A Difficult Case: Beyer's Categories and the Baha'i Faith

[Source: ‘A difficult case: Beyer’s categories and the Bahá’í Faith’ in Social Compass 50(2),2003, 247-255]

Margit Warburg has presented data showing that the Bahá’í community of Denmark represents an excellent case of Beyer’s 'liberal option' in its response to globalisation" She also claims, incorrectly, that the Bahá’í Faith has the "ultimate aim of merging political and religious institutions." The Baha’i Faith represents a paradoxical example in terms of Beyer’s categories. Its values include relativism, pluralism, globalisation, a cosmopolitan ethic and democratic government. But it also seeks to give political and legal effect to these religious values, for instance by supporting the United Nations and advocating a world court. Beyer considers that a religious movement which seeks to have religious norms enshrined in legislation has adopted the 'conservative option' in response to globalisation. Is this a useful categorisation, when the religious norms are liberal and the stage on which they are to be implemented is global?

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