The Baha'i Faith & Religious Freedom of Conscience


Shunning > Menu

From: <>
Subject: Re: Universal Declaration of Human Rights and Freedom of Conscience
Date: Saturday, February 13, 1999 2:52 PM

Dear Jayliz:
`Abdul-Baha was facing a temporary and extraordinary situation in which a
serious and plausible schism had developed among Baha'u'llah's sons.  He
dealt with it the only way he knew how, by urging his partisans to avoid
partisans of the schismatics.  He did not intend for this practice to become
a permanent feature of Baha'i life (when's the last time you met a partisan
of Mirza Muhammad `Ali?)!  Nowadays powerful glaze-eyed cultists have grabbed
power in the Baha'i faith and want to extend shunning beyond schism to simple
expressions of individual conscience.  This makes a caricature of
`Abdul-Baha's universalism and tolerance, to the point where Baha'is on
email lists are being scrutinized and measured for covenant breaking charges
merely over their non-authoritative opinions.
So, what I would say is that `Abdul-Baha was employing a tactic, which is
not cult-like in the context of the period 1898-1921 or so, but that the
institutionalization of shunning as a feature of everyday life and the
extension of its targets to virtually all members of the community including
non-schismatics with new ideas, is certainly taking the religion in the
direction of a paranoid and authoritarian body very similar to the
Watchtower. Anyone who seriously thinks that is the sort of future
`Abdul-Baha imagined for his religion, has radically misread him.  Jehovah's
Witnesses Baha'is and Amish Baha'is, indeed.  (The Amish and Mennonites, by
the way, are having the same sorts of disputes about the legitimacy of open
discourse on the Net as are conservative Baha'is; the difference is that at
least the former are producing food and furniture for us).
cheers   Juan
In article <7a37vd$o8c$>, wrote:
> Hello Dr. Cole,
> In article <7a2lue$ad5$>,
> wrote:
> > Shunning is the marker of a cult.
> If this is the case, how are we to understand 'Abdul-Baha's instructions in
> His Will and Testament:
> "And now, one of the greatest and most fundamental principles of the Cause of
> God is to shun and avoid entirely the Covenant-breakers, for they will utterly
> destroy the Cause of God, exterminate His Law and render of no account all
> efforts exerted in the past."
> Peace,
> JayLiz
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Juan Cole
History, U of Michigan
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