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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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12 Responses to “Disenrolment – myspace 2008”

  1. Peter said

    Hi Sen,
    just to let you know, I was at the German winterschool where a former member of the House of Justice talked about the covenant. He related a case probably your case as he said it happened in Europe. He said by now there are not many covenant breakers any more as there have been in times of Shoghi Effendi, but now there are people who obviously hold opinions which are opposed to central positions of the faith. For instance the functions of the faith in the future society. It is clear that the Universal House of Justice will be part of a world parliament and will take part in forming the laws governing the world. So there is no separation of state and faith which merely is an idea of the later Christianity.
    He said those people are no covenant breakers and we as Bahais are absolutely free to read what they are writing. But as they hold opinions directly opposed to fundamental believes they are not truly members of the Bahai community. In a case happened in Europe the Universal House left it up to the NSA of that country how to deal with that individual.
    These are my own words from what I remember from the talk. It reminded me of your case.

    Honestly, I appreciate things you are examining so thoroughly. My thinking concerning your church and state dichotomy is that “Justice” in the title “Universal House of Justice” alone gives a clue that the realm of their action has to do with laws and state affairs. If you now take that Baha’u’llah only revealed a framework of laws and conferred infallibility to the House of Justice, then is seems very clear to me that all future state affairs must be influenced not to say governed by the House of Justice. It would be a kind of waste to confer infallibility to solve just personal problems or community affairs while the complexity of state affairs exceeds those simple matters by far. So the term “Universal” points to this wider scope.
    If you find a quotation that says something like not involving in political matters, a distinction must be made between political matters limited to parties or a certain time or land and those of a wider scope or more evolved society.
    While it was wise not to be involved in political affairs in the past, now it is wiser to be involved in certain matters. How else would you try to change the world.
    Best regards,
    Peter

  2. Sen said

    You wrote: ” that “Justice” in the title “Universal House of Justice” alone gives a clue that the realm of their action has to do with laws and state affairs.”

    Indeed, there is no other indication in the Bahai writings that this would be the case, and Abdu’l-Baha realised that some people might think that “justice” implied a government or court function. That is why he changed the name to “Spiritual Assembly” – so that this misunderstanding would not spread. He wrote:

    The signature of that meeting should be the Spiritual Gathering (House of Spirituality) and the wisdom therein is that hereafter the government should not infer from the term “House of Justice” that a court is signified, that it is connected with political affairs, or that at any time it will interfere with governmental affairs. … (Tablets of Abdu’l-Baha Abbas vol. 1, page 5).

    and also:

    “Should they place in the arena the crown of the government of the whole world, and invite each one of us to accept it, undoubtedly we shall not condescend, and shall refuse to accept it.” ( Tablets of the Divine Plan 51)

    and in an authenticated talk:

    Ninth, religion is separated from politics. Religion does not enter into political matters. In fact, it is linked with the hearts, not with the world of bodies. The leaders of religion should devote themselves to teaching and training the souls and propagating good morals, and they should not enter into political matters. (See ‘Eleven Essentials‘ on this blog)

    Infallibility is a doctrine which the Bahai Faith shares with Shiah Islam, in which the Imams are said to be infallible. It doesn’t mean never making a mistake (but that is another issue), and it doesn’t mean “government” or anything like that.

    As for how Baha’u’llah (and Jesus) planned to change the world – not apparently in the way you think. This is the major theme of the second part of Baha’u’llah’s Kitab-e Iqan, written in response to the query how the Promised One can change the world, when to outward seeming He is powerless and persecuted. Baha’u’llah responds by describing two kinds of sovereignty, the worldly and the religious. Shoghi Effendi summarises: “Baha’u’llah, Who Himself was an active figure in those days and was regarded one of the leading exponents of the Faith of the Bab, states clearly His views in the Iqan that His conception of the sovereignty of the Promised Qa’im was purely a spiritual one, and not a material or political one…” (The Unfolding Destiny of the British Baha’i Community, p. 425)

    It’s interesting to know that I hold positions opposed to the understandings of a member of the House of Justice – but hardly surprising. No two people can be found with the same understanding. What keeps us united is not shared understandings, but rather that we all look to the same Revelation to define what the Bahai teachings are.

  3. Peter said

    Dear Sen,
    that was a quick answer to my comment. As always one can enter here into a lengthy discussion and run into a fruitless occupation with words and no deeds. However I like that kind of discussion and I want to point out a few more things.

    you say:
    “Abdu’l-Baha realised that some people might think that “justice” implied a government or court function. That is why he changed the name to “Spiritual Assembly””

    Very good to know that he did not change the title of the Universal House of Justice for the same reason but indeed in the light of this quotation it emphasizes the implication of law and government. Moreover I remember something that the title of the LSA will be changed back some day.

    you say:
    “we shall not condescend, and shall refuse to accept it.”

    Please have a look at Shoghi Effendis words:
    Indeed, if we delve into the writings of
    the Author of the Baha’i Faith, we cannot fail to discover
    unnumbered passages in which, in terms that none can
    misrepresent, the principle of kingship is eulogized, the rank
    and conduct of just and fair minded kings is extolled, the
    rise of monarchs, ruling with justice and even professing His
    Faith, is envisaged, and the solemn duty to arise and insure
    the triumph of Baha’i sovereigns is inculcated. To conclude
    from the above quoted words, addressed by Baha’u’llah to
    the monarchs of the earth, to infer from the recital of the
    woeful disasters that have overtaken so many of them, that
    His followers either advocate or anticipate the definite
    extinction of the institution of kingship, would indeed be
    tantamount to a distortion of His teaching.

    Taherzadeh, Revelation of Baha’u’llah V3

    Shoghi Effendi here refers to “one of the signs of the maturity of the world” by Baha’u’llah
    So their will be Bahai-Kings some day.
    All I can say is that state and political affairs will surely change over time as they have changed in the time of Baha’u’llah.
    And that is the third point I see, that the changing world conditions cause changes in the guidance we receive from the Universal House of Justice. We have those epochs in the development of the faith like heroic, formative and golden age. Surely the role Bahais play in the world changes over time. You cannot neglect those quotations regarding the future only because present day politics is something to avoid. Thanks to the Universal House of Justice we are prepared to deal with the changes.

    You say:
    “The leaders of religion should devote themselves to teaching and training the souls and propagating good morals, and they should not enter into political matters.”

    First of all, we have no more religious leaders. We had the Hands of the Cause and they did exactly what this quotation calls for. They rejected even to be elected into the Universal House of Justice. All powers now are in the hands of institutions. I doubt that the quotation has anything to do with the powers of the House of Justice. The addressees were the religious leaders of that time.

    Best regards
    Peter

  4. Sen said

    SM: “Abdu’l-Baha realised that some people might think that “justice” implied a government or court function. That is why he changed the name to “Spiritual Assembly””


    P: Very good to know that he did not change the title of the Universal House of Justice for the same reason but indeed in the light of this quotation it emphasizes the implication of law and government. Moreover I remember something that the title of the LSA will be changed back some day.

    The Universal House of Justice did not exist in Abdu’l-Baha’s day. Your reasoning seems to be that while Abdu’l-Baha was emaphatic that the word “justice” did not mean “that it is connected with political affairs, or that at any time it will interfere with governmental affairs” in the one case, in the other case which he does not speak of, the UHJ, he would have said just the opposite.

    “kingship” in Shoghi Effendi’s compilation on it, refers not only to monarchy but to human, worldly, government. Shoghi Effendi begins by quoting Epistle to the Son of the Wolf:

    “I can do no better than quote some of Baha’u’llah’s Own testimonies, leaving the reader to shape his own judgment as to the falsity of such a deduction. In His “Epistle to the Son of the Wolf” He indicates the true source of kingship: “Regard for the rank of sovereigns is divinely ordained, as is clearly attested by the words of the Prophets of God and His chosen ones. He Who is the Spirit [Jesus] — may peace be upon Him — was asked: ‘O Spirit of God! Is it lawful to give tribute to Caesar, or not?’ And He made reply: ‘Yea, render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s.’…”

    and later:

    In one of His Tablets Baha’u’llah has also written: “The one true God, exalted be His glory, hath bestowed the government of the earth upon the kings. To none is given the right to act in any manner that would run counter to the considered views of them who are in authority. That which He hath reserved for Himself are the cities of men’s hearts; and of these the loved ones of Him Who is the Sovereign Truth are, in this Day, as the keys.”
    (Shoghi Effendi, The Promised Day is Come, p. 72)

    The very purpose of this compilation, is to refute the idea that the Bahais ultimately intend the extinction of worldly government, to replace it with the Bahai administrative institutions. His message is, although government has undergone revolutionary changes, nevertheless the religious principle of “render unto Caesar” is sound and lasting. In another place he makes the point more explicitly, in his own words:

    “Theirs is not the purpose, while endeavoring to conduct and perfect the administrative affairs of their Faith, to violate, under any circumstances, the provisions of their country’s constitution, much less to allow the machinery of their administration to supersede the government of their respective countries.”
    (Shoghi Effendi, in The World Order of Baha’u’llah 66.)

    “Not only with regard to publication, but all matters without any exception whatsoever, regarding the interests of the Cause in that locality … should be referred exclusively to the Spiritual Assembly … unless it be a matter of national interest, in which case it shall be referred to the national body. … By national affairs is not meant matters that are political in their character, for the friends of God the world over are strictly forbidden to meddle with political affairs in any way whatever, but rather things that affect the spiritual activities of the body of the friends in that land.” (Shoghi Effendi, in Unfolding Destiny 8)

    “The Faith which this order serves, safeguards and promotes is … essentially supernatural, supranational, entirely non-political, non-partisan, and diametrically opposed to any policy or school of thought that seeks to exalt any particular race, class or nation.” (Shoghi Effendi, statement to a UN committee, cited in the Preface to The Promised Day is Come, page vi)

    and on behalf of Shoghi Effendi:

    The Administrative Order is not a governmental or civic body, it is to regulate and guide the internal affairs of the Bahá’í community; consequently it works, according to its own procedure, best suited to its needs. (Shoghi Effendi, Messages to Canada, 276)

    “… the Assembly is a nascent House of Justice and is supposed to administer, according to the Teachings, the affairs of the Community. (Shoghi Effendi, Directives from the Guardian, p. 41)

    ====

    We know that Abdu’l-Baha did apply the principle that “The leaders of religion should devote themselves to teaching and training the souls and propagating good morals, and they should not enter into political matters,” to the Universal House of Justice, because of his discussion in the Sermon on the Art of Governance and the Will and Testament, the one speaking of ‘religious leaders’ in relation to government, the other of the House of Justice in relationship to government, but in both cases using the same terms, and reaching the same conclusion: they must be separate, and cooperating. I’ve discussed this with sources and terms in “Executive and Legislative” on this blog. The core texts are these:

    If you refer to history, you would find countless examples of this [negative] sort, all based on the involvement of religious leaders in political matters. These souls are the fountainhead of the interpretation of God’s commandments (tashrii`), not of implementation (tanfiidh). That is, when the government requests an explanation concerning the requirements of the Law of God and the realities of the divine ordinances … they must explain what has been deduced of the commands of God, and what is in accordance with the law of God. Apart from this, what awareness do they have of questions of leadership and social development, the administration and control of weighty matters, the welfare and prosperity of the kingdom, the improvement of procedures and codes of law, or foreign affairs and domestic policy? (Abdu’l-Baha, Sermon on the Art of Governance)

    This House of Justice enacteth the laws and the government enforceth them. The legislative body (tashrii`) must reinforce the executive (tanfidh), the executive must aid and assist the legislative body so that through the close union and harmony of these two forces, the foundation of fairness and justice may become firm and strong . . .(Will and Testament 14-15)

  5. Peter said

    Dear Sen,

    Sen: In one of His Tablets Bahá’u’lláh has also written: “The one true God, exalted be His glory, hath bestowed the government of the earth upon the kings. To none is given the right to act in any manner that would run counter to the considered views of them who are in authority. That which He hath reserved for Himself are the cities of men’s hearts; and of these the loved ones of Him Who is the Sovereign Truth are, in this Day, as the keys.”

    Peter: This in no way says that the King is not a Bahai! Can you ever assume that in the golden age anyone of the Kings or elected rulers are NOT Bahai!

    Sen: nevertheless the religious principle of “render unto Caesar” is sound and lasting.

    Peter: Bahais have to be obedient to the government. This is the modern way of “render to Caesar” and it is even easier if Caesar happens to be a Bahai.

    Sen: “Theirs is not the purpose, while endeavoring to conduct and perfect the administrative affairs of their Faith, to violate, under any circumstances, the provisions of their country’s constitution, much less to allow the machinery of their administration to supersede the government of their respective countries.”

    Peter: In this same paragraph Shoghi Effendi warns the Bahais not “to sacrifice, in return for any material advantage which their institutions may derive, the integrity of their spiritual ideals.” So the warning has the direction that governmental affairs must not lead to any corruption of the spiritual ideals. The situation surely will be different when in the future a democratic election will bring Bahais into the government. These Bahais will ask the Spiritual Assembly for guidance and the Spiritual Assembly will in no way “allow their administration to supersede the government” because the election is protected as an act of free decision. Nevertheless the “countries constitution” will be quite different from what it is today.

    Sen: By national affairs is not meant matters that are political in their character, for the friends of God the world over are strictly forbidden to meddle with political affairs in any way whatever, but rather things that affect the spiritual activities of the body of the friends in that land.”

    Peter: Clearly any individual Bahai who meddles with politics will become the cause of discord and will harm the Cause of God if his individual opinions appear as Bahai positions. The institutions however are different. There are lots of publications of the Bahai International Community related to politics. The Universal House of Justice brought numerous publications of political character. All of this started with Baha’u’llah who wrote to all those Kings and Rulers.

    It is hard to believe that this all embracing faith should have any limit in any aspect of human affairs. In no way it is possible that a free democratic country with a majority of Bahais will elect only a non-Bahai government. Would you say only the non-Bahais can be elected? Would you say a society that is structured according to the teachings of the faith must have a non-Bahai government? Would you say a King cannot become a Bahai?

    Please consider the following words of Shoghi Effendi:
    “Such a stage of maturity in the process of human government must, for all time, if we would faithfully recognize the tremendous claim advanced by Baha’u’llah, remain identified with the Revelation of which He was the Bearer.” Shoghi Effendi in World Order

    The miracle is that no Bahai will ever force a change or even meddle with political affairs, but that the people in a country will recognize the faith and strive to implement the world order of Baha’u’llah.

    “Leaders of religion, exponents of political theories, governors of human institutions, who at present are witnessing with perplexity and dismay the bankruptcy of their ideas, and the disintegration of their handiwork, would do well to turn their gaze to the Revelation of Baha’u’llah, and to meditate upon the World Order which, lying enshrined in His teachings, is slowly and imperceptibly rising amid the welter and chaos of present-day civilization. They need have no doubt or anxiety regarding the nature, the origin or validity of the institutions which the adherents of the Faith are building up throughout the world. For these lie embedded in the teachings themselves, unadulterated and unobscured by unwarrantable inferences, or unauthorized interpretations of His Word.” Shoghi Effendi in World Order

  6. Sen said

    PH: This in no way says that the King is not a Bahai! Can you ever assume that in the golden age anyone of the Kings or elected rulers are NOT Bahai!

    No, I could never assume that. Never even imagine that. Bear in mind that I am not a fool, so when you hear people alleging that I say obviously foolish things, you can safely assume they are misrepresenting my views, for purposes of their own.

    Baha’u’llah specifically looks forward to such a king:

    How great the blessedness that awaiteth the king who will arise to aid My Cause in My Kingdom, who will detach himself from all else but Me! Such a king is numbered with the companions of the Crimson Ark — the Ark which God hath prepared for the people of Baha. All must glorify his name, must reverence his station, and aid him to unlock the cities with the keys of My Name, the omnipotent Protector of all that inhabit the visible and invisible kingdoms. Such a king is the very eye of mankind, the luminous ornament on the brow of creation, the fountain-head of blessings unto the whole world. Offer up, O people of Baha, your substance, nay your very lives, for his assistance.  
    (Aqdas, para 84; tr. Shoghi Effendi in Gleanings, p. 212 and PDC p 72)

    Shoghi Effendi gives similar quotes as well:

    In the following passage He expresses this wish: “We cherish the hope that one of the kings of the earth will, for the sake of God, arise for the triumph of this wronged, this oppressed people. Such a king will be eternally extolled and glorified. God hath prescribed unto this people the duty of aiding whosoever will aid them, of serving his best interests, and of demonstrating to him their abiding loyalty.”

    In the Lawh-i-Ra’ís He actually and categorically prophesies the rise of such a king: “Erelong will God raise up from among the kings one who will aid His loved ones. He, verily, encompasseth all things. He will  instill in the hearts the love of His loved ones. This, indeed, is irrevocably decreed by One Who is the Almighty, the Beneficent.” In the Ridvanu’l-‘Adl, wherein the virtue of justice is exalted, He makes a parallel prediction: “Erelong will God make manifest on earth kings who will recline on the couches of justice, and will rule amongst men even as they rule their own selves. They, indeed, are among the choicest of My creatures in the entire creation.”
    (Shoghi Effendi, The Promised Day is Come, p. 72)

    The King — or ruler, Caesar, those invested with authority, the presidents of the republics, etc. — may definitely be or become a Bahai, and a Bahai may become a ruler. Shoghi Effendi certainly envisioned individuals Bahais entering politics. After all he cites Baha’u’llah’s words “How great is the blessedness that awaiteth the king who will arise to aid My Cause in My Kingdom,” in The Promised Day is Come, and in the same book he interprets the words in the Aqdas, “Whoso followeth his Lord, will renounce the world and all that is therein” as referring to “the king who will profess His [Baha’u’llah’s] Faith. At a more lowly level, he also anticipates Bahais voting and being elected to public office, for two letters written on his behalf say,

    The Baha’is will be called upon to assume the reins of government when they will come to constitute the majority of the population in a given country, and even then their participation in political affairs is bound to be limited in scope unless they obtain a similar majority in some other countries as well. (19 November 1939)

    The Baha’is must remain non-partisan in all political affairs. In the distant future, however, when the majority of a country have become Baha’is then it will lead to the establishment of a Baha’i State. (19 April 1941)
    (both cited in The Universal House of Justice, 1995 Apr 27, Separation of Church and State)

    What Shoghi Effendi says, is that the machinery of Bahai administration may not “supersede the government.” That does not mean that Bahais may not be in government, in politics, active in public life. It is the institutions of religion and politics which must be separated – the population is not to be separated into a political half and a religious half! Rather, political activism is to be understood as part of our religious duties, as Abdu’l-Baha writes:

    O thou servant of Baha’! Thou hast asked regarding the political affairs. In the United States it is necessary that the citizens shall take part in elections. This is a necessary matter and no excuse from it is possible. My object in telling the believers that they should not  interfere in the affairs of government is this: That they should not make any trouble and that they should not move against the opinion of the government, but obedience to the laws and the administration of the commonwealth is necessary. Now, as the government of America is a republican form of government, it is necessary that all the citizens shall take part in the elections of officers and take part in the affairs of the republic.
    (Abdu’l-Baha, Tablets of Abdu’l-Baha v2, p. 342)

  7. Anon said

    I remember this thread, Sen. It was a doosey.

  8. Peter said

    Thanks Sen for clarifying your position.

    However combining the facts:
    1. Many Bahais will be part of a future government
    2. The Universal House will be part of the World Parliament
    3. The Universal House will create new binding laws
    4. The Universal House will create new institutions (for now it’s the ITC and Regional Councils, but there will be more)
    5. The decline of present day worlds institutions
    6. The rise of just rulers (Kings or democratic institutions)
    7. The concentration of power in the hands of elected institutions which work according to consultative principles.

    What point remains there in a separation of Church and State? The cause of God is all embracing and all organs of the society are interwoven. Each organ has distinct functions, but the borderline for the discrimination is not State and Church, world and religion but its specific function. The categories to divide the human affairs in just two, political and spiritual, simply do not exist.

    Not to meddle with politics and therefore not being the cause of harm and disunity is something else. Also not to supersede the government but to participate instead is a different matter. The administrative Order will eventually lead to the world order, but probably because people will freely embrace the principals of this order and not because its imposed on them.

    Using the categories Church and State does not solve any problem, but deepens the gap in our world.

    Peter

  9. Sen said

    Certainly the Cause of God (leaving aside whether this means religions, or one religion) embraces all aspects of life. By the same token, science affects every aspect of life, and is very much affected by government, religion, economy, education and health care. All of the subsystems affect one another. To quote myself (Church and State page 20):

    In this view, society is a polysystem, that is, a system containing areas or entire subsystems in which the laws governing the behaviour of other parts of the system do not apply, or different laws do apply. Arithmetic, for instance, is a system but mathematics is a polysystem. All the functions of arithmetic can in principle be reduced to possible manipulations of discrete like objects such as coins, counting stones or abacus beads. But there are fields of mathematics that bear no possible relationship to physical objects – the use of square roots of negative numbers for instance. There are other fields with laws that are additional to arithmetic laws, such as set theory. Sets are not like objects, and one set may intersect or subsume another. I call society a polysystem in part because it is highly complex and can be broken down for analytic purposes into functionally differentiated subsystems, but especially to draw attention to the fact that the ‘logics’ of the various parts differ. The idea of different logics implies that no explanation of the whole system – whether that be a theological explanation of society (a political theology) or a sociological or economic model – can claim to provide an overall theoretical framework that is also valid in models of society derived from other disciplines.

    The economy, to take one example, functions in accordance with the rational maximization of utility, and its behaviour can be predicted from this behavioural ‘law’ and others. Nobody would imagine that behaviour in the arts or religion could be usefully explained or predicted by the same law. Yet economics, art, government and religion are not hermetically sealed spheres. An economic model of society should include submodels for the arts, education, religion, science and government, because these aspects of society have economic effects and are affected by economic life. The economic model of society may translate the behaviour of these other ‘projects’ using para-economic concepts such as social capital, social goods, symbol production and symbolic consumption, psychological utility and so forth. Although such an economic model might incorporate economic descriptions of the whole of society, it would still be an economic model, and not a comprehensive social model (whatever its practitioners might imagine!). It would be a model of the whole in terms defined by one subsystem, the project of economic life. No-one should imagine that such a model describes the inherent dynamics of artistic appreciation or creation, the attraction and awe that the holy exercises on the mystic, the solidarity of the family or the curiosity of science – at least, not in ways the correspond to the experience and motivations of the participants. Similarly, science has models of religion, within disciplines such as the ‘history of religions,’ the psychology of religion, and the sociology of religion, but these are not religion as religion understands itself.

    Religion too has something to say about science and technology: that all knowledge is a path to God since truth is one, that humans are in this world as stewards of creation, and that human knowing is a manifestation of the name of God ‘The All-Knowing.’ Clearly these are not the concerns that drive the scientist as a scientist: it would be difficult to derive the norms of falsifiability and replicability from them. A scientist as a believer might understand what a theology says about the project of science, but would be perfectly capable of doing science without any knowledge of religion, and will do science best if he, or she, does it according to the logic of science without regard for theology.

    The same limitation applies to religious models of society, or ‘political theologies.’ Religion is just one of the human projects that make up society, so political theology cannot assume that religion should provide normative explanations for all of the projects in society. A political theology should describe the other projects in religious terms, but this does not imply that religion exercises a hegemony of value over other projects. A political theology can at most say what other projects can mean for religion, it cannot claim to describe how they ought to appear in their own lights. The theorists of Islamic integrism have often said that Islam embraces the whole of society (and there is the danger that the same could be said of the Bahai Faith, in that virtually every aspect of life is at least mentioned somewhere in the Bahai scriptures). In practice, however, the factor ‘Islam’ does not adequately explain all that is going on in an Islamic society. Nor should it, according to the organic social model employed here. Religion is not everything, although it may speak of everything. The integrists’ claim that religion has a hegemony is untrue in practice, and wrong in principle.

    If we have economic, religious and political models of society, each seeing the whole in its own terms, the question arises, are there no universal categories, no possibility of a model of society as a whole? I can only venture an answer, acknowledging that it comes primarily from the project of religion and the point of view of a believer. I suggest that the only model adequate to the polysystem of society as a whole is the category of the person, by which I mean both the human person and the person of God. But this does not help us much, since the person is a mystery – a holy mystery. How is it that we each do science according to the rules of science, believe as believers, are citizens of the state and explore the arts and – by and large – pass from one life-world to the other without dropping a stitch? We know that an excess of faith in art makes for bad art, that the ethics of the state are not the same as those of an individual, that the truths of revelation and of science are drinks better taken unmixed. How do we know this, and how do we maintain this equilibrium?

    Every logical system contains axioms that cannot be proved within that system. In this system, which is my political theology for the Bahai Faith, this must simply be stated as an axiom – that the person, human and divine, is a mystery; that the person harmonises incommensurate qualities and is the highest possible category. This means that the individual – any individual – is prior to any collective. Society as a polysystem, with its diverse organs functioning according to different laws, can at its harmonious best be somewhat like a single person, but the individual already is that. Society also derives its value from the individual, and not vice versa. This theology, as a postmodern theology, is axiomatically individualistic.

  10. Sen said

    re your point 2: “The Universal House will be part of the World Parliament” – this is neither scripturally possible, nor desirable. Shoghi Effendi says,

    Such a [world super-state ] will have to include within its orbit an international executive adequate to enforce supreme and unchallengeable authority on every recalcitrant member of the commonwealth; a world parliament whose members shall be elected by the people in their respective countries and whose election shall be  confirmed by their respective governments; and a supreme tribunal.. (The World Order of Baha’u’llah, 40-41)

    The reason why the members of the world parliament should be directly elected can be deduced from the European Community’s experience, as it evolved into the European Union. If there is a large emotional and informational distance between the central government and the citizens, politicians and the national and local level will be able to make political capital, or avoid answering for their failures, by the “blame it on Brussels” tactic. For the same reason, federal states such as Germany and the United States have the federal legislature directly elected by the citizens in the various states, rather than having an indirect election with the state parliaments choosing their federal representatives.

    In the Bahai administrative system however, an indirect election is specified:

    “… concerning the House of Justice … it must be elected by universal suffrage, that is, by the believers. … that is, in all countries a secondary House of Justice must be instituted, and these secondary Houses of Justice must elect the members of the Universal one.
    (Abdu’l-Baha, The Will and Testament, 14)

    Re your point 5, “The decline of present day worlds institutions,” there is so far as I know no definite indication of this in the Bahai writings. A great deal of evolution is required, and this is seldom linear.

    The point of the separation of church and state is, first of all, that it is Bahai doctrine and indeed has been the teaching of all the religions, it is God’s immutable Will:

    Baha’u’llah writes:

    The one true God, … hath ever regarded, and will continue to regard, the hearts of men as His own, His exclusive possession. All else, whether pertaining to land or sea, whether riches or glory, He hath bequeathed unto the Kings and rulers of the earth. ….The instruments which are essential to the immediate protection, the security and assurance of the human race have been entrusted to the hands, and lie in the grasp, of the governors of human society. This is the wish of God and His decree…. .” (Gleanings, CII 206-7)

    The sovereigns of the earth have been and are the manifestations of the power, the grandeur and the majesty of God. This Wronged One hath at no time dealt deceitfully with anyone. … Regard for the rank of sovereigns is divinely ordained, as is clearly attested by the words of the Prophets of God and His chosen ones. He Who is the Spirit… was asked: “O Spirit of God! Is it lawful to give tribute to Caesar or not?” And He made reply: “Yea, render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s and to God the things that are God’s.” … And likewise in the sacred verse: “Obey God and obey the Apostle, and those among you invested with authority.”
    (Epistle to the Son of the Wolf, p. 89)

    your Lord hath committed the world and the cities thereof to the care of the kings of the earth, and made them the emblems of His own power, by virtue of the sovereignty He hath chosen to bestow upon them. He hath refused to reserve for Himself any share whatever of this world’s dominion. … The things He hath reserved for Himself are the cities of men’s hearts, … .
    (Gleanings from the Writings of Baha’u’llah, 303)

    In the Epistle to the Romans Saint Paul hath written: “Let every soul be subject unto the higher powers. For there is no power but of God; the powers that be are ordained of God. Whosoever therefore resisteth the power, resisteth the ordinance of God.” And further: “For he is the minister of God, a revenger to execute wrath upon him that doeth evil.” He saith that the appearance of the kings, and their majesty and power are of God.
    (Baha’u’llah, Epistle to the Son of the Wolf, 91)

    …in the slow and hidden process of secularisation invading many a Government department under the courageous guidance of the Governors of outlying provinces — in all of these a discerning eye can easily discover the symptoms that augur well for a future that is sure to witness the formal and complete separation of Church and State.
    (Shoghi Effendi, The Unfolding Destiny of the British Baha’i Community, 76)

    O Supreme Pontiff! … Sell all the embellished ornaments thou dost possess, and expend them in the path of God, … Abandon thy kingdom unto the kings, … Exhort thou the kings and say: “Deal equitably with men. Beware lest ye transgress the bounds fixed in the Book.” This indeed becometh thee. Beware lest thou appropriate unto thyself the things of the world and the riches thereof.
    (The Summons of the Lord of Hosts, 61)

    The signature of that meeting should be the Spiritual Gathering (House of Spirituality) and the wisdom therein is that hereafter the government should not infer from the term “House of Justice” that a court is signified, that it is connected with political affairs, or that at any time it will interfere with governmental affairs. Hereafter, enemies will be many. They would use this subject as a cause for disturbing the mind of the government and confusing the thoughts of the public. (Tablets of Abdu’l-Baha Abbas vol. 1, page 5).

    If you refer to history, you would find countless examples of this [negative] sort, all based on the involvement of religious leaders in political matters. These souls are the fountainhead of the interpretation of God’s commandments (tashrii`), not of implementation (tanfiidh). That is, when the government requests an explanation concerning the requirements of the Law of God and the realities of the divine ordinances … they must explain what has been deduced of the commands of God, and what is in accordance with the law of God. Apart from this, what awareness do they have of questions of leadership and social development, the administration and control of weighty matters, the welfare and prosperity of the kingdom, the improvement of procedures and codes of law, or foreign affairs and domestic policy? (Abdu’l-Baha, Sermon on the Art of Governance)

    This House of Justice enacteth the laws and the government enforceth them. The legislative body (tashrii`) must reinforce the executive (tanfidh), the executive must aid and assist the legislative body so that through the close union and harmony of these two forces, the foundation of fairness and justice may become firm and strong . . .(Will and testament 14-15)

    My intention, with these words, is not that religion has any business in politics. Religion has no jurisdiction or involvement in political matters, for religion is related to spirits and to ecstasy, while politics relates to the body. Therefore the leaders of religions should not be involved in political matters, but should busy themselves with rectifying the morals of the community. They admonish, and excite the desire and appetite for piety. They sustain the morals of the community. They give spiritual understanding to the souls. They teach the [religious] sciences, but they have no involvement with political matters, for all time. Baha’u’llah has commanded this. In the Gospels it is said, “Render to Caesar what is Caesar’s, and to God what is God’s.” (Khatabat-e Abdu’l-Baha 182. My translation)

    … this sect have no worldly object nor any role in political matters. The fulcrum of their motion and rest and the pivot of their cast and conduct is restricted to spiritual things and confined to the doctrine of the unity of the prophets; it has no role to play in the affairs of the government nor any connection to the seat of sovereignty. Its principles are the proclamation of the praises of God, the investigation of signs, the education of souls, the reformation of characters, the purification of hearts, and illumination with the gleams of enlightenment. …
    [the Bahai scriptures] are entirely taken up with the prohibition of sedition, and with upright conduct amongst mankind, obedience, submission, loyalty, obeying the law, the acquisition of laudable qualities, and encouragements to become endowed with praiseworthy accomplishments and characteristics.
    They play absolutely no role in political questions, and do not raise opposition in matters which could cause disturbance or sedition. Under these circumstances the government cannot justly offer excuses, and possesses no pretext [for further persecuting this sect] except [a claim to the right of] interference in thought and conscience, which are the private possessions of the heart and soul. … (A Traveler’s Narrative, 86-88)

    In a talk Abdu’l-Baha gave in London on 3 October 1911, for which there are Persian notes, he says:

    The ninth [teaching of Baha’u’llah]: religion is separated from politics: religion does not enter into political matters, in fact, it is linked with the hearts, not with the world of bodies. The leaders of religion should devote themselves to teaching and training the souls and propagating good morals, and they should not enter into political matters.

    “Theirs is not the purpose, while endeavoring to conduct and perfect the administrative affairs of their Faith, to violate, under any circumstances, the provisions of their country’s constitution, much less to allow the machinery of their administration to supersede the government of their respective countries.”
    (Shoghi Effendi, in The World Order of Baha’u’llah 66.)

    “Not only with regard to publication, but all matters without any exception whatsoever, regarding the interests of the Cause in that locality … should be referred exclusively to the Spiritual Assembly … unless it be a matter of national interest, in which case it shall be referred to the national body. … By national affairs is not meant matters that are political in their character, for the friends of God the world over are strictly forbidden to meddle with political affairs in any way whatever, but rather things that affect the spiritual activities of the body of the friends in that land.” (Shoghi Effendi, in Unfolding Destiny 8)

    “The Faith which this order serves, safeguards and promotes is … essentially supernatural, supranational, entirely non-political, non-partisan, and diametrically opposed to any policy or school of thought that seeks to exalt any particular race, class or nation.” (Shoghi Effendi, statement to a UN committee, cited in the Preface to The Promised Day is Come, page vi)

    There are also other good reasons for Bahais to push the separation of church and state to the fore in their teaching work.
    + There have been critiques of the Bahai Faith because of its supposed theocratic ambitions, and the anti-New World Order rhetoric increasingly mentions the Bahai Faith as a future religion of global oppression. Critique from the lunatic fringe is in itself a good thing (praise from those quarters would bring us into discredit in the eyes of substantial thinkers and the powers that be), but we must be all the clearer that the separation of Church and State is a Bahai teaching, indeed one of the Faith’s core teachings.
    + Once we understand what the Bahai Administration is not, we will be in a better position to develop it in the direction it is intended to go. The second-to-last quote above indicates what the concerns of the local and national assemblies should be: ” things that affect the spiritual activities of the body of the friends in that land.”
    + The principles of the Bahai Faith, and the Administrative Order, are the nucleus and pattern of a New World Order. So it is rather important to know what the pattern is, what the principles are. Equality, Unity, democratic methods, freedom of speech, and the separation of church and state are at the core of both the Administrative Order, and the Bahai vision of a World Order.

  11. Peter said

    Sen, that was quite a bunch of information and to much for me to treat each of the given points.
    However the first of your recent two posts describes that any category defines itself by itself, so science defines science and religion defines religion, and while science can say something about religion and religion can say something about science, they belong to different systems and none contains the other as a subsystem. The same is true for society matters like politics. I hope I got the idea correctly.

    This is absolutely true if we think in categories (or [closed] systems). Reality however is not separated into categories. Categories serve to make things easier to understand, but are not necessarily an adequate description of reality.
    I prefer the concept of thinking in processes which allows to describe a momentary situation without categories. In an ever advancing process, society might change as well as religion will change. In the future we will gain a quite different view of the whole. So the categories of today will fail in describing the future.
    Shoghi Effendi describes the proceeding character of the recognition of the faith in “Advent of Divine Justice” as follows:

    …the obstacles that must be overcome, and the responsibilities that must be assumed, to enable a sore-tried Faith to pass through the successive stages of unmitigated obscurity, of active repression, and of complete emancipation, leading in turn to its being acknowledged as an independent Faith, enjoying the status of full equality with its sister religions, to be followed by its establishment and recognition as a State religion, which in turn must give way to its assumption of the rights and prerogatives associated with the Bahá’í state, functioning in the plenitude of its powers, a stage which must ultimately culminate in the emergence of the worldwide Bahá’í Commonwealth, animated wholly by the spirit, and operating solely in direct conformity with the laws and principles of Bahá’u’lláh.
    Page 15

    The momentary separation of church and state is simply reality, but the faith and its institutions will evolve. And Shoghi Effendi describes a future situation when there will be a Bahai state.
    And surely this state will not be built because it is imposed by Bahais on an existing political order. In a just and democratic order people will freely choose what appears to be the better solution. This will be a Bahai state.

    Also Bahaullah says: Soon will the present-day order be rolled up, and a new one spread out in its stead.
    This can mean almost everything, but surely this means that categories which we can perceive today will be no longer valid.

    The world’s equilibrium hath been upset through the vibrating influence of this most great, this new World Order. Mankind’s ordered life hath been revolutionized through the agency of this unique, this wondrous System—the like of which mortal eyes have never witnessed.

    For our mortal eyes it is not possible to clearly see what will be in the future, but I definitely know if I find seemingly opposed statements in the writings, then it is my lack of understanding which makes them seem to contradict each other.

    Such is the case with your selected quotations and the ones I can find.
    A careful examination of the context of each quotation, the intended reader, the target time, the circumstances of revelation etc will surely remove some of the limits of my understanding. I could only examine a few of the quotation you gave above, but those did not at all non-ambiguously declare the separation of church and state in the future. In fact it reminds me what Bahaullah taught about the manifold meanings of every single of his words.

    Greetings Peter

  12. Sen said

    Not only do the Bahai teachings look forward to the establishment of Bahai states, they tell us something about it: Shoghi Effendi writes

    “Theirs is not the purpose,… to violate, under any circumstances, the provisions of their country’s constitution, much less to allow the machinery of their administration to supersede the government of their respective countries.”
    (Shoghi Effendi, in The World Order of Baha’u’llah 66.)

    and :

    “the Baha’i state itself, functioning, in all religious and civil matters, in strict accordance with the laws and ordinances of the Kitab-i-Aqdas.” Among the laws and ordinances of the Aqdas is this:

    None must contend with those who wield authority over the people; leave unto them that which is theirs, and direct your attention to men’s hearts. (The Kitab-e Aqdas, 54, paragraph 95)

    This law implies the establishment of two separate authorities, one civil and one religious — a conclusion made explicit in Bahaullah’s other writings:

    According to the fundamental laws which We have formerly revealed in the Kitab-i-Aqdas and other Tablets, all affairs are committed to the care of just kings and presidents and of the Trustees of the House of Justice. … The system of government which the British people have adopted in London appeareth to be good, for it is adorned with the light of both kingship and of the consultation of the people.

    and by Abdu’l-Baha:

    The signature of that meeting should be the Spiritual Gathering (House of Spirituality) and the wisdom therein is that hereafter the government should not infer from the term “House of Justice” that a court is signified, that it is connected with political affairs, or that at any time it will interfere with governmental affairs. … (Tablets of Abdu’l-Baha Abbas vol. 1, page 5).

    There are manz more such quotes, but to the wise, one word suffices.

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