Discussion in 'Baha'i' started by Postmaster, Mar 22, 2007.
Are Baha'is taught to love there enemies in the same way Christians are in the bible?
"Let them see no one as their enemy, or as wishing them ill, but think of all humankind as their friends; regarding the alien as an intimate, the stranger as a companion, staying free of prejudice, drawing no lines."
(Abdu'l-Baha, Selections from the Writings of Abdu'l-Baha, p. 1)
"Just as God loves all and is kind to all, so must we really love and be kind to everybody. We must consider none bad, none worthy of detestation, no one as an enemy. We must love all; nay, we must consider everyone as related to us, for all are the servants of one God. All are under the instructions of one Educator. We must strive day and night that love and amity may increase, that this bond of unity may be strengthened, that joy and happiness may more and more prevail, that in unity and solidarity all mankind may gather beneath the shadow of God, that people may turn to God for their sustenance, finding in Him the life that is everlasting. Thus may they be confirmed in the Kingdom of God and live forever through His grace and bounty.
Bahá'u'lláh has clearly said in His Tablets that if you have an enemy, consider him not as an enemy. Do not simply be long-suffering; nay, rather, love him. Your treatment of him should be that which is becoming to lovers. Do not even say that he is your enemy. Do not see any enemies. Though he be your murderer, see no enemy. Look upon him with the eye of friendship. Be mindful that you do not consider him as an enemy and simply tolerate him, for that is but stratagem and hypocrisy. To consider a man your enemy and love him is hypocrisy. This is not becoming of any soul. You must behold him as a friend. You must treat him well. This is right."
(Abdu'l-Baha, The Promulgation of Universal Peace, p. 267)
The enemy a true brother
O ye beloved of the Lord! In this sacred Dispensation, conflict and contention are in no wise permitted. Every aggressor deprives himself of God's grace.
It is incumbent upon everyone to show the utmost love, rectitude of conduct, straightforwardness and sincere kindliness unto all the peoples and kindreds of the world, be they friends or strangers. So intense must be the spirit of love and loving-kindness, that the stranger may find himself a friend, the enemy a true brother, no difference whatsoever existing between them. For universality is of God and all limitations earthly. Thus man must strive that his reality may manifest virtues and perfections, the light whereof may shine upon everyone.
The light of the sun shineth upon all the world and the merciful showers of Divine Providence fall upon all peoples. The vivifying breeze reviveth every living creature and all beings endued with life obtain their share and portion at His heavenly board. In like manner, the affections and loving-kindness of the servants of the One True God must be bountifully and universally extended to all mankind. Regarding this, restrictions and limitations are in no wise permitted.
~ Abdu'l-Baha, "Baha'i World Faith" p. 445
We are counseled to treat no one as an enemy, though the sad fact is that our behavior in that regard is sometimes not reciprocated. Some may make themselves to be enemies of the faith and seek to do it ill. We should not return evil for evil, but be just in our actions and words.
Abdu'l Baha gives this guidance:
"O ye Cohorts of God! Beware lest ye offend the feelings of anyone, or sadden the heart of any person, or move the tongue in reproach of and finding fault with anybody, whether he is friend or stranger, believer or enemy. Pray in behalf of all and entreat God for forgiveness and bounty for all. Beware, beware that any soul take revenge or retaliate over another even if he be a bloodthirsty enemy. Beware, beware that any one rebuke or reproach a soul, though he may be an ill-wisher and an ill-doer. Do ye not look upon the creature, advance ye toward the Creator. Behold ye not the rebellious people, turn your faces toward the Lord of Hosts. Look ye not upon the ground, raise your eyes to the world-illuminating Sun, which hath transformed every atom of the gloomy soil into bright and luminous substance."
(Abdu'l-Baha, Tablets of Abdu'l-Baha v1, p. 45)
But he was never in doubt that the faith had its enemies.
That is the essence of it--the faith has its enemies, but I do not.
Baha`u'llah tells us many times that the world will afflict any who detach themselves from the world.
"Know thou, moreover, that We have been cast into an afflictive Prison, and are encompassed with the hosts of tyranny, as a result of what the hands of the infidels have wrought. Such is the gladness, however, which the Youth hath tasted that no earthly joy can compare unto it. By God! The harm He suffereth at the hands of the oppressor can never grieve His heart, nor can He be saddened by the ascendancy of such as have repudiated His truth.
Say: Tribulation is a horizon unto My Revelation. The day star of grace shineth above it, and sheddeth a light which neither the clouds of men's idle fancy nor the vain imaginations of the aggressor can obscure.
Follow thou the footsteps of thy Lord, and remember His servants even as He doth remember thee, 43 undeterred by either the clamor of the heedless ones or the sword of the enemy.... Spread abroad the sweet savors of thy Lord, and hesitate not, though it be for less than a moment, in the service of His Cause. The day is approaching when the victory of thy Lord, the Ever-Forgiving, the Most Bountiful, will be proclaimed."
(Baha'u'llah, Gleanings from the Writings of Baha'u'llah, p. 42)
It's an interesting point to raise - on the one hand, I'm sincerely glad to hear the Baha'i faith doesn;t set up "enemies" simply to bring together the faith against "outsiders".
However, on the point of prejudice we've already seen that the Baha'i faith considers homosexual activity as something to be shunned and practicing homosexuals to be ostracised.
That's doesn't sound like staying free from prejudice, and the active exclusion and discimination of people based on their sexuality may certainly be perceived as a form of aggression from those targeted.
I don't approve of homosexuality, but I often wonder if I'm wrong or right in doing so. Almost all of us have a gay family member, its almost like nature intends it. The ones with the camp personalities come over for Christmas with there "male friend". And usually with a kind nature towards people and children in general. It's good that society has a homophobic attitude anyway, free thinking on sexuality could cause society a whole range of problems, probably why it is and will always be taboo, homosexuality never got too popular in human history didn't even last in ancient Greece for too long and we all know what happened to the sodomites. Main thing is that we don’t persecute them.
The following is a post by Dale Lehman, the host of planet Bahai on the subject of homosexuality and the Bahai Faith.
"Because the question was raised specifically with respect to the Baha'i Faith, I will respond here (and I hope that's all right), but will confine my remarks to the Baha'i teachings on the subject.
Before I start, however, because the question of homosexuality is so emotionally charged for so many people I'd ask that you for a moment set aside any preconceptions you might have and try to understand what I'm going to say. I tend not to discuss this subject very much because people so often fail to listen and instead respond only based their own preconceptions. The Baha'i teachings on homosexuality, however do not readily fit into the "canned" (for political purposes) varieties with which most people are familiar.
First, then, the most important thing to realize is that Baha'u'llah calls for the elimination of all forms of prejudice. A careful reading of His Writings and those of 'Abdu'l-Baha and Shoghi Effendi show that He does not leave us any excuse to look down on anyone or to treat anyone as inferior. His exhortations on this subject are so numerous that they must be regarded as more fundamental to His teachings than almost anything else. One example should suffice:
O children of men! Know ye not why We created you all from the same dust? That no one should exalt himself over the other. Ponder at all times in your hearts how ye were created. Since We have created you all from one same substance it is incumbent on you to be even as one soul, to walk with the same feet, eat with the same mouth and dwell in the same land, that from your inmost being, by your deeds and actions, the signs of oneness and the essence of detachment may be made manifest. Such is My counsel to you, O concourse of light! Heed ye this counsel that ye may obtain the fruit of holiness from the tree of wondrous glory.
(Baha'u'llah, The Hidden Words, Arabic 68)
Unlike some other religions, there is no discussion (at least not that I have heard) in the Baha'i community over whether or not homosexuals can serve in various official capacities. Homosexuals can be Baha'is (and there are some that I know of), can play an active role in the Baha'i community, and can even hold elected and appointed offices.
The issue is strictly one of behavior, not of the cause of homosexuality and not of whether or not being a homosexual makes one a "second class citizen". Where sexual behavior is concerned, it is true that Baha'u'llah established a standard: sexual relations are only considered rightful when they take place in the confines of a monogamous heterosexual marriage. Doing otherwise is regarded as spiritually harmful, in addition to the various health problems that can arise from risky behaviors.
Two things need to be understood here, however. First, it is a given that nobody is perfect and that we all fall short in various ways. Baha'u'llah counsels us (as did Jesus) to focus on acquiring perfections in our own lives and not to dwell on the imperfections of others. Among His statements in this regard is the following, which mirrors Jesus' counsel regarding "casting the first stone":
O son of man! Breathe not the sins of others so long as thou art thyself a sinner. Shouldst thou transgress this command, accursed wouldst thou be, and to this I bear witness.
(Baha'u'llah, The Hidden Words, Arabic 27)
Commenting on such teachings, Shoghi Effendi noted that we are like a group of people plowing a field. Each of us should focus on the row we are plowing to make sure it stays straight. If we worry about whether or not someone else's row is straight and spend all our time trying to correct them, our own row will quickly end up out of kilter. Thus, it is not for us as individual Baha'is to worry about whether or not the next person is living a "good Baha'i life", but rather to worry about bringing our own lives into conformity with God's will.
Second, if there is any such thing as a "hierarchy of sins", sexual sins are not at the top of the list. Baha'u'llah seems to regard what I sometimes call "sins of disunity" as far more serious, and indeed the one sin He specifically called "grievous" is the sin of backbiting. He seems to regard backbiting as the spiritual equivalent of murder, an act that harms not only the object of ill talk but also the person doing the talking.
It should also be noted that where homosexuality is termed an "abnormality" the word is being used in a very pure sense: a deviation from the norm. It is not used with pejorative connotations (as an examination of the context will reveal), nor does it imply some medically correctable condition. In point of fact, in our species reproduction is accomplished sexually and thus heterosexuality is the normal condition for members of our species. (If this were not so, we wouldn't be here talking about this. We'd have gone extinct thousands of years ago.) Whatever its causes, homosexuality is not a normal condition. It affects a very small percentage of the human population, thus it is abnormal, a deviation from the norm. That's all the term means.
It is certainly a challenge to live with this condition if one chooses to embrace the Baha'i Faith, because of the behavioral standard Baha'u'llah sets forth. However, it is in fact always going to be a challenge, no matter who you are, to live a "good Baha'i life". No religion claims that life is going to be a cakewalk. Tests and trials are a part of life, a mechanism decreed by God through which the human soul progresses and is purified. The challenge of homosexuality is in reality just one of these tests. There is no answer for why some people are tested in this way and others are tested in other ways. That appears to be a matter of what Baha'u'llah refers to as "God's inscrutable wisdom". But there is an implication here:
My challenges are mine, your challenges are yours, and whatever they are they should not come between us. We each are (with any luck) doing our best to live according to what we believe are good principles. We are of course going to stumble from time to time, but we are all capable of rising to the challenge God has set before us.
And one last point: Baha'u'llah's laws are applicable to Baha'is, people who have accepted Him as the Manifestation of God for this age. If you do not accept Him as such, then there is no particular reason why you should follow His laws. You should do what you think God wants you to do.
Sorry for being so long-winded, but I hope this helps to clarify a few things."
I sincerely hope that this doesn;t get turned into a general commentary on homosexuality - that's not my intention at all.
But look at what is stated - "sexual relations are only considered rightful when they take place in the confines of a monogamous heterosexual marriage".
This is immediately exclusionary to homosexuals, and is itself a prejudicial statement - it does not discern stable loving relationships between consenting adults, from what has effectively become a tax arrangement for inheritance purposes.
A somewhat cynical impression of marriage of course, but the point is that to state that a faith is not prejudiced, yet contains inherent prejudice, is surely a contradiction indeed?
Maybe the real problem there is just that the tax break for being married should be abolished. I mean why discriminate between married and non-married... maybe I wish to devote myself unmarried as a follower of a religion, like a nun for example? Surely it is not a crime being single? A waste of God's gift maybe?!
Yes, I certainly see how it is viewed as a contradiction.
I think Baha'u'llah envisions marriage much differently than what as it has become today. The Bahai marriage should theoretically be much more than sexual relations or a partnership for financial gain. ALthough I cannot say what it exactly should be.
As for not promoting healthy relationships, that may be viewed differently by a Bahai. Essentially, Bahais believe true joy is obtained by following the commandments in Bahai law. That these laws are essentially the framework which we can move about to achieve harmony with each other as well as develop spiritual powers that hopefully transcend the confines of human instinct. Sexual identity seems to be viewed differently also, since our "spiritual qualities" are focused on more than the importance of physical qualities. While sexual relations is a way to spiritually connect with someone, there are other avenues also. Also Homosexuals are certainly not enemies and often have better spiritual qualities than heterosexuals.
I don't think homosexuals outside of the Bahai faith should be afraid of Bahai aggression though. Bahais understand that whether or not to engage in homosexual sex is a decision up to each individual. And that Bahai law is not enforceable against an unwilling participant. Practicing homosexuals certainly can still participate in various Bahai activities that any other non-Bahai could participate in.
Part of being a Bahai is learning what the implications of the teachings and the laws are, and how they effect the community and individual. Believers think Social order and happiness will essentially be the product of following the laws. And its more of a limitation on sexual activity than on developing other aspects of relationships. It is a challenge of our importance attached to the material world and its connection to our identity as well as a catalyst for reflection and spiritual growth. Through experience, and prayer it seems that those who are Bahais are able to trust in the wisdom of Baha'u'llah and his judgement of our spiritual capacity as humans.
Also the concept and practice of Bahai marriage and Bahai society is an unfolding process. It is something that requires careful thought, because it doesnt exist in a vacuum and is interpreted by our past conceptions which aren't always accurate. How humanity views relationships will in the future change and what we view as important to relationships remains to be discovered. But there is no doubt, at least in my mind, that homosexuals in the Bahai faith will help in that process. After all its often the most tested that are the best prepared.
Sorry if you find this really confusing, I need to work on my writing ability.
I think so, certainly many of the early Bahais and people who met Abdul-Baha(the perfect Bahai) thought that He was the return of Christ.(which he denied)
ON September 10th, the first Sunday after 'Abdu'l-Bahá's arrival in England, he spoke from the City Temple pulpit to the evening congregation at the special desire of the Pastor, the Reverend R. J. Campbell.
Though 'Abdu'l-Bahá's coming had not been advertised the Church was filled to its utmost capacity. Few that were there will ever forget the sight of that venerable figure clad in his Eastern garb, ascending the pulpit stairs to address a public gathering for the first time in his life. That this should be at a Christian place of worship in the West has its own deep significance. Mr. Campbell introduced the visitor with a few simple words in the course of which he said: "We, as the followers of the Lord Jesus Christ, who is to us and will always be the Light of the World, view with sympathy and respect every movement of the Spirit of God in the experience of mankind, and therefore we give greeting to 'Abdu'l-Bahá in the name of all who share the spirit of our Master, and are trying to live their lives in that Spirit. The Bahá'í Movement is very closely akin to, I think I might say is identical with, the spiritual purpose of Christianity."
-Excerpt from Abdul-Baha in London
Bahais acknowledge the role of justice in the world. That at times a tyrant should not always be met with mercy, mercy on a tyrant maybe injustice on the tyrannized.
"I sincerely hope that this doesn;t get turned into a general commentary on homosexuality - that's not my intention at all." - Brian
Actually Brian, Homosexual behaviour is forbidden for Baha'is but a Baha'i who happens to be a homosexual is not excluded. There are Baha'is that have a lot of issues..Everybody is human and there are some behaviours that are not accepted for Baha'is...
Baha'i law is not prejudiced. It is revealed by Baha'u'llah. What would be prejudice is to assume that some people behave a certain way or brand them as a class without evidence...
Maybe assuming a whole religion is prejudiced would be a prejudicial statement.
But in this thread the issue was about "enemies" and homosexuals are not enemies of Baha'is.
The standard for Baha'is not to be prejudiced as set by the example of Abdul-Baha and to acknowledge that every one has a capacity to respond to this revelation.
First to note is that no homosexual is expelled from the faith for living with another of the same sex. Removal of administrative rights is not expulsion.
One might note secondly that an unmarried heterosexual couple living together might lead to removal of administrative rights for exactly the same reason.
Baha`ullah makes a ruling on what is and is not marriage, Abdu'l Baha and Shoghi Effendi clarified it. It's not a civil matter, it only applies to Baha`i's who wish to have a Baha`i marriage. Nothing prevents a couple from living together, whatever their sexual preference without marriage. It just cannot be accepted within a Baha`i context.
All religions and churches in the western world have the right to establish their own rules of membership, one cannot expect to violate those rules of membership on the basis of "it's a free society". Membership in a religion is not a civil right. Religious belief IS a civil right, but the church, organization, etc. is not a civil organization.
Indeed - homosexual activity is pretty much against the grain in mainstream Islam and Christianity and Judaism, so far as I understand it, so it's not as though it's an entirely uncommon position.
However, surely any religious group that states itself embracing and loving to all, but is clearly prejudiced against homosexuality, is simply contradicting itself?
Actually, this might be a bigger topic in itself for the main boards.
The Baha'i Faith does NOT "ostracize" homosexuals; indeed, there are homosexual Baha'is!
And while the fact remains that sexual activity is limited to that within heterosexual marriage, this in no way implies mistreatment of anyone--homosexuals included--or abridgement of anyone's rights.
Bruce, if practicing homosexuality is prescribed against, then that is an act of discrimination.
It just isn't an abridgement of rights according to the scriptures of the Baha'i faith, because - like a number of other religions - discrimination is ingrained in the religious belief.
Sure, lots of religions do that, but that doesn't get around the fact that it is a point of discrimination.
But they are not allowed to be homosexuals, though, and that's the point.
But they are discriminating against what is regarded as immoral, isn't that the whole point of religions?
Deciding what you think is discriminatory is certainly your choice... but there are many behaviours that people engage in that could be similarly proscribed...
Postmaster won't like this example I think but here it is anyway...
We Baha'is also have a law against drinking alcohol..
Most societies today permit alcohol at least in Europe and North America.
Does that mean Baha'is are "prejudiced" against alcohol drinkers?
No, it means that for us use of alcoholic beverages is forbidden...
Similarly, there are some behaviors Baha'is are not permitted to engage in outside of our institution of marriage... Does that mean we are prejudiced against people who engage in these behaviours?
I think Brian needs to start his own topic somewhere ...maybe in the comparative religion section...
"I sincerely hope that this doesn;t get turned into a general commentary on homosexuality - that's not my intention at all." - Brian
"Actually, this might be a bigger topic in itself for the main boards." - Brian
Is it an act of discrimination to punish crime based on the Ten Commandments? That's "crime based on the ten commandments" as in defining murder, theft, elder abuse, etc. as crimes. Certainly those in prison are ostracized from society.
This is just to show that your definition of discrimination is off-kilter.
Separate names with a comma.