Print-your-own pilgrimage?

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.

holodeck

Flexibility about orientation

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

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

springfield

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

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

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?

You will be assimilated

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.”

Opting out of EBT

The Baha’i world community is in the midst of a vast, global process of systematic learning, growth and expansion. For a period of 25 years (1996 to 2021) the Baha’i world will focus on a single overarching purpose: to “advance the process of entry by troops.”
Sharing Baha’i Beliefs

Opt Out

But not me. I’ve opted out of the vast process that doesn’t seem to have a catchy name. (So I’ll call it Ruhi.) 25 years seems like a long time to opt out, but the Baha’i Cycle is apparently 500,000 years, so 25 years is a blink of the eye in the grand scheme of things. And the first 16 years have flown by.

It’s not like I’ve been doing nothing. I just haven’t been doing it Ruhi-style.

And here’s the funny thing: I didn’t even know I’d opted out until today. A friend pointed out that Ruhi had a 25-year lifetime, and I figured 1996 was around the time I opted out. I might be back in the fold in 2021, depending on the menu, and whether they’ll have me.

Take it or leave it

Here’s something I wrote a couple of weeks after Alison was removed from membership in the New Zealand Baha’i community. I’ve blanked out some names, although I probably didn’t need to, because each one has since resigned from membership in the Bahai community.

Ta’wil Discussion Group
Mon Apr 10, 2000 9:36 pm

Re: removal from membership

Hi Xxxx and Xxxx,

I think it takes great courage to speak up on this list, when it’s a local Baha’i list and you don’t know who’s on it. I’ve been speaking up on Talisman, and it feels safer there, despite the likelihood that Alison was expelled from the Baha’i Community as a result of expressing herself there.

I’m getting used to expressing myself within my local community because it has begun to have meetings where the 7 April Letter is discussed and where Alison’s expulsion is a topic. Until then, my Internet Baha’i life and my Dunedin Baha’i life have co-existed relatively harmoniously. In fact, the community and the local and national Baha’i administrative bodies have tolerated me remarkably well.

As you say, Xxxx, Alison’s expulsion has come from the top. It appears that the National Spiritual Assembly was just the messenger boy. Unless Alison has been hiding letters from me, she’s had no warning of the House’s 2-3 year period of concern. Given Mina’s assurances and the Dunedin assembly’s assurances that the 7 April letter wasn’t directed at anything going on in Dunedin, it appears that the institutions weren’t involved in any investigation/counselling.

As Xxxx has commented, the rules seem to have changed. Except there don’t seem to be any written rules for this stuff. When Michael McKenny of Canada was expelled a few years ago I sought answers and all I got was something from Counsellor Heather Simpson indicating that the action was rarely used and the cases generally turned on their own facts (whatever that means).

Well, there are plenty of questions to be asked and it’s pretty unsafe to be asking them, but my opinion of late 20th century Baha’i administrative culture has been eroded so much over the years that I really don’t care what it comes up with. In my opinion, the administration has asked for a greater devotional life, for transformation and for initiative. It’s got it, but it doesn’t seem to know what to do with it. People will just go off on a tangent if they’re not accommodated, and I think we’re seeing that.

The local community has been a good model, I think, of accommodating diversity. We have open assembly meetings, the fortnightly study runs as a self-managing group, and there’s generally a vibrant youth thing going. I’m sure there’s other stuff too. I hope this co-existence and accommodation doesn’t fall apart as a result of Alison being freed from having a relationship with the Baha’i administration by the House. There’s no need for Dunedin’s harmony to be upset. Nothing really needs to change.

I predict we’ll see a growth in the category of Baha’is-who-opt-out-of-the-administration. …Although it’s always been with us, so perhaps it’s just that it’s now more visible because of the Internet. Yes, I realise that the administration is a key part of Baha’i life, but there are other key parts and the administration is a means, not an end in itself.

I reckon Alison’s release (I like that better than expulsion) is a major event in Dunedin’s Baha’i history. I guess it’s good that people are holding off talking about it until they get a bit more information, but I don’t think there’s much more information to know, unless the Dunedin assembly got told more than Alison herself did.

One thing I really like is that the House said in its 7 April letter that Baha’is weren’t to be concerned about the “problems” the House had identified, because it was going to sort them out systematically (I’m paraphrasing). Well my strategy with the local assembly over the last 6 years or so, when I’ve wanted to do something that involves it, has been to say, “This is what I propose to do, take it or leave it”. I haven’t done any consulting; I’ve just presented my offer as a finished product. This strategy has worked very well for me, and I reckon I’m the shining example of a systematic Baha’i, as defined by the House in its own dealings. Yeah! Consultation is so… Twentieth Century. To recap: the new way goes like this. You make a decision and you tell ’em. They can take it or leave it. I wonder how many will take it and how many will leave.

ka kite
Steve