h1

Not a Position Paper on Homosexuality for the NSA of the Bahá’ís of the UK

August 11, 2017

Not a position paper on homosexuality for the NSA of the Bahais in the UK

I have added the red parts.

The author of the 2007 “Position Paper on Homosexuality for the NSA of the Bahá’ís of the UK” contacted me about my 2014 blog “Is homosexuality spiritually condemned?” which was a rebuttal of some of the statements in this paper.
It was written in response to a request by a member of the U.K, National Spiritual Assembly of the Bahais as an experiment. He asked if we could find a solution without asking me to censor my blog because his paper was only a draft, was put online without his permission, and the NSA of the U.K. did not end up using it. However, readers (myself included) easily miss that it is NOT a Position Paper for the Bahai community of the U.K., particularly because later the same author was on the UK Bahá’í community Office of Public Affairs. If this article did express ideas in conflict with the views of the NSA of the Bahais of the U.K., then I would have thought it would have been removed long ago. It has been online for 10 years now and to date it is still online.

I am posting the whole paper here without his name and have changed the link from my 2014 blog to the text placed below. For me it is not so much the biases that might or might not be expressed by Bahais on the topic of homosexuality but in my view silencing (not having a voice) is much worse than statements of bias. Abdul-Baha’s injunction “The shining spark of truth cometh forth only after the clash of differing opinions” (Abdu’l-Baha, Selections from the Writings of Abdu’l-Baha, p. 87) is one of many reasons why I think visibility is important. For example with the statement: “the Bahá’í position on homosexuality is spiritual condemnation,” – here we can debate where this idea comes from or why the author might write this? Some of you might agree with this statement and then you can tell me why.

Position Paper on Homosexuality for the NSA of the Bahá’ís of the UK

Author’s name is removed

Summer 2007 | page 1 of 5

Between obliviousness and puritanism stand Bahá’ís, who say that homosexuality is wrong, but homosexuals are kindred souls. The Bahá’í Faith is a religion of unity, revealed by Bahá’u’lláh1 to unify our divided humanity and enable the spiritual fulfillment of its peoples. Remembering this context is essential when saying that the Bahá’í position on homosexuality is spiritual condemnation. As a Bahá’í, I believe that morality is foundational to spiritually healthy individuals and, therefore, to a united society; and this applies to a sexual morality that excludes homosexuality. ‘Ye are forbidden to commit adultery, sodomy and lechery.’2

Yet also, the Bahá’í Faith teaches that unity is incompatible with a judgmental attitude or censorious posturing. Shoghi Effendi3 wrote that Bahá’ís have ‘certainly not yet reached that stage of moral perfection where they are in a position to too harshly scrutinize the private lives of other souls’. The result of these beliefs, therefore, is that whilst Bahá’ís consider the condition of homosexuality to be spiritually condemned and reject the act, they would never reject homosexual people.

We believe that the teachings of Bahá’u’lláh are the ‘breath of life unto all created things’4, that the exhortations and prohibitions of a Bahá’í life comprise the great education and the great enablement, not the great lockdown. Through obedience to the laws, Bahá’ís work to discipline themselves according to spiritual standards that outstrip average notions of appropriate living, and this discipline allows the individual to respond to grander impulses than physical desires or psychological complexes. Furthermore, spiritual discipline frees us from our own selves and offers a life fulfilled through clarity of purpose and devoted service to our fellow humans.

Chastity is one of the basic laws of spiritual discipline: abstention from sexual relations before marriage, and exclusively marital relations thereafter. Marriage itself is considered a divine institution and a ‘fortress of well-being and salvation’5 that can shelter a man and woman from loneliness and drift, which can save them from the emotional pains of physical satisfaction in unhealthily transient relationships.

The reality for homosexuals in the Bahá’í Faith, therefore, is the same as unmarried heterosexuals: a spiritual obligation to be chaste. On this most important moral consideration, the Bahá’í Faith effectively does not distinguish between heterosexuality and homosexuality. We are not our desires or our inclinations; we are more.

page 2 of 5

Yet our desires exist and the Bahá’í Faith acknowledges their validity and importance. Human sexuality is celebrated though not indulged: Bahá’u’lláh recommends marriage at a young age. But sex must be within marriage because it guarantees that intimate relationships are buttressed against the uncertainties of life, with each married couple and family a solid piece of a slowly unifying humanity.

The social and spiritual value of marriage exceeds the physical, yet the right and proper expression of that physical love ensures the salubrious development of a social and spiritual relationship. These multiple elements of a relationship are intertwined: trust rests on exclusive physical intimacy and unsurpassed emotional openness, while marriage as a social good rests on its spiritual foundation. Sexual relations outside marriage, meanwhile, fosters a sex-centric attitude to love.

We frequently see in today’s society that young people feel compelled to express their love through sex. They do this whilst ignoring the need to investigate the character of a partner; instead they create physical bonds that outpace the spiritual and emotional immaturity of the relationship. The result is grave imbalance: physical bonds are a powerful fire that consumes the detachment needed to truly understand the spiritual and emotional connection between a man and woman.

While the common view in contemporary culture is that ‘if it feels good’ and ‘harms no one’, then ‘do it’, this attitude is ignorant of our spirituality and the ramifications of our behaviour thereon. We are emotional and spiritual beings, even if we ignore it, and acts as intimate and powerful as intercourse have a bearing on our individual development and our consequent contribution to society.

This is the holistic attitude Bahá’ís have towards sex, relationships and society: each builds to the next and a sexual relationship cannot be conducted for its own sake. Physical love is inseparable from an emotionally healthy, socially conscious, and spiritually purposeful life.

Such is the core and utterly rational reason that the Bahá’í Faith cannot allow homosexuality within this balance of physical love, emotional health, social responsibility, and spiritual growth. Our desires are innate but our inclinations are another matter.

And so very firmly, the Bahá’í Faith rejects the possibility that sexual relations between homosexuals are a natural or positive influence on either the individuals themselves or their wider society.

A central tenet of the Faith is the harmony of science and religion: religion without science is superstition, and science without faith is materialism.

Bahá’í do not accept the materialist notion that nature is perfect, but rather, the nature of humans must be improved through spiritual education.

The propagation of the species is the obvious purpose of the sex impulse; a sexuality that obviates procreation defies the social role of sex.

The condition of homosexuality is regarded by Bahá’u’lláh as an ‘affliction’ and an ‘aberration’ which is ‘against nature’.

The starkness of this language makes it transparently clear that not only is the condition wrong but same-sex relationships do not ring true. The language is also

page 3 of 5

difficult to bear for non-Bahá’ís and some Bahá’ís alike; the proper consolation is that this condemnation comes from He whom Bahá’ís believe to be the Manifestation of God, and thus speaks with a voice unparalleled and inimitable. His starkness is not available for our own use.

Bahá’ís of whichever sexual orientation are taught acceptance and love by their Faith and its teachings; spiritual condemnation cannot be translated into tangible or emotional condemnation.

This very firm rejection is made with the utmost love for homosexuals.

For proofs of this utmost love, again the fundamental principles provide guidance: people of all kinds deserve only praise and encouragement from other individuals within the Bahá’í community. (Only the institutions have the right to concern themselves with the private affairs of Bahá’ís, a right exercised only when that behaviour manifests itself in a way publicly damaging to the community.)
Further, marriage is recommended but not required and is not the central purpose of life. The trend in certain strata of western societies
– that young people of both genders are educated for longer, develop careers and marry later

– has the beneficial corollary of rearing a larger generation than ever before able to carry an ‘ever-advancing civilisation’6.

The celibacy required of a Bahá’í homosexual does not deny the grandeur of their potentialities and achievements in all other aspects of life. All of this can be a challenge for Bahá’ís living in the West.

Tolerance and plurality are the professed values of a liberal society, and because of the pacific nature of the Bahá’í Faith, often we are perceived to be liberal intellectuals who also believe in God. Not so.

The Faith was not revealed so that it might conform to any contemporary thinking or mask itself behind common notions, it was revealed to rewrite human spirituality, morality and society, so we cannot obfuscate the teachings elemental to these goals.

I recall a conversation with a friend some years ago, during which I was questioned about my religious my views on homosexuality, and directly challenged as a bigot.

I was brought up as a Bahá’í, always reminded by my parents’ actions of the importance of exhibiting a sincere and loving acceptance of all the peoples around me, and that Bahá’u’lláh had come to unite not divide humanity.

The accusation of bigotry was surprising and would have been risible had it not been outrageous in its misunderstanding of the charge itself and my own values.

I retired from the discussion and pondered this word, and realised that a ‘bigot’ is someone who cannot tolerate the views of another person.

Bahá’ís tolerate and accept the myriad beliefs held by divers peoples; we do not impose our beliefs on non-Bahá’ís, not for the briefest shiver of a hypocritical instant. Inside the Bahá’í Faith, the covenantal7 duty and expectation is obedience to the laws and the institutions.

Bahá’ís are expected to strive for understanding

page 4 of 5

of those laws beyond their grasp; a selective adherence to these laws is unacceptable because it undermines the unity of the entire community.

But these are standards for Bahá’ís only, and because the Faith finds itself in a context of many different beliefs, it holds that concord and plurality are more important than contention and division. These principles are reflected in the values of any progressive society. And yet because this current liberal society has convinced itself of the rightness of Enlightenment thinking, which includes a permissive attitude to sex and allows for an individualistic definition of sexuality, dissension therefrom brings denouncement. My confusion at being called a bigot stemmed from this double standard: that western society was liberal and open-minded, so long as certain issues were agreed upon beforehand. There was a hypocritical element which Bahá’ís must reject when explaining their position on homosexuality: pluralism and the liberally spread charge of bigotry are incompatible. There is a curious paradox here which hinges on the identity aspect of this discussion. If liberal society accepted so sincerely the homosexuality of homosexuals, why then have many homosexuals felt the need to persist in their segregated and specialised gay identity long after their supposed entry into the mainstream? I postulate two answers. Firstly, their sexuality has been dramatically overemphasised in the creation of their self-image, self-worth and social identity – just as is the case with many heterosexuals who see sex as soul. The Bahá’í teachings, meanwhile, state that ‘in the estimation of God there is no distinction of sex’8.

Secondly, immersion in this emphatically gay identity is a reaction to alienation within wider society. This is true in many aspects of life, not just sexuality; for instance, the recent reactions to ‘multiculturalism’ have in turn provoked young Muslims in the West, who are in many cases second or third generation nationals and the descendants of immigrants, to reassert their cultural and religious past by exhibiting religiosity in a form rejected by their parents. The dynamic involved in both examples are vividly drawn and narrowly defined exclusive identities; over-reliance on these is a common reaction to stigmatisation.
This is true also of the assertive, politicised and highly vocal gay identity. The introduction of the Bahá’í understanding of homosexuality – that the condition is aberrant and the act wrong, but censure of homosexuals even worse – resolves this dichotomous identity problem because it drains the bile from public discussion and sentiment about homosexuality. A homosexual person secure in his or her acceptance by society would not feel the need to adopt a segregated identity. This would succeed is more than the avoidance of false dichotomies, it would foster genuine unity, the very purpose of the Bahá’í Faith. This briefly stated position on homosexuality and the Bahá’í Faith is far from complete, and its failures are the failures of the author. It will also be difficult for many to believe.

page 5 of 5

Bahá’u’lláh declared that His purpose is the ‘good of the world and the happiness of the nations’9 and Bahá’ís work to deepen their understanding of how the laws and teachings of the Bahá’í Faith further that noble purpose. For many it is a challenging process, and many others encounter the Faith and reject its precepts, but a contemporary religion dedicated to unity and manifestly positive in its grassroots impact must surely be given the chance to prove the power of its principles.

           My (JustaBahai) comments:
“spiritual condemnation”?
This is possibly a paraphrase from: “Homosexuality, according to the Writings of Bahá’u’lláh, is spiritually condemned.” (From a letter written on behalf of the Guardian to an individual believer, May 21, 1954. Cited in Lights of Guidance, p. 364)

Bahai Scripture are texts by The Bab and Baha’u’llah while anything penned by Abdul-Baha, Baha’u’llah’s son, is given the authority of Bahai Scripture. Shoghi Effendi, Guardian and Head of the Bahai community until 1957, whose authoritative interpretations are part of the texts they interpret, did not pen a single word on the topic of homosexuality. But his secretaries did in five letters. Some Bahais consider the advice in these letters as being akin to Bahai Scripture, while others, such as myself, view these letters as having a lower status for a number of reasons (see: “their words are in no sense the same as his … and their authority less … this fault should be remedied … the words of the Guardian clearly differentiated from those of his secretaries.” (1951), “… only for their personal benefit and even though he does not want to forbid their publication, he does not wish them to be used too much…” (1932)).
I think it is important to understand that any advice in a letter penned by a secretary should not be used as a source for a Bahai Teaching because Shoghi Effendi wanted these letters to be distinguished from his own writings and because many letters refer to the guidance as advice: (“…it is not binding; you are free to follow it or not as you please” (1944).

So I would say any letter that supports any existing Bahai Teaching could be useful but if a letter conflicts with any Bahai Teaching such as the principle of equality or justice, then the usefulness of that letter was for a particular time and place even if the letter claims it is a Bahai Teaching because a secretary does not have the authority to interpret nor to create a Bahai Teaching.

“a sexual morality that excludes homosexuality”
There is nothing in Bahai Scripture that even hints that morality is conditional on being a heterosexual. Many of Bahaú’llah’s “Hidden Words” speak of the nature of humanity as being in God’s image. Bahaú’llah condemns three forms of illicit sex-related activities, not homosexuality. (See the exact words and context here)

“Bahá’ís consider the condition of homosexuality to be spiritually condemned and reject the act, they would never reject homosexual people.”
I am a Bahai and I do not consider homosexuality to be spiritually condemned and I would say so if I was the only Bahai to state this. What matters is what is in Bahai Scripture and Bahai teachings such as thinking for ourselves (no priests to tell us how to think). So this is my main objection to this paper. This individual presents his ideas as if these are representative. The text quoted above also shows not only an ignorance that gays and lesbians are just as boring and diverse as heterosexuals, but assumes that orientation is some sort of act. How would you act heterosexual? When you are asleep? And this is crux of the prejudice I encounter among many Bahais. They say they don’t reject gays and lesbians but then denigrate them by assuming that any visibility of one’s orientation is about sex. It is no surprise to me that many Bahais only know gay and lesbians superficially. Who would want to associate with anyone who considers them subjected to “psychological complexes”?

Asking a class of individuals to remain alone and chaste for the length of their lives is cruel when another class of individuals are allowed to date, to develop close friendships, even intimacy with another and to marry. I do not believe that Baha’u’llah intended his teachings to divide humanity into two categories: those who are allowed to have intimate companionship and others who are not allowed to develop that side of themselves. It is not the same reality as someone who chooses not to marry. If there is any Bahai Scripture that makes clear that marriage was to exclude same sex couples, I wouldn’t be writing this blog.

The UHJ has the authority to make rulings for the Bahai community not covered in Bahai Scripture. The current UHJ policy (see changes in their policy on allowing gays or lebsians to join here) is that legally married same sex couples are not allowed to join but at the same time “The Universal House of Justice does not feel that the time has come for it to provide detailed legislation on subjects such as abortion, homosexuality and other moral issues. …It has been a human tendency to wish to eliminate these grey areas so that every aspect of life is clearly prescribed. A result of this tendency has been the tremendous accretion of interpretation and subsidiary legislation which has smothered the spirit of certain of the older religions.” (1988)

I know of a few Bahai communities where they welcome their same sex members on equal terms where partners and children are also welcome. On the other hand, I know of many stories of prejudice towards our gay and lesbian brothers and sisters where they are told they are spiritually condemned for example.

“Bahá’u’lláh recommends marriage at a young age”
Baha’u’llah did not recommend marriage at a young age. He changed an Islamic law where girls could be married off as children, to a law where for the male or female the minimum age for marriage was their 15th birthday. Another Bahai law is to follow the law of one’s country so if the minimum age for marriage is higher, this sets the limit.

“..sex must be within marriage because it guarantees that intimate relationships are buttressed…”
Why are gays and lesbians excluded?

When ‘Abdul-Baha wrote about the rules for marriage as an aspect of the social teachings of the Bahai Faith he refers to a man and woman but he doesn’t state that marriage can only be between a man and a woman. And Baha’u’llah wrote: “Whoso contenteth himself with a single partner from among the maidservants of God, both he and she shall live in tranquillity.”
Kitab-i-Aqdas, p. 41

And in the introduction of the Kitab-i-Aqdas the Universal House of Justice explains: “where Bahá’u’lláh has given a law as between a man and a woman, it applies mutatis mutandis between a woman and a man unless the context makes this impossible.” Kitab-i-Aqdas, p. 7

If same sex marriage is possible, then the principle of mutatis mutandis as outlined in the Kitab-i-Aqdas would apply.

“Physical love is inseparable from an emotionally healthy, socially conscious, and spiritually purposeful life. Such is the core and utterly rational reason that the Bahá’í Faith cannot allow homosexuality within this balance of physical love, emotional health, social responsibility, and spiritual growth.”

I do not see a rational reason to exclude same-sex partners from being able to have an “emotionally healthy, socially conscious, and spiritually purposeful life.” Abdul-Baha wrote: “When, therefore, the people of Baha undertake to marry, the union must be a true relationship, a spiritual coming together as well as a physical one, so that throughout every phase of life, and in all the worlds of God, their union will endure; for this real oneness is a gleaming out of the love of God.” Selections from the Writings of Abdu’l-Baha, p. 117

“the Bahá’í Faith rejects the possibility that sexual relations between homosexuals are a natural or positive influence on either the individuals themselves or their wider society.”
The author has effectively said that married homosexuals could not have a positive influence on others, and on society. How then can he regard them as ‘kindred souls,’ if they are so innately flawed that they can contribute no good?

“A central tenet of the Faith is the harmony of science and religion: religion without science is superstition, and science without faith is materialism.” See my blog: On the psychopathology of homosexuality

“Bahá’í(s) do not accept the materialist notion that nature is perfect, but rather, the nature of humans must be improved through spiritual education.” “Man is the supreme Talisman” (Gleanings from the Writings of Baha’u’llah, p. 259); we are born with lots of potential and no sin, so it is not that human beings must be improved, but that through education and experience we can develop and “(t)he purpose of the one true God, exalted be His glory, hath been to bring forth the Mystic Gems out of the mine of man” (Baha’u’llah, Epistle to the Son of the Wolf, p. 13). See my blog on human nature.

Bahai Scripture stresses the importance of the spiritual as part of a holistic worldview: “with the clay of My command I made thee to appear, and have ordained for thy training every atom of existence and the essence of all created things.”
Baha’u’llah, The Hidden Words, #29

“a sexuality that obviates procreation defies the social role of sex.”
This argument implies that infertile couples or the elderly are not allowed to have a Baha’i marriage, apart from the fact that same sex couples are raising children.

“The condition of homosexuality is regarded by Bahá’u’lláh as an ‘affliction’ and an ‘aberration’ which is ‘against nature’.”
The words: affliction, aberration and against nature are penned in letters written by secretaries. Baha’u’llah’s only reference to sexuality is in relation to being asked about illicit forms of sexual practise and his comment of shame, concerning the middle eastern practise of sex with children. His phrase “ghelmaan” makes it clear this is about minors who were sex-slaves (See: “A Bahá’í View of Homosexuality … ?“). Baha’u’llah does not mention homosexuality. I find it shameful that a Bahai attributes these words to Baha’u’llah.

“ …and thus speaks with a voice unparalleled and inimitable. His starkness is not available for our own use.” But these words were not penned by Baha’u’llah? Words in a letter penned by a secretary writing on behalf of Shoghi Effendi do not equal Baha’u’llah’s words. I find it shameful that a Bahai associates his own prejudices with Baha’u’llah. Nothing penned by Baha’u’llah mentions homosexuality. Pederasty (sex with a minor) is not homosexuality and Baha’u’llah’s use of the word “boy sex slave” (“ghelmaan”) makes this very clear.

“Only the institutions have the right to concern themselves with the private affairs of Bahá’ís, a right exercised only when that behaviour manifests itself in a way publicly damaging to the community”
In a country or state where homosexuality is not discriminated against, which is more publicly damaging? Removing voting rights because someone has complained behind an individual’s back about their suspicions? Or being a community where gays and lesbians are not picked on. Being a community where gays and lesbians are not afraid to invite a friend over for dinner, or to hug someone or to hold their hand? Being a community where individual’s private lives are not delved into, whatever their orientation. Being a community were gay and lesbians are not afraid to be out of the closet. What sort of image is publicly damaging to the community? Demonstrations of tolerance or flexibility or Bahais who write that it is a Bahai Teaching the homosexuality is spiritually condemned?

“… a challenge for Bahá’ís living in the West. Tolerance and plurality are the professed values of a liberal society, and because of the pacific nature of the Bahá’í Faith, often we are perceived to be liberal intellectuals who also believe in God. Not so. The Faith was not revealed so that it might conform to any contemporary thinking or mask itself behind common notions, it was revealed to rewrite human spirituality, morality and society, so we cannot obfuscate the teachings elemental to these goals.”
The point here: the Bahai Teachings of equality and justice. Tolerance and plurality are also Bahai Teachings. The principle of unity in diversity isn’t anti-intellectual and it isn’t anti-liberal either. The principle of unity in diversity is inclusive. The way I interpret the Bahai Teaching of progressive revelation is that each messenger of God builds on the revelations of earlier messengers, not that each religious tradition is rewritten. There is no logical connection between the author’s anti-intellectual statements and his own idea of the Bahai principle of progressive revelation. By ‘rewrite’ does he think that each new religion has to obliterate all of spirituality, morality and society? Abdul-Baha doesn’t appear to have such a negative view of western tolerance and pluralism: “Did not these new systems and procedures, these progressive enterprises, contribute to the advancement of those countries? Were the people of Europe harmed by the adoption of such measures? Or did they rather by these means reach the highest degree of material development? Is it not true that for centuries, the people of Persia have lived as we see them living today, carrying out the pattern of the past? Have any discernible benefits resulted, has any progress been made? …
Let us consider this justly and without bias: let us ask ourselves which one of these basic principles
[such as justice, tolerance and equal rights] and sound, well-established procedures would fail to satisfy our present needs, or would be incompatible with Persia’s best political interests or injurious to the general welfare of her people. Would the extension of education, the development of useful arts and sciences, the promotion of industry and technology, be harmful things? For such endeavor lifts the individual within the mass and raises him out of the depths of ignorance to the highest reaches of knowledge and human excellence. Would the setting up of just legislation, in accord with the Divine laws which guarantee the happiness of society and protect the rights of all mankind and are an impregnable proof against assault — would such laws, insuring the integrity of the members of society and their equality before the law, inhibit their prosperity and success?” (Abdu’l-Baha, The Secret of Divine Civilization, p. 13)

“… I was questioned about my religious beliefs, my views on homosexuality, and directly challenged as a bigot.”
The word, ‘bigot’ is often used for someone who suffers from ignorance of their own prejudice. I think it would be more honest if the author said that he didn’t believe gays and lesbians can be treated with equality and justice. As another Baha’i, I do not agree that this is a Baha’i Teaching but if he said this then one could have a debate or discussion. I find it more disturbing when a Baha’i states it isn’t discrimination and then they treat a class of people as if there is something wrong with them, remove their voting rights, call them spiritually condemned, their orientation immoral, or misattribute the Bahai writings in support of their own prejudice.
“Justice and equity are twin Guardians that watch over men. From them are revealed such blessed and perspicuous words as are the cause of the well-being of the world and the protection of the nations.” (Baha’u’llah, Epistle to the Son of the Wolf, p. 12)
I see no indication that justice and equality are conditional on being a heterosexual. Baha’u’llah also wrote: “Be thou of the people of hell-fire, but be not a hypocrite.” (Compilations, The Compilation of Compilations vol II, p. 337. Source in Persian)
I think the author has missed the point in writing “we do not impose our beliefs on non-Bahá’ís, not for the briefest shiver of a hypocritical instant” because it is about the Bahai principle of justice for everyone not just those who are not Bahais.

“If liberal society accepted so sincerely the homosexuality of homosexuals, why then have many homosexuals felt the need to persist in their segregated and specialised gay identity long after their supposed entry into the mainstream? I postulate two answers. Firstly, their sexuality has been dramatically overemphasised in the creation of their self-image, self-worth and social identity – just as is the case with many heterosexuals who see sex as soul.”
It seems to me that the author thinks gay or lesbian visibility is a form of segregation. Identity that is not mainstream is diversity in practice. Would the world really be a better place if we all must hide our distinctive cultural characteristics? Abdul-Baha’s oft-mentioned metaphor of the value of diverse flowers in the garden of humanity comes to mind. It isn’t about sex but about being welcome to express our diverse mannerisms, ways of thinking creatively and of solving problems. It is clear to me that there is a stark absence of gay and lesbian perspectives within the Bahai community. Perhaps like a community where there are only members of one race or one class of people, these people do not notice the lack of diversity because their experience is limited to a group of people who are just like they are.

“If in a garden the flowers and fragrant herbs, the blossoms and fruits, the leaves, branches and trees are of one kind, of one form, of one colour and one arrangement, there is no beauty or sweetness, but when there is variety in the world of oneness, they will appear and be displayed in the most perfect glory, beauty, exaltation and perfection. Today nothing but the power of the Word of God which encompasses the realities of things can bring the thoughts, the minds, the hearts and the spirits under the shade of one Tree.” (Abdu’l-Baha, Tablet to the Hague, p. 12)

Footnotes:
1 Bahá’u’lláh was born in 1817 as Mirza Husayn Ali, a nobleman of Persia. In 1863, whilst exiled to Iraq because of his belief in the Babi religion established in 1844, Bahá’u’lláh declared Himself to the be the Messenger of God for humanity today, and established a religion that has since spread to over 200 countries with over 6 million followers: the Bahá’í Faith.
2 Bahá’u’lláh, Compilation of Compilations vol 1 p. 57, translated from a Tablet in Arabic.
3 Shoghi Effendi was appointed the Guardian of the Bahá’í Faith in 1921, following the passing of his grandfather ‘Abdul’Bahá, the Son of Bahá’u’lláh. Shoghi Effendi’s appointment was announced in the Will and Testament of ‘Abdul’Bahá, Himself appointed the sole successor to Bahá’u’lláh in His Will and Testament.
4 Bahá’u’lláh, Gleanings CLV.
5 Bahá’u’lláh, from a Tablet.
6 Bahá’u’lláh, Gleanings CIX
7 Bahá’ís live their lives within the Covenant, an institution revealed by Bahá’u’lláh designed to firstly to assure humanity of God’s everlasting love; and secondly, to bind Bahá’ís to submit to the proper succession of leadership of the community, obey the institutions and obey the laws of God.
8 Abdul-Baha, Promulgation of Universal Peace, p. 108
9 Bahá’u’lláh, The Proclamation of Bahá’u’lláh

Advertisements

5 comments

  1. Rex Block wrote: I’ve NEVER hesitated to speak out as an openly homosexual person in my communities (I live in a metro area) If we chose to remain silent then no one knows the struggles we go through to be obedient and they are unable to help. That being said I do NOT challenge the legitimacy of either the laws OR the Guardians statements. People may think because my wife and I have been married for over 24 years that being homosexual is no longer an issue that they would be mistaken. I will have to say that the years have certainly changed my focus and sex is no longer a motivation (I just turned 70).


  2. Thank you once again for your excellent writing. Thank you once again for your unwavering support of those of us who are excluded from the community and message of Baha’ú’lláh. I deeply love and appreciate all you are doing for us. I a true crime that the Baha’is are stuck and cannot find a way to include all people in their community as so many progressive, open and tolerant spritual communities do. Again, much love, light, and appreciation.


  3. That there is “something wrong” with gay people has been and still is a widespread and deeply held idea. After all look at the plumbing! It’s all designed mechanically speaking to perform a function, that of delivering a gamete to an egg to allow the genes, which really control us to survive down the ages, carrying our weak fragile bodies, the vehicle for these genes, with them. Somehow the gene carriers have evolved to such an extent that we have become self-aware, aware of the world around us and aware also of our mortality, I believe this to have been God’s intervention, for reasons I cannot understand.
    We now have the ability to use this “intelligence” to make some sort of sense of the world and they way we fit into it. There are gay people we see around us. Obviously they are sick and in need of help if they want and recognise that they are an “aberration” or condemnation and stigma if they try to overcome the shame they feel and live the life they think they are entitled to. This was the was our primitive understanding had things, but what will this approach get us in the end. Will gay people cease to exist? I doubt it. Will they continue to live in shame and fear, probably.
    Evolution has produced a plethora of “normal” communities of species. Take for example ants. Some are born for specific role… soldiers for example, they all start from the same point but genes control what they are in the end, they determine their function in society, they do not reproduce, their sole function is to protect the workers and the their sole function is to provide for the queen. The one that does reproduce. Genes don’t care about the vast majority of individuals that don’t get to marry and go to the prom…they really don’t care. But we should the thinking meat bags. Gay people do have a role to play in our communities, and it’s not knowing all the words to Oklahoma. Gay people, like soldier ants, are able to perform specific roles in societies and families that others cannot or will not. There are (or were communities in the world where this was happening until Bible bashing colonialist arrived!). All we are asking is that we be allowed to contribute.


  4. I wish to comment on some aspects of this blog post. My comments here are not addressed to the central focus of your theme, on homosexuality and the Baha’i Faith. My comments are limited solely to your statement about the guidance of the Universal House of Justice, and your statements about the guidance of Shoghi Effendi contained in letters written on his behalf.

    1. THE GUIDANCE OF THE UNIVERSAL HOUSE OF JUSTICE

    On your blogpost you state: “The UHJ has the authority to make rulings for the Bahai community not covered in Bahai Scripture.”

    This statement, though basically true, is conspicuously incomplete, and if taken at face value would be misleading. In a tablet, Abdu’l-Baha writes, “The Most Holy Book is the Book to which all peoples shall refer, and in it the Laws of God have been revealed. Laws not mentioned in the Book should be referred to the decision of the Universal House of Justice.” If this were the only statement in the Writings on the subject, then your statement would present an accurate picture. However, Baha’u’llah wrote that “all affairs” are committed to the kings and rulers and to the Universal House of Justice, and that Body is “charged with the affairs of the people.” Abdu’l-Baha wrote that “all things,” and “all problems which have caused difference,” must be referred to the Universal House of Justice, and that “whatsoever they decide” is of God. Shoghi Effendi wrote that “all important and fundamental questions” must be referred to the Universal House of Justice, and that this Body will provide a “clearer and a fuller understanding” of the “provisions and implications” of the Master’s Will. The Guardian writes that the Universal House of Justice is also guided by God in any “cases” presented for its “consideration” – which sounds to me like a judicial function. The citations for these quotations and for the following one are found here: http://bahai-covenant.blogspot.com/2016/07/authority-universal-house-justice.html

    In an extremely important passage, the Guardian also wrote that the Universal House of Justice was not only designed by Baha’u’llah to “supplement” His laws where the Text is silent – but also to “apply” those laws which were revealed by the Manifestation. Far more of the time and guidance of the Universal House of Justice – including the subject under discussion in your blogpost – is in this area where the Text is *not* silent, than in supplementary legislation where the Text is silent.

    In 1972 the Universal House of Justice issued what Shoghi Effendi, in a letter to the Persian friends, termed “The Most Great Law” – the Constitution of the Universal House of Justice. It compiled from the Sacred Text and from Shoghi Effendi’s guidance the broad scope of its powers and duties. These are distilled down into five cogent paragraphs found here, beginning with the words “to ensure” http://www.bahai.org/documents/the-universal-house-of-justice/constitution-universal-house-justice One line in these five paragraphs states, “To enact laws and ordinances not expressly recorded in the Sacred Texts.” The powers of the Universal House are much broader than you present. A fuller elaboration of the broad nature of the power and authority of the Universal House of Justice is found here: http://bahai-covenant.blogspot.com/2016/07/authority-universal-house-justice.html

    SHOGHI EFFENDI, IN HIS OWN HANDWRITING, STATED THAT SAME-SEX RELATIONS ARE AMONG THE PROHIBITIONS OF THE MOST HOLY BOOK

    You write, “Shoghi Effendi, Guardian and Head of the Bahai community until 1957, whose authoritative interpretations are part of the texts they interpret, did not pen a single word on the topic of homosexuality.”

    This statement is untrue. Preparation of the Synopsis of the contents of the Most Holy Book was begun by Shoghi Effendi, as shown here: http://bahai-postings.blogspot.com/2013/04/most-holy-book-synopsis-in-handwriting.html These handwritten notes were incorporated into the published Synopsis of the Most Holy Book, which was completed by the House of Justice. The Prohibitions in the Most Holy Book are found here http://www.bahai.org/r/875365760 and include, in Shoghi Effendi’s own handwriting, “homosexuality” as one of the prohibitions. The Baha’i World Centre has confirmed that Shoghi Effendi wrote, in his own handwriting, in English, that homosexuality is among the prohibitions in the Aqdas, in the closing words of this letter: https://bahai-library.com/uhj_homosexuality_uganda

    THE GUIDANCE OF SHOGHI EFFENDI CONTAINED IN LETTERS WRITTEN ON HIS BEHALF BY HIS SECRETARIES

    First, please keep in mind that all of the letters written on Shoghi Effendi’s behalf on the subject of homosexuality which you seek to weaken the effect of, also bear Shoghi Effendi’s own handwritten signature. You characterize the guidance from Shoghi Effendi contained in letters on his behalf as follows:

    “I think it is important to understand that any advice in a letter penned by a secretary should not be used as a source for a Bahai Teaching”

    That “any letter [written by one of the Guardian’s secretaries on his behalf] that supports any existing Bahai Teaching could be useful but if a letter conflicts with any Bahai Teaching such as the principle of equality or justice, then the usefulness of that letter was for a particular time and place even if the letter claims it is a Bahai Teaching”

    That “a secretary does not have the authority to interpret nor to create a Bahai Teaching.”

    I hope that the Baha’is will have a deep trust that the letters written by Shoghi Effendi’s secretaries on his behalf, though as the Guardian himself stated, their authority is less because they do not use Shoghi Effendi’s own words. I think that the true weight to be afforded to letters which Shoghi Effendi directed his secretaries to write on his behalf, is found in how these letters are characterized in the letters of the Universal House of Justice. Please note how sharp is the contrast between the following characterizations by and on behalf of the House of Justice, and those you have expressed in your blogpost:

    “A letter written on his behalf to an individual thus conveys the Guardian’s view …”
    (21 April 1996, by the Universal House of Justice to the Bahá’ís of the World, included in the Compilation on The Importance of the Arts in Promoting the Faith)

    “…the believers in the West should observe the following guidance given by the beloved Guardian’s secretary on his behalf”
    (Letter from The Universal House of Justice to a National Spiritual Assembly dated 9 June 1974; Messages From the Universal House of Justice 1963-1986, p. 277, paragraph 147.5)

    “The beloved Guardian has given us the following guidelines in letters written on his behalf …”
    (Letter written on behalf of the Universal House of Justice to an individual dated 7 July 1976, Messages from the Universal House of Justice 1963-1986, p. 335, paragraph 173.13)

    “‘Africa,’ the beloved Guardian assures us in one of the letters written on his behalf, ‘is truly awakening…'”
    (Message from The Universal House of Justice to an International Conference dated 26 September 1976, Messages From the Universal House of Justice 1963-1986, p. 341, paragraph 176.4)

    “The Guardian once described the institution of the Summer School in a letter written on his behalf, as…”
    (Letter written on behalf of The Universal House of Justice to all National Spiritual Assemblies dated Naw-Ruz 1979, Messages from the Universal House of Justice 1963-1986, p. 409, paragraph 222.9)

    The following depictions of the letters written on behalf of Shoghi Effendi are all quoted from the Explanatory Notes in the Most Holy Book prepared under the supervision of the Universal House of Justice:

    “Shoghi Effendi in a letter written on his behalf indicates…”
    (The Kitab-i-Aqdas, Note 38, p. 184)

    “Concerning the retirement from work for individuals who have reached a certain age, Shoghi Effendi in a letter written on his behalf stated…”
    (The Kitab-i-Aqdas, p. 193, Note 56)

    “Shoghi Effendi sets the prohibition into context. His secretary has written on his behalf…”
    (The Kitab-i-Aqdas, p. 194, Note 58)

    “Shoghi Effendi in a letter written on his behalf further comments…”
    (The Kitab-i-Aqdas, p. 202, Note 82)

    “With regard to this provision, Shoghi Effendi in a letter written on his behalf gives the following explanation…”
    (The Kitab-i-Aqdas, p. 203, Note 86)

    “Shoghi Effendi, in a letter written on his behalf, also declared that…”
    (The Kitab-i-Aqdas, p. 207, Note 91)

    “In a letter written on his behalf, Shoghi Effendi has commented on this provision of the law…”
    (The Kitab-i-Aqdas, p. 207, Note 92)

    “Shoghi Effendi states, in a letter written on his behalf, that …”
    (The Kitab-i-Aqdas, p. 211, Note 102)

    “As to the nature and severity of the laws of the Bayan, Shoghi Effendi in a letter written on his behalf provides the following comment:
    (The Kitab-i-Aqdas, p. 214, Note 109)

    “…the Guardian in a letter written on his behalf has stated…”
    (The Kitab-i-Aqdas, p. 220, Note 129)

    “Shoghi Effendi, in a letter written on his behalf, explained…”
    (The Kitab-i-Aqdas, p. 228, Note 149)

    “Shoghi Effendi in a letter written on his behalf to one of the believers in the East provides an interpretation of this verse of the Aqdas”
    (The Kitab-i-Aqdas, p. 240, Note 172)

    “Shoghi Effendi in a letter written on his behalf has also indicated…”
    (The Kitab-i-Aqdas, p. 241, Note 173)

    “Shoghi Effendi, in letters written on his behalf, has explained the significance of …”
    (The Kitab-i-Aqdas, p. 247, Note 188)

    The point of quoting these statements made by and on behalf of the Universal House of Justice is to show that the Guardian’s letters under discussion are not, as you assert, the secretaries’ letters – they are Shoghi Effendi’s letters, they contain *his* guidance, *his* guidelines, *his* interpretations, *his* explanations, *his* assurances, and *his* views.


    • Thanks for your comments Brent, you wrote:
      “Baha’u’llah wrote that “all affairs” are committed to the kings and rulers and to the Universal House of Justice, and that Body is “charged with the affairs of the people.”

      What are you saying here? That there is a separation of church and state? If you are arguing that my statement was incomplete because I didn’t state that the UHJ was also the Head of the Bahai community, well that’s just because I was only discussing policy making. If you mean something else, then please elaborate. Here is my text: “The UHJ has the authority to make rulings for the Bahai community not covered in Bahai Scripture.”

      I find your cutting and pasting misleading. You wrote:
      “Shoghi Effendi wrote that “all important and fundamental questions” must be referred to the Universal House of Justice, and that this Body will provide a “clearer and a fuller understanding” of the “provisions and implications” of the Master’s Will.”

      When I read this, I thought: Did Shoghi Effendi really write that the UHJ may interpret the meaning of the Will and Testament?
      Then I found the text and see that you have changed the meaning because “its” refers to “this new world order” and not the “Will and Testament”
      Here is the whole excerpt under the title “A New World Order”
      I’ve underlined ‘it’ to show how it relates to the phrase to the New World order.

      “And as we make an effort to demonstrate that love to the world may we also clear our minds of any lingering trace of unhappy misunderstandings that might obscure our clear conception of the exact purpose and methods of this new world order, so challenging and complex, yet so consummate and wise. We are called upon by our beloved Master in His Will and Testament not only to adopt it unreservedly, but to unveil its merit to all the world. To attempt to estimate its full value, and grasp its exact significance after so short a time since its inception would be premature and presumptuous on our part. We must trust to time, and the guidance of God’s Universal House of Justice, to obtain a clearer and fuller understanding of its provisions and implications.
      (Shoghi Effendi, Baha’i Administration, p. 62)

      It seems that you have changed the meaning here by cutting and pasting so that instead of new world order you are saying “its” refers to Will and Testament of Abdul-Baha whereas it is clear that Shoghi Effendi is referring the new world order (structures not scripture).

      So back to your sentence before this.
      “Abdu’l-Baha wrote that “all things,” and “all problems which have caused difference,” must be referred to the Universal House of Justice, and that “whatsoever they decide” is of God.”

      Please elaborate on the excerpts here because you have cut this down so much, I can’t find the quotations for a fuller context for Abdul-Baha’s words. And then i’ll respond.

      I appreciate you going to the trouble to respond and am happy to continue but it has taken me time to just to get to the 3rd sentence and this is a busy week for me. This is just to explain why it may take me a while to respond to all of your points.



Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: