Saturday, March 15, 2008

Dealing with Opposition: Don't Apologize

It is impossible to take any stand, especially a religious stand, in public without provoking negative comment. Become known in cyberspace, and you're a mini-celebrity -- sometimes loved and sometimes hated. It took me a long time to figure out how to deal with this position wisely; I'm still not sure I always do. One of the temptations I struggle to resist is that of falling back into a defensive mode, arguing with the vicious and sometimes completely untrue things that are said.

When you're an unenrolled Baha'i, and you say so publicly, you make a whole lot of people unhappy. There are the fundamentalist Baha'is, of course, who flit between seeing you as a dark-souled enemy and looking down their noses in feigned pity. There are the anti-Baha'is, who seem to pretty much agree with the fundies in their rigid, acontextual view of Baha'i scripture, but view it all as bad and don't want anybody to be any kind of Baha'i, unenrolled or not. Then, there are the anti-religious, who think the whole bunch of us are completely ridiculous. When you get down to it, some people are going to keep pounding on you unless and until you see things their way.

If you don't allow others the freedom to decide what they want to believe -- and you aren't allowing for that if you speak of them harshly -- then you aren't treating them like human beings and have lost whatever moral high ground you think you've got. It's an easy trap to fall into, especially if you feel like you're under attack. I have mostly tried, in my years in cyberspace, to direct my criticisms towards specific issues and policies rather than individuals, although I've had a few exasperated moments that definitely disqualify me for sainthood. But I'm trying; I really am.

But today I was trying to turn my thoughts towards the people I am really talking to out here: Those souls who are moved by the Writings of Baha'u'llah, but who cannot find a place in the official Baha'i community. Their voices of encouragement are worth more than than all the rest of the fundies and antis put together.

I have always said that the only way to "win" -- if such a concept is really applicable at all -- is to be the best Baha'i you can be. Baha'u'llah's heart is open, even if others are not:

Every receptive soul who hath in this Day inhaled the fragrance of His garment and hath, with a pure heart, set his face towards the all-glorious Horizon is reckoned among the people of Bahá in the Crimson Book. Grasp ye, in My Name, the chalice of My loving-kindness, drink then your fill in My glorious and wondrous remembrance.

6 comments:

Jim Habegger said...

"But I'm trying; I really am."

I can see that you are.

"But today I was trying to turn my thoughts towards the people I am really talking to out here."

Your work with them means a lot to me.

Jim

Anonymous said...

Why don't you face the facts that unless you are absolutely versed in the languages and have read everything in the original, your own unenrolled Bahai position is just as much scripturally acontextual and unnuancedc as your administrative faith counterparts. Anti-Bahaism - that is, an Anti-Bahaism that fundamentally decries the overt and covert pro-Colonialism and predominantly economic elite composition of all Bahai factions - is going to become the wave of the future. It is already a fact throughout the Mid East and it will be in the subcontinent as well in the next generation until it finally begins grounding itself in the West as well.

seventyandtwo said...

Alláh-u-abhá Karen!

> Baha'u'llah's heart is open, even if others are not:

Thank you. We cannot worry about how others will judge our actions, only about how Bahá'u'lláh will judge them. We must try to be appealing personalities, but not to the point where we believe that the judgments of others matter.

> I have mostly tried, in my years in cyberspace,
> to direct my criticisms towards specific
> issues and policies rather than individuals,
> although I've had a few exasperated
> moments that definitely disqualify me
> for sainthood. But I'm trying; I really am.

Really, good God. What more can be asked? You have the right attitude, to direct criticisms towards policies and issues rather than individuals (an attitude which lends itself to consultation I think), but it can be hard to maintain when other people don't make any effort to avoid directing criticisms personally.

God Bless,
Gerald

Karen said...

Hi Gerald,

Thanks for stopping by, and for your kind words. Part of my attitude has been born of experience; believe me, it didn't come easy. You're right that it's one thing to think "issues and not personalities" in theory; a whole other thing when people are getting in your face! We just gotta keep plugging away at it.

Love, Karen

seventyandtwo said...

Karen,
I have to say, I am an enrolled Bahá'í, and the "unenrolled" idea makes little sense to me, but I see with you and a few others an exemplary Bahá'í attitude in the blogosphere that transcends lines like enrolled/unenrolled. We need to have an e-mail conversation sometime.(Others being mostly Alison :P)

God Bless,
Gerald

Karen said...

Dear Gerald,

As with everything, my Baha'i life has a history. It has been nine years now since I resigned, and a lot of things have happened during that time.

Alison's a great example of an unenrolled Baha'i. She has probably done better than any of us in simply evolving her own spiritual life, avoiding the trap of continually dwelling on the faults of the administration. Now, I reserve the right to critique things I believe need critiquing, not even excepting decisions made by the House -- which is basically what so upsets folks like George. I have always tried to be a fair critic, but there's more to life than criticism, you know? So, although I don't believe my opinions are wrong, my approach has mellowed. One can't stay angry forever, and have any sane kind of life, much less a spiritual one -- and if I am not working on my spiritual life, then I've lost the whole point of what I was angry about in the first place.

I think the lines between unenrolled and enrolled can and should be transcended. We can do this especially in the area of prayers and devotions, as in the current discussion about Kimberly's article. In my comments, did I say anything that couldn't have been said by an enrolled Baha'i? Is there any hint of "apostate" resentment when I talk about Baha'u'llah, the Writings, and my devotional life?
If we Baha'is stayed focused on those things, we'd have a whole lot less to argue about!

I don't know how much you know about the issues that caused Baha'i cyberspace to explode with controversies from the mid-90s on. If you want a more detailed explanation of how I feel about these things, and why, I'd be happy to explain. If you'd rather not get into it, to avoid a potential source of conflict between us, that would be o.k., too. If you've been talking to Alison, you're probably aware of at least some of the issues involved -- her disenrollment is one of them.

My email is kbacquet@att.net, if you want to talk further.