They don’t like the aggression

Kate Kelly’s excommunication letter, June 23 2014:

“The difficulty, Sister Kelly, is not that you say you have questions or even that you believe that women should receive the priesthood. The problem is that you have persisted in an aggressive effort to persuade other church members to your point of view and that your course of action has threatened to erode the faith of others. You are entitled to your views, but you are not entitled to promote them and proselyte others to them while remaining in full fellowship in the church.”

The Department of the Secretariat to The National Spiritual Assembly of the Baha’is of New Zealand, 19 April 2000:

“Mrs. Marshall has chosen to aggressively promote her misconceptions in defiance of efforts to provide her with essential Baha’i teachings which correct them. She has made a series of statements that stand totally in contradiction to the authoritative texts of the Baha’i writings. These assertions, which she disseminated to an international audience, were of such concern to a number of Baha’is that the matter was brought to the attention of the Universal House of Justice.”

Horton hears a whoso

Horton hears a who book coverSooner or later, every Bahai gets to hear a whoso. I heard quite a few in the Dunedin community just after Alison was removed from membership. Listen in, and you might hear one, too.

“The sacred and youthful branch, the Guardian of the Cause of God, as well as the Universal House of Justice to be universally elected and established, are both under the care and protection of the Abhá Beauty, under the shelter and unerring guidance of the Exalted One (may my life be offered up for them both). Whatsoever they decide is of God. Whoso obeyeth him not, neither obeyeth them, hath not obeyed God; whoso rebelleth against him and against them hath rebelled against God; whoso opposeth him hath opposed God; whoso contendeth with them hath contended with God; whoso disputeth with him hath disputed with God; whoso denieth him hath denied God; whoso disbelieveth in him hath disbelieved in God; whoso deviateth, separateth himself and turneth aside from him hath in truth deviated, separated himself and turned aside from God. May the wrath, the fierce indignation, the vengeance of God rest upon him!”
The Will And Testament of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá

When you hear a whoso, it’s because a sour kangaroo has objected to the small people having a voice.

“Humpf!” humpfted a voice. ‘Twas a sour kangaroo.
And the young kangaroo in her pouch said “Humpf” too.
“Why, that speck is as small as the head of a pin.
A person on that?… Why, there never has been!”
Horton Hears a who

A heterosexual lifestyle

A FaceBook friend of mine, Daniel Orey, got married a few years ago. He ran into some problems because a state-sanctioned, committed, same-sex marriage is not an acceptable lifestyle for Baha’is, according to his NSA:

“Your same sex marriage in 2008 and statements that you have made on the Internet in support of homosexuality as an acceptable lifestyle for Baha’is shows that your position has changed. Such flagrant actions in violation of Baha’i law leave the National Spiritual Assembly with no choice but to remove your administrative rights.”
Let’s start with consulting about a letter

"I think I might be straight" pamphletWhich leaves me wondering how Daniel’s marriage differs from mine, if at all. I got married to Alison in 1991. She had a child, Zohar, from a previous relationship. Alison and I don’t have any children from our marriage. We live together, share most things, don’t have a lot of secrets, argue and make up, help each other out, put up with each other’s foibles and miss each other like crazy when we’re apart for extended periods.  I guess we’re just your typical flagrantly heterosexual couple.

From the outside, that sounds no different to Daniel and Milton’s relationship. I can’t be sure — maybe they have friends over for an orgy every Wednesday night. However,  I’m sure the NSA would have mentioned that in its letter to Daniel if it was better informed than me.

I see this as a human rights issue — the right to marry the person that you love and to whom you have made a commitment.

If a heterosexual lifestyle was banned by my religion, including the option of entering into a loving, committed, state-sanctioned marriage, then I wouldn’t have anywhere to turn, except to stay single. That seems unfair.

I’ve hung out with gay guys a lot, mainly through work, and I know for sure that I’m not attracted to guys. Maybe I didn’t meet the right one; maybe I just needed to be cured of my heterosexual bias through some medical intervention; or maybe I just needed to fake it until I could make it. But I’m pretty sure that conforming to a homosexual lifestyle when I’m actually straight would eventually have led to disaster. So “fitting in” wouldn’t really be an option for me.

No one expects the inquisitorial system

“The administrative bodies of the Bahá’í Faith at all levels use a distinctive method of non-adversarial decision-making, known as consultation.”

Apparently, the phrase more commonly used by the rest of the world for non-adversarial judicial decision-making  is “inquisitorial system”:

“Inquisitorial System
This article is about the inquisitorial system for organizing court proceedings. This is not to be confused with the system of religious courts established by the Roman Catholic Church for the prosecution of heresy. For this see: Inquisition.”
Wiki: Inquisitorial System

The Wiki article goes on to say:

“An inquisitorial system is a legal system where the court or a part of the court is actively involved in determining the facts of the case, as opposed to an adversarial system where the role of the court is solely that of an impartial referee between parties.”

It’s possible there is no valid comparison to be made between Baha’i judicial decision-making and civil judicial decision-making, and this has been argued in various places. For example, the National Spiritual Assembly of the Baha’is of New Zealand wrote:

In terms of decision-making required when Baha’i membership is at issue or when infringements of Baha’i law are of concern to the institutions, decisions are made based on Baha’i principles. The Baha’i administration is non-adversarial in nature and works in subtle ways. There can be no comparison with the terminology used in legal proceedings in the community at large. For example, Baha’i institutions do not lay any ‘charge’ against an individual believer, and there is no necessity for giving ‘direct notice’ to the individual. Similarly, the concept of a ‘case to be heard’ is foreign to the Baha’i administration. It is at the discretion of the Baha’i administrative body to act as it sees fit in full accordance with the Baha’i principles. … 9.4 Attempts by a National Spiritual Assembly to correct misunderstandings about the Faith by individual believers can be achieved in a variety of ways. The NSA does not employ the practice of formally approaching an individual before making a decision in every instance. There are many occasions when the deficiencies in understanding of individuals are addressed in a general, all-embracing way with the whole community (for instance, the presentation of community classes dealing with particular issues) rather than singling out individuals for specific attention.

Now, I would have thought that Baha’i principles did indeed require that Alison be consulted prior to having her membership removed, but apparently the National Spiritual Assembly believed otherwise. Or it simply did as it was told, then rationalised its behaviour afterwards.

The moral of the story: “When using the inquisitorial system, try to avoid acting like the Spanish Inquisition.”


Expansion by expulsion

The Expulsion from the Garden of Eden (Masaccio)The Universal House of Justice is trying every which way to make Baha’is more active. It’s tried working through national and local assemblies and it’s tried through the ITC, Counsellors, ABMs and clusters, using the Ruhi institute process. More recently, it’s trying out a bunch of regional conferences. All those methods have been quite labour-intensive and sometimes quite capital-intensive. Travel, study, venues, accommodation and materials all add to the cost.

The House is nothing if not systematic. It tries something, evaluates and adapts it, then tries again. If anything seems to work, it gets adopted and tried elsewhere. “Anna’s presentation” is probably a good example. A script in a training manual becomes an integral part of door-to-door teaching.

But there’s one thing the House has tried that seems to have had stunning results in activating Baha’is, yet doesn’t appear to have been adapted and adopted.

I’m speaking of removal of membership. Michael McKenny appears to have been an early “failure”, but Alison Marshall and Sen McGlinn have shown that the method has great promise. Those two have become real powerhouses since their expulsion. Think how amazingly vibrant the Baha’i faith could become if the House would remove just 1% of the Baha’is from membership, let alone 10% or 100%.

Vitriolic, nasty, vicious letters

diagram of the new baha'i administrative structure

Here’s a treat for you: An extract, in video format, from Peter Khan’s, talk at the New Zealand National Teaching Conference, in Auckland, June 2000 (AVI, 5.5MB).

The House of Justice has been appalled in recent weeks to receive vitriolic, nasty, vicious letters from New Zealand Baha’is concerned about actions the House of Justice took with regard to a believer from the South Island. I’m sure you are aware of it. These letters are not many, there are a few of them, but they’re probably the worst letters I have ever seen written to the House of Justice and they came from people who are part of the New Zealand Baha’i community. That, if nothing more, is an indication of the need for a far greater attention to this issue in this country as well as in other countries. New Zealand surely doesn’t want to go down in Baha’i history as the community that has produced such nasty correspondence. Correspondence of such a kind that I am embarrassed to have my secretary see it because of the kind of language that it uses. Anyhow, be that as it may, it’s their spiritual problem and they will deal with Baha’u’llah as they wish. But the point is that here it is an indication that something is fundamentally wrong with the Baha’i community in this country in terms of its depth of understanding of the covenant and the authority of the institutions of the Faith. What you take as normal is not normal, but abnormal.

Excerpts from a talk given by Peter Khan