The Baha'i Faith & Religious Freedom of Conscience

From: <>
Subject: Re: Baha'i Scriptures and Universal Declaration of Human Rights
Date: Monday, April 26, 1999 8:13 PM
Thanks so much for the kind words, Fred.  I hope you will also do some
writing, on things like Robert Hayden's spirituality (I know it is far more
complex than the biographies allow).
It is true that a subcommittee of the Universal House of Justice composed of
Farzam Arbab, Douglas Martin and Ian Semple had the counselors of the
International Teaching Center accuse me of 'making statements contrary to the
Covenant' in April 1996, just because they did not like my email postings. As
a result, I was confused for two and a half years.  After all, I had not in
my own mind  contravened "the Covenant" in any way.  I mean, had I claimed to
be the 17th Guardian?  No!  Had I claimed to be able to do more than express
my personal and non-authoritative opinion about the meaning of Baha'i
scripture? No!	Had I made any unreasonable demands on the UHJ?  No!  At that
very time, the UHJ had asked me and I had agreed to help with the
retranslation of *Some Answered Questions*!  I had offered them, and they had
accepted, my provisional translations of the Tablets.  What weird sort of
dealings did they have with people, to essentially employ them on the one
hand but to horsewhip them on the other? I'm afraid I thought that the only
sort of persons went about behind the scenes threatening college professors
with being shunned unless they fell silent were wild-eyed cultists, and I'm
afraid that is still my opinion of Farzam Arbab, Doug Martin, Ian Semple,
Fred Schechter, Monajjem, Stephen Birkland et al.  Unfortunately, there are
lots of nooks and crannies in the Baha'i administration where cultists can
hide out and abuse adherents.
However, I worked my way through things, and found my faith in Baha'u'llah
once more, even if I have become convinced by my dealings with them that the
Universal House of Justice has in fact been mutilated by the absence of a
living Guardian, just as he predicted would happen.  But this 'mutilation'
can be a good thing, too.  I think the reason we don't have a Guardian is
because God decided human beings needed to grow up and stand on their own two
feet.  This maturity of humankind, which Baha'u'llah proclaims when he talks
of the "advent of Universal Reason" among "the people," is incompatible with
having someone interpret our scriptures for us authoritatively.  So, we have
been left with a purely legislative body (the UHJ), and everyone is now free
to express their conscience and proclaim their views about Baha'i theology
and social principles.
Because the UHJ has been, unfortunately, mutilated by the absence of a living
Guardian, they have no one, as Shoghi Effendi explicitly predicted, to tell
them when they are straying from their proper legislative functions into
matters where they have no scriptural or constitutional authority (like the
email messages of Baha'i professors or those of Baha'i fiction writers like
Michael McKenny).  I fear I have concluded that the *only* force that can in
some ways repair the damage of the mutilation, the only prosthesis that can
allow the House of Justice to walk normally again, is Baha'i Public Opinion
and the consensus of the believers.  And that is why I speak out and will
continue to speak out every time the Baha'i administration contravenes the
Universal Declaration of Human Rights with regard to its own adherents, given
the close fit between the ideals of that document and those of Baha'u'llah
and the other holy figures.
So, you see, in the end I haven't been 'driven out' of anything.  I am a
Baha'i, just like any other Baha'i, a believer in Baha'u'llah.	Whether
others wish to recognize and acknowledge that, and whether they wish to
backbite me or listen to others backbite an innocent person, is completely
irrelevant to the facts.
cheers   Juan
Juan Cole, History, U of Michigan
Buy *Modernity and the Millennium: The Genesis of the Baha'i Faith* at:
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