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

Aug 2010
725
New Zealand mainly
#21
From what I understand from these paragraphs, theocracy is what we envision.
God forbid no: the Bahai Faith has a very strong principle of the separation of church and state, which Baha'u'llah argues from "Render unto Caesar", as well as other arguments. He writes:

The sovereigns of the earth have been and are the manifestations of the power, the grandeur and the majesty of God. This Wronged One hath at no time dealt deceitfully with anyone.... Regard for the rank of sovereigns is divinely ordained, as is clearly attested by the words of the Prophets of God and His chosen ones. He Who is the Spirit (Jesus) — may peace be upon Him — was asked: “O Spirit of God! Is it lawful to give tribute to Caesar or not?” And He made reply: “Yea, render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s and to God the things that are God’s.” He forbade it not. These two sayings are, in the estimation of men of insight, one and the same, for if that which belonged to Caesar had not come from God, He would have forbidden it. ....
(Epistle to the Son of the Wolf, p. 89)
"
Know thou that We have annulled the rule of the sword, as an aid to Our Cause, and substituted for it the power born of the utterance of men. ... Say: O people! Sow not the seeds of discord among men, and refrain from contending with your neighbor, for your Lord hath committed the world and the cities thereof to the care of the kings of the earth, and made them the emblems of His own power, by virtue of the sovereignty He hath chosen to bestow upon them. He hath refused to reserve for Himself any share whatever of this world’s dominion. To this He Who is Himself the Eternal Truth will testify. The things He hath reserved for Himself are the cities of men’s hearts, that He may cleanse them from all earthly defilements, and enable them to draw nigh unto the hallowed Spot which the hands of the infidel can never profane.
(Gleanings from the Writings of Baha’u’llah, 303)
"In the Epistle to the Romans Saint Paul hath written: “Let every soul be subject unto the higher powers. For there is no power but of God; the powers that be are ordained of God. Whosoever therefore resisteth the power, resisteth the ordinance of God.” And further: “For he is the minister of God, a revenger to execute wrath upon him that doeth evil.” He saith that the appearance of the kings, and their majesty and power are of God.
(Baha’u’llah, Epistle to the Son of the Wolf, 91)
"… God, …hath ever regarded, and will continue to regard, the hearts of men as His own, His exclusive possession. All else, whether pertaining to land or sea, whether riches or glory, He hath bequeathed unto the Kings and rulers of the earth. … The instruments which are essential to the immediate protection, the security and assurance of the human race have been entrusted to the hands, and lie in the grasp, of the governors of human society. This is the wish of God and His decree…. .” (Gleanings, CII 206-7)
"Dispute not with any one concerning the things of this world and its affairs, for God hath abandoned them to such as have set their affection upon them. Out of the whole world He hath chosen for Himself the hearts of men — hearts which the hosts of revelation and of utterance can subdue. Thus hath it been ordained by the Fingers of Baha, upon the Tablet of God’s irrevocable decree, by the behest of Him Who is the Supreme Ordainer, the All-Knowing.
(Gleanings from the Writings of Baha’u’llah, 279)
etc. etc: the theme is repeated throughout the Bahai writings, and Abdu'l-Baha includes it some of his "numbered lists" of the essential Bahai teachings, such as this one:

..
Eighth, the universal peace. A supreme tribunal should be formed by all the governments and religious communities [note the plural ~ sen], in general elections, and any differences and disputes arising among the governments and peoples should be settled in that tribunal, so that they do not lead to war.

Ninth, religion is separated from politics. Religion does not enter into political matters. In fact, it is linked with the hearts, not with the world of bodies. The leaders of religion should devote themselves to teaching and training the souls and propagating good morals, and they should not enter into political matters.

Tenth, the education and training of women, ....
A Bahai theocracy – in the sense of the Bahai institutions ruling society - would not be consistent with Shoghi Effendi’s statement, in 1931, that the Bahais should “be on their guard lest the impression be given to the outside world that the Baha’is are political in their aims and pursuits or interfere in matters that pertain to the political activities of their respective governments.” A year later, in the letter ‘The Golden Age of the Cause of Baha’u’llah,’ Shoghi Effendi writes:

Theirs is not the purpose, while endeavoring to conduct and perfect the administrative affairs of their Faith, to violate, under any circumstances, the provisions of their country’s constitution, much less to allow the machinery of their administration to supersede the government of their respective countries.
[/I]
This is very strong: the “much less” construction seems to mean that allowing the Bahai administrative institutions to supersede national governments would be worse than a violation of the constitution (as indeed it would, for it would violate God’s law as well).

Reason tells us that theocracies never work, and a state in which people of only one faith are allowed to vote for a government organ whose decisions affect all, can never be equitable in principle, however kind one might hope it would be in practice. The World Order of Baha’u’llah cannot be based on a fundamental inequity.

And if we are clear that the separation of Church and State is a principle that is consistently taught by Baha’u’llah, Abdu’l-Baha and Shoghi Effendi, and applies to the Bahai institutions as much as to non-Bahai ones, we will have much less difficulty in presenting the Bahai World Order model to the world.
 
Last edited:
Aug 2010
725
New Zealand mainly
#22
some more quotes on the separation of church and state

More quotes:

From Baha'u'llah:

The Second Ishraq
We have enjoined upon all mankind to establish the Most Great Peace — the surest of all means for the protection of humanity. The sovereigns of the world should, with one accord, hold fast thereunto, for this is the supreme instrument that can ensure the security and welfare of all peoples and nations. They, verily, are the manifestations of the power of God and the daysprings of His authority.
(Tablets of Baha’u’llah, 125)

From Abdu’l-Baha :
“Should they place in the arena the crown of the government of the whole world, and invite each one of us to accept it, undoubtedly we shall not condescend, and shall refuse to accept it.” ( Tablets of the Divine Plan 51)

The signature of that meeting should be the Spiritual Gathering (House of Spirituality) and the wisdom therein is that hereafter the government should not infer from the term “House of Justice” that a court is signified, that it is connected with political affairs, or that at any time it will interfere with governmental affairs. … (Tablets of Abdu’l-Baha Abbas vol. 1, page 5).

My intention, with these words, is not that religion has any business in politics. Religion has no jurisdiction or involvement in political matters, for religion is related to spirits and to ecstasy, while politics relates to the body. Therefore the leaders of religions should not be involved in political matters, but should busy themselves with rectifying the morals of the community. They admonish, and excite the desire and appetite for piety. They sustain the morals of the community. They give spiritual understanding to the souls. They teach the [religious] sciences, but they have no involvement with political matters, for all time. Baha’u’llah has commanded this. In the Gospels it is said, “Render to Caesar what is Caesar’s, and to God what is God’s.” (Khatabat-e Abdu’l-Baha 182. My translation)

… this sect have no worldly object nor any role in political matters. The fulcrum of their motion and rest and the pivot of their cast and conduct is restricted to spiritual things and confined to the doctrine of the unity of the prophets; it has no role to play in the affairs of the government nor any connection to the seat of sovereignty. Its principles are the proclamation of the praises of God, the investigation of signs, the education of souls, the reformation of characters, the purification of hearts, and illumination with the gleams of enlightenment. …
[the Bahai scriptures] are entirely taken up with the prohibition of sedition, and with upright conduct amongst mankind, obedience, submission, loyalty, obeying the law, the acquisition of laudable qualities, and encouragements to become endowed with praiseworthy accomplishments and characteristics.
They play absolutely no role in political questions, and do not raise opposition in matters which could cause disturbance or sedition. Under these circumstances the government cannot justly offer excuses, and possesses no pretext [for further persecuting this sect] except [a claim to the right of] interference in thought and conscience, which are the private possessions of the heart and soul. … (A Traveler’s Narrative, 86-88)


From Shoghi Effendi:

…in the slow and hidden process of secularisation invading many a Government department under the courageous guidance of the Governors of outlying provinces — in all of these a discerning eye can easily discover the symptoms that augur well for a future that is sure to witness the formal and complete separation of Church and State.
(Shoghi Effendi, The Unfolding Destiny of the British Baha’i Community, 76)

The establishment of a constitutional form of government, in which the ideals
of republicanism and the majesty of kingship, characterized by Him as “one of the signs of God,” are combined, He recommends as a meritorious achievement ….
God Passes By, 218-219

I would warn [the Bahais] to be on their guard lest the impression be given to the outside world that the Baha’is are political in their aims and pursuits or interfere in matters that pertain to the political activities of their respective governments. The Cause, still in its state of infancy, should be adequately protected from this particular danger….
(13 November 1931 to an individual believer, cited in The Compilation of Compilations vol II, p. 420)

On behalf of Shoghi Effendi:

“The Administrative Order is not a governmental or civic body, it is to regulate and guide the internal affairs of the Bahá’í community; consequently it works, according to its own procedure, best suited to its needs. (Shoghi Effendi, Messages to Canada, 276)

“… the Assembly is a nascent House of Justice and is supposed to administer, according to the Teachings, the affairs of the Community.” (Shoghi Effendi, Directives from the Guardian, p. 41)

and more and more - see
https://senmcglinn.wordpress.com/compilations/church-n-state/
for a start, and read Abdu'l-Baha's "Art of Politics" (aka Treatise on Politics). The principle that “The Administrative Order is not a governmental or civic body, it is to regulate and guide the internal affairs of the Bahá’í community" is deeply rooted in the Bahai scriptures from the second part of the Kitab-e Iqan through to Shoghi Effendi's last words.
 
Mar 2015
224
Bend area, Oregon
#23
Camachoe (post #20):

To be clear, I wasn’t suggesting that a theocracy was envisioned by Baha’u’llah, ‘Abdu’l-Baha, or Shoghi Effendi, although I can see how one could interpret it that way having only considered the limited information I presented in my post. In my post, I suggested reading Shoghi Effendi’s words found in The World Order of Baha’u’llah pages 202 - 206, or better yet, read the entire letter titled “The Unfoldment of World Civilization”, pages 161 – 206.

I would also encourage you to consider the huge compilation of references offered by Sen McGlinn who has passionately studied the topic of separation of church and state for many years.

Whatever the ultimate outcome and whatever the form the New World Order will take on, it will not be a replica of any past or current System, theocratic or otherwise. Baha’u’llah assured that the New Order will be revolutionary and “unique”, and will be a “wondrous System - the like of which mortal eyes have never witnessed.” (Gleanings from the Writings of Baha'u'llah, p. 136).

-LR
 
Jul 2017
3
Olympia, WA
#24
To Walrus: I like your response to the topic at hand. The lack of spirituality has its consequences for the individual and society at large. Baha’u’llah proclaimed Himself not only to monarchs but also to democratic republics and the peoples of the world.

To the world also Baha’u’llah warned there was an unforeseen calamity awaiting it by reason of rejecting Him as God’s timely Messenger. The lack of recognition and acceptance, in other words, would eventually have dire consequences. As Jesus put it, “Man does not live by bread alone.” I would say without redemption from God even daily bread has become a problem. When civilization is carried to excess it becomes as prolific a source of evil as it had of good is also a principle pointed out by Baha’u’llah.

Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s is not the same thing as endorsing the lack of morality of certain Caesars. When the Roman Emperor Nero burned Rome and lied by blaming the Christians is a good example. What lack of morality we see in present day politics equally applies.

Just as the early Christians concentrated on ushering in a Christian Community as an alternative to the society of Caesar so Baha’is concentrate on establishing a world society imbued with a strong spiritual basis as a refuge for a crumbling Old World Order.
 
Apr 2017
196
Mexico
#25
Dear all

I have just read a letter from the UHJ, directed to the Canadian Spiritual Assembly, addressing misconceptions that a group of Baha'i was spreading through the Internet, and that the UHJ considered internal opposition. Please read the whole letter here to get the context right and help me out.

The letter presents three examples of such misconceptions, that I reproduce here:

In general, the strategy being pursued [by this internal opposition] has been to avoid direct attacks on the Faith’s Central Figures. The effort, rather, has been to sow the seeds of doubt among believers about the Faith’s teachings and institutions by appealing to unexamined prejudices that Bahá’ís may have unconsciously absorbed from non-Bahá’í society.

In defiance of the clear interpretation of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá and the Guardian, for example, Bahá’u’lláh’s limiting of membership on the Universal House of Justice to men is misrepresented as merely a “temporary measure” subject to eventual revision if sufficient pressure is brought to bear.

Similarly, Shoghi Effendi’s explanation of Bahá’u’lláh’s vision of the future Bahá’í World Commonwealth that will unite spiritual and civil authority is dismissed in favor of the assertion that the modern political concept of “separation of church and state” is somehow one that Bahá’u’lláh intended as a basic principle of the World Order He has founded.

Particularly subtle is an attempt to suggest that the Mashriqu’l-Adhkár should evolve into a seat of quasi-doctrinal authority, parallel to and essentially independent of the Local House of Justice, which would permit various interests to insinuate themselves into the direction of the life processes of the Cause."

The second misconception, says the letter, is to think that Bahá'u'lláh intended the separation of church and state to be a basic principle of the World Order He has founded when in reality, we should subscribe to the Guardian's vision on civil and religious authority being united in the future Baha'i World Commonwealth.

Therefore, trying to reconcile the numerous quotes from the Scriptures that Sen McGlinn and others have posted, my take is this:

Nowadays, the principle of separation of church and state must prevail. We are not interested in seizing political power and explicitly discouraged to seek that.
In the future, though, civil and religious authority will become one and the same. And this will be achieved not by violence, but by the growing influence of the principles of the Faith in political theory and practice. The Future State will not be a theocracy in the sense of being ruled by clergy, and will preserve human rights, including of course religious freedom.

Am I OK with this understanding?
 
Last edited:
Jul 2017
65
Germany
#26
In the future, though, civil and religious authority will become one and the same. And this will be achieved not by violence, but by the growing influence of the principles of the Faith in political theory and practice. The Future State will not be a theocracy in the sense of being ruled by clergy, and will preserve human rights, including of course religious freedom.

Am I OK with this understanding?
If the House of Justice would really become a political body, how would this affect Feasts and Consultation about public affairs? Would this lead to two-class society where only the ones with Bahá'í administrative rights could in any way contribute to consultation about matters affecting society at large or them specifically? Would it mean that Christians and Muslims were not allowed to vote in general elections and were not allowed to serve on political bodies or any other department of the state? Or would non-Bahá'í be allowed to take part in consultation and serve on the Houses of Justice? This is a fundamental question that isn't resolved yet.
 
Apr 2017
196
Mexico
#27
If the House of Justice would really become a political body, how would this affect Feasts and Consultation about public affairs? Would this lead to two-class society where only the ones with Bahá'í administrative rights could in any way contribute to consultation about matters affecting society at large or them specifically? Would it mean that Christians and Muslims were not allowed to vote in general elections and were not allowed to serve on political bodies or any other department of the state? Or would non-Bahá'í be allowed to take part in consultation and serve on the Houses of Justice? This is a fundamental question that isn't resolved yet.
Very interesting question

We may get some insight from what happen now in some developed monarchies: the King must belong to certain religion, even when complete religious freedom is granted to the people. I don't remember exactly, but it seems o to be the case of the UK, where the Crown must be occupied by a member of the Church of England... not a Catholic or a Muslim or any other religion... but this does not prevent the Constitution to grant British people full religious freedom. From what I remember, in Argentina the President must also be Catholic, which does not affect at all individual liberties.

It may be the case that the Executive Power (which is not only the President, but all her cabinet) and the Tribunals could be exercised by people from all religions, and leave the UHJ as a Baha'i-only body, as a relic or symbol of the most influential religion of this Dispensation.

In addition, let us remember that such a Superstate would be founded on the principle of autonomy of communities (nations? city-nations? provinces?). These autonomous local governments would be composed by people from all religions and represent a powerful counterbalance to the central state.
 
Last edited:
Aug 2010
725
New Zealand mainly
#28
... my take is this:

Nowadays, the principle of separation of church and state must prevail. We are not interested in seizing political power and explicitly discouraged to seek that.
In the future, though, civil and religious authority will become one and the same. And this will be achieved not by violence, but by the growing influence of the principles of the Faith in political theory and practice. The Future State will not be a theocracy in the sense of being ruled by clergy, and will preserve human rights, including of course religious freedom.

Am I OK with this understanding?
"Arise, and serve Him Who is the Desire of all nations, Who hath created you through a word from Him, and ordained you to be, for all time, the emblems of His sovereignty. By the righteousness of God! It is not Our wish to lay hands on your kingdoms. Our mission is to seize and possess the hearts of men. Upon them the eyes of Baha are fastened.
(Gleanings from the Writings of Baha'u'llah, p. 211)


There are passages in Shoghi Effendi’s writings which, taken in isolation, could be taken to mean that the Baha’i Administrative Order would assume the functions of the superstate — but not if one reads them in the light of Shoghi Effendi’s clarification in WOB 66, ‘Abdu’l-Baha’s Treatise on Governance, and Baha’u’llah’s Iqan, Kitab-i Aqdas, Kitab-i ‘Ahd, Lawh-i Maqsud, Lawh-i Ashraf, Lawh-i Dunya and so on. I have already posted sources from Gleanings, and extracts from the Aqdas, and you will have no trouble in finding more. The principle of the two sovereignties that is first stated in the Iqan permeates all of Baha’u’llah’s thinking: one can no more understand the Baha’i Faith without it, than one could leave out say the oneness of humanity or the relativity of religious truth. Shoghi Effendi selected some of the most emphatic statements of this principle for Gleanings, and he assumes that his readers will have grasped it.

If you do take firm hold of it, and read Shoghi Effendi’s writings and the other Writings in that light, you will see that the Writings are consistent, and also that the kind of government and society they refer to looks remarkably attractive and contemporary. It is one you could go out into the modern world and unashamedly teach, whereas if you think that our real aim is to build up the institutions of world government and support our national governments for a while and then abolish them at both levels — well, you can either practice a little dissimulation in your teaching work, or just stop teaching. Because nobody out there today is going to buy that recipe — theocracy has been demonstrated to be the worst of all possible forms of government, and the separation of church and state to be essential to good governance in every field and every society.

If you will try to read the Writings in the light of the principle that God endorses both the religious order AND the political order, with two separate sovereignties, you will see that the apparent contradictions in the Writings melt away. Just as the Counsellors function in a different way to the Assemblies, the Government functions in a different way to the Houses of Justice, and each is able and authorised to do things that the other is not. The verses which appear to be contradictory, are simply explaining principles which apply only in the religious order, or only in the political order.

To give another example: one might take Shoghi Effendi’s statements about the right of the individual to earmark donations, and find that this contradicts what the Writings say about the Huquq’u’llah. Does this mean that the fund and its laws is to be abolished and replaced by the Huquq’u’llah? That the Huquq’u’llah refers only to a future state of society and the Fund is what we have now? That the Huquq’u’llah was a law referring to a Middle Eastern context and it is no longer relevant? That what we give to the Huquq is not a donation? That the freedom of the individual is temporary and will eventually be replaced by coercion? You can imagine endless variations, paralleling the argument that the Administrative Order should one day replace the governments. The solution of course is that the Fund and the Huququllah are different things, and each operates according to its own principles. So also Church and State. <continued>
 
Aug 2010
725
New Zealand mainly
#29
continued to Camachoe

The appeal to first-this-then-that arguments is an implicit acknowledgment that the Baha’i teachings do endorse worldly government, do speak of a world federal government and its legislature, judiciary, and executive, their modes of election, powers and duties, and that none of this is compatible with [what is said about] the equally scriptural institutions of the Guardianship and the House of Justice, with their corresponding national and local equivalents, methods of election, duties and memberships. People who suppose a priori that the Faith cannot be talking about separate religious and political institutions then turn this picture on its side:

from

O – O

to

O
|
O

that is, they turn the constitutional separation of church and state into a temporal separation, as a way out of the indisputable fact that both sets of institutions are ordained in the Writings. But this would entail abolishing political institutions which Baha’u’llah has endorsed. Only a Manifestation could do that.

It does not matter which level one is discussing here, national or international. The theme of ‘Abdu’l-Baha’s ‘Treatise on Governance’ is that God guides humanity by establishing two ‘fundamental forces’, religious and governmental. These are forces in the sense of metaphysical principles, like yin and yang. They are manifest throughout the physical world, and at all periods of history, because the visible world is the mirror of the spiritual world. And in fact if we look back through history, one of the first differentiation of functions is between the religious specialist (shaman, priest, witchdoctor) and the temporal leader. And the first “civilizations” (ie urban polities) that emerged into history about 4000 BC are marked by the differentiation of two normative orders, of politics and religion. You can see why countries that have abolished the independence of the political order (Iran, the Mahdi state of Sudan, Afghanistan) have degenerated so rapidly. They have tried to set up a system which cuts across the lines of harmony that underlie the universe. This is not a new Baha’i teaching: Baha’u’llah cites the ‘render unto Caesar’ verse of the New Testament and the ‘authority’ verse of the Qur’an to show that the two sovereignties always has been the will of God, and he says it always will be. He tells the kings:

"Arise, and serve Him Who is the Desire of all nations, Who hath created you through a word from Him, and ordained you to be, for all time, the emblems of His sovereignty. By the righteousness of God! It is not Our wish to lay hands on your kingdoms. Our mission is to seize and possess the hearts of men. Upon them the eyes of Baha are fastened.
(Gleanings from the Writings of Baha'u'llah, p. 211)


O ye the loved ones and the trustees of God! Kings are the manifestations of the power, and the daysprings of the might and riches, of God. Pray ye on their behalf. He hath invested them with the rulership of the earth and hath singled out the hearts of men as His Own domain. Conflict and contention are categorically forbidden in His Book. This is a decree of God in this Most Great Revelation. It is divinely preserved from annulment and is invested by Him with the splendour of His confirmation. (Tablets of Baha’u’llah, 220-221)

One might wonder what precisely is preserved from annulment here – conflict and contention in general, or conflict and contention with those invested with the rulership of the earth, or the whole previous passage? Since the passages before and following refer to the relationship of the believers to the Kings (and of the Houses of Justice to the Kings, if one takes ‘trustees of God’ as being addressed to the Houses of Justice), I am inclined to think that the ‘decree preserved from annulment’ is both the division of the universe into two distinct spheres and any conflict and contention aiming to upset this divine order. The ‘contention’ that is ‘categorically forbidden’ could be by the loved ones or trustees seeking to establish a theocracy, but a government which interfered with freedom of religion and conscience would also be in ‘conflict’ with this principle (because the heart is God’s ‘Own domain’).
 
Aug 2010
725
New Zealand mainly
#30
to Camachoe continued again

I think that the differentiation of church and state is so fundamental a principle that it will not be changed even a new Manifestation. To begin with, look at the compilation Shoghi Effendi prepared, on the continuity of Kingship, in the Promised Day is Come, page 71 and following. It was presumably directed against the theocratists among the Bahais of his own day. I won’t quote it all here, it is too long. But just the mass of citations from the Baha’i writings Shoghi Effendi summons here is one reason for thinking this is too fundamental a principle to ever be revoked. Could one imagine, for example, that a future Manifestation would teach racial inequality or that the woman’s place in the kitchen? I suggest everyone interested look at this section of PDC.

Most important, we could look at World Order of Baha’u’llah 202-4, because in that passage there is not only a perfected world federal system, but this system is also sustained by its allegiance to one common Revelation. The system is mature in other respects as well – force is the servant of justice, science and religion have learned to cooperate, all men adhere to one common faith, national rivalries have ceased, etc.. So it represents an end-picture. I don’t think you can find anything in the Writings which refers to a stage beyond this. But clearly the institutions in that world federal system are not the same as those of the Baha’i Administrative Order: the electoral methods are incompatible, there is a separation of legislative, executive and judicial functions, the use of force is sanctioned, the ‘members’ are states rather than individuals or Baha’i communities and we know from other writings that representation on the world legislature is to be on a national basis and proportional to population (the UHJ does not have members which represent nations at all). So one has to conclude that at this stage – so far as one can see into the future – the government and the Baha’i administrative order are separate, but united by allegiance to ‘one common revelation.’

The institutions of the world government, summarized in WOB 202-4 but described in many places in the Writings, are firmly fixed in the Writings of Baha’u’llah, `Abdu’l-Baha and Shoghi Effendi, and in the absence of a Guardian or any way to appoint one, there is no-one now with the authority to change them. So we are stuck with the separation of church and state for this dispensation, and I think there is at least an implication that this and some other most fundamental principles will never change.