Paul’s Story

In my previous rant on Code Reds I mentioned that I would talk about a specific case that I found out about recently. To be honest with you, I’ve had a difficult time in deciding whether to write about this or not. The reason is that I do not want to use the real name of the people involved and I know that right off the bat this will make it suspect to many. I suppose its about trust. Many of you may think that I’m making this up or exaggerating. But I finally decided to just tell it and let you decide.The deciding factor for me was that by telling this story, I knew it would bring to your attention the reality that many Baha’is around the world do experience Code Reds but because they decide to simply withdraw into themselves and leave the community, or to forgive and forget the transgression, you never hear about it. The cases that the Baha’i internet world is familiar with are just those who decided to make a public stand against such bullying and call the Baha’i administration to account. But I think for every one of those, there are maybe 5 or more of the non-public type. Their hurt is real and their stories are real too. But we just never hear about them.

Paul is a man who has not met a meal he didn’t like in a while. He’s not as round as he is tall, but he’s working on it. His face is well worn with wrinkles, probably because he likes to really enunciate when he talks and probably because he can’t help but smile all the time. And don’t be surprised if he grabs your shoulder or nudges you when he talks. Its those times that he’s trying to impress upon you an important point he’s making.

Paul and his family have been Baha’is for more than 40 years now. In fact, you could say that he was one of the original pillars of his community. In those early years, he might tell you, it was glorious. There were so many teaching opportunities, so many challenges. So much to do. And teach he did. In fact, the vast majority of the Baha’is who later came into their community were either as a result of direct contact with Paul and his family or through teaching projects that he organized.

His family is now quite large. His kids have grown up and have kids of their own. This makes Paul very happy. To have a few generations around him and to see them embrace the Baha’i Faith, that is what really matters to him.

Another thing you will notice when you meet Paul is that he is a very outspoken person. If he’s thinking it, he’ll probably tell you about it. Maybe that’s why he was such a great teacher of the Cause. He loves Baha’u’llah and often carries a book or two to read by Him in those short moments when there’s nothing else to do. And he loves to quote stuff.

A few years ago Paul got into mounting trouble with the Baha’i administration. Why? I guess it was his outspoken nature. When he would see something wrong, he would bring it to the attention of the assembly and suggest they do something about it. He had been a long time member of the institution himself and couldn’t understand why they didn’t see the same things that he plainly saw.

And what did he see that bothered him? That the community was not growing (and in fact shrinking); that the LSA’s authority had been superceded by ABM and other members of the appointed arm; that Ruhi wasn’t really helping the community to grow; that the vitality which was in the community not long ago had evaporated.

As Paul kept bringing these issues up, the LSA and the ABMs became more and more uncomfortable. They just didn’t want to talk about these things. They tried to tell him to just let it go. But Paul loved the Faith too much, he loved Baha’u’llah too much. He couldn’t just let it go after 40 years and after seeing his community bloom and grow from just a few Baha’is (and now decline). Paul couldn’t understand why they were seeing him as a ‘troublemaker’. All he was concerned about was how to help his community and Faith. Just like he had done from the first day he became a Baha’i.

So he didn’t let up.

One day, not long after, he was invited to have a sit down meeting with the ABM of the area. The ABM was a young Persian man (in his late 20s) and he was sitting down in front of Paul. In that meeting the ABM explained to Paul that his pattern of behaviour and speech had been brought to his attention and that he was worried about Paul’s spiritual health. He explained that Paul was walking a very fine line. That if he insisted on continuing this way there was really no other choice than to inform the Counsellors and the ITC, who would not look too kindly on the whole matter. The ABM told Paul that his conduct and speech were a sign that he was covenantally weak. And he recommended that Paul deepen about the covenant and the necessity of Baha’is to obey the institutions.

Paul was asked for the unity of the Faith and his own wellbeing to stop saying those things. To stop criticising Ruhi and questioning why the whole community should be taking the courses. And he should stop burdening the LSA with his other suggestions and ideas. The LSA knew what was best for the community and they, in consultation with the ABM would fulfil their responsabilities.

In this meeting Paul asked to see a copy of the Ruhi books. The ABM declined saying ‘We know that all you want to do is to further criticise and attack the Ruhi courses. That’s why I’ve instructed everyone to not give you or sell you any Ruhi books.’ Needless to say, Paul exited that meeting quite shaken.

When he went home and told his family they had a rough time believing him. The result was that Paul’s loving wife decided to withdraw from the Baha’i community and to not participate in any activities or functions. His children likewise. Only Paul himself and some of his grandchildren still come to Baha’i functions and events.

The news of this meeting quickly made its round in the community. It was all everyone could talk about. On one hand they all knew Paul and who he was, on the other hand, they also heard that the decision of the ABM was very clear. Pretty soon, people began to whisper and talk whenever Paul would raise his hand to make a suggestion at feast.

Looking into Paul’s eyes, you can see the sadness this whole mess has caused him. But remarkably, you also see that he hasn’t lost the twinkle that was there before. He’s still in love with Baha’u’llah and he is still devoted to the Faith. He brushes aside any comments for appeal or seeking justice. He only says, these things are not important.

  • LSA member

    “Paul’s” story is heartbreaking–all the more so because it is not unique. I, too, know a Paul. A longtime Baha’i, he has a large family with many active members, and no one can remember a time when he wasn’t deeply involved in the community’s life. He is a joyful yet dignified man. However, he too declines to participate in Ruhi, and in quiet moments has confided to me that he sees the decline of the community and the loss of members as indicative that something is wrong.

    Unlike your Paul, he hasn’t been raked over the coals by the local ABM yet, but it is only a matter of time. And when it happens, it will surely destroy the local community, many of whom are Baha’is because of him. Many will leave.

    I will be the first. I have seen the handwriting on the wall, and my letter of resignation is already written.

  • LSA member

    “Paul’s” story is heartbreaking–all the more so because it is not unique. I, too, know a Paul. A longtime Baha’i, he has a large family with many active members, and no one can remember a time when he wasn’t deeply involved in the community’s life. He is a joyful yet dignified man. However, he too declines to participate in Ruhi, and in quiet moments has confided to me that he sees the decline of the community and the loss of members as indicative that something is wrong.

    Unlike your Paul, he hasn’t been raked over the coals by the local ABM yet, but it is only a matter of time. And when it happens, it will surely destroy the local community, many of whom are Baha’is because of him. Many will leave.

    I will be the first. I have seen the handwriting on the wall, and my letter of resignation is already written.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/1062602 Karen

    Dear Baquia,

    This is so sad. It doesn’t matter to these people how much you have given to the Faith, only that you toe the current line. Ruhi is doing vast amounts of damage to the community, and even longtime, devoted believers are jumping ship.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/1062602 Karen

    Dear Baquia,

    This is so sad. It doesn’t matter to these people how much you have given to the Faith, only that you toe the current line. Ruhi is doing vast amounts of damage to the community, and even longtime, devoted believers are jumping ship.

  • Anonymous

    The Ruhi Training destruction of all creative thought and initiative in the Faith among the rank and file combined with the Institute Process Straight Jacket ITC Faith will be absolutely fatal in the long run.

    One member of my community sent their letter of resignantion to the NSA this week. 33 years in the Faith. Gone.

    There will be many. We are led by absolute fools. There is no other way to say it. It is just amazing what is happening.

    The current Five Year Plan is going to be a complete catastrophe. And in the end, absolutely no one will have the guts to take any rsponsibility.

    The Faith is in terrible, terrible trouble with no help of any kind on the horizon. The take over of the top down ITC Faith is complete and total. No free thinkers or creative people are allowed in the Baha’i Faith now. Only automation robots. It is the end for many. The total destruction of the Baha’i Faith.

    What could change this terrible, terrible fate after the heartfelt efforts of so many people over decades of service?

    Many deepened souls of great character and nobility are leaving rather than staying in something that has now become so degraded.

  • Anonymous

    The Ruhi Training destruction of all creative thought and initiative in the Faith among the rank and file combined with the Institute Process Straight Jacket ITC Faith will be absolutely fatal in the long run.

    One member of my community sent their letter of resignantion to the NSA this week. 33 years in the Faith. Gone.

    There will be many. We are led by absolute fools. There is no other way to say it. It is just amazing what is happening.

    The current Five Year Plan is going to be a complete catastrophe. And in the end, absolutely no one will have the guts to take any rsponsibility.

    The Faith is in terrible, terrible trouble with no help of any kind on the horizon. The take over of the top down ITC Faith is complete and total. No free thinkers or creative people are allowed in the Baha’i Faith now. Only automation robots. It is the end for many. The total destruction of the Baha’i Faith.

    What could change this terrible, terrible fate after the heartfelt efforts of so many people over decades of service?

    Many deepened souls of great character and nobility are leaving rather than staying in something that has now become so degraded.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/1082818 Baquia

    What stopped me in my tracks was the decision of the AO to not allowing ‘Paul’ access to Ruhi books. I don’t think anyone could have imagined in their wildest most distrubed nightmates such a situation.

    In a way they are doing him a favor. But the thinking that goes into such a decision just makes me sick to my stomach.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/1082818 Baquia

    What stopped me in my tracks was the decision of the AO to not allowing ‘Paul’ access to Ruhi books. I don’t think anyone could have imagined in their wildest most distrubed nightmates such a situation.

    In a way they are doing him a favor. But the thinking that goes into such a decision just makes me sick to my stomach.

  • Anonymous

    I am a Baha’i who declared in 1979. I observed that the woman who single-handedly introduced at least 50% of the believers in this country, suffered the “Paul” treatment. I regret to say that at the time although disturbed by this episode I was too brainwashed and naive to act in her defense.

    Two things directly lead me to becoming inactive. Dr Peter Khan’s fundamentalist rants, and the advent of the Ruhi Institutes. I had been active for almost 22 years,(an ABM Assistant for 3 yrs and served most of that 22 yrs serving on LSA’s) and within a month of attending just one Ruhi…I was lost to the AO. And I see no way back in…I would just cause too much trouble now.

  • Anonymous

    I am a Baha’i who declared in 1979. I observed that the woman who single-handedly introduced at least 50% of the believers in this country, suffered the “Paul” treatment. I regret to say that at the time although disturbed by this episode I was too brainwashed and naive to act in her defense.

    Two things directly lead me to becoming inactive. Dr Peter Khan’s fundamentalist rants, and the advent of the Ruhi Institutes. I had been active for almost 22 years,(an ABM Assistant for 3 yrs and served most of that 22 yrs serving on LSA’s) and within a month of attending just one Ruhi…I was lost to the AO. And I see no way back in…I would just cause too much trouble now.