The Baha'i Faith & Religious Freedom of Conscience

From: Juan Cole <>
Subject: Re: Letter of resignation
Date: Monday, June 28, 1999 1:36 AM

What saddens me is that aside from some sympathetic comments by Mark
Foster, no one here seems to want to talk about the very important
substantive problems courageously raised by Paul and Lisa Dodenhof in
their heartfelt letter.  Paul is someone who is an academic student of
religion, who has known several religious communities, who accepted
Baha'u'llah into his heart and continues to do so.  But he and Lisa
feel that the statements of the Universal House of Justice, on Baha'i
scholars, on academic methodology, on homosexuality and a whole host of
other issues, have left them with no spiritual or intellectual space
within the community, forcing them out.
We have to ask ourselves, whether the Universal House of Justice is
behaving and speaking like `Abdul-Baha, our supreme Exemplar.  If it
did act and speak like Him, which presumably all Baha'is are supposed
to, including the UHJ, then would Paul and Lisa have really felt it
necessary to resign from the faith?  When `Abdul-Baha wrote Auguste
Forel (a man with a lot of problems even though he was a significant
scientist, a man involved in scientific racism, an agnostic), did
`Abdul-Baha attack him?  Did he condemn him?  Did he have people spy on
him?  NO.  He tried to show how the Baha'i faith as a live religion was
compatible with the life of the mind.  He even praised the contributions
of scientists who do not believe in God.  And yet when the UHJ addresses
*Baha'i* academics, firm believers, moderates like Paul Dodenhof, they
do so so harshly as to chase them right out of the faith.
That isn't *like* `Abdul-Baha.  It is just being *mean.*  And that is
the whole problem with the Baha'i faith today.  It isn't a matter of
liberal versus conservative or intellectuals versus
non-intellectuals or cultists versus non-cultists, primarily, though
those issues are there.  It is that a culture of *being mean* has grown
up among Baha'i officials.  It bears no relation to the Baha'i faith,
and no resemblance to the blessed, gentle and loving life of
Don't you remember at camp when we were you, we sang, "Look at Me,
follow Me, be as I am?"  A child could grasp it.  But the people who
destroyed the Dodenhofs' faith had forgotten that little song, had
buried and covered up the example of `Abdul-Baha, and were busy
pretending to be mullas and Inquisitors.  And that is why they could not
retain the loyalty and faith of their own followers.
cheers   Juan
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Juan Cole, History, U of Michigan
Buy *Modernity & Millennium: Genesis of Baha'i*
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Share what you know. Learn what you don't.