The Baha'i Faith & Religious Freedom of Conscience

From: Juan Cole <>
To: <>
Cc: <>
Subject: Re: 4 year plan
Date: Tuesday, June 23, 1998 7:02 PM
Well, I have to admit that I am exercised about this problem of
over-centralization and repression.  I genuinely believe that it seriously
hurts the growth of the Baha'i faith, numerically and culturally and
spiritually.  It annoys me to think of 25 years of my life being spent in
intensive labor on something that ends up being screwed up by incompetents.
When people used to complain to Shoghi Effendi about these sorts of
problems, he generally answered with advice to expand the community through
teaching and thus to sidestep the rigid and problematic Baha'is.  But in
actual fact, the very dominance of the community by hardliners who see
covenant breakers under their beds, whose first instinct is to attack and
to squelch innovation, has made it *very* difficult to grow the community
I am sorry to say it, but a good third of Baha'is are just very unpleasant
people to be around and make it their business to drive out of the faith
anyone who doesn't agree with them (something they are quite successful
at).  That third also somehow seems to be the recruitment pool for the
administrative order.  What happened to Michael McKenny (whom the Baha'is
had been lucky to have) is only a somewhat spectacular example of a
phenomenon that is repeated hundreds if not thousands of times each year in
North America.  Narrow-minded people summarily forced a Baha'i with whom
they did not agree out of the faith.
My own advice to Baha'is who run into these problems is just to do their
own thing.  Your community is unpleasant?  Find some Baha'is in cyberspace
with whom you enjoy hanging out and create a virtual community.  Sign up
under an electronic pseudonym if you would otherwise be afraid of speaking
your mind.  Enjoy writing about the Baha'i faith but can't stand Review?
Found a Web magazine and publish to your heart's content.  Your community
is unhappy with policies in Wilmette?  Keep the money at home and do things
with it the local community appreciates.  Would rather have a local
mashriqu'l-adhkar than yet another monumental neoclassical building in
Haifa?  Build a local Baha'i center and refer to it in your heart as a
mashriqu'l-adhkar.  Attend the local Unitarian Universalist fellowship as
well.  Want to read more of Baha'u'llah and `Abdul-Baha than has been
officially translated?  Frequent the provisional translations on the Web.
The agencies of repression are very powerful, but they can be sidestepped. 
Baha'u'llah was a Great Soul, and his spiritual and social teachings are a
mighty River.  Small beavers who think they are divinely guided can attempt
to dam the river, but in the end their sticks and mud and hollow trunks
will be swept away and the river will flow on, mightier than before.
cheers    Juan

At 04:48 PM 6/23/98 EDT, wrote:
>I'm amazed by the list of individual intitiative programs that have been shut
>down and discouraged. This points to overt oppression and I see a revolution
>in the works. Proclaiming the problems from the internet mountain tops is one
>thing, but finding solutions is another. There must be Justice manifest in
>world, yet the UHJ seems to be contradicting itself by using unjust
methods of
>control. Maybe it would be beneficial to investigate alternative answers. Is
>there anyone who has an acceptable solution to addressing these problems?