A friend of mine yesterday, when he discovered that I plan a blog on non-administrative aspects of being a Baha'i, thought that I was creating a devotional blog. And, I thought about that. Certainly, the devotional life is a big part of Baha'i life outside the administration, and I do plan on doing some writing along those lines -- although I already do a good deal of talking about the devotional life on Karen's Path, albeit strictly from the perspective of my own personal experiences.
I think I'd like to go a little broader than that. What I have in mind is connecting with Baha'i thought that isn't dominated by administrative matters and the limitations of official discourse. For example, I happened to run into a blog called The Baha'i Liberty Blog, which is written by a young man who is engaged in reconciling libertarian political thought with Baha'i teaching. Now, I don't necessarily agree with that, although I was very close to being a libertarian myself when I was young, and there are several of his points I could argue with. (In fact, I can just picture my liberal friends thinking I'm nuts for linking to this guy.) But I was struck by how radical this approach is, for a Baha'i to so brazenly identify himself with a political philosophy. Agree or not, it definitely represents an attempt at some original thinking.
This, to me, represents a huge change in Baha'i culture -- a change which is directly linked to the freedom allowed by the Internet. I've seen other young Baha'is make brief mention of political candidates, too. Now, when I was enrolled, this was strictly verboten -- more, I think, by peer pressure than anything the administration ever did. Once in a while somebody would make a comment about the current President and it was slightly embarrassing, a faux pas. Baha'is weren't supposed to talk politics, period.
In actual fact, Baha'is, throughout their history have gone through both engaged and distant periods where politics is concerned. Baha'u'llah did not forbid politics per se, but did not want Baha'is involved with subversive movements. "Abdu'l-Baha' and Shoghi Effendi sometimes forbade and sometimes approved engagement with poltical matters. For example, Baha'is were involved in the Civil Rights movement, with Shoghi Effendi's approval, because of the Faith's clear teachings on racial equality, even though he made some very strong statements about Baha'is avoiding identification with the Republican or Democratic parties.
Baha'is, for the most part, are intelligent people who are genuinely concerned about the world around them -- and engagement with that world can't help but be political from time to time, whether you're concerned about poverty, education, the environment, women's issues or world peace The alternative is taking an above-the-fray attitude, which renders all those great Baha'i social teachings rather meaningless, except as applied internally.
But I'm optimistic about the potential of the Internet to bring out a variety of ideas and approaches. It's easier to break out of the mold when you're writing at a computer than over tea and cookies, face to face.