Will the Universal House of Justice become a civil government agency?

Apr 2017
196
Mexico
#1
While reading the comments on the Kitáb-o-Aqdas, I found the following:

70. Exile and imprisonment are decreed for the thief
Bahá’u’lláh states that the determination of the degree of penalty, in accordance with the seriousness of the offense, rests with the House of Justice (Q&A 49). The punishments for theft are intended for a future condition of society, when they will be supplemented and applied by the Universal House of Justice.​

Can you help me in understanding what this "future condition of society" is?
Do you envision the UHJ converted into a sort of government agency that applies force to comply with the Kitán-o-Aqdas?

I am very confused... your help, friends will be very much appreciated.
 
Jun 2014
1,071
Wisconsin
#2
I'm sure someone with more scholarly knowledge on the subject can give a better answer... but I'm not getting the same reading you are here:

From reading this, I think this interpretation is stating that the law does not currently apply to Baha'is, as Baha'is, at the moment, aren't in the positions of secular lawmaking and the like.

The "future condition" when the law will apply is when there is a Baha'i majority society, a society where Baha'is will determine secular laws through the function of democracy, to guide us as Baha'is in decisions in voting and secular legislation, so that our laws regarding serious crimes (like theft) are not too severe or lenient for the appropriate crime.

I take it to mean that it is not a religious law that will be enforced by the UHJ, but it is a religious law intended to guide us in the implementation of secular laws.
 
Apr 2017
196
Mexico
#3
Your explanation is very reassuring, Walrus. Thank you!

Now I just want to make sure we both are right in this appreciation... so let's hope someone else joins the discussion and provides further guidance.

My shock came from reading that "punishments" will be "applied by" the UHJ. Meaning, UHJ as an agency to apply punishments.
So the image of theocratic regimen like Iran under a Baha'i's equivalent of the sharia came to my mind. Bahai policemen, guards, prisons, etc.
 
Sep 2010
4,488
Normanton Far North Queensland
#4
Your explanation is very reassuring, Walrus. Thank you!

Now I just want to make sure we both are right in this appreciation... so let's hope someone else joins the discussion and provides further guidance.

My shock came from reading that "punishments" will be "applied by" the UHJ. Meaning, UHJ as an agency to apply punishments.
So the image of theocratic regimen like Iran under a Baha'i's equivalent of the sharia came to my mind. Bahai policemen, guards, prisons, etc.
I see the Universal House of Justice giving the required details of the law to be implemented in each country by Local Authority. Houses of Justice are envisaged right down to the Local Level.

If I am not wrong, from memory, Local and National Spiritual Assemblies are transitional names of what will be in the future Houses of Justice. (Must look it up again :eek: my guess is it will be past my time on this earth) In Kitab-i-Aqdas

49. The Lord hath ordained that in every city a House of Justice be established # 30
The institution of the House of Justice consists of elected councils which operate at the local, national and international levels of society. Bahá'u'lláh ordains both the Universal House of Justice and the Local Houses of Justice in the Kitáb-i-Aqdas. Abdu'l-Bahá, in His Will and Testament, provides for the Secondary (National or Regional) Houses of Justice and outlines the method to be pursued for the election of the Universal House of Justice. In the verse cited above, the reference is to the Local House of Justice, an institution which is to be elected in a locality whenever there are nine or more resident adult Baha'is. For this purpose, the definition of adult was temporarily fixed at the age of 21 years by the Guardian, who indicated it was open to change by the Universal House of Justice in the future.
Local and Secondary Houses of Justice are, for the present, known as Local Spiritual Assemblies and National Spiritual Assemblies. Shoghi Effendi has indicated that this is a "temporary appellation" which,
...as the position and aims of the Bahá'í Faith are better understood and more fully recognized, will gradually be superseded by the permanent and more appropriate designation of House of Justice. Not only will the present-day Spiritual Assemblies be styled differently in future, but they will be enabled also to add to their present functions those powers, duties, and prerogatives necessitated by the recognition of the Faith of Bahá'u'lláh, not merely as one of the recognized religious systems of the world, but as the State Religion of an independent and Sovereign Power. Baha'u'llah : The Kitab-i-Aqdas - Notes

Also consider when the world is a majority of Baha'i, there will indeed be Baha'i's that have jobs in the Justice System. I see that the system will always be aimed at spiritual change to a person and not inappropriate punishment.

Regards Tony
 
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Dec 2012
197
Earth
#5
Greetings Camachoe,

This question does arise from time to time. Do appreciate that at each stage of development within the Bahá'í Community, new perceptions and understandings have taken shape. So some older perceptions are clearly incorrect. This is why there are conflicting ideas about the interconnection between state and religion within the Bahá'í Community at this time.

Naturally, all Bahá'ís are given the right to hold and express viewpoints and to share these in good faith with others. But it is also expected that such views should be fair and courteous too. This can be challenging for some Bahá'ís, especially once they begin to understand the Bahá'í Administrative Order. These can and often do build up into intellectual and emotional frustrations. They are actually a natural stage in progressing as a member of the Bahá'í Faith. It is therefore a healthy process, but the experience is comparable to a child having a tantrum. Like with young children, some grow out of the tantrum phase, while others take it into adulthood with them. In the end it is simply about appreciating that the collective is something that is much bigger than ourselves.

A view is not a fact. Here is a fact. Bahá'ís and the Bahá'í Administrative Order are duty bound to obey secular law. The only time this can be challenged is if a person is denied the legal right to be a Bahá'í and practice their beliefs. As this is currently the situation within the Islamic Republic of Iran, your question is very relevant, because it is essentially asking if the Bahá'í Faith is aiming to be a theocracy where religion controls human society like it does within modern Iran.

It is important to understand that no person within the Bahá'í Faith, other than the Central Figures and the Guardian, hold the ability to interpret the Bahá'í Writings. As I sometimes put it, the Bahá'í Faith is and always will be full of amateurs. I use the term amateurs quite deliberately here because amateurs love what they do. However, it is important to understand that as time progress, more and more professionals within the academic world are going to explore the Bahá'í Faith and produce material about it. Some Bahá'ís, myself included, have had the opportunity to produce academic research on the Bahá'í Faith through an established university. When a Bahá'í does this it helps them to reshape many of their early views have were propagated within the wider Bahá'í Community. My research looked at political and religious responses towards the both the Bábí and Bahá'í movements. Since this time a few others have ventured to explore the interplay between religion and state too. For instance, Sen McGlinn went on to follow it with his masters entitled Church and State: A Postmodern Theology. Unlike my academic research, McGlinn's is published outside of the academic community. Naturally you are free to read it for yourself.

One of the difficulties that you will find with this subject matter is that there is a natural clash of ideas about how the Bahá'í Faith might evolve in the future. Some will project an image of it being a perfected human society with religion being at its beating heart. Others will express a far darker view of it becoming a totalitarian world superstate with the right to impose laws on those that violate Bahá'í law. Both of these views are totally preposterous because no one can predict the future. This is why hyperbole can be found within both camps. The Bahá'í Faith is simply a religion. Sorry to understate it, but we need to maintain a measured perspective.

All sovereign states maintain security agencies and these will naturally scan to access viable threats; foreign and domestic. In this respect if the Bahá'í Faith were ever seen to pose a threat to either a regime or its sovereign state, then they would take measures to protect themselves. It is rather hard to see how the Bahá'í Administrative Order can pose a thread to any sovereign state when it is obliged to obey secular law. This is why Bahá'í National Spiritual Assemblies have a history of either voluntarily disbanding or modifying their working mandate to comply with state legislation. Indeed one of the most interesting case studies to examine here is with the National Spiritual Assembly of the Bahá'ís of South Africa. In order to accommodate the law of Apartheid it elected to become a black only organisation. This means that white Bahá'ís were forbidden the right to be elected onto a Bahá'í Institution by secular law. It is good example of how the Bahá'í Community can adapt to accommodate what would now be viewed as racist legislation. Bahá'í Institutions were banned within some facist states during the build-up to and during the Second World War. Just like some Bahá'í Institutions are either banned or might face difficulties within some Islamic sovereign states today; most notably Iran. It is worth noting that within Iran Bahá'ís are persecuted for being Bahá'ís, whereas within Nazi Germany and Naza occupied states, Bahá'ís with Jewish backgrounds were persecuted as Jews. This is why Bahá'ís are martyred in Iran compared with being murdered in Nazi Germany and Nazi occupied countries.

Do understand that sovereign states are free to select their own head of state by constitutional law. In the same way sovereign states of the Commonwealth have collectively chosen to designate Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II as their collective Head of State, any sovereign state, pending constitutional amendments, is free to request that the Universal House of Justice considers being their Head of State. This in not an idol preposition based on the need for a world government. It is constitutional reality. Therefore it is perfectly plausibly for the Universal House of Justice to be invited to become the Head of State for sovereign states in the world. Naturally this would have to transpire through mutual recognition and trust.

To appreciate how a head of state is expected to rule without venturing into numerous texts, you might find it helpful to read the following extract taken from Bahá'u'lláh's Tablet to Queen Victoria. This will offer you a distinct clue as to how and why the reigns of a sovereign state is best given to its peoples. It is important to reflect on the fact that the Queen of England is also the Supreme Head of the Church of England. So Her Majesty holds what would now be an identical religious role by international law as the Universal House of Justice does today. This is why it is also known as the Supreme Institution. Hopefully you will come to understand why both the head of state and the head of a religion should not impose their right of rule, but rather adopt the role of being a spiritual counsel. Such an approach is not a theocracy.

"We have also heard that thou hast entrusted the reins of counsel into the hands of the representatives of the people. Thou, indeed, hast done well, for thereby the foundations of the edifice of thine affairs will be strengthened, and the hearts of all that are beneath thy shadow, whether high or low, will be tranquillized. It behoveth them, however, to be trustworthy among His servants, and to regard themselves as the representatives of all that dwell on earth. This is what counselleth them, in this Tablet, He Who is the Ruler, the All-Wise. And if any one of them directeth himself towards the Assembly, let him turn his eyes unto the Supreme Horizon, and say: "O my God! I ask Thee, by Thy most glorious Name, to aid me in that which will cause the affairs of Thy servants to prosper, and Thy cities to flourish. Thou, indeed, hast power over all things!" Blessed is he that entereth the Assembly for the sake of God, and judgeth between men with pure justice. He, indeed, is of the blissful."

I hope this might help to allay some of your initial concerns on this subject matter and help you realise that the Bahá'í Community has a lot of growing to do. Both in numerical, intellectual, spiritual, economic and social terms before such matters can even become the faintest possibility. To help put this into material context, the Crown, under Queen Elizabeth II, currently owns more wealth and lands than the entire global Bahá'í Community put together. While the Bahá'í World Centre may rank as a United Nations World Heritage Site and the few Bahá'í Houses of Worship situated around the world have received numerous architectural accolades, the total assets of the Bahá'í Faith is still surprisingly modest.

Earth
 
Nov 2013
26
Costa Rica
#7
Reading this thread has reminded me of a reply I sent to one of Sen McGlinns'
posts, at
https://senmcglinn.wordpress.com/2013/07/30/the-guardian-and-the-governor/
It seems that, as in a previous occasion, he's having difficulties posting my replies.
I don't know if it was popular acclaim which forced him to previously. Anyway, he has
been excommunicated from the Faith for opposing the formation of a theocratic state.

Dear Sen,
I'm Roy who originally posed the question of the Guardian and the
Governor in a previous post, at
https://senmcglinn.wordpress.com/about/uhj-to-anonymous-14-may-2006/ .
This is intended to answer your reply to it there and here.

Someone who runs a business or is on a school board, is exercising temporal
administrative authority, which can be subject to the temporal political
authority of a Baha'i assembly, each working in its own sphere of influence and
without overstepping its limits in relation to the other. There is no
contradiction.

What you are proposing conflates the "temporal authority" of politicians and
businessmen, in such a way that there is no room for the "spiritual authority"
of Baha'i institutions to act as a go between. If one is bent on an inevitable
and irreconcilable separation of materialism and spirituality, just such a
conflation of temporal political authority with temporal administrative
authority might do the job. But it goes against the Baha'i principle of the
unity of science and religion. There is more to it than a mere intellectual
exercise.

In the current society you may see examples of politicians and businessmen
colluding and saying there is no other way to do things. But they don't have
the real interests of humanity at heart. It is all self-serving, and the poor
ignorant masses have all been duped by them. Will you follow in their
footsteps?

In the Baha'i view the high minded, praiseworthy leaders of thought are those
who have recognized that unbridled materialism is the scourge of humanity, and
can only lead to chaos and confusion. This has ever been the case, and the
Baha'i Cause is what will ultimately rid the world of the scourge of politics
and politicians, fulfilling the most ardent, hopeful dreams of all the by-gone
prophets and seers.
 
Apr 2017
196
Mexico
#8
Thank you very much, Earth, for the time devoted in your comprehensive response.
I have some questions for you

Do appreciate that at each stage of development within the Bahá'í Community, new perceptions and understandings have taken shape. So some older perceptions are clearly incorrect.
Can you give an example of a such a clearly incorrect old perception?
More importantly, could you give an example of a correct new perception?

... some grow out of the tantrum phase, while others take it into adulthood with them. In the end it is simply about appreciating that the collective is something that is much bigger than ourselves.
Still, no individual can be forced by the collective to give up their fundamental rights. Do we agree on this?
No collective, for example, could use force to make you donate one of your kidneys, or donate your money to the poor, or choose a given profession, under the allegation that it helps the collective and you should give up your selfish illusion of the "self" to embrace unity with the crowd.

So, any tantrum should evolve into a rational opposition (and fight) where you have evidence that the collective, by means of any State, Court, or Law, is violating or intending to violate your rights.

... your question is very relevant, because it is essentially asking if the Bahá'í Faith is aiming to be a theocracy where religion controls human society like it does within modern Iran.
Thanks for understanding my question. Now please help me with the answer, I beg you: Is the Baha'i Faith aiming to be a theocracy where religion controls human society like it does within modern Iran?

Some will project an image of it being a perfected human society... Others will express a far darker view of it becoming a totalitarian world superstate... Both of these views are totally preposterous because no one can predict the future.
No one can predict the future. But everyone can envision a future, and fight for it.
What is that future you envision as a Baha'i, my friend?


Therefore it is perfectly plausibly for the Universal House of Justice to be invited to become the Head of State for sovereign states in the world. Naturally this would have to transpire through mutual recognition and trust.
I agree. If the UHJ persuades the world to be an agency that preserves peace by upholding the basic rights of each individual, I can forsee this happening.

Hopefully you will come to understand why both the head of state and the head of a religion should not impose their right of rule, but rather adopt the role of being a spiritual counsel. Such an approach is not a theocracy.
An spiritual counselor lacks the ability to enforce punishment by the use of arms. A court has that ability.
An spiritual counselor advices, warns, persuades.
A court executes through force.
Based on the Kitab-i-Aqdas and other Baha'i Scriptures that you have examined during your academic research, which of these roles would the UHJ play?

I hope this might help to allay some of your initial concerns on this subject matter and help you realise that the Bahá'í Community has a lot of growing to do. Both in numerical, intellectual, spiritual, economic and social terms before such matters can even become the faintest possibility.
Thanks for your patience, my friend. I feel better now. I am still intrigued but not desperate. Following on your metaphor, I feel my tantrum is over and now I am just frowning and looking carefully to the object I have in front of my cradle.:yes:

I look forward to reading your answers.
May the rays of the Sun of Truth keep illuminating our souls.
 
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Mar 2013
547
Edwardsville, Illinois, USA
#9
We should note also that Baha'u'llah specifically taught that all nations ought to have constitutional monarchies with both a king or queen and a legislative assembly. He said kingship is a "sign of God and [he did ]not wish that nations should remain deprived thereof". Quite obviously, neither the Universal House of Justice, nor a National House of Justice can fill this role. Neither could they be considered as the required legislative body of a national government, because the relation between the parliament and the monarch is different that the role of the House of Justice.
 
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Dec 2012
197
Earth
#10
Greetings Camachoe,

One Bahá'í that taught me said that for every question that we have answered we will find at least two more questions. So do not concern yourself too much with the road blocks that appear to obstruct you. Simply leave them be and return to them at a later date. This way you will not subject yourself to spiritual indigestion. I will therefore seek to explore your secondary questions with this in mind. I can only offer you my apologies if you need to reach for the indigestion tablets.

Q. Can you give an example of a such a clearly incorrect old perception? More importantly, could you give an example of a correct new perception?

It is important to appreciate that people's former beliefs also shape how they will perceive the Bahá'í Faith too. So in a manner of speaking, it is about learning how to cultivate the courage to move from one insight about the human condition to another. This is far more subtle than changing one's religion. This is because it goes to the very core of one's being.

Here is a very simple example of one individual going through this process. The gentleman concerned was a large biker who was the leader of a motorbike pack. When he heard about Bahá'u'lláh he cried and accepted Him. Armed with little more than he should teach the Faith he rode off. Every week, without fail, he brought a new person to enrol into the Bahá'í Faith. His community were elated. However, it slowly began to dawn on them that the people he brought into the Faith did not appear to share his enthusiasm and looked rather timid. So they decided to ask him how he taught these people about the Bahá'í Faith. Not afraid of answering the question the gentleman simply said that he would pick a fight with another biker and beat him until he consented to join the Bahá'í Faith.

Rather like this biker, all Bahá'ís have a preexisting moral code before they join the Faith. It is these codes that can be both our strength and our weakness. Sometimes we refer to it as the spiritual baggage we bring into the Bahá'í Faith with us.

Here is a simple taster of what you might have experienced in some Bahá'í homes in America before the arrival of 'Abdu'l-Bahá. On entering the house you would be offered a glass of wine. Once seated a small passage of the Bahá'í Writings in English would be shared. Then you would be invited to adjourn to witness a séance. Needless to say, when 'Abdu'l-Bahá finally reached the shores of America, He loving guided their ways to help them on the road towards acquiring better Bahá'í values. He used a simple phase that is worth bringing to mind from time to time: Little by little; day by day.

Q. So, any tantrum should evolve into a rational opposition (and fight) where you have evidence that the collective, by means of any State, Court, or Law, is violating or intending to violate your rights.

In the Bahá'í Faith we are encouraged to pray for tests. In other words we invite God to challenge us in our personal lives so that we might learn to overcome adversity and grow in our spiritual character. Therefore these tantrums, as I put it, are actually a reflection of the way we begin to acclimatise to this spiritual process. This is why I enjoy hosting youth events where people will stand up and vocally share all the uncertainties that are on their minds because the quicker a person can progress through this phase the more likely it is they will develop the capacity to truly grow. The alternative is to sit in a stagnant pond of self pity and simple endure the Bahá'í Faith out of a sense of duty. I do not advise you to do the latter.

Q. Is the Baha'i Faith aiming to be a theocracy where religion controls human society like it does within modern Iran?

Fancy that glass of wine now while we wait for an answer in that séance?

Do understand that the Kitáb-i-Aqdas follows on from the Bayán. Indeed Bahá'u'lláh refers to the Bayán as the Mother Book. Once you read the Persian Bayán, you will begin to understand that these laws are not what they might appear. For instance they have a symbolic and spiritual meaning that is far greater than their material meaning. Indeed the material meaning is often quite deceptive. This is why the Persian Bayán places great emphasis on not harming others. So Bábí and Bahá'í laws are arguably moral lessons that contain within them extremely rich spiritual insights. As an example of this, see if you can calculate how many fines for adultery the richest person in the world could pay before running out of money. By doubling the fine after each and every offence, naturally it reaches a point where even the richest person in the world cannot pay the fine. This is its point. It should also be noted that by paying such a fine one would also need to confess a sin to another person. As this is prohibited by Bahá'í law, hopefully you can start to see there is much more to this than what meets the eye because the law in itself cannot actually be applied. The same is true with some other laws in these Holy Books. However, this does not negate their spiritual importance.

If you examine political systems closely, you will begin to understand that they are all influenced by religion. Indeed the Ten Commandments are just as much alive today as they were during the time of Moses. The Guardian even went as far as to suggest that the spiritual actions of Bahá'í National Spiritual Assemblies will directly influence the spiritual behaviour of their respective governments. Now, let us ponder on this for a moment as we look around at the governments of the world. Does this mean that Bahá'í National Spiritual Assemblies are accountable for the way governments act and behave within their respective sovereign states? Well in my eyes the answer to this is a clearly resounding, yes!

This is what true spiritual leadership is all about and it is exactly what the Bahá'í Administrative Order is ultimately designed to achieve. It is not designed to sit in a stagnant pool to proliferate about how great it is or how one day it will rule the world.

A theocracy by its very nature is a government ruled by the clergy. There is no clergy within the Bahá'í Faith because no one is granted the right of interpretation. We are all equally ignorant. It is our spiritual actions that define us.


Q. No one can predict the future. But everyone can envision a future, and fight for it. What is that future you envision as a Baha'i, my , friend?

Currently the Universal House of Justice operates in Persian and English. Indeed everyone that has been elected onto it since its formation can speak either one or both of these languages; even though there are no restrictions in the electoral colleges. How then can the trustees of the Supreme Institution be open to the actual spiritual needs of the various peoples around the world if the overriding cultural perception is based on Persian and English values?

There is one member of the Universal House of Justice, who as a younger person, used to go around conventions asking delegates how they voted. He did not ask for the names, merely how many incumbents and new members they voted for. Now there is no need to respond to such an impertinent question from such an upstart. You see, in order to vote you actually have to get out and meet real people within the Bahá'í Community. When you do this you know exactly who to vote for. Therefore, in order for Bahá'í democracy to truly work, one needs to travel and get to know people. If this is not the case then the delegates from the electoral colleges will simply keep on electing the same people. This can have have the undesired effect of creating inertia within Bahá'í Institutions.

Now, to better understand this, I would like to invite you to listen to an hours presentation by Amatu'l-Bahá Rúhíyyih Khánum at the 6th Annual Convention. While dated, her concerns are just as relevant today as they were back then. She will assist you to see what I am seeking to share with you here https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=ZyI3qiApkeo


Q. Spiritual counsellor or court. Based on the Kitab-i-Aqdas and other Bahá'í Scriptures that you have examined during your academic research, which of these roles would the UHJ play?

Now that you know my education is worthless because it grants me no greater licence to talk about the Bahá'í Faith than anyone else. Hopefully you can begin to see why it can be such a challenge to try to define the Bahá'í Administrative Order in academic terms. Indeed the one value that my education did afforded me is that it allowed me to witness and better appreciate the type of prejudices that currently exist within the Bahá'í Community. This has helped me to reshape my understanding.

While there is often a degree of interest in the Universal House of Justice, the Bahá'í Administrative Order is a multifaceted entity. The following link on an official Bahá'í website should help you to better put this into context The Bahá

In reference to the above link do appreciate that the Guardian once explained that it will take at least a century before the Bahá'í Community might be ready to understand the Will and Testament of 'Abdu'l-Bahá. The only assistance I can offer you here is that it is actually three Will and Testaments. By law only the last will and testament constitutes as being legal, unless clauses permit earlier sections to be implemented. So for instance, when Shoghi Effendi passed away, it would support the application of the second Will and Testament. Hopefully you might come to appreciate that had Shoghi Effendi produced a will and testament, it would have invalidated 'Abdu'l-Bahá's Will and Testament. So do understand that this is still a living legal document and it will remain so until the next Manifestation of God. The Guardian was exceptionally well versed in understanding how to protect the Bahá'í Covenant. As you continue to grow in your understanding, his wisdom will never cease to amaze you.

Also in reference to the above link do appreciate that the Universal House of Justice, as the Supreme Institution, is still evolving. The Constitution of the Universal House of Justice can actually be quite painful to read. This is because it offers a snapshot into the Bahá'í Community around half a century ago. It was an age when quote upon quote was needed in order to grant it legitimacy. This is because one Hand of the Cause claimed to be the second guardian in line with 'Abdu'l-Bahá's first Will and Testament. He even sought to obtain the legal rights of Bahá'í properties. The matter actually went to court because it was a property dispute. Essentially the court ruled in favour of those that would go on to support the Universal House of Justice. Therefore do understand that this event has actually shaped the way that the Constitution is written and presented. This should help you to place its unusual writing style into better context when you read it.

I hope these insights might go some way towards providing responses that you can personally relate with.

Your dear friend,
Earth
 
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