Archive for the ‘gemeenschap’ Category


Time changes… an interview with a young American Baha’i

April 25, 2013

He spent 4 years hanging out with Baha’is and then signed his declaration card 2 months before this interview took place.

What was your first exposure to the Baha’is? Were you openly gay then?

I first met a Baha’i via my boyfriend in college. His best friend is married to a Baha’i and we would go over their house for couples game night. So yes, I was openly gay from my very first contact with the Baha’i community. At some point we got into a conversation about religion, and they were really good conversations!

For about 6 months it was just good conversation. Then I learned about progressive revelation and asked how Buddhism fits when there is no direct concept of God.
What that conversation revealed to me about the nature of God and the importance of context over absolute truth really made an impression on me. So now this was more than just good conversation. It was something worth serious investigation.

Tell me more about your religious background and your experience growing up and coming out.

Long story short: My family are Jehovah’s Witnesses. I was one of those kids you could point to and say he’ll probably be gay.
I wasn’t effeminate, but I didn’t like rough play as a child and loved dolls and horses. I first realized it at age 11. Started actively fighting it at age 13 with the help of my parents. Stopped fighting and came out at 19 and I was celibate for two more years.

Coming out was no fun. When I officially came out at 19, my parents were disappointed but couldn’t do much since I was celibate. When I was excommunicated from the Jehovah’s Witnesses community at 20, however, it was a different story. I didn’t talk to my family for 6 months to avoid bringing shame on them. When I finally did tell them they moved from the next state over and blackmailed me into moving in with them, threatening to stop paying for school if I didn’t, and they tried taking me back to church. They imposed a curfew on me. They outed me to my extended family, half of whom now pretend I’m a ghost when we’re in the same room together. No talking, No eye contact. I couldn’t have a civil conversation with my mother for 8 months when she found out. Five years on, and I now have a fairly productive relationship with my parents where we talk about our work and so on, and avoid mentioning my sexuality except that every 6 months or so, there’s an argument about why I’m still gay.

Luckily I had supportive friends and a supportive university psychiatrist when I came out.

Participating in a LGBT bible study at the Methodist ministry on campus did a lot to help me resolve my spiritual issues, as my life was falling apart with the battles I was having at home.

So what happened next in your journey?
I spent the next two years learning all I could about the Faith. At first it was mostly focused on theology and there were several other obstacles I had to overcome such as women on the U.H.J., the nature of ‘infallibility’, and the marriage laws, along with reconciling Baha’i beliefs with my fundamentalist Christian background. I used the book “Responding: 101 questions often asked of Baha’is” as the basis for many long conversations. Even though I was asking difficult questions and was confrontational at times, I never felt my questions were unwelcome or out of bounds. Each Baha’i I spoke with saw my sincerity and was eager to engage and to share their experiences and opinions along with explaining the official Baha’i position. Even when the answers were unsatisfactory to me and we continued to disagree, they did not dismiss me but respected my conscience and continued inviting me to participate in their community. As a scientist from a fundamentalist background this made a big impression on me.

Of course the Faith’s stance on homosexuality was probably my biggest obstacle. If it weren’t for that issue I probably would’ve declared 6 months after learning about the Baha’i Faith. But my biggest fear was of getting involved in another religious community and then having to endure the excommunication and shunning I had experienced as a Witness. This fear kept my investigation, earnest though it was, somewhat academic for a long time. Some of the texts on the subject are quite harsh in their wording, especially letters on behalf of Shoghi Effendi. But there was so much that was good about this Faith and the Baha’is I knew.

Eventually two things helped me to allay my concerns. First, exposing myself to different Baha’i perspectives online helped me to understand the Baha’i definition of infallibility and how it applies to the Baha’i writings. Combined with the Baha’i principle that science and faith should be complimentary, and understanding the different roles of the Guardianship and the U.H.J., most of my concerns about homosexuality were allayed. Second was the quality of the Baha’is I met in the community. Over time I came to realize that even if I was not able to have a Baha’i marriage, I would still be welcome in the community and it would be a place where I could feel safe raising my kids. Not all Baha’is would agree with me but that’s OK. The quickest path to truth is unity in diversity. And the Baha’is showed me that I was more than welcome to be a part of that.

Some other things happened along the way including 2 trips to the Wilmette temple and several frank conversations with LGBT Baha’is of various stripes. I decided to publicly declare my faith in Baha’u’llah in February of 2013.

You said that roughly a third of the population in your city area are openly gay individuals. Why do you think this is so high?
This is a metropolis in a culturally conservative part of the county, so gay people move here because it’s easier to live openly.

What sort of impact do you think this has on your Baha’i community and in your view how has this affected how you are accepted as an openly gay man and a Baha’i?
I think it means that the Baha’i community is familiar with the LGBT community and there’s less prejudice and ignorance than there probably is in other places. Also they see multiple definitions of what it means to be gay. It’s not just parties and bathhouses, we come in as many varieties and lifestyles as straight people. So there is less suspicion among the straight Baha’is and less doubt about my intentions and morality. It means Baha’is in my community can see the possibility of me leading a Baha’i lifestyle as a gay man.

They may not agree, but they see the possibility and respect my conscience. And, frankly, many of them show that they are happy to see me actively participating in the community. They realize this is a contentious issue that leaves people feeling as if the GLBT community is outside the scope of the Baha’i community. And that doesn’t sit well with them. They recognize the need to have more GLBT people involved in the community. Also the fact that I’m active in the community helps others to see aspects to my personality outside of my sexuality and this lightens any discord that might be caused by my sexuality.

I was blessed in that all three Baha’is I initially had contact with identified as GLBT, even though I didn’t know it at the time. So my initial exposure to the community was sensitive to my concerns as an openly gay seeker. One of the things I did before enrolling was to make an effort to get to know as many GLBT Baha’is as possible. Within my own local Baha’i community there’s a wide spectrum: one gay man is married to a woman; one bisexual woman is married to a man; there’s a single gay who keeps his gay and Baha’i identities separate, while being out to the important people in his life; another Baha’i is a closeted gay; and now there’s me. I also came across a Baha’i from another community who is in a same-sex marriage who is active in his community and served on his LSA for a time. I also familiarized myself with the stories of gay Baha’is who did not have positive experiences with the Faith. Having all these perspectives helped me to have a representative view of what the gay Baha’i experience could be like and whether I could see a place for not only myself but also my future family in this community.

I had one of these friends raise my concerns with the local LSA, since she was secretary at the time, and I got a very nice response from them as a seeker. The gist of the response from the LSA was this: “Baha’i law is Baha’i law, and it is our job to enforce it. However, we are not in the business of prying if you’re not flagrantly making us look bad. And even if you choose not to enrol there is still much you can benefit from and we would love to have your contributions to our community.” This made me feel very welcome and helped alleviate some of the pressure I felt to resolve all my conflicts before getting involved with the community. The Baha’is didn’t seem to be nearly as concerned as I was whether I had the “right” beliefs. They were most concerned that I was actively involved in my journey and that the community would benefit from what I had to offer for however long I chose to associate with the Baha’is. After this I started becoming more actively involved in the Baha’i community. Before I declared I had attended talks, devotionals, deepenings, and even a Baha’i feast.

So given what you have said about the diversity of those in your community, I guess you knew that identifying openly as being gay wasn’t seen as a bad thing and wouldn’t be considered being flagrant.
Nope. I knew same-sex marriage was a controversial topic. But homosexuality in itself was not something rejected by the community. It might cause some temporary discomfort as people reminded themselves about Baha’u’llah’s teachings on prejudice, equality and inclusion, especially since many come from an evangelical or Baptist background. The general mood seems to be that being openly gay may be awkward but most Baha’is in my community show that they are actively working to overcome this. There’s a bit of a “don’t ask, don’t tell” attitude with the LGBT Baha’is who were raised in the community, which is understandable given where we are on this issue in the wider culture.
But it’s something that many in the community both straight and gay are working to improve. The important thing is that the community is not looking for black and white reasons to include or exclude, but rather they are looking at how you apply the Baha’i principles in your life. They look for the fruits and judge that rather than with whom or how you express yourself.

So you mean some Baha’is did say to you that being gay wasn’t OK or said that Baha’u’llah forbade it?
No one said anything as direct as this, but the feeling is there. I still live in a conservative part of the country and many Baha’is come from conservative religious and cultural traditions. That’s why being active in the community is so important for me. It gives others a chance to see evidence of my commitment to Baha’u’llah and that the majority of my life – any gay person’s life – is spent outside the bedroom. Some Baha’is in my community believe that Baha’is can’t have a same sex marriage and some are uncomfortable with this, while others feel it’s perfectly justified.

However, nobody is pressuring me to date women or play more football or anything.
At least here in the States, most people who live in bigger cities are comfortable enough around gay people and have enough exposure to be able to see us and not automatically think of sex, regardless of whether they support or oppose civil or religious gay marriage.

To give you an impression of the wider Baha’i community in my area here’s a story I submitted to the “” forum:

Recently I told a Persian Baha’i colleague that I was gay. He’s an older gentleman, and during the Fast we’d been going on walks during our lunch hour once or twice a week. I’d found our walks very encouraging and uplifting so then I decided to open up to him.

I started by telling him about a sermon I had listened to by the founder of the Gay Christian Network, Justin Lee, on how God is an artist and why I thought that illustration fits well with Baha’i ideas. We all have different potentialities to develop the assortment of virtues/colors. And while there are rules to painting, sometimes they have to be broken to create a masterpiece. And God’s primary concern isn’t maintaining the letter of the law, but in creating masterpieces. I would definitely recommend checking it out here.

I then asked him for his thoughts on marriage and whether we focus too much on romance here in the West. After talking about that for about 10 minutes he asked me if I had a girlfriend, like I figured he would. I told him I had a boyfriend and that things are going well. He was surprised by the revelation but he took it in stride. No theological debates, no prejudiced comments or looks, no insistence that I’m sick or in need of therapy or that I should try dating women.
He reiterated that science and religion must agree so he expects the UHJ to rule on this eventually and that until then we must strive to adhere to the laws we do have and that, at the end of the day, whatever we do, we must be able to answer to our God with our heads held high. To which I agreed and added that I do expect to be able to have a Baha’i marriage someday based on what I know of the Writings and science and my own personal experience. And that even if I can’t have a Baha’i wedding I do intend to apply Baha’i principles to my union, whatever it is called. Even if I cannot adhere to the letter of the law, keeping with the spirit of it will only help me and those in the community who see.

We then continued our walk and our conversation about marriage and the purpose of laws. It was a great conversation. While I’m working on a need-to-know basis with my sexuality I have never been closeted in my interactions with the Baha’i community. And, in general, people have either been openly supportive or politely neutral. I’ve never felt judged or treated differently after people found out.

Now would this Baha’i support gay marriage on a ballot? I don’t know. But what I do know is that he is committed to his faith, while at the same time being open to learning from the experiences of others and adjusting his perspectives as new information comes along. He is why I have faith that the Baha’i community will eventually find its way through this issue.

Unlike a lot of religious communities, Baha’is are very much engaged in the non-Baha’i world around them. And that constant interaction with different ideas and perspectives and worldviews helps us to refine our own, to know the limits of what we know for sure. Often this ends up forcing us to narrow the scope of what we know for sure and embrace the constantly shifting shades of gray built into human experience. Admittedly I live in a very gay city, it is number 1 by percentage of the population, last time I checked. So my experience is by no means universal or even typical among Baha’i communities. It probably won’t be for a while yet. But it shows things are getting better. Being exposed to happy, healthy, religious, productive members of society who happen to also be GLBT helps. It doesn’t eliminate the controversy or even change minds necessarily. But by keeping the issue in front of people our presence in the community keeps the conversation open. And that’s the most important thing. People can only endure cognitive dissonance for so long when they are constantly reminded of it.

That’s why it’s so important for us to not only be out, but to stay engaged with our spiritual communities if at all possible. Yes, it means enduring injustice. I’m not saying we should keep allowing people to hurt us. Lord knows how many of us have been scarred on our souls by the “good intentions” of religious people, even Baha’is. I still have family that won’t talk to me since I was excommunicated from the Jehovah’s Witnesses. But we can’t let that poison us, poison our relationship with God, poison our relationship with our communities. Ultimately that just hurts us and allows ignorance and injustice to persist that much longer.

Know your limits. But do what you can. Don’t give up. There’s hope.

I share this Baha’is hope that the Bahai community will eventually find a way through. I think there is nothing in Baha’i Scripture to inhibit the possibility of same sex marriage, but for those Bahais who think that there is something in Baha’i Scripture which implies that marriage is restricted to marriage between one man and one woman: here’s a quotation from a talk given by ‘Abdul-Baha:
“Time changes, and when time changes the laws have to change.”

What ‘Abdul-Baha means here is not to change the law, but not to enforce a religious law that is no longer relevant. Religious laws are “the accidentals of religion” and “useful in accordance with the exigencies of the time.” These fall under what Baha’u’llah refers to as social teachings. So if a social teaching or religious law is in conflict with the principle of equality or justice, if we follow ‘Abdul-Baha’s example, we do not enforce it.

The context for this quotation is below:
“In the Taurat there are ten commandments concerning the murderer. Is it possible to carry these out? Can these ten ordinances, concerning the treatment of murderers, be enforced?
Modern times are such that even the question of capital punishment – the one form which some nations have decided to enforce in relation to a murderer – is a mooted question. Wise men are consulting as to its feasibility or otherwise. So everything that is valid is only valid for the time being. The exigency of that time demanded that if a man committed theft to the extent of a dollar they would chop off his hand, but now you cannot cut off a man’s hand for a thousand dollars. You cannot do it; it is impossible. This is true, for it was useful for that time, but things are useful in accordance with the exigencies of the time. Time changes, and when time changes the laws have to change. But remember, these are not of importance; they are the accidentals of religion.”

From the middle of a talk given at to congregation in the synagogue, the Temple Emanuel, (Emmanu-El) in San Francisco on Saturday, October 12, 1912, in Star of the West Vol. 3, No. 13, p. 3, which corresponds to The Promulgation of Universal Peace, p. 365.
Talks in “Star of the West” are more reliable as a source than Promulgation of Universal Peace because the editor of Promulgation of Universal Peace was sometimes very free in what he added to the text.
Talks in the volumes of “Star of the West” are not authentic scripture unless they can be verified by a Persian version.
There are notes in Mahmud’s diary from p. 299 of Vol 1, which closely reflect the Star of the West version above. Mahmud’s dairy is a personal recollection by Mahmud Zarqani which ‘Abdul-Baha encouraged him to write. It was written during ‘Abdul’-Baha’s lifetime and so it is very likely that Abdul-Baha read this.
One day if Persian notes for the above can be found, then this could be treated as authentically by ‘Abdul-Baha.


Why I made this blog

September 5, 2009

The following is a letter I sent to my NSA and the individual who made the comment about the email I had posted on the Dutch Bahai e-list. I think it is self-explanatory.

5 September 2009

Dear PP and the members of the National Assembly of the Bahais of the Netherlands,

I am writing in English because I experienced a case of my words in Dutch, being misinterpreted by PP on the “berichten-bahai lijst” (a Dutch language email bahai list). If I had been able to correct this misinterpretation of my words on the same list this would not be a problem, but then my email address was blocked, so I could not respond and correct the false impression left with the readers. My emails to the person in charge of the email list got no response, so I was left in the dark as to why my emails to the list were being rejected, while other emails were being posted to the list.

Then on Friday, September 4th, I asked a Dutch Bahai to forward my response to the list on my behalf. She did this and then forwarded me a letter that the N.S.A. had sent to all members of this Bahai list, informing everyone that the list is now closed to input from individuals. Emails from others on the same list had come through until Thursday, so I assume that only I was blocked from sending messages in the past week. Since I did not get the letter the NSA sent to the berichten list on Friday evening, I guess that I have been removed from the list.

It is now clear to me that after PP’s response to me on the list, someone decided that I had no right of response. I see this as going against Bahai principle of justice, because now readers on that list will think that PP’s misinterpretation of my intention is correct. Dutch is a second language for me, so that’s why I didn’t see that the words could be interpreted in the way that PP did. I’m not upset with PP, but I think it is unjust that I have no chance to correct the impression he has given of my words, and that whoever first blocked me, and later removed me, from the Berichten list should have informed me, and checked the facts, which would have given me a chance to correct any misunderstandings. It is my understanding that consultation and justice are important principles of the Bahai community.

Given that there was no response to my emails and that I was not sent the letter sent to others on the list informing everyone that input to the list is now closed, the best solution to this situation is to send you the response that was blocked, so that you will know what I had intended by the words ‘maar alleen’ (in English this means ‘but only’ which given the context of the sentence, does not indicate a lesser value).

I would appreciate it if a message could go to the Berichten list saying that I was blocked from posting to the list on Sunday August 30th, and that I had wished to correct a misunderstanding of my words and regret not being able to do so.

In the spirit of openness, which is very important to me, I am also posting this (with names and emails deleted) on a blog, so anyone can read this for themselves.

I am doing this, not as a form of protest but in the spirit of openness and what seems to me as the wisest course of action in response to what has happened.

The Bahai Faith is a fantastic religion and has nothing to hide.

“It is likewise so in the world of religion. When freedom of conscience, liberty of thought and right of speech prevail, that is to say, when every man according to his idealization may give utterance to his own beliefs development and growth are inevitable.”

(‘Abdul-Baha, Star of the West, Vol. 3, No. 10, p. 19)

For me the Bahai principle of independent investigation means that individuals, any individual, may have access, as much as is feasible or possible, to the source of things themselves so that they may decide for themselves. And so anyone is free to read the text here:

I am also putting all of this online on a blog because I have seen how rumours and backbiting about issues or people can be so destructive. Bahais need to be able to check the facts, ask questions, express themselves, discuss issues and change their views as a result of the discussion (myself included of course). Forums for discussion are a vital part of any community.

I am sorry to see the berichten list closed to individual input and discussion. If the problem had been because of my response to PP or because of my original posting sent a day earlier, then, if I had been informed that ‘berichten’ was not the forum for discussing issues related to homosexuality and the Bahai writings, I would not have posted on this topic in that case.

Yours sincerely,

Sonja van Kerkhoff

The following is the email that was blocked from the Dutch Bahai e-list
(Click anywhere on the Dutch text for the English translation)

Hoi Iedereen,

Sinds zondag worden mijn emails aan de berichten-lijst geweigerd, dus heb ik JJ gevraagt als zij dit email namens mij aan dit lijst wilt sturen.

Bedankt aan iedereen voor de reacties op mijn email. Als ik weer toegang krijg, zou ik aan hun reageren.

Bedankt voor jouw reactie PP, Je schreef:

“Los van het onderwerp dat je wilt aansnijden, ben ik het niet eens met je zin formulering en de strekking er van: “Iets dat niet in de Geschriften van….staat, MAAR ALLEEN in de brieven namens Shoghi Effendi en in de brieven van het Universele Huis van gerechtigheid.”

Sorry, mijn ‘maar alleen’ was helemaal niet zo bedoeld. Bedoeld was, dat de teksten expliciet over homoseksualiteit zijn ALLEMAAL of brieven namens Shoghi Effendi of brieven van het Universele Huis van Gerechtigheid. De verschillende soorten teksten hebben elke hun eigen regels voor het lezen en toepassen. Als een groep teksten allemaal brieven van Shoghi Effendi zijn, zouden we hetzelfde principes op die toepassen.

Een brief namens Shoghi Effendi zegt over deze brieven: “their style [is] certainly not the same, and their authority less” (voor tekst omheen en bron zie onderaan) – dat hun autoriteit is minder dan dat van wat Shoghi Effendi zelf schreef.

Maar wat betekent ‘minder’ autoriteit? Dat ze zijn niet woord voor woord van Shoghi Effendi is duidelijk, maar is hun autoriteit dan ook zo algemeen als de woorden van Shoghi Effendi, of een autoriteit voor de onmiddellijk handelen van degene die een vraag had gesteld, in die situatie?

Shoghi Effendi zei ook dat hij had zelf geen wetgevende macht. Als men zegt dat een brief namens Shoghi Effendi geldt als regel voor alle Bahai’s voor altijd, is het dus ‘de wet’ op hetzelfde niveau als de woorden van Baha’u’llah. Maar kan een secretaris van Shoghi Effendi een wetgevende macht heb, als Shoghi Effendi die macht niet heeft? Zou zo’n toepassing de bedoeling van Shoghi Effendi kunnen zijn?

De brieven van de UHG geven ons regels voor het handelen, maar wat de UHG een keer zegt, kan het later ook veranderen. Shoghi Effendi schreef dat “flexibility” is een van de redenen waarom wij een UHG hebben (Shoghi Effendi, The World Order of Baha’u’llah, p. 148). Omdat de brieven van het UHG over ons huidige handelen gaan, en niet over de interpretatie van het Bahai leer, kunnen we over de verschillende mogelijkheiden discussiëren (bijv. toekomstige houding met homohuwelijk), zonder dat we het autoriteit of waardigheid van het UHG verminderen. Ik heb nog verder gedachten, onderbouwd met citaten, in het engels geschreven hier:

…I have written further ideas, supported with quotations, in English below:

Bahais accept the Bahai Writings as being only that authored by The Bab, Baha’u’llah and ‘Adbul-Baha. And Shoghi Effendi’s own writing only defines the Bahai teachings where it interprets the Bahai Scriptures.

So let’s start with the Kitab-i-Aqdas as we have it in English because it is the only place in a text of Bahai Scripture where there is something concerning homosexuality mentioned.

In the preface to this book it is written by the Universal House of Justice or the Research department (no author is given in the 1992 edition for the preface) that:

“In 1953 Shoghi Effendi, the Guardian of the Bahá’í Faith, included as one of the goals of his Ten Year Plan the preparation of a Synopsis and Codification of the Laws and Ordinances of the Kitáb-i-Aqdas as an essential prelude to its translation. He himself worked on the codification, but had not finished it when he died in 1957. The task was continued on the basis of his work, and the resulting volume was released in 1973. That publication included, in addition to the Synopsis and Codification itself and explanatory notes, a compilation of the passages from the Kitáb-i-Aqdas which had already been translated by Shoghi Effendi and published in various books.”

The Kitab-i-Aqdas, p. vii

Nothing indicates which parts where penned by Shoghi Effendi in his role as interpretator of the Baha’u’llah’s Writings and what was not written by him, so we have to take all text apart from what is in the Aqdas as either something the UHJ is interpreting, which we know they cannot do or as commentary open for debate, even should the UHJ then decide that some point in the commentary is now to be law they have legislated on. I make this point, because even should the UHJ make a law to legislate that, for example, same sex marriage is forbidden by Bahais, we as Bahais would still be free to discuss and debate this. The laws that the UHJ makes one year, it can also change next year. Obedience to laws doesn’t mean silence. And of course, if Bahais may not discuss or debate laws the UHJ have made, well, that leaves very little room for the Bahai principle of independent investigation, let alone the possibility for Bahai communities to address or relate or to understand these laws.

So now to the text of the Aqdas as it is in the 1992 edition in English:

“We shrink, for very shame, from treating of the subject of boys.”

Baha’u’llah, The Kitab-i-Aqdas, p. 58

And now to what is in the notes to the Aqdas. The Research department or the UHJ have written in the notes section:

” 134. the subject of boys # 107

The word translated here as “boys” has, in this context, in the Arabic original, the implication of paederasty. Shoghi Effendi has interpreted this reference as a prohibition on all homosexual relations. The Bahá’í teachings on sexual morality centre on marriage and the family as the bedrock of the whole structure of human society and are designed to protect and strengthen that divine institution. Bahá’í law thus restricts permissible sexual intercourse to that between a man and the woman to whom he is married.
In a letter written on behalf of Shoghi Effendi it is stated:

No matter how devoted and fine the love may be between people of the same sex, to let it find expression in sexual acts is wrong. To say that it is ideal is no excuse. Immorality of every sort is really forbidden by Bahá’u’lláh, and homosexual relationships He looks upon as such, besides being against nature. To be afflicted this way is a great burden to a conscientious soul. But through the advice and help of doctors, through a strong and determined effort, and through prayer, a soul can overcome this handicap.
Bahá’u’lláh makes provision for the Universal House of Justice to determine, according to the degree of the offence, penalties for adultery and sodomy (Q and A 49).”

ibid, p. 223

So let’s assume this is the voice of the UHJ of the early 1990s because this publication is considered an official document by the Bahai Administration. That the UHJ state “Shoghi Effendi has interpreted” and then refer a letter written on behalf of Shoghi Effendi, indicates that they are treating letters written on behalf of Shoghi Effendi as if Shoghi Effendi himself wrote them. The letter they quote above does not have a reference to anything in Bahai Scripture and the letter does not state that it is an interpretation. This is very important if we are serious about what really is part of unchangeable Bahai Scripture and what isn’t.

Unfortunately Shoghi Effendi never penned anything himself in regards to the status of these letters written on his behalf, except I assume, when he must have been annoyed enough to ask a secretary to write the following:

“I wish to call your attention to certain things in “Principles of Bahá’í Administration” which has just reached the Guardian; although the material is good, he feels that the complete lack of quotation marks is very misleading. His own words, the words of his various secretaries, even the Words of Bahá’u’lláh Himself, are all lumped together as one text. This is not only not reverent in the case of Bahá’u’lláh’s Words, but misleading. Although the secretaries of the Guardian convey his thoughts and instructions and these messages are authoritative, their words are in no sense the same as his, their style certainly not the same, and their authority less, for they use their own terms and not his exact words in conveying his messages. He feels that in any future edition this fault should be remedied, any quotations from Bahá’u’lláh or the Master plainly attributed to them, and the words of the Guardian clearly differentiated from those of his secretaries.”

Shoghi Effendi, The Unfolding Destiny of the British Baha’i Community, p. 260

What this doesn’t tell us, is whether the ‘authority’ of the letters by secretaries is an extension of the Guardian’s executive authority as head of the Faith — meaning, “it must be obeyed by the addresse” or of the Guardian’s authority as authorised interpreter of the writings, meaning “they become part of the sacred text.” What we can say is there is nothing explicit to indicate that a letter by a secretary can share in the Guardian’s unique role as authorised interpreter. There is also nothing explicit to say that the Guardian’s secretaries do not share the authority of interpretation. However the phrase “their authority less” seems to suggest this, because an exective authority can be greater or less, direct or indirect, can apply to a local or individual situation or to all Bahai communities, but when the Guardian interprets scripture that interpretation becomes part of the scripture concerned.

If something is considered part of the Bahai Writings, it cannot be changed. That is, sex with children can never be OK in Bahai law, because this is part of what Baha’u’llah’s text in the Aqdas. All the texts in the notes have been penned by others and unless the texts in the notes refer to quotations from the Bahai Scripture themselves, they are all open to change by the UHJ. I would also imagine that if the UHJ were to make a law, that it would clearly state that it was making a law. So in my view, it is unclear to me what the actual status is of the texts in the notes section. I make this point because in 1992 when the Aqdas was first printed in English a list of corrections was distributed about 6 months later. In regards to the Aqdas, the corrections were minor things like typos, but in the notes, sometimes a whole paragraph was deleted, such as in note 108. I can only assume that this paragraph no longer reflects the position or thinking of the UHJ whereas at an earlier time it did.

The UHJ is free to change the texts of the notes as it wishes. Perhaps this could be seen as them making laws? I don’t know. Rather than debating whether or not the UHJ make law when they make statements in official Bahai documents, I prefer to focus on the principle of Bahai Law as I understand it, in general behind this. That is, anything UHJ decides or states is subject to change by a later UHJ. If any statement on the wrongs of homosexuality is by UHJ, then it is subject to change.

— gr. sonja

The English section above is more or less what I wrote a few weeks ago here:

Below is my original post to the e-list which PP responded to.

zaterdag 29 augustus 2009 16:04

Subject: [Berichten] Ze denken zeker dat God gek is… > gelijkwaardigheid

over het thema “diversiteit”

Wat momenteel voor mij van belang is gaat over het ongelijke behandelen van homo’s in de bahai gemeenschap.

Iets dat niet in de Geschrijften van De Bab, Baha’u’llah, Adul-Baha of de
officiele interpretaties van Shoghi Effendi staat, maar alleen in de brieven geschreven namens Shoghi Effendi en in de brieven van de UHG.

Trouwens voor iemand mij kwalijk neemt, bahais mogen andere meningen dan Het Universele Huis van Gerechtigheid hebben en ook discusseren. Gehoorzaamheid is niet hetzelfde als stilte van gedachte. Maar meer belangrijk Het Universele Huis van Gerechtigheid kan alleen flexibel werken als Bahais over alles discusseren en proberen hun religie in relatie
met hun omgeving te brengen.

Ik heb dit in engels geintroduceerd onder thema “Change is a Law of Nature”
hier >>

een commentaar van mij op wat in de Aqdas staat hier

een commentaar op het idee dat an Het Universele Huis van Gerechtigheid
heeft een wet erover gemaakt:

een commentaar over het bahai principe dat wij de wetten van ons land
moeten gehoorzamen (en een beetje over ideeen over de rol van
religieuze wetten)

Ik ben benieuwd hoe Bahais in nederland hierover, want ik heb geen flauw
idee. Mijn homo kennisen hier in nederland hebben helemaal geen behoefte aan een religie die hun discrimineert. Mijn enige homo Bahai kennisen wonen in andere landen waar de meerderheid zijn opgegroeid in een bahai gezin.

Jaren geleden had ik voor het laatst iets over dit onderwerp op deze lijst geschreven en de reactie van een aantal was dat zij vonden dit geen onderwerp voor de berichten lijst was. Ik hoop dat dat niet meer het geval is, maar, geen zorg, ik laat dit liggen als dat de mening van deze groep is.
En zorg niet, voor mij is dit een heel belangrijk onderwerp maar ik respecteer dat voor anderen dit geen belangrijk onderwerp is.

gr. Sonja

October 2009

Just prior to this phone call in October 2009, a Bahai told me that my response had been posted to the list on the morning it was closed down, but because I was blocked from the list I was unaware of this.

Dear X

Thank you for your phone call inviting me for a meeting with you and another person on behalf of the N.S.A. of the Netherlands.

As I understand it, this is in response to my letter sent to the N.S.A. on September 5th, concerning my removal from the “berichten” list and the banning of my messages to the list.

I asked on the phone if my husband could also be at this meeting and found it confusing that you said no, I could only come to this alone, but also told me this was not a condition for the meeting. That made me realise that already there is some miscommunication. That is also why I repeated the question whether this was an “eis” (condition) twice to be sure.

So, for the sake of clarity, I am replying in a letter for the N.S.A., which I hope will be less confusing.

I was hurt and surprised that you told me my husband, Sen McGlinn was not allowed to be present at the meeting. I was surprised because in the past when Sen had a meeting with the counsellors and asked if I could be present, there was no objection.

In our family we consult and as a married couple it is our choice, where possible to do important things together. I saw this meeting as something important.

This is the main reason I see little point in a meeting. The second reason is that it is not clear to me what this meeting is about.

Assuming that it is in response to my letter and that my questions were not clear, I’ll rephrase them here.

Since I wrote that letter I have learnt that my message was sent to the “berichten-lijst,” only I did not know this because I had been removed. Since readers to the list could have seen my response to PP’s comments, for me the matter is closed. I’ve had a chance to correct the misunderstanding for the list members.
As I understand it, I am now blocked from the berichten list, if it exists. I have no idea. Of course, it is not the responsibility of the N.S.A. to inform me, but as a member of your Bahai community I’d appreciate being informed if:

1. I am blocked from this list forever
2. What do I need to do to join or what conditions I need to follow to be able to join

I realise the members of the N.S.A. are very busy people and I
appreciate this, so of course, I am not demanding a response.

I will assume if there is no response that I am blocked from the
‘berichten lijst’ forever and will make no further attempts to join. And so there is no concern for the N.S.A. I also will not make any attempts to participate in any future Dutch language email groups or forums either.

The comments that I originally made on the “berichten lijst,” in
response to an individual’s comments in favour of openness, was an attempt to discuss the issue of homosexuality in a Bahai context, in the hope of of increasing understanding and hearing other Bahais’ views. It is clear to me because I was immediately blocked from responding, that this is not welcome as a topic at this time. I am sure that are many reasons for this, and it is not my place to speculate why.

I hope my comments were not the reason the list was shut down as I do think discussion and consultation are very important. This is why I am stating that I will not participate in any Dutch language Bahai e- list again. To me it is more important that Dutch Bahais talk to each other on various issues than that I am involved.

Life is very good and as a Bahai I feel blessed, so even though I am removing myself from the possibility of any Dutch Bahai e-list. so the N.S.A. does not have to remove me, should that be a concern. It does not mean that I feel any less a Bahai. There are many ways of doing service.

In the spirit of openess, I will also put this on my blog and so
everyone will know I have chosen to remove myself from any Dutch Bahai e-lists or discussions. In the same spirit of openness you are free to share this letter and my letter of September 5th with anyone.

yours sincerely,

Sonja van Kerkhoff



September 5, 2009

“Love is a light that never dwelleth in a heart possessed by fear”

Baha’u’llah, The Four Valleys, p. 58

I am an artist and a Bahai living in the Netherlands. I’ve started this blog in response to being blocked from a Dutch Bahai e-list (August 30th 2009). My first blog says more about this, and about the topic I was discussing at the time: homosexuality and the Bahai writings.

Misunderstandings can happen, and it certainly was painful to me that I was silenced from this list. This blog is an attempt at a constructive response to the situation.
An attempt at what the Bahai teachings inspire in me. It is an attempt at openness, dialogue and discussion, to show that even mistakes or misinterpretations are not dangerous. In fact I’d argue that freedom of expression (bearing in mind of course respect for particular contexts) is a Bahai principle.

It is likewise so in the world of religion. When freedom of conscience, liberty of thought and right of speech prevail, that is to say, when every man according to his idealization may give utterance to his own beliefs development and growth are inevitable.

‘Abdul-Baha, Star of the West, Vol. 3, No. 10, p. 19

Rumours or backbiting about issues or people are destructive. In fact in the Gleanings from the Writings of Baha’u’llah, Bahais are told to

“regard backbiting as grievous error, and keep himself aloof from its dominion, inasmuch as backbiting quencheth the light of the heart, and extinguisheth the life of the soul.”

(p. 265).

So I will monitor comments and delete any that backbite as well as any rants against the Bahai Faith. I intend this blog to be for discussion or debate on Bahai-related topics. Anonymous comments are welcome! Just type in ‘sss’ as your name and ‘’ as your email address.