No Going Back

Recently I’ve had a spate of old friends from my days as a Baha’i seemingly trying to lure me “back into the fold” through various things like recounting fond memories or sending me the old “hey, howarya, have you gotten over your silly stage yet” emails, stuff like that. So I decided now was a good time to republish some older material and re-edit it to disabuse those old friends of the idea that I’d do any such thing as turn back from the road I’m currently on. It ain’t gonna happen, and here’s why.
I was a member of the Baha’i Faith from 1971 to 2003. When I joined in 1971, it seemed to fulfill all my longings, preaching a liberal if not radical social gospel while still appealing to my need for a spiritual basis for this kind of teaching. Among the beliefs emphasized were:
• The equality of men and women;
• The elimination of all forms of prejudice;
• World peace upheld by a world government organized on federalist principles;
• The independent investigation of truth;
• Universal education;
• Ending the extremes of wealth and poverty.

And more like this. What made it unique was that it was part of a religion! Baha’u'llah, the founder of the Baha’i Faith, claimed to be the messenger of God for this day, and that these social principals were what GOD wanted humanity to do. NOW!

You can imagine the attraction for someone like me – a progressive social agenda wedded to a spiritual base. And I wasn’t the only one of my particular bent to be thus attracted; the American and European Baha’i communities experienced a huge jump in youth conversions in the ’60s and ’70s. “Hippies” and spiritually-minded social radicals found the Baha’i Faith irresistible.

This influx of young, intelligent, educated, and enthusiastic new converts had a dramatic effect on the American Baha’i community. This newest generation of converts immediately became involved in all aspects of the Faith – writing articles, serving on the local governing boards of the religion, becoming vocal community advocates of what they perceived to be the important aspects of the Baha’i Faith. They were intent on bringing the Baha’i community into the mainstream of the effort to revitalize America and make it the spiritual as well as material leader of the world. They took seriously Shoghi Effendi’s (leader of the Baha’i Faith from 1921 – 1957) exhortation to keep the Faith at the “forefront of all progressive movements.” (The World Order of Baha’u'llah, p. 23)

But in the late 1980s the institutions of the Baha’i Faith began balking at the enthusiasms of this wave of idealists. Foremost in these efforts at stemming an activist tide was the constant reminder that Baha’u'llah told Baha’is to stay out of partisan politics and not to interfere in the workings of governments. And they imposed quite a literal interpretation of that principle. The Baha’i Faith teaches that racial discrimination is evil, but the institutions of the Faith deemed it unwarranted interference in the affairs of a “legally” elected government for Baha’is to be involved in the disinvestment movement against the apartheid regime in South Africa. Participation in peace and disarmament marches was first criticized and then outright forbidden, despite the fact that the Baha’i Faith claims to be working for a lasting world peace. There were other similar issues.


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1 comment:

  1. The biggest test to the believers IS the believers. We all had 'issues' with the what we all incorrectly labeled the adm., order. It wasn't the order - it was the incredibly immature believers temporary inhabiting the positions. It was the immature believers re-electing the same old people over and over and over. Much of that has really been corrected. Trust me, I know. I had 'issues' you cant' imagine. But I've been very impressed of late with how things have changed. Major changes.

    It is wrong for the friends to try and drag you back to something you're no longer interested in. I would however simply say, IF and WHEN you ever are curious - give it a second look.... And remember - you became a Baha'i because you fell in love with Baha'u'llah, NOT because you 'liked' the administrative order in its infancy.



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