"Church and State" (200%) as a free PDF file, and the state of play today

Sen McGlinn

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I have uploaded my 2005 Master’s dissertation, "Church and State" here:

Since 2005, Bahai Studies has moved on. What was once somewhat controversial is now accepted as common sense: the separation of Church and State is one of the central Bahai teachings. In 2010, in his ‘Hegemony and Revelation’ article (in Religious Studies and Theology 29.1 (2010) 123–138 ), Roshan Danesh rejects … “any claim that the intention of Baha’u’llah’s “new world order” is for Bahai political institutions, and the Bahai community, to claim, and acquire, temporal power” and attributes such views in the past to “popular Bahai discourse” (pp 136, 133). In March 2021, the Youtube channel “Bahai Faith, Modern Perspectives” posted a recent presentation given by Dr. Behrooz Sabet. At 28 minutes, following an introduction to the two goals of cultural and moral transformation and the renewal of the political and economic structures of society, he says (and his slide presentation shows): “Bahais believe in separation of church and state, non-involvement in partisan politics…”

In the question time, at 53 minutes, he is asked “Would the separation of Church and State mean that the Bahai institutions like the Local and Universal Houses of Justice remain as internal institutions of the Faith and not for ruling over general society?” While saying that he has no specific answer, Dr. Sabet says “definitely certain principles will be… We need to mention, to remember, and that is, separation of church and state is one of the fundamentals of the Baha’i Faith … we also believe in consultative processes and universal participation of all peoples of the world, whether Baha’i or not, in decision-making, in forming their government, in forming their institutions.”

Nader Saiedi’s video presentations and short articles on the Bahai Teachings blog are further examples.

This is not to say that “church and state” is now done and dusted in Bahai Studies. Among the issues still be to be tackled effectively is the meaning of “Bahai Commonwealth” and “Bahai world Commonwealth” in Shoghi Effendi’s English works, and what the equivalent term is in his Persian works. I made a start, on my blog, under “Two Commonwealths” and “Commonwealth and government.”