A glossary of Bahai terms – by anon.

The following glossary of Baha’i terms was inspired by Juan Cole’s ironic “The Ghoul’s Glossary: the 2008 Election”, which is the first entry for 4 November on his Informed Comment blog. Just as the recent US election inspired new ways of using language, which threw up the need for a glossary to explain the new meanings, I thought I’d write a glossary for those trying to understand the latest meanings of terms found in common Baha’i parlance.

Anna’s presentation – 1) an illustrated document summarising the latest version of the Baha’i revelation used to convert seekers; a script usually memorised and spoken verbatim during presentations.

Baha’u’llah – the latest manifestation of God, whose revelation is updated on a regular basis by the Universal House of Justice; a 19th-century eccentric Iranian gentleman who spoke a strange language and received few visitors.

believer – a human resource.

disenrolment – an administrative procedure involving the issuing of a form letter for removing from the community a believer who promulgates persuasive opinions that do not keep abreast of the latest updates to the Baha’i revelation by the Universal House of Justice; not a punishment.

dogmatic materialists – scholars of Baha’i studies who use reason and evidence in their discussion and conclusions.

infallible – the condition of never having to make the following concession speech: “We fought — we fought as hard as we could. And though we fell short, the failure is mine, not yours”.

Ruhi – .

scholar – a learned person; esp. Baha’i scholar – a believer who has yet to detach from individualistic intellectual pursuits and fully commit to the community endeavour of advancing the process of entry by troops.

systematization – a pyramid scheme.

teaching – evangelising; the process of converting non-believers to the latest version of the Baha’i revelation and acceptance of future updates from the House of Justice.

theologian – a person who studies religion; part. Baha’i theologian – a person who has received, or will recive, the disenrolment form letter.

The Universe loves laughter?

God Loves Laughter, by William Sears

The decline in quality and propriety of book titles has been going on for decades. In 1960, William Sears, a retired radio and television personality, put out a book with the title “God Loves Laughter”, despite the obvious fact that God is beyond limitations.

One very important consequence of God’s being incomparable is that God is not limited in any way. The reason is that if we describe God using a particular quality, then we immediately limit him to that quality and rule out other qualities that are the opposite. For example, if we assert that God is loving, then we rule out the possibility that God is wrathful. God, therefore, must be beyond description because any word we use to describe God limits him to the qualities of that description. God is unlimited or unconstrained: “God, alone, transcendeth … limitations”(G:LXXVIII, 150).
Commentary on the Divine Unity

Unnatural acts

HSunburnt Caucasianomo sapiens emerged out of Africa. As the species spread, some populations became afflicted with abhorrent conditions such as light skin colouring. Today, billions of people have this aberration. We must turn off the gene that causes pale skin, so that people no longer need to “cover up”. Pastiness is highly condemned and often a great trial and cause of suffering to a person. Remember, there are no legitimate ways in which a Caucasian can express the wayward impulses of the sunbathing instinct.

As for those now afflicted, a Caucasian does not decide to be a problem human, but he does have decision in choosing his way of life, i.e. abstaining from sunbathing acts.

Love the Caucasian, hate the flagrant sunseeker.

Leaving the surf

Surfing magazine cover, 2008
When I was a practising surfer, I briefly belonged to a nationally and internationally-affiliated surfing organisation. But I realised that I had no interest in organised group surfing activities and resigned my membership. Or “left the surf” as they say in surfing circles.

Actually, they don’t say that.

Surfers might ask why they haven’t seen you at club meets and competitions, but the idea that membership has anything to do with the way you surf would seem ludicrous to them.

When you stop tapping the energy of the ocean—that’s when you “leave the surf”.

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.

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

Still waiting for a reply

Date: Fri, 04 Aug 2000 14:55:59
To: Dunedin Assembly
From: Steve Marshall <forumbahai@xx.xx.xx>
Subject: Assembly feast letter

I’ve read the assembly’s latest feast letter and would like to assist
you in keeping tabs on violations of Baha’i law. I occasionally
masturbate, even though I realise that it is in violation of Baha’i
law. I want to assure you that my masturbation is not blatant or
flagrant, and I don’t think it directly harms the interests of the
Faith — but you do say that the Assembly is reliant on members of the
community to keep it informed of any cases of misconduct.

ka kite