Monday, February 27, 2012

Universal House of Fear

Baha'u'llah, founder of the Baha'i Faith in 1863, stated "The essence of all that We have revealed for thee is Justice" and designed a "new world order" including a world-wide system of elected, nine-member bodies at the local, national and international levels, with the top-most body named The Universal House of Justice (UHJ), first elected a century later in 1963. Many assumed that Baha'u'llah and his UHJ crowning a developing Baha'i Administration may eventually fulfill various messianic prophesies such as "the Kingdom of God" on earth, that the meek shall inherit the earth and the like. However, in subsequent decades, most notably in the 1980s, a growing number of Baha'is began to perceive that various corrupt practices were permeating the Baha'i Administration on all levels. This article explores the idea that the UHJ may be degenerating into a weak Universal House of Fear at a time when the Baha'i community needs strong leadership.

Several examples of the House of Fear come to mind. "In Search of Ruhi" suggested some possible implementation faults in the Ruhi program, apparently promoted by at least one contemporary UHJ member. Commenting on this article, Baquia wrote "James, you're going to get in trouble if you keep this up." Was Baquia implying the troubling notion that the UHJ or some of its members might somehow strike back at authors writing critiques on some of their pet projects, contrary to the Constitution of the UHJ? The clear implication may be that Baha'i Administrative institutions might be becoming objects to fear instead of love. Individuals and institutions that rely on fear for influence are inherently weak. The Baha'i community needs UHJ leadership exhibiting confidence and strength instead of fear and weakness.

Recent UHJ actions may belie fear of consultation, debate and diversity of ideas and opinion in the Baha'i community. The summary ex-communication (removal from membership) of Alison Marshall in New Zealand a few years ago may be a case in point. It seems the issue was whether women should be eligible for election to the UHJ, an idea which Ms. Marshall favored. Exactly what does it matter if one or more Baha'is think women should be able to serve on the UHJ? Why should this issue not be openly debated? The weak avoid debate; the strong welcome it. In prior years, a group of Baha'is in Los Angeles, California, raised this issue, but felt it necessary to present their views in a secretly distributed manuscript, fearing retribution from the Baha'i Administration. With humanity in peril of the worst economic depression in history and a possible world war, has the UHJ membership lost perspective of the highest priority issues that most merit focus and effort? The Baha'i community needs UHJ leadership exhibiting confidence and strength instead of fear and weakness.

The ex-communications of Sen McGlinn and many others provide similar examples. When the purported rationale for membership removal in the McGlinn case is read carefully, it may be clear that there was no rationale. McGlinn had done nothing different than dozens of other Baha'i writers according to the literal description of the UHJ. This lack of rationale for what may amount to religious persecution of McGlinn appears to suggest fear and weakness among the UHJ membership. Is the membership so weak that it cannot tolerate an articulate writer on Baha'i subjects? Should not the priority be to increase membership in the Baha'i Faith, not decrease it? These sorts of efforts to stifle independent investigation and expression have prompted many capable Baha'is to become inactive or simply leave the Baha'i membership roles. The Baha'i community needs UHJ leadership exhibiting confidence and strength instead of fear and weakness.

The bogus Khan-Martin doctrine of the supposed infallibility of UHJ actions, exposed as lacking any scriptural support in "Infallibility Artifice" and further debunked in "Infallibility Verdict", has revealed just how weak and fearful the UHJ membership may have become. For about two decades, Khan and Martin were allowed to promote their man-made infallibility doctrine, without any support from Baha'i scripture or from any official UHJ statement. This doctrine appears to have had only one purpose: to humiliate and weaken the UHJ as the leading administrative unit of the Baha'i World, turning the UHJ into a sort of institutional clown to be laughed at and mocked as absurd by observers in every quarter -- far from the lofty intentions and aspirations of its designer, Baha'u'llah. During this entire period when Khan and Martin and their surrogates travelled the world promoting their doctrine to disgrace the institution of the UHJ, did even a single UHJ member publicly speak up to clarify that the Khan-Martin infallibility doctrine was nothing more than a misguided theory or to oppose this assault on Baha'i interests? Did a single National Spiritual Assembly (NSA) or NSA member speak up? The Baha'i community needs UHJ leadership exhibiting confidence and strength instead of fear and weakness.

Meanwhile, silence of the Baha'i Administration on the campaign of Khan, Martin and surrogates to replace the Baha'i Faith with their revised version allowed these usurpers to plant the false idea among many Baha'is that UHJ decisions were in fact infallible. Indeed, a growing number of Baha'is came to believe that the home-brewed infallibility theory was actually based on Baha'i scripture, although nobody could produce any quotation to verify it, since available scripture dealt with inputs to, and the design of, the UHJ and not its specific decisions. Did the childish illusion that UHJ decisions were infallible act as a sort of invincibility drug for UHJ members? Rephrasing, how many UHJ decisions have been reversed in, say, the last 30 years? Can anybody name even one such case? Absence of any evidence that the UHJ can perform one of its constitutionally mandated functions -- changing prior decisions, may be viewed as yet another sign of weakness. The Baha'i community needs UHJ leadership exhibiting confidence and strength instead of fear and weakness.

"Purge Cover-Up" is the most popular article among Baha'i readers, showing abundant awareness in the international Baha'i community of the apparent failure of the Baha'i Administration to officially recognize the largest schism and loss of membership in the history of the Baha'i Faith as well as to formally issue appropriate apologies, remedies and reparations. Is it possible that the elected members of key NSAs and of the UHJ are not as aware of their own history as the community they serve, as gauged by the popularity of "Purge Cover-Up"? Strong, confident UHJ leadership might have addressed these pressing issues thoroughly and effectively years ago. The Baha'i community needs UHJ leadership exhibiting confidence and strength instead of fear and weakness.

Among many out-spoken authors, Baquia continues to document the freeze in the elected membership of most major NSAs and of the UHJ in Baha'i Administration. As suggested in "Bondage by Baha'i Election", Baha'i voters elect persons who voters deemed to be "best qualified" in prior years, rather than assessing who may be "best qualified" at election time. As a result, the elected membership of many NSAs and the UHJ has come to resemble a powerful, entrenched elite, similar to that which controls secular political parties. Can these elected NSA and UHJ members be unaware of this trend which can severely impair realization of Baha'u'llah's vision? "Bondage by Baha'i Election" suggested several obvious remedies, some of which have been on the table from other authors for many years, such as term limits. Has there been any hint from these NSAs and the UHJ that a remedy to this serious problem is being considered? How many of these members have announced their resignations effective on the date of the next election, to allow Baha'i voters to improve their voting performance by electing other qualified persons? How many of these existing NSA and UHJ members can honestly say that their performance merits re-election? Is silence on this problem consistent with adequate performance of administrative duties or alternatively, with fear, weakness and even incompetence? The Baha'i community needs UHJ leadership exhibiting confidence and strength instead of fear and weakness.

The need to renew and invigorate the Baha'i Administration, to exit from apparent inaction, elitism, fear, weakness and lack of creativity, continues to gain priority as political and economic problems in the secular world increase in severity and as the next UHJ election in 2013 approaches. Will the Baha'i community suffer more of the same? Since the UHJ is elected by NSA members, the annual NSA elections come into sharp focus in April, 2012. Can there be any excuse for failure by delegates in those elections to replace the entire membership of most NSAs with new blood of qualified persons? Can delegates actually do their job and research prospects for new members? It may be that no less will be required to elect an entirely new UHJ. The power of the elected bodies -- NSAs and the UHJ, resides in great part in the teaching that members should follow the dictates of their own conscience. Likewise, the power of Baha'i voters arises from their ability in each election cycle to issue a vote of confidence or no-confidence whereby some or all members of a Baha'i institution are replaced with persons deemed to be better qualified at that time to fulfil Baha'u'llah's vision. Will Baha'i voters arise to this challenge in 2012 and 2013? Will they make some effort to replace the elitists who, intentionally or unintentionally, have come to occupy key elected positions "for life", contrary to the Baha'i precept that elected members are "lay persons", not permanent administrators until death? The Baha'i community needs UHJ leadership exhibiting confidence and strength instead of fear and weakness.
© 2012 James J Keene

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