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Switch to Forum Live View Religious diversity within the Baha'i Faith
3 years ago  ::  Mar 27, 2012 - 5:03AM #1
Jim46
Posts: 289
I was a member for at least thirty years before I realized that some members see most or all of what Baha'u'llah says about God and His manifestions, as pure fiction. Now I personally know some members who openly reject all of it, and who don't see God in Baha'u'llah in any unique way at all. It seems obvious to me now that there must be many others, considering our enrollment practices in the last four or five decades. I also know some members who worship the House of Justice in the place of God, and I imagine there are many other people doing that, too.

I've come a long way in my lifetime in learning to practice fellowship and spiritual partnership with people of all persuasions, but I wasn't prepared to encounter all of them within the Faith, and it was only a few days ago that I really faced up to it. Since then I've been thinking furiously about what it might mean, for me personally, and for the future of the Faith.

It seems clear to me that it would be wrong to stigmatize anyone, or discriminate against anyone, member or not, simply because of her views about God and Baha'u'llah, even if she appears to me to discount them completely, or to worship someone or something else in the place of God. On the other hand, I've been wondering for the last few days how the Faith can fulfill its purpose without Baha'u'llah as our supreme standard and common ground. I'm thinking now that I need learn to separate two concepts that have always been intertwined in my mind, and view them separately: membership in the Baha'i Faith, and Baha'u'llah as supreme standard and common ground.

I can see this as part of what the House of Justice is calling for in One Common Faith. Followers of Baha'u'llah need to erase the sectarian lines we've drawn between ourselves and other people, and see people of all persuasions as equal partners in practicing and promoting spiritual development. Having some of them as fellow members, can help us with that. So part of what it means for me personally is just getting used to having some people of every persuasion as fellow members.

As far as the future of the Faith is concerned, from my point of view, trusting Baha'u'llah as I do, and trying to trust people as much as He does, I imagine that as long as it serves His purposes for the administration of the Faith to have Baha'u'llah as its supreme standard, it will.
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3 years ago  ::  Mar 27, 2012 - 5:56AM #2
Lilwabbit
Posts: 2,922

This thread belongs to the community boards as it discusses members and membership. This is not a debate theme, as the OP also indicates with its call for practical measures rather than debate. There are also separate community threads for former members (Baha'i: other).


I have been a Bahá'í for 36 years and I have seen Bahá'í communities in all the world's habitable continents. 99 % of my fellowship with the Bahá'ís has been very positive and without the slightest confusion about Bahá'u'lláh and His standards being the number one thing in the Faith. Some members, however, have come to realize that some of the standards set by Bahá'u'lláh are far more personally challenging than they initially realized. This is particularly true in the West where many of His standards fly right in the face of secularist and sexually liberalist culture. Some of these members, quite rightly, have made the correct decision to leave the Faith. They should be happy that they're finally free and unencumbered by morally restraining commandments. Unfortunately some of them, however, become disgruntled and rather than enjoying their newly-found freedom they turn bitter and begin to unfairly blame the Bahá'ís for Bahá'u'lláh's explicit standards.


Such disgruntled former members will unfailingly find occasion to vent, particularly if some unwise Bahá'ís have personally approached them in the past in an unkind manner and thereby given some just cause for complaint. My humble recommendation for such individuals is to leave the Faith in the spirit of an amicable divorce, and try not to hold any grudges towards anyone. Forgiveness for oneself and for others sets one free. Grudges and grievances do not add one cubit to one's well-being and, in fact, serve to only increase sorrow and misery.


I have no doubt that most of such former members are at heart goodly and well-meaning people who want the best for themselves and for their fellow man. Hence, we still have a lot in common and can remain on friendly terms. I have a lunch date every month with a former member of the Faith who decided to leave due to his strong desire to live in a homosexual relationship.


Kind regards,


LilWabbit

"All things have I willed for you, and you too, for your own sake."
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3 years ago  ::  Mar 27, 2012 - 9:20AM #3
Jim46
Posts: 289

Lilwabbit, are you saying that every Baha'i who doesn't agree with what Baha'u'llah says about God and His manifestations, or who worships the House of Justice in the place of God, has "come to realize that some of the standards set by Bahá'u'lláh are far more personally challenging than they initially realized"?


I know some Baha'is who have never agreed with what Baha'u'llah says about God and His manifestations, and others who have always worshiped the House of Justice in the place of God, and I don't see that their views about God have anything to do with how much they feel challenged by Baha'u'llah's standards.


Are you saying that every Baha'i who doesn't agree with what Baha'u'llah says about God and His manifestations, or who worships the House of Justice in the place of God, turns bitter and blames the Bahá'ís for Bahá'u'lláh's explicit standards?


I know some Baha'is who have never agreed with what Baha'u'llah says about God and His manifestations, and others who have always worshiped the House of Justice in the place of God, that I haven't seen turn bitter and blame Baha'is for Baha'u'llah's explicit standards.


Are you saying that every Baha'i who realizes that some of the standards set by Bahá'u'lláh are far more personally challenging than they initially realized, should leave the Faith? I'm not sure I've ever known any Baha'is who did not find Baha'u'llah's standards more personally challenging than  they initially realized. Does that mean that all of the hundreds of Baha'is I've known in every community I've been in, including spiritual assembly members, board members and counselors, should leave the Faith?


I continually find Baha'u'llah's standards more personally challenging than I initially realized. Are you inviting me to leave the Faith?


Have you ever seen anything in Baha'i writings advising some people to leave the Faith? Are you promoting withdrawal from the Faith as a solution for everyone who feels challenged by the standards of Baha'u'llah?


You wrote:


"I have a lunch date every month with a former member of the Faith who decided to leave due to his strong desire to live in a homosexual relationship."


Is that what he said? Did he say his reason for leaving the Faith was because of his "strong desire to live in a homosexual relationship"? That would surprise me. None of the gays I know who left the Faith said it was because of their strong desire to live in a homosexual relationship. All the ones I know said it was because of prejudice and discrimination against gays in the Faith.

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3 years ago  ::  Mar 27, 2012 - 10:21AM #4
Lilwabbit
Posts: 2,922

You do not seem to accept the explicit teachings of Bahá'u'lláh as regards marriage and extra-marital sexual intercourse while paradoxically at the same time regarding Bahá'u'lláh as a personal authority. If you are not here to discuss what the Writings actually say about the matter, then this is really the wrong forum for your opening. This is Discuss Bahá'í Faith. Not "Claim something contrary to Bahá'u'lláh as Bahá'í Faith". You are free to disagree with Bahá'u'lláh. But to confidently claim that He is teaching something that is contrary to His explicit statements is misrepresenting Him and His Cause.


You also seem to be questioning the authority of Shoghi Effendi as an appointed interpreter, and even the House of Justice. Now that's all fine, except you'd need start a whole different thread on the Covenant rather than lumping all these different threads into one big stew.


Kind regards,


LilWabbit

Moderated by world citizen on Mar 28, 2012 - 11:37AM
"All things have I willed for you, and you too, for your own sake."
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3 years ago  ::  Mar 27, 2012 - 11:17AM #5
Jim46
Posts: 289

I don't see what any of your remarks have to do with what I've said in this thread, but maybe you do, so I'll respond to them.


"You do not seem to accept the explicit teachings of Bahá'u'lláh as regards marriage and extra-marital sexual intercourse"


- False, and unrelated to anything I've said in this thread. I'm not interested in discussing homosexuality. If it's important to you to discuss my views about homosexuality, I will, but not in this thread.


"regarding Bahá'u'lláh as a personal authority"


- True


"But to confidently claim that He is teaching something that is contrary to His explicit statements is misrepresenting Him and His Cause."


- I don't see anything at all in what I said, about what Baha'u'llah is teaching. What are you talking about?


"You also seem to be questioning the authority of Shoghi Effendi as an appointed interpreter, and even the House of Justice"


- False. I don't see anything about Shoghi Effendi at all in my posts on this thread, and I'm quite sure that I have never posted anything, anywhere, that even comes close to questioning the authority of Shoghi Effendi or the House of Justice, except to point out that the House of Justice is not an interpreter, which as far as I know, no one is claiming that it is.


The topic that I wanted to discuss here is the implications, for the thralls of God in Baha'u'llah, and for the future the Faith, of contrary views God, and of the central figures and institutions of the Faith, among its members. I've described some thoughts I've had about that, and I'm interested in other people's ideas. The main implication I see for me, personally, is just to learn to live with it and embrace it. For the Faith, as I said, my initial alarm subsided when I realized that the Faith will have whatever it needs for Baha'u'llah's purposes, as long as it needs it.

Moderated by world citizen on Mar 28, 2012 - 11:36AM
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3 years ago  ::  Mar 27, 2012 - 11:19PM #6
Jim46
Posts: 289

Mar 27, 2012 -- 10:21AM, Lilwabbit wrote:


You do not seem to accept the explicit teachings of Bahá'u'lláh as regards marriage and extra-marital sexual intercourse




You also seem to be questioning the authority of Shoghi Effendi as an appointed interpreter, and even the House of Justice.



At first I didn't see the relevance of those remarks to what I've said in this thread, but now I do. Right on target. Even though those two statement are false, applied to me, what I'm discussing here the relationship of thralls of God in Baha'u'llah, with members who have contrary views of God and Baha'u'llah, and the views you attributed to me are examples of contrary views. In this thread I'm not interested in discussing the views themselves. I'm interested in discussing the implications, for thralls of God in Baha'u'llah, and for the future of the Baha'i Faith, of having members whose view of God and Baha'u'llah are contrary to ours.


I've already explained some implications that I've seen. The first implication I saw for myself, personally, is just to learn to live with it and embrace it. The next implication I saw was the thought, alarming to me, that Baha'u'llah might not always be the supreme standard in the administration of the Baha'i Community. As I said, my initial alarm subsided when I realized that the Faith will have whatever it needs for Baha'u'llah's purposes, as long as it needs it.


Now I see another implication for myself, personally. I want to be visible as much as possible, to the people who need to see it, as a person who does not stigmatize or exclude from my fellowship anyone, member or non-member, for her beliefs; who does not himself depreciate the House of Justice; and who is not maligning and scolding people. I also want to encourage other people to do the same, if they can do so honestly.

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3 years ago  ::  Apr 02, 2012 - 1:43AM #7
in_my_opinion
Posts: 2,969

Dear Jim46,


It is surprising to hear that you have met people "who worship" the Universal House of Justice.


Having lived on the majority of the worlds continents as an active believer and not met anyone, of thousands of Bahá'ís, who would fit that description; the question arises as to what you may mean by the word worship.


We never pray to them. We pray for them, just as we would pray for you or anyone we feel we need to pray for. (Lord knows they have a lot to deal with!)


 You said: "... I realized that some members see most or all of what Baha'u'llah says about God and His manifestions, as pure fiction."


Some members? How many, where and what led you to that conclusion after 30 years?


Was it just an odd soul or two, with idiosyncratic views that perhaps didn't jibe with your understanding of the Faith?


Please, specify; general statements can be so hard to parse out, and clarity is important.

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3 years ago  ::  Apr 06, 2012 - 2:10AM #8
Jim46
Posts: 289

Imo, I don't think I've ever heard of anyone praying to the House of Justice either, although I'm not sure there would be anything wrong with that.


"the question arises as to what you may mean by the word worship."


I found these two definitions in a dictionary, which are close enough to what I meant by it.


- to honor or reverence as a divine being or supernatural power.


- to regard with great or extravagant respect, honor, or devotion.


Part of what I meant was making no distinction in practice between the House of Justice and God, as if the House of Justice were the manifestation instead of Baha'u'llah.


"How many, where and what led you to that conclusion after 30 years?"


I've only known a handful personally. What led me to that conclusion was that they told me, explicitly, that they don't believe what Baha'u'llah says about himself as a manifestation of God. Everything Baha'u'llah says about the manifestations of God, and a lot of what He says about God, is just superstition to them.

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3 years ago  ::  Apr 06, 2012 - 11:50AM #9
world citizen
Posts: 5,595

Part of what I meant was making no distinction in practice between the House of Justice and God, as if the House of Justice were the manifestation instead of Baha'u'llah.


Did you attempt to set the individuals straight about their misunderstandings?



What led me to that conclusion was that they told me, explicitly, that they don't believe what Baha'u'llah says about himself as a manifestation of God. Everything Baha'u'llah says about the manifestations of God, and a lot of what He says about God, is just superstition to them.


Yet, given that, you accept them at face value as being "Baha'i" without questioning them as to their motivation for calling themselves Baha'i?  If they are card-carrying members of the Faith, was this brought to the attention of the LSA or a Counselor?  I see no reason for bringing it to this board, since (imho) it's an anomaly that doesn't warrant discussion in a public arena.

Blessed is he who mingleth with all men in a spirit of utmost kindliness and love. ~Baha'u'llah
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3 years ago  ::  Apr 15, 2012 - 11:15PM #10
in_my_opinion
Posts: 2,969

Dear Jim46,


First sorry for not responding sooner. For some reason was not alerted to your response. Must have forgotten to subscribe somehow, age may be taking its toll again (or Beliefnet is having yet more interface issues).

Apr 6, 2012 -- 2:10AM, Jim46 wrote:


Imo, I don't think I've ever heard of anyone praying to the House of Justice either, although I'm not sure there would be anything wrong with that.


There are several things wrong with that.


"the question arises as to what you may mean by the word worship."


I found these two definitions in a dictionary, which are close enough to what I meant by it.


- to honor or reverence as a divine being or supernatural power.


- to regard with great or extravagant respect, honor, or devotion.



Well they have been granted infallibility and we are bound in obedience!



Part of what I meant was making no distinction in practice between the House of Justice and God, as if the House of Justice were the manifestation instead of Baha'u'llah.


What do you mean by "in practice"?


"How many, where and what led you to that conclusion after 30 years?"


I've only known a handful personally. What led me to that conclusion was that they told me, explicitly, that they don't believe what Baha'u'llah says about himself as a manifestation of God. Everything Baha'u'llah says about the manifestations of God, and a lot of what He says about God, is just superstition to them.



The Faith is Religion, not a club. However, everyone is at different places in regards to maturity, understanding and loyalty. Many have not had the blessings of undergoing tests that would clarify and/or illumine things for them.

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