The Supreme Institution

Older Bahais, like me, will have noticed a new way of referring to the Universal House of Justice, as “the supreme institution.” I think I first noticed people saying this about 1985. In Anna’s Presentation we find “We have already spoken about the supreme institution, which is the Universal House of Justice…”. Paul Lample, in his Preface to A Wider Horizon, Selected Letters [of the Universal House of Justice] refers to “a continuous flow of guidance that comes from the Supreme Body.”

A google search turns up plenty of examples in more or less formal documents and presentations intended for the public.

{josquote}...the inflation of terms and claims will continue, until it pops like a market bubble...{/josquote}

and anyone who follows the blogsphere and discussion lists can find countless more examples of this.

Shoghi Effendi refers to the Universal House of Justice as:

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How theocracy happened

A person investigating the Bahai Faith had encountered theocratic ideas among the Bahais she met, and asked if these were correct, and where they came from. But in fact, she seemed to know already that these ideas must be wrong. She wrote:

> I have to say that the idea of a one-world government run by a
> religious institution of any sort whatsoever, is what I can only
> call a total nightmare. I cannot believe for one second that this
> is what Bahaullah envisaged,

She was quite right. This is certainly not what Baha’u'llah envisioned!

{josquote}Abdu’l-Baha often gave talks in which he listed the central Bahai teachings, and in about half of these he includes the separation of religion and politics as one of the key principles.{/josquote}

How did she ‘just know’ that Baha’u'llah could not have taught this? - She knew because these are hair-brained delusions, and people like Baha’u’llah, and Abdu’l-Baha and Shoghi Effendi, people who speak good sense most of the time, do not turn around and babble nonsense at the next breath. Common sense tells us that idiotic ideas come from idiots. With a bit of research, we can trace these ideas back, stand in the shoes of the idiots, and maybe understand them even if we cannot agree with them.

What Baha’u'llah says on this is clear:

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The practicalities of monarchy

In the fifteenth Glad-Tidings, Baha’u’llah writes:

Although a republican form of government profiteth all the peoples of the world, yet the majesty of kingship is one of the signs of God. We do not wish that the countries of the world should remain deprived thereof. If the sagacious combine the two forms into one, great will be their reward in the presence of God.

I don’t think we have to suppose that Baha’u'llah was thinking about some future form of constitutional monarchy, requiring us to figure out what he meant and how it could be put into practice. There were good models of constitutional monarchy already working in his day, and most of them are still working today. In contrast, most of the republics from the time of Baha’u’llah have gone through at least one revolution, or at least a major upset, in the past century, and the absolute monarchies have fared even worse. Constitutional monarchy is the ‘leading technology’ in the field of government.

So why do constitutional monarchies work so well?

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What is theology, and what's it good for?

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On my web site, I’ve put up my part of two discussion threads about theology, and how the Bahai community can face the fact that some people know more than others, on particular topics, but without replicating the structures of past religions in which greater knowledge often translates into greater authority.

It’s the first and third items on the page
Click on the blue PDF buttons.

The threads have started because of my statement in my Master’s dissertation, Church and State, a postmodern political theology:

that my stance is not that of a historian or academic scholar of the science of religion, but of a Bahai theologian, writing from and for a religious community, and I speak as if the reader shares the concerns of that community. As a Bahai theologian, I seek to criticize, clarify, purify and strengthen the ideas of the Bahai community, to enable Bahais to understand their relatively new faith and to see what it can offer the world. The approach is not value-free. I would be delighted if the Bahai Faith proved to have a synergy with post-modernity, if it prospered in the coming decades and had an influence on the world. The reader who is used to academic studies of religion that avoid such value judgments will have to make the necessary adjustments here and there.”

The Universal House of Justice (who had apparently seen only a selective citation, omitting the words in italics) found the idea of a Bahai theologian objectionable, calling it “a claim that lies well outside the framework of Bahá’í belief and practice,” and removed me from the membership rolls of the Baha’i community.

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Polemics revisited

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Moojan Momen has posted on his web site a new version of his response-to-responses, occasioned by his Religion article on “Marginality and Apostasy in the Baha’i Community.”

In this, he states :

‘My statement that Sen McGlinn’s disenrollment was due to “persistent challenges” to the Universal House of Justice is an inference that I have drawn from letters of the Universal House of Justice going back to 1995.’

This concedes that what he said was not a matter of fact, nor an explanation that the Universal House of Justice itself has given. Moojan is welcome to draw whatever inferences he may chose: opinion and its expression should be free. Having no ambitions to achieve any status, I am indifferent to what other people may think of me.

I find this resolution satisfactory, and I withdraw the threat of legal action as regards his web site. I anticipate that a similar statement will appear in a forthcoming number of Religion.

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