This originated in an inter-blog debate between two Bahais: Christopher Schwartz and Nicholas James. Nicholas had described himself as a Bahai and “moral conservative”, “world federalist”, and “monarchist.” Christopher saw red. And he later apologised on his blog for his “loss of composure and … politicization or radicalization of a human encounter.” Nicholas put an article on his own blog, explaining why he thinks the Bahai teachings are morally conservative, favour constitutional monarchy, and world federalism.
My two cents:
As regards monarchy, I agree. I posted something similar to what [Nicholas] say here, as a comment on The naked sting of exegesis: Christopher Schwartz’s blog.
There’s a posting on my blog about the “practicalities of monarchy” that argues that constitutional monarchy is the “best practice” technique of democracy, for perfectly pragmatic reasons (not that I think Baha’u’llah’s teachings are unimportant).
As regards moral conservatism, it depends where you come from. The Bahai Faith was born in the Victorian era, and not in merry old England either. It allows women to go unveiled, to be educated, to initiate a divorce, to participate in all branches of public life, at the highest level. It bars parents from arranging marriages, it doesn’t advocate stoning people to death for adultery. To turn away from the Middle East, the Bahai Faith encourages interracial marriages, which were seen as immoral in the US of A into the 50’s. Seen in the historical context, the Bahai Faith is way way out on the moral liberal end of the spectrum. You might say that veiling, for example, is not a moral issue. But that’s just what moral liberalism does: it defines things as not moral issues: they become health issues, or lifestyle choices, or self-expression.
There are other liberal Bahai teachings which have moral aspects: democracy for example. It’s not just a political system, it rests on the dignity and value of the individual. The individual search after truth, ditto.
Because I’m looking at a wider scene, I’m quite confident in calling the Bahai teachings morally liberal. I would also say that, as regards some contemporary moral issues especially in the West, the Bahai teachings are not as liberal as some advocated positions.
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