What would Shoghi Effendi do?

January 1st, 2014

An extract from an interview Bob Dylan gave to Mikal Gilmore of Rolling Stone magazine:

Rolling Stone magazine coverMikal: I’ve brought up the subject partly because of something you said the night he was elected: “It looks like things are gonna change now.” Do you feel that the change you anticipated has been borne out?

Bob: You want to repeat that again? I have no idea what I said.

Mikal: It was Election Night 2008. Onstage at the University of Minnesota, introducing your band’s members, you indicated your bassist and said, “Tony Gamier, wearing the Obama button. Tony likes to think it’s a brand-new time right now. An age of light. Me, I was born in 1941 – that’s the year they bombed Pearl Harbor. Well, I been living in a world of darkness ever since. But it looks like things are gonna change now.”

Bob: I don’t know what I said or didn’t say. As far as Tony goes, yeah, maybe he was wearing an Obama button and maybe I said some stuff because right there in the moment it all made sense. Maybe I said things looked like they could change. And maybe they did change. I don’t think I could have predicted how they would change, but whatever was said, it was said for people in that hall for that night. You know what I’m saying? It wasn’t said to be played on a record forever. Or did I go down to the middle of town and give a speech?

Mikal:It was onstage.

Bob: It was on the streets?

Mikal: Stage. Stage.

Bob: OK. It was on the stage. I don’t know what I could have meant by that. You say things sometimes, you don’t know what the hell you mean. But you’re sincere when you say it. I would hope that things have changed. That’s all I can say, for whatever it is that I said. I’m not going to deny what I said, but I would have hoped that things would’ve changed. I certainly hope they have.

On time, on budget, and on land

November 28th, 2013

New Zealand's mashriqI live on the continent of Zealandia which is mainly underwater. Years ago, my community considered building an underwater temple. Scuba diving is a big tourist drawcard in New Zealand and the new temple, “Unity in Divers’ City”, would have been a magnificent and prestigious addition to the pantheon of continental Baha’i Houses of Worship. However, the cost, the poor acoustics and losing an entire choir on their first rehearsal, put us off. We settled for a second-hand temple that was intended for the continent of Antarctica and we haven’t looked back.

Print-your-own pilgrimage?

July 3rd, 2013

Gary Matthews suggests that any pilgrimage site missing in action could conceivably be recreated using new printing technologies:

It goes without saying that every last detail of the building is meticulously documented, that Baha’is will one day regain possession of the property, and that it will be rebuilt in precise detail. My guess is that emerging technologies for 3D printing mean that even the exact corrugations and indentations of the original stones will be replicated, whenever this happens.

Ultimately, that might allow print-your-own pilgimages in the comfort of your own home. However, I prefer to do pilgrimage the old fashioned way. I plan to travel half way across the world to join a group of pilgrims for a once-in-a-lifetime experience that is both personal and communal; intimate and intensely social.

For that reason, I’m saving my money for the opening of Holodeck Haifa, and the Authorised House of Baha’u'llah Experience.


Flexibility about orientation

July 1st, 2013

News came through a few days ago about the destruction of the House of Baha’u'llah in Baghdad. This is big news for Bahais because Baha’u'llah designated that house, and the House of the Bab in Shiraz, as the two places on the planet for pilgrimage. Since access to those two places has been cut off, current pilgrimage consists of visitations to the holy places around Haifa.

I think it’s wonderful that, even with a really big deal like pilgrimage, which is based on a clear message from Baha’u'llah, we adapted. A great deal of flexibility is evident in the Bahai system, allowing it to adapt to changed conditions.

The Bahai Faith is not simple, unchanging and black-and-white — it’s dynamic and adaptive. I don’t hear people making a fuss about the new realities regarding pilgrimage, and I don’t see why we can’t get used to the new realities regarding sexual orientation. In fact, I think we are doing just that.

We support human rights for all people we approve of

June 20th, 2013

gratuitous image stolen from an unrelated websiteThe Bahais of Springfield, Missouri, have just responded to a questionaire from the city’s task force on sexual orientation and gender identity. Here are the questions, and the Assembly’s responses:

  1. Do you agree that the Springfield City Code should be amended to add sexual orientation and gender identity to the city’s nondiscrimination ordinance? No
  2. Would your answer reflect the majority of members in your congregation? Yes
  3. If the task force finds that there is discrimination based on sexual orientation and/or gender identity in housing, employment, and/or public accommodations in Springfield, would you support adding sexual orientation and gender identity to the city’s nondiscrimination ordinance? No
  4. Would your answer reflect the majority of members in your congregation? Yes


Yet in 2011 the Bahais of Springfield presumably got the following advice from the House, via the US NSA:

In attempting to reconcile what may appear to be conflicting obligations, it is important to understand that the Bahá’í community does not seek to impose its values on others, nor does it pass judgment on others on the basis of its own moral standards. It does not see itself as one among competing social groups and organizations, each vying to establish its particular social agenda. In working for social justice, Bahá’ís must inevitably distinguish between those dimensions of public issues that are in keeping with the Bahá’í Teachings, which they can actively support, and those that are not, which they would neither promote nor necessarily oppose. In connection with issues of concern to homosexuals, the former would be freedom from discrimination and the latter the opportunity for civil marriage. Such distinctions are unavoidable when addressing any social issue. For example, Bahá’ís actively work for the establishment of world peace but, in the process, do not engage in partisan political activities directed against particular governments.

As Bryan Donaldson over at Baha’i Coherence puts it:

The prominent reference here is that with regards to homosexuals, “freedom from discrimination” can be actively supported…

It’s a bit like the Islamic Republic of Iran, which seems to support human rights only for those people it approves. The Springfield Assembly needs to show that the Bahais are above that.

Insights from the Frontiers of Learning

June 9th, 2013

I had a quick look through the new document from the International Teaching Centre:

It makes various bold claims, and I’d like to focus on this one:

“In this way, over a span of many cycles, there is a steady increase in the number of new believers, of core activities and participants, and of those who, when accompanied by others, are able to extend the scope and complexity of the work of expansion and consolidation.”

However, here’s the reality check. Out in the field, even the very best clusters are failing to achieve steady growth for more than six cycles.

Devotional gatherings in Norte del Cauca over 10 cycles of growth

Vote Male

April 22nd, 2013
Vote Male booth

My booth outside the Haifa International Convention Centre.

I’m off to Haifa for a week to be part of the activities surrounding the 11th International Bahá’í Convention in Haifa. No, I won’t be one of the more than 1000 delegates, but I will be assisting them carry out their sacred responsibilities.

Those delegates come from all over the world and my job will be to remind them of the important stuff, so that their vote counts. That’s got to be pretty important, right?

A diversity of tomatoes

February 27th, 2013

A diversity of tomatoes. They’re all the fruits of one growing tunnel.

Except that little green one. It’s off a potato plant and is pure poison.

Djinn in quartz

February 23rd, 2013
C5 Bahai Djinn. Female, 9,321 yrs old. Housed in a Rose Quartz gemstone.

C5 Bahai Djinn

It’s amazing what you can buy on the Internet:

Up for auction is a C5 Bahai Djinn. Female, 9,321 yrs old. Housed in a Rose Quartz gemstone.

All Sales Final, No Returns.

You will be assimilated

February 20th, 2013

Keith Farnan poster detail“We welcome everyone”

“Except gays”

“Oh no. We welcome gays… …except as members”

“And obese people.”

“No, I’m sure that’s not right.”

“Well, I read a blog entry where…”

“Oh yes, I read that too. But we do welcome obese people who want to be thin.”

“Yeah, we welcome everyone, But you’ve got to want to be straight, and thin…”

“…and apolitical, and…”

“This is getting complicated. How about: ‘We welcome everyone, but you’ve got to want to be just like us.’”

“That’s right, and we call it ‘unity in diversity’”

“Yes, we take diversity and turn it into unity.”