the specifics of a particular case). Is it a punishment for something one has done, or a rejection of a person’s ideas, or something else? Is the unenrolled Bahai still a Bahai, or just like any non-Bahai, or someone one should not associate with?
In the course of this thread, Keyvan said
“What if I said…”yeah I’m a Baha’i but I’m gonna go to vegas, screw 20 hookers, do some blow. Hey its my independent investigation ;)”
It doesn’t make any sense. But in fact, thats not as injurious as something that would get you expelled. There are worse things, those worse things being the rebel rousing activities of say a Sen McGlinn.”
I love you too Keyvan !
But the important words are those of ‘Al qalam wa al harb’ that began the thread.
Al qalam wa al harb said:
“When I was a Baha’i for only six months or so, I read a letter from the UHJ saying that they had disenrolled Sen McGlinn from the Baha’i Faith, but didn’t explain why. The letter made references to his book, and even quoted from it, however. So, that gave me an idea as to what the reasons may have been, or at least to support their decision.”
“Why is it possible for a person to be disenrolled … when their own findings and views sometimes might conflict with the ’official’ teachings of the religion itself?”
My reply of 21 August 2008 (since deleted – not by me!) .
I (Sen) do not have any more information than you do as to why I was disenrolled, (and I would love to see what the UHJ replied to you when you asked about this) but I can perhaps clarify some things.
First, I do not think my views of the Bahai teachings conflict with the official teachings of the religion (which are: what the Writings say), and so far as I know the UHJ has never said they do, or indicated that anyone has ever been disenrolled because of their views.
It is an understandable supposition that there must be some such doctrinal difference behind my disenrollment (and those of others who have been disenrolled from time to time), but I think there is no evidence to support the idea.
If anything similar happened in say the Roman Catholic church, one would assume that it was because of a difference over doctrine, and that might well be right, but the place of doctrine in the Bahai Faith is quite different to that of doctrine in a Christian church. The reason is that the Guardian had the function of saying what the “meaning and … spirit of Bahá’u’lláh’s revealed utterances” is, (Shoghi Effendi, The World Order of Baha’u’llah, p. 149) and the UHJ was given the role of the executive, judiciary, and of “legislating” – that is, making the necessary rules and mechanisms to apply Bahai teachings in accordance with circumstances. In a Christian church, one institution provides both leadership and the standard of orthodox belief. So in a church, doctrine and leadership get mixed up, with bad results, whereas in the Bahai Covenant they are separated in two distinct spheres, headed by two different institutions which have not only authority but also limits: “each operates within a clearly defined sphere of jurisdiction … Each exercises, within the limitations imposed upon it, its powers, its authority, its rights and prerogatives.” … “Neither can, nor will ever, infringe upon the sacred and prescribed domain of the other.” (Shoghi Effendi, The World Order of Baha’u’llah, p. 148-9). It is, in short, a constitutional system of related institutions governed by law, not an absolutist system of unified authority in all matters.
If the UHJ did in fact issue pronouncements about the meaning of scriptures, or act against people because of their views about the Bahai teachings, it would be standing in the shoes of the Guardian, so undermining the Covenant which is the foundation of its own authority. It would be a self-destructive thing for the UHJ to do, and they are surely aware of that.
Second, the passage from my book Church and State which the UHJ quoted was not what I actually wrote, but a selective citation which changes the meaning entirely. Anyone who looks at the first two pages of my book can see this: it’s transparent. It would hardly make sense for the UHJ to deliberately misrepresent what I wrote, both because it is an unfair thing to do, and because the damage to the UHJ’s reputation is greater than the damage to mine. My supposition therefore is that what I wrote was misrepresented to the UHJ, presumably by someone they trusted. This reading of events is supported by the date: my book was printed in October 2005, and the UHJ’s letter was dated 14 November 2005. I got copies by surface mail, and I then sent two to the library at the World Centre: it would hardly be possible for these to have arrived and been processed before the UHJ made its decision. They certainly could not have read the whole book (it is 400-odd pages) , and they have in fact written that “Concerns with Mr. McGlinn’s actions have nothing to do with his treatment of topics such as church and state …” This supports my first point, that Bahais do not get disenrolled (or declared Covenant Breakers) for stating their views, as far as I know.
I would still like to be a member of the Bahai community, but I’ve made my peace with the situation. Naturally I am still a Bahai, and the local Bahai community has not excluded me, and I still go to summerschools and deepenings and meet Bahais socially. Apart from no longer being a member of the Local Spiritual Assembly, it doesn’t make a great deal of difference, day to day. I have applied to rejoin the community a couple of times, and was turned down. If the UHJ continues to say no to me, I can accept that decision. For all I know, it may be the essence of wisdom.
While I would like to see what the UHJ wrote to you, I don’t see much point in discussing the ins and outs of my expulsion, without further information. I do not have enough information to permit more than a guess at the reasons behind the decision or – what is more important – what purpose is intended.
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