UHJ on Priority for Elimination of Racial Prejudice

A recent letter from the Universal House of Justice (via the Secretariat) responding to a question from an individual Baha’i addresses the question of racial prejudice and the priority that the Baha’i community should place upon its elimination in the US.

We don’t have the actual question but from the reply we can infer that it juxtaposed the prominence that Shoghi Effendi placed upon it with the more recent exhortations from the UHJ and ITC on the “framework for growth”:

You indicate that some friends wonder whether the Guardian’s statement characterizing racial prejudice as â€?the most vital and challenging issue confronting the Bah??’?­ community at the present stage of its evolutionâ€? still applies to the racial situation in the United States, since it was written so long ago. The House of Justice has determined that it is not productive to approach the issue in this manner, as it gives rise to an implicit and false dichotomy that, either what the Guardian said is no longer important, or it is so important that it must be addressed before or apart from all other concerns

Ultimately the House sides with themselves on the issue, writing that the framework for growth takes precedence:

Only if the efforts to eradicate the bane of prejudice are coherent with the full range of the community’s affairs, only if they arise naturally within the systematic pattern of expansion, community building, and involvement with society, will the American believers expand their capacity, year after year and decade after decade, to make their mark on their community and society and contribute to the high aim set for the Bah??’?­s by â€?Abdu’l-Bah?? to eliminate racial prejudice from the face of the earth.

I’m a bit puzzled by their claim that:

Even if such a community were to focus the entirety of its resources on the problem of racial prejudice, even if it were able to heal itself to some extent of that cancerous affliction, in the face of such a monumental social challenge the impact would be inconsequential.

Because one of the most famous quotes from Shoghi Effendi on teaching is this:

Not by the force of numbers, not by the mere exposition of a set of new and noble principles, not by an organized campaign of teaching – no matter how world-wide and elaborate in its character – not even by the staunchness of our faith or the exaltation of our enthusiasm, can we ultimately hope to vindicate in the eyes of a critical and skeptical age the supreme claim of the Abha Revelation. One thing, and only one thing, will unfailingly and alone secure the undoubted triumph of this sacred Cause, namely, the extent to which our own inner life and private character mirror forth in their manifold aspects the splendor of those eternal principles proclaimed by Bah??’u’ll??h.
The Bah??’?­ Magazine – Star of the West, September 1925, Vol. 16 No. 6, page 538

Doesn’t that explicitly contradict the UHJ? Especially since Shoghi Effendi excludes “an organized campaign of teaching – no matter how world-wide and elaborate in its character” and posits that the extent to which we live the Baha’i principles in our lives is the key? wouldn’t a community that “mirrors forth” the principle of the unity of mankind, with no racial prejudice, ultimately “secure the undoubted triumph” of the Cause?

As always, I’d like to hear your thoughts. For your consideration, here’s the full letter:

  • Concourse on Low


    I’d like to hear your thoughts about why you continue to waste your time with this infantile religious organization?

  • Craig Parke


    The Baha’is are not players. The rote paint-by-numbers apprach to everything in life just will not work in the real word. The whole world is moving on in real actual daily life in every human endeavor. I work every day with people of every race, color, and creed  in software engineering in my company. We just work together, laugh, talk, walk, and eat together ever single day.

    Besides, if you want to have good race relation in these parts just become a Pittsburgh Steelers fan. Everyone loves Coach Tomlin here. Even red necks. Just win at what you are doing every day and people will love you for your competence. The Unity in Steeler Nation is very great! You must help every fellow Pittsburgh Steelers fan regardless of race, color, creed, national origin, or sexual orientation. The Baha’is just need to get out into the world and on out into the flow of  life. The whole world will be intermixed and Gold Colored while the Baha;is are still holding another 500,000 years of meetings.

    People need to just get a life.

    Best wishes to everyone!  

  • http://bahaisonline.net Steve

     Dear Concourse on Low,

    When did you stop beating your partner?

    If you’d like to hear someone’s thoughts, ask your question in such a way that you show that you respect their choices.

    ka kite

  • http://bahaisonline.net Steve

    It’s my understanding that William Roberts, who was on the US NSA last year, but was not re-elected this year, was behind the influential Black Men’s Bah??’?­ Gatherings in the US.


    It’ll be interesting to see how those gatherings fare in the years to come, particularly if they don’t conform to the “framework for growth”.

  • http://twitter.com/adam_gurno Adam Gurno

    I get the sense that the UHJ’s focus on growth may be showing signs of the tendency for organizations to become focused more on self-preservation than work.

    Pirsig’s emphasis on quality over quantity continues to resonate.  This might be at the heart of the question (that isn’t shown) though I admit that it is inferred rather than known.  Quality is difficult, results and hard work are not guaranteed nor as easily quantifiable as growth. 

  • Concourse on Low

    Steve, thanks for the lesson in decorum. But I don’t think Baquia needs you to jump to his/her rescue.

    Judging by Baquia’s blog, s/he finds a lot wrong in the Baha’i administration. So asking her why she continues to be a member of this religious organization is perfectly legitimate.


  • Anonymous

     CoL, the mistake of conflating the administration/institutions with the Faith is one that many Baha’is make – and why we are in a bit of a sticky wicket. You’re right, I do point out things that personally I don’t understand or agree with from the institutions but I have no problem with the Faith itself. Hopefully that clears things up.

  • Craig Parke

    Anyone who is not a total fanatic to conform everyone to the “framework for growth” (Tm) is suspect on the Jungian unconscious level in the present culture of the Baha’i Faith. The Plan is the “Final solution” in the Baha’i Faith at the 1943 psychological level as to the rail head network if you know what I mean. There is no half way measures with totalitarian psychological brutality once an organization is unleashed on a Johnny-One-Note drum beat. He is very blessed to have now apparently been kicked out of power. He is very blessed indeed to not be in the bunker when 1945 comes. It will come. The current mindset in the Baha’i Faith is completely against the tremendous Cosmic Powers of the New World Age that the Maid of Heaven Cosmic Spirit visitation brought. It is all going to end very, very badly for the current cult at the top.

  • Bozorg


    I completely disagree.

    The administrative order, as a normative paradigm for governance, is touted in the writings as Baha’u’llah’s supreme contribution to the world. The Baha’i Faith sans its administrative blueprint is not the Baha’i Faith.

    I don’t quite understand how you, as a long time Baha’i, could possibly not know this.

  • Amado de Dios

    This “Ruhi above all” dictum also contradicts Abdu’l-Baha’s prescription that putting even one Principle into practice would change the world! That one principle could be unity of race, or Bahai Rants’ independent investigation of truth!

  • Baquia

    I’d prefer to not get bogged down into quotitis but I’m thinking along these lines:

    “I need not dwell upon what I have already reiterated and emphasized that the administration of the Cause is to be conceived as an instrument and not a substitute for the Faith of Baha’u’llah, that it should be regarded as a channel through which His promised blessings may flow, that it should guard against such rigidity as would clog and fetter the liberating forces released by His Revelation.”
    Shoghi Effendi

    So basically, what I’m saying here and in other places is quite similar. I’m pointing out that the institutions have at times fallen into this trap and “clogged” up the works.

  • Baquia

    Adam, quantification has certainly become a fetish. There are a host of Baha’is running around keeping track of how many Ruhi book 1′s or 2′s, etc. are being taken, how many deepenings are held, etc. This “busyness” might make many feel like there is something being accomplished because quality is much more difficult to measure. But it is much more important.

    The funny thing with all this measuring is that the one thing that needs to be measured isn’t. That is, the question of “is this working?”. We need only look to Columbia where this whole process sprang from (Ruhi/Palabra/FUNDAEC) thanks to Lample, Arbab, Correa, et al. and ask, how is it going over there after 40 years of this?

    For more, see: Time for Ruhi to “Show Us the Money”

  • Gordon Freeman

    The House seems to be possessed by some evil force. 

    What an epic journey life in this world is. Who’d expect the UNIVERSAL House of JUSTICE would become unjust and possessed, prone to confuse and mislead an entire community of good people? Everything can happen.

  • Fubar

    re: [B said] ” I’m pointing out that the institutions have at times fallen into this trap and “clogged” up the works. ”

    Isn’t the problem far worse?

    abdul-baha said that assemblies that were not acting from “unity” would be “brought to naught”. Most bahai culture is in a state of what M. Scott Peck called “false unity”. Therefore, bahai administration is futile and pointless, as currently practiced (everything they do will be “brought to naught” by definition, “infallibility” or not).

    Similarly, abdul-baha said that when religion caused “disunity” it should not exist (bad paraphrase).

    (In reality, abdul-baha was pulling stuff out of his a**, no religion will EVER be able to attain his perfect standard of “unity”, at least not with current human DNA and the super-tribal cultures that arise from it.)

    Assuming that some sort of reform is possible, the existing “infallible” autocratic bahai leadership, which is delegitimized on its face by bahai scripture due to its “disunity” (conformity is not the same as unity), would presumably fight to its last breath to maintain the current system. People live off the current system, and they derive most of what is meaningful in their lives from it. Their need for ego gratification and other psychic pathologies is satisfied by it. Such a system is always a source of exploitation, which by any meaningful definition is a cause of “disunity”.

    So, what are the short and long range prospects of reform given the deeply entrenched resistance to it in the current system (which, according to bahai scripture, displeases god mightily)?

    How is it that a religion that become so messed up has any credibility, especially given its goals of establishing a new world system?

    Your example of providing an open forum for debate and free thought is a great model that may inspire meaningful internal reform some day, but the reality is that if you tried to do something similar in public now, you would probably be threatened with getting kicked out by bahai administration  pronto. The recent Ismael Velasco case being the established threat precedent.

  • Anonymous

    care to elaborate on the “recent Ismail Velasco case”?

  • Fubar

    I attempted to post a response yesterday, but it apparently wasn’t accepted. Tech clitch?

    Velasco set up an independent scholarly blog/website. After a short time, Velasco was pressured by the hairfan Bahai World Center (UHJ) to shut the blog down.

    It seems likely that had Velasco not complied with the dubious logic of the HBWC censorship, he would have been subject to escalating pressure, and eventually, removal from membership (same as Sen McGlinn).

    The key element in the issue is that to preserve legitimacy in the eyes of rational readers and scholarly peers, Velasco, if allowed by the HBWC to continue his scholarly blog/web site, would have come under pressure by PUBLIC OPINION, to eventually allow the “publication” of articles commenting on controversial topics that could annoy or embarrass (haifan) bahai administration.

    As such, the HBWC clearly did not trust Velasco to comply, against all standards of scholarship and rational inquiry, with their religious censorship. Better to nip a source of nonconformance “in the bud” than to allow it to grow and become prominent. A prominent source of nonconformance (such as Kalimat Press), when “taken down” by bahai administration, causes more controversy than one that is at its beginnings.