Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Ten Years of Being An Unenrolled Baha'i

This Naw-Ruz marked the tenth anniversary of my resignation from the Baha'i Faith, and although I've not been saying much online, I thought I shouldn't let such a significant anniversary pass without comment. As many people know, I left in a blaze of anger after discovering how the American NSA cracked down on the Baha'i magazine *dialogue* back in the mid-80s, but this was a last straw after many years of frustration in trying to make a Baha'i community work. I could maintain a sacrificial attitide as long as I believed the problems were essentially local, but when I found they ran top to bottom -- well, what more is there to sacrifice for?

But I could not abandon Baha'u'llah. To this day, I recite His Writings, meditate on His name, perform His prayers, and count myself His follower.

My experience, though, over the last decade has been a mixed bag -- as life usually is. I became very active on email forums, wrote articles, etc. partly as a much-needed emotional release, and partly as a means of making sense of what had happened to the Faith.

Postive things about my leaving, and being in Baha'i cyberspace:
- I was free to work out my issues in a way that I never could have done had I stayed. I'm really not that courageous, nor was I technically savvy enough, when I first came into cyberspace, to maintain anonymity. If I was still enrolled, I'd have been terrified of that phone call from the ABM with every email post. I simply couldn't have done it. I can be eloquent and passionate in writing, but I turn into a big stammering puddle of nerves in direct confrontation.
- I learned so much! I got to associate with Baha'is more intelligent, knowledgeable, and creative than I ever knew existed. A whole new world opened up for me.
-The online translations of the Writings. It was the Writings of Baha'u'llah that made me a Baha'i, and it was just wonderful to find these once-hidden treasures.
- I'm a lot less frustrated now that I don't have to do all that administrative stuff, which so dominates Baha'i community life. I neither know nor care what year Plan it is.
- I made some wonderful friends out there.
- I felt freer to experiment with other religious ideas and practices -- something I had abandoned when I became a Baha'i.
- I'm more firmly grounded in reality, with a more realistic sense of the Baha'i Faith's place in the world.
- I like myself better, without that oppressive sense of constant failure -- I don't teach enough, I don't give enough to the Fund. I'm more concerned with the development of my own spiritual qualities e.g. whether or not I am behaving in a compassionate way. My sense of spirituality is broader, and not limited to the Baha'i mold.
- I enjoyed expressing my own creativity; I like research, and writing, and never would have had the opportunity elsewhere.

Negative things:
- I came out into cyberspace, hurting and very naive. I got too swept into online politics, which at times warped my judgement. I tried very hard to be honest and fair, but I sometimes got carried away and did things I now regret.
- I wish I'd never known how ugly Baha'is can get at even the mildest criticisms of their sacred cows.
- I sometimes miss the people in my local community. For several years, I kept in contact, even going to Holy Day celebrations and other non-administrative events. But about five years after I left, one of the newer locals discovered my identity, named me a covenant-breaker and while my old friends don't shun me if I run into them around town, I'm not invited to any Baha'i events anymore. Baha'is, for the most part, are good people; it's the whole system that's really the problem.
- Although I made some great friends online, there are some people out there that I wish I'd never met.

Anyway, life goes on. I have less to say than I once did, but I'm still walking the Path like I always did -- and, God willing, always will.